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How do we come into a relationship with God? What does that mean, and how does one go about that? How does somebody get to heaven?

Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby Revolution » Sun Aug 27, 2017 5:03 pm

So I've heard from a few people that some sects of Christianity believe that all that is required to enter heaven is to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior before you pass away. Does that mean that no matter how terrible you were in life, that if you accept Jesus before you die (and ask forgiveness for your sins) you will be let into heaven? If theoretically, Hitler were to have accepted Jesus and repented to God through prayer, does that mean he could be in Heaven right now?

Also, I in no way meant to disrespect anyone by using Hitler as an example. I just chose him because he's pretty much universally considered to be one of the worst people ever. This question however, seems applicable to pretty much any terrible, evil, person throughout history.
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Re: Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Aug 27, 2017 5:10 pm

Could Hitler be in heaven? No, he couldn't. Hitler was an atheist who never turned to Christ. he committed atrocities on this earth, and there's no record of him every being repentant for them.

Nor is it true that all one has to do is accept Jesus as Lord and savior. What is implicit in that scene is true confession and repentance for sins committed, and a bona fide change of life.

On two separate occasions Jesus was asked "What must I do to [be saved][enter the kingdom of God][go to heaven]. We are usually told that the only thing required is to believe that Jesus' blood saves us. Nothing more. Jesus himself had a very different answer to the question of salvation.

He offered a four-fold answer:

1. Love God with all that you are

2. Love your neighbor

3. Do God’s will by obeying his moral commands

4. Be willing, if he asks, to drop everything and leave it behind to follow him

Jesus never taught easy-believism. Yes, people are to believe, but he called people to abandon their own agenda and trust him radically. Radical trust calls for both belief and action.

Yes—believe in Jesus: that’s the first step. And on one's death bed, if that's all of life that is left, then that's all there is. But for the rest of us, yes, invite Jesus into your heart as your personal savior. Then, empowered by God's grace, embark on the journey of discipleship in which you seek to love God with every fiber of your being, to love your neighbor as yourself, to live out God's moral will, and to follow Jesus where he leads you, whatever the cost.

My third point is that the Bible clearly teaches that God is a God of forgiveness for sin. God is clear that those who turn to him in sincere repentance, because they want to enter into a love relationship, can and will be forgiven, no matter what they have done.

God is also clear that even though our status of salvation has nothing to do with works, our level of rewards or punishments in heaven or hell have everything to do with it. People will be treated according to what they did while they were alive. So even if Hitler did somehow repent just before he suicided, and does get to heaven, his experience there will be very different from most people's experiences there. He will still be accountable for what he did.
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Re: Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby SES » Mon Aug 28, 2017 3:43 pm

> He will still be accountable for what he did.

In what way?
SES
 

Re: Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:06 pm

According to the teachings of Jesus, there are degrees of reward in heaven (not levels of heaven).

Mt. 16.27 – rewarded according to deeds
Lk. 19.11-19 – rewarded with different amounts

Also, 2 Corinthians 5.10 tells us "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

The rewards will fit what the person did in this life. (Please don't misunderstand me to be saying that we go to heaven if we are good and to hell if we are bad. That's not at all how it works.) The kind of experience we will have in heaven will be fair considering how a person lived.

Revelation 20.12-13 say the same thing: "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done."

Salvation isn't based on works, but judgment is (if you want more verses, you can look at Mt. 25.41ff; Rom. 2.6; 2 Cor. 5.10; Heb. 4.12-13, and more).

What does this look like in real life? (I gather you're asking, "How can heaven be different for different people?"). For one, the Luke 19.11-19 alludes to different responsibilities. Assuming that the different punishments in hell are differing levels of alienation and suffering, the different rewards in heaven could pertain to closeness in relationships and joy.

While it is not adequately explained to us, what we do know is that justice will be served. Those who deserve more will get more, and those who deserve less will get less. Just as the punishment will fit the crime in hell, so also the reward in heaven will fit one's works on earth. Each person will receive what is commensurate with how he or she lived.
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Re: Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby Allissa » Tue Aug 29, 2017 2:06 pm

Hi, I read your response to the question of Hitler's possible salvation, and I'm wondering if you'd be willing to talk more about this. I would have agreed with everything you said until a few months ago, and now I'm trying to figure out what I believe.

Here is the part I'm referring to: "What is implicit in that scene is true confession and repentance for sins committed, and a bona fide change of life. On two separate occasions Jesus was asked "What must I do to [be saved][enter the kingdom of God][go to heaven]. We are usually told that the only thing required is to believe that Jesus' blood saves us. Nothing more. Jesus himself had a very different answer to the question of salvation. He offered a four-fold answer:

1. Love God with all that you are
2. Love your neighbor
3. Do God’s will by obeying his moral commands
4. Be willing, if he asks, to drop everything and leave it behind to follow him

Jesus never taught easy-believism. Yes, people are to believe, but he called people to abandon their own agenda and trust him radically. Radical trust calls for both belief and action. Yes—believe in Jesus: that’s the first step. And on one's death bed, if that's all of life that is left, then that's all there is. But for the rest of us, yes, invite Jesus into your heart as your personal savior. Then, empowered by God's grace, embark on the journey of discipleship in which you seek to love God with every fiber of your being, to love your neighbor as yourself, to live out God's moral will, and to follow Jesus where he leads you, whatever the cost."

So, hypothetically, if the thief on the cross were taken down, received medical attention, recovered and lived several more years, he could have proved his faith false and gone to hell? Do those who begin their faith on their deathbed have fewer requirements than those who live longer? Or are you simply saying those who live longer have time to give evidence of their false or true faith (whereas those on their deathbed may also have false or true faith but have not opportunity to give evidence)?
Allissa
 

Re: Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Aug 29, 2017 2:50 pm

I'd be glad to talk about it.

I guess the first part of the conversation is about the thief on the cross (Lk. 23.43). It's a little cloudy as to what's going on here. The man asks, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom," which is not much of a statement of repentance, but is at least a statement of respect and probably even of faith (acknowledging Jesus as having a kingdom and having authority in it). Jesus' response is consistent with his teaching in the rest of Luke: , anyone may come to Jesus at any time and He will receive them if their heart is in the right place. Even this man gets affirmed. Again we sense the irony: the man seems in no position to ask, and it appears as if Jesus is in no position to grant, but both are untrue: The man is in the perfect position to ask (hopeless), and Jesus is in the perfect position to grant it (dying for the sins of the world).

All that is a little superfluous to your real question, though, which is presumably about the nature of faith and the transition to heaven.

> So, hypothetically, if the thief on the cross were taken down, received medical attention, recovered and lived several more years, he could have proved his faith false and gone to hell?

The possibilities of falling away is a tricky one in the Bible. I happen to believe in eternal security: those who are truly saved will indeed make it to heaven because God will not let anyone take them out of his hand (Jn. 10.29). On the other hand, what of those who make a profession of faith but don't hang on to it? If they're just wandering spiritually astray, I believe God will some time in their life bring them back to relationship, and all will be fine. But others never come back, so we question whether they were ever really Christians to begin with. These calls are too tricky for us because we can never see the heart.

Since Jesus seemed to be promising the thief a place in heaven, we can assume Jesus could read his heart and was good with what he saw. If so, your hypothetical would not have happened: the man's faith would not have proved false if he had been taken down and lived several more years. But really this is all just speculation and guesswork. Since I believe very strongly that the Bible teaches eternal security, I also believe no one gets to heaven accidentally as a matter of timing (they were going to fall away, but died before they could do that, so they lucked out and got into heaven, OR, they had fallen away and would have come back if they had just lived a little longer, but doggonit, they got hit by a car and are now in hell). I don't think God gets thrown by these things. He knows who are the sheep and who are the goats (Mt. 25.32). He knows who still has the nature of sin and who has the nature of Jesus. No amount of all of our obediences and apostasy tricks him like it does us.

