THE SOURCE OF CONFUSION
Copyright © 2012, by Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
As I have mentioned previously, some time during the early history of the Christian Church, the Gospel of the Kingdom was changed to the gospel of the Church.
It is my thought that the Gospel was changed to make it more understandable to the people of the other religions of the Roman Empire.
As is true to this day, the other religions have some sort of paradise that the faithful go to when they die. So the Christian leaders forsook the teaching of John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and His Apostles, and presented going to Heaven as the goal of salvation.
That is quite a change. Heaven is not the Kingdom of God; so when we change the Gospel of the Kingdom to the gospel of Heaven, we have introduced a whole line of different thinking into the mind of the believer.
Also, the current view of Divine grace as an alternative to the new creation of righteous behavior falls apart if eternal residence in Heaven no longer is what it means to be “saved.”
Also, the theology of Dispensationalism, with its pre-tribulation “Rapture” loses the hope that it presents, if going to Heaven when we die is not the goal of salvation.
In addition, the recent aberrations, such as the prosperity message, the imaging, the “name it and claim it,” speaking the creative word, and so forth, all have as a backdrop the concept that believers in Christ are saved by a grace that ensures their entrance into Heaven.
Perhaps I am not one hundred percent correct about the aberrations that sprang up in the last century, but once a person begins to address the problems of the novelties being taught in the name of Christ, the issue of “Heaven” comes to the front.
I read where one preacher said if someone was cut out of the Vine, out of Christ, he still would “go to Heaven.”
So we see that the source of confusion is Heaven versus the Kingdom of God.
May I remind us, before I proceed, that the concept of Heaven as being the goal of salvation, or the reward for righteous behavior or for obedience to God, does not appear one time in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Look for yourself. The Bible speaks about the coming of the Kingdom of God, not about Israel or the Church going to Heaven.
One may say, “It really doesn’t make a difference.” It doesn’t make a difference if we veer from the written Word of God? We should know better than that! Didn’t Jesus tell us not one small part of the Bible will be done away even after Heaven and earth pass away?
Heaven is a place in the spirit world. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God, causing God’s will to be done in earth as it is in Heaven. Isn’t this what we pray for in the Lord’s prayer?
To point out what is wrong with the gospel of Heaven, let us imagine there is a person named “Boris.” Boris is an average person. He hears the Gospel. He believes in the blood atonement. He is baptized in water portraying that he is taking his place on the cross with Christ, and rising to share in the resurrection Life of Jesus Christ.
Now, Boris practices fornication. He is thirty years of age and not married. His sexual urge is overpowering at times. He has tried but failed to control his passions.
He goes to the pastor from whom he first heard the message of salvation. He tells the pastor, “I am having a terrible battle with fornication. What shall I do? I want to go to Heaven when I die.”
Right here is the problem with the gospel of Heaven. How should the pastor answer Boris?
The pastor of today will say,
“Boris, everyone sins at some time or another, and we will keep sinning until we die and go to our mansion in Heaven. The reason God has given us grace in our Lord Jesus Christ is that God recognizes we cannot be perfect while we are living on the earth.”
“Boris, just do the best you can to show your love for Jesus, and don’t worry too much if you slip once in a while. God sees you through Christ. His grace will cover you. Just keep believing that Christ died for you and is ready to welcome you to Heaven. When you get to Heaven you will hear Jesus say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter the joy of your Lord.’”
Am I or am I not correct in saying this would be the response of most of the Christian pastors in the United States? But here is what the Apostle Paul said:
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
It is at this point that the “Heaven” confusion enters. Many today will say,
“It is true that if Boris continues to fornicate he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That is what the inerrant Word of God states. However, since Boris believes in Jesus Christ, he will go to Heaven by grace when he dies.”
Am I the only person having a problem with this? How can Boris not inherit the Kingdom of God and yet go to Heaven to live in a mansion? Does this make sense? If someone is cut from the Vine because he did not bear the fruit of Christ’s moral image in himself or others, will he still go to Heaven by grace?
You know what? The Christian churches of our day are such a valley of dry bones that the pastors, evangelists, congregations, professors of theology, Bible teachers, will read what I have just written, and keep on with their grace-Heaven-rapture teaching.
However, Chapter 37 of the Book of Ezekiel tells us that the dry bones will live. I cannot see how this is possible until seven actions take place:
- First, the believers must be told that their goal is to inherit the Kingdom of God. This has nothing to do with going to Heaven. Inheriting the Kingdom of God means that the rule of God enters them and begins to control their behavior. We enter the Kingdom of God by being born again and then by submitting to the rule of Jesus Christ.
- Second, the believers must be told that the Holy Spirit will lead them in putting to death the actions of their sinful nature. They must cooperate with the Spirit by confessing and turning away from their sins when they are pointed out to them. Christ will help with this if we ask Him.
- Third, the believers must be told that they are to be entering the Kingdom today. As Jesus said, the Kingdom does not come with observation but is in us right now. If we wait until we die to enter the Kingdom of God, we will miss what is taking place now. Today is the day of salvation for us.
- Fourth, the believers must pray for and receive the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit. This is the provision God has made so that we can be built up in the Lord Jesus Christ and thus enter the Kingdom of God.
- Fifth, the believers must be taught until they understand the difference between the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and the gospel of Heaven, so they will not be waiting to go to Heaven when they die and thus miss what God is doing today.
- Sixth, the believers absolutely must understand that the grace the Apostle Paul wrote about is to assure Jewish people that they can turn away from the Law of Moses and place their trust in Christ; and God will credit the righteousness of the Law of Moses to them. Divine grace is not a substitute for our transformation into a new creation, into the image of God.
- Seven, the believers must be taught that if they do not begin to earnestly desire gifts and ministries and pray for them diligently, and do not press into Christ and His Kingdom today, they will not be raised from the dead when the Lord appears with His saints and then ascend to be with Him in the air. Neither will they be with Him when He descends to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. They have not entered the Kingdom themselves, so they will be of no help in the Day of Christ.
Also, what they have of the Kingdom will be taken from them and given to another who has been more diligent. They themselves will be driven into the outer darkness.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could forget all I have written and just say, “Grace will cover it all and I will be welcomed into Paradise by the Lord Jesus. Then He will lead me to my mansion where I will have no responsibilities for eternity.” Such is the current Christian mythology.
To one who is 86 years of age this sounds quite attractive. But it is not scriptural. The purpose of giving life to the dry bones is to form an army. That army will descend with Christ and establish justice on the earth. Christ and His army of saints and angels will bring living water to the “dead sea” of mankind. Then the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Well, to tell the truth we have been deceived with the gospel of Heaven and the presenting of “grace” as a substitute for godly behavior. Now it is time for God’s leaders to bring to the believers the true, ancient Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
It is a far better gospel than the grace-Heaven-rapture delusion.
(“The Source of Confusion”, 3500-1)