Devilish Dream

I have had many strange dreams, but I want to record last night’s dream in this article so that I will remember it.  It was different from other dreams because it seemed very real.  In fact when I awakened, it didn’t feel like I had been dreaming, but it was like I had been transported from a strange location back to my bed. All I knew was that it was a devilish dream.

And that strange location was a classroom.  I was surrounded by thousands of people all sitting in metal folding chairs lined up in hundreds of rows, facing a podium with a speaker, who was addressing the class.  We were all sitting upright and offering the greatest degree of attention that we could muster.  The speaker was talking in a monotone voice that had a tendency to lull us to sleep, but we instinctively knew there would be consequences if we closed our eyes.

The topic of the presentation was the poor choices that many in the room had made during their lifetimes.  However, I was surprised when the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we felt like we had to suffer consequences for these poor decisions, that only a handful of us, including me, raised our hands.  The great majority obviously believed that there would be no punishment for their misdeeds.

I didn’t know the reasoning behind that belief, but I assumed that many of them thought that Jesus died for their sins and there would be no consequences because of that.  I am a Christian, but I have read the Bible enough to know that even though our sins are forgiven because of the sacrifices made by Jesus, the Bible clearly states that there still will be a Judgment Day for all of us.

There will be certain consequences for our actions even though we are forgiven by the death of Jesus.  The Bible is very clear on this, but ministers tend to overlook these passages in the good book so as not to alarm their congregations.  You can find passages all through the Bible that warn us that we will suffer consequences for our acts.

It might be more peaceful going into the afterlife, believing that there will be no punishment awaiting.  As an analogy, it’s probably better not knowing that a shot is going to be painful.  The wait before the shot could be more painful than the shot itself.  If you think too much about Judgment Day, you might have a tendency to unnecessarily worry about it.

I believe you must be realistic as you enter the afterlife or you may forget the most important thing:  you must unify with God.  If you are too peaceful, you may find yourself herded in the wrong direction.  Only unification with God will protect you from false prophets, guides, and leaders in the afterworld.

My guess is that God will administer different punishments for different souls.  It would be similar to our criminal law courts.  Somebody who was guilty of shoplifting may have to perform community service for 100 hours, while somebody guilty of murder may get a life sentence.  God will examine all of our sins on Judgment Day holding us all accountable.

But back to my dream.  As all the attendees were asked to raise their hands if they believed that they would be punished for their bad choices, a big search light came on behind us, so that we could see our shadows in front of us.  I noticed that my hand was raised while nobody else in my row or behind me had their hands raised.

However that was not the biggest surprise.  I was shocked when I noticed that all of us had horns on the top of our heads.  Not one soul in the meeting failed to have two horns positioned on the crown of their heads.  But when I looked at my neighbor straight on, there was no set of horns.  The horns could only be detected by the shadows when the light was behind us.

Those of us who understood that we would have consequences for our actions during our lifetimes were summarily whisked out of the room and were taken to a small room with no windows and only one door.  It reminded me of an interrogation room.  After a moment, a man with a long gray beard entered the room and told us that he was always surprised that only a handful out of each class knew that they would be punished in the afterlife.

Some hoped that they would not be punished and would not admit that it was even a possibility.  Some rationalized that they had not done anything wrong.  Others felt that they had been punished enough during their lives.  Others believed Jesus erased all consequences.  Others thought that there was nothing after death.  Others pretended not to care.

In the last part of my dream before I was transported back to my bed, I was informed that there were other tests ahead.  The small handful of us had passed only the first of many tests.  I assumed there were also consequences ahead for other tests, depending on how we did.

I remembered what Jesus said, “… narrow is the way, which leadeth into life, and few there be that find it.”  Matthew 7:14.  Jesus was saying that only a few of us will reach God’s kingdom.  In all my years of attending church, I have never heard a minister explain this statement.  And even though it will be difficult to reach Heaven even if you become one with God, it will be impossible if you do not unify with Him.

 

 

Saint or Sinner?

Does our species, Homo sapiens, lean more toward being a saint or a sinner?

Well, the answer probably depends on the circumstances.  For example, if a man loses his job and has to feed his family, he may resort to robbery or even murder to satisfy this need.  Drug addicts certainly or more likely to commit crimes in order to obtain drugs.  But what about those God-fearing citizens who smile at you at work and in your neighborhood?  Are they saints or sinners?

