HEAVEN AND HELL

Does God have favourites?

Does he love every human being equally or are there some favourites who will spend a blissful eternity with him while other burn for ever and ever and ever?

What about those who never had a chance to hear the gospel? Were they chosen for destruction by a capricious deity?

And how do you think God feels about devout Muslims or Hindus? I think he loves them with a passion. This section shows how this belief is consistent with Scripture and the doctrine of an all-loving, all-powerful God.

 

 
 

"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."

 
 (Colossians 1: 19, 20) 
  
 

Hell

In God’s plan of salvation for mankind, he has a timetable. He is not trying to save everyone today. It is clear to all reasonable people that throughout history he hasn’t tried to save everyone. In Old Testament times salvation was not even offered to the Gentiles and they were the vast majority.

Now, Christians are still a minority, albeit a big one.

Do you really think that God, who is all powerful, all knowing, all wise and all loving actually intends to burn the majority of people who have ever lived for ever and ever?

Really?

Babies burning in hell?

Now I could understand some people thinking that if you knew God was God and that you should worship him but you refused to do so that God could be rightly angry with you.

I don’t say it’s good theology, I just say I can understand it. The truth is that the knowledge of God is spiritually hidden from most people and they couldn’t accept him even if they wanted to. When God decides to open someone’s eyes – he does! Look at Saul of Tarsus. God called him to be an apostle and opened his spiritual eyes. Saul’s response was to become converted.

I was working in a garage in Burgh Heath when God opened my spiritual eyes to “see” Jesus. I was a teenager looking for fun, not God. My response was that I gave my life to God there and then. I don’t say that you can’t try and resist the call of God, I just say that if I was a betting man, my money wouldn’t be on you lasting out that long.

But how could God’s wrath be on babies?

“Because they were born in sin as a result of Adam’s fall,” some say. This is really sad theology isn’t it? How could you live with yourself in heaven if you thought about all the billions who were for eternity suffering the fires of hell while you enjoyed yourself?

 
  
 

Eternity is a long time

Many Christians have read Bible verses that have led them to believe that unless you become a Christian in this life you are doomed to spend eternity in hell.

Actually, the Bible teaches no such thing.

The Bible recognises a number of distinct ages in God’s plan of salvation. It talks of the patriarchal age, this present evil age, a millennial age and the ages to come.

The writers of the Bible didn’t generally have a concept or vocabulary for unending eternity. When they spoke of “age long” periods this has been translated as “eternal” by present translators.

 
  
 

So what actually happens?

If you are a Christian, when you die your body goes to earth, i.e. your body is usually either buried or cremated. Your spirit returns to God and is in his presence until the resurrection. This resurrection is described as the first resurrection and will occur when Jesus returns at the end of this present age. All the saints who have ever died are now in this state. Their spirits are awaiting the resurrection to life. To varying degrees, the nature of Christ has been formed in them and God has qualified them to live and reign with him for eternity.

 
  
 

“Sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or grieve like the rest of women who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, we who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

 
 (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) 
  
 This will be preceded by a time of warfare, disease and earthquakes and natural and human-induced catastrophes that will pale into insignificance any time of trouble that had gone before. Jesus will finally return to prevent mankind from obliterating all life from the face of the earth. He will bind the devil and prevent him from influencing men for 1,000 years. 
   
 

“For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again. If those days had not been cut short, no-one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened."

 
 (Matthew 4:21, 22) 
  
 

See all of Matthew chapter 24 to get much more information that Jesus gave when his disciples asked him about the end of this present age.

You will have a glorious spiritual body

After you die and until the resurrection your spirit is in a state of sleep. You have no awareness of the passage of time. At the first resurrection you will be given a new spirit body that unites with your spirit. You will be “you” then but with a spiritual, incorruptible body.

 
  
 

“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

 
 (1 Corinthians 15:42, 43) 
  
 If you are not a Christian when you die your body will go to the earth and your spirit will enter a similar state of soul sleep but you will not be resurrected at the first resurrection but at the second. The second resurrection will occur 1,000 years after the first one. During this time, which the Bible describes as the millennium, the earth will be ruled by Jesus and his resurrected saints. They will rule over those people who have survived the climactic period at the end of the age and for a thousand years there will be a period of peace and prosperity as the rule and reign of God covers the whole earth just like the water covers the sea. 
   
 

“They (the Christians) came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended).

 
 Revelation 20:4, 5 
  
 

At the end of the 1,000 years, those who died as non Christians are given physical bodies and are brought back to life on the earth for their period of judgement. Don’t be alarmed about this. Just as Christians are being judged during their lives now, so those who will believe when they are resurrected in the second resurrection (and believe me, you will be a believer by then) will have their own similar period of judgement at that time. The Devil is released from his spiritual prison and he immediately goes out to deceive mankind and to stir up rebellion against God. Despite the fact that the whole earth is as beautiful as the Garden of Eden by this time, many are influenced by him.

It is in this crucible of temptation that God wins over the lost to himself in untold billions. It is a hard path for them and will be a time of much suffering but out of it there will be spiritual “gold tried in the fire”.

