By Bosun Obafemi & Samuel Oyejola
For all human beings, life on earth is temporary. King Solomon said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2. Life on earth is not eternal, there is a place prepared for every man after his sojourn on earth. Making it to that place depends on the kind of life lived while on earth.
Heaven is prepared specially for those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and saviour while on earth and live according to His precepts. Jesus gave this assurance while talking to his disciples shortly before his crucifixion. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am,” John 14:1-3.
However, those who live according to the evils that have pervaded the earth and allow the ocean of worldliness to sweep them away, would find their place in hell, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death,” Revelation 21:8.
If there is anything that God has given to man on earth, it is the power to make choices; “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” Joshua 24:15. The choice of going to heaven or hell lies with every man, not God. The journey to this eternity therefore begins right from when every man knows his right from wrong.
Is earth the end?
Debates will continue till the end of the world about if there is really life after death. Scientists and theologians are parallel on the issue. For theologians, there is a future that lies beyond the world we are in today. To Christians and theologians, believers would exit the world in either of the two ways: death or rapture.
According to Apostle Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.” Paul made it known that for those who do not experience natural death, another pathway to life after death would be rapture at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
However, Lisa Miller, in her book titled “Visions of Heaven, A Journey Through The Afterlife” made reference to Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist and professor at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital, who has made a reputation studying the brain scans of religious people (nuns and monks), described the experiences of those who have had near-death experiences. He said, “as your eyesight fades, you lose the peripheral areas first. That is why you would have a tunnel sensation.”
He said that when people die, two parts of the brain that usually work in opposition to each other act cooperatively. The sympathetic nervous system (a web of nerves and neurons that run through the spinal cord and spread to virtually every organ in the body) is responsible for arousal or excitement. It gets you ready for action. While the parasympathetic system, with which the sympathetic system is entwined, calms you down and rejuvenates you.
In life, the turning on of one system promotes the shutting down of the other. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in when a car cuts you off on the highway, while the parasympathetic system is in charge as you are falling asleep. However, in the brains of people having mystical experiences, and perhaps in death, both systems are fully “on”, giving a person a sensation of slowing down, being “out of body,” and of seeing things vividly, including memories of important people and past events. It is possible, Newberg asserts (though not at all certain), that visions of heaven are merely chemical and neurological events that occur during death.
Also, a cosmologist and physics professor at the California Institute of Technology, Dr Sean Carroll, believes that in order for there to be an afterlife, human consciousness would have to be something that is entirely separated from our physical body, which indeed decays and dies. As far as he is concerned, human minds and consciousness are nothing more than a collection of atoms and electrons which essentially gives the human memory. He maintains that the laws of the universe do not allow these particles to operate after physical demise.
“Claims that some forms of consciousness persist after our bodies die and decay into their constituent atoms face one huge, insuperable obstacle: the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood, and there’s no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die.”
He states that if life truly goes on after physical death, experiments in the quantum field would have already shown the existence of “spirit in an article for scientific American: IF it is really nothing but atoms and the known forces, there is clearly no way for the soul to survive death.”
In spite of this conviction by scientists, Christians are beyond doubt confident that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty,” 1 Corinthians 1:27. They cling to Jesus’ assurance to the thief on the cross, when He said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,” Luke 23:43.
Heaven: Why you must not miss it
Since when man lost out of the Garden of Eden, he has placed his hope on finding another entry into the garden as utmost priority. He craves for communion and communication with God like it was in the garden.
God, also, having placed man a little above angels (Psalms 8:5) desires such communion but His eyes detest sin that man falls into. To therefore reconcile and reconnect back to man, He has promised man heaven, where He seats, insofar man lives a holy and an acceptable life that is pleasing to Him.
As Christians run the race to make it to heaven, it is important to know what heaven looks like based on biblical descriptions. According to John 14:2-3, Heaven is full of mansions (not just houses) for all that believe and follow the commandments of God on earth. While the earth is filled with destitute and the homeless, in heaven there is a place for everyone. Jesus Himself gave the assurance to His disciples before His death.
Hebrews 12:22-23 states, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect.” Heaven would be a gathering of angels and those who made it from earth as they are made perfect by the death on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. How amazing it would be to be in the presence of God in the company of angels!
Also, heaven is not only to be the gathering of saints with the angels in the presence of God, it will also be filled with worship of the Prince of Peace. How wonderful it is when Christians gather to worship God and His presence descends in their midst. The feeling and experience are not comparable to what it would be in heaven where saints from all countries across the world gather to worship Him. Revelation 7:9-10 testifies to this, “… and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the lamb.’”
Verses 15-17 of the same chapter 7, reveal that heaven will be filled with peace, joy and praise. Unlike what is currently obtainable on earth, there would be no cause nor room for war in heaven. As it stands today, there are wars all over and in every corner of the world. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is taking its toll on world economy. China and the United States are also on the brink of a showdown over Taiwan, while North Korea is threatening the Far-East Asia and the entire world with nuclear bomb detonation. The world is literarily not at peace.
How do I run the race?
The journey to heaven is not a combined one. It is a personal decision. Every man on earth has to take this decision. Based on the assurance the thief on the right hand of Jesus Christ got at the eleventh hour, the fundamental factor is to believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God who came to the world to die for our sins. In John 14:6, He said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
With the acceptance and belief that Jesus is the way to life, a sinner wishing to join the race to heaven must also be willing to forsake his sinful life and turn a new leaf in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”
You must then commit yourself to run the race without looking back by following in the footsteps of Christ Himself. The basis of Christ’s teaching while on earth is love. He expects us to share the same love God showered on us to others.
While on earth, He went about preaching about the Kingdom of God. It is therefore the responsibility of all Christians to share the love of Christ with everyone especially our neighbours.