God’s Motive for Taking Everyone to Heaven

God’s reason for taking us all to heaven is that He loves us.  He…loves…us.  Plain and simple.  He doesn’t make exceptions for bad people because compared to Him we’re all bad anyway.  He accepts us the way a mother accepts her children:  as fragments of herself.  Even when our behavior repulses Him, He looks beyond it to find the seed of worth that’s in each and every one of us.  Also like a good mother, He lets us feel the consequences of our behavior – both here and in heaven.  Therefore, we needn’t think of His love as a devil-may-care attitude toward the way we live.  A loving mother knows how to be stern.  But however stern she might be, such severity would never include shutting the door to her home forever.

For more, see the post Everyone Is Going to Heaven.

Bible notes on this post.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ for those who want to hear about Him without having to join a church.

33 Replies to “God’s Motive for Taking Everyone to Heaven”

    1. I’m as perplexed by your comment as I am by some of his.

      By the way, I commented twice over there just this morning.

      If you are intellectually aligned with Vridar, could you help me to understand his point of view? It’s not as evident as he seems to think it is.

    1. She remains faithful, for she cannot deny herself. Remember the fragments? See also 2 Timothy 2:13.

      Consider also Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. He was given up for dead. When he came to his senses, he returned home with nothing to commend him but his own self-interest. Yet he was gladly received. If a human being does not come to his senses in this life, he certainly does after he dies, for he has been removed from the world which was blinding him (Romans 6:7).

      A mother and a father are one flesh, and they cannot deny what comes from them. If a parent is earthly and sin-prone, perhaps. But God? Never.

      1. How do we know that someone would come to his senses after death? The Bible says even the demons believe and they shudder. What bout the Fall of the angels? They knew, saw, experienced God in a much clearer sense then we do, and yet still turned from Him. And notice, they don’t even get a second chance, yet alone “a third” if you include possibly being able to change after death. Otherwise, what is the importance of this life if we can change after it? That may be a bleak way of looking at it, but it follows anyways.

        Also, He never will deny us, but that is not to say that we cannot deny Him. Otherwise, we have no free will. So if we reject Him, no matter what He does to reach out to us, what is He to do? Take us against our will? Force us to want Him? No, a loving God wants us to choose Him, and lets us make the choice for ourselves. We have control of our destinies.

        1. How do we know that someone would come to his senses after death?

          Jesus’ parable of Lazarus in Luke 16 demonstrates this.

          The Bible says even the demons believe and they shudder. What bout the Fall of the angels? They knew, saw, experienced God in a much clearer sense then we do, and yet still turned from Him. And notice, they don’t even get a second chance, yet alone “a third” if you include possibly being able to change after death.

          You speak quite definitively about the circumstances of the angels’ fall and also about their ultimate destiny. I feel as if I’m doing well to understand God’s human dealings from the Scriptures – His angelic dealings seem fuzzier by comparison.

          Otherwise, what is the importance of this life if we can change after it?

          There are many things we won’t be able to change after this life. For one thing, we won’t be able to change anything we did while in this life. That will have a huge impact on our judgment in heaven. That is why the Preacher in Eccelsiastes, after throwing up his hands at the vanity he saw in life through twelve chapters, ended with, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person. Because God will bring every act to judgment, everthing which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NASB) Jesus put a finer point on this admonition when He said that we’d be judged for every idle word that came out of our mouths (Matthew 12:36) and even for every hateful thought we have toward a brother (Matthew 5:22).

          Also, He never will deny us, but that is not to say that we cannot deny Him.

          Yes, we can. That’s why Peter’s denial of Jesus gives us so much hope – the Lord forgave Him for it.

          Otherwise, we have no free will.

          I am perplexed by the those who think that everyone going to heaven would mean we have no free will. There will all sorts of various outcomes in heaven. If everyone being in one location meant no one had free will that would mean no one on earth has free will because we’re all in the same place.

          So if we reject Him, no matter what He does to reach out to us, what is He to do?

          He judges us – both here on earth in this life, and afterward when we go to heaven for our final judgment.

          Take us against our will?

          When my children were little I gave them freedom within appropriate boundaries. I loved to watch them play games in the yard. But if they were headed to the street to play in traffic you’d better believe I’d violate their free will, pick them up, and bring them back.

          Force us to want Him?

          This is why He gives us so much freedom: He waiting for us to repent. He wants us to come to Him by faith of our own free will. Those who only come to Him after they die will be ashamed of themselves (assuming they had true opportunities to learn of His love in this life. Many don’t.)

          We have control of our destinies.

          Yes, we do. Great control, as a matter of fact. Just not so great they we could remove ourselves from His love forever.

          1. Yeah, but he came to his senses and was not in Abraham’s bosom with God, he was in torment. He didn’t get to go with God. So he didn’t seem to get the chance to change his mind in a sense that would allow that. He was still being punished.

            As for Angels, we have 2 Peter:2-4 saying the angels were not spared, Jude 1:6 saying they were kept in eternal chains under darkness. Revelation 12 and 20 says that the Devil and his angels will be thrown into the eternal torment that will last forever and ever. So it seems that we know about the prospects of their salvation, and that is, that there is none for them.

            I am confused here when you say that everything we do here on earth will be judged, yet no matter what we do, we go to heaven, yet in heaven, we will be judged/placed/treated according to our earthly lives. To me, that means that hell is practically in heaven almost if the judgment is still going on there like that. Yeah, I think that someone like Paul will be seen in greater respect than the person that sat in the pew of the Catholic Church their whole lives, believed, but never did anything about it. But I think you are missing the idea that unrepentant sin cannot be in heaven. And based on the Scriptures, there is no indication that we will have an opportunity to repent after death. So from a biblical standpoint, it seems that one would have to me minimally agnostic about this.

            As for Peter’s denial, this only proves my point! He repented and Jesus forgave him. But he repented! If he had never repented, what would have happened? If Jesus had come back and Peter never returned but ran off with a lady on each hip and was never seen again, would he still have been forgiven? No! Forgiveness only comes after repentance.

            First, I want to say that what follows could easily be taken as me being upset or dismissive or what have you depending on how it is read. But I want to clarify that this is not how I mean it to be intended, rather, I say this in love and out of my passion for Christ and His Word and mean no ill will.

            The free will thing is not about location, its about choice. Yes, if everyone chose heaven, that is fine. But we make that choice based on how we live life on earth, which is why the entire Bible is centered on how to live life on earth, it is describing how we are to make that choice. By choosing not live like this, one chooses against God. Jesus said that you are either for Him or against Him. That seems pretty straightforward to me. Matthew 7:13-14 says it so clearly. Few will get into heaven because the path is narrow that leads to life, but many will take the wide path path and go through the gate that leads to destruction. Our lives here matter because living them incorrectly gets us more than just a not-the-greatest-spot-in-heaven, but because it leads to destruction, death, torment… Why would they warn us so much about this? Why would they care so much about everybody’s lives and how they lived that they themselves would go to their death for it? Why? Because they believed that for those that did not take this narrow path, that did not live the right way, they were destined for eternal misery and separation from God, and they wanted everybody that they could come within shouting distance to know this. If everybody was going to be saved anyway in the end, it wouldn’t be that urgent, that big a deal, that Jesus would tell people to leave everything behind and follow Him. It wouldn’t be that big a deal to go tell everyone NOW and not just wait to get around to it. It is why living our lives for Christ is so essential and important, not because it gets us a higher standing in heaven, but because it is the way to heaven. If all it got us was a higher standing in the perfect place(heaven), what kind of selfish news would the Gospel be? “You will be saved no matter what you do, but if your good, I’ll give you something extra special…” I just do not see this as the picture being painted by Jesus or His disciples. This does not seem like an emotional, urgent message to me.

