Heaven: What Will It Be Like?/Program 3
|By: Randy Alcorn; ©2013|
|In this session, Dr. Ankerberg and Randy Alcorn discuss what the Bible teaches about salvation as well as how to be saved and to know for certain where you will spend eternity. This confidence can help during even our weakest moments in this life as we look forward to eternity with Christ in the next life.|
Today on the John Ankerberg Show, according to a Gallup Poll survey, 77% of people think that they are going to heaven when they die, and only 6% believe that they are going to hell. But when Jesus Christ spoke about those who will be going to heaven, He said, “Narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few there be that find it. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many are those who go in thereat.” Are you one of the few that Jesus said will be going to heaven? What chance is there that you are one of those who mistakenly thinks you are going to heaven, when you really aren’t? Today you will find out the answer to the most important question in life: Are you going to heaven when you die.
My guest is bestselling author Dr. Randy Alcorn, one of the most knowledgeable Christian scholars on heaven. He will clearly explain to you how you can know for sure that you are going to heaven when you die. Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking with the leading expert in our country on heaven. His name is Dr. Randy Alcorn. And a lot of you that are listening, I bet that you just assume that you’re going to heaven. And I would say, what is the basis upon which you make that assumption? Randy is a bestselling author of many, many books. And, Randy, you’ve said, as people have read your books about all the fantastic wonderful things, the fun, the excitement, the good food, the fellowship with others, the love of God that’s going to go on for eternity, the exploration of the universe, all of these great things, and they’re assuming they’re going, but you, in your heart, as you’ve talked with them, there are tip-offs that tell you that they’re not, because they’ve turned down God’s invitation. What is this thing of God’s invitation?
- Alcorn: Scripture says that those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life don’t go to heaven. They go to hell for all eternity. Well, what has to happen for your name to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? We know that there is an invitation that is extended to us: “Come, drink of the water freely, the water of the rivers of life without cost.” This is offered to us. I have a friend, Ruthanna Metzgar, who is a professional singer. She and her husband Roy went to a very, very prominent wedding. She was asked to be the wedding singer, and so this was a great honor. And it was at the most beautiful, tallest building in the city of Seattle. And then afterwards was this great reception, and some philharmonic orchestra or whatever was going to be there and perform, and they were going to have these delicacies, food and drink from all over the place. So she’s excited.
- And they show up for the wedding. She goes up, she sings; she sings beautifully. And then they go up these stairs into this ballroom where there’s going to be this great celebration; and you’re seeing the people and the musicians in their tuxedos, and you smell the food, it’s wonderful. You’re waiting in line. And then they get up to this narrow little gate, so to speak, this little area where you have to pass. And there is a big podium there, and there’s a book that’s opened. And there’s this man standing there, and so he’s checking everybody’s names. So they get up there and she’s, of course, excited to get in. She says, “I’m Ruthanna Metzgar; this is my husband Roy.” And so he’s looking through, and he’s in the “M’s” and, “How is that spelled?” And, well, “It’s M-e-t-z-g-a-r.” “I’m sorry, but your name’s not here.” And she says, “Well, I was the singer. I mean, I sang in this wedding.” And he says, “Well, ma’am, you cannot enter whether you are a singer or not. Your name has to be on this, or you aren’t allowed in here. And it is not here. I’m sorry.”
- So then he called somebody over, actually somebody was standing there for that very purpose, to escort them to the service elevator to take them down to the parking garage. And they went down, and they couldn’t even speak they were so shocked. They got in the car. They started driving I-5 South, back, I think, toward the Portland area. And Roy looks at Ruthanna and says, “What just happened?” And she said, “Well, we did receive the invitation, and it did say RSVP, but,” she said, “I was the singer. You don’t have to send an RSVP, I mean, right? I mean, that’s what I thought. I should have just taken the time to send that in, say yes to the invitation.”
