Friday, May 29, 2009


The notion that individuals enter heaven at death is widely believed, in spite of scripture's description that it will be a cataclysmic, corporately universal event. The glimpses of the second advent we are given involve multitudes of intelligent beings all aware of the events. It would be uncharacteristic of God to let the marriage of His Son with the "bride who has made herself ready" happen piece meal as ordinary daily celestial activity. A wedding, especially the Wedding of the Ages, calls for a celebration the likes of which only Divinity can arrange.

With no understanding of a pre-advent judgment, it is logical to assume a person's eligibility for heaven must be decided at death. Even people who have no religion cannot accept that, worthy or not, everyone goes to heaven. Almost always, the imagined conditions for entering heaven involve burdensome sacrifice and denial. This effort must catch God's attention so He will feel better about the person and admit them to heaven.

Stop Trying to Earn Heaven

A world that misunderstands the character of our loving God can never believe that the experience of heaven can begin here during our earthly lifetime. All pagan religions believe the gods withhold blessings until sufficient sacrifice or "works" are demonstrated. God does not need that because the cross is the basis of our salvation. We simply accept it by faith. Even faith is the gift of God, so effort and merit are never part of the equation. Because the cross is an accomplished historical fact, God can bestow the blessings of heaven before we actually arrive there. Our lesson uses two of many texts to demonstrate that the benefits exist here and now: 1 John 3:2, "Beloved, now we are children of God ..., and John 5:24, "... he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" (NASV, emphasis added). Almost any verse in the first chapter of Ephesians confirms that what Christ accomplished for us at the cross is already ours in Christ.

Ask for Belief

There are many ways the believer can experience heaven on earth, but they all depend on accepting God's promises by faith. Upon hearing the gospel of the cross, the repentant believer's most immediate blessing is peace. "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). Once we have peace, we can rest from our efforts to save ourselves.

Ask for a Heart to Enter into Rest

Israel repeatedly refused to enter God's rest even though it was promised. "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest" (Ex. 33:14, KJV). Jesus repeated this: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28, KJV). The margin expands the word "labor" to mean "work to exhaustion."

"The rest that was offered to the children of Israel in the desert, is the very same rest that Christ offers to all mankind, ... why then do not all people have rest?--For the simple reason that as a general thing men do not recognize His presence, nor even His existence, ... This shows that the general inability to please God, and so to find rest, arises from practical unbelief that He exists" (The Everlasting Covenant, pp. 283-284).

When the Jews asked Jesus, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" they repeated the self-confidence of their ancestors at Sinai when they said: "All that the Lord has spoken, we will do" (ibid., p. 235). Jesus corrected them: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (John 6:29). Their arrogance revealed that they refused to believe in a God who would do the work for them. Instead, they insisted on "laboring" to exhaustion under man made "heavy loads." Thus, they could not enter into that rest that God had prepared for them.

Enter into the Special Sabbath Rest

The Lord gave Adam rest in the garden even though he was given work to "keep" it. His work was not to make the garden perfect, but to keep the perfection created by God. Work is not part of the curse of sin, but fatigue is. "That perfect, new creation has disappeared,--but the rest still remains" (ibid, pp. 308-309). The rest that remains in spite of the curse is the Sabbath of the Lord, the seventh day. Like Adam "keeping" the garden, we are to "keep" the Sabbath day that God created and made holy. We are not to create a new Sabbath, nor must we make it holy. God has already made, blessed, and hallowed the Sabbath. God asked only that we "keep" the Sabbath He created. Before sin, humans had no trouble entering into that rest. Once the rebellion entered, nothing good came naturally to those whose natures had become evil. Nothing short of a new creation was necessary.

"The Sabbath comes revealing Christ the Creator as the burden-bearer ... It is in the cross of Christ that we receive life, are made new creatures. The power of the cross, therefore, is creative power. ... Now we can understand why the Sabbath occupies so prominent a place in the record of God's dealings with Israel ... because Sabbath-keeping is the beginning of that rest which God promised His people in the land of Canaan ... This is the heritage of the Lord, now is the time, today is the day in which we may enter upon it, for He is the portion of our inheritance, and in Him we have all things (ibid., pp. 312-315).

Do you want to live as if you have already reached the heavenly rest? Ask God to give you the mind of Christ to enter into the Sabbath rest during the entire week. This does not mean inactivity, but a mental rest in the Lord for all needs, all week long.

See Trials as "Helpers on to Zion"

But someone says, "I don't feel so rested, I have problems, trials, and temptations." "Then the Lord wants us to be so well acquainted with fiery trials that, ... we can say, 'All right; glad to meet you, sir; I know you; come along.' ... let us not think it strange concerning the fiery trials "as though some strange thing happened" unto us. We are not to meet them and deal with them as strangers, but as acquaintances; not only that, but we are to meet them as helpers on to Zion" (A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, #10, p. 203).

--Arlene Hill