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.