If God is so gracious, and if He’s willing to forgive all of our sins through Christ’s atonement, then why bother to obey Him at all after salvation? In fact, why rush into salvation? Why not just do what we want to do and then sob all over Jesus in our dying moment and get our free ticket out of Hell? Or, why not get saved now, then ignore God for the rest of our lives and reconnect with Him on the other side? After all, in Heaven, the rebels will get the same prize as the obedient, right? Since Jesus has atoned for ALL of our sins, it’s all good, right? If God looks at us and sees the righteousness of Christ, then we might as well take advantage of His happy glasses and wallow in our lusts until the day we die. When we get to Heaven, we can continue to live for ourselves because we’re the ones God made Heaven for, right? Isn’t the whole point of Heaven to make humans feel like they’re in a blissful paradise?
These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves when we are looking for a way to abuse the grace that God has given us. Of course the fact that we even dare to think along such lines demonstrates how poorly we understand who God is and how He operates. God isn’t the bumbling fool we make Him out to be when we sit around strategizing how we can take advantage of His graciousness. God is an all knowing Being whose eyes drill down into the very cores of our beings and sees all of our rotten motivations with perfect clarity. God has no intention of overlooking the fact that you spent your life willfully defying Him because you thought that His atonement for your sins was equivalent to Him no longer caring about your response to Him. This is the first major mistake that rebellious souls make: they read way too much into the atonement of Christ. They think the fact that God decides not to torture them forever means He actually likes them, that He is somehow dependent on them, and that some part of Him needs to see them happy in eternity. What a crock.
If you’re a Christian who is delighting in spitting in God’s face, He doesn’t like you, nor does He enjoy your company at the present time. God is not some dolt who can’t tell the difference between those who sincerely care about Him and those who don’t. When we talk about God’s love for rebellious souls, we’re talking about a gracious decision on His part to not drop kick such souls into the depths of Hell. This is of course what they deserve to have happen to them, but God delights in showing off how good He is by being merciful towards those who do not deserve mercy. No human deserves the mercy of God—we have only His generosity to thank for our salvation. But those of us who take such a glorious gift and then seek out ways to defy God on earth, well, then we enter into the fascinating world of God’s revenge.
God delights in avenging Himself on those who get off on defying Him, and He has many ways of getting back at you in eternity for the fact that you are willfully squandering your life on earth. Now let’s be clear: we’re talking about ongoing, willful defiance here. We’re not talking about souls who have not yet received illumination from the Holy Spirit, and we’re not talking about souls who sincerely care about God yet they sometimes wander off course. We’re talking about Christians who legitimately submitted to Jesus as their God and Savior. We’re not talking about souls who just flung off some meaningless lip service. It is quite possible to start off on the right track with God, but then willfully choose to turn off that track prodigal son style and never return. Such souls WILL end up in Heaven. Now many Christians who are stuck in elder brother syndrome will adamantly deny this—they’ll insist that to die in a state of willful rebellion is guaranteed to land one in Hell. Well, no, it isn’t. God has many ways of glorifying Himself, and there is a whole lot He isn’t telling us about Heaven and Hell. His eternal system of justice is not as simple as it sounds. It’s not a case of either writhing in Hell or skipping about in total bliss in Heaven. Both of these dimensions have levels to them—they are not just one big equalizing stewpot. Jesus makes this clear in the Bible, as He refers to some rebels suffering a worse fate in Hell than others who landed in Hell earlier. In the same way, He describes some believers having greater rewards and higher ranks than other believers in Heaven. All of this means that when you set out to try and abuse the grace of God, you might as well take out a gun and shoot your own foot, because you are just setting yourself up for some major consequences in eternity. Sound unnerving? That’s because it is. God is intentionally keeping you oblivious to the disciplines He is storing up for you on the other side, but they are as real as you are. God will not be mocked by His enemies or His kids without getting recompensed. We can either sincerely repent of our rebellion here and now, or we can reap eternal consequences for our rebellion on the other side. Heaven is NOT the equalizing place that Christians like to pretend it is.
Everything that God says is far more important than we think. How fooled we are by the Holy Spirit’s incredible self-restraint and quiet Voice. He could shout at us to underscore the importance of His words, but He doesn’t. Instead, He whispers. God refuses to act like a human just to suit our preferences. God is not a human, and He demands that we adjust to Him. He considers the fact that HE is speaking to be enough evidence that His message is of critical importance. But then He whispers His truths to our souls—forcing us to have to put some effort into listening if we are going to hear what He is saying.
Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to do wrong than right in this world? In so many areas, sinning feels far more natural and enjoyable than obeying God. It is like we’ve all been placed on a river with a current that is sweeping us downstream. God is standing upstream, calling out for us to come to Him. To honor Him, we must be willing to fight against constant opposition. It would be so much easier to just relax and let the river carry us along. God has made obeying Him the harder choice down here because this world is one big testing ground. You are here to decide what you want to do with that free will that God gave you—and He doesn’t give you very long to make your decision. Compared to eternity, your time in this world is just a brief flash of lightning, yet it is in these few seconds that we make decisions which impact our eternal futures with God.
Imagine yourself standing in front of a row of five doors. Each door opens to a corridor that leads to a very different kind of eternal experience. Some experiences are remarkably better than the others. The difference between the best and worst experiences are vast. The degree to which you choose to submit yourself to God on this earth determines which of these doors you will go through. They are unmarked, so you have no idea which one leads to the best experience. But once you open any of the doors, you will be sucked through it by a powerful force and you’ll be forever stuck in that world. God refuses to give you details about any of the worlds—He just warns you that total submission to Him is the only way you will experience the best option. He also warns you that if you refuse to submit to Him, you will reap serious consequences for your rebellion. Yes, you have the atonement of Christ—but that just gives you access to these doors. If you didn’t have Christ, you’d be thrown into Hell instead. Christ gets you into Heaven, but saying, “I’m going to Heaven” is like saying, “I live on planet earth”—it is a very general comment that fails to give us any understanding of what your actual experience is like. There are places on earth which none of us would enjoy living in. There are certain conveniences on earth which can make life extremely pleasant. To simply say “I live on planet earth” doesn’t tell us if you are dying of thirst in some baking desert or if you’re relaxing in a beach hammock. It doesn’t tell us if you’re rich or poor, happy or sad.
Now Heaven is not a physical planet like earth is. Heaven is a spiritual dimension created for spiritual beings. When you die, you will leave behind your physical earthsuit and start a completely new chapter of existing. What exactly will your experience of Heaven be like? Your limited brain can’t even begin to fathom the answer to that question. All you’ve ever known is earth, and this is why God describes Heaven to you in earthly terms. But we would be fools to take God’s descriptions of Heaven literally. Heaven is going to be something totally new, totally foreign, and God says it will be good. But “good” is a very relative term. Compare colors to sounds—which one is better? How can you do a fair comparison of two things which are so completely different?
Why does God go on so much about Heaven being good? Because He wants those who obey Him to be assured that He will be richly rewarding their desire for Him. No one who sincerely seeks God on earth is going to be disappointed in Heaven. On the contrary, such souls will find themselves blown away by the glorious treasures God has waiting for them. God loves to reward obedience, but He does not overlook willful defiance. It is your core attitude towards God and your level of submission to Him in this world that is going to determine what kind of experience He gives you on the other side. He says that we will not all be equal in Heaven. He says that those who sought to please Him on earth will be treated quite differently than those who didn’t care about pleasing Him. So then, is it wise to treat the grace of God like some free ticket to rebel against Him? No, it is utterly foolish. When you persist in a life of defiance towards God, you are throwing out treasures which have not even had their value assessed yet. When you reach eternity, you are suddenly going to find yourself in a place where those treasures are all you will care about—things like God’s favor and approval. How sad would it be to get there only to find God brushing you off into a group of those who greatly displeased Him on earth? This is a very real thing. Jesus described pictures of such demotion happening in the Gospels.
When you think you can pull one over on the Almighty God, you are thinking like a complete fool. God sees through every insincere prayer, and every phony act of repentance. Many people in this world are calling themselves Christians and telling themselves that they have sufficiently submitted to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But Jesus has a very different opinion of their submission, and in the end, it is His judgment that will control their eternal experiences. There is only one way to end up on God’s best side in eternity, and that is by fully submitting to Him on earth. But don’t even bother saying prayers that you don’t really mean. Sincerity is all that will count in eternity. Those who sincerely want to be pleasing in God’s sight will not fail to be so. Those who try to treat His amazing grace like a license to sin on earth will reap horrific consequences on the other side. It isn’t until you get there that you’ll realize what you might have had—and by then, it will be too late. When God speaks, we need to listen.
MORE ABOUT SUBMISSION:
Understanding Jesus: “Take My yoke upon you…”
MORE ABOUT BIBLICAL DESCRIPTIONS OF HEAVEN:
Your New Name in Heaven