            I think that your parent analogy is a little off however. Your children were not of the age to know that it could be dangerous. But Paul made it clear that everybody is without excuse when it comes to acknowledging God and our sinful natures. We know better. And unlike the situation with your child, God has given us free reign to do things even if they are harmful to us, otherwise He would intervene every time we are about to sin. For example, it is harmful to a man and his relationships to lust and look at porn. Yet God doesn’t prevent it from happening. He leaves the decision up to us. He will warn us, He will have others warn us, but He does not do more than that because He desires that our choices be our choices. That’s what free will is.

            So I will wrap up this response by saying that if we are that free, as to live our lives as we want, as to reject God if we want, as to repent if we want, what if we don’t choose Him and repentance? There is no biblical reason to think that we for sure can change our minds after we die. It seems that it is implied that how we live is the choice, and that even to merely claim to believe is not good enough, since even the demons believe and they shudder. That is why I think that after death we do not get a redo. I think that this is it. The demons know, the demons knew all along, and they don’t get a redo. While the person may come to believe that God exists, while they may regret what they did, as I am sure many of the demons do since in the book of Enoch it says that they ask Enoch to petition to have them forgiven but this is denied, but I do not think that they will come to have a saving faith in God and not just a belief about Him. I think that is where is stops. They recognize they were wrong but at that point, they made their choice. It may be possible that there could be some exceptions, I freely admit this, but it does not seem that the Bible teaches that it will be the rule.

            1. Yeah, but he came to his senses and was not in Abraham’s bosom with God, he was in torment. He didn’t get to go with God. So he didn’t seem to get the chance to change his mind in a sense that would allow that. He was still being punished.

              1. In context, this appears to be a parable.
              2. Whether a parable for an historical account, God is not mentioned.
              3. That we cannot change our positions once we die is a point on which I have agreed with you.
              4. My point has not been that people will get a chance to repent after they die; rather, I saying that the blinders of this world come off at death and sin loses its grip.

              As for Angels, we have 2 Peter:2-4 saying the angels were not spared, Jude 1:6 saying they were kept in eternal chains under darkness. Revelation 12 and 20 says that the Devil and his angels will be thrown into the eternal torment that will last forever and ever. So it seems that we know about the prospects of their salvation, and that is, that there is none for them.

              I did not declare that their prospects were good – only that you were speaking more definitively about their issues than I felt comfortable doing. Moreover, you appear to be speaking more definitively than even the scriptures you cite. For example, Revelation 12 only says that the devil and his angels were thrown down out of heaven into the earth. And in Revelation 20 the “tormented day and night forever and ever” is only spoken of the devil, the beast, and the false prophet. Again, my message is about human, not angelic, destiny. I only responded to a point your were making about them for which it doesn’t look like you have sufficient scriptural warrant – at least so far. Let me suggest we stay centered on humans for when I wrote Everyone Is Going to Heaven, they are the “everyone” to whom I was referrring.

              I am confused here when you say that everything we do here on earth will be judged, yet no matter what we do, we go to heaven, yet in heaven, we will be judged/placed/treated according to our earthly lives. To me, that means that hell is practically in heaven almost if the judgment is still going on there like that.

              When I say everyone is judged on earth, think of the kinds of judgment you see in the Old Testament. Same God, same sin, same judgments. When I say everyone is judged when they go to heaven, think of placement based on the totality of the way an individual lived his or her life on earth. That is, the judgment on earth is ongoing (that’s why it’s called “eternal judgment”) while the judgment in heaven is definitive (that’s why it’s called “final judgment”).

              As for Peter’s denial, this only proves my point! He repented and Jesus forgave him. But he repented! If he had never repented, what would have happened? If Jesus had come back and Peter never returned but ran off with a lady on each hip and was never seen again, would he still have been forgiven? No! Forgiveness only comes after repentance.

              Don’t forget that Jesus promised Peter a refuge not just before he repented but before he even sinned (Luke 22:31-32). Therefore, I see a parallel in God promising heaven to everyone who dies even though all who die are sinners. You and I are in complete agreement that forgiveness follows repentance. We only differ on just how big an eye-opener death actually is!

              First, I want to say that what follows could easily be taken as me being upset or dismissive or what have you depending on how it is read. But I want to clarify that this is not how I mean it to be intended, rather, I say this in love and out of my passion for Christ and His Word and mean no ill will.

              I infer no ill will from you. On the contrary, you seem to be a very gracious person. But even if you showed me ill will, Jesus would want me to turn the other cheek.

              I’ll answer the rest later today.

              1. Ok, so clarification to start off. So people don’t repent after they die, an agreement here. But later you say that death is an eye-opener that leads sin to lose its grip. I would say that there may or may not be sin after death, only a dead person would know. I will say that certainly once the angels that fell had sinned, they continue to do so, though I understand this is clearly not a perfect parallel to humans, and may be terrible altogether, but it shows that at least in principle, it is possible to sin after having seen God at least for some beings.

                Not sure why I threw in Revelation 12, as that is kind of a whole different thing, so apologies. My Bible is an interlinear Greek Bible with the NASB in one margin and the NIV in the other, which is one reason for some of my mixups.

                But Matthew 25 makes it pretty clear that the eternal fire is for the angels of the devil as well. But we can drop that and leave it aside.

                So my question would be what if someone, say Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. is getting into heaven and is judged based on their lives. Millions slaughtered, in Hitler’s case God’s sacred people, the Jews, being a main target… What is their judgment in heaven? What is their placement?

                Next, one of the reasons, philosophically, that I believe in Hell is due to God’s Goodness and Perfection. This may seem strange, since this is often the reason quoted for Hell being impossible in light of a Good and loving God. But if God is Good and Perfect(capitals because these are instantiated completely in Him), then He cannot be in the presence of sin. For me, this is why repentance is so important. That is the only way for forgiveness, which is the only way to be “sinless,” at least in God’s eyes since Jesus death pardons us. But if this repentance never happens for someone, they will still have sin on them, and whether or not they continue to sin after they die is no longer something to take into consideration because their other sins make them incapable of being in the presence of God in heaven. So if one is not repentant and not forgiven, sin remains on them and God cannot be in its presence, and therefore not theirs, unfortunately, either. Let me know what you think about this because I can formulate this from a purely logical and philosophical stance without the Bible at all(ontological argument for God being the maximally great being, etc.).

                I am not sure what you mean that Jesus offered Peter a refuge here. He says that He prayed that his faith would not fail. If anything, this is a time that Jesus knows what will happen, not just that Peter would deny Him, but that he would repent as well.

                Finally, I do not think that we all die as sinners. I think that we are washed clean when we are forgiven. That is why God sees us as righteous and pure, because of Jesus death and resurrection. He no longer sees us as sinful, though we still sin, but rather as forgiven and pure, washed white as snow. This plays into why I think Hell may even be necessary, given this idea and God’s framework.

                1. As to your question about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc., I have written much – not about these people by name, but about such “bad people.” Please let me refer you to some of these writings and then return to your more specific question:

                  Today’s post at A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom

                  How Can God Let Bad People into Heaven? (a short essay)

                  Chapter 11 of The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven (titled But What About Bad People?)

                  As far as where they will be in heaven, I am no judge of that. For one thing, we can’t judge people by what we read in newspapers or history books; God’s judgment takes everything into account – not just what gets reported publicly. However, for discussion’s sake, let’s assume they’re as bad as we think. In that case, I’d see them a long, long way from God in heaven. I’d also see them a long, long way from people who live very godly lives. I imagine heaven to be of enormous scope and size. Just think how small the earth is when compared to the physical heavens. I see the same sort of size discrepancy with the invisible heavens. In short, bad people will not have honor in heaven and they will have to live with regret for how they lived on earth. This is very sobering to me because I am less concerned about their judgment than my own.

