Have you had someone you know die recently? Do you wonder what has happened to them? Do you wonder if there truly is a heaven? Or a hell? Thessalonians. 4:13-18 "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
For many people heaven is some sort of fairytale place on a par with Shangri-la. It is a fantasy that one hopes and wishes for, but there is no substance of reality for them. It is not tangible, therefore it is not really more than a hopeful idea. If they try to picture heaven, they think more in terms of either becoming an angel strumming a harp on a fluffy cloud or just becoming a sort of energy that is part of the fabric of the universe. But what does the Bible tell us about the afterlife?
First of all, we should look to the person who was seen in His afterlife, by people just like us. A tangible evidence of that life's existence and what we have to look forward to. Christ appeared to many people after His resurrection. Did it say that he had grown wings like an angel and was sitting on a fluffy cloud strumming a harp? No. Did it say that His life energy had joined the oneness of the universe? No. When Jesus was resurrected, He had a body that was of a similar nature to the one we have now. It was a corporeal body which could and still can be touched, as evidenced when He had Thomas touch Him. He ate, talked, and walked with his disciples. He was self-aware and thought and had feelings just as He had before dying. He knew all His old friends and interacted with them as He had before death. So He was very much in a body that operated as the one we have now does, but it was far improved over the mortal body we have. It will never age, it will never suffer disease, it will never have corruption of any kind, it will never again die, and it has special capabilities like the ability to appear and disappear at will over long distances, including going from earth to heaven. In short, the resurrected body is perfect in every way. The only thing Christ kept from His first body was the marks in His hands and feet to prove who He was. This should not surprise us, for we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 that the body we get at the resurrection is the fruit of the seed that was sown when our mortal body dies. Just as a seed is planted in the ground and must die to what it was so that it can become the beautiful plant that has within it the seed of the original, but is far more glorious than the seed, so our bodies will do the same thing in the resurrection. " But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be,
but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men,
another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory
of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and
another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in
glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam (Christ) was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the
kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Paul is telling us that once Adam sinned, and we became corrupted, the only way that we could again enter into the presence of God was to shed the corrupted body by death. This is why God would not let them eat of the tree of life and live forever, for they would have been forever barred from living in the presence of God. Death is the means by which we can enter into the presence of God and live with Him. We must shed the corruption and let it sow the seed for incorruption. 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the
trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we
shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this
mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the
saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
So we know that we will have new bodies at the resurrection and go on living in a similar way to how we have lived this life, thinking, feeling, eating, drinking, doing things. But that is at the resurrection. What of the time between death and that time of resurrection when Christ returns? What happens to those who have belonged to Christ who have died in the interim between His resurrection and the resurrection to come? In Revelation we are told of those who have not yet received a resurrected body. In this case, these particular people are those who were martyred for Christ. Revelation 6:9-11 "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls
of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which
they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How
long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood
on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were
given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they
should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and
their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be
fulfilled." and in Chapter 7 verse 9 we see those whom these martyrs were told they must wait for. "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could
number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood
before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and
palms in their hands;" Clearly even before receiving resurrected bodies, people have some sort of spiritual bodies which can be seen. They can think, speak, feel, and are as self-aware as we presently are. As Paul has said, there are bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial.
While presently those who die in the Lord go to heaven, upon the resurrection there is a new place awaiting habitation for those with their new perfect bodies. Christ said that He was going to prepare a place for us to live. John 14:1-6 "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive
you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
Revelation 21:2 "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Revelation 21:10-27 " And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and
shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven
from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates
twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the
twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the
breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand
furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. (that is 1500 miles in each direction)
And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits,
according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. (minimum 216 feet) And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all
manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second,
sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the
eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the
eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the
twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl:
and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in
it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light
thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall
walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory
and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth,
neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which
are written in the Lamb's book of life." Notice that the city is a crystalline city 1500 miles in length, width, and height. Pluto is 1474 miles in diameter. It is far too large to rest upon this planet. It is lit by the brightness of the glory of God, and there will be no need for a sun or moon, due to the brightness of its light. We are told that the nations of the world will walk in the light of it. All of these descriptions would seem to indicate that this city is a city that either orbits the earth as does the moon, or stands out in space apart from the planet as does the sun, for being too large to rest upon the planet, and providing light to all the nations of the earth would seem to require this. As we know that Christ ascended into the heavens, and that resurrected bodies would seem to have the ability to transport over distances at an instant, it would seem to be a distinct possibility that this is a satellite city. Very real, very tangible, and very visible. It's distance from the earth would easily prevent anything that could defile it from entering into it. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will be able to enter it, for their glorified resurrected bodies would have the abilities needed to get there.
This brings us to the crux of the matter. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will be able to enter into it. What happens to those who have not had their names written in that Book. If the afterlife is as cognizant and self-aware with feelings, and thoughts, and a body as the present world is, what becomes of those who do not get to enter into New Jerusalem?
Mark 9:43-48 "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter
into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire
that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter
halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the
fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to
enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be
cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
"Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that
offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast
them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed,
rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting
fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast
it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye,
rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."
Revelation 20:4,5b, 6, "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and
judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were
beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which
had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received
his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and
reigned with Christ a thousand years........... This is the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on
such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God
and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." Revelation 20:5a, 7, 10-15"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished........ And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison...... And the devil that deceived them was
cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false
prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face
the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for
them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before
God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is
the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which
were written in the books, according to their works. And
the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered
up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according
to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Your judgment will come out of one of two books. You will be judged by the Book of Life, or you will be judged out of the Book of Works. Those judged in the first resurrection of the righteous are in the Book of Life. Those judged in the second resurrection are judged by their works, and their works will not get them into heaven. They will be cast into the lake of fire, for justice demands punishment for sin, and if Christ's atonement has not been applied to one's sins, then one must pay for them himself.
There are only two choices for where you spend eternity. Either with the Lord, or in the lake of fire. There is no third choice. This life is when you make the decision as to where you will spend that eternity. If you think you can choose to not make a decision, you are mistaken. To not choose Christ is to reject Him and choose the second resurrection. To be in the first resurrection it demands a decision of your will to follow Christ.
God has many attributes. He is holy, He is love, He is just, and He is merciful. We want Him to have those qualities, but it is those qualities which keep us apart from Him. To be in His presence requires that we be holy. But we are not capable of it. Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and
all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a
leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”Romans 3:10 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"
For Him to be just, He must punish those sins and transgressions and the punishment for sin is death and an eternity apart from Him. Romans 5:12 "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;
and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"
God is loving and merciful, but justice prevents mercy, for to provide
mercy one must forego justice, but then God would no longer be just. But then if
He does not show mercy, He is not loving. God solved this dilemma
by loving us enough to send His only Son to die in our place, so that justice might be served, freeing Him to offer us mercy. Romans
6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is
eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Because
Christ was holy and perfect, and without sin, He met the standards God required. Because
He loved us, He took the punishment for all of our sins and justice was
served. Because justice was served, God could then show us His mercy.
But the catch is, you have to accept it as God has offered it, on His terms.
Our works will not suffice to pay the penalty for our sins, for our works are as filthy rags. Therefore our justification before God must come from another source. John 3:16-18 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is
condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God." Romans 5:8 " But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
All - every person ever born into this world, with the exception of Christ - have sinned and come short of God's holiness. The only person who could pay the penalty for our sins so that justice might be satisfied and mercy shown to us was Jesus. Acts 4:12 " Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." John 14:6 " Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." 1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;"
Many think they can find their own way to God, by following some other religion or person, or being a member of a church. They cannot. Many think they can work their way to heaven. They cannot. Galatians
2:16 “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the
law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus
Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by
the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be
justified.” Romans 3:28 “Therefore we conclude that a man
is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Justification before God comes one way only. Romans
10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord
Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from
the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Note that it is not the head that must believe, but the heart. James 2:19 " Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." A head belief does not save the devils, nor will it anyone. It requires the heart.
Maintaining that justification up to the time of salvation (upon your death) takes a little more than just confession and belief though. Justification is not a trophy to put up on a shelf and ignore. God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to live a holy life, obedient and sanctified unto Him. John 14:15 “If you love
me, keep my commandments.” Romans 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and
acceptable, and perfect, will of God." 1 Peter 1:16 "....it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship
hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light
with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the
temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and
walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord,
and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
He wants us to run the race and endure all things to the end of our life.
Hebrews 12:1 "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of
witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so
easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set
before us," 2 Timothy 4:7-8 " I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the
Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me
only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." Matthew 24:13 “But he that shall endure unto the end, the
same shall be saved.”
We must also do the works God provides for us to do to demonstrate our faith to both Him and the world. James 2:14-26 “What
doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have
not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and
destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in
peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not
those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a
man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith
without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou
believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also
believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith
without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by
works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou
how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made
perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham
believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he
was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is
justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the
harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and
had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is
dead, so faith without works is dead also.” The reverse is also true. Works without belief and faith will not suffice. It takes faith first, then God provides us with the works to give evidence of that faith.
Heaven is for real, even more real than the world we know now. Heaven is a hope. A hope that we will once again be reunited with the ones we love, who have gone on before us. This life is the only chance you will have to make sure that you get there.There is no being able to be neutral, there is no "not choosing." To not choose God and Christ is to actively reject God and choose eternal fire. Heaven is for real, but we have to choose it.
Addendum: For those who wonder about babies and little children, the Scriptures indicate that they are with the Lord. When David's baby died, he said that he would one day go to meet that child. Before there is an awareness, babies cannot be guilty of rejecting God, so they are covered by the blood of the Lamb. Christ loves little children. He would never cast them into the fire when they have never had the opportunity to accept or reject Him. They have in essence, kept the Ten Commandments perfectly.