Do pets go to heaven?
Scripture is almost silent on the matter of whether animals have an eternal soul like humans do or whether they might be subject to the same laws of sin and death and Heaven and Hell as we are. However, it does say that humans are the only creatures into which God breathed “the breath of life.” As a result, it’s my belief that animals do not have a soul, and that they cannot go to heaven or hell or be resurrected when Christ returns. However, God is a loving and creative God, and in the ages to come, when all things are restored, it’s entirely possible that you or I could say to our Heavenly Father, “When I was on Earth, I had this goldfish…” and your loving Heavenly Father might say, “Oh, I’d love to make that exact one all over again! He’ll even remember you.”
What does purgatory mean?
Purgatory refers to a place in Catholic doctrine between heaven and hell. According to Roman Catholic teaching, after a person dies, the truly bad people and those who have committed certain kinds of sins will go directly to hell, and some Christians because of their truly saintly lives on earth will go directly to heaven, but most Christians will end up in a middle place called purgatory. It’s called that because it is the place where remaining sinfulness gets “purged” from our souls. The theory is that God can only let perfect people into heaven, and that Jesus’ death only covers most of your sins, so that when you die, there will still be more sins to get rid of, and that will happen in the process of purgatory.
Here is an article from the Catholic perspective attempting to give historical and biblical context for the concept of purgatory.
Personally, I don’t believe in purgatory simply because the New Testament doesn’t teach it. As I said on Sunday, the only bits of evidence the New Testament really gives us about the human soul after death is that immediately after death, some souls go to a place Jesus called Hades while others go to the place Jesus calls Paradise. No real information is given about either place except that Hades is unpleasant and Paradise is pleasant. However, Jesus also speaks of a future final judgment that will take place and will involve every human soul. In that final judgment, those who know Jesus and are covered by his forgiveness will enter into “eternal life” and the rest will be cast into the “lake of fire” also sometimes called “outer darkness.” In other words, there are only ever two places mentioned. Before the final judgment, disembodied souls go to Paradise or Hades. After the final judgment, resurrected souls go to eternal life or the outer darkness.
What does it mean “to bind and loose”?
We sang a song on Sunday about binding and loosing, and a few weeks ago, I explained what it meant, but this question came up again on Sunday, and it’s controversial enough that I wanted to address it briefly again.
“Binding” and “loosing” are frequently used by Christians to pretend that we have the authority to “bind” up evil forces in the world and “loose” godly forces in the world. Frequently, these words get applied to angels and demons and sicknesses and such. People will declare that they are “binding” the spirit of something or other and “loosing” or “releasing” the power of God over a person.
Sadly, that application is based entirely and only on the words “bind” and “loose” as interpreted out of context by modern Christians.
In their original context, their meaning is far more clear. Jesus said this to Peter:
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” — Matthew 16:18-19 NIV
That’s all well and good, but our problem in understanding this passage comes from ending it at verse 19. If we kept reading, we’d eventually get to chapter 18 and read this:
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:15-22 NIV
In this passage, Jesus repeats the same idea about binding and loosing, but in this passage, we get a context, and the context is all about what it takes to forgive and restore a person to fellowship with the church. Furthermore, the words used here “bind” and “loose” could just as easily be translated “hold onto” and “release” or even “retain” or “forgive.” Jesus’ point in context is that Christians have the power of forgiveness in their grasp and their forgiveness on earth relates to the forgiveness in heaven. He said something similar in the Lord’s Prayer when he tied our willingness to forgive others to God’s willingness to forgive us.
The promise isn’t that we have the ability to demand things of the spiritual world. The promise is that forgiveness on earth truly is a spiritual action.
Truly, what does it take to go to heaven?
Our question is what it takes to go to heaven because we are C– people. We want to know the minimum requirement for “getting in.” We want to know it so that we can be confident about ourselves and so that we can rest assured about people we love, and so that we can more accurately try to convince others of it.
However, that C– kind of thinking, that thinking aimed at just doing the bare minimum to pass the test is exactly the kind of legalistic thinking Jesus repeatedly accuses the Pharisees of having. The Pharisees were all about trying to determine which laws really needed to be kept so that God would be happy with them, and Jesus calls them blind guides, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, and more.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:20 NIV
Entering the kingdom of heaven has nothing to do with checking off a box, and it has everything to do with something far more personal.
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. — John 17:1-3 NIV
… and this …
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. — 1 John 3:19-23 NIV
… and this …
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. — Romans 3:23-24 NIV
… and this …
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. — Romans 10:9-10 NIV
The New Testament is clear that salvation happens when a person responds to the message of Jesus with faith, trusting him completely for the forgiveness of their sins, and then walks with him for the rest of their life living in love and sharing that love with others. That person is guaranteed an eternal home; however, scripture gives no promises regarding the person who doesn’t do those things. What about a person who lives like Jesus and asks the God they understand for forgiveness but has never heard the name of Jesus or the message of the cross? The Bible doesn’t say. What about the person who prays the prayer, is faithful for a while and then falls away? The Bible doesn’t give a definitive answer. There are many questions, but if you want to be comforted, if you want assurance of the condition of your own soul, go back to the verse I quoted before:
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence… we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. — 1 John 3:19-23 NIV
Love people. Trust Jesus.
What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to be upon someone?
Some churches think that the Holy Spirit’s presence in a person’s life comes with very specific “signs.” For example, churches that embrace the word “pentecostal” to refer to themselves believe that all believers will eventually have an experience of being “baptized” by the Holy Spirit and receiving the gift of speaking in tongues (speaking in tongues usually refers to the practice of a person speaking gibberish words in a moment of spiritual euphoria). To be sure, there are a few times in the Bible when the arrival of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is accompanied by this particular manifestation, but it is not always that way. In the book of Acts alone, there are at least three different ways the Holy Spirit comes on people and not all of them involve speaking in tongues.
As for me, I’m entirely convinced that the best way to understand the Holy Spirit is to let the Bible speak for itself.
Who gets the Holy Spirit? Every believer at the moment they enter the family (Acts 2:38-39), whether they feel the Holy Spirit or not, the promise of his presence is there.
What does the Holy Spirit do in a believer? Enlightens the word of God to us (John 14:26), comforts us (John 14:16-18), and empowers us for ministry (Mark 13:11, 1 Corinthians 12:7).
What about speaking in tongues? What about other “sign” gifts? What about being “slain in the Spirit”? The New Testament doesn’t tell us how or why or when the Spirit does what the Spirit does other than what I said before. If the Holy Spirit wants to give someone the gift of tongues, he will. If he wants to do some other sign, he will. If he wants to put someone into a visionary trance, he will. He is the Spirit of God and has all the power and freedom of God. The problem always comes when we expect him to act according to our will and not his own.
One more thing. The presence of the Spirit in a person’s life was different before Jesus. For example, the Spirit came upon Saul to empower him to be the king, but then the Spirit left him when Saul was disobedient. Then the Spirit came on David, and that’s why in Psalm 51, David prays for God to not take his Spirit away from him. For the people back then, the Spirit would reside with a person so long as that person had God’s favor. In our day, God grants his Spirit to everyone who puts their faith in Jesus.
For the following questions, I’ve written separate articles on the topic.
The world today is so broken and events are aligning to set the stage for fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The next event is the rapture why are so many churches not responding with urgency to reach the lost?
Who/what is the antichrist?
Does LCC believe Hell is a literal place and is there a spirit of urgency to tell His truth to those that are lost?
For the following questions, I’m just sharing the YouTube clips, ’cause I think my answer on Sunday was pretty good.
The Bible talks about both predestination and free will but those two are paradoxical in a way. Do you think that people really have free will in relation to salvation or have God’s people been chosen and set in stone since the beginning?
Is being angry with God a sin? What about being angry yet humble?