Heaven - what is it like? Who is in heaven? How do we get to heaven?
What happens after we die? Where do we go? What do we become? These and similar questions have been pondered and debated since the beginning of time. Do we come from nothing, spend a lifetime here, and then return to nothing? Are we subject to the concept of Karma in which we die, are then reincarnated and our next life will be based on how good or bad we were in this life? Or, is there universal salvation in which everyone, regardless of what they believe go to a place of peace and happiness, freed from the restraints and suffering of this world?
Let’s consider universal salvation since it is a common belief. Many people feel that regardless of beliefs or religious affiliation, that everyone is doing the best they can, and everyone ends up in the same place after death. But how could all people upon death go to a place of peace and happiness if human nature is there? It doesn’t take a genius to look at human history and the world around us and understand there is something very evil at the core of human nature - this is the doctrine of total human depravity. How could there be universal salvation, a place of peace and happiness after death if human nature has not been dealt with and corrected? Human nature is not physical it is spiritual, and the corrupting influence of human nature would make a place of universal peace and happiness after death an impossibility because our nature would still be a part of us. The evil of human nature would continue to be carried out on the spiritual plane just as it is on the physical plane. So how do we deal with the issue of evil human nature?
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. ... He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:17,21
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. - John 14:6
The answer to overcoming evil human nature is answered in 2 Corinthians 5:17,21 and John 14:6 above. Because of our fallen and sinful nature we are separated from God who is perfect and holy. We have broken his law and the wages of our sinful transgressions are death and eternal damnation. The only way to be reconciled to God is for our sins to be atoned for and our penalty paid - but no finite creature could ever atone for sinning against an infinite, perfect, and holy God. But there is a way and that way is through faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life, then took on our sin and paid the horrific penalty for it on our behalf when He suffered and died on the cross. Then after three days in the tomb, He rose for our salvation. If we repent of our sins, have faith in Him, and trust in His perfect righteousness we are assured of spending eternity in absolute joy and bliss with Him in His glory. Those in Christ are freed from the bonds of sinful human nature - it was crucified with Christ and we are a new creation in Him. We will be in heaven with Him and spend eternity with Him. He is the only way, his word is the only truth, and He is the source of eternal life. How do we get to heaven? Through Jesus Christ.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” - 1 Corinthians 2:9
Heaven, as we are told in 1 Corinthians 2:9, is beyond our imagination. Our finite minds lack the capacity to conceive or fully comprehend what heaven is and what it will be like. However, it seems there is much to learn about heaven by learning what it is not and what will not be in heaven.
Genesis 1:31 says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Heaven, and after judgment day, the new heavens and the new earth will be perfect as God created it and intended it to be - God's perfect creation. There will be no more sin, no more entropy, no more disease and pain, no more sorrow, the effects of sin will be gone.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. - Romans 8:18-25
Paul is telling us to have a proper perspective, to look to and hope for the better country that we are promised in Jesus Christ. That is the hope that we have faith in. Think of the pain, suffering, and affliction of this world and then consider that in heaven there will be no tears, no sorrow, no death, no pain, no sickness, no darkness, no un-Goldy people, no sin, no temples because we will worship in the Lord’s presence, no sun or moon because the glorious light of the Lord will illuminate, and no curse from the sin of Adam that we inherited. All of the evil and darkness and sin of this world, everything that has afflicted and caused us suffering in this age – it will all be gone.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
All that we suffer from and all the evils and sin of this world are but a light momentary affliction, incomparable to the eternal glory that we will enjoy in the Lord’s heavenly kingdom with Him. Considering and meditating on heaven and the truths of heaven give us a proper perspective, lifts our eyes to Christ, and the promises we have in Him.
"You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, The place, O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. "The LORD shall reign forever and ever." - Exodus 15:17-18
Even while we are on earth, we can learn some of what heaven will be like from the blessings that we have while we are here.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. - 1 Corinthians 13:12
“To be in heaven is to lean one’s head upon the breast of Jesus. You have done it on earth? Then you know what heaven is. To be in heaven is to talk with Jesus, to sit at his feet, to let our heart beat against his heart. If you have had that on earth, you have had some of the grapes of heaven.” - Charles Spurgeon
Are you a Christian in a Twelve Step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or it's spin off Celebrate Recovery, or a Pastor or Christian leader that believes the Twelve Steps are Christian in origin? Then please consider the following.
