Entering Heaven in Glory or Fire
Every child of God is given an inalienable right to enter his Father’s house in heaven but not everyone has performed with total commitment and dedication and the diligent servants will receive honor and rewards from the Son.

Entering Heaven in Glory or Fire

       The second coming of Lord Jesus is about judgment but will believers also be facing judgment? Satan, the accuser, will definitely level various charges against God’s elect but these will be ignored by God since redemption has already come through the crucifiction of the Redeemer who has paid the penalty in full. Those whose minds are blinded by the devil will receive eternal damnation and punishment on the final day. But what about the faithful?

       Will believers face judgment on the final day? – The Scripture gives categorical assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God for ‘Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies’ (Romans 8:31-39).  But Apostle James declares that ‘Faith without works is dead’ and the teaching is about doing good deeds to others to express God’s love towards them (James 2:17). The water of life we receive from the Savior Lord must overflow to bless others out of abundance in us and this would then result in good deeds which we perform not to please God but to tell others that God loves us despite our sins and is ready to forgive (John 4:14). Apostle Paul then shows testing of our works in judgment (1 Corinthians 3:9-15). He lists out four important points here, first is the foundation which is Lord Jesus; and second is the grace of God which has enabled him to work and not his personal worth; the third is the building materials used to construct his work on that foundation since the building is built by God ‘in His people’. And the materials are the same as used in 1 Chronicles 22:14 the gold, silver and other precious material, the precious stones are not about material stones but the value of our deeds for the Kingdom of God; fourth is the testing of the works on the day of judgment.

       This judgment is not the Great White Throne Judgment where believers will be separated for salvation from non-believers who will be judged for destruction (Revelation 20:11-15). As per Scripture ‘we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad’ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This is the Bema Judgment where our work is to be judged to receive our just rewards. This reward is not about salvation for all who have received the Lord as their Savior have been granted ‘the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12) and will rightfully enter the Father’s house. This judgment will be about the deeds done for God’s kingdom to receive a crown and many who think they are doing great works will be surprised.

        The fire does not purify the worker but tests their workmanship. The Roman Catholics use this passage to teach about their concept of purgatory where after death a person is supposed to go for purification before going to heaven. Purgation has nothing to do with this passage but the individual whose works are unworthy walks through fire losing every chance of a reward and enters heaven due to faith in the Savior Redeemer. If a believer‘s works are completely judged as worthless even though they have trusted in the Lord for their own salvation, it will be like they have been snatched from the fire, they themselves are safe but everything they labored for is destroyed.  

        Lot was with Abram and had flocks and herds and tents and as per his own choice he separated from Abram and settled in the plains as far as Sodom, a place whose ‘men were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD’ (Genesis 13:5 & 12-13). The wickedness of the people affected Lot and his family also. The angels had to forcibly remove Lot, his wife and daughters from Sodom and Gomorrah just before destruction through ‘brimstone and fire’. Lot lost everything but just escaped with his life and his wife, despite warning, looked back and desired the life style of yore and was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:16 & 24-26). Like Lot, there will be joy at being saved but grief for the loss and this will be entering heaven through fire with no reward for deeds for they would be found to be not as per the will of the Lord.

       How will the righteous enter heaven? – Saul encouraged the zealots to stone Stephen and thus kill him (Acts 8:1). Same Saul when chosen by the Lord was given an assignment that would have been extremely difficult for anyone to fulfill, ‘He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles… For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake’ (Acts 9:1-16).   Apostle Paul’s life thereafter was about move from one suffering to the other (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). His warning is about bringing glory to the Lord as led by God’s grace, through the Holy Spirit, through good works which will be recognized in heaven.

        Our works must fulfill some basic conditions to be acceptable. First, our works must be fire resistant. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims His handiwork’ and these are there till replaced by new heavens and new earth (Psalm 19:1). In like manner any work of mine that brings glory to God will survive, for the aim of my life must be, ‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your name give glory’ (Psalm 115:1). Second, doing it all to the Savior Lord. Lord Jesus’ command is to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger into your house, clothe the naked, visit and pray for the sick and offer consolation to those in prison (Matthew 25:34-36). These deeds though performed for people on earth will be deemed to have been done to the Lord. This is done through good deeds in both material and spiritual realm to get both types of help to the needy. Third, do not trumpet your works to the world for this is for His glory otherwise the reward of recognition by others is already received with no dues in heaven (Matthew 6:2).  