One of the problems in answering this question is that most people consider themselves in the best light possible – using excuses, rationalizations, self-delusions, transference, and other self-serving devices to avoid personal blame.  In other words, most people consider themselves as saints, but the rest of the world may well be sinners.  Unfortunately, the truth is that we are all, each and every one of us, sinners.  There is nobody on the face of the earth who is not a sinner, even if the sin is pride.  You don’t have to commit a crime in order to be a sinner.

One of my pet projects was to establish an Excel sheet with a listing of virtues that I would track every day.  The idea was to analyze my attempts to improve myself over the course of a year.  I gave myself a checkmark for each virtue that I achieved that day.  For instance, if I meditated, prayed, had no anger, told the truth, had an act of kindness, practiced humility, exercised patience, showed love, had joy, or served society, I would give myself a point.

The results were very disappointing.  It was like going on a diet.  I did very well the first month, but as the novelty wore off, I found myself becoming complacent and less interested in self-improvement.  I discovered that I generally was focused on myself and my needs rather than on the needs of others.  Even though I had always considered myself much less selfish than others, I was awakened by the daily chart, which showed that I served myself first and foremost.  And even after attempting to become a better person, I was reminded by the spread sheet that I was no nearer to my goal than when I started.

Even when I made temporary improvements, I would backslide.  It was exactly like going on a diet.  You might lose weight for the first six months, but then you might gain it back over the seventh month.  And when you stop eating as much, your metabolism slows down and burns fewer calories.  This makes it increasingly difficult to shed the pounds.  The same goes for trying to be a better person.  You might be a better person for half a year, but then your personal needs and desires which have been suppressed, sometimes return with a vengeance.  You may become an even worse sinner.

In civil law, we examine the evidence and place it on the scales of justice to determine if there is a preponderance of evidence that tilts the scales in one direction or the other.  Unfortunately, this is a manmade rule of law.  We would like to argue that our good deeds overshadow our evil actions so that we are primarily saints.  Unfortunately, this is a manmade hope in order to avoid any potential consequences in the afterlife.  Most of us would like to believe that if we work toward being a good person and follow a good moral code, we will land in the safe zone if there is something after death waiting for us.

I don’t think so.  Every poor decision in life carries a consequence if the afterworld has any logical significance.  One of the attractions of Christianity is that it makes Jesus the sacrificial lamb who takes on all your sins, so that there will be no consequences awaiting you.  It is important for Christians to enter the afterworld without feelings of guilt and Jesus helps them do just that, but the Bible also makes it clear that there will be consequences for our bad acts.  Ministers typically avoid this issue like the plague.  Most Christians would rather believe that they can erase all their sins by believing in Jesus.  Few ministers would say otherwise.

But sin is sin.  And bad choices are bad choices.  And consequences will be provided.  It would be absurd to believe otherwise.  Why does our species have free will to make choices and others do not?  If we didn’t have free will, everything would be predetermined and the consequences would also be predetermined.  But freedom to make choices also carries the responsibilities and consequences from those decisions.

When the Creator, for whatever reason, decided to give us this free will, it would have been illogical to let us make decisions if there were no consequences for those choices.  I have no idea why we were given this freedom, but we were.  And since we all will make bad choices, we cannot enter God’s zone of judgment in any afterlife without unifying with God.  It is only by becoming one with the Creator that we have any chance of minimizing the consequences.

Of course, I don’t know what happens after we die.  If nothing happens after death, then Homo sapiens will be the luckiest species of all times and all locations in the universe.  However, if we are still thinking after we die, then having free will would be absurd if we had no consequences for our choices.  Again, I don’t know how Judgment Day will play out, but I do know that we would have a fool for a client if we defended ourselves.  It is only by becoming one with God that you will have a fighting chance.  You cannot do it by yourself.

How Much Do We Know?

With all the improvements in science and scientific research and space exploration, how much do we know… perhaps 10% of what is in our universe?  With the large telescopes on earth and in space, how much do we see… perhaps another 10% of our universe?

Actually, we know less than 1% of what is in our universe and probably much less than 1%.  The visible universe is less than 4% of what is included in the universe and probably much less than 4%, especially if the universe is an ellipse and we can only view it to its horizon.  And even if the visible universe is 4%, we know just a fraction of what is in that visible universe.

So, how much do we know?  Not much at all.  We don’t know much about dark matter and don’t know anything about dark energy.  In fact, we can say with certainty:  we are pretty much in the dark.

We don’t even know that much about what is right in front of us.  The invisible quantum world is right next to us, but we have only scratched its surface.  There are unexplored deep oceans.  There still are many mysteries deep inside the earth’s core.

We, humans, think very highly of ourselves, but actually we are a miserable lot.  We can’t take care of our environment.  We are responsible for a current mass extinction that may end up being worse than the Permian extinction.  Our emotions make us more violent and unpredictable than any other animals.

We don’t even know much about ourselves and why we exist.  Why do we think about our existence?  If we didn’t have that nagging awareness, we could be like all the other animals, living through basic instincts without emotional interplay.  But our consciousness and consciences make us different from other animals… and not necessarily different better.  We murder based on hate, greed, sex, desire, jealousy, and anger.  No other animals do that.  We want gold, silver, diamonds, and currency.  Other animals don’t care about these things.  We want luxury automobiles and huge homes with the best furniture.  Other animals could care less.

So, why are we different and what is our purpose?  Well, logically there must be a reason for us to have free will and make choices based on our unique consciousness and consciences.  And the only reason that makes sense is that we are being tested.  Why else would we be able to make choices?  Life with free will would be quite absurd without consequences for our choices.  Existentialism rules our world.

Homo sapiens could have been like any other animal with no awareness or conscience, but we were given free will that no other animals have.  Why?  It has to be because something or somebody will examine these decisions that we have made.  And, of course, there will be consequences.  You cannot judge an animal that acts based on inherent instincts, but you can provide punishment for bad choices made by Homo sapiens.

So, how much do we know about a future judgment?  My guess is that we know less than 1% and probably substantially less than 1%.

Focus on God

Our species appears to be the only animal that thinks about the afterlife.  The majority of humans think that there is an afterlife or there is not an afterlife or they simply don’t know one way or the other.  But most of us do think about the afterlife.

And we think about the Creator or God in the same manner:  there is a God or there is no God or we just don’t know.  But most of us do think about God.  Our focus is on God.

Even atheists need God to believe that He does not exist.  So logically, they must have thought of God first in order to decide that He does not exist.  Because how could you introduce a negative thought about something that you didn’t think or know about?  The concept of God had to exist before atheists could argue that He did not live.

Thus, our focus is on God and the afterlife.  And since we are human, we will do stupid and cruel and mean and horrible things during our lifetimes.  Everybody has something they can feel guilty about and most of us have something we feel guilty about every day.  So, we are sinful creatures who have been given free will to commit sins.

Do we resign ourselves to this sinful nature or do we try to do better?  Those who give in to our humanness and never attempt to improve themselves typically are those who don’t believe in God.  And who could blame them?  If you accept sin as your natural state during life, then you would not want any consequences after death.  You would not want God to be your judge.  Your preference would be to die and that would be the end.  The only problem with this belief is that choices without consequences make no sense.  Life would be absurd without consequences.  Life would be absurd without God.

Yet, those who believe in God are not necessarily any better than atheists.  Many followers of God believe that they will have a free ticket punched, eliminating all consequences for their sins.  This makes no more sense than atheism.  Clearly, the Bible speaks of judgments and consequences based on what we did during our lives.  Of course, believers want their sins to be washed away, typically so they can go sin again.  The only problem with this belief is that there must be consequences or life would be absurd.

And those who do not know if God exists or not cannot win by default.  You have heard the rule of law: ignorance of the law is no excuse.  The same applies to those who say they don’t know if God lives.  When they sin, there will be consequences whether they know God or not.  There must be consequences to prevent life from being absurd.

In conclusion, atheists, believers, and agnostics, who represent the majority of Homo sapiens, all focus on God in one fashion or another.  And that focus is on there being or not being a judge who will provide consequences for all our poor choices made during our lifetimes.  But remember: life is absurd without consequences.

John, the Gnostic

John, who is considered to be the author of the Gospel of John, the three books of John, and Revelation at the end of the Bible, is one of a handful of Gnostic writers whose works were not destroyed by the church establishment.  A majority of the books included in the Bible had no Gnostic theology at all, so it is important to examine John’s books to uncover the beliefs of an important Christian sect that was pushed into a dark corner to be hidden from future Christians.

Why were the Gnostics so feared by the church leaders?  Well, it is rather simple.  The Gnostics did not believe that clergy were required to intercede for believers to reach God.  The central thesis for the Gnostics was dualism:  the spirit is entirely good, while matter is entirely evil.  The human body and all material in the universe are bad, while God and the spirit are good.  Separation of your spirit from your body requires special knowledge.  The Greek word for knowledge is gnosis, the derivative for Gnosticism.  Thus, Gnostics believed that you unified with God and became one with God through your mind by leaving your body behind.

In the Gospel of John, the author emphasized that God would send down the Holy Spirit to help us become one with God, just like Jesus and God are one, John 17:11.  Jesus said that the Spirit will be in us, John 14:17.  Jesus is in his Father, just like he will be in you and you in him, John 14:20 and 17:22-23.  After Jesus died, he returned to command us to “receive the Holy Spirit,” John 20:22.

