Who Gets Into Heaven?

This is a response to a Facebook post I was tagged in… https://news.vice.com/video/the-architect

I’m interested in religious folks interpretation/opinion on this.

Is waterboarding okay? EITs? Or should we turn the other cheek? Apparently God forgives all sins, even if that sin is mass killing of civilians. George Barcus, any insights for me?

As far as the torture part of this question I believe the article I shared deals with that. This question to me is more about the afterlife and figuring out who’s in and out of heaven after we die. If I am off on this let me know and I will respond to other questions as they come up.

The Christian teaching many have grown up with comes down to did you say the right prayer so that when you die you will get to go to the good place. The reality of that ideology is basically it says if you know the right answer when you get to heaven, like there will be a theology exam to find out if you knew the right answers to the questions, then you get in. The challenge is that we could have had that mental ascent and lived the worst kind of life imaginable afterwards. To me that is a pill that is impossible to swallow.

I believe the Bible to clearly teach that there will be a judgment day when we will stand before God. Many religions teach this in various ways, with varying results. This question comes up when we consider individuals like Hitler and other leaders who have committed famously egregious acts of mass killing, sadly too many to list here. The Bible has been used a number of times to justify this type of mass killing, which is another story for another day.

Recently the movie “Heaven is for Real” has come and given an interesting viewpoint of the reality of heaven, which is interesting idea. So, is a person like Hitler in heaven, forgiven of his ‘sins’? What happens on Judgment day? How can God allow those people in?

The four texts we have specifically concerning Jesus’ life, ministry and teachings can give us some insight. When the disciples ask Jesus about the judgment day, Jesus responds with something along the lines of, I don’t know, that is up to the Father.

When we face God, I believe everything we have ever done and been will be collected into one mass. We live in moments, so all we have done in each moment will be assembled together. I picture it like a huge caldron of our complete essence. Every moment God has given to us with all of the possibilities and our reactions and responses. These will be in God’s memory, every good and evil thing we have done. Then it will be judged, every moment that constitutes you and your lifetime will be shown to you and it will be weighed and tested. All that is false, dark and dishonest will be identified. All that is good, generous, joyful, honest and true will be identified. When we consider the death of Jesus, it gives us a window into God’s heart. As Jesus is suffering, God is dealing with all our wrongs, wickedness and evil. (our sin) So all of our wrongs will be identified. There will be no watering it down or attempts to explain it away; it will be there, staring us back in the face. One of the threads throughout the Bible is refining and removing impurities. As the caldron of our lives is heated up and tested, the evil will be revealed in its entirety.

So what happens next? This, I believe, is the real struggle with making sense of religion, which literally means, “reconnecting”. As Christians we believe God forgave the sin of humanity on the cross, through Jesus Christ. The visible pain of Jesus on the cross is the pain God forgives, meaning to count as worthless our wrongs and evil because they have no value (worth) in eternity. That is the ‘to good to be true’ part of Christianity that we want to accept for us thinking it is too good not to be true, but are not sure others are worthy of receiving. The atrocities of Mitchell and others who are somehow involved (whether they will admit it during an interview or not) or even the school shooters in Palestine yesterday to many are far beyond forgiveness and stir up ‘righteous anger’ and dislike for these persons. Some may be appalled at the idea that God could forgive them. We even justify ourselves by thinking we are good people, because we would never do anything like that, or we minimize our dark, shaky, underhanded deeds because people’s lives are not destroyed in the wake of our dealings.

So there are two (actually many more, but for this writing we will stick to these numbers) things we have to interpret differently as the world is transitioning between modernity and post-modernity: The value of EVERY human being and our part in both perpetuating the problem as well as trying to isolate ourselves from the problem.

To do this we go back to creation. First the Bible is not a Science textbook!! The two stories of creating in Genesis are not giving an accurate scientific development of the world in that it really tells us not how the world was created, but that it was God that created it in an orderly fashion. The Big Bang Theory (not the television show, but it is pretty darn funny) and Darwin’s theory of evolution have their good, logical input and more modern understanding. But the Biblical story we have isn’t and wasn’t in its original writing or understanding doing much more than giving God credit for creating the world and universe. It wasn’t telling that God created a perfect world as we understand perfect today, which is actually a Greek philosophy not Hebrew ideology. When the earth was created it was created with potential not perfection. Over and over in the Genesis story God creates something and steps back and looks at it saying its ‘good’ and at the end ‘very good’. Good meant that it was full of the potential of goodness in all things. When man is given charge over it the instruction is to take charge of everything. They were to bring out the goodness of all that was created, which is what Christ’s teaching is. To love someone is to desire for the very best of who they could be to become a reality. To subdue the earth, is to love it to a point where the very best for the earth continues to be brought forth. Some of these lessons we are learning the hard way as humanity has raped the earth and misused its resources for man’s desire more than the glorification of God. (There are many more implications to this, but I think you can see where this is leading.)