        Apostle Peter had experienced both extremes of loyalty to Lord Jesus, on the one hand he had denied the Lord while on the other he had walked on water. He had been snatched back from the brink by the Savior Lord’s prayer (Luke 22:32)  and his understanding of entering heaven in glory is from personal experience ((2 Peter 1:10-11). Apostle Peter was rewarded with great responsibility to tend to and feed God’s sheep and this was despite his having failed Hid Lord (John 21:15-17).  The glory of God’s covenant is that it does not depend on me. God’s procedure of entering into a covenant with the faithful is different from human beings. Abraham brought the required animals, cut them in two, except the birds, and God put him into deep sleep and walked through the offerings in the form of a ‘smoking oven and a burning torch’ (Genesis 15). In the same way, the disciples deserted the Lord and ‘many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar’. The Messiah signed the New Covenant with His blood without anyone being there and now at least all my deeds must glorify Him (Matthew 27:55).

       What are the works the Apostle Peter sees as providing an honorable entrance abundantly into our Lord’s kingdom? – Lord Jesus defined eternal life to be ‘to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ’ (John 17:3). Apostle Peter preaches that we are given all that pertains to life and godliness ‘through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue’ (2 Peter 1:3-10). The first work is to develop a close relationship with God through learning the Living Word as taught by the Holy Spirit. Second, claim and be partakers of the divine nature by standing in the ‘great and precious promises’ given to us in God’s Word. Believe in the unseen and glorify God so that it could be counted as righteousness as it was for Abraham. Third, work diligently to add to your faith various godly qualities while undergoing the daily process of sanctification through repentance from sin and being deliberately aggressive in prayer and faith and mental aggression to live and practice God’s Word. This is a deliberate effort to withstand the lies and temptations of the devil. The outcome of all these efforts must lead from ‘brotherly kindness to love’ and outpouring of this love into neighborly love so that one bears much fruit. A branch that does not bear fruit is cut off by the Master and thrown into the fire (John 15:2).

       The works in our life that bring glory to God prevent our stumbling, knowingly or unknowingly. And the entrance that Apostle Peter is referring to as ‘abundant entrance’ is really a ‘choral entrance’ which is like a Roman conqueror entering his city and is welcomed by singers and musicians who join him in a glorious and happy procession. What type of entry do I want into heaven, grabbed from the clutches of fire as an unknown, unrecognized believer or with a reward while being welcomed by many to whom you have been a means of blessing?

        What is different about these works from our routine deeds? – God created man with a purpose to be fulfilled by him. Command from Lord Jesus to ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19) is in line with the command to Adam, subdue the earth and have dominion over the created beings (Genesis 1:28). The Hebrew word ‘kabash’ is ‘subdue or bring into bondage’ and it has an element of violence in it and similarly the word ‘radah’ is about establishing dominion by prevailing over the animals etc. In like manner the Great Commission going is as per Greek word ‘poreuomai’ meaning deliberate movement to reach a particular destination. Making disciples is ‘mathetes’ meaning initiating the mental effort needed to think something through with deliberste follow through.

          Now, the message of the Gospel is ‘foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18). How can the same message be perceived so differently by two sets of people? Satan the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, ‘lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). The battle that we as believers are involved is twofold. One is to make sure that the light of the Gospel not be dimmed in our minds leading us to works of grass. Secondly, it is to fight to pierce the veil of darkness over the minds of the lost to bring them into the light.

        Apostle Paul revealed that Lord Jesus, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men’ (Ephesians 4:8). All those who entered heaven with the Redeemer joined in the heavenly celebration of His ascension, glorification and exaltation and received rewards commensurate to their works. Our works in this battle will come before the Bema seat of judgment for rewards and this battle requires due diligence. Apostle Peter understood the importance of his message to ‘be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my demise’ (2 Peter 1:15). This not only requires deliberate and continuous effort but also an aggressive mindset to operate in prayer and faith to seek God’s guiding power continually to succeed. The reward is definitely worth the effort for who does not want to be welcomed into his eternal home as a hero of faith.

        Apostle Paul’s message to Timothy was about having fought a good fight and running a good race and then be ready to present oneself before the Master in heaven to receive the crown of righteousness that He has prepared for His faithful servants. We were born weak in body and in old age the same body again becomes weak, but the life that we live in between decides our rewards. We were created to be dependent on God and once we do that our fellowship with Him is assured and righteous deeds automatically follow. Will I be able to say this about myself and be ready to be ‘poured out like a drink offering’?

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