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WHO WILL GO TO HEAVEN?

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People have different ideas about heaven. Many have no understanding of God at all, but still like to think of heaven as the “better place” where we all go when we die. Ideas about heaven are often no more than vague hopes, on par with “maybe I’ll win the lottery some day.” Most people don’t give heaven much thought until they attend a funeral or a loved one dies. It is popular to refer to heaven as the place where “the good people go.” And of course, everyone they know and love is included in the category of “good people.”

But the Bible has a lot to say about life after death, and it contradicts popular opinion. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Then in verse 36, Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.” According to these verses, everyone dies, but not everyone goes to heaven (Matthew 25:46Romans 6:23Luke 12:5Mark 9:43).

God is holy and perfect. Heaven, His dwelling place, is holy and perfect, too (Psalm 68:5Nehemiah 1:5Revelation 11:19). According to Romans 3:10, “there is none righteous, no not one.” No human being is holy and perfect enough for heaven. The people we call “good” are not good at all compared to the sinless perfection of God. If God allowed sinful humans to enter the perfection of heaven, it would no longer be perfect. What standard should be used to determine who is “good enough?” God’s standard is the only one that counts, and He has already ruled. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” And the payment for that sin is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).

Sin has to be punished, or God is not just (2 Thessalonians 1:6). The judgment we face at death is simply God bringing our accounts up to date and passing sentence on our crimes against Him. We have no way to make our wrongs right. Our good does not outweigh our bad. One sin ruins perfection, just as one drop of arsenic in a glass of water poisons the whole glass.

So God became man and took our punishment upon Himself. Jesus was God in the flesh. He lived a sinless life of obedience to His Father (Hebrews 4:15). He had no sin, yet at the cross He took our sin and made it His own. Once He paid the price for our sin, we could be declared holy and perfect (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we confess our sin to Him and ask His forgiveness, He stamps “Paid in Full” over our life of selfishness, lust, and greed (Acts 2:383:191 Peter 3:18).

When we stand before God one day, we cannot beg entrance to heaven based on our own merit. We have none to offer. Compared to God’s standard of holiness, not one of us is good enough. But Jesus is, and it is by His merit we can enter heaven. First Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The sacrifice of Jesus covers it all.

The people who go to heaven are all alike in one way: they are sinners who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12Acts 16:31Romans 10:9). They have recognized their need for a Savior and humbly accepted God’s offer of forgiveness. They have repented of their old ways of living and set their course to follow Christ (Mark 8:34John 15:14). They have not attempted to earn God’s forgiveness but have served him gladly from grateful hearts (Psalm 100:2). The kind of faith that saves a soul is one that transforms a life (James 2:261 John 3:9-10) and rests fully on the grace of God.

Prophet Nathan Emol

STORING OUR TREASURES IN HEAVEN:

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Jesus told us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). He linked this command to the desire of our hearts: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21; see also verses 10–20).
 
The Bible mentions rewards that await the believer who serves the Lord faithfully in this world (Matthew 10:41). A “great” reward is promised to those who are persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Various crowns are mentioned (in 2 Timothy 4:8, e.g.). Jesus says that He will bring rewards with Him when He returns (Revelation 22:12).
 
We are to treasure the Lord Jesus most of all. When Jesus is our treasure, we will commit our resources—our money, our time, our talents—to His work in this world. Our motivation for what we do is important (1 Corinthians 10:31). Paul encourages servants that God has an eternal reward for those who are motivated to serve Christ: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23–24).
 
When we live sacrificially for Jesus’ sake or serve Him by serving the body of Christ, we store up treasure in heaven. Even seemingly small acts of service do not go unnoticed by God. “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (Matthew 10:42).
 
Some with more visible gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12) such as teaching, singing, or playing a musical instrument might be tempted to use their gift for their own glory. Those who use their talents or spiritual gifts coveting the praise of men rather than seeking God’s glory receive their “payment” in full here and now. The applause of men was the extent of the Pharisees’ reward (Matthew 6:16). Why should we work for worldly plaudits, however, when we can have so much more in heaven?
 
The Lord will be faithful to reward us for the service we give Him (Hebrews 6:10). Our ministries may differ, but the Lord we serve is the same. “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8).
 
The rich young man loved his money more than God in Matthew 19:16–30, a fact that Jesus incisively pointed out. The issue wasn’t that the young man was rich but that he “treasured” his riches and did not “treasure” what he could have in Christ. Jesus told the man to sell his possessions and give to the poor, “and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (verse 21). The young man left Jesus sad, because he was very rich. He chose this world’s treasure and so did not lay up treasure in heaven. He was unwilling to make Jesus his treasure. The young man was very religious, but Jesus exposed his heart of greed.
 
We are warned not to lose our full reward by following after false teachers (2 John 1:8). This is why it is so important to be in God’s Word daily (2 Timothy 2:15). That way we can recognize false teaching when we hear it.
 
The treasures that await the child of God will far outweigh any trouble, inconvenience, or persecution we may face (Romans 8:18). We can serve the Lord wholeheartedly, knowing that God is the One keeping score, and His reward will be abundantly gracious. “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
 
Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT DOES HELL LOOK LIKE?

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We cannot know exactly what hell looks like or how hot it will be. But Scripture does use some descriptive language of hell, and that gives us an idea of what hell will be like. It is sure to be a place of torment, which the Bible often pictures as fiery. For the purposes of this article, the terms hell and lake of fire are used interchangeably.

Some interpreters take the Bible’s descriptions of hell to be symbolic, because some of the descriptions are difficult to reconcile with each other. For example, picturing hell as both fire (Matthew 25:41) and outer darkness (Matthew 8:12) seems paradoxical. Of course, the God of the impossible can do anything, including make dark fire. So, the descriptions could be literal. Even if the language describing hell is symbolic, the place itself is real—and the reality will no doubt be worse than the symbols.

