The priest was preparing a man for his long day's journey into night. Whispering firmly, the priest said, "Denounce the Devil! Let him know how little you think of his evil!"
The dying man said nothing. The priest repeated his order. Still the dying man said nothing.
The priest asked, "Why do you refuse to denounce the Devil and his evil?"
The dying man said, "Until I know where I'm heading, I don't think I ought to aggravate anybody!"
(From http://www.christian-jokes.net/Jokes/Heaven-and-Hell-Jokes/173-Need-to-be-sure.aspx)You will no doubt have read by now a lot of questionable information on this topic, how to get to Heaven; for example, you may have read somewhere that by following certain (magic) rituals and ceremonies one can obtain God's blessing, and that without them one is doomed.
Heaven not a place
Heaven, rightly understood, is not a geological spot.
What it takes to go to "Heaven," however, is a clear conscience, to know in your heart that you have done the right things before God -- and ideally that you have found a way to remedy some of the wrong things you have done. The Bible calls this "eschewing evil" and embracing a wholesome life.
Sure, we have all made a mess of things at time; perhaps we have done things we are not proud of. Every last one of us must trust that the grace of God, his forgiveness and reconciliation, covers the rest. The Spirit of holiness, of honesty and truth that we seek and that we embrace is sometimes called the Spirit of Christ or the Spirit of God.
Perhaps this is why some atheists can enjoy heaven while certain Christians cannot. One cannot truly enjoy Heaven while lying to oneself, for example, because lies, even religious lies, are a false platform that will eventually let us down. The person who is in denial is not a dwelling in "Heaven" because he must live with a degree of inner moral conflict, even if that conflict is suppressed.
"But, what about repentance?" Someone was bound to ask. I think that most people have a strange idea of repentance. Repentance for me is so simple, so obvious. Repentance simply means that you stop doing things that do not work for you! Beating your head against the wall hurts, so stop doing it. Lying and cheating and sneaking around with your neighbor's wife is hurtful, so do something else now. If you keep doing the wrong things long enough you will end up in jail, or in the hospital, or in the mortuary. Or in a bad relationship. Stuff catches up with us.
One of the beauties of Christianity is that it purges one's conscience,or as the Bible, puts it, the precious blood of Christ "... purifies our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God."
The corresponding danger is that our faith may result in ugliness if our religion causes us to become mean spirited, arrogant and ignorant.
In "Heaven" there is nothing that will hurt or kill or steal or destroy. In speaking of Heaven, we are not talking about a physical "place" or geographical location, but a condition, a state of being. "Heaven" is a word-picture that points to something else: An ideal condition or state of being. It is an ideal "place" of peace and rest and, perhaps, of joyful activity. Heaven is the promised land. It is when and where we attain that for which we were created. It is when and where we find our personal promises of God fulfilled. To use an old-time preaching phrase, it is when you are in the "perfect will of God" and at peace with yourself and with your creator.
Heaven is very personal: To borrow a metaphor from Revelation, entry to "Heaven" occurs when one receives a stone with a name on it that no one else can read and understand; only the person who receives it can read and understand it. All of the "hardware" of the spiritual city described in Revelation is metaphor. The twelve gates, for example, are symbolic. The city is coming down out of heaven, rather than us going up to that city. And so on and so forth.
Mean gods, Tough God
Contrary to many people's beliefs, God is not mean and heavy-handed -- those are the characteristics of the gods -- but neither is he soft. If I hit myself in the head with a hammer I will get a headache. This is a spiritual lesson that many of us have yet to learn!
But back to answering your question: "What must one do to go to Heaven?" One must live by his conscience, which is as close a thing to the voice of God as we can experience in this life. Some people's consciences will lead them wrongly of course; no doubt that's where grace comes in. The great hope of transformation is that some day we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. So all of our wrong conceptions, our selfishness and ego and pride will fade away and we will be stripped of our prejudices and fears and divisions and become one with him, just as he prayed to the father.
God is international, by the way. Contrary to what many fundamentalists will tell you, there is no language or tongue or land where he does not speak. The listeners, including Christian listeners, may indeed misunderstand what he is "saying," however, and there are no inerrant religious books.
Love and grace cover a multitude of sins, however. According to one Christian perspective, God's plan is to reconcile the world, including all unbelievers, to himself. But that may not mean reconciling them to outdated worldviews and antiquated notions about infallible books. Everything human fails at some point to reveal the glorious truth that is God.
To those who are grieving over the death of a loved one who was "not a Christian," I must say that I am so sorry to hear of this and that your grief must be enormous. You must keep in mind that, in the Christian view, it is not possible for God to love that person less than you do. I hope that helps.
Before you leave:
Please comment in the comment box. Your input is needed!
Please recommend this article on your favorite social site or forward the link to a friend.
Please see my other blog at http://shadowsofturning.blogspot.com.
Thank you and God bless.
End note/explanation: I must apologize that his post is not, strictly speaking, exegesis. Rather it is a condensation of years of exegesis mixed with tempering life-experience. I just did not have an exactly correct category and did not want to start a new blog for his one article. I hope that any readers will understand. Thank you for reading.
P.S. Did you know that Frank Ellsworth Lockwood is also the author of the novel, "Captains All"? If you like, you can pre-view or purchase the book here: