The joke is told of the preacher who said from the pulpit, “everyone who wants to go to heaven, raise your hand”. Everyone in the auditorium raised their hand except one old gentleman near the front. Knowing that the man was a faithful Christian of long standing in the church, the preacher waited until after the services were over to ask why he didn’t raise his hand. When asked, the man said, “I thought you meant today”. It is a fact that every child of God should be looking forward to going to heaven. However, many apparently do not wish to go to heaven today. Therefore it is good to ask the question, “who wants to go to heaven?”.
The atheist and infidel do not wish to go to heaven! In fact, they do not believe in God, the devil, heaven or hell. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection (Matt. 22:23), thus they did not desire to go to heaven. One cannot wish to go somewhere they do not believe even exists.
However most others, especially among those who claim for themselves the name “Christian”, will readily express a desire to go to heaven. Yet, desire does not always equate reality. Many that are sick desire to recover, yet die of their illness. Many who are poor, desire that they be rich, yet without gaining material prosperity. And, many who say they desire to go to heaven are presently hell bound.
Why? Because they have not met the conditions set upon salvation by the giver of said salvation. The Bible clearly teaches that heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me. Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). He told His apostles, “I go and prepare a place for you…” and that they knew the way to reach it (John 14:3-4). A day has been appointed in which all shall be judged (Acts 17:31). “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10). We know neither the day that we will die nor the day the Lord shall return (James 4:14; Matt. 24:36; Matt. 25:13). Those unprepared will not be able to enter in to the kingdom of heaven. They are portrayed in the parable of the ten virgins as those five foolish ones who said, “Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not” (Matt. 25:11-12).
Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). A spiritual new birth is mandatory if one wants to go to heaven. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Paul taught that one was raised from the watery grave of baptism to walk in newness of life, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father (Rom. 6:3-4). Once “in Christ” we are “new creatures” (II Cor. 5:17), we have experienced a spiritual new birth.
Preparation for heaven includes faithfulness after becoming one of God’s children. Those washed in the blood of the Lamb who return to their wallowing in the mire shall not enter into heaven. Peter said that they were in a worse condition than before they ever escaped the pollutions of the world (II Peter. 2:20-21). Those who haphazardly and slothfully shuffle through life, putting forth little or no effort to serve God shall not enter into heaven. (Matt. 25:26-30; Rev. 3:15-16).
Friend, if you are not in the proper relationship with the God of heaven, you have no hope of a home in heaven with Him. It is only His obedient children who shall enter in. You may well say that you want to go to heaven, but your entrance in will not be allowed. You will instead be cast into the fires of hell. You will hear words such as, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). If you have never become one of His children, you must obey the gospel of Christ. If you are an unfaithful child, you must come back to the Lord. Then and only then can you honestly say, “I want to go to heaven”.
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]