Perpetuation and isolation: We all have a part that we play that either continues the goodness of creation or denies the goodness of creation. Our time on earth is extremely short in comparison to the time the earth has been in existence. There are now over 7 billion people on the planet. If God had created a perfect world it would have been populated at that time by the maximum number of sustainable life, fully developed. Think about it, if you add something to a perfect thing it can no longer be perfect because you have changed what was perfect by merely adding something to it, no matter how good that addition was in and of itself. The same holds true if you take something away. As populations increase, economies change, ecological changes take effect, and animal populations and adaptabilities are in flux, humans are to be about controlling the changes that bring out the good. Too often we are all in many ways isolating ourselves from the problems, by isolating ourselves by self-centered desires and the blinders of our cultural habits and practices that are becoming more and more evident. I thought of plenty of examples as I consider Ferguson, MO, and other top stories from the Yahoo news page. I know this is way oversimplifying this idea but let’s say in some large US city a middle aged person was robbed by a late teen aged person who was trying to get enough money for their next drug fix. Many would say that the first did nothing to provoke the attack, which is likely true. But 10 years earlier that person had an opportunity to work with and help create after-school programs for children who had nothing to do but sit around, playing video games and be drawn into gang activity, but they refused to for whatever reason. Then could we say that inadvertently there was a cause and effect?

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had 3 simple rules: Do no harm, Do Good, Stay in love with God. The person described above may not have done any harm, but they failed to do good. In this sense there is a God given responsibility for all to bring out the good in all people. While I know I cannot fix the world, I can do my part as I seek to follow Jesus Christ.

So what happens to me when I get to judgment day? Everything I did that failed to bring forth the goodness of creation will be revealed in clear, undeniable ways. The same will go with the Hitlers, Mitchells, Bin-Ladens, and whoever. When the depths of our hearts is revealed whatever we hold onto will be kept. If we choose to hold onto the darkness, or fail to let it go, we make the choice to enter into hell. Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:19, “I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This came right after Peter makes the proclamation the Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the son of the living God. Also right before Jesus rebukes Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but mans.” (23)

The Gospel message that Jesus preached was not say a little prayer and you will get to go to heaven when you die. It wasn’t attend church every Sunday for an hour, drop a token in the plate and your covered. It was repent and believe in the good news, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Repent means to consider what and the way you think. Believe means to put Jesus words (teaching) to the test. If you want to know what Jesus actually taught see Matthew 5-7.

Sometimes the harder pill to swallow is living in this world now while such atrocities are taking place. This is where people are blessed when they hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt 5:6). The hope for this world is that it is not over yet. The real question, Levi (or others who will read this) is as you see these wrongs in the world what are you going to do about it? In John’s account of Jesus’ life, Jesus asks Peter if he loved him, to which Peter responded with, “You know I love you.” Each time Jesus replied with a Feed (take care of) my sheep. Are you familiar with that? It is found in John 21 beginning at verse 15. We like the story and too often stop at verse 17. In verse 18-19, Peter is told how he is going to die and Jesus says once again, “Follow me.” If we stop there we miss an important part of the conversation. Continuing from verse 20 Peter look around and sees John (know throughout as the Disciple Jesus Loved) and asked Jesus, “What about him?” Jesus’ response? “If I want him to remain until I come, what difference does that make to you? You must follow me.”

God continually raises up people to bring about change, but God doesn’t violate your free will or mine, and unfortunately at times, theirs either. I believe God calls all people, regardless of cultural upbringing, religious preference, race, nationality, orientation, disposition, gifts, talents, and ailments to bring about goodness in the world. When we read John 14:6, Jesus answered, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” and put it into the context of Jesus’ teaching through the four gospel accounts that means that while on earth did we do what Jesus did.