- So what she said was, as she told me the story, was, “You know, the one consolation in this story is I thought, this is quite an illustration; because how many people have had the invitation extended to them by Christ? The price has been paid. They don’t have to do anything; except. They’re not going to earn their way by showing up to be the singer, you know, or whatever, and bringing whatever gifts and talents they have. All they have to do is say yes.” But she says, “I just didn’t take the time to say yes. I was too busy. I didn’t think it was necessary.”
- Ankerberg: Alright, folks, listen. If you want to know how to accept God’s invitation, we’re going to take you through what God says. There are some things you need to know about yourself, and you’ve got to realize are true, and you’ve got to realize what God has done for you and the gift that He is opening. So we’re going to take this slowly, step by step. The first thing that God wants you to know is the bad news. He says, look at this verse: “For all have sinned and we’ve come short of the glory of God.” When the Bible uses the word “all,” does that include both you and me, all of us? Yeah! Randy, how bad is it?
- Alcorn: Well, we know that God has standards that are infinitely high because He is an infinite being. He is infinitely holy. We’re told in Scripture, “be perfect because I am perfect.” Well, we have to live up to those standards. We’re told in James that if you offend the law at one point you are guilty of all. So we can say, “Hey, I think I’m mostly a good person,” even though we overestimate our goodness. Surely we would recognize that, well, we have at least offended once and if we’re really alert we know we’ve offended at many times today, and cumulatively thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times over our lifetime. And we are falling short.
- There is an old illustration, but I think a very good one of, let’s say we all go to the West coast and we line up on the shore and we’re going to swim to Hawaii. Now, some of us are going to make it about 10 yards and drown. Some people don’t even know how to swim. They aren’t even going make it that far. Other people are going to make it a couple of hundred yards, and some people are going to make it a mile, a couple of miles. Not too many people are going to make it, say, over 10 miles. And then you’ve got some serious long-haul swimmers out there, English Channel-type people, that are really driving out there. And how far can they get? I don’t know. I don’t know if somebody can go 40 miles or 50 miles; but I can tell you this, they’re not going to get anywhere remotely near Hawaii. So even if you looked at it from a standard of goodness, we all fall short. We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We can’t make it on our own. We can’t satisfy the holiness of God by ourselves. Left to ourselves, we are without hope.
- Ankerberg: The next thing that God wants you to know is “the wages of sin is death.” We get paid something for the sin that we have done, and it says it’s death; it’s separation from God. But then it goes on, “but the free gift of God is eternal life,” and it comes “through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Talk about this thing of, what does it mean “the wages of sin” and being separated from God eternally, instead of being with Him in this wonderful beautiful heaven.
- Alcorn: There’s death and there’s life; and death is the opposite of life. But life is way more than existence. We’re told in Scripture that everybody’s going to exist forever. Some will be raised; John 5 talks about the resurrection to life, and the resurrection to damnation. One is eternal life; the other is eternal death: A death that goes on and on forever, versus a life that goes on and on forever. If we get what we deserve, we get eternal death. If we turn to Jesus Christ, trusts Him for what He has done for us, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That is the only way that we will live forever in happiness and celebration and worship and living with the God we love and the people we love in a wondrous world. That’s the only way it can happen—through the gift of Jesus Christ.
- Ankerberg: Folks, this is serious stuff. And we’re going to take a quick break and we’re going to come back and we’re going to talk about this gift. This is the good news and it’s not a free gift. It’s free to us, but it costs God everything. And I want you to listen as we explain why it’s so important that you accept God’s gift. Stick with us. We’ll be right back.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Randy Alcorn about heaven. And one of the most dangerous situations people can be in is dreaming all about going to heaven and wanting to go there, and just assuming that somehow, because they’ve done good stuff, they’re going to make it to heaven. Okay, the Bible says that’s a message that comes right from Satan himself. That’s from the pit, okay. And we’re talking about why. God says we’re sinners. We get paid a wage for our sin, which is separation from God, hell. But then it talks about the gift of God, and that’s where we’re going to zero in on next.
- Look at what the Bible says. “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ who died for us while we were still sinners,” Romans 5:8. Then it says, “For God so loved the world,” that’s you and me, “that He gave His only Son,… whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Randy, it cost God everything to make a free gift available to us. Explain that.
- Alcorn: Well, what more could we ask God to do than He has done for us? In order to satisfy His demands of complete holiness, the sacrifice had to live up to His complete holiness, to be without blemish or spot. Who could do that but the God-man, Jesus Christ? It would be inconceivable. An angel couldn’t pay the price, because an angel is finite. A human being could not pay the price, because not only finite, but fallen. Only Jesus Christ—yes, a human being, but the God-man, God incarnate—could pay that price, and He did that. And He offers us that gift.
- Now, we can look at a gift that somebody extends to us and we can say, “Well, I’m not worthy of that gift. I’m not worthy of God’s grace.” Right, exactly. I mean, if you were worthy of it you wouldn’t need it, you know. The point is, you’re not worthy, but He offers it, so will you swallow your pride and receive that gift? Why would you not? I mean, if you were a hostage in some other country and they sent the Marines in and the helicopter comes in and they pull you over here and say, “Okay, all you’ve got to do is get on, climb on, or reach up your hand.” They’re reaching down their hand, and you could say, “Well, I don’t know if I can trust these people to take me to safety.” What’s your alternative? Do you want to stay where you are? I mean, what is our alternative? God is far more dependable even than the United States Marines.
- But the point is, I think if you realized the seriousness of your condition, you’d reach your arm up and you would take that gift. Now, did they come because you deserved it? No, they’re risking their lives. Their lives are just as valuable as your life, but they came to offer you a gift. It’s up to you: Are you going to reach out your hand and take it? And you know what? We don’t even have the power apart from the intervening power of God’s Spirit. We don’t even have the power to believe, but God calls us to believe, implores us to reach out, and graciously allows us to do so. So it’s no merit on our part. It’s all His merit, but God has done everything that He can do for us. It is left to us to actually reach out and say, “I accept the gift You have offered.”
- Ankerberg: Yeah, folks, some of you right now, you are thinking about this. And you realize you are a sinner. And you realize what Randy is saying about God providing this gift; and so God is talking to you, because otherwise you wouldn’t even realize this. You need to be open to this next part. The Bible talks redundantly, over and over again, it’s “by faith and not by works,” okay. And faith, we’re to have faith in Christ. We’re to believe in Christ. We’re to trust in Christ. What in the world does “believe” mean, and how will I know when I’ve done it?
- Alcorn: I think belief is something that is real to us. There are certain people we believe in. There are certain promises that are made to us we believe in. You have to believe in those Marines who are rescuing you, to reach up. You have to, when you sit down, you have to believe that the chair is strong enough to hold your weight. You have to believe the promises of your employer that they will pay you this wage if you do this. So, belief is not foreign to us.
- But what we have to do is realize that, while sometimes in this world we have been wrong, we’ve had misplaced faith and we’ve been burnt and sometimes people don’t keep their promises; but God keeps all of His promises. God knows everything. God is fully honest and when He tells us, “Look, you’re in a bad place. I sent My Son to rescue you from this bad place, and I’m calling upon you to trust Me.” We need to look at God and say, is He worthy of our trust? Are you kidding me? Creator? Redeemer? Will we ever be able to look at Him and say, “I don’t think You really loved me enough”? Jesus stretches out His hands, “See the marks on these hands. Do these look like the hands of a God who does not care?” Worthy of our trust!
