Almost Heaven or Paradise

Almost Heaven or Paradise

It is interesting to observe how many times we hear heaven or paradise mentioned in our daily lives. John Denver sang a song titled “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which began with the words “Almost Heaven.” It was a song about West Virginia. I have been to the town of Paradise, Michigan, and I remember a wide variety of songs that talk about being in paradise, such as Tony Bennett’s “Stranger in Paradise.”

The fact is that all of these references to heaven or paradise are misguided as far as being an accurate description. West Virginia is beautiful, but poverty, black lung disease, and unemployment are issues that make the state less than heaven for many residents. Paradise, Michigan has its share of mosquitoes and cold weather. Songs about paradise or heaven are statements about a temporary condition or hope.

In reality, what we all desire is freedom from all those things that make life on Earth less than heaven or paradise. Tragically, many people follow a religion or teaching that promises not freedom from all the negatives but the fulfillment of the pleasures of Earth. Physical gratification of any kind is not heaven.

The biblical portrayal of heaven is unique. In heaven, time ceases to exist, and all things of the material world come to an end. (See Hebrews 9:25, 1 Corinthians 15:24, and 2 Peter 3:10-12.) If space/time and matter/energy disappear, then all the negatives that exist in the physical world go as well. Revelation 21:4 describes it well: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Heaven will be so much better than “Almost Heaven.” Our present concept of heaven or paradise will be just an ancient memory of the distant past.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Humans and Music

I went with my grandson to a musical instrument mega-store, where he was looking for an amplifier for his bass guitar. In addition to being a guitarist, he is also a drummer. While there, my ears were accosted as he tested a drum set and then tried out several bass guitar amps. The bass was so loud it rattled objects in the vicinity, and I could feel it pounding on my body. The experience reminded me of the connections between humans and music of all kinds.

My grandson purchased nothing because he didn’t find anything he liked in his price range. As we left the store, I was a bit relieved since my ears were still ringing. Stepping out into the parking lot, the sound of heavy traffic on the busy New Jersey street was relatively quiet.

Humans and music have been connected from the beginning. The artifacts left behind by the earliest humans include primitive musical instruments. Music styles change, and tastes in music vary from person to person. Just think of all the different musical genres and styles that people create and enjoy from country to classical, from jazz to gospel.

Music can stir our emotions. It can transport us to new places in our minds or stimulate us to action. Music can soothe our troubled souls, or a sad song can make us cry. The words of Christian songs can inspire us, and music can also tempt us into sin. Music goes beyond our minds and reaches into our emotions. What is it about music that so moves us? Perhaps it’s a desire for heaven.

Read the book of Revelation, and you will get an idea of the role of music in heaven. Music and worship go together, both in this life and in the life ahead. One of the things that distinguishes humans is our ability to create, perform, and appreciate music. Since we are created in the image of God, that must mean that God appreciates music also. Revelation indicates that singing for God before His throne will be a joyful experience. Until then, humans and music will go together as we long for the time when we are at home with God. For now, singing as we worship Him in our assemblies brings us joy as we honor our Creator.

— Roland Earnst © 2019

If I Die Now, Will I Go to Heaven?

If I Die Now, Will I Go to Heaven?“If I die now, will I go to heaven?” That is a personal question and one you need to answer for yourself and no one else. What we can do is to see what the Bible says about this. Here are some points for your consideration:

GOD WANTS YOU TO BE SAVED AND GO TO HEAVEN. This is clearly stated in the Bible. It is stated clearly and plainly in 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9. Titus 1:2 indicates that before the creation, God intended that people would end up in heaven.

GOD WILL NOT FORCE ANYONE TO GO TO HEAVEN WHO DOES NOT WANT TO GO. Joshua 24:15 states personal choice clearly saying, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Judas made a choice. Thomas and Peter made a choice. (See Matthew 26:69-75 and John 20:24-29.) As long as we are alive, we have that choice available, and both Thomas and Peter changed their minds. Judas could have, but he chose not to.

THERE ARE PASSAGES THAT WARN ABOUT FALLING AWAY FROM GOD AS JUDAS DID. See 1 Corinthians 10:12, 2 Peter 1:10, Hebrews 3:12 and 4:11. All of these passages in context show that those they were written to people whose hearts were so attracted to evil that they deliberately chose to reject God. None of these passages say that God rejected people who were trying to live as God called them to live.

THE BIBLE TELLS US TO BE SURE OF HEAVEN. Read 1 John 5:13, Romans 4:8, Romans 8:1 (and include Romans 7:14-24 in your reading), 1 Corinthians 1:18, Romans 5:1, 1 John 1:5-7, and Romans 10:9-15. None of these passages say we earn heaven, and all of them indicate that even though we as Christians sin, God provides for our continuous cleansing through the blood of Christ. (“Purifies” in 1 John 1:5-7 is an active verb.)

THE BIBLE MAKES IT CLEAR THAT SALVATION IS A GIFT. Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:6 state it outright. We don’t earn heaven. It is a gift given to us by the grace of God. Any gift has to be accepted. God’s gift is described in Romans 6:3-23. We receive the gift by submitting to God’s workmanship as Ephesians describes it. Baptism is a gift of God, washing away our sins and allowing us to walk in the light living a new life. When we reject baptism, we reject God’s gift, and all that comes with it.

