Are you an evangelist? Do you feel the conviction to share the Gospel with those around you, and long to see your friends and family members “saved”? Are you afraid of eternity – both for yourself and for your community? Do you want to go to Heaven?
It would be a very disturbed person who truly longs in his heart to not go to Heaven. Almost every culture and worldview has some form of paradise as a goal destination in the afterlife and they utilize this as a reward for moral or ethical living during their lifetime on Earth. As the old bluegrass hymn states, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die”.
Often times when we share the Gospel and when we think of our own personal fear of eternity, we are driven to tell people how to not go to Hell, or how to get to Heaven. God becomes merely the guard of eternal bliss and we need to do whatever it takes to make Him happy and appease Him so that we can get through the gate. Jesus, however, teaches us that He came to the Earth so that we might know and love God and spend eternity with God. Yes, He spoke often and terrifyingly about Hell, but when He discussed His mission and purpose, He said,
– John 10.10
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
– Luke 19.10
Consider the story of Lazarus. It might seem a strange choice in discussing this topic, but read carefully (I recommend reading the entire narrative of John 11):
“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha…Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was…So Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.’ So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days…When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’.”
– John 11.1-45
Jesus had some friends whom He loved and who were all siblings: Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He received word that Lazarus was sick, but Jesus knew that it was the will and plan of God to exemplify His glory by raising him from the dead. Thus we see in verse 6 the conjunction “so” or “therefore”. Verse four states that the sickness is intentional for the glory of God, so when Jesus heard Lazarus was sick he remained where he was – in order that Lazarus would die. By the time Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. There was no doubt he was dead. But Jesus had a plan and He raised Lazarus from the dead.
Notice here that absolutely nothing is said about Heaven, Hell or the afterlife. Not one thing. We are infatuated with the afterlife, and anytime someone dies momentarily and is resuscitated we immediately ask them what they saw and experienced. People have written books and made millions of dollars by declaring that they have been to Heaven and seen loved ones. Doctors tell horror stories of people who have died and come back talking about spiders and demons and dark places. But in the Bible, the man who was dead and buried for four days is offered no platform for testimony about his experience.
Are you not so curious about his experience? I am too. I want to know where he went, who he saw, if he interacted with God the Father, all of it. But Jesus’ intention was to prove His love for the family, His power to raise even the dead, and His identity as the final resurrection. Everyone eventually will rise again at the end of the age – just like Lazarus, and therefore his resurrection was so insignificant that no mention is made of Lazarus’ experience. Jesus wants us to look at God and His glory, not at the experience of a man.
It is extremely dangerous to build a theology on the silence of Scripture, but it is right and good to build our doctrines and beliefs on what the Scripture actually says. Jesus did come to save us from Hell, but He came so that we might have abundant life and a relationship with God and saving us from Hell is merely a consequence of being right with God. You can read more about the new birth here. He is primarily concerned that we know and love God:
“One of them, a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul’.”
– Matt 22.35-37
This is the foundation on which the Old Testament Law is written and on which the New Testament covenant of grace is established. Loving God with everything we have. God gives us Spiritual life through the salvation experience so that we can love Him. Sin is the barrier between us and God, not us and Heaven.
This is why Jesus prays for the disciples and for the Church that we would be united with Him the same way that Jesus and God are united:
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
– John 17.19-25
It has been said that we can test our hearts and our salvation by asking the simple question: Would you want to go to Heaven if God (or Jesus) were not there? It is, in part, a trick question because when paired up against the other option – of course no one wants to go to Hell. However. If your end goal is Heaven, if your desire is to see deceased relatives, if you just want to get to that place where there is no more sorrow and pain, then you have missed the boat and probably do not know God. You desire only His benefits and not Him. You love His blessings, but not Him. And the greatest commandment and foundation for our salvation is loving God.
What is your end goal? Do you love God? Or are you just looking for a pain-free and comfortable eternity?