                  Before I leave this subject, let me say a couple more things. First, this subject of bad people going to heaven is a fair one and deserves answers. That’s why I have written the kinds of things you see linked to above. Second, however, this “problem” of bad people getting into heaven is just as big a problem for the traditional evangelical view as it is for me – maybe even more so. I say this because according to that view, if any one of these dictators genuinely prayed the sinner’s prayer before he died he would go to heaven with everyone else who prayed that prayer. And the problem gets even worse if the evangelical view doesn’t stress judgment as much as I do (that is, in that case the view would hold that these dictators got as good a heavenly experience as everyone else). Therefore, an evangelical who complains that everyone going to heaven will let bad people into heaven is throwing stones from inside a glass house.

                  Next, one of the reasons, philosophically, that I believe in Hell is due to God’s Goodness and Perfection. This may seem strange, since this is often the reason quoted for Hell being impossible in light of a Good and loving God. But if God is Good and Perfect(capitals because these are instantiated completely in Him), then He cannot be in the presence of sin. For me, this is why repentance is so important…

                  I completely agree with you on the importance of repentance. I would go further, however, and make clear that repentance is not a transaction as many Christians believe. Rather, repentance is a lifestyle. Many Christians believe that praying the sinner’s prayer washes them clean and guarantees them heaven. From that point on they look down on others like the wrong-minded guy did in Luke 18:9-14.

                  As to your broader point that God is holy, I think that is why there will be a great separation of ranks in heaven. Those who sought to be close to Him on earth will be close to Him in heaven; those who sought to avoid Him on earth will not be near Him in heaven. I hasten to add, however, that placement is God’s determination based on all the secrets of the heart. I don’t think we can look around us now and project who is going to rank high in heaven. It’s likely to be poor and selfless people that we have never heard of.

                  I am not sure what you mean that Jesus offered Peter a refuge here. He says that He prayed that his faith would not fail. If anything, this is a time that Jesus knows what will happen, not just that Peter would deny Him, but that he would repent as well.

                  That could be. But if so, it implies that Peter earned Jesus’ forgiveness by repenting. I believe God’s grace is completely unearned by us.

                  Finally, I do not think that we all die as sinners. I think that we are washed clean when we are forgiven. That is why God sees us as righteous and pure, because of Jesus death and resurrection. He no longer sees us as sinful, though we still sin, but rather as forgiven and pure, washed white as snow.

                  I believe that a person may be washed white as snow when they pray the sinner’s prayer, but they dirty themselves the next time they sin. That’s why we must confess sin that we commit (1 John 1:9). If we don’t, then we’re headed back into judgment for our sins (Hebrews 10:26-27). (See also Ezekiel 18:24-29.) Hell – meaning the judgment of God against sin in this earth – is indeed applied. This is why you see some people sincerely come to Christ, only to revert to their old lifestyle. It doesn’t always mean they were insincere in faith; it means they didn’t live a repentant lifestyle that would keep them free from sin.

                  1. I will take a look at those posts as time allows and respond later, thank you.

                    I think that if they prayed the “sinner’s prayer” and were genuine, then yes, heaven would be their destination place, but I certainly agree with you that there will probably be tiers of heaven, though maybe not like Dante’s depiction haha so no issue here. And I totally agree that true repentance is a lifestyle and no a choice made one time but continuously, never ceasing. As I say further down, I think that there are many people who claim to be Christians and think that praying such a prayer gets them into to heaven that won’t go to heaven. Matthew 7 could be a “proof text” of sorts I think. And this is certainly the wrong attitude to take towards God. As I have said, He want all of us, my heart, mind, soul, strength, actions, thoughts, choices, etc.

                    More agreement that we most likely have no idea of many of the people that are closest to God because they are somewhat under the radar and God sees their hearts while we do not, but for those that have met them, there is something about them that just stands out like a sore thumb. Like a tree in a field.

                    But where I find pause is to how vast your view of heaven really is. I think it is simply too big. I think that my argument means that any presence whatsoever of sin cannot be tolerated, no matter how far. And I think God is present in all of heaven. So if that is the case, then where do people that still have sin on them go? It doesn’t seem like heaven is then an option. And if you want to say that there is a place so far from God as to cease to cause this problem that I raise, then I would say that we are in agreement but lack the same terms and that my “Hell” is in your “Heaven.” Haha I know that sounds odd, but I think we are making good grounds and in agreement a lot more than we think, and that this is hidden based on the language we are using. But it seems to me that you don’t seem to lose much from you view if the there is a line that ceases to be haven and becomes hell based simply on the presence, or lack-thereof, of God, since this, to me, seems like something that I could not call heaven.

                    And I would not say that Peter did anything to earn repentance, but rather chose repentance. And I think how he lives before/after this incident is a great attestation to his lifestyle of repentance as well. I think there is a distinction to be made between earning something and accepting something. If someone offers me $100 dollars, there are a few things we can look at. Was it earned? If yes, I can accept what is due to me. Clearly not our case when it comes to God and grace. If yes, I can deny what I have earned and give them the “gift.” This can be seen, in say, doctors that work for free in 3rd world countries. If no, I can deny it because I do not deserve it, which may seem admirable, but if the person insists and insists, we would end up being somewhat foolish to deny. If no, I can accept it. This final option is what repentance is. It is recognizing God’s free, unearned gift of grace, accepting it, and saying that though I can never earn it, I can give you what I have. Unfortunately, some people try to take the money and run(people who see grace as a free pass to sin). So Peter took this last option, part a, where he gave what he could, his life. It is not that he did anything to earn forgiveness, but it was offered to him and he accepted it and gave his life to God since that was the least he could do. So while unearned, grace still has to be accepted.

                    Interestingly, and maybe not so surprisingly, Christ is said to be our bridegroom, or “marriage partner” in some sense. I think this analogy runs so deep. Not only does it set an example for love in and out of the context of human marriage(husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church), but I think it runs all the way to the proposal. God is proposing to us, with Jesus and grace in the ring box, on His knee, pleading us to marry Him. All we have to do is say yes(though committing our lives to Him seems to be part of the analogy too, I don’t want to focus too much on that as to make it seem that this makes us more worthy of the rewards). But we have the option of saying no. And just like if someone says no to a human marriage proposal and the marriage bond and relationship never forms and the fruits of that relationship are never realized, neither is the relationship between us and God formed, and neither do the fruits become realized, and we can only blame ourselves because it was offered to us.

                    I disagree I think with your idea that we are dirty each time we sin until we confess and repent of that sin. Surely the Catholic idea that we must confess each sin is incorrect. What if I forget one? What if it was one I didn’t even realize to be a sin? What if I die before I get a chance to confess? I think the lifestyle here is hey. A life of repentance is one where this becomes unnecessary. I have been forgiven for what I have done and what I will do, though I should still confide in God and seek His repentance, I don’t think this means that we have to be wary of each and every sin and go about in this manner. And maybe this is me just misunderstanding your view here and I’m hacking at a straw man, but hack I shall just in case haha

                    The problem here is somewhat laid out: Sins that are forgotten, unknown to us, etc. And I think we agree here that a true life of repentance is different and renders this trivial, though that does not mean that we go about purposely failing to recognize sin. But where I am really thrown off is your last sentence: “… a repentant lifestyle that would keep them free from sin.” What does this mean? It seems to mean that the result of a “repentant lifestyle” is a lack of sin, or a perfect life without sin. If that is the case, I could not disagree more strongly, as every person I know, no matter how close to God or what position they hold in a church or bible school, all say the same thing, I am still a sinner and yet God still loves me. This seemed to be Paul’s message as well. Now, either this means a truly “repentant lifestyle” is impossible, or that it is not what I take you to possibly be saying. On the other hand, if this is not what you means, what are we talking about? I never doubt the sincerity of one’s faith, as that is something only God and that person know. I am not Calvinist in this regard and don’t know how much I buy into perseverance of the saints because of this. But I am a sinner, I know that, and if the two options are this “repentant lifestyle” that causes sinning to cease, or asking for forgiveness for each and every sin…. I’m screwed haha I always took verses like the 1 John one to mean that we recognize that we are still sinners and need forgiveness rather than saying that we are now perfect, and maybe that is also how you read it. I guess i could just use some clarification as to what you mean by this last paragraph.

