God has a plan and I’m involved in it, but at times I’m left wondering where all this is going. Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart, because He’s overcome the world (John 16:33). Day in and day out, I’m surrounded by people who go through life (apparently to me) having a godless outlook on life with no unprompted thoughts about God. Could I be wrong? Yeah, I certainly could… But when I see people who don’t love God’s word, wouldn’t be caught dead with a Bible, don’t want to go to church, don’t want to be with God’s people and don’t want to talk about God, aren’t I right to conclude that they have a godless outlook on life? When pressed they might say, “I pray” or “I believe in God” and that they feel that faith is a private matter – “you shouldn’t talk about ‘religion’”. So, I look at the situation I’m in – surrounded by unbelievers who could not care less about the One who I love. I sometimes feel like Elijah who said “I am the only one left” (1 Kings 19:14). I must confess, it can get tiring and depressing being “in the world, but not of the world”.
I wonder… how can a person who has all the attributes described above at the same time hold the view that they will be going to heaven when they die? The essence of heaven is being in the presence of God – for eternity! If someone spends their time on this earth trying to avoid God and distance themselves from God – not going to church or reading the Bible or being with God’s people, how is it logical that they’d want to then die and spend eternity in the presence of God and being shoulder to shoulder with God’s people worshiping Him? The only conclusion I can come to is that they don’t understand the essence of heaven and that probably means that they also don’t understand the essence of hell either. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 says:
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
Being shut out from the presence of the Lord may not sound so bad, but they will also be punished! Being shut out from the presence of the Lord is punishment in and of itself, because He is the source of every good thing and every blessing (James 1:5,17; Ps 127:1; Job 1:10; Nahum 1:7;Mat 10:29-31; Lam 3:24-26; Mat 7:9-11; Ps 55:22; Ps 107:1; Rom 8:28; 2 Sam 22:31). So, being shut out from the Lord is being shut out from everything good, which is definitely hell.
The Bible tells us that being a Christian means being in God’s family for eternity. John 1:12-13 says:
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:20-23 that there are people who think they are going to heaven (because of their good works) and He’s going to tell them “I never knew you”. Heaven is about spending eternity in the presence of the One we’re getting to know, walking with Him, worshiping Him and working for Him right here and now on this planet earth while we’re still drawing breath.
Every time I start to stress about this stuff, I think about how patient the Lord is (see 2 Peter 3:9) and especially how patient He was with me while I lived a godless life for 37 years of my life. The “end of the story” of these godless lives I see are not known by me yet. The end of the story is known by God though, and I can take comfort in that. God will “judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17). No one will get to the end of their life and be able to claim that they tried to seek God but couldn’t find Him (Jer 29:13). No one will be “knocking at heaven’s door” and turned away. Jesus said “… whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37) So, I can hold out hope that those around me will “come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim 2:26). I cast my cares on You Lord (Ps. 55:22). The lost and wandering of this world are ultimately not my responsibility and You care about them infinitely more than I do. I trust You to do what is right and good and just, because that is Your nature! Amen!