John’s books were included in the Bible because he was not an extreme Gnostic.  For example, some Gnostics believed in “docetism,” which meant that Jesus only seemed to have a body.  John believed some Gnostics of his day were false prophets under the influence of spirits alienated from God.  In other words, there were both evil and good spirits, and we should test the spirits, 1 John 4:1-3.  Some Gnostics, who followed Cerinthus, believed that Jesus was not in the spirit form until he was baptized by John the Baptist and then right before he died on the cross.

But John was a Gnostic in the sense that he believed that you must unify with God.  John believed that God must be in you, 1 John 4:4, and living in you, 1 John 4:12.  He stated, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit,” John 4:13.  And John explains that it is important to have God inside you, giving you confidence and driving out any fear we might have on judgment day, 1 John 17-18.  In other words, fear could be disastrous for us in the afterlife, so if we have God inside us, we will lose much of that fear.

John also apparently believed that God’s creation was a closed universe, so that God and Jesus existed before the universe was created, John 17:5 and 17:24.  The creation must have occurred outside our universe, meaning that it has a boundary that separates it from God’s universe.  This comports with the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy, which states that mass and energy cannot be created nor destroyed within our closed universe.  Creation must occur outside the perimeter of our universe.  And God’s universe is outside and separate from our universe.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36.

John’s Book of Revelation is perhaps the most intriguing of his works.  If you asked twenty theologians to analyze the meanings, you would hear twenty different interpretations.  However, it is still worthwhile examining the passages.  For example, Jesus said that he was “the Alpha and the Omega,” in Revelation 1:8, meaning that he is the beginning and the end or “the First and the Last,” in Revelation 2:8.  This seems to indicate a closed universe with a beginning and an end.

Does that mean that God will destroy the entire universe?  Does that mean that we will no longer be conscious or aware?  The end of our worldly bodies is something we expect anyway.  The end of the universe is something altogether different.  If God can create our universe outside of its boundaries, He can also end it from outside.  But does that mean that after God destroys the universe that we will no longer be thinking?  Unfortunately, it seems we will not be that fortunate.

A Roman poet, Cornelius Gallus, wrote in the first century B.C., “Worse than any wound is the wish to die and yet not be able to do so.”  Revelation describes the end of times when God will select only 144,000 people to be protected from the torture and agony that is the future.  The remaining people “will seek death, but will not find it; they will want to die, but death will elude them,” Revelation 9:6.  The 144,000 are described as having God’s name on their foreheads in Revelation 14:1, which because of John’s Gnostic leanings may have meant that these citizens had God inside their thoughts and were one with God.

As mentioned in 1 John 4:1, we should test the spirits because some are evil.  Revelation describes evil spirits working to forge forces to fight in the final battle of Armageddon, Revelation 16:13-16.  Revelation does not offer any peace for people unless they unite with God.  Those who oppose God like Satan will be relegated to a fiery lake where they will be tormented for eternity, Revelation 20:10.  These may be allegorical references to torture forever within our own thoughts.  We may torture ourselves more than God ever would.  Nobody knows for certain except the Creator, who also holds the power of Destroyer.  If we were in that fiery lake, we might beg Him to destroy us and put us out of our misery, but apparently that does not happen.

At the conclusion of Revelation, Jesus mentions the Omega or ending again and then describes a new world which is outside the old universe (Alpha and Omega) in Revelation 22:13-15.  It is logical that in order to join Jesus and God in their world, you have to unite with them and become one.

If Nobody LIkes It, It Is Good

I remember a story told by a controversial judge.  He said that when he rendered a decision that neither plaintiff nor defendant liked, he knew he had done the right thing and had provided a just verdict.

Life sometimes seems like a taffy pull with everybody wanting things to go their way, so that they get most of the taffy.  In my law practice, especially in divorce trials, both parties lied or embellished their stories in order to get a better judgment.  When a witness was sworn in, the bailiff asked them to tell “…the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God.”  In all my years of working with clients, I never ran into an honest person who told the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  In fact, most of my clients didn’t believe in God.  Perhaps that was a big part of the problem.

When that controversial judge, mentioned above, discounted both accounts provided by the parties and rendered a judgment that neither party liked, he rendered the best possible judgment in a world full of dishonest litigants.

I suppose that since lying has few bad consequences, many people do it.  Nonbelievers have no fear of consequences during life or afterlife.  Police and detectives must be the most negative people in the world since they are lied to around the clock.  These officers, based on their experiences, would have a tendency to believe nobody.  Even when suspects or people of interest provided information about a crime, they would probably not trust it.  This is not a good comment about our society.

One of the rules of evidence that permits hearsay is a dying declaration, which gives more credibility to a comment made just before death.  However, I am not certain that this should be an exception to hearsay anymore.  I think even when they are dying they are lying most of the time.  The old rule was appropriate when the majority of people was religious and would be less likely to lie right before meeting their maker.  However, this is not the case today.  Most people will lie anytime during their life.

I go back to what that judge said, and I use that in any decision process involving analyzing statements of witnesses.  If nobody likes my decision, then it is a good one, probably very fair and impartial.

This also can be applied to speeches, articles, books, or any other form of communication.  If my comments are not well received by anybody, then I know that I am headed down the right path.  In fact when people congratulate me for my reasoned opinion, I go back and look at that decision again.  I reevaluate it because it was probably wrong.

Degrees of Faith

There is a clear division among believers and non-believers.  Perhaps that satisfies the first test for the first heaven.  But there are degrees of faith among believers.  Sometimes believers waiver between trusting and doubting.  These degrees of faith may determine whether you pass the other tests for the other two heavens.[1]

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there and it will move.’ Nothing will be impossible to you.”[2]  Perhaps Jesus was noting that the quality of your faith is more important than the quantity.  In other words, a deeper one day of faith is more important than 365 days of surface faith.  The degrees of faith are also based on depth of faith and not how many days you said you believed in God.

As an example, Daniel had a powerful faith as he sat in the lions’ den.  He focused on God, who sent down an angel to protect him.[3]  Peter was walking on water like Jesus, but he lost his focus and started sinking.[4]  We must focus on faith more than the problems and persecution that would otherwise distract us.

Believing in God is not enough.  That is a surface faith that will evaporate like water in the blazing sun.  When times get tough, our faith will be tested.  The degree or depth of your faith will determine your ultimate fate.

What is faith?  It is the conviction that God exists and will keep his promise to protect you.  But you make personal choices that God does not control.  God gave us free will.  These decisions belong to you and must be made carefully because there are consequences with all of them.  God does not protect you from making wrong decisions, but he does protect those who make righteous decisions.

Revelation mentions two deaths:  one is our initial death when the believers and nonbelievers are separated in Hades and the second is when those who are judged according to what they have done in the book of life and those who were not written in the book of life would be thrown into the lake of fire.[5]  This may explain two of the heavens: (1) if you believe in God, you will enter Hades as a believer and (2) if you have a higher degree of faith in God so that you serve God with righteous actions and thoughts, then you will enter a second heaven and avoid the lake of fire.

James, the brother of Jesus, did not believe that his brother was the savior of the world until he met him after his resurrection.  This changed everything.  James, more than any other writer, emphasized deeds over faith.  He said, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?”[6]  In effect, James was saying that a surface belief in Jesus and God was not good enough. 

James wrote: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder.  You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”[7]

James was talking about a higher degree of faith that reached beyond believing in God, which he sarcastically indicated that even demons had that degree of faith.  James was telling us that we had to take our immature faith and build on it so that we would become more complete with a mature faith as shown by our actions.  In effect, our actions would be our beacons of a deeper faith.  Clearly, we will be held accountable for these actions in the second judgment.

Many of us have a wavering faith.  Typically as life becomes more difficult, we lose our faith.  We might even curse God as the tyrant who has made our lives so uncomfortable.  This unstable faith is called “double-minded” by James.[8]

James started his book with a powerful statement:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”[9]

Your degree of faith to pass through the second heaven must be extremely high, which will be represented by all your good deeds and righteous lifestyle.  But the degree of faith to pass into the third heaven is almost impossible to reach.  That does not mean that you should not try.  It just simply means that this degree of faith leads to perfection as exemplified by Christ. 

You must come as close to Christ as you can.  This may mean that you will be tortured and persecuted like Christ as part of this test.  During these difficult days, you must always focus on God to get past the pain.  As James said, consider it joy going through the trials since it builds up your perseverance.  Your faith journey starts with a seed of faith, but it must grow and mature into a tall oak tree reaching for the highest degree of faith possible.

So what is your degree of faith?  Are you convinced God exists and will keep his promises?  Do you just believe in God when you attend church on Sunday or just as long as everything is going well for you? 

Do you obey God and leave all the consequences to him?  Or do you control your life until you have a major problem that you cannot solve?  Then do you blame God or do you turn over the controls to God?  Do you still carry the burden of your past sins? 