Heaven is not a goal to be reached by what we do. What we do is a result of the gift of God working in us. We urge you to obey God and thus choose to accept His gift and answer “yes” to the question, “If I die now, will I go to heaven?”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Misconceptions of Heaven

Misconceptions of Heaven In a series of studies, I became impressed with some serious misconceptions of heaven that are common among believers and non-believers alike.

One misconception is that heaven is a physical place with physical relationships. Jesus faced this same misconception among the people of His day. In Matthew 22:28-30, someone asked whose wife a woman would be in the afterlife because she/had been married more than once. His reply was, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” In our day, we find people talking and joking about doing physical activities in heaven such as golf, fishing, and the like. I do not have enough information to determine whether we will know one another in heaven. I do know that heaven will be such a beautiful existence that nothing we have ever experienced on Earth can begin to approach it. No negative physical emotions exist In heaven – neither sorrow, nor pain, nor tears, nor crying, nor death (Revelation 21:4).

One of the prominent misconceptions of heaven by many people is that it’s a literal city of gold floating in the sky. Second Peter 3:10-12 describes the end of time as when the “elements are dissolved with fervent heat.” Nothing physical will remain, and our existence will be one of a “spiritual body.” “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God… we shall all be changed … and put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:44-58). We must remember that Christ clearly stated: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). In Christ’s day, people refused to accept that He would not rule a literal, physical kingdom, and so today people expect a temporal rule of an earthly nature.

Time-dependent existence is another of the misconceptions of heaven. Not only will there be no physical form or physical problems in heaven, but time itself will not exist. A child asked me what would happen when heaven was over. Like a lot of us, this child had not considered what eternity really is. Time does not exist in eternity. This also means that all the things associated with time will not exist either. God is the Alpha and the Omega. Before time was, God was. We think too small when we try to lock God into our time capsule.

Another one of the common misconceptions of heaven is that it will be boring. A man once told me that he did not want to go to heaven because he did not want to spend eternity singing hymns and/or playing a harp. This was an intelligent and sincere man who said everything he read about heaven in the Bible sounded as “boring as church.”

There are indeed statements in the Bible about being with God and singing to God. Again the problem is attaching physical significance to heavenly acts. Heaven will not be an eternal church service. It will be a union with God which has some parallels with our worship on Earth, but it will be free of the negative feelings and irritations we sometimes experience here. Those of us who have had the privilege of participating in a worship service which raised our spirits, brought us great peace, and lifted us through song and prayers may have had a taste of the feeling we will have in heaven. It will be a timeless spiritual “high” with our God which is so beautiful that our limited minds can only faintly comprehend it.

There are undoubtedly other misconceptions of heaven, but their root is probably the same as what we have already considered. In our present materialistic realm, we cannot understand a non-physical existence, and thus we will have misconceptions of heaven and hell. Although we “see in a mirror darkly,” with study and thought we can “press on to the mark.” Praise God for all we have now and all we have to look forward to!
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Nature of Heaven and Hell

Nature of Heaven and HellCecil May Jr. had a joke in the winter 2019 issue of Preacher Talk from Faulkner University. It raises serious issues that need to be addressed because of the confusion of both believers and atheists concerning the nature of Heaven and Hell. The joke goes like this:

Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, and Jim Bakker all died and arrived at the Pearly Gates at the same time. St. Peter told them, “There is a place reserved here for each of you, but we are in the midst of renovations, and we need to send you to the other place temporarily. We will call you back as soon as we can.” In less than a week Satan called St. Peter saying, “Hey, you’ve got to come and get these guys. Oral Roberts has healed everybody, Billy Graham has saved everybody, and Jim Bakker has raised enough money to air-condition the place.”

Without getting into any of the three people involved or the denominational views they represent, how many errors do you see about the nature of heaven and hell? Here are a dozen leading questions for you:

1) Are there “Pearly Gates” at the entrance to heaven?
2) Does Saint Peter act as the guardian or caretaker of the gates?
3) Does anyone have individual “places” in heaven?
4) Would Heaven ever need renovations?
5) Is hell a second class place to heaven?
6) Would any saint ever be in hell?
7) Does the word “temporary” have any meaning in heaven?
8) Are there weeks in heaven?
9) Does anyone in hell get relief or healing?
10) Is anyone in hell ever going to be saved?
11) Can any physical change ever be made in heaven or hell?
12) Is there money in heaven or hell?
The answer to each of these 12 is “No”!

Here are some biblical considerations:

1) Hell is complete separation from God. Matthew 25:31-46.
2) The Bible describes Hell in pictorial terms which are not physical.
A place of darkness – Matthew 8: 12, Jude 13, Matthew 22:13, 25:30, Romans 13:12 Ephesians 5:8,11.
A place of fire – Jude 7, Matthew 3:12, 5:22, 13:42,49,50, 25:41.
3) Hell is not a torture chamber – a physical place. Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4-5.
Luke 16 is a parable, not history.
4) Hell is not a courtroom for debate. Matthew 25:31-46 has explanations, not bargaining or arguing.
5) Nothing physical remains after the second coming. 2 Peter 3:8-13.
6) God’s judgment is sure, fair and logical. Romans 2:2, Luke 16:15, Romans 9:14-16.
We are not the judge, nor is it up to us to tell God how to use His mercy.
7) Do you really believe that this life is all there is?
Have you researched the evidence for God’s existence?
Do you want to take any chance of going to hell?
Do you understand the nature of heaven and hell?

We can start you on the road to being confident about your salvation. Read 1 John 1:5-10.
Go to doesgodexist.org and take lesson # 1 of the free correspondence course.
— John N. Clayton © 2019