I just finished watching the two-hour 20/20 special, “Heaven: Where is it? How do we get there?” Honestly, I didn’t expect much, so I wasn’t disappointed in what I got. What does make me sad is how much distortion and deception there is on this topic. Actually, it’s more provoking than anything. It made me want to . . . well . . . blog about it.
In true post-modern style, we were treated to a smorgasbord of ideas from Barbara Walters and company. Various faiths and non-believers had their say. Even hell had a short segment at the end. Very little of biblical truth was presented. Barbara (yeah, we’re on a first name basis) did interview Joel Osteen. He managed to state that Jesus was the only way to heaven, so that was good, but so much more needed to be said. There are a couple of key truths that seem to elude virtually everyone, including an increasing number of Christians. A lot more could be said, but let’s start with these two . . .
First, there is a tendency to think that heaven is achieved by how good we are. Most people take this view. We like to earn things by nature, so why not heaven? Yet the Bible indicates very clearly that no amount of good works can get us into heaven. It would be like a serial killer (think Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer) who thinks he should be released from prison because he bought some Girl Scout cookies, or gave some change to a homeless guy. The problem is that the good deed comes nowhere close to matching the atrocities committed. In the same way, our sin is presented in the Bible as an atrocity against God, our Creator. No amount of goodness can cover that amount of rebellion. (cf. Rom. 3:9-20; Eph. 2:9).
Second, most people come at this issue with the idea that heaven is the default destination for themselves and everyone else. This comes from the idea that we are good by nature. However, Scripture gives us a totally different picture. We are by nature rebels and we have sinned repeatedly against a perfectly holy God. Therefore, the default destination is hell. As the Paul wrote, we are all “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).
The Bible paints a bleak picture of humanity. To sum it up, we’re not nearly as good as we thought – in fact we’re criminally bad. And we’re not headed toward a future blissful existence – we’re destined for the due penalty for our sins. We are doomed.
Well, not quite. Not everyone. There is more to this story. Thankfully! In the very same passages mentioned above, we also read these beautiful, life-giving verses:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by faith you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6)
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:21-26).
Yes, there is a heaven. We’re not told exactly where it is. But we are told how to get there: by faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance of our sins. In an age of confusion, where every idea gets heard and the only ones viewed with suspicion are those stated with certainty, this truth must be proclaimed. It is what a dying world desperately needs.
**All Scripture cited from the English Standard Version, Crossway, 2001.