Fr. Andrew’s Corner
By Fr. Andrew Harrison
The theme of this issue of the Evangelist is about Heaven. If you accept the Orthodox Christian belief that life continues after death then this is a very important subject. While waiting in a Doctor’s office I found a pamphlet left there by someone. The subject of the pamphlet was about accepting Jesus Christ. It is assumed the reader believed in life after death and stated the requirement to take Jesus as savior. It was quite blunt in stating, “if you have not taken Jesus as savior you are going to Hell.” According to the Bible, Hell is a very unpleasant place. It is described as a place of unquenchable fire Matt 3:12, of memory and remorse Mark 9:43, of thirst Luke 16:19, of misery and pain Luke 16:24, frustration and anger, Rev. 14:10, separation Matt.13:42, divine wrath Rev.2:11, originally prepared for Satan and his angels Matt 25:46, created for all eternity. Jude 7 This is not a place you want to go even if you doubt that life continues after death. There is the so called sociological theory of religious belief: if you believe in God and there is a God you are OK, if you believe in God and there is no God it doesn’t matter, but if you do not believe in God and there is a God you are in trouble. That is a two out of three bet. The fear of Hell is the motivating factor of the pamphlet to stimulate thinking about where you will spend eternity.
Heaven is a very attractive place, according to the Bible. It is being prepared by Christ himself. John 14:3 It is only for those who have been born again. John 3:3 It is described as a glorious city, likened to pure gold and clear glass. The name of this city is the New Jerusalem. It is in the shape of a cube, with the length, width, and height being equal. Its size is 12,000 furlongs, roughly 1,400 miles long, wide, and high. The city rests upon 12 layers of foundational stones, with each layer being inlaid with a different precious gem. Each foundation has one of the names of the 12 apostles on it. The wall around the city is made of pure jasper. The height of the wall is approximately 216 feet. The wall has 12 gates, three on each of the four sides. Each gate is made of solid pearl. Each gate has on it the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. An angel stands guard at each gate. The gates will never be shut. Rev.21: 2-25 The River of Life is there, to insure everlasting life. The Tree of Life is there to insure abundant life. Rev. 2:7 It will bear its fruit each month. The throne of God will occupy the central palace. Rev.22:1-2 It is likened to wheels of burning fire with an emerald rainbow canopy. It is surrounded by 24 small thrones. Near it stands the brazen laver, described as “a sea of glass, like crystal.” Rev. 4:4-6 Beside the throne are four special angels who worship God continually. Rev. 4:8 The golden altar is there, with bowls of incense. Rev. 5:8 The menorah, or seven-branched lampstand fixture, is there. Rev. 1:12 The holy Ark of God may be there. Rev. 11:19 The main street of the city is composed of transparent gold. Rev. 21:21 The city will shine with and be enlightened by God’s glory. John 17:24 It is a place of holiness. Rev. 21:27 It is a place of beauty. Ps. 50:2 It is a place of unity. Eph. 1:10 It is a place of perfection. 1 Cor. 13:10 It is a place of joy. Ps. 16:11 It is a place for all eternity. John 3:15 There may be a tabernacle. Rev. 15:5 There will be no temple. Rev. 21:22 There will be no sea. Rev. 21:1 There will be no tears. Rev. 7:17. There will be no sickness. Rev. 22:2 There will be no pain. Rev. 21:4 There will be no death. Isa. 25:8 There will be no more thirst or hunger. Rev. 7:16 There will be no more sin. Rev. 21:27 There will be no more judgment upon sin. Rev. 22:3 There will be no need for the sun or moon. Rev. 21:23 There will be no night. Rev. 21:25 The city will be the Bridegroom’s gift to the bride, Christ’s Church. Rev. 21:2 It will be shared by saved Israel. Heb. 11:10 It will be shared by the holy angels. Dan. 7:10 The Father will be there Rev. 4:2-3 The Son will be there Rev. 5:6. The Holy Spirit will be there. Rev. 14:13
If you ask me, a pretty neat place. Although St. Paul said he would gladly give up his place in heaven if the Jews would accept Christ. This reveals his great love for his own people.
The pamphlet states that once you have accepted Christ as savior you know you are saved by being transformed. This means your life is different from the way it was before you accepted Christ. I think there is something to this. In the Orthodox baptismal service the Bible is quoted as “having put on Christ”. If we have, ”put on Christ” then we are different. We have bodies destined for heaven. The Bible describes what this heavenly body will be like. It will be a recognizable body. 1 Cor. 13:2 It will be a body like Christ’s body. 1 John 3:2 It will be a body that will permit eating. Luke 24:41-43 It will be a body in which the spirit predominates. 1 Cor. 15:44, 49 It will be a body unlimited by time, gravity, or space. Luke 24:31 It will be an eternal body. 2 Cor. 5:1 It will be a glorious body. Rom.18:8
The pamphlet does not say much about how you accept Christ. It just says to do it and then go to a church especially the one with the address listed on the pamphlet. From the Orthodox Church perspective it would mean to be baptized. To be born again or “from above” which is the correct Greek, English translation. The process of accepting Christ and putting on Christ is not as simple as one would think after reading the pamphlet. Certainly one’s life must be transformed but transformation the “putting on of Christ” is a process which begins with baptism and is fulfilled in Heaven. This process is called Theosis. It is to become Christ- like. Since our bodies are unglorified we are still influenced by evil. The process of Theosis can be thwarted so we are in need of constant help. This is where the church comes in. The church was established by Christ to offer us tools to use. They are the sacraments or Holy Mysteries, which is the power of the Holy Spirit, corporate prayer, education, and opportunities for service. These activities, according to the bible, are exactly what we expect to be doing in heaven: Singing as in the Divine Liturgy. Isa. 44:23; Heb. 2:12; Rev. 14:3; 15:3, Learning 1 Cor. 13:9, 10, and Serving Rev. 7:15; 22:3
The questions asked in the pamphlet are valid. Where are you going? Have you accepted Christ? Is your life being transformed? Where will you spend eternity?
Bible verses quoted are from Willmington, H. (1987). Willmington's book of Bible lists (133). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale.