What is our future after death- hell or heaven? How to ensure a place in heaven? Do our deeds carry any weight? What will be our life in heaven or hell? Will we remember others?
Socrates the great Greek philosopher was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock, a poisonous substance, for corrupting the minds of the young through his philosophical theories. On the day of his death, it is said, his followers joined him before the final moment and were amazed to find him happy and totally at peace. Socrates’ answer touched two important points- first, that there is life after this and that the future is never known and because of this we do not stop eagerly waiting for it. There have been innumerable instances of people coming back to life sometime after death and the latest movie “Heaven is for Real” is a narration of the experiences of a four year old child, who comes back to life.
Luke 16:19-31, narrates the story of the poor beggar and the rich man, who after death reach paradise and hell fires respectively. The rich man makes two requests- to cool his tongue and to send the beggar to his five brothers to warn them lest they also suffer the same fate. This illustration by Lord Jesus clarifies two important issues that the soul and spirit of man will go to hell or heaven and that the person will not forget his past life and relations.
Our Lord corrects the seventy after they return from their mission rejoicing that “even the demons are subject to us in Your name”. The warning was specific “Do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17, 20). Writing of the names in the ‘book of heaven’ was completed by God the Father in eternity past “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). God in His divine mercy and foreknowledge has chosen us and made us “His sons” through His Son and our Savior. And the Savior emphatically encourages us through His Word “Let not your heart be troubled——In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.—And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
How do we ensure a place in heaven and allotment of a mansion? And how many mansions are there; are there numbers sufficient? The Holy Bible assures us of our selection before anything came into being and provides the promise of ‘a mansion in the Father’s house’. This blessing with the words of encouragement “Let not your heart be troubled” provide a clear answer to the questions troubling the minds of humanity since ages past.
A sinful man has no chance ever of appearing before God’s throne except for judgement. If we take stock of our activities for a day or a week and score out the bad with the good; where even sinful thoughts also have to be included, we shall find the scales heavily tilted against us. There is no way that we can even out the odds through our own efforts. This is only possible through the blessings and grace of some other authority competent to balance the sheets. David gazes in to the future when he says “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute inequity” (Psalm 32:1-2). Only someone whose sins are not recorded can be in such a blessed state. The Lord Jesus sacrificed Himself as a substitute for our sins and fulfilled what David had foreseen, thus granting us the right to be in such exalted company of ‘those whose transgression is forgiven’.
At present there are four stages of the Being of Lord Jesus; God from eternity, God becoming man, death and resurrection and the final one of ascension and victorious enthronement. The final stages of the Warrior King and eternal Ruler of the earth are yet to be till the time of His second coming. Out of the first four, which stage is the focus of our prayer is important for our stage of blessedness? The final stage not only denotes His power but also His having opened the gates of heaven for mankind and His presence in and with us through the Holy Spirit. Through His entry into heaven with His human body, He as first fruits of resurrection has assured fulfillment of His promise of ‘a mansion’ in heaven for us.
This allotment is available not through our good deeds but through faith in Him who has ensured the opening of the gates of heaven for us; faith that His deeds have done this for us and erased our sins forever. He has written out a new covenant in His blood which declares “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12). The blessed state is available to those who seek it earnestly and belief. “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our inequities. For as heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12).
But we belong to the ‘know generation’ where ‘we can’ is the motto. We want to achieve everything including salvation with our efforts. Also we tend to follow the philosophy of ‘a bird in hand is better than two in the bush’ and wish to cling on to this life and its trial and temptations at any cost, unless we get forced into a situation of losing all with no ray of light available in that extreme darkness. It is only then that we seek Him and then regular fellowship with the Lord God opens our mind to the immense blessings lying in wait for us; for how great will be the life in heaven when Garden of Eden was so beautiful. And this Garden cannot be a match for the “House of our Lord God”.
He has chosen us, but is there a chance of our getting out of this blessed state? Adam and Eve were blessed with a “life of abundance” with all physical necessities supplied and spiritual growth assured through the daily personal interaction with God. They were under the very care of God but had the option to exercise their free will and they opted out of that consecrated space to follow the designs of Satan in search of a false mirage of ‘self sufficiency’ without God. The situation has not changed dramatically since then for “your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Be sober, be vigilant, resist him, steadfast in the faith and the devil will flee from you.
Losing a loved one to death is always traumatic and painful. The widow of Zarephath lost her son and could ensure great blessings for him by following the command of Prophet Elijah “Give me your son” (1 Kings 17:19). Likewise we also have to let go for the Lord commanded Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to me” (John 20:17). The assurance guarantees a wonderful life of praising God in heaven with ‘ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11).
The rich man in Luke 16 prays for the deliverance of his five brothers through a message to them and seeks blessings for them. Once we let go of the dead and stop grieving, they not only enter heaven under the Lord’s promise and occupy the ‘allotted mansion in heaven’ but also intercede for us who are yet living on the earth. Though this is not a pre requisite but we may be hindering the efforts of the departed one to worship God.
Those who receive Him- only they are given the right to be the children of God and blessings of entering the house of God the Father. Have you secured a place for yourself and your dear ones; for it may be too late any moment.