- I came to faith in Christ when I was a teenager; grew up in a non-Christian home, had never heard the gospel. I heard the gospel. I started reading Scripture. And I came to the New Testament portions ,and I saw the person of Christ. And as I read, He had the ring of truth. I went, “This is somebody I believe, I trust.” And that’s when I finally got on my knees, repented of my sins, and said, “I’m giving my life to You.” And I have never once regretted it.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, let’s zero in just a little further. A lot of people have an idea of trust and faith in Christ, and it’s almost like they’re investing in mutual funds. “Okay, I did that, but I’m also going to do this, and I’m going to do some works. I’m going to go to church. I’m going to pray. I’m going to read my Bible. I’m going to do nice works, give money to the poor.” So they’ve got a whole bunch of things so when they get to heaven they’re hoping that something kicks in and they make it, okay. That’s not what God is talking about. Because He said to the thief, Jesus said the thief on the cross, who couldn’t do a thing, “Today you are going to be with Me in Paradise.” Now, what was the basis, and why is it faith alone in Christ and nothing else?
- Alcorn: Right. Well, if it’s Jesus plus something, then that something becomes dependent upon us: It’s how hard we work to do this. It’s that we donated to this and we volunteered for this, and we did this good thing. Jesus plus. And God says no, forget the plus. It’s Jesus alone; because we could take credit if it was Jesus plus anything else, because we had the wisdom to come up with and do those other things. And “by grace you have been saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works lest anyone should boast.” We would boast. We would have cause for boasting, if we had done anything. Instead we will have only cause for praising God for all He has done for us in Christ.
- Ankerberg: The Bible says it’s by faith alone in Christ that we are saved for all eternity. But the Bible also says you need to repent. So how do you define repentance, and how will I know I’ve done it?
- Alcorn: To repent is to change your mind and it is to change your intentions. It’s to be genuinely sorry for what you’ve done, and it’s an appeal to God for His help in keeping you from doing those kinds of things again. It’s also going to involve trust that when you do bad things and repent once more and ask His forgiveness, that He will forgive you. But the original coming to faith in Christ, that repentance is saying all sins that come to your mind, confessing them. Now, God will bring to your mind other sins later, but it’s basically saying, “I need you. I can’t do it on my own. I am hopeless without You.” And I think the more it’s your hopelessness and God’s sufficiency in Christ alone who can do this for you, the more you realize that, the more genuine that conversion is.
- Ankerberg: Randy, right now I would like you to say a prayer, because I think there are a lot of people in our audience, here and around the world, that are saying, “I want God’s gift. I’m not going to turn down His invitation, because I want to go to heaven. And if God is saying, ‘I love you enough to provide this and I want you to come,’ I’m not going to say no to Him.” But they don’t know how to pray. I’m saying, would you lead them in a prayer that they could say and follow you, and they could invite the Lord Jesus into their life as they pray with you right now?
- Alcorn: Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that You are real. I believe that You went to the cross and suffered terribly to pay for my sins. I believe that I am a sinner, that I deserved eternal death. And yet I believe You when you say that You offer eternal life. And, Lord, help get rid of any unbelief I have. Assure me in my heart that these words that I’m saying are words that I can really mean. I want to accept the gift that You offer in Jesus Christ. I recognize there is nothing I can do to earn or achieve or add to the work of Jesus Christ on my behalf. It is only by Him. I recognize Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life, and that He is the only way to the Father. Lord, I accept the gift that You offer me, and pray that You would come into my life, and that You would live in my heart, and that You would help me to live a changed life to Your honor and to Your glory. And I trust You when You say that I will experience eternal life with You in Your presence, not by what I have done, but by what You have done on my behalf. I ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.
- Ankerberg: Now, folks, if you prayed that prayer, Randy, does God want them to know for sure they’re going to heaven?
- Alcorn: Yes, He absolutely does. “These things are written that you may know that you have eternal life.” But certainly then God will work in your life and help you to produce fruit and grow in your faith in ways that will confirm the reality of your salvation.
- Ankerberg: Randy, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you being willing to come all the way from Oregon to come down here to Chattanooga to tape these programs; and all of the study that you’ve put in; all these fantastic books that, folks, I highly recommend. Thank you for being willing to share this information with us.
- Alcorn: It’s my pleasure John. It’s great to be here.
- Ankerberg: Folks, I hope you’ll join us again next week.