Posts Tagged ‘heaven


What Qualifies People to Live with Heavenly Father for all eternity?

     A topic that frustrates both Christians and Mormons is the topic of faith and works.  It usually creates much more heat than light.  Therefore I would like to approach this somewhat differently in an attempt, at the very least, to clarify some of the issues involved.  I would like to address the question in the title.  What qualifies people to live with Heavenly Father for all eternity?

    I worded it that way because I have found that the phrase “living with Heavenly Father” is the best way to get Mormons and Christians thinking about somewhat the same thing.  When Christians hear that phrase, most think of going to heaven.  When Mormons hear that phrase, most think of going to the celestial kingdom.

    In this post, all I want to do is to try and express, as clearly, as I can, what I believe the Bible says qualifies people to live with Heavenly Father eternally.  The answer to that is quite simple.  The only thing that qualifies people is the vicarious work of Jesus –which the Bible breaks into two parts.   The first part is the perfect life he led, not just as our Example, but as our Substitute.  (1 Corinthians 1:30 and all the passages that talk about the righteousness we have in Christ.)  The second part is his sacrificial death which satisfied divine justice by paying the debt of sin.  In other words, Jesus not only supplied the payment for all sin with his death; he also supplied righteousness and perfection for us through his perfect law-keeping.  His complete payment and his perfect law-keeping are what qualify people to live with Heavenly Father.  Sinlessness and perfection is what Heavenly Father is looking for.  No more – no less.

     Yes, faith is essential but not because it is an additional qualification.  Rather it is the way that Christ’s work is credited to individual persons.  Faith is one of those words that cause great confusion between Mormons and Christians. For my Mormon readers, I would like to clarify what Christians mean when they talk about faith.  Faith is not just head knowledge.  It is trust.  Conversion, in Christianity, is abandoning the trust that your works and efforts in any way qualify you to stand before God and replacing that with trust that Jesus’ works are the only thing that qualifies you to stand before God.  When it comes to living eternally with Heavenly Father, it is not even believing that God exists, or so much believing in his Word, but it is trusting in Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death for us.  To a Christian, faith, in the context of living eternally with Heavenly Father, is very specific.

     Yes, faith without works is dead.  But again the works that follow faith are not additional qualifications for living eternally with Heavenly Father.  When people are converted, they cross over from spiritual death to spiritual life.  They become new creations.  They are filled with life and thus naturally want to do good works.  That is why the Bible often calls them fruits of faith.  They come after faith and are the visible proofs and evidence that people have living faith. 

     Christians are very careful to keep works in their proper place.  They abhor any thought that their works in any way qualify them to live with Heavenly Father.  That idea, to many Christians, dishonors Christ tremendously.  Not only that.  Since the Bible says grace and works don’t mix as causes of being accepted by God (Romans 11:6), Christians say any mention of works in the discussion of how people qualify for living eternally with Heavenly Father actually disqualifies a person to live eternally with Heavenly Father.

     Finally, yes, people have to endure in the faith.  It’s who people are trusting in that counts.  If people quit trusting in Jesus works, then they won’t be able to live eternally with Heavenly Father.  But again that is not an additional qualification.  If a fireman rescues me from a burning house and I stay on the sidewalk in safety rather than running back into the burning house, I wouldn’t say that I did something to be saved.  What an insult that would be to the fireman who risked his life to save me.

     I pray that in some small way this helps Mormons better understand Christians and also helps them understand why many Christians become greatly agitated at any thought that we have to do something to qualify to live eternally with Heavenly Father.


Death Bed Repentance


     In my last post about Paradise I quoted a couple of LDS sources concerning Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross.  For convenience sake I quote them again:  “To the thief on the cross who asked to be remembered after death, the Savior responded to give him what hope he could:  ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise, ‘ That is to say, today you shall be with me in the world of spirits, where you will be taught the gospel and your inquires will be answered. (See Smith, Teachings, p.309)  Jesus did not lend any credence to a death-bed repentance or (sic) the malefactor.  What Jesus did do was give recognition to the seeds of faith and repentance which were evidenced by a penitent man.  As always, the Lord’s efforts were directed toward offering as much hope as possible to one who would turn from darkness unto that everlasting light.”  (Life and Teachings. . .p. 186, emphasis added)

     The LDS Bible Dictionary says this:  “For example, when Jesus purportedly said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’, the Bible rendering is incorrect.  The statement would more accurately read, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in the word of spirits’ since the thief was not ready for paradise.”

     I especially want to focus on two things in those quotes.  The first is the statement that Jesus’ words to the malefactor do not give any credence to a death-bed repentance on the part of the malefactor.  I assume that this statement was made in response to the common Christian teaching that people can repent on their deathbeds and, as a result, enjoy living Heavenly Father for all eternity.

     The second statement is one from the LDS Bible Dictionary stating that the thief was not ready for paradise.

     Numerous Mormons here and elsewhere have stated that Mormonism teaches that salvation is all about Jesus and what he has done – that the differences in how Mormonism and Christianity view salvation are really not that major.  It is has been my position, and the position of many other Christians, that the differences are major.  I submit that the quotes above illustrate that difference.

     As a Christian pastor, I have had the privilege of ministering to people on their deathbeds – including some who had shown no interest, much less, faith in Jesus.  But staring in the face of death does something to a person.  On more than one occasion, I had the extraordinary privilege of bringing people the message that Jesus had paid for all their sins – that, through Jesus, they could live with Heavenly Father – that they were saved by grace alone.  And the Holy Spirit caused them to trust that! Through Christ, they were ready for Paradise – the Paradise of living eternally with Heavenly Father.

     Mormonism – “did not lead any credence to a death-bed repentance, . .”not ready for paradise.” 

     Christianity – believe and you will be with God forever – because Jesus has done everything for you.

     To me that’s a big difference.


How Long Perfection?


     “Perfection is an ultimate goal that can be achieved, as we draw upon the power of Christ.”  That is how chapter 8 of “The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles’ begins.  A little later it quotes Joseph Smith who compared the climb to perfection like climbing a ladder.  After talking about our climb to perfection in this life, he continues by saying, “But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them.  It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”

     That raises the question:  How long is that great while that Joseph Smith said it would take?  I have had one Mormon leader tell me that it would take him ten thousand eternities.  Others I’m sure would give different answers.  I would invite LDS members to give their answers.

     Here’s my answer.  Through Christ, I am already perfect in God’s sight.  All my sins have been separated for me as far as the East is from the West. (Psalm 103;12)  But not only that.  All of Christ’s perfection has already been credited to my account. (Isaiah 61:10)  Therefore, right now, God sees me as perfect.  And then, the moment I die, I will be taken into his presence where I will no longer be confirmed in righteousness and no longer even be able to sin.  I will live perfectly in a perfect heaven.  There’s no “great while” for me.  There’s “no great work” for me.  All because of Jesus.  That is what is really great!

March 2023

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