Do you continue to commit sins?  If you repent and are forgiven, then a true believer will not carry the burden of sin anymore.  A true believer will not continue to sin. 

So what is your degree of faith?  You and God both know the answer.



[1] 2 Corinthians 12:2, Paul mentions the “third heaven.”

[2] Matthew 17:30-21.

[3] Daniel 6:21.

[4] Matthew 14:29-30.

[5] Revelation 20:13-15.

[6] James 2:14.

[7] James 18-22.

[8] James 1:8.

[9] James 1:2-8.

God’s Love

There are many definitions of love: to cherish, devotion, tenderness, to caress, to fondle, to copulate, to take pleasure in, to like or desire, to feel affection, to thrive in, just to mention a few.

Perhaps the majority of men think that making love is the act of copulation.  Perhaps the majority of women think that making love is the act leading to copulation.  But human love generally leads to copulation. 

But there are types of love other than erotic or passionate love.  There is brotherly love.  There is agape love between brothers in Christ.  There is the love that a father and mother have for their children.  This may be the love that God has for his children, but we do not know for certain because the God of the Old Testament appears to be different than the God of the New Testament. 

There may be a love that we as humans cannot understand.  We see the manifestations of the love Jesus had for God and for us, but we do not fully understand that love.  What greater evidence of love is there than to lay down your life for those you love?  Jesus did that for his father and for mankind.  He accepted all the torture and pain for our benefit, certainly not his. 

We know that soldiers will sacrifice their lives protecting their brothers in arms. We know that the remaining eleven apostles sacrificed their lives as followers of Jesus. We know that other Christians were sacrificed for their beliefs, and they reached a level of love that may be required to enter God’s heaven. 

So what is God’s love?  Unfortunately, this is an unknown.  We may be assuming too much if we believe that God loves us so much that He will forgive us for all the mistakes we made during life.  God’s love may be something we have no comparison for in our world.  In fact, God’s love probably is alien to us because it exists in God’s universe. 

But Jesus is our intermediary to God’s world and God’s love.   We believe that Jesus loves us absolutely and completely, and because of that we can love him absolutely and completely.  If we love Jesus a little bit, but treat the Ten Commandments like they were a multiple-choice test, then we can expect our love to fall short of what is required in the judgment.  If we successfully avoid committing sinful acts, but our thoughts are corrupted with evil’s poison, then we can expect our love to fall short of what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes. 

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.”  Matthew 22:37-38.  So, loving God with everything you have may be the radical way you have to love God.  I say radical because you must be willing to give up everything you have and own.  You must renounce everything, including your health, your wealth, your family, and your life for God’s love.

The Bible is our best source for determining the three steps to loving God with all your heart and soul. 

Step One.  In Matthew 1:21, “… he (Jesus) will save his people from their sins.”  Jesus stated in Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”  Jesus emphasized faith when Peter failed to walk on water in Matthew 14:31. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  Jesus healed a boy plagued with a demon while his disciples could not.  They asked Jesus why they could not drive out the demon.  In Matthew 17:20, he replied, “Because you have so little faith.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there and it will move.’  Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

After his resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to preach the good news to all creation.  He said in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  In Acts 15:11, Luke wrote, “We believe it is through grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved…”   In Romans 3:22, Paul wrote, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

In other words, if we believe in Jesus as our Savior, we enter heaven’s first gate through the grace of God.

Step Two.  Once we receive God’s grace, we may not continue sinning.  In Romans 6:16, Paul wrote, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness.”  In effect, Paul was saying that once believers received God’s grace, they had an obligation to lead righteous lives.  Paul talks about the Holy Spirit that will direct your righteous actions that will please God.  The Bible talks about judgments based on our acts and deeds, so logically, there must be a second judgment with consequences for what you did or failed to do during life.

But it was James, a brother of Jesus, who made it clear that faith was not sufficient by itself.  In James 2:17, James questioned the good of wishing someone well without taking any action.  He wrote, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

In other words, our actions and deeds during life will be examined by Jesus to determine if we are worthy to enter the second heaven.    

Step Three.  The final step is a mystery known only by God.  The step into the third heaven, his kingdom, is limited to just a few.  In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

We only know about the three heavens because Paul wrote about them in 2 Corinthians 12:2.  However, very little is known about the three heavens.  The three potential judgments or steps discussed in this article appear to match the three heavens.  But there is nothing in the Bible listing three judgments. 