                    1. The first place of disagreement I find in this comment of yours is in the fourth paragraph, and it may not that big a one. Yes, I see heaven as vast. And, yes, the most excuseless sinners will likely be the farthest from Him (I say “excuseless” rather than “vilest” because, as I’ve said elsewhere, God judges us according to the light we have). If you think that the farthest point means excrutiating physical and emotional torment for all time then I cannot agree. God would not do such a thing. However, if you merely see major differences in heavenly experience between those closest to God and those farthest away, then I could agree.

                      As for Peter, I don’t for a moment want to take away any of his glory. He was a faithful servant of the Lord and by his example we learn a lot.

                      As for your distinction between “receiving” the gift and “earning” the gift, I agree with you in principle. However, in outcome Christians today generally think they deserve to go to heaven more than non-Christians because Christians have “repented.” In other words, Christians boast about their “repentance,” or their “faith,” or their having “received” salvation. They think these things make them better than others who have not done these things. So, while they say it’s by grace, they act like it’s by works.

                      As for your comments about Jesus being a bridegroom offering marriage to us, I agree. But, again, our disagreement is about when and where such a metaphor applies. I believe it applies to this life. I do not believe that the Lord will act like a jilted suitor in the life to come. He’s too big for that. We may not rank high in heaven for having spurned him, but even Joseph wanted to treat Mary kindly when he thought she had cheated on him – how much more the Lord will be gracious to those who, through the schemes of Satan, said no to an offer they should have accepted.

                      As for sin and the defilement it brings, I think you are reading too much into my words. I am not saying we have to remember every sin (who could?). Nor am I saying we can live entirely without sin (who could but Jesus?). However, I am saying that through a repentant lifestyle walking in the presence of the Lord at all times, we can and should commit far less sin than we used to. In fact, if walking with the Lord does not make us discernibly different people we are not truly walking with the Lord. Consider these verses: Matthew 1:21; John 1:19; John 13:8; Acts 3:25-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:19.

                      Again, if we don’t live much more righteously after we’ve met the Lord than before, we only demonstrate the absence of a meeting. He means to make us better! And we deny Him at our peril.

                    2. I do not affirm nor deny physical torment in hell. I do not know whether the depictions of Gehenna are literal or merely metaphoric and figurative due to the incommensurability of hell with our current lives. Hell very possibly could be merely the absence of God’s presence.

                      Very true that that is how many “Christians” act, though these are not biblical Christians. A biblical Christian sees himself as the worst of all people, as Paul viewed himself. So this is not a biblical idea, but a modern notion that is corrupt and stupid and nearly heretical.

                      But the marriage analogy is applied specifically to the new heaven and new earth since the idea is that our current spouses will not be our spouses in heaven since Christ has taken that place. And as for the Mary and Joseph thing, Mary did not actually reject him, and if Joseph had known that, that would have changed the situation and Joseph would not have acted like that. Not to mention, he was going to divorce her! He was going to separate himself from her. God does not separate Himself from people willingly, people do that themselves. And yes, it should have been accepted, but it wasn’t! We can’t change that. And if we can’t go back and change our minds and repent(which I see as synonymous with changing of ones mind here), then how does this whole thing work? What is the point? If this earth isn’t a process of allowing people to choose their destinies, their eternal arrangements, what is its purpose? Couldn’t God have just made a perfect world to start off and forget this whole thing if everyone gets in no matter what happens?

                      Ok, complete agreement with the last paragraph, thanks for clarifying. I was not sure what you meant. Well, minus the fact that the peril that I think results from rejecting God is much more serious than you do, since mine means eternal separation from God, and yours seems to be of a less great gift, but still a gift. Its till heaven.

                    3. As for the “torments of hell,” I think the Bible is quite specific about them. Go to Deuteronomy 28. After listing the blessings of the covenant (14 verses), Moses spells out the curses (54 verses!). Moreover, verse 61 says that bad things not even listed here will come on the disobedient. Then read the history of Israel and you will see how they experienced these curses through their disobedience. Hell is indeed bleak. It ends finally with death.

                      A biblical Christian sees himself as the worst of all people…

                      Then why does he get to go to heaven while people worse than him have to go to hell?

                      And as for the Mary and Joseph thing, Mary did not actually reject him, and if Joseph had known that, that would have changed the situation and Joseph would not have acted like that. Not to mention, he was going to divorce her! He was going to separate himself from her.

                      Yes, but my point was that when he thought she had rejected him he decided to divorce her quietly so as not to disgrace her (Matthew 1:19). You don’t think going to hell is, among other things, a major disgrace? My point is that Joseph is here demonstrating the kindness of God. God will not be less kind than Joseph, will He?

                      God does not separate Himself from people willingly, people do that themselves. And yes, it should have been accepted, but it wasn’t! We can’t change that. And if we can’t go back and change our minds and repent(which I see as synonymous with changing of ones mind here), then how does this whole thing work? What is the point? If this earth isn’t a process of allowing people to choose their destinies, their eternal arrangements, what is its purpose? Couldn’t God have just made a perfect world to start off and forget this whole thing if everyone gets in no matter what happens?

                      You seem to think that the whole point of life is for human beings either to accept or reject Jesus so that on that basis some will go to heaven and some will go to hell. If that’s so, what about babies who die before being old enough to choose? If you say that all babies go to heaven, then abortion is the greatest invention in history for all aborted babies will go to heaven but if they were allowed to live and grow up, some would go to hell. If you say all babies don’t go to heaven, then you’re saying someone besides the person is making the decision.

                  2. I read the first two links real quick and can find a quick thing that you seem to leave and and was wondering your take on it. Imputed righteousness? It is not us or anything we do that gets us heaven, but rather Jesus righteousness, His good life is granted to us and that is how God sees us, through His Son rather than our own filthy lives.

                    Second, if there is shame and regret in heaven, as in the story of Lazarus and the rich man, how does that fit into the depiction of heaven? That doesn’t seem very heavenly to me. Also, what about the dividing line in the parable, the great chasm that is uncrossable? It seems that this is more like a heaven vs. hell parable than a higher heaven vs. lower heaven to me. Surely the torment of regret and shame will not be something that would exist in heaven.

                    1. I read the first two links real quick and can find a quick thing that you seem to leave and and was wondering your take on it. Imputed righteousness? It is not us or anything we do that gets us heaven, but rather Jesus righteousness, His good life is granted to us and that is how God sees us, through His Son rather than our own filthy lives.

                      “Imputed righteousness” is one of the biggest problems with evangelical Christianity. It’s a concept that says to them, “It doesn’t matter how we live; it only matters how Jesus lived.” On the contrary, it matters most how Jesus lived, but it’s still of importance how we live. God doesn’t just want us to be know that He’s righteous; He wants us to be like Him!

                      Second, if there is shame and regret in heaven, as in the story of Lazarus and the rich man, how does that fit into the depiction of heaven? That doesn’t seem very heavenly to me.

                      Where are you getting your perceptions of heaven? Shouldn’t heaven be what God prescribes and not what we imagine?

                      Also, what about the dividing line in the parable, the great chasm that is uncrossable? It seems that this is more like a heaven vs. hell parable than a higher heaven vs. lower heaven to me. Surely the torment of regret and shame will not be something that would exist in heaven.

                      I’m not so sure. Rather, I think there will be regret in heaven. And the chasm is that life on earth will be over and cannot be relived. The point of the parable is that once life is over, the rich man can do nothing to alter his position in the afterlife relative to the poor man. Better to be generous while we have the chance.

                    2. So you think you get it based on your own works at least a little? Yeah, what we do matters. Imputed righteousness never says that we get a free pass. I mentioned that already. Paul talks about it as well. My point was that it is salvation by grace and not by works. I is a cruel and heinous distortion for someone to take imputed righteousness to be a free pass, though it is done. But that is incorrect.