The scriptural descriptions of hell are meant to emphasize the torment and suffering that will be experienced by those sent there. The “fire” may picture the wrath of God that is experienced by unbelievers in hell, whereas the “outer darkness” may picture the alienation from God’s love, mercy, and grace. Whether the vivid language is symbolic or literal, we can be assured that hell is a terrible, terrifying place. Possibly the most terrifying aspect of hell is its duration. The suffering is eternal. It has no end. For us, here and now, the concept of hell should drive us to the cross of Christ. It is only by repentance and faith in Christ that we can be saved from the wrath to come.

Here are some of the passages that describe hell:

Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”

Matthew 8:12, “But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

2 Thessalonians 1:6–9, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

Revelation 20:1015, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. . . . Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Romans 2:8, “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”

Matthew 25:30, “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Hell, although we do not know exactly what it will look like, will be a place of unending suffering and torment from which there will be no escape. Therefore, now is the day of salvation. Now is the day for all to repent and believe the gospel. Now is the day for us to proclaim the good news that Christ has come to save sinners who trust in Him for forgiveness. Those who look to Christ now will be saved from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:9–10).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY IS HELL REFEREED TO LAKE OF FIRE?

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The lake of fire is a term used in only a few verses near the end in the book of Revelation (Revelation 19:2020:10141521:8). Jesus refers to Gehenna/hell several times (Matthew 10:28Mark 9:43Luke 12:5), as well as an “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:1222:13). These all seem to be different references to the same thing. Hellthe lake of fire, and outer darkness are all terms describing the final destination of those who reject Christ. This is a state of complete separation from God, never-ending and inescapable.

According to the Bible, the lake of fire is the “second death.” This is the ultimate consequence of sin, which is to be totally cut off from God. The lake of fire will be a place of perpetual suffering and misery. Scripture indicates that every person whose name is not in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). The lake of fire will also be the fate of the beast and false prophet from the end times (Revelation 19:20), as well as Satan himself (Revelation 20:10). The Bible indicates that both death and Hades—the temporary destination of the unsaved dead—will also be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14).

Even though hell is described using terminology such as fire and flame, it is not meant to be thought of as only a physical place. Hell is described as a place of “torment,” not “torture,” initially intended for purely spiritual beings (Matthew 25:41). In fact, the worst aspect of hell is an eternity of conscious, guilty, shameful separation from God and all forms of goodness. In that sense, hell is far worse than a literal inferno; a purely physical hell is actually not as terrible as what the Bible describes.

In other words, the Bible tells us what hell is “like,” using symbols such as the lake of fire. But Scripture does not tell us too much about what hell “is,” in direct terms.

Fire is often used as a symbol of God’s judgment. The symbolism stems from real-life examples of God’s use of fire to punish the wicked—the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), for example, and the destruction of Elijah’s enemies (2 Kings 1:12). Prophets often described God with a stream of fire coming from His throne, a symbol of His holy punishment of sin (e.g., Daniel 7:10Isaiah 30:33). The fact that the destiny of those who reject God is described as a “lake of fire” speaks to how serious the judgment is. When God finally abolishes sin and death, all sinners will be condemned to the worst possible fate, described in the Bible using the most horrific terms.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WILL WE SLEEP IN HEAVEN?

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Sleep is a physical necessity for our earthly bodies. Without sleep, our brains stop working correctly, and our bodies refuse to cooperate. The sleep-wake cycle is just another of the many cycles God has put into place on the earth—others include the cycle of the changing seasons, day and night, and the water cycle. These cycles are part of life on this planet. However, the current heaven is in a different realm. Upon death, those who are “in Christ” will be immediately with Him (2 Corinthians 5:8) but will not yet have their completely restored bodies. We must wait for the resurrection to receive those (1 Corinthians 15:402 Corinthians 4:14John 5:28–29). It is likely that, during the interim period in heaven, after death and before the resurrection, our souls will not need sleep; rather, we will enjoy unbroken worship and joy in the presence of the Lord.

Most people assume that Christians will “live forever in heaven” after they die, but that is not what Scripture says. Heaven is in the spirit realm, beyond our universe, and earthly bodies are unequipped for existence there (1 Corinthians 15:50). Therefore, “sleeping” in heaven may not even be possible or necessary. Jesus described the temporary resting place for the righteous as being “near Abraham” (Luke 16:23). We will have some type of body, and we will recognize each other. We will have some knowledge of the affairs on earth (Revelation 6:9–10). But we should take careful note of the reactions of human beings who saw God in His glory as did Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1–5), Moses (Exodus 33:20–23), and John (Revelation 1:17). Living in the manifest presence of the Lord God Almighty will change everything. The things of earth, including sleep, will no longer have the same value to us.

However, God created human beings to inhabit a physical realm. He intends to restore all things as new (Acts 3:21). At the resurrection our spirits, which have been with Christ, will be reunited with our restored bodies. We will then inhabit the new, completely restored earth with Jesus (Isaiah 65:17Revelation 21:1–2). Eternity will be spent living in perfect bodies on a perfect earth with Jesus as our undisputed King. In the eternal state, sleep may again be part of our experience, as will eating and drinking (Luke 14:15Revelation 19:9). But sleep will not be necessary due to exhaustion or weakness because our bodies will be perfect like Jesus’ body after His resurrection (Luke 24:41–42). The fact is that we don’t know enough from Scripture to state definitively whether or not we will sleep in heaven or in the eternal state. That’s one of the thousands of questions we will have answered in heaven. One thing is for sure: when we first see Jesus, sleep will be the last thing on our minds.

Prophet Nathan Emol