From the Westminster Seminary:
The Church has been entrusted with the great commission to make disciples, even of alcoholics. AA constitutes a field of hurting, gospel needy people, white for the harvest. The question is, are we hungry enough to harvest?
If you are a Christian and have made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ, then you must believe that He is the center and reason for absolutely everything that has ever existed or will ever exist. All of God's creation from the beginning in Genesis 1 until the end of time as we know it – and on into eternity, it all has been for the glory of Jesus Christ. He is on every page of the Holy Bible from, “In the beginning,” in Genesis 1, to “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.,” in Revelation 22:21. Jesus is on every page of scripture in some way. All of history revolves and is centered on Jesus Christ and nothing exists that does not do so without His sustaining power. He holds all things together.
Every part of who you are as a human being is about Jesus Christ – even if you don't believe in Him. He is inescapable. One way or another, every human being who has or will ever exist will know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the human race and of all creation. It's just a matter of when and how each human being finally comes to know and accept the truth of Jesus Christ.
All of God's Word in scripture, all that the prophets down through the ages spoke of is to reveal to us His magnificent, glorious, and mysterious plan to save mankind through the sacrifice of His only begotten and perfect Son. God did this to save us from eternal damnation and separation from Him because He loves us far beyond our capability as humans to fully understand.
So, if you are a Christian who believes that the Twelve Steps are Christian in origin how do you answer this question: if God did all of this, then why would he inspire two alcoholics in the 1930's to create a way to obtain sobriety – and never have His Son Jesus Christ be any part of it?
This is the truth of the Twelve Steps – they are a brilliant plan conceived by demonic forces that keep millions from coming to a true relationship with Jesus Christ, (If this seems far fetched to you then please read the Exposing Recovery page on this site that explains the facts pertaining to the origins of the Twelve Steps). Satan and his demon's have convinced people seeking sobriety to follow a “God of their own understanding.” Then, as they become drawn into the Twelve Step cult Satan begins lifting the temptation to drink, use drugs, whatever the sin is. Yes, Satan can remove the temptation to sin because he is the one that put it there in the first place. God does not tempt us.
There is only one way to God and that is through His Son Jesus Christ – you must believe in Him, accept Him, and follow Him completely with no variance.
Christ can do much more than enable you to maintain sobriety. He is sufficient to meet all of our needs in a way beyond what we could ever imagine. Please, do not be fooled into believing that anything in this world can offer you a solution for any sin that holds you in bondage. The only way to be reconciled to God, the only way to be freed from the bondage and pain of sin is through faith in Jesus Christ. The only joy there is - is in Jesus Christ. You only must believe in Him and follow Him.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. - John 8:36
Jesus tells His followers in Matthew 22:37 that, "You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." If we love the Lord that much then anything that insults Him or is contrary to His word and commands should repulse us.
1. Bill Wilson personally insulted Jesus Christ by claiming that he was "completing the works that Christ didn't finish" and he claimed himself to be "a reincarnation of Christ." (From a letter written in 1952 by Bill Wilson's Secretary, Henrietta Seiberling).
2. On page 58 of the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions a direct insult to and denial of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins is made. The claim is made that, "Our moral inventory had persuaded us that all-round forgiveness was desirable, but it was only when we resolutely tackled Step Five that we inwardly knew we'd be able to receive forgiveness and give it, too." That directly contradicts Jesus Himself when He said in Matthew 26:28, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
3. At most AA or other Twelve Step meetings the Lord's prayer is recited aloud by the entire group. This is an insult to Jesus Christ because His holy prayer is recited by those in the room that deny Him and participate in a false religion (AA) that denies His divinity. It is also in direct defiance of the command to Jesus' followers to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 states, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?"
4. Jesus tells us in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Yet Bill Wilson (co-founder of AA) and the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step program insult Jesus Christ by rejecting the truth that Jesus taught in John 14:6 and instead claiming on page 98 of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions that, "Now and then we may be granted a glimpse of that ultimate reality which is God's kingdom. And we will be comforted and assured that our own destiny in that realm will be secure for so long as we try, however falteringly, to find and do the will of our own Creator."
