2 Peter 2:1 (NIV) 1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves.
In my own spiritual life, I have been increasingly aware of my need to grow in humility and an attitude of mercy towards those with whom I disagree. This realization has left me praying about my comments and heart thoughts as I observe politics and social issues … and, of course, theological matters. There are many viewpoints regarding spiritual issues that are debatable. Baptism, women in ministry, the Lord’s Supper, the age of the earth, Calvinism …. and more. There is room for debate on many of these items. Only the Lordship and Resurrection of Christ are beyond doubt and cannot be questioned by true disciples. But, as C.S. Lewis supposedly said “When we get to Heaven we will find out that we were all slightly wrong!” So, all of us … including me … should speak with considerable caution.
Having said these things, I recently heard of a “Biblical Teaching” that was so nonsensical and cheerless that I can only conclude that it comes from the evil one. A “lie of the devil!” Exactly what was it that got me all fired up? Here is what happened …. I received a phone call from a young man whom I have known since his birth. A terrific kid and strong in Christ. He is away at a Christian college in his first year. It seems that he has come under the teaching of a man who likes to shock students from an evangelical background. There are people like that who take great delight in challenging everything everyone believes. Some of them think it is clever and their goal is to create doubt. I simply cannot understand such people unless they are actually unregenerate themselves. Anyone who has experienced the Lord Jesus Christ and been born again should be able to dismiss his poor teaching.
These folks like to say something like this: “The Bible does not really teach that we can go to Heaven much less be sure that’s where we will go. The Old Testament that Jesus affirmed taught that the dead go to “Sheol” or to “Hades” to await the judgment. Then, perhaps those who followed Christ will be invited into some undefined “Heaven” but their works will be judged as in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. He wrote:
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV) “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
Of course, this is true. Christians will be judged for their service to the Gospel. Sort of a job performance review but our salvation will remain secure. That is the context of the statement. A “teacher” trying to create doubt about the Christian’s eternal well-being need only look, ironically, to the verses right above this text to find re-assurance about Heaven. True, the word “Heaven” does not appear but where God is Heaven is! And where Jesus is, Heaven is!
So, Paul writes:
2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV) “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”
To speak of Sheol or Hades to the New Testament Christian is simply ridiculous. Away from the body is at home with the Lord. What was meant by “Hades?” Hades was the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Sheol” which meant the place of the dead. The hopeless dead. Paul ministered to that small group who had experienced Christ. Anyone who teaches that the true Christian will need to stop in Hades simply has not known the Son of God. Consider this sweet promise from our Lord Jesus Christ:
John 14:1-4 (NIV) 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Could anything be more clear? Jesus wants his own sheep to be with him and he will come back for them! Jesus reigns in Paradise and we who belong to him will join him in Paradise at the time of physical death. That is the WHOLE POINT of the New Testament. As it says in Hebrews Chapter Two:
Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV) “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
Rather than fear death, the true Christian should look forward to it! As did a great and true teacher named J. Gresham Machen. Born in 1881, Machen became the world’s most notable New Testament scholar. Nearly every seminarian had to master his textbook on New Testament Greek (including this writer). When Princeton Seminary became too liberal, he helped found Westminster Seminary. He was a stalwart witness for Christ and a great supporter of missions. Although only in his fifties, his health deteriorated and New Year’s Eve of 1936 found him on his deathbed.
A dear friend named Sam was perhaps the last person to speak with Machen but he could never forget what he heard! The sickly professor told him of a vision he had had only a few minutes before. He had looked into Heaven. Paradise. Perfectly lucid and alert, he said “Sam…it was glorious! It was glorious!”
If you belong to Christ, you’re going with him! Jesus! And it will be glorious! Happy New Year!
Blessings! Pastor Alberta