In this fourth and final issue in this series, let’s summarize what we have learned and draw a few conclusions.
Possibly nothing in the history of the church is as remarkable as the way the church has accommodated itself to culture. It is difficult to find a single sin that is not allowed to be practiced within the fellowship of the average church. Commandments are considered cultural, ambiguous or irrelevant; but, because they are stated in the imperative voice, they are the opposite of ambiguous; it is the height of presumption.
Because most of the New Testament commandments are not affirmed by reason or conscience, it is easy to conclude that they are not relevant for today. For example, if anything, conscience and reason suggest that women should have equal authority with men in the church and home. It thus seems reasonable to ignore such commandments to the contrary.
In part, this presumption is founded on the assumption that people can leverage God with His promises. Nothing could be further from the truth. God did not give His people promises so that they can get God to do what they want, but rather so that God can get them to do what He wants.
Someone may say that God promised in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If you assume this, then how do you handle Matthew 7:21-23 where when people call Jesus “Lord” He responds by saying, “I never knew you!” Should we assume that such people failed to ask Christ to forgive them? You cannot obligate God with His promises. Relationship and obedience come first.
Most of the church believes that when people arrive in heaven they cannot exercise their wills contrary to the will of God. The Scriptures are silent on this important subject, but if these people are correct, then for all practical purposes the inhabitants of heaven are robots, for the will shapes the essence of what people are. How horrible to be married to someone who has no will. I cannot prove to you that you will carry your will into eternity, but I strongly suggest that you should plan on it and live your life accordingly.
This brings us to the purpose for living here on earth. Throughout the whole of the Bible God tells us that He tests us to see if we will be His obedient slaves. Our only purpose for living in the temporal is to prepare for the eternal by training ourselves to submit to Him in every aspect of our lives. God never asks His followers to create anything or contribute to the work He is doing; He only asks that we be His faithful, obedient followers.
People take into eternity the essence of what they became on earth. In an important sense, eternity is a time of confirmation, not transformation. If they do not take their wills into eternity, then what is the purpose of this life? Purpose is lost if no differences exist in heaven and people are nothing more than will-less robots.
Jesus said in Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given, much will be required.” For those who insist that there are no eternal consequences for temporal behavior, this statement is nonsense. The same is true in James 3:1, where he said, “be not many teachers, for they have a stricter judgment.”
Revelation 21:3-4: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
Because this passage does not elaborate, it may pertain to the trauma of this life: pain, disappointment, persecution, etc. Will you express gratitude in heaven for God’s salvation? This is only possible if you recognize and regret your sins in this life. The tears, sorrow, crying and pain do not necessarily mean that you will not live in eternal regret for your sins in this life. Remember: forgiveness restores the relationship; it does not eliminate the consequences.
You are best prepared for an eternity with God by schooling yourself to be His obedient slave in this life.