5. Once again Jesus is insulted by the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions when the doctrine of salvation by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone is completely denied on page 34 of that book which states, "Like all the remaining Steps, Step Three calls for affirmative action, for it is only by action that we can cut away the self-will which has always blocked the entry of God - or, if you like, a Higher Power - into our lives. Faith, to be sure, is necessary, but faith alone can avail nothing. We can have faith, yet keep God out of our lives. Therefore our problem now becomes just how and by what specific means shall we be able to let Him in? Step Three represents our first attempt to do this." This directly contradicts the teaching of the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:23-25, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."
This is only a small sampling of hundreds if not thousands of the Christ denying insults and apostasy that permeate the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step program and it's accompanying literature.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
In the many faceted and beautiful narrative of Jesus and the woman of Samaria we focus here on how the Holy Spirit works in bringing a person to Christ through the power of the gospel.
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) - John 4:1-9
We read in the gospels of Jesus preaching to multitudes, but in this story the Savior takes time to speak to one woman - a sinner, a Samaritan who Jews would normally not associate with. She was a lost sheep and through the working of divine providence the Lord brought her to the well in the middle of the day rather than the normal time of early morning. She may very well have come in the middle of the day in order to avoid the other women who may have looked down on her because of her multiple marriages and infidelities. We never know how or why or by what methods God’s plans will be carried out and we see here how providence brought her through her circumstances and condition to meet Christ face to face.
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock." Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water." - John 4:10-15
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” What a profound and wonderful statement Jesus makes here, but the woman does not yet know the gift of God or who it is that is speaking to her - she hears the words of Christ with ears that are spiritually dead and not yet opened to divine truth by the power of the Holy Spirit. So she responds as a natural worldly person does to the Word of God. The lost sinner cannot see beyond the literal, the veil, the words on the page of scripture until the Holy Spirit opens the heart to the divine Word on the page.
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true." The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." - John 4:16-26
When the woman asks for the living water that Jesus told her of the Lord responds in a way that opens her eyes to the sin that keeps her from seeing and knowing the truth of the living water that can only be had through and in Jesus Christ. Jesus brings her sin out into the open by asking her to go and call her husband, and then He opens her eyes more to the truth of who He is by making clear the fact that he already knows of her sin - He is moving toward the cross that will atone for it.
Let’s step out of the story for a minute and try to imagine what this woman may have been like today. Was she insecure? Was she constantly seeking comfort from different men? Was she stable and secure emotionally? Maybe she was past her prime and had been through so many failed marriages that she now just shacks up with the latest guy. Maybe she has developed a drug or alcohol problem in an attempt to cope. Maybe she is one of those people with the barely suppressible anxious panic because it seems it’s all slipped too far to ever be redeemed. Or that person with the overly enthusiastic personality and constant joking who can’t hide the glint of terror in their eyes. Or someone who has become numb and is just living out days without meaning, direction, or purpose. Of course this is all just speculation in order to make a point and bring the story to light in a modern context. But one thing is for sure - she was a sinner as we all are. Everyone has been battered and stained by sin and it’s evil fruit. The stain is just different colors on different people.
“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet…” The Lord has begun to open her eyes to divine truth as He must do for all of us. The supernatural divine glory of Christ and His truth begins to shine into the darkness of her sinful reality. Without the working of the spirit opening our eyes to the truth of who Jesus is we will never come to Him. And then the Lord shares with her the greatest truth there is, “I who speak to you am he.” He is the long awaited for Messiah.
Here we see the transition from a spring of living water - the grace of the gospel, to the terrible bondage that keeps the woman and all others from it - the bondage of sin, to salvation in Jesus Christ. This is a model that Jesus is giving us of how the gospel works in the human heart. Jesus shares with her an image of the boundless grace and glory that is in Him, then He brings to light the sin that keeps her from redemption and eternal life springing up as living water, and then He shows her the way out of sin and into eternal glory which is Him.
It is a grave and destructive error to detour around the gospel and try to come to the message of salvation through a method or program of man’s own creation. To cast aside the reality of sin may be to cast aside the reality of salvation in Jesus Christ. Have faith in the gospel and proclaim it as Jesus did and as He commands us in His Word to do. Never back down from the truth. Stay on the narrow path in our life, our ministry, and our witness.
