Category Archives: Heaven & Hell

“Good people” & Heaven

The Pugnacious Irishman had a thoughtful post titled My own goodness is enough . . . or is it?  It had a good illustration to consider about how you’d evaluate your “goodness.”  It also reminded me of this post, so I thought I’d re-run it.

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a.jpgIt is common for people to say, “I’m a good person. Good people go to heaven.” 

This topic is a good way to insert a truthful and winsome witness – namely that Christians, by definition, are saying we are not good enough on our own and that we need Jesus’ work on our behalf.  An authentic Christian worldview is the opposite of self-righteousness (though we often sin and act that way anyway).  The truly self-righteous ones are those who think their good deeds will require God to let them into his Heaven.

Also, if being 51% good was the standard, we haven’t even been that good.  When I consider all of my sinful thoughts, words and deeds plus all the right thoughts, words and deeds I should have had but didn’t, I’m lucky if I’m at 10%.  Many of the “good” things I’ve done were for my glory, not God’s, and those go into the loss column.

I think some Christians parrot this view because they worry about unsaved relatives and it helps them rationalize their eternal state.   Also, why do the hard work of evangelism if “good” people are safe?  After all, 90% of prisoners will tell you they are basically good people. 

Here are some questions you might want to ask someone who says that “good people go to Heaven.”   Ask them nicely and interactively, not as if you were a prosecutor!  The idea is to get them to realize the implications of what they are saying on their own.

Can you define “good” for me?  For starters, this may help them see that if 6 billion people each get their own definition then something may be wrong with this worldview. 

Regarding who gets into Heaven, who would get to define “good” – you, me, someone else or God?  Seems like the creator of the universe might have the final say rather than the created beings.

Is that 51% good? Or 50.001%?  Islam teaches that God weighs your sins to determine your eternal destiny.  Interestingly, the real God – as revealed in the Bible – isn’t soft on sin like Allah.  All sins get punished instead of overlooking up to 49% of them. 

Are sins done on a weighted average, or just raw numbers? Where is the scale?  All sins offend a holy and perfect God, but we intuitively realize that some sins have worse consequences than others.  But again, who gets to decide?

Do you have a spreadsheet to keep track of your sins?  I tried, but my hard drive got full.

What if you missed some?  Do you want your eternal destiny based on some rough estimates?  We sin so much that it is impossible to remember them all.

If you have no hope of getting to 51%, should you give up and just be evil?  This might be a bad question to ask . . . seems like many people have gone down this path and we don’t want to give anyone ideas.

If you are at 70%, is it OK to sin on purpose?  After all, you have room to spare!

Where is your assurance?  The fact that Christianity offers assurance isn’t what makes it true, but it is one of the great things about it.  Since we’re trusting in what Jesus did for us instead of our own works, we can be confident of our salvation.

Most importantly, what does the Bible say? 

Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8 and 10:9:  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.   For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

I’m glad to be relying 100% on the Jesus plan instead of my not-such-a-good-person resume.

Joel Stein, Randy Alcorn and Heaven

heaven.jpgI wanted to share this great post by Randy Alcorn, who is probably my favorite writer.  He writes fiction and non-fiction on a variety of topics. 

He had an engaging discussion about Heaven with Joel Stein (a provocative LA Times writer and devout non-believer) that turned into a column.  Stein had written one of those Starbucks cups quotes with a tired false stereotype of Heaven (one that is sadly perpetuated by Biblically illiterate Christians).  Some people sent one of Randy’s books to Stein and things took off from there.

Check out Alcorn’s book Heaven.

Exploring Christianity – Part 4 – Hell

Welcome to visitors from the evolution site!  Thanks for the link.  Be sure to read all of this.  Deep down you know that you’ll be accountable to your creator for your countless sins.  You can pay for them yourself for eternity or trust in what Jesus did for you on the cross. The evidence is clear: He lived, died and rose again.  Eternity is mighty long time.  Don’t let your foolish pride get in the way.

Also, feel free to view any of the apologetics links to the right.

Be sure to read the commenting policy before commenting.  We have several atheists who comment here regularly and we have friendly discussions.  But I’m not really interested in addressing an endless stream of fallacies from the Big Book of Atheist Sound Bites.  Life’s too short to re-hash those ad nauseum.

And remember, even if your definition of evolution is  true (when you aren’t busy equivocating on the term) it doesn’t prove there is no God.  And even if it is true then evolution is 100% to blame for our concept of Hell, my change from atheism to Christianity, everything I write here, etc.  Where else would it have come from?  So any “pride” you feel is completely irrational, and, ironically enough, your concept of rationality is irrational.  Your worldview provides nothing to ground it.

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cross1.jpg

See below to see the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity or click here for the whole thing.

Nicholas wrote: What happens to those who, through no fault of their own, never experience the Gospel of Christ?  Have entire populations been hell-bound from birth having never had a chance to experience the Bible?