John the Baptist preached in Matthew 3:2: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  The kingdom of heaven is mentioned 33 times in Matthew.  Repentance in the Bible is more than just saying I am sorry; it is a radical change in your lifestyle, renouncing our sinful nature and returning to the kingdom of heaven.  We can imagine that the judgment for the third heaven, which is listed by the author to refer to the entrance into God’s universe, requires a draconian approach to avoiding sin in your actions and in your thoughts, but it also demands that you give up everything in this universe and be prepared to sacrifice everything including yourself. 

This test will be extremely difficult because our human thoughts dip into sinful venom before we can stop it and we find it difficult giving up our worldly possessions and even harder to suffer pain and torture.  But in order for us to reach the third level, we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves, our family, and all that we touch in our world.  We must be extreme and radical in our love for God.  We must be willing to be crucified for our love just like Jesus.

As radical and excessive as our love must be for God, God’s love may be moderate.  At least, I hope it is.  If God’s love were a passionate love, it would burn out quickly.  A passionate relationship forever is not realistic, because just like stars, it eventually burns all its fuel and then explodes.  But a consistent love could last forever.  I pray that God’s love is moderate and lasts forever.

When I hope that God’s love is moderate, I do not mean I am wishing for a God that will love us less than we have loved him.  I mean that I desire God’s love to be based on moderation and temperance.  In a chaotic world, God hopefully has a moderate love that is under control.  This, logically, is the only type of love that could survive eternity. 

When you first started dating your spouse, you probably had a very passionate relationship.  After several years of marriage, your passionate fires were turned down to medium.  After several decades of marriage, your relationship probably changed and became less passionate and more moderate.  Most love stories revolve around passion based on extreme emotions that do not last.

God’s love is probably very different from the loves you have had during your life, requiring a quid pro quo.  God’s love is a gift of moderation after you have crossed the final gate, bearing the cross of crucifixion as well as Jesus did.  And don’t be embarrassed about loving God.  You must learn how to love God in an extreme fashion in order to enter the third heaven.

You can start with the love you have for your family.  Emphasize that type of love and bring that to your conversations with God.  Over your life, you can hopefully develop a relationship with God that will facilitate your judgments before Him in the afterlife.  The first heaven is not difficult, but the second is difficult.  However, the third heaven requires an extreme love for God, requiring a full commitment, being willing to sacrifice everything, including your family and body.

It is likely that the first two heavens are still in our universe, leaving the third heaven as the final portal into God’s universe.  Only a few will leave our universe and enter God’s kingdom, which means that the rest of us will remain behind to be recycled in our universe.  But that does not discourage me from doing my best.  I will love Jesus as the mediator, doing my best to pass the second judgment.

One of the things that I do is I mark down which virtues and good acts I have accomplished on a daily basis.  And I try to improve on these righteous acts and incrementally make myself a better person each day.  I try to model myself after Jesus as much as I can.  I think of it as getting a little closer every day, knowing that I will never reach the perfection of Jesus.  Jesus is my role model.  I have not been persecuted and tortured like Jesus, but I am prepared to accept that if it comes to pass.  

My love for Jesus and God will be equal to the love that I have.  I am prepared to give my all even if I do not make the third heaven.  I will do my best and will never stop trying to improve.  For I believe that God’s patient and moderate love is waiting for me.                       

Degree of Difficulty in Reaching Heaven

If you ask a minister if it is difficult reaching heaven, more than likely he will tell you that reaching heaven is as simple as you believing in Jesus Christ as your savior.  I wish that were true, but there are many verses in the Bible that make me think otherwise.  In fact, the Bible seems to be very clear on the matter.  Bottom Line: it may be extremely difficult to reach God’s kingdom.

Some of these verses are below:

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”  Matthew 22:14.

“Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’  He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”  Luke 13:23-24.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’  Matthew 7:21-23.

“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  Matthew 19:23-24.

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him.  ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  ‘Why do you call me good?  Jesus answered.  ‘No one is good – except God alone.”  The man declared that he had kept all the commandments since he was a boy.  “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.’  At this the man’s face fell.  He went away said, because he had great wealth.  Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!  Mark 10:17-23.

“When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’  Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:25-26. 

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24:9-13.

“To him who overcomes, I will give him the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”  Revelation 3:31.

“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed:  144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.”  Revelation 7:4.

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”  Revelation 14:1.

There is some confusion as to the number of judgments and heavens.  Paul says that there are three heavens in 2 Corinthians 12:2.  However, little else is said about them in the Bible.  However, it seems logical that there are multiple heavens because God’s grace is all you need for one judgment, but your works will be examined in another judgment.  They could not logically be the same judgment or lead to the same heaven.   

