One of the most devastating things that I hear (all too often) on the lips of Christians, or those claiming to be, goes something like ‘Well I hope I will go to heaven’! This is so concerning because it indicates that the person who says that has just not grasped the ‘Certain Hope’ we have in Christ. Worse, it may be that they have not experienced the spiritual re-birth which, as Jesus explained to the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3:1-7, is the essential requirement for entry into Heaven.
It has been quite clear to me in conversations over the last few weeks during the current deepening Pandemic that has cast a shadow over, and changed, all our lives, that there are significant differences in the way people are dealing with it.
There are those, usually without any real faith, who are often fearful and highly anxious, when many of the things they have depended on for security are being swept away. Then there are those with a genuine faith who are generally showing far greater resilience in what is undoubtedly a threat to the well-being of all of us, and dealing with it much better, because they have experienced the
‘new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade’
that the Apostle Peter spoke of (1 Peter 1:3).
Often people (many claiming to be Christians) who say ‘I hope I will go to Heaven’ still have a mindset that God will judge their acceptability for entry into Heaven on the basis of how they have lived their lives i.e. whether they have been ‘good enough’ or not. This belief is in effect saying that Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross was insufficient for our salvation, and we have to contribute something to it for ourselves. No! For anyone thinking that way let’s clarify the facts of Good Friday.
1. On ‘Good Friday’ Jesus established certain hope for those who truly trust in Him for their salvation and eternal destiny. This offer of salvation is a totally free gift (Grace) as Paul made clear in Ephesians 2:8,9–
‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.’
2. On the first Good Friday Jesus established certain hope by dealing with the Sin, past present and future, of those with true faith for-
‘Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous (Him) for the unrighteous (Us)’ to bring you to God’. (1 Peter 3:18)
3. On Good Friday God put forward Jesus as an ‘Expiation’ (Atonement) by his blood. (Romans 3:25) That is Jesus paid the penalty for our sins (all of them) by the washing of His blood.
The stunning result is that God counts us as sinless! This has absolutely ‘Nothing’ to do with how we have lived our lives, but ‘Everything’ to do with what Jesus has done (past tense) on the Cross. The result is that, when we put our Trust (faith) in what Jesus has done on the Cross and in that alone, the barrier between us and God (our Sin), the barrier to entry into heaven, is removed, and, God looks at us and sees us as perfect, sinless. Praise God.
This is the Hope of the Gospel, the Promise of Good Friday, when for many in these ‘Pandemic’ times, Hope seems lost. It is the ‘Certain Hope’ that we are a child of God as a Gift, through Faith. No matter what may happen in life, even becoming a Covid-19 victim, He will not let us go and our Destiny is secure even in times when it seems that nothing else is.
This is why Christians generally show more resilience in times of adversity such as now than those without, or with weak, faith.
So Good Friday is a symbol of Celebration, of Certainty and Hope and a time for Praise. Thanks be to God.
This is a time when the current crisis is jolting many into the realization that genuine Hope is an absent companion on their life’s journey. It is a time which brings with it an opportunity, if we actually do ‘Love our neighbour’, to seek to share the promise and Hope of Good Friday, including the certain hope of heaven, with them.