Well here we are…
I knew this day would come.
I would post my last thoughts on hell.
On June 28, I began my discussion of who is going to get into heaven, focusing on the Jewish people, Hindus and Muslims. Of course there are other world religions but Pastor Hamilton focuses on those three the most. On July 29th, I posted on the topic of “Who is Going to Hell?” From the 28th until today, I have written 15 posts that meandered around world events, like terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists, law enforcement murders by angry citizens, two political conventions and all the heated rhetoric of an American political campaign. Needless to say, I tried to pay close attention to what I expressed. After all, the book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White is about coming together in peace and understanding over divisive issues, not making us a society even more divided.
In this last post on hell, the discussion will center on who is actually going to heaven?
We don’t know; over and over I stated that the inclusion or exclusion of people in heaven is the responsibility of God, not man.
Remember, the most liberal Christian believes that all will be saved except the few who have performed the most heinous acts [Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin].
The most conservative Christian thinks God will be much more strict [no one will be going to heaven unless they have confessed their belief in Jesus Christ]. Of course that includes billions of people.
You see the opposed positions.
Is there a gray area here?
Let’s explore the Bible. In my reading of the Old Testament, it is almost exclusively about God’s relationship with a unique group of people, the Hebrews. But as Pastor Hamilton states, the story of God and man does not begin with Israel. It goes back to Adam and Eve and following the flood, the seeming universal interest that God has is with all of humanity. Genesis 18:18 refers to Abraham and says “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed [through you]. In Isaiah [a book I am reading now] God states that He wants all nations to come to Him.
Jonah in the Bible is sent to preach repentance to the Ninevites. Jonah does his job, the Ninevites repent and God spares them. Jonah is not happy that they are spared and he questions God. God’s reply in Jonah 4:11 is “Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, to which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do know their right hand from their left. “
This begs the question: would God be concerned about the people of India, China, Saudi Arabia or even the people of His own land Israel?
When we get into the New Testament, we find Jesus concerned with the Gentiles. The Apostle Paul understands that God wants the Gentiles incorporated into the people of God . All they have to do is have faith and even that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Rather than being exclusive, Gentiles are the people who are outside the Jewish faith; that includes all people.
The more I read the books of the New Testament, the more I see Jesus as a man who is concerned with “lost sheep” and “prodigal sons.” Jesus does not seem to be a man who shuts the narrow gate on people, he holds it open so more people can be included.
Will all people make it to heaven? I doubt it. Will the vast numbers of people who conservatives say “don’t measure up” not make it. I doubt it.
God chooses who will get the gift of salvation; men don’t. God is merciful. If you earnestly seek God, love God and respond to His mercy I believe He will extend His grace to you.
On August 3rd, I posted my thoughts on men who take on the mantle of God in declaring who will make it to heaven and who will not. I need to be careful but maybe these kinds of people have a sense of pride about themselves that is not healthy. Would it be a stretch to say that this ability to put people in hell and heaven may indeed be a sin?
Using myself as a sample Christian, who should I really be concerned about regarding heaven or hell?
I should be concerned about my own salvation.
I need to quit worrying about others’ final destinations.
What I am really talking about here is humility, you know, the word that is the opposite of pride.
I need to let God do His work. He looks into the hearts of people and He can see the truth that resides therein. I can’t see that. I am a mere man.
Like most of you, I do battle with judgment. I want to exercise my right to declare people either saints or sinners. However, the battle I am engaged in is worth it. You see, for me to get to heaven I need to know my place and my place is not at the right hand of God.*
That place was reserved for Jesus.
*From the Apostles Creed “The third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence, He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”