Who Goes to Heaven Aug 27, 2020 16:57:32 GMT
Post by Susan Peabody on Aug 27, 2020 16:57:32 GMT
"For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When the Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus." Romans 2:13-16 Revised Standard Version [italics mine],
This passage says different things to different people. The traditional Christian scholar does not believe that this passage embraces people who have not known the historical Christ, because they read it in the context of the rest of Romans and the rest of the New Testament. They may be right. But I turn to this passage to validate an intuitive idea that came to me as a young adolescent studying to join the Methodist Church. When the minister said that only Christians go to Heaven I shrunk back in horror. “No,” I said. “My brother was a very good person. Certainly he went to Heaven.” “No,” the minister said, “Only by surrendering to Christ are you saved.” Then he asked me if my brother had been exposed to the Christian faith. I had to admit that he had. “There you have it,” he said triumphantly. He wasn’t some aborigine stuck out on a desert isle. He rejected God. He will not go to Heaven.” Then I posed the question, “But what about the Jews, Hindus Muslims and Buddhists. They are good people and have answered the call to love God. And the Jews worship the same God. Will they go to Heaven?” “No,” the minister sputtered. I broke out in tears and left. And I didn’t go back to church for twenty-eight years.
In 1983 I did come back because some merciful Christian (a Catholic Priest) said I could believe that all good people, of whatever faith, would go to Heaven if I wanted to and that my brother might even be there too. No one knows for sure. I was so relieved. I didn’t care if it were true or not. It became the bridge I needed to return home. (Later I joined a church that believed this too. The Quakers have a principal they call “universalism” which incorporates this idea.)
One day, while studying the Bible in a class we called “The School of Prophets,” we read Romans 6:16, and I felt I had finally found some remnant of validation for my beliefs. Doesn’t this passage speak of “every one who does good,” and “God sows no partiality.” Doesn’t it say [italics mine] “When the Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts. . . .”? And doesn’t this mean that non-Christians can go to Heaven?
Of course, the stickler here is the word “truth.” Is it the “truth” as in the Law of the Christian Church, known only through the Word (the manifestation of Christ) John 1:1? Or is the “truth” of knowing Christ through an intuitive sense of the goodness he represented as opposed to the wickedness of Satan. Can we only learn of goodness by knowing the teacher, or is the lesson inscribed upon the hearts of his students and passed down in to the next generation? If we meet a Christian and he does not reveal to us who he is, but we model his goodness from that point on, are we not saved? And if we never meet a Christian because we live among heathens, but somewhere deep within our soul we know that there is a God and that he loves us, and we know the power of love and forgiveness, and we live a life carrying out Christ’s message without even knowing that we are doing this — don’t we find life everlasting? Is there no lesson without a footnote? Can the author of the “truth” be anonymous for some and known to others? If all the Christians died, and all the Bibles disappeared, would not the message still find its way into our hearts. Yes! That is why we have the Holy Spirit.
[F]or if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment, of sin. . . . When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority but whatever he hears he will speak and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [italics mine] John 16::7-15
Of course hearing God’s voice, even in the form of the Holy Spirit, is blasphemy to many Christians. In the Middle Ages it was considered a sin punishable by death. Joan of Arc found this out the hard way. But I don’t have a problem with it. I believe that with a pure heart I can hear God’s Word through the Holy Spirit and not confuse it with the voice of Satan. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10 Therefore, I can interpret, and I do interpret the words “by nature,” “a law unto themselves,” “written on their hearts,” and “conscience bears witness,” as meaning good people go to Heaven, because, as controversial as this sounds, I believe the Holy Spirit has spoken to me and told me that I can follow my heart with regard to this. And I do not think I am in denial. I think I have found a pearl of great price hidden in a crevice somewhere. As a result, I am happy, and I am back with Christ in his Church.
It turned out that, unbeknownst to me, my brother had confessed his faith shortly before he died. So for thirty two years I worried about this for nothing. And since he was both a professed Christian and a really good person, I know he is either in Heaven (from my Quaker days) or will be with God after the Advent (I am now a Seventh Day Adventist).