Jesus brought her sin to light in a gentle and loving way - as we all must do because we all are sinners.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb - Revelation 22:1
From a Christian point of view there is a problem with the supposed "spiritual awakening" needed for recovery put forth by the Alcoholics Anonymous program which ignores and directly contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ (see: The Walking Dead of Alcoholics Anonymous, Does Alcoholics Anonymous Teach Forgiveness Without the Atonement?, Does the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous contradict the Christian Gospel?). But what if recovery as a concept and as it's come to be understood in it's worldly context, is completely in error in and of itself? What if the whole modern idea and obsession with recovery could be cast aside for something far greater?
For a Christian believer familiar with the Christian doctrine of eternal salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, the question must surely come to mind, "Just what kind of spiritual awakening is actually happening through Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps? Because according to God's Word the only way to salvation (which is what AA is alluding to), is the atoning sacrifice that was made through the person of Jesus Christ and Jesus is no part of the Alcoholics Anonymous program".
Is the worldly concept of recovery in error? It depends on how you look at eternity.
In secular recovery, lasting sobriety is the goal and end to be sought for. Length of time sober is measured and coveted, celebrated and honored. Old timers with years of sobriety in Twelve Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are revered and respected by those who dream of one day having a collection of sobriety chips with Roman numeral X's on them denoting years of continuous sobriety.
A worldly program of recovery may help someone. They may achieve and maintain sobriety for the rest of their lives. They may have relationships repaired, bank accounts replenished, reputations restored, and worldly status re-established because of their success in achieving and maintaining sobriety. They may gain all that the world has to offer because they were able to stay sober.
But what about the big picture - actually, the biggest picture of all? What about eternity? Might eternal destiny have been sacrificed on the altar of recovery?
So you may ask the question, "What does eternal destiny have to do with recovery?" Most people in Twelve Step programs seem mainly concerned with just getting out of the trouble their drinking and using have caused and getting their lives back together. So how would eternal destiny have anything to do with recovery?
Worldly recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have a direct effect and influence on the eternal destinies of their members because the programs work within the realm of the spirit - or at least that is their claim. In fact, the steps themselves make very clear the spiritual nature of the Twelve Step program. On page 59 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Steps are listed and steps eleven and twelve make direct claims to the spiritual nature of the Alcoholics Anonymous program.
When considered from an eternal perspective and through the divine illumination of the light of scripture it becomes clear that recovery, as it has come to be understood and pursued in its modern worldly context, is not an end to be sought for. Rather, by understanding and accepting that alcoholism and addiction are sin and the only atonement of its death sentence is by the blood of Jesus Christ it becomes apparent that recovery is a blessed by-product of salvation in Jesus Christ. No programs or steps are needed from a biblical perspective. Instead, we need only to believe in, rely on, adhere to and have faith in Jesus Christ with complete loving abandon forsaking all else.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. - Matthew 6:33
In an eternal sense; to make recovery your sole aim and goal for your life is like striving to live in the gutter outside of a palace. By casting aside the worldly concept of recovery and seeking for eternal life in Jesus Christ we step over the gutter and into the palace of eternal glory.
But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him" - 1 Corinthians 2:9
This morning while reading Matthew Henry's commentary on the book of Exodus I came across a comment that Henry makes regarding chapter 10 verse 17 in which Pharaoh states, "Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me."
Henry comments, "Pharaoh desires their prayers that this death only might be taken away, not this sin: he deprecates the plague of locusts, not the plague of a hard heart, which yet was much the more dangerous."
What a mirror image this is of one of the greatest dangers presented from an eternal perspective by Alcoholics Anonymous and the twelve steps. By presenting the false concept of alcoholism being a disease, the required conviction of sin leading to repentance via the gospel is completely avoided. Instead, the focus is on the removal of immediate pain and the recovering of temporal possessions and standing while religiously working a program of false spirituality. The devastating consequence is that the plague of alcoholism may end as long as it is replaced with the religion of the program, and secular life might be restored - yet the plague of the hardened heart dead in sin still remains. And it is much more dangerous.
Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way Ministry Church USA & Kenya.