Who Is In Heaven?
Some Christians like to say who is in and who is out. They eagerly and zealously declare that this group or that person is out. A church, I will not name even pickets funerals with signs with big letters that say God hates. People were upset with Rob Bells powerful book Love Wins because these people need people in hell so that their position in heaven will be joyous. Some are only happy when they are winning and others are losing.
A common refrain: If you die tonight, will you be in heaven tomorrow?
My honest answer is I don’t know. I don’t know if I were to die right now that I would be in Heaven in the next moment. I don’t know. I am not so full of myself to say that I am going to heaven. I know I have fallen short of what I ought to be. I hope. I pray. I want. I chose and still choose Jesus. I have a deep faith and commitment to Jesus and His way. I trust that Jesus has made a way for all to enter eternal life.
To the question who is in Heaven, Robert Farrar Capon responded, “People think it is good guys. There is nobody in heaven, but forgiven sinners because there was nobody available to go to heaven except forgiven sinners. There is nobody in hell, except forgiven sinners. The difference is that in heaven, they accept the forgiveness. In hell, they reject it. That’s it. You get into heaven by being bad and accepting forgiveness. Now, that does in a way mean you have permission to be bad. If you want to stick your hand in a meat grinder, you are free to do that. It’s stupid, but God isn’t going to run the universe that way. God is not going to punish. He cares more about relationships than behavior.”
No matter who you, what you have done and have not done God loves you personally. No one, absolutely no one is outside of the love of God. We are all included in the loving embrace of God, because all are created in the image of God. We become sons and daughters of God by loving everyone, just as God does. God’s love frees us up to be who we really are and this fierce, perfect, divine love transforms us into our best self.
If God loves us as we are than we should be able to accept ourselves and others as is and not be overly concerned about what other people think. We should live in loving, sane, and healthy ways. We should be Jesus to the world. We cannot live for sake of another. We need to live our life the best way we can growing in love, faith, hope, and joy. Our primary relationship should be with God putting God as the center of any and every one of our relationships will only deepen our love, compassion, and purpose.
Capon goes on, “God forgave you before you repented. That’s crucial. See, that is why it is so outrageous. The gospel is really vulgar, crass and immoral because it says God forgives the world before it repents. In the gospel, repent is always repent and believe. It means turn yourself around from not trusting the forgiveness and trust it. That’s it. It doesn’t mean that you earn it by repenting. You had it before.”
Only through Jesus can we escape the penalty of our sin. Let’s be honest all have sinned and fallen short. No one lives up to their own ideal, so how can we live up to the ideal God has set for our life. If you want to be saved to inherit eternal life, if you want to follow Jesus, then you must realize you have sinned. That is not the end of the story. Not even close. Jesus enters the picture saving all form condemnation. Look to Jesus who died on the cross and trust what he did is for you for all. This is accomplished by faith in grace alone. The Bible says we are all sinners. Guilty of having sinned, we are separated from God dead in our sins we will suffer damnation. The only way to escape this judgment is by receiving Christ, by trusting in what Jesus did on the cross and continues to do in his people today. You don’t have to pretty yourself up. All you need do is accept the love and grace God offers freely in Christ Jesus.
We cannot and never will earn God’s grace and love. The good news is Jesus has already accomplished it and offers it freely to all. We need not be anxious for Jesus has rescued us. He works in us to make us we should be. No human words or works can add or subtract from the unconditional grace and limitless love of God in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The common heresy of our age is that we have to work for our salvation that there are certain things we must do and be to earn God’s forgiveness that there are things that can keep us from the love and grace of God. That’s a lie!
God’s love and grace is ours freely we don’t need to convert to the Christian religion to live in and with God. We merely need to respond in faith to what is already ours in Christ Jesus. Faith enables us to enjoy the gift of redemption that Jesus secured on the cross. God is taking creation somewhere making it alive in a new way as He did in Jesus.
Dying is something each of us must face eventually. We fear death. When we trust in God, we need not worry death will be the end; it is merely the beginning of a grand adventure. Yet, we can and should die to our old self and be reborn to our new self as God’s people in this life. As Christians, we don’t need to worry about what happens after this life. Our faith is not about going to heaven as much as it is about shaping our life on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.
Martin Buber Austrian-born Jewish philosopher writes, “Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?”
Heaven is not later. Heaven is now. Heaven is not some far off celestial paradise. Heaven is here and now. Heaven stretches from here and now into eternity. Assured of Heaven, we should live here and now how we hope to live then all to the glory of God.