When I was in 9th grade, I was told that if I confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, I could go to heaven. That sounded like a good deal: I say the magic words and convince myself that it’s true, then I get to live in the eternal bliss of the clouds rather than in hell-fire. So I said the magic words and nothing happened.
I don’t mean to sound frustrated or unappreciative to those who preached this gospel to me in this way. In fact, I firmly believe that this experience afforded the Lord the opportunity to reveal Himself to me one year later and actually regenerate me. I do, however, want to talk about the error in such a gospel preaching, specifically on the goal presented to it’s recipients: that repentance and faith are for getting to heaven.
Difficulty of Such a Topic
I will make a note here that I am actually quite terrified to discuss such a topic, but I feel that it is the Lord’s leading for me to do such. When I began hearing and reading about what I will try to communicate here, I was truly disturbed and pulled my first and only all-nighter in college, searching the Scriptures to see if it was so.
Given the difficulty of communicating this, and the limitations of doing so on a blog post, I hope that all my readers can be patient and really exercise to have a spirit of prayer, wisdom, and revelation as you read.
Traditional Concepts of Heaven
There are three traditional concepts of heaven that are prevailing among Christians today: anthropocentric, theocentric, and agnostic heaven.
As a brief description, the anthropocentric heaven is the most prevailing among Christians today, which is the view that heaven is quite similar to our world today, without all the imperfections and evil that prevails on earth. This is the heaven where, though God is still ever present and central, still has a strong human element, focusing on the reuniting of family members and friends, enjoyment of all the loves of earth (i.e. golf, football, etc.), and of course a constant attitude of thanks, praise, and love towards God.
The theocentric view was that championed by the early reformers and many other theologians, which has a single focus on God. This heaven revolves around God, and our role consists of a never-ceasing worship of the Almighty God and His precious Lamb. This worship and praise will be unimaginably enjoyable and is the reward given to believers that will satisfy both God and man for eternity. For those who don’t like this, as a Christian with this view would say, simply can’t conceive the pleasure that it will give to us, and our dislike for this is only due to the sin that corrupts our desires at the present.
The Christian who is agnostic towards heaven is just that, agnostic. His view claims that our knowledge of the life after is so limited in regards to the revelation of the Scriptures, that we will know infinitely more 5 minutes after death than we ever could right now. They believe in the life-after, but don’t speculate in regards to what it will consist of.
Questioning the Premise
“Now these people were more noble (often translated as “open-minded” – see NLT, Holman, and NET) than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11
It is not good to be a skeptic. We must hold firm to the faith, even to the point of bigotry sometimes. Yet, in regards to matters of the Truth, we must alway have an open-mind and a poor spirit to be corrected and adjusted according to the Scriptures. If the Word says that you have been predestinated, and you have always believed that predestination is unfair, you must by faith say “Amen Lord” and continue examining the Scriptures daily that you may be adjusted.
Nothing should be a given to us. We must be firmly grounded in the Scriptures in regards to all truths. If we do this, we will always be ready for a defense concerning the hope which is in us (1 Pet. 3:15). If our faith is based on what we were told as kids or what our pastor says, then we will be like little children tossed to and fro by every wind of teaching (Eph. 4:14).
I will here and most likely for just one more post question the premise that the three views above rest on, namely that the ultimate goal of believers in Christ is going to heaven as a final destination.
Scripture and Plain Reason
“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils (to make more applicable, replace “popes and councils” with “tradition and what my pastor tells me”), for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms
Since clearly I can’t lay out my full defense in this post, I will make a concise and hopefully complete argument in my next post against the concept that when a believer dies, they go to heaven. While this may come as a shock to many, I once again appeal to all readers to have an open mind, a prayerful spirit, and a desire to come to a full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).
Before that post, I would really appreciate comments below, messages over Facebook, or text messages personally with scripture and/or plain reason in defense of the popular view today of heaven as the destination for believers’ residence after death and/or as the ultimate destination of God’s redeemed. I would really appreciate such that I may address such in the next post.
For now I will simply make the claim that there is not a single verse in the Bible that says believers go to heaven when they die. In contrast, almost every gospel presentation given by believers today includes in one way or another heaven as the goal or reason to convince unbelievers to repent and believe.
May the Lord lead us to be clear in regards to this topic and help us to preach His gospel in the most pure way possible.