The ultimate end of it all will be when God draws all men to himself through love – the supreme power in all the cosmos and heaven itself.

 
  
 What pleases God 
   
 Ultimately only the love nature of God pleases God. God is perfect, herself, and she can be satisfied with nothing less. Oh, I know there are verses in the Bible that seems to say differently. For example, Cornelius was a Roman Centurian mentioned in the Book of Acts and it says that God heard his prayers and remembered his gifts to the poor. And it’s true that this did please God but this was a limited level of pleasing that didn’t mean the granting of eternal life to him. He was just a nice guy. 
   
 God wants daughters who will be with her for eternity. That’s why she is making so many of us in her image. To create this “love nature” in us involves us suffering and choosing to go the way of sacrificial love when it seems that we will not personally benefit from it but rather suffer personal loss (either physical, mental or emotional or spiritual suffering, fear, pain, or loss of some other kind. Yet with God’s help when we choose the way of sacrificial love, the nature of God is formed in us and we please God’s loving heart. It bursts with joy and pride in us, the pinnacle of her creation.  
   
 The only power that will enable us to do this is faith. It is a gift of God and a facet of his nature. It is impossible to please God without faith, the Bible says and without “AGAPE”, (Godly) love it’s impossible too. But don’t worry God - loves to give us love and faith and wisdom and all the fruits of his Spirit.  
   
 However, even before he does that, God has made mankind in his own image and he has given us human love and human faith and human “good” and “bad” abilities and he is pleased with people when they humanly do good (as far as their human abilities allow) as opposed to bad. (Like good old Cornelius whose prayers and gifts to the poor pleased God). 
   
 Human goodness will not gain anyone a place in the Kingdom of God for eternity. Only faith working by love and these are gifts from God not human works. On the other hand, human goodness and character will bring rewards to people in the kingdom.  
   
 Rewards are different from eternal life, which is totally unmerited. Rewards are according to works. (These works are works of character and don’t normally equate to accomplishments that people can see or evaluate). Those who do much with a little will gain a higher reward than those who do much with much. 
   
 

We can’t judge ourselves let alone others.

 
   
 All our trials and tears are not wasted, because if they produce character (in anyone) and particularly if they lead us to let Christ be more fully formed in believers, then they increase our reward. 
   
 What will our rewards be? Not money, or the things that people so value today. Our reward is our future ability to bless and serve God.  
   
 Did you hear about the rich man who was close to death? He was very upset because he had worked so hard for his money and he wanted to be able to take it with him to heaven. So he began to pray that he might be able to take some of his wealth with him. Well, the angel Gabriel overhears his prayers and appears to him. "Sorry, but you can't take your wealth with you." He tells him. The man implores Gabriel to speak to God to see if He might bend the rules. The man continues to pray that his wealth could follow him. Eventually, Gabriel reappears and informs the man that God had decided to allow him to take one suitcase with him. Overjoyed, the man gathers his largest suitcase and fills it with pure gold bars and places it beside his bed. Soon afterward the man dies and shows up at the Gates of Heaven to greet St. Peter. Peter seeing the suitcase says, "Sorry chum, you can't bring that in here!" But, the man explains to Peter that he has permission and asks him to verify his story with the Lord. Sure enough, Peter checks and comes back saying, "You're right. You are allowed one carry-on bag, but I'm supposed to check its contents before letting it through." Peter opens the suitcase to inspect the worldly items that the man found too precious to leave behind and exclaims, "You brought pavement???"  
   
 The moral of that tale is this. Things that are highly valued on earth don’t necessarily have the same value in heaven. 
   
 God can be pleased with a devout Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or atheist. Not “pleased” in the sense of giving them eternal life, which comes through Jesus alone, but pleased with their character development which will ultimately gain them reward when the know him and receive His Spirit. (i.e. they have developed character which will expand their capacity to receive God and bear spiritual fruit once they are born again). 
  
 

What about Heaven then?

This is the presence of God and is everywhere outside the cosmos.

 
   
 To be in Heaven is to be in the presence of God. But, of course, God is omnipresent. What this really means is intimacy with God. In other words to be on God’s spiritual wavelength. This is achieved through the spirit within us connecting to the Holy Spirit. When we are not saved this isn’t possible but once we are saved it is continuous and an unbreakable connection. However, we only experience the blessing of it if we come to God in repentance and faith. 
   
 The only place where he has restricted this intimacy is within the cosmos for the purpose of us developing his love nature in us willingly and by faith. 
   
 If we know him and are living inside the cosmos, we have joined spirit to Spirit and have a taste of heaven now. As we come to God with clean consciences and praise and worship him, so we can actually experience a taste of heaven on earth. You can’t describe it to anyone who has never experienced God but it is true living, an awesome joy and the greatest experience that a human can have. It is better than drugs or sex or food or music or anything else that a person can experience physically. 
 

 

 
 
 
On a church bulletin during the minister's illness: GOD IS GOOD Dr. Hargreaves is better.
Potluck supper: prayer and medication to follow.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the church help.
Pastor is on vacation. Massages can be given to church secretary.
8 new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
The choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

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