Many people still believe heaven will be like an eternal yoga on cloud nine. That is for those who find peace and relaxation through meditation. Western tradition pictures heaven as reclining on a white fluffy cloud enjoying eternal serenity while hugging a golden harp. While hugging one’s golden harp, people believe that by strumming a lively golden strings to the divine rhythm of heaven they will experience greater joy. All of this bliss is magnified by the soothing radiance of heavenly light.
Yes, it is a boring vision of man as an island–a western view of autonomous man in heaven. Autonomous man is left alone in peace by everyone, even God, to enjoy eternal life without government interference. It is an egalitarian vision because everyone that is worthy of heaven gets to enjoy their own rest and relaxation to the same everlasting degree as every other person on their own cloudy oasis. What could be more fair that that?
I have bad news for all those harp huggers. It ain’t so. Sorry to have to burst another bubble–the current economic one is depressing enough; but turning a blind eye to a false vision would be a great disservice. Exposing the false hopes, false dreams, or blinding darkness–however bright with hope may seem–is supposed to be the duty of writers.
The puffy idea that people who do more good than harm are worthy of own their own cloud doesn’t hold water. The whole concept is merely evaporated hope based on a false premise of justice and fairness. As the gospels teach us, do-gooders are no more worthy of heaven than the scum of the earth. Why? One sin is counted as a bad as all sins. Because we all have or will sin, the stain on our do-goodism can not be removed–no even with White Cloud. The only detergent capable of removing that stain, the shame, or the statutory claim against our moral wrongs is the sinless blood of a lamb or rather of the sinless son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.
That’s the gist of the gospel preached by Pastor Jon.
Can preachers like Jon and their gospel be wrong? It is claimed that they are. It is claimed that there are many ways to heaven whatever it really is. It is claimed that the exclusiveness of the gospels is dead wrong, but is it?
If humans are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26), a collective of humans in society is likely to reflect divine justice as least a little. That being the case, do we humans merely forgive breakers of our great moral laws because we are all really nice guys whose love surpasses the need to protect others in society from breakers of those law? Actually, our system of justice forgives no one for doing more good than the last crime committed that has gone unpunished. Of course, I must give credit to the many secularists who have worked very hard to change our inherent sense of justice, but it stubbornly persists as does the persistence of moral evils performed by once upon a time do-gooders. We human do take into account past good behavior or good citizenship in the process of punishing the guilty, which is usually expressed by leniency. Nevertheless, neither God nor we humans forgive do-good lawbreakers until after they have been duly punished–if then.
The problem is God’s only punishment for sin is death. The soul that sins it shall die, declared the priestly prophet Ezekiel. The wages of sin is death, said the Apostle Paul. Because it is, only death can fully satisfy the demand of divine justice. Thus, the only cloud of serenity humans earn by greater good works than bad is a dark cloud of pending judgment. That is except for the fact that God initiated and accepted the willing sacrifice of sinless living souls on behalf of us guilty humans. (Gen 3:21; 4:4; 8:20-21, etc.) Sacrificed animals, however, are not sufficient to satisfy divine justice fully for one important reason: they are not culpable for sin. Only human commit moral crimes against God’s laws. Only the sacrificial death of a willing and sinless human could possibly satisfy divine justice fully, and only God would be qualified to offer such a sacrifice. The gospel of Jesus, his apostles’ epistles, and the testimonies of those who constitute the Church claim that Jesus is that effectual sacrifice we all need,and the evidence is their moral and God-honoring lifestyle.
Thus, the Jesus-oriented lifestyle is the only one that can lead to heaven.
Jesus freaks are weird dudes because they have given up the Western and Eastern illusions of heaven as either a cloudy bliss of liberalism or an antinomian* free ride to heaven’s gate as the Hale-Bopp comet followers proved. Even if the Boppers made it to the gate, they were likely turned away because they had failed to get the right entry tickets. Jesus freaks, on the other hand, live for the day when they will live in a renewed heaven and earth where God evidently dwells among them. Heaven will be like the new beginning that came at the end of the movie Knowing–only better. For some it will be even better than being able to eat of the fruit of the tree of life again. It will be a techie heaven where humans will continue to invent new technologies, according Pastor Jon. I must note here that Pastor Jon used to work for the computer technology giant IBM. In this heaven, we humans will also continue to enjoy music, singing, worshipping God, exploring and learning, eating good food while discussing with friends and loved ones whatever comes to mind, and other things God created us to do. There will be a great new heath care reform plan too. HMOs, Medicare/Medicaid, doctors, drug companies, their lobbyists, and legislative supporters will no longer exist. In this heaven, no pain will be regarded as great gain. Broken bones due to sports injuries or other forms of play will a thing of the past, and so will wild animals eating or otherwise harming us humans. There will be no weight loss programs or the pain of failure. Who knows, a five-day a week job in which we do work totally unrelated to our training or goals may be no more as well.
Yet, the reality of heaven is hell. At the present, we live between heaven and hell. Some of us experience as much of hell as we ever will. Others, however, experience as much of heaven on earth as they ever will, said Pastor Jon. Destiny is a choice given by God. What one chooses is the only fate there is. Eternal life in heaven or hell is the final consequence of our earthly choices. This is a fact backed by the testimonies of many who have died and who came back to life to share with doctors, researches, and us ordinary folk what they experienced on the other side. You may have heard of Don Piper who has discussed his ninety minutes in heaven publicly and who has been written down in a book by the same title. It is worth reading, and so is choosing to follow Jesus to heaven.
Those who will not be there include the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, immoral persons, sorcerers, isolators, and all liars. (Rev. 21:8) I wonder how many people in modern business, sales, education, media, politics, or mainstream religion will make it above the cloudy illusions of success, influence or wealth to heaven?
* Antinomian is the rejection of all moral law and human accountability for it. Those who hold this view are of the illusion that Christ as the end of the law for salvation means grace is the end of all accountability to moral law rather than the means to fulfilling it. As such, grace is the equivalent of lawlessness.
Paraphrased quotes of Senior Pastor Jon Young came from this my own less than perfect memory of his Sunday morning sermon at Dayton Avenue Baptist Church on August 9, 2009