Jesus or Heaven?

Below is a short parable written by Peter Rollins:


You sit in silence contemplating what has just taken place. Only moments ago you were alive and well, relaxing at home with friends. Then there was a deep, crushing pain in your chest that brought you crashing to the floor. The pain has now gone, but you are no longer in your home. Instead, you find yourself standing on the other side of death waiting to stand before the judgment seat and discover where you will spend eternity. As you reflect upon your life your name is called, and you are led down a long corridor into a majestic sanctuary with a throne located in its center. Sitting on this throne is a huge, breathtaking being who looks up at you and begins to speak.

“My name is Lucifer, and I am the angel of light.”

You are immediately filled with fear and trembling as you realize that you are face to face with the enemy of all that is true and good. Then the angel continues: “I have cast God down from his throne and banished Christ to the realm of eternal death. It is I who hold the keys to the kingdom. It is I who am the gatekeeper of paradise, and it is for me alone to decide who shall enter eternal joy and who shall be forsaken.”

After saying these words, he sits up and stretches out his vast arms. “In my right hand I hold eternal life and in my left hand eternal death. Those who would bow down and acknowledge me as their god shall pass through the gates of paradise and experience an eternity of bliss, but all those who refuse will be vanquished to the second death with their Christ.”

After a long pause he bends toward you and speaks, “Which will you choose?”



Landon Perry says:

Sobering thought. I wonder how many Christians would become followers of Lucifer. Do we follow Christ because He is the winning side or because we do truly love Him. Interesting.

Courtney G says:

That’s a really interesting question. Related question: are there any followers of Christ who, for whatever reason, reject the idea of heaven in favor of, perhaps, the idea of “eternal salvation” as the knowledge that you have lived well in the eyes of God but with no eternal reward?

I would be very curious to see the thought-out responses to such a conundrum from different Christians (including you, Chris). One aspect of Christianity and other monotheistic beliefs that is sometimes eyed by atheists is that Heaven and Hell may be seen as a carrot-and-stick approach to becoming a good person, rather than being good through an exploration of and adherence to morality.

Whether or not this is an oversimplification, I am curious how heavily the promise of anything after death (heaven/hell in whatever form) informs the convictions of Christ’s followers. For me, the idea that after I die I cease to be is something over which I think often, sometimes with fear, sometimes with resolve, sometimes with puzzlement. It doesn’t seem to be a question that Christians must regularly muse over, as I do.

I’d encourage others to do so–to muse. And the question posed allowed such a musing that does not conflict with belief in Christ.

Would you follow Christ into nonexistence?

To answer your first question, I think so. Although you would be hard-pressed to find anyone within the Evangelical tradition that would be willing to accept a proposition like this. Typically, any conservative view of Christianity will accept basic supernatural assumptions like heaven, hell, a literal resurrection, and biblical inerrancy.

It’s much more likely that you would find a Christian who rejects the supernatural that is a mainline Protestant or — and I understand this a very broad label — a liberal Christian. As a matter of fact, there were many who claimed to be Christians in the 19th and early 20th centuries that rejected any kind of supernatural claims the Bible or earlier forms of Christianity might have made.

Nevertheless, the problem I have with (a portion of) Evangelicalism is this idea that, in order to make following Christ palatable, some kind of incentive needs to be given–like getting into heaven or escaping hell. The problem with here is that this type of “evangelism” creates Christians with shallow faith who are actually only in it for the rewards they believe they will receive, not for the inherent goodness found in Christ himself.

I’m not even saying that I’m excluded in this critique. I recently realized that perhaps my intentions in following Christ are not as pure as I had once hoped. The Christianity I was raised in and converted to said that if I did not believe Jesus died for me and rose again, I would suffer for eternity in a burning, torturous