Did you hear about the Texas pastor claiming the Holy Spirit told him anyone who gave $52 towards getting new blades for his helicopter will have a transportation breakthrough of their own "in 52 days or 52 weeks"? I have to wonder if some pastors are even going to make it to heaven! If so, does a stunt like this survive heaven's scrutiny?
First things first: Does a Christian who dies go straight to heaven?
The confusion around this question is rooted in the Middle Ages when infant mortality was high and you were in old age if you lived to be 40. A money raising scheme was started that taught there is a middle place for the dead in between heaven and hell where the dead wait for release - and for an offering of course you could pray and send your dead loved one out of there and on to heaven.
And while that teaching may sound corrupt, it is the same principle used by ministers to manipulate people today for instance, when they are told to give $52 for new blades for the pastor's helicopter to get a transportation breakthrough of their own.
Or I could mention bringing $100 to the platform at the speaker's feet and you will get healed or have a financial breakthrough. Or put this cloth under your pillow and pray this pray for 7 days and on the 8th day send your prayer request with your best offering to... With preachers doing things like this, we can understand the confusion among believers in this day.
Bible says...Christians go to heaven right away
Paul compares and contrasts the earthly with the heavenly, stating we groan and long to be clothed upon from on high - not that we want to die as much as we just want to be "...clothed by our house which is from heaven." II Corinthians 5:1-10
He compares our bodies to tents and homes saying, "...if the tent which is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (Your glorified body will last forever - eternal in the heavens)
But he turns his readers towards hope, saying this: "Therefore being of good courage, and knowing while we are home (present) in the body we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight), we are of good courage I say, but would prefer to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." v6-8
(And just in case you know someone who believes there is no such thing as sin anymore, all is grace and love with no accountability, v10 says: For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one of us may receive what is due us for things done while in the body, whether good or bad.")
So this shows a Christian who dies goes straight to heaven - but what about those unresolved sins?
Wow those people were carnal!
He wrote the Corinthians Christians go to heaven when they die, but have you seen what kind of believers they were? They make my examples of the speeder, porn addict, bitter woman and suicide look like spiritual giants by comparison.
Among the issues in Corinth were a man sleeping with his step mother, believers (who met in homes) divided into cliques with the rich people refusing to eat and have the Lord's Supper with the poor people, wives finding their freedom in Christ and flaunting it, refusing to properly dress as local custom required, thus dishonoring themselves, their husbands, and their faith, 2 brothers who sat in the same (house) church suing each other in court instead of being mature enough to settle it between themselves, and much more.
But those are not what he dealt with first - the first sins in their midst he addressed before telling them Christians who die go directly to be with the Lord, is the carnality of living like un-born again people, or as 'mere men' as he put it.
"And I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, for you were not able to receive anything else and even now you aren't able for you are still fleshly. Since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like mere (un-born again) people?"
Spiritual loyalty and strife
Here he speaks of people claiming to be of one spiritual camp or the other - I am of Paul or I am of Apollos -The issue wasn't liking one ministry over another, rather letting it get to the point of jealousy and strife among them.
But what if those living as mere unborn again people (in strife and jealous of one another) die before growing up in Christ?
He tells them: "No man can lay a foundation other than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each person's work will become evident. The day will show it because it is to be revealed by fire, with the fire itself testing each person's work (actions). If anyone's work remains, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet as through the fire." (3:11-15)
So here we see that Christians who die with carnality built upon the foundation of Jesus in their hearts will be saved, but as by fire - their strife and jealousy likened to wood, hay, and stubble here, which will not survive the Lord's scrutiny.
Later he would speak of walking in love - clearly the things of love are the gold, silver, precious stones which are untouched by fire.
Think of it this way
So I've answered the basic question about what happens to Christians who die with unresolved sin - they go to heaven - yet the works of the flesh will be burned away, though they will be saved. So imagine a believer still filled with anger and hurt and bitterness towards their past, yet they love Jesus - they make it through but all that hurt and unresolved bitterness doesn't - what grace to finally be free! What love to not allow such things into His perfect kingdom of love and peace! Things which bring torment or caused us torment are not allowed in heaven - what grace!
So imagine that woman who committed suicide. Those who murder themselves aren't well in the mind and emotions, yet murder is a sin that can be forgiven (ask Moses about that one). The emotional damage that caused them to not think right and end their life will be burned away by the Lord, allowing only them in their purest and most whole condition to come into heaven - what love and grace is the burning of the chaff!
Paul considered himself not to be 'perfect' or mature yet, so we will all have unresolved things in our hearts and minds when we die. But anything not of the Lord will graciously be burned away so that we enter heaven without that burden: Who we really are in Christ will pass through, free from fear and worry and sins!
I think the larger question is...
Once we settle that Christians with unresolved sins go directly to heaven whether they lose everything but their salvation, or receive a reward, it still makes us wonder about that 'Christian' who sleeps around, bar-hops, or otherwise lives like the world.
If Christ is truly within them, how can they live with no apparent progress in their walk with the Lord?
So I must ask; Can a person have an experience with the Holy Spirit but not be born again? Can a person claim to be born again, even go to a born-again church, but not walk with the Lord in part because they aren't really born again?
People may have a genuine experience with the Holy Spirit, but not be born again.
Consider the person of Lydia in Acts 16:14. Paul and his group went to where Jewish women met by the river in Philippi to pray in the hopes of telling them about Jesus. We are told that Lydia was a 'worshipper of God' and listened to Paul.
Note - she was a worshipper of God but not born again. THEN the text says 'the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken of by Paul' Only then did she believe and was baptized. Up until that point she worshipped the God of Israel, but did not believe in Jesus. Do you know people who worship the same God, our God of Israel, but aren't born again? Lydia was one of those people before she met Paul.
Jesus also told the woman at the well in John 4:22 that she didn't know what she was worshipping - yet clearly she was a spiritual woman, and being a Samaritan, thought she was worshipping the one true God. Yet she didn't know what she was worshipping Jesus said. Do you think there are people in the world who worship what they think is God, but in reality they don't know what they worship? Obviously, yes.
Do you suppose there are people in the pews of our churches who are worshippers of God, maybe they even feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, sing the songs, donate money, yet don't open their hearts to Him?
Judas was one of the original 12, which means he went out teamed with the others to lay hands on the sick, cast out demons, and cleanse the lepers. He was there to hear the report of the other 70 who were sent out when they all rejoiced that the demons were subject to the name of Jesus. Luke 9:1-2, 10:1, 17
Judas spent the same 3 1/2 years with Jesus the others did and saw all His miracles - yet he rejected the Lord and betrayed Him.
When I was a newly born again Christian, a family member went on a youth group retreat one weekend, and came back on fire for God. He said he didn't know what happened to him, but that he felt something he had never felt before - peace, rest, joy. But it didn't 'stick'. There was no change. He clearly experienced a touch from the Holy Spirit, but...
To this day some 40 years later, he doesn't know nor walk with God. He hasn't raised his kids to know the Lord, doesn't go to church, yet respects me and what I do. He had a single weekend where he experienced the Holy Spirit when he was 14, but wasn't born again.
There are other examples in scripture of people who had experiences with the Lord and Holy Spirit but were unchanged, but I've run out of room today. Next week I also want to address the ongoing cleansing process of the Lord in our lives which cleanses us of sins we don't even know about, and other issues. So stay tuned.
Until next week, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email cwowiATaol.com