> Do those who begin their faith on their deathbed have fewer requirements than those who live longer?

Great question. Actually, awesome question. I think I have an answer, and it's yes. Here's my case.

There are different requirements for...

1. a baby who dies than for an adult considering Christ
2. someone who has never heard of Christ and those who have
3. those who were before the law from those who received the law (Rom. 5.13)

So I can also presume there are different requirements for those who turn on their deathbed. I believe God takes many things into account as he judges people.
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Re: Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby SES » Tue Aug 29, 2017 2:53 pm

> According to the teachings of Jesus, there are degrees of reward in heaven (not levels of heaven).

So if the worst sinner ever gets the lowest possible reward in heaven that is to be considered a punishment?

> Also, 2 Corinthians 5.10 tells us "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

If we are punished for the "things done while in the body, whether good or bad", what was the point of Christ's death?

> Just as the punishment will fit the crime in hell, so also the reward in heaven will fit one's works on earth. Each person will receive what is commensurate with how he or she lived.

But then how is anyone in heaven to be considered being punished?
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Re: Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Aug 29, 2017 3:11 pm

> So if the worst sinner ever gets the lowest possible reward in heaven that is to be considered a punishment?

Well, heaven is heaven. You may get the apartment next to the dumpster, if you know what I mean, but you're still there. You may get the worst seat in the house for the Mayweather/MacGregor fight, but you're still there. You are still in the presence of God and not alienated or separated from Him, and that's the difference.

Would that person still consider it a punishment? In one sense they might have a sense of regret or feel that sting, but by the same token they will understand it was perfectly fair. When you got punished as a kid when you know you did something wrong, it wasn't anything like when you got punished for something you didn't do.

> If we are punished for the "things done while in the body, whether good or bad", what was the point of Christ's death?

The point of Christ's death is to atone for our sins and to provide forgiveness. Works have nothing to do with whether one spends eternity in heaven or hell. Christ's death is what makes a relationship with God possible because it takes away the barrier of sin. That's what was the point of Christ's death.

Once a person is in heaven or hell, then the things they did come into play as to the degree of their punishment or reward. We will be held accountable for how we thought and acted.

Maybe think of it this way (an analogy that's silly and full of holes, but will maybe make the point). A new company comes to town offering jobs to anyone who wants one. You walk in and are hired on the spot, as everyone who comes is. Good for you; that was a gift, you didn't do anything to earn it. You are in.

But now they want to see your resume, talk to your references, and test your experiences. The job you get and the pay you receive depend on those.

So are you being punished if you don't have a resume, experience, or references, and you end up sweeping floors? No, that's fair. That's where you belong. But, hey, you have a job. Somebody else is on the sales floor, somebody else a manager, and somebody else CEO, all commensurate with what they did.
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Re: Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby Revolution » Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:34 pm

Wow, I just want to thank you so much for going so in depth on this question. I am sincerely grateful that you took the time to write such an in-depth explanation. Truly and sincerely, thank you.
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Re: Could Hitler be in heaven?

Postby SES » Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:40 pm

> Would that person still consider it a punishment? In one sense they might have a sense of regret or feel that sting, but by the same token they will understand it was perfectly fair.

I thought that Jesus was going to wipe away every tear? “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people's disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8).

So how can a believer in heaven be punished? Or even think they are being punished?

Now certainly believers "works" will be judged [not themselves personally, just what they did or did not do] and those whose works are found wanting will suffer loss but will be saved [and are in no danger of losing their salvation - and you admit such when you say that works play no role in salvation]

But this judgment seems to be a one time thing and not ongoing for eternity. I just find it difficult to think of heaven as a place of punishment [even for some] since that idea has no Biblical support. the peace and joy of heaven if one is hounded by thoughts of what they could have done differently for eternity?

I thought that Jesus took all of our punishment upon Him?

Going back to your statement of "He will still be accountable for what he did." I just have Romans 8:1 ringing in my head: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
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