If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
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These pages are designed to aid study or investigation for Christian discipleship through individual Bible study, Cell groups, Home groups, or meeting one to one. The questions could be used alone allowing each person to use their own Bible.
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WHO GOES TO HEAVEN?
Who is going to heaven? What about all those who have never heard? What about those people who love others, yet don’t acknowledge Jesus? What about those people who seem so godly, yet they don’t believe what we believe?
When we stand before God at the great judgement, who is it that will go with Him to heaven? There are some simple answers to this question, and some more complicated ones. If one wishes to be right with God, and certain that one is right with God, then the best thing to do is to stick with the simple ones in the link - Assurance of Salvation. If you are looking out at the world and trying to make sense of the complexities of life, then I offer you these passages to think about.
In this zone we look first at how God makes His decision, then the roads by which people might gain a place with God.
Revelation 20:11-15 presents a vision of the end of the world, when all people who have ever lived will stand before God, who sits on a great white throne to judge us.
Revelation 20:11-15 11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide.12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God's throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave* gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds.14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death.15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.
There are two points of judgement. What we have done, and whether our names are written in the book of life. If a person’s name was not in the ‘book of life’ then that person goes to the lake of fire - hell.
There is a distinction between what we have done in life and whether our names are written in the book of life. Look at the following text found in Luke 23. We find Jesus on the cross with criminals on either side. They are all about to die.
Luke 23:39-43 39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, "So you're the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself-and us, too, while you're at it!"
40 But the other criminal protested, "Don't you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn't done anything wrong."42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."
43 And Jesus replied, "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise."
A name is either in the book of life or not. There is no almost, no half way. This is significant because it is clear that this is a black and white decision with no percentage pass mark. How does God know who is in or out?
Ephesians 1:13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own* by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.14 The Spirit is God's guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.
Having looked at God's perspective on who are identified as His people, it is now necessary to look at the human perspective. Since we do not have the privilege of knowing who are God’s people, this is tentative. It is certainly not intended to be a guide for standing in judgement on the people around us.
1 Corinthians 13:13 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
Those who have a certain hope of eternal life, beginning now and going in heaven to eternity. Hope is based on God’s promise, and access to it is through believing God for His promise.
John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
There are those who have looked at God and seen that He is worth following, no matter what the consequences. (Hebrews 11 is full of examples of this.) We read the account of how Jesus declared that these are the people He is looking for,
Mark 8:34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?*37 Is anything worth more than your soul?
An example of this faith is seen in the life of Abraham. He is quoted throughout the New Testament as an example of this faith. At age 75, with his wife barren and childless, he confronts God with the pointlessness of his life without any sons.
Genesis 15: 4 Then the LORD said to him, "No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir."5 Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, "Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That's how many descendants you will have!"
6 And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith
There are those who respond to the love of God by living out that love, and so demonstrate that God’s love is at work in them.
1 John 4: 7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.10 This is real love-not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
These three, faith, hope and love should with time be evident in any person who is marked by the Holy Spirit. It may be that they are unconscious of one or more of these aspects of spiritual life, but the fruit of God's Spirit being at work will demonstrate the change.
When a person is living the faith with some maturity then the fruit of the Spirit should be evident. When someone is a new believer the fruit may be less evident. It is dangerous in such situations to try to evaluate where that person is with God. The focus of each of the routes to God, Faith, Hope & Love all have their focus on Jesus. It is Faith in Jesus; Hope in Jesus and His promises; Living the love of Jesus. Where there is uncertainty, it is better to point more strongly towards Jesus than to try and create certainty by say trying harder to show love.
The only people Jesus asked us to evaluate for spirituality were those who teach us. This is as a defence against being led astray, not an opportunity to point the finger.
Matthew 7:15 "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.18 A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit.19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Jesus went on in this passage to warn that there are many who think they are heaven bound but are not. Again the focus is on the fruit of our lives not other people’s lives, this time in a slightly different form.
Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.'23 But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws.'