|Volume 18 Number 4 April 2016||
Who Is Going to Heaven?
“You are the ones who think you are the only ones going to Heaven.” All members of the Lord’s church have probably been accused of that at one time or another. Faithful Christians do have the expectation of entering that heavenly home. Let’s look at some of God’s teachings on the subject of heaven and that eternal peaceful rest.
We read in John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It is an elemental fact that to have eternal life one must believe in the Savior. God loved His creation enough that He sent His Son to be sacrificed and to shed the blood that could take away “the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
Jesus Himself came to earth, teaching about the fate that would come to all men. To the faithful He said, “Come, you blessed of My Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To the unfaithful He said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:34ff). From the beginning, God has taught that the faithful will be rewarded and the unfaithful will be punished. That’s what most parents teach their children as they begin to learn and to understand what is expected of them. It’s really a simple teaching. The offspring must decide whether they want to be rewarded or punished and act accordingly.
Jesus taught this same lesson by saying, “He that reaps receives wages and gathers fruit to life eternal” (John 4:36). Farming was familiar with all to whom He spoke, and they all understood that in order to receive their wages they had to reap the harvest. He was speaking of the hard work they had to do to be paid and telling them that His faithful also must do some hard work to receive the fruit of eternal life. Those who want to go to heaven must pay the price while here on this earth. There will be no second chance. The faithful must “gather fruit to life eternal.”
Jesus also taught, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28). He taught a lesson here that was so easy for His listeners to relate to themselves because they knew about shepherds and their sheep. Those who know the Master’s voice and heed it will be rewarded with eternal life with Him.
One… asked Him ‘Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? Jesus said to him, “…You know the commandments: do not commit adultery, do not kill; do not steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honor your father and mother” and he answered and said, “Master I have observed all these from my youth.” Jesus, beholding him, loved him and said, “One thing you lack: go your way and sell what you have and give to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up your cross and follow Me.” (Mark 10:17-21)
From this, we understand without a doubt that there is more required of the faithful than just refraining from sinful activity. The faithful must not be so attached to their earthly belongings that they become an obstacle to reaching the heavenly home. Jesus was not attached to earthly things, and the faithful must “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Can anyone have assurance of a heavenly home when this physical life is over? Who is going to heaven? Just being a member of any “church” will not grant entry into heaven. Only those who honor Jesus as Lord of their lives, hear, believe and obey the Word of God will enter heaven. This includes to repent of sins, to confess Jesus as Lord, to be baptized for the remission of sins and then to live a faithful, active Christian life. Those who do so will enter heaven. May God bless you in your efforts to reach that heavenly home!
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Dear brother Rushmore, …I am a member of the Lord’s Church in …Nigeria. …Is it scriptural for a group of individual brothers to form an association, with a name registered with the relevant government authority, having the aim to preach the Gospel or doing charity [work] or both? For instance: Association of Nigerian Brethren in the US, with the mission to evangelize and establish congregations of the Lord’s Church in remote villages in Nigeria. Brothers in my locality are having contrary views. Those who resist the strategy say that only the church/local congregation should preach the gospel, that other associations/names cause divisions.
The only organization authorized and charged with the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world is the one church for which Jesus died to establish (Acts 20:28), over which He is the Head (Colossians 1:18) and that bears His name (Romans 16:16). That being said, the church is comprised of individual members (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) who are responsible for church growth (Ephesians 4:16). The Great Commission to evangelize the world was given initially to the remaining eleven apostles of Christ (Mark 16:15-16). The responsibility of the church relies upon the individual element, and the church can do nothing without the activity of Christians.
Therefore, it would be biblically correct for a church program to be organized under the oversight of a congregational eldership to evangelize as the work of the church. However, there is no scriptural authority for an organization outside of the church to assume for itself the responsibility to evangelize the world with the Gospel. Yet, individual Christians, answerable to the respective congregations of which they are members, ought to show initiative to tell others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and about His church. Furthermore, either individual Christians or congregations may voluntarily cooperate to practice evangelism.
For instance, World Evangelism of which I am a team member, is a church program primarily intended to promote evangelism, and the other team members and I voluntarily cooperate with each other to do that. Each of us is under the oversight of our respective congregations, and we and the congregations that oversee us voluntarily cooperate.
A separately structured organization referred to as a missionary society historically existed beyond local congregations, received dues from its member congregations and took the responsibility away from local congregations for foreign mission work. This setup was not biblically correct, interrupted God’s scheme of congregational autonomy (self-ruling) and resulted in a major division in the latter 19th century and early 20th century between the churches of Christ and the Christian Church. Some para-church organizations today resemble the missionary society in organization. A similar purpose without violating biblical authority can be accomplished by placing evangelistic efforts under a local congregational eldership or more than one congregation voluntarily cooperating but responsible for its members who work alongside of each other.
Benevolence, though, is another matter. God does not expect the Lord’s church to be responsible for all benevolence or charity work on earth. He does, however, expect the Lord’s church to be responsible for all evangelistic work on earth. Yes, Christians and congregations of the Lord’s church are to practice benevolence toward Christians and non-Christians as opportunities and resources allow (Galatians 6:10), but benevolence is not limited to either Christians or to the church.
Christians ought to act benevolently, and they are chargeable to the congregations of which they are members. In addition, Christians may cooperate and even organize themselves for better efficiency to accomplish benevolence or charity work. However, especially if what they do is represented as attributable to the churches of Christ, then that organized effort would do well to be under the oversight of an eldership of some local congregation.