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Sunday, August 03, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 46

Who is going to heaven?

Belief in heaven, or at least in some sort of afterlife, is pervasive in North America. An ABC News poll, reported in December 2005, said that 90% of people in the US claim to believe in heaven.

But Jesus said that most people won’t find life in Him:
Matthew 7:13 “Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. 14 How* narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it.
*There is a text note in the World English Bible, giving “Because” as an alternate reading.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

(The phrase, “Kingdom of Heaven” occurs many times in Matthew’s gospel, but nowhere else in the New Testament. Wright says that Jesus was mostly talking about earthly life in Him, not about going to heaven, in passages such as these.)

In a previous chapter, there is a discussion of the Biblical evidence as to whether or not someone is saved. Most likely, considerably less than 90% of North Americans measure up. As I understand it, heaven, whenever reached, is only for those who do.

Matthew 7:13-14 and John 14:6 don’t use the phrase, or even the idea, of going to heaven. As Wright points out, there is next to nothing in the Bible about going to heaven, as such. Instead, the emphasis is on the life that Jesus offers (see these two passages, quoted above) or in being part of God’s Kingdom, now, in this present life (see the previous quotations from Matthew). However, as Wright also points out, and as casually paying attention to conversations, funerals, sermons, and the like will tell you, North Americans do speak as if the Bible’s main emphasis is on how to get, or go, to heaven, so this chapter is written in that context. Following Christ as savior and Lord will result in an eventual heavenly home for the followers. Only those who follow Christ as savior and Lord will ever find themselves in heaven. There is, or will be, a heaven. But getting to heaven wasn’t the main message of Jesus, or of the other writers of the New Testament.

The above material is an excerpt from my self-published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series, on the topic of the idea of going to heaven, is here. God willing, the next post in this series will continue this topic. Thanks for reading.

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