In this session we are going to explore some weighty questions: How do we enter the kingdom of heaven on earth and what happens to those who refuse God’s gracious gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ?
In the last chapter we looked at Jesus’ words of reassurance to the repentant thief on the cross. But this episode also tells us something about how we enter the kingdom of heaven.
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Jesus: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ but the other criminal rebuked him, ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
On pp149-151 I explore how the cross was not just an earthly event but also an event that happened in “the heavenly dimension of eternity.”
In his parables, Jesus often uses the image of a party or wedding feast to describe the kingdom of heaven. (See for example Matthew 8:11, Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 12:37)
Jesus taught that not everyone will accept God’s gracious invitation.
Watch this video in which Homer Simpson goes to hell.
On pp 154-7 I make the case that some people will be excluded from the new creation because of ‘the reality of justice’ and ‘the necessity of human freedom’.
In the section titled, ‘A visit to Pointland’ (pp.157-8), I explore how the movement towards hell involves a reduction of dimensions, so that things and people become less than they were created to be.
C.S. Lewis writes in ‘The Weight of Glory’ that ‘All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations’… to either heaven or to hell.
God’s offer of forgiveness is wide and deep, so that even a genocidal murderer like Pol Pot could go be a part of the new creation if he looked to God for mercy.
Grieve together over places in your life where the glory of what God has created is diminished and reduced.
Ask God to help you become a person who through your love directs others towards the new creation.