                      Well, the other descriptions of heaven include perfection, happiness, no more sorrow, no more pain. Regret, in my eyes, is a type of mental or psychological pain, which would not fit into the biblical concept of heaven. Also, the main reason I mentioned that was in conjunction with the parable and the chasm in the parable, which I would like to hear your thoughts on.

                      As for regret in heaven, read further down that argument that I put forth based on the logic of the argument you recommended to me for universalism.

                    3. Well, the other descriptions of heaven include perfection, happiness, no more sorrow, no more pain. Regret, in my eyes, is a type of mental or psychological pain, which would not fit into the biblical concept of heaven.

                      The biblical evidence you present is fairly skimpy and I think you are adding your own preconceptions to it. Nevertheless, I’m willing to compare preconceptions with you. The only way I can conceive of person having no regret in heaven requires that he doesn’t remember anything there that he wishes he’d done differently here. I suppose a person could so fully repent and so fully live the rest of his life for God that by the time he got to heaven there’d be no other memory that could come to his mind that would cause him regret. But I don’t think most of us will fit this category. The only other way we could have no regret in heaven is to have no memory of what we did on earth. I cannot conceive of that state. In any case, we’re both speculating to a large degree. I have not found detailed and extensive explanations in the Bible of what heavenly life will be like. As I’ve said, it’s attention seems to be very much on how we live on earth.

                      Also, the main reason I mentioned that was in conjunction with the parable and the chasm in the parable, which I would like to hear your thoughts on.

                      I thought I’d answered that. To repeat in summary, I think there’ll be chasms in heaven. It’s vast, and God will have it ordered with those who honored Him most at the highest places.

            2. The free will thing is not about location, its about choice. Yes, if everyone chose heaven, that is fine. But we make that choice based on how we live life on earth, which is why the entire Bible is centered on how to live life on earth, it is describing how we are to make that choice. By choosing not live like this, one chooses against God. Jesus said that you are either for Him or against Him. That seems pretty straightforward to me.

              I don’t think the mass of humanity sees the issues as clearly as you have laid out. You benefit from your familiarlity with the Bible and your experience with Jesus. Not everyone sees these issues so clearly. On the contrary, people are generally confused, often discouraged, and, for the most part, trying to do the best they can with life. Does this invalidate Paul’s judgment of humanity in Romans 1-2? No, but neither does it do Paul or God a service to take his words out of context and say that they mean everyone who is not following Jesus has rejected Him. As He also said, “He who is not against us is for us.” Moreover, Jesus described humanity as distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). This is a hurting world and that’s why Jesus and the apostles wanted to bring them good news to lift their spirits. As Jesus said, even a cup of cold water can make a big difference.

              Take everyone in New York City. Identify all the people who are not walking with Jesus. Let’s say you could put them all in a big room tomorrow and tell them the story of Jesus in an honest and compelling way. Do you think any of those people might accept Jesus? And what if the rest got to see some genuine believers in action feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless over an extended periiod of time – do you think a few more people might accept Jesus? And let’s say that after that, all the New Yorkers who had accepted Jesus this way lived whole-heartedly for Him, so much that the attention of the whole city was galvanized on the humble and selfless way they served others – do you think a few more people would accept Jesus? I do. But what if instead of all those things, New York City blew up in a massive explosion. Accroding to the traditional heaven-or-hell doctrine, they’d all be in hell forever – including the ones who were not far away from accepting Jesus. This is a doctrine that is unworthy of God.

              Matthew 7:13-14 says it so clearly. Few will get into heaven because the path is narrow that leads to life, but many will take the wide path path and go through the gate that leads to destruction.

              This quote comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount which is not about entering heaven; rather, it’s about entering the kingdom of heaven, which is eternal life, the rule of God. And, indeed, few enter it. Look around your own life. How many people – even Christians – do you see a living a life fully submitted to God? The standards of the Sermon on the Mount are quite high. Nevertheless, we should pursue them. But if the only people going to heaven are ones who fully comply with the Sermon on the Mount then hardly anyone is going to heaven.

              Our lives here matter because living them incorrectly gets us more than just a not-the-greatest-spot-in-heaven, but because it leads to destruction, death, torment.

              Our lives here matter because living them correctly brings glory to God and benefits to others. Sure, we want to avoid wrath…but much more do we want to love God.

              Why would they warn us so much about this? Why would they care so much about everybody’s lives and how they lived that they themselves would go to their death for it? Why?

              To relieve the pain and suffering of humanity. To bring hope to despairing people. To give others the opportunity to proclaim that good news, too.

              If everybody was going to be saved anyway in the end, it wouldn’t be that urgent, that big a deal, that Jesus would tell people to leave everything behind and follow Him. It wouldn’t be that big a deal to go tell everyone NOW and not just wait to get around to it.

              I have to disagree. People are hurting. People need hope. They need love!

              It is why living our lives for Christ is so essential and important, not because it gets us a higher standing in heaven, but because it is the way to heaven. If all it got us was a higher standing in the perfect place(heaven), what kind of selfish news would the Gospel be? “You will be saved no matter what you do, but if your good, I’ll give you something extra special…” I just do not see this as the picture being painted by Jesus or His disciples. This does not seem like an emotional, urgent message to me.

              I’m perplexed. You think it’s highly motivational to tell students that it’s a pass-fail course, but you don’t think it’s motivational to tell them all will pass but will be graded A, B, C, or D – and that whatever grade they receive will stick with them for a long, long time?

              I think that your parent analogy is a little off however.

              I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that I’m more loving toward my children than God is toward His.

              So I will wrap up this response by saying that if we are that free, as to live our lives as we want, as to reject God if we want…

              We reject God at our peril. Judgment awaits us both here on earth and in heaven. Therefore, “Fear God and keep His commandments…for He will bring every act to judgment…even everything which is hidden” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

              1. I totally agree that so many people would become true Christians if there were more of them in the world. I think that is why Christianity spread so quickly to begin with and in spite of hostility and persecution. So agreement here. But I think it is important to note that God knows whether one would accept Him if given the chance, and I think that will be factored into things as well. So I do not claim to know the mind of God. But on the other side, there are people, like the Pharisees for example, that people living like true Christians committed to God only made them more upset, possibly because it pushed them out of the spotlight and made them look bad, whatever. But there are certainly people that such a thing would only upset more and make them hate God more.

                And I see the Kingdom of God/Heaven as the people who will get to heaven. And yes, this part makes me sick to my stomach, there are even people that sit in the chairs of my church that may not get in. God wants a full commitment, deserves one at that, and if He is not the center of one’s life, that is a dangerous and scary thought. But also, we must remember once again that striving for these things is what God wants. To keep trying. Of course we are imperfect people and will never actually get there in this life, but it is our heart and mind that should be set on God and these things, and that is when God provides salvation.

                Sure, that is another reason why our lives matter, and other things as well. But from a personal standpoint, from a survival standpoint… And by living correctly, yes, we do love God for the sake of loving God, and we tell others about Him because this is the greatest news ever and we want everybody to know about it and believe it too.

                People do need love, but not simply because they don’t have it, but because in the end, it is the only thing that can save them.

                Something that just popped into my head is this, and this kind of fits in on the other post as well: Why does the Bible use the language of saving and salvation? In order for these terms to have meaning, there has to be something to be saved from. I can’t save you from nothing. If I were to walk up to someone on the street and grab them when they are standing there(as if they were falling), and said saved you! They would be confused. But I can save you from falling, or burning your hand on the stove, or making a decision that you will regret. So what is it that we can be saved from? What is it that would happen otherwise?

                I think it is more than hope to a despairing people, but to a damned people. I think that they thought that so many people would end up in Hell if they didn’t change and change fast.

                I’m not saying that there is only a pass or fail class. I think it is like regular school, there is the possibility of failure, there is a passing and a failing, but there are also different levels of passing as well so that people that do more than “just enough to get by” aren’t given the same grade as those that went all out and did everything to the best of their abilities, for I agree, that does not seem like justice to me.