If there are multiple heavens and judgments, then it is possible that ministers are correct in saying that you will enter the first heaven through the grace of God simply based on your belief.  But since the Bible mentions that you will be judged also for your actions, which could be a second heaven and judgment.  But the third heaven sounds like the most difficult of all to reach.  That could be the one that involves persecution where you must be like Christ to the extent of being tortured like he was.  This is where people would drop out of the running in droves.

It seems that only 144,000 people will make the final cut to enter God’s kingdom or the third heaven.  That is a pretty low percentage of all the people who have ever lived on earth.

Three Final Judgments

Many religious followers are heavily invested in one final judgment based on God’s grace.  In other words, they hope to enter God’s kingdom with no effort on their part other than believing in God.  Since God will forgive them for their sins, then there will be no consequences for their unrighteous behavior and thoughts.  This statement is both right and wrong.

How can it be right and wrong at the same time?  That does not make sense.  Well, it does if there are multiple judgments.  Where does it say anything about multiple judgments in the Bible?  Well, the Bible talks about final judgments: (1) decided by your faith in God and not your works, given to you through His grace, (2) decided by your actions and deeds, along with your failures to act and misdeeds, and (3) decided by your thoughts and attitudes.  But these probably are not the same judgment since the Bible mentions the judgment based on grace does not examine your works.  That must mean that there are multiple judgments.

The majority of believers may be right as they could be saved by faith alone in the first judgment or heaven.  This is called “justification” for believers.  But believers may be wrong about there being one final judgment.  There may be additional judgments, which could become increasingly arduous as the tests progress in a degree of difficulty from judging your acts to your thoughts.

James is one of the best books of the Bible to focus on judgments of your actions.  What good is faith, if a man “has no deeds”?   James 2:14.  The Bible indicates that “faith without deeds is useless.”  James 2:20.  Theology students call this “sanctification.”  It is a magnifier of how strong your belief is because if you truly believe in God, then you will want to please Him by acting more like Jesus.    

But the Bible also mentions another judgment – a judgment of “thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12.  Some ministers call this “glorification.”  This would be an extremely difficult test to pass because thoughts occur immediately, while you can think before taking actions.  Our thoughts and attitude are very hard to control because they are part of our imprint of humanness.  It may require a complete remodeling of your persona.  It would be like going from being a good Christian to being a Buddhist monk, denying self-pleasures of life.  It may even require that you suffer like Christ. 

In all, there may be three separate judgments: (1) of your faith, (2) of your actions and inactions, and (3) of your thoughts and attitudes.  This is supported by Paul’s comments about three heavens in 2 Corinthians 12:2.  Three judgments would match the three heavens.

The Bible states that God’s work has been finished since the creation of the world.  Hebrews 4:3. Scientists believe that there was a Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago, which would have been the event in which all matter and energy in the universe were created.  If we exist in a closed universe, matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed inside this system. 

God’s creation had to occur outside the perimeter of our universe about 13.8 billion years ago.  Since the Big Bang, there has been no other creation within our universe.  In effect, we were created about 13.8 billion years ago.  We may have transferred from energy to matter or have changed in form, but we have been around since the Big Bang.

This is important only because the final judgment or third heaven is probably the entry point returning to God’s world, leaving our universe.  The other judgments might still be in our universe where everything is recycled.  

The Bible talks about the first judgment being based on faith.  The believers and nonbelievers are separated in Hades, which is still in our universe.  This may have been the destination of Christ for three days prior to His resurrection. 

The second judgment and second heaven may be based on an evaluation of our actions or failures to act during our lives.  This heaven would be an advanced heaven in our universe, but not likely a portal to God’s kingdom.  We would still remain in our universe to be recycled.

It would be the third judgment and heaven that might actually lead to God’s world.  This would take us outside our universe into a completely foreign world.  Thoughts and attitude would be most important in this new universe, so the testing would be very difficult for us because of our human weaknesses.

Jesus warned us to not have evil thoughts in the Beatitudes.  He said that if you looked at a woman lustfully, you would be committing adultery.  This is an extremely difficult degree of self-discipline to master.  You cannot even think bad thoughts.  Clearly, Jesus knew it would be difficult for us when he stated, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7:14.

Ministers rarely address these issues.  They focus primarily on God’s grace and Jesus paying your sin debt in full with His sacrifice of himself.  If pastors told their congregations that they had about as much of a chance getting into God’s kingdom as winning the lottery, they wouldn’t have any members attending the following Sunday.

But it probably is the reality of God’s kingdom.  If you want to leave our recycling universe, you have to prepare for all the tests, not just one.