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May 12, 2009

The road to heaven: Take No Detours

by Dave Malnes

Many promises about heaven are given by Christ in the New Testament.  While on the cross, a criminal being crucified next to him receives the promise from Jesus, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”  With his disciples, Jesus promises, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  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 take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).  This is the victory won for us on the cross by Christ when He conquered death.  And in His victory, Christians can place their confidence that we too may conquer death and receive eternal life in heaven.

The challenge for us today is to bypass the many detours on the road to heaven which the devil places in front of us.

A believer’s security is what the devil hates the most.  Anxiety and worry are well-placed arrows that zing at the heart of a believer’s confidence — causing doubt in our status of being guaranteed citizens of heaven.  On the well-lighted but narrow road to heaven, the devil will plant convincing detour signs with tantalizing messages of personal achievement.  The message is “Heaven is not received by grace, you must earn it by being good!”

A popular method by the devil is “second chance” theology.  The teaching of purgatory is a great example where a person has a second chance to earn heaven if they were not good enough on earth.  Another attractive and unscriptural message along the same lines can be found in the popular Christian fiction series called “Left Behind”.  After the rapture, people are given a “second chance” to become a Christian during the time of tribulation.  These are all detour signs that point us away from the gospel’s sure promises of heaven.  Perhaps we ought to take a brief look at several detours that are popular beliefs among many Christians today.

What about millennialism?

Millennialism derives its name from the Latin and Greek words for one thousand.  Revelation 20:3 is cited as the proof passage for the final thousand years.  It reads, “He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.  After that, he must be set free for a short time.”  Although every picture in the context of this passage is symbolic, millennialists teach that the thousand years is literal and will occur at the end of the New Testament age when Christians will gain a miraculous military victory over their enemies at Armageddon.  This “second chance” detour certainly appeals to our sinful laziness or to exact revenge over our enemies, but doesn’t coincide with the rest of Scripture.

What about the rapture?

Popular teaching about the rapture is also another detour.  People think there will be a silent disappearance of Christians around the world with driverless cars going out of control and planes crashing into the ground below.  However, when you read Scripture, the rapture will be anything but silent.  It speaks of the loud and very public return of Jesus at the last judgment (“with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God”).  Everybody will certainly know on that last day of Christ’s return.

Time after time, God gives us many chances while on earth to receive Him as Lord or to return to Him.  He is a patient and loving God who always accepts and receives back fully those who have been taking wrong detours in life.  The signs of the times are very clear.  There are certainly signs that Jesus may come very quickly.  But what is even more important are the gospel signs that point us to the conviction that when Jesus came the first time he did everything necessary to put us on the straight path to glory.  So, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, take no detours.

Post is excerpts and thoughts taken from the magazine article “Take No Detours” by Wayne Mueller.  To see the complete article, go to www.forwardinchrist.net.

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