                Its not that you love your children more than God loves His I don’t think. But He is kind of in a predicament compared to you. If your children ran away and rejected you and never spoke to you again, what could you do at that point? You could beg and plead, you could call them every day for 60 years, leaving a message saying that you still love them and would love to be back in their lives if they would only let you. But since God, being omnipotent, has the power to not let them go, or to bring them back against their will, whereas you don’t, we assume that He should, because you would if you could, right? But if God were to do this, that would be to violate their free will. They would not have chosen Him. They certainly would not live for Him or obey Him unless He was constantly intervening and keeping them from doing the things that they wanted. But their minds and hearts would still be set against Him, which are the things that God wants most. Yet this is only ours to give. So let’s say that you dragged your children back home and never let them out of your sight, what type of mindset would they have towards you? Resentment, maybe hatred, they certainly wouldn’t be accepting and would only do things because you were making them, though if they had to choose, that is not what they would do. This is the same as God’s case. What you really want is their love and their adoration. For them to be obedient because they want to. That is what God wants as well. And He cannot force people to do this.

                And guess what, God has done everything He possibly could and people still rejected Him. He had a pillar of fire lead the Israelites out of Egypt and they turned from Him. He sent the prophets, and they killed them. He gave them Kings and they won every war when they listened to Him, yet they still turned their back numerous times and found themselves in exile. And then He came down Himself, some accepted, but many rejected Him, and killed Him a well. Accept only He came back to life. And people still denied it. They said the body was stolen. They said that if he “rose” it was only in spirit. There are some people that wouldn’t accept God if He came down and introduced Himself as such, and performed a few miracles to prove it. Oh wait, He did. And he was crucified. Success? No. But was it worth it? Absolutely. A great song, Sea of Faces by Kutless, says that
                “If only my one heart
                Was all you’d gain from all it cost
                Well I know you would have still been a man
                With a reason
                To willingly offer your life”
                Couldn’t say it any better.

                Finally, yes at the peril of eternal death, Hell, Gehenna. We all know that if a teacher told the class that everyone was going to pass no matter what, but that you could get an extra nice reward if they did well, there would be a group that would take that to mean that how they did didn’t matter and that they could do what they wanted. In life, that means to live themselves, to live in sin, apart from God, and that is their rejection. That is why the fact that one can fail is important, it motivates those who may not have been motivated otherwise, and once they realize what God’s love feels like, they will want to do more. But I think that this idea that God wouldn’t or doesn’t send people to Hell gives people, Christians especially, an excuse to not live right and not have their minds and hearts in the right places.

                1. Something that just popped into my head is this, and this kind of fits in on the other post as well: Why does the Bible use the language of saving and salvation? In order for these terms to have meaning, there has to be something to be saved from.

                  I agree with you. I just don’t think spending infinity in a fiery pit is the only thing that it’s possible to be saved from. There are many, many things God saves us from. Most of all, He saves us from having to live without His wonderful presence. (John 17:3).

                  Since you respect biblical scholars as authority and not whether they are the majority or minority, here is something written by Thomas Talbott, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. It’s called A Simple Argument for Universalism. I’d put it even more simply: God commands us to love our neighbor, how then would we ever be happy in heaven if we knew our neighbor was suffering eternally, physically and psychologically, in a fiery pit?

                  We all know that if a teacher told the class that everyone was going to pass no matter what, but that you could get an extra nice reward if they did well, there would be a group that would take that to mean that how they did didn’t matter and that they could do what they wanted. In life, that means to live themselves, to live in sin, apart from God, and that is their rejection. That is why the fact that one can fail is important, it motivates those who may not have been motivated otherwise, and once they realize what God’s love feels like, they will want to do more.

                  Yes, if there is no possibility of failure some will loaf. In fact, you can see that dynamic among certain Christians who believe that they are “saved” and therefore don’t work hard to live in a godly way. Under your view, such loafers get into heaven. Why then are you opposed to my loafers getting into heaven?

                  While there apparently will always be loafers, I believe some people will be energized by the idea that they can’t fail, and will want to live for God out of sheer joy and gratitude. (If I knew for sure that I ultimately wasn’t going to fail at golf I would have worked harder at it and not given up so quickly.)

                  In this school, the curriculum is love for God and neighbor. Therefore, you don’t need some to make an F just so your A or B will be meaningful. In fact, if you want an A in this school you want to mentor all the students so that none of them fail. Please read, or re-read 1 Samuel 30 when you get a chance. See how David acts like God.

                  But I think that this idea that God wouldn’t or doesn’t send people to Hell gives people, Christians especially, an excuse to not live right and not have their minds and hearts in the right places.

                  If people better understood the judgment they bring on themselves here on earth and later in heaven when they sin, they’d have more than enough reason to stop sinning.

                  1. But I never said specifically that Gehenna was merely a place of fire and brimstone. I dislike it when it is portrayed merely as such. I totally agree that God saves from not having to live without His presence, and I think that Gehenna is a place where He is not present in some sense, whether wholly or some other manner. This goes back to my philosophical argument for a doctrine of Hell also.

                    As for that quick argument, it almost sounds like an Emergent Church idea. Where we read our experiences too much into things. Maybe that is how we feel here and now. It is certainly true in the case of parents and children, spouses, etc. And maybe somewhat for a neighbor as well, though this is certainly a different type of love, but I can somewhat agree, and in fact see this as a key reason to evangelize, viz. If I truly love(agape) my neighbors, then I will not want them to face Hell and will do all that I can to save him/her. But in the case that I cannot, will I be unhappy temporarily, yes! But that is of no failure of mine, and when in heaven, I don’t think that things that we could not prevent or change will cause us any pain. Some things aren’t as we wish in other areas, and it seems that in this same sense I could make an argument based on some unhappiness of any kind proving that there is no heaveni. For example, memories of bad things. How do we explain these away? What about that child that was molested and abused? The rape victim? How do we explain away their pain? Lets examine the options that Talbott gives us: a)no Hell, b)blissful ignorance, c)callous heart, and I would add an implied d)heaven isn’t perfect, since this would be another “possible” option, though not fit for a biblical view of things. Given these same options for the rape victim or child that was molested and abused, what is the option that we choose? No Hell doesn’t even factor in since that is not the question, but rather, what about personal unhappiness tied to memories that could be taken into heaven. B works, C seems to fit into d and d works(in a way, though not biblical). So if b was the wrong answer for the neighbor question, and is the wrong question here, then d is our only option, which is that heaven is not as the Bible describes it, and that is contradictory, so there has to be another solution. My solution: Let’s not read our experiences and our limited knowledge of how pain and suffering works and how it is gotten rid of and let God deal with it. I trust that He has an answer, in a very similar way that Job found out the “answer” to his questioning his suffering. I think the argument, as presented, is not only self-defeating, as I believe that I have shown in a parallel argument against heaven, but also presumptuous in that we do not know if there are other options on the table or not.

                    I do not know if these loafers will get into heaven. I believe I said, can’t remember if it was here or the other post, that I think that there is a chance that they do not, where I take a passage like Matthew 7 and 25 where we have people who are apparently professing Christians, some even performing miracles and exorcisms and stuff and yet they will not get into the kingdom of heaven. Now maybe this doesn’t throw a kink in your view since we see the kingdom a little differently, as I think that those that are in the kingdom on earth are those that go to heaven, but for me, given that view, says that not only will loafers maybe not get in, but even some who aren’t but maybe still live in sin in some sense or in someway not fruitful will not enter into heaven. This is why I have a problem with accepting your view of heaven: for one, Jesus wants minds and hearts and actions, not just actions and words, so I think this is what is being spoken of in some manner in Matthew 7, for example, and for two, if people who claim to be Christians may not get in, how does one expect one who has outright denied Christianity expect to get in? I’m simply trying to be consistent. Though I feel it necessary to say that I do not say anything about those who do not know better and such, as we discussed a bit already, and will leave that judging up to God.

