Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Everybody talkin' 'bout heaven ain't goin' there

A surprising fact is that most people believe they are good enough to go to heaven. Why? Because they feel that they are a “good person.” Are there “good people” who think they are going to heaven but in reality will not be going? --- Jack Wellman

Just about everybody has an opinion about heaven --- some believe, some don't believe and some don't have a clue. Yet, heaven is widely thought of as the place most people want to go when they die even though they may have no idea what it takes to get in.

So often when a loved one dies, we like to assume that he or she is up in heaven looking down on us. Mostly, we tell ourselves this because it helps ease the pain of loss and keeps our dearly departed one close. Another common belief is that heaven is a place where good people go after they depart this earth. Who doesn't think of him or herself as a good person? But is being a good person good enough to get you into heaven? The fact is everybody talkin' 'bout heaven ain't goin' there

With so many misconceptions out there about heaven, I took to the streets to find out what the average person knows or believes. For this survey, I asked Millennials since they are the next generation to lead America into the future. How Millennials feel about God and religion will have a definite an impact on the kind of society they create. I conducted the survey at a local shopping mall and commuter train station. My sample consisted of randomly chosen males and females of different ethnicities between the ages of 18-34.

Here's what they had to say in response to questions about heaven:
1.) Do you believe in heaven?
  • 64% yes
  • 36 % no
2.) What do you know about heaven?
Some of the more interesting responses:
  • I know it's a great place and I want to go there. (Age 24)
  • I do believe there is something out there. I don't really believe in heaven or hell. (Age 18)
  • It's a place people will go if they do something good with their life and they'll be reunited with loved ones (Age 25)
  • It's a better place and hopefully, one day I [will] see my family, the ones who've passed away. (Age 29)
  • I don't think much about heaven or know much. (Age 23)
  • It's the place where your soul hopefully goes if you've been on good behavior. (Age 27)
  • I heard that God died for our sins and once we die we live in eternal peace. (Age 20)
  • Not like a Christian heaven, but I believe that after you die you don't have to put up with worldly woes. (Age 25)
  • I was raised as Christian so I know about heaven as much as the Bible says and as much as Evangelical Christians will tell you. I am very atheistic at this point. (Age 27)
  • I know absolutely nothing except what's recorded in the Bible. (Age 34)
3.) Do you expect to go to heaven when you die? If yes, why? If no, why?
  • 64% yes*
  • 21 % no
  • 15% not sure
*Among the reasons given, "because I'm a good person" topped the list; also mentioned was "belief in God or Jesus."
Do you currently attend a place of worship like a church, synagogue, mosque or temple?
  • 43 % yes
  • 57% no*
*Among the "no" responses, "used to attend church" and "worship at home" were among the reasons given.

I wasn't surprised by the mixed responses I got from Millennials on heaven. However, it should be noted that those who demonstrated any spiritual or biblical understanding of heaven were in the minority. You can draw your own conclusions, as to what this means, especially if you're the parent of a Millennial or a member of the clergy. At the very least, it probably suggests that, as parents and as clergy, we haven't done a good enough job preparing the Millennial generation in this area. While Millennials may not be focused much on heaven right now, they still need to know what's ahead for them and what the options are.

The fact is Millennials are at greater risk of dying young from gun violence, motor vehicle accidents, drugs and suicide than any previous generation in America. Millennials have already experienced the pain of death of their peers and acquaintances, and aren't as reluctant to talk about dying or life after death as you might think. When Millennials write "R.I.P." on the makeshift memorials of their friends, we need to come alongside them to help them understand what it really means. So that when it's their turn to stare down death, they'll have the peace in their heart that's beyond comprehension.

As for the question, "Do you expect to go to heaven?" A majority answered "yes" and gave this reason: "because I'm a good person" or "because I believe I'm a good person." I thought the comment by a 27 year old woman was the most revealing. Although she does not believe in heaven, she feels that she couldn't meet all the "stipulations" required to get in, anyway. Good people do go to heaven but not just because they're good. Likewise, bad people can also go to heaven, in spite of having been bad. Heaven isn't a place for only good people.

If you want the truth, nobody gets into heaven on his or her own merit. You couldn't possibly do enough good deeds in a lifetime to earn a place in heaven. Keeping all Ten Commandments or any other form of human effort on your part won't earn you a place in heaven. The way to heaven begins with seeing yourself as God sees you --- a sinner in need of God's forgiveness:
We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we display our righteous deeds,
they are nothing but filthy rags. 
Isaiah 64:6
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23
Heaven is a level playing field, meaning anyone who wants in can get in. The only stipulation, the only requirement is that you accept God's invitation. It's a choice that only you can make. Millennials, please hear this. After you're dead, the opportunity to choose where you'll spend eternity is loss, unless that choice is made before you die. This short video explains everything you need to know to make it into heaven. Need help making a decision? Someone is waiting at to pray with you.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind but now I see.
---From the hymn, Amazing Grace by John Newton

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