That is a difficult and important question that many Christians wrestle with, including me.   I can explain my theological views but still wonder on occasion exactly how it plays out in real life.  I’ll lay out what I see as the Biblical, orthodox case while conceding that some Christians take a different view.  I’ll be wordy, as usual, and come at it from a clinical standpoint then from a couple other angles.

Once I became a Christian I kept thinking about how I had rejected the Gospel for so many years even with all the advantages I had – growing up with Christian parents, going to church, having a Christian wife and living in a country with religious freedom.  (I didn’t commit my life to Christ until my late 20’s).  Why did I get so many chances when others may not hear the Gospel at all?  Then it hit me one day: That’s why it is called grace. I didn’t deserve anything from God, regardless of when and how I came to believe.  No one else deserves it either, though in our human reasoning we may rationalize that we do.  We deserve judgment.  God is merciful in not judging us immediately.  Grace is unmerited favor.

It is important to point out something basic to ground the discussion: A righteous, ethical judge has no moral obligation to pardon a guilty and justly convicted person. God is a perfect and righteous judge.  He is the epitome of love and mercy, but He is also perfectly Holy and He loves justice.  We are all sinners in thoughts, words, actions and lack of good actions.  Just 10 sins per day for 50 years would add up to 182,500 sins.  Now what righteous judge could overlook that?

So how does the Bible address this?  Chapters 1-3 of the book of Romans (as well as the rest of the book) lay out much of the reasoning.  In Romans 1 we see some of the most important “big picture” passages in the Bible, showing how God reveals himself to us in his creation:

Romans 1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

So in that passage and others the Bible teaches that God has made his existence plain to us and that we are “without excuse.”  If anyone thinks they’ll stand before God and deny that He revealed himself to them in creation they are mistaken.  So every person in every culture for all time has had the light of creation.  Still, countless people reject the existence of God or make up their own gods.

Continue reading Exploring Christianity – Part 4 – Hell

Where will we stay in Heaven? Will we sleep?

Where will followers of Christ live in heaven?  In John 14:2-3, Jesus said:

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Now I’m not sure exactly what a room in our Father’s house will be like.  One translation referred to it as a mansion.  But I do know these things:

  • Jesus could make something magnificent in an instant, and He has had a couple thousand years to prepare rooms for believers.  So I think they will be pretty sweet.
  • It will be greater than anything we could imagine on this planet, so that has to be good.   The very best of earth is a glimpse of Heaven and the very worst of earth is a glimpse of Hell.
  • Jesus always keeps his promises, so we can rely on this 100%.

I’m not sure about the sleep part, other than whatever the sleep situation is we’ll understand it and be pleased with it.  I know my current understanding and desire for sleep make me hope for some regular nap times.  Any ideas?

If you are not familiar with Christianity and want to know more, click here.

What we won’t do in Heaven

There are many things we will do in Heaven, but a couple things we won’t do, including:

  1. Sin (I won’t miss that)
  2. Share the Gospel with unbelievers.  It will be too late for that, so we better do it now.

Thoughts for the day:

I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.

John Wesley

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. . . it means forever, and that’s a mighty long time.

Prince (the artist formerly known as the “Artist formerly known as Prince” who is once again known as Prince)

Who will you see in Heaven?

For Christians, one of the many fantastic things about Heaven will be who you will see again and those you’ll meet for the first time.  Who am I missing on this list of those you’ll visit with throughout eternity?

  • Jesus

  • Other Christians

    • Family
    • Friends
    • People you served and prayed for
    • People who served and prayed for you
    • Biblical figures – Moses, Elijah, David, Paul, all the Apostles, Mary (all of them), people Jesus healed, the criminal on the cross, Adam, Eve, etc.)
    • Historical figures
    • Martyrs of the faith
    • Famous people – politics, sports, the arts, etc.
    • Non-famous people
    • People from around the world, from different centuries and different denominations.
    • Animals, in general, will almost certainly be there.  What about specific pets you’ve had?  I’m not sure.  (I had a cat who was demon-possessed and is probably on Satan’s lap right now.  Don’t write nasty comments about me being a cat hater, though.  I had another cat that I liked.  Though dogs are better.)

Who do you want to talk to first (after Jesus, of course)?

Is Heaven boring?

No.  If Heaven is boring, God is boring.  And God is most certainly not boring.  Take a look around the planet and the universe and marvel at his creation – the people, the animals, oceans, mountains, flowers, DNA, cells, planets, stars, and so much more.  God created everything, including everything that is joyful, beautiful, good, interesting and exciting.  It is only by the entrance of sin into that world that some things became ugly. 

Still, think of how many movies, books, etc. portray Heaven as boring – just an endless, repetitive church service on fluffy clouds.  People have seen that for so long that some Christians don’t even look forward to Heaven.  For Christians, our citizenship is not of this place:

Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Consider what A W Tozer said:

The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful “adjustment” to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The world recognizes them and accepts them for what they are. And this is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.

How can having an “eternal perspective” help you not only get through this life, but to live more vibrantly?