Before I get started I want to remind you of our Saturday, May 16, Zoom web meeting - 1pm Central Time US/Canada.
Registration is above or at our web site: www.cwowi.org
Surprised by heaven
A man had been in hospice the last weeks of his life, attended by a nurse who was a Christian. Over the weeks of caring for him, she ended up liking the grouchy old man, in spite of himself. He had opened up about his life and his many regrets, especially that he had walked out on two young daughters when they were 7 and 9 years old and had never contacted them over the span of more than 40 years.
The nurse led him to the Lord within the last couple weeks of his life, and he was subtly yet instantly changed. At his request, the nurse and hospice social worker researched and quickly found the two daughters who, upon hearing of their father's illness and his desire to see them and apologize, agreed to come. It was a touching reunion by all accounts, and the old man died in the peace of the Lord and in the presence of his daughters.
One of the daughters commented to the nurse that if she had never been contacted, she would have lived the rest of her life with the assumption her troubled father never got saved and was no doubt in hell.
How many of us have friends or family we similarly wonder about?
Is it possible we will be surprised to find people in heaven we had for years assumed had not made it?
We don't know the full extent of the crimes the 'thief on the cross' did to be sentenced to death, but Luke 23: 39-43 reveals he thought the death penalty what was appropriate for his crimes. Jesus didn't dispute that.
But when he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom", the Lord replied: "Amen. I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Such grace. But only those at the foot of the cross overheard that exchange.
If you were a victim of his crimes you would think he was destined to hell. If you knew him in his criminal circle of friends, you would think he was destined for hell.
Consider that he was not righteous as measured by the Old Testament Law. He was a criminal so he didn't offer the proper sacrifices and offerings as a good citizen of Israel. He was unrighteous by his lifestyle and by the law - but he is in heaven today. A turn of the heart in the last moments of his life caused him to gain entrance to heaven. How many other people are like the man in hospice or the man on the cross, whose turn of the heart is not overheard nor recorded, and everyone who knew them assumes they are in hell?
Getting ahead of myself here, but I want to encourage any readers who can relate to these situations, to check in your spirit for peace from the Father. If you have that peace in your spirit, that peace is heaven's communication to you that all is well. Stay in that peace.
Surprised to find himself in hell
Luke 16: 19-31 is the story of 2 men, a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Jesus said the beggar was laid daily at the door of the rich man's house hoping to eat from the leftovers tossed out (garbage), and dogs came and licked his sores.
Both men died and their bodies were buried. The rich man found himself in hell while Lazarus found himself with Abraham in what was called 'Paradise' or 'Abraham's bosom' and 'Captivity'. It was the place of the righteous dead, held captive until the final sin sacrifice had been made which would allow them to go to heaven.
Paradise, or Captivity, was wholly and completely taken to heaven. So now there is only 1 holding place in the earth, hell. (Ephesians 4: 8, Hebrews 9: 23-24, John 20: 17)
Paul would say in II Corinthians 12: 2-4 that he was caught up to the 3rd heaven, to Paradise, what we call heaven. In Judaism the 1st heaven is the air, the 2nd heaven is space, and the 3rd heaven is where God lives. They believed Paradise was a park-like place with grass, trees, water, etc.
He was surprised because...
The rich man was clearly surprised to find himself in hell, for he asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father's house to warn them because he had 5 brothers and he didn't want them to come to that place of torment.
But he was righteous no doubt as far as the Laws of Moses described righteousness. He was wealthy enough to afford sacrifices, pay his tithes and offerings, go to temple services, and anything else the Law required. By contrast, the beggar was unrighteous. He had to be carried to the man's gate. He couldn't make a sacrifice, he couldn't go to temple services, he had no income to tithe or give offerings.
Yet Lazarus found himself with Abraham, while the rich man found himself in hell. I wonder how many people we think believe in the Lord, and do all the right things, say all the right things, yet their spirit isn't really born again?
Don't get off the path here...
In Matthew 7: 15-29 Jesus sandwiches 2 teachings about false believers and false prophets with this statement: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom of heaven; but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, haven't we prophesied in your name, haven't we cast out demons, haven't we done good works in your name?'"
"But I will admit to them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me you who work iniquity.'" (Iniquity is a lifestyle of sin, whereas 'sin' is a single event, so these people lived a lifestyle of sins).
Many Christians fear for their salvation upon reading this passage, forgetting that the teaching which led up to the above statement, and the verses after, have to do with false prophets and false believers.
Do not believe the claims of those evil people rather than the claims of Jesus. Jesus said 'I never knew you'. That doesn't mean 'I knew you once but you fell away'. He never knew them. If we are to believe Jesus is the Truth and always tells the truth, then when He said, 'I never knew you', it means exactly that. When Jesus said these people actually 'work iniquity', that is live in a lifestyle of sins while pretending to be righteous, that is true as well. He never knew them.
It means their claim that they prophesied and cast out demons and did many wonderful things in his name, is a lie. There will come a day when people will make their case to Jesus for their salvation, but the deciding factor will be whether Jesus knew them or not.
And that is why the man who died in hospice and turned his heart to the Lord, is in heaven. That is why the thief on the cross is in heaven. The factor is, 'Does Jesus know you?' (The false believers above know who Jesus is, for they call Him, 'Lord, Lord', but He never knew them. They know OF Him, but they don't know Him.
So there are people in heaven, and hell, who are perhaps surprised to find themselves there. If they are surprised, then it tells us we will be surprised who is there in heaven, and perhaps, who is not. What is important for us is to refrain from saying, 'They are certainly in hell', for that is not our realm to judge. We are to judge the fruit of a person's life, but the heart is God's realm, not ours. That means we are often left wondering about the fate of those we know or hear of...and we have to go with peace in our spirit as He puts it there, heaven's assurance that person is with Him.
Next week other examples including suicides, a couple stories of Roman Catholics, and more...until then, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org