“If we’re not happy with the things of Jesus, the gospel, and the glory of God on earth, we most certainly won’t be happy with Heaven. Heaven isn’t the perfection of what WE want on earth in our sinful flesh. No. Heaven is all about Jesus.”
Where you going, Dad?
This question, above all others, comes from the lips of my now 10 year old son. He has always, from his earliest days, been keenly aware when I’m walking out the door, or even looking like I might walk out of the door. Then, it comes: “Where you going, Dad?” With pastoral work, especially counseling, I’m not always able to tell him specifics: out to meet with someone, a meeting, to counsel with somebody. Any of these has come to satisfy his urge to know: where is dad going?
There’s a more important question about my destination that I’m much more concerned to pass on to him: where I will go when I die. When that day comes, and my heart beats its last upon the earth, I want him to know just where Dad went. But this question is larger than for just me. Everyone eventually confronts this question. So far, the ratio of births to deaths is 1:1, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. So, where are you going, friend?
First, we should be clear that everybody goes somewhere when they die. There is an existence beyond this one. No one fails to slip the surly bonds of earth. In discussing Christ’s second coming, the writer of Hebrews reminds us: As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this comes the judgment… (9:27, MEV). One cannot be judged, if he no longer exists.
Second, we should be clear that there are only two places that one might go after they die. From the Roman Catholic Church to Mormonism, there are those who claim to agree with what the biblical says and, yet, so many continue to add places to land post-death to the biblical eschatology. Heaven or Hell. These are the options. We see this no more starkly presented than in Jesus’ story about “The Rich Man & Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31). Now, you may want to debate whether there really was a Rich Man with a beggar who lived just outside his house name Lazarus. While I believe there was, Jesus grounds this story, a parable, in the historical truth. When he was done, nobody said: “Awwwww, Jesus, you almost had us there! Everybody knows that [insert unbiblical, personal eschatology here]!!” No. They all knew that when you die on earth, you live on in either a place of blessing and reward or of punishment and misery. Additionally, no one asked where the people were who were in purgatory, limbo, celestial kingdoms, etc.
Third, we should be clear what guarantees entrance into those two places. For Hell, that’s easy. We are born condemned after our father Adam’s fall. Jesus reminds us of this in John 3. He didn’t have to condemn the world, because it was already in that predicament. For Heaven, one must be saved by saving faith, that faith which is of God and finds as its only object Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God who gave his life as a ransom for many. Paul, the Apostle, said it best: “For those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29–30, MEV).