                    Along these lines, the purpose of an F is not to make an A or B more meaningful, but rather to encourage those who would loaf entirely to at least do what it takes to pass, which in my opinion, in the case of heaven, is a whole lot more than it takes to get a D or even a C in school. I think God demands a lot, and rightfully so.

                    Taking up your analogy of golf, I think this is different than in life. Golf is not the purpose of life. I feel this equivalent to saying that if I knew that I was not going to fail as a catcher in baseball, I wouldn’t have given baseball up. Catcher isn’t the only position in baseball. There are others. I ended up succeeding in centerfield. Some people are meant to teach, others will fail if they try. Some are meant to sing or lead worship, clearly, some will fail here. But if I fail at one of these, should I simply give up on Christianity? No. I should try something else. I think this plays into the gifts of the spirit and 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul gives his body analogy and how the hand cannot be separate from the body and stuff. He seems to be saying a few things here. First is, there is a place and way for everybody to be successful in God’s eyes. He has given us the skills and interests and passions and people to do what He wants us to do. Second, I think it also means that finding this is what we should do, and not give up the whole thing and refuse to be a part of it at all if we fail at one thing. Transferred into practical terms, we will fail at things, but that doesn’t mean to give up trying at everything. So in my baseball analogy, your golf is my catcher, but when I succeeded at centerfield, that was me finding my place on the diamond. But just because I couldn’t play catcher didn’t mean to quit baseball. In life, your golf/my catcher is me trying to lead worship in music. I would fail because I do not have the abilities, vocally or otherwise, to do so. But I am trying my hand at teaching, and so far I have done pretty well, through God’s work and not my own. I did not quit Christianity because I couldn’t sing well.

                    Now that was merely in response to your golf comment, and maybe I went too far into it haha But I felt it a good point to make. But back to the idea of an F, we all deserve Fs, right? We all failed, we didn’t live perfectly. Grace is the idea that we get something we don’t deserve though, but it seems that God wants us to want it. He says that we should seek Him and a relationship with Him, and this is not a passive thing, but an active thing. So while we all deserve Fs, some try harder than others to make up for it, like by trying their hardest despite knowing that failure is inevitable, and listening to what the teacher says and taking it to heart. But what about the student that just gives up entirely. Is it just for them to all pass if some literally put in no effort at all? So while in God’s love He wants all to be saved, His justice demands that those who did not seek Him and seek forgiveness pay for their sins, which is seems more than just a “not-so-great” reward, since the Bible never says the sinful shall get a reward of any sort.

                    Rather, it says punishment, wrath, death, eternal punishment, eternal torment, weeping and gnashing of teeth, burned by unquenchable flames, etc. None of those seem to fit into any concept of reward. I can’t think of a passage that could even be interpreted to say that those who were evil in God’s eyes were given grace or reward in heaven. Actually, in Matthew 6, we get the idea that their ‘reward” has already been given to them. Whether this be attention, earthly praise, earthly wealth, maybe temporary “happiness,” etc. But it is the true Christian who obeys the Father that receives his reward from the Father.

                    So my question would be how you view these verses in Matthew 6 in regards to unforgiven sinners and the people talked about there. What does Jesus mean by their reward has already been received? I know this isn’t a perfect parallel to F’s, but I use it to say that Jesus seems to teach that there are some “rewards” that one gains on earth that are because people do things the wrong way, and that that is their reward and it seems that is goes no further. My next question is what verses would you say seem to imply that people of this manner, or any person besides a true Christian or one that can’t be held accountable for their lack of belief but would have believed, will get into heaven. And here, I ask for passages that don’t apply to Christians, such as the idea of there being a greatest in heaven, or different tiers among believers, because I do not deny this and we are in agreement here. Where we differ is who is occupying the lowest tiers and how low they really go.

                    1. As for hell (Gehenna), I think our views are similar in many ways (including your philosophical view of the issue). The main difference, of course, is that I think it is a reality of this life while you think it’s a reality of the afterlife. I think we’ve tried several ways to reconcile this but none have worked so far.

                      As for the school and sport metaphors, again I think that the this life versus next life distinction comes into play and causes us to differ on issues we might otherwise agree on. And again, I see no easy way to reconcile. (One fresh thought: take a look at Luke 12:49 and see if it at least begins to make you a little more comfortable with the idea that hell is a condition of this earth, not a place somewhere else after this life.)

                      On a digression, I will say that whether it’s the school or sport metaphor my application is to righteousness – that is, doing right in this life. I am not saying you differ from me here – except to this extent: you use examples like performing music or some other activity in church. While I think it’s possible for such religious activities to be righteous, they are not the main thing God has in mind. Rather, I think He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves which means being sincere in all our speech, honest in all our dealings, and so on. In other words, fearing the Lord and turning away from evil (which has nothing to do with churchgoing).

                      So my question would be how you view these verses in Matthew 6 in regards to unforgiven sinners and the people talked about there. What does Jesus mean by their reward has already been received?

                      He means that they receive no reward from God regarding those activities (e.g. praying). Rather, the only reward they get is having other people thinking that they’re spiritual or holy.

                      I know this isn’t a perfect parallel to F’s, but I use it to say that Jesus seems to teach that there are some “rewards” that one gains on earth that are because people do things the wrong way, and that that is their reward and it seems that is goes no further.

                      I agree.

                      My next question is what verses would you say seem to imply that people of this manner, or any person besides a true Christian or one that can’t be held accountable for their lack of belief but would have believed, will get into heaven. And here, I ask for passages that don’t apply to Christians, such as the idea of there being a greatest in heaven, or different tiers among believers, because I do not deny this and we are in agreement here. Where we differ is who is occupying the lowest tiers and how low they really go.

                      In heaven, I don’t think God makes any distiction between Christians and others. But then I don’t think He makes that distinction in this life either. I do think He pays attention to a person’s faith. In fact, He pays a great deal of attention. But many Christians are simply people who had faith enough to pray the sinner’s prayer one day but then kept on living everyday life without faith. I don’t think this counts for much with God. He wants us to live by faith every hour of every day. This doesn’t have anything to do with being a Christian; it’s a matter of being devoted to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 2:6). Therefore, our ranking in heaven has nothing to do with whether we called ourselves Christians, Jews, atheists, agnostics, or any other such label; it has to do with how well we acted on the knowledge we had (James 4:17; Luke 12:47-48). This is a principle of judgment that applies in this life and in the one to come. It is illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Matthew 7:15-23 (where Jesus distinguishes people who “have the right doctine” from those who “live right”), and Matthew 25:31-46 (where the sheep are separated from the goats not based on “professions of faith” but based on deeds of kindness to the less fortunate).

                      As for who will occupy the lowest tiers in heaven, I am reminded of the parable Jesus told in Luke 14:7-11. That is, we should all plan to occupy the lower rungs of the heavenly ladder. Then, if Jesus happens to ask us to come higher, then we’ll have honor. On the other hand, if we expect places of honor we are likely to be disappointed and told that the honor has been reserved for someone else. Then we’ll have to move down in shame. Of course, Jesus didn’t merely teach this attitude, He lived it…for it’s described by Paul in Philippians 2:3-11. And because Jesus lived the most humble and most worthy life ever, He was invited to the very top of heaven! Blessed be His glorious name!

                    2. I do not see what the Luke verse means to be honest. The fact that the fire is not kindled yet confuses me. He says He came to bring fire, yet it was not yet started.

                      I only used the “religious” examples because it was the first thing that came to and seemed to fit well, also.

                      As for God differentiating between “Christians” and “non-Christians,” I think it depends by what one means by “Christian.” If when I say “Christian,” I mean “little Christ,” as the word actually means, and those who strive to be true, biblical, Jesus centered and following people that live out their beliefs, then I do think there is a distinction made. I do not see how He could not make a difference between these people and everybody else that falls into the “other” category because these are the people who have a true relationship with Him. I would say to be a “normal Christian”(where normal means what ought to be the case and not what is the case) is to live by faith day in and day out and such. There should not be a such thing as nominal Christians, in my eyes, since that is not what Christianity is about. Its not “believe this, nod your head when someone says this, and you are saved.”

