It has been said that heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Let us consider if this is a true statement or not. First, Jesus assured His apostles, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Secondly, in the long ago, the prophet Amos told the children of Israel to “prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12). Thus, it would appear that it is true that heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. So, just how does one prepare himself/herself for heaven? Let us consider a recipe for such preparation.
The first step in preparation will have to be research. If one decides to take a vacation in a foreign country, a certain amount of research is necessary in order to make preparation for the trip. Things like passports, exchange rates for currency, cost of the trip and a list of others would need to be researched in order to prepare. In like manner, research is the first step in preparing ourselves for the trip to heaven. Just randomly adopting whatever beliefs seems right to us will lead to disaster. Solomon said, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). It is not what we think is true, but what is actually truth, that matters. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Peter stated, “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (I Pet. 1:25). It is therefore to the scriptures we must go in order to research the way of preparation. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16-17). These scriptures are the relevant and reliable remedy to an eternal disaster on our journey to heaven. God has given to us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (II Pet. 1:3). We can rest assured that whatsoever God said will work, will indeed work. God said through the prophet Isaiah, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). We need to use reason and rationality in our research. Beware of being reckless, jumping to conclusion, accepting what others say God’s word says without looking for ourselves or falling prey to being guided by our emotions alone. The intellect and the emotions are tied together in the word of God. It is with the heart that man has the emotion of love (Matt. 22:37), but it is also with the heart that man thinks and intends (Heb. 4:12). Beware of allowing what you want to be the truth taking precedence over what is actually the truth.
Next in our recipe for preparedness is responsibility. One can do all the research they want, but if they do not act upon it, they will still be unprepared. We have to recognize that we must do something. When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, many of those Jews were pricked in their hearts and asked, “…what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). When Saul of Tarsus realized that he was lost in his sins, he asked, “…Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). What must be done is that we must rectify the situation, change that which is not right. This is just another way of saying that one must be converted. Jesus said that unless one is “…converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Acts 18:3). We must redirect our life goal to that of serving God rather than our own desires. This is what repentance is, and this is just what Peter told those Jews on Pentecost that they first needed to do (Acts 2:38). Also included in that responsibility is regeneration. Paul told Titus that one is saved by the washing of regeneration (Tit. 3:5). This is the same as being born again. Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Paul said that “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). And, Paul told the Romans, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). It is at this point that one has been made free from sin, and become the servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18).
One must then regulate their lives by way of following the instructions for Christian living. Paul said that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith (Rom. 1:17). Beginning with the book of Romans, the gospel reveals the way Christians should live the remainder of their life. They must be relentless in their faithfulness. Steadfastness, longsuffering and perseverance are needed in order to “stay prepared”. One must “continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23).
If one will follow this recipe for preparation, then they can look forward to reaping the benefits. Rejoicing, rest and relief will be theirs to enjoy.
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]