                      So I agree it is about what we do, and not what we believe. But what we believe has a huge effect on what we do. If I believe, truly believe, in Christianity, then I will pursue God and a relationship with Him via what He said to do in the Bible. But if one does not believe in God, denies any judgment and sees this world as all there is and nothing more, chances are they will not do as I do, may not live a Christian moral life(which I say because of course they do not live immorally in that they go around murdering people and torturing babies), and certainly will not obey God’s commands when they don’t benefit him.

                      However, in the parable of the sheep and goats, all of these were professing Christians and this is how Christians will be judged, based on the fruit of their lives. Others do not get judged based on the fruit since they were not a part of the vine anyway. They never were. There is a difference between a dead branch on a tree and it being cut off and no branch at all.

                      I think you missed the jist of my final comment. I totally agree with the view you lay out here in regards to heaven. But where do the non-Christians fit in? Where do the “bad” people fit in? Certainly they would not expect to be at the top, for there is no ladder that they believe in. But rather, where in the Bible does it say that non-Christians who reject God and Christ get into heaven? I have used passages that talk of “eternal” torment and punishment that they receive, and of course we agree that there are true Christians that will go to heaven. But where does it say, maybe specifically, that non-Christians, accountable for the fact that they are such, go to heaven?

                    3. I do not see what the Luke verse means to be honest. The fact that the fire is not kindled yet confuses me. He says He came to bring fire, yet it was not yet started.

                      I was hoping you’d notice that He says He came to set it “on the earth” (Luke 12:49 NASB)

                      As to the rest of your comment here, I have already said that I do not believe God puts us in categories of “Christian,” “Jew,” “Atheist,” or anything else. You make this Christian-or-not distinction through almost all your questions or points here; therefore, I don’t know how to respond to them. I believe, for example, that a moral atheist will rank higher in heaven than an immoral Christian (though I’m not saying I imagine either one of them will be very close to God).

                    4. I think that no atheist can get into heaven no matter how well they live. Honest agnostics are different, but an atheist that rejects God outright? I would think that this is the one type that would be least likely to get into heaven.

                      I am not sure how to respond here. One minute you say that Jesus sacrifice is most important and the lives we live are important but secondary, yet here it seems you put those in reverse order, saying that living morally is better than being a Christian and being forgiven. That seems contradictory. Jesus said He is THE way, not a way. His sacrifice must be accepted or there is no forgiveness. You seem to ignore the entire concept of forgiveness. Yes, a Christian may not live like they should for say a majority of their life, but if they are truly repentant and live better, say, in the last few weeks of their life, though they may have been rotten beforehand, the Bible, prodigal son story here, gives us the idea that that no longer matters like it did before. That is forgiveness. God no longer holds us accountable for those sins. This is not to say that we don’t get credit for good things though. There is a difference between letting the sin go away and ignoring ones life altogether.

                      Jesus and Paul and the early Church believed that what one believes is important. You, in this last paragraph, seem to deny that.

                    5. As for the atheist, you seem to think that every atheist has knowingly rejected God. I think that some of them have only rejected the conceptions of God that have been presented to them. Those often include flawed conceptions from flawed people. God wants us to do justice, to love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. I know of some atheists who at least do the first two, which is better than some Christians I know who don’t do any of those three things to any noticeable degree. Nevertheless, we are poor judges of each other which is why God is in charge. You and I will just have to agree to disagree about who goes to heaven but I was at least hoping you’d acknowledge that a person who lives a decent life according to those first two principles deserves a better outcome than someone who molests children, tortures and murders people, and then repents just before dying.

                      As for your second and third paragraphs you are mixing up Christ and Christians. That’s two very different categories. Christ is of utmost importance. His sacrifice is supreme. He is worthy of all devotion and my fervent prayer is that the whole human race would turn in faith to Him today and every day. But “being a Christian” doesn’t matter at all. It’s a man-made label that comes from man-made religion. “Christian” today equals “Pharisee” in the New Testament.

  1. Sorry, but I’m still not convinced. Perhaps it’s the format of this blog, since it is for non-church-going folks and I’m a church-goer, but I read the reference post and I just don’t see it. It sounds nice. I mean we would all love to know we got a hug coming even if we’re being brats, but I don’t see the biblical support.

    1. Lance, there’s is a book-length rationale that lies behind the reference post. It is The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven, and there is a link to it at the end of the post. The biblical rationale is entirely independent of whether or not someone goes to church. In fact, everything I write on my blogs, including this one, is independent of whether or not one goes to church. Thus the message applies equally to churchgoers and nonchurchgoers.

      If we’ve been brats – whether as churchgoers or nonchurchgoers – we are facing judgment prior to, and along with, our hug. Thus there is a much shorter post to which I would first refer you: Repent, and Follow Jesus Christ Our Lord! It distills everything I say on all my blogs – and with all my life – to a single-sentence summary.

    1. Why repent if hell isn’t a real possible destination?

      Is hell the only reason you repented?

      What is the point of mercy? Mercy from what?

      What – are you a Deist in this life, only believing God becomes active once we die?

      Salvation from what?

      Don’t you want to be saved from sinning?

  2. Pr 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (also Ps 111:10a)

    Mt 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    No, hell is not the only reason to repent, but it is a good reason. Our Lord in his mercy presents us with both a carrot and a stick, if you’ll pardon the expression.

    I have no idea how you would conclude I’m a deist from my line of questions. I am not big on labels, but if you must apply one I prefer “revelationist” over deist or theist.

    Jas 1:15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

    Not only saved from sin, but from desire leading to sin and death resulting from sin. Not only salvation from what, but for what. Two sides of one coin just as heaven and hell are two sides of the coin of eternity.

    I do not argue to try and prove you wrong for the sake of winning an argument. I simply see it different and I am attempting to clarify my reasoning for the sake of mutual understanding. We can agree to disagree easily enough, but if we are unclear about these matters then the disagreement may itself be an error or any agreement we may reach might also be error. Clarity trumps agreement, imho. I hope we can agree on that. 😉

    1. Pr 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (also Ps 111:10a)
      Mt 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
      No, hell is not the only reason to repent, but it is a good reason. Our Lord in his mercy presents us with both a carrot and a stick, if you’ll pardon the expression.

      I quite agree with all this. The difference between us is that you think the warnings about hell have to do with the afterlife while I believe they have to do with this life. This is why we should be seeking the kingdom of God so that we might know God and enjoy His life in this darkened world (Isaiah 33:14-15).

      I have no idea how you would conclude I’m a deist from my line of questions. I am not big on labels, but if you must apply one I prefer “revelationist” over deist or theist.

      I’m not big on labels either, so that’s another point of agreement for us. My comment was only a shorthand way of saying that your view tends to move all God’s judging activities beyond this life. This is the difference I highlight above: the traditional heaven-or-hell scenario essentially postpones God’s kindness and severity to after this life. I am saying that the Bible teaches them as occurring in this life, with final judgment taking place in the afterlife.

      Jas 1:15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
      Not only saved from sin, but from desire leading to sin and death resulting from sin. Not only salvation from what, but for what.

      I agree with all this.

      Two sides of one coin just as heaven and hell are two sides of the coin of eternity.

      Please see The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven which begins with the Old Testament portrayal of Sheol (Hades0 which is the location to which all the dead went. Most people who believe the heaven-or-hell scenario ignore this foundational concept in the Bible’s teaching.

      I do not argue to try and prove you wrong for the sake of winning an argument. I simply see it different and I am attempting to clarify my reasoning for the sake of mutual understanding. We can agree to disagree easily enough, but if we are unclear about these matters then the disagreement may itself be an error or any agreement we may reach might also be error. Clarity trumps agreement, imho. I hope we can agree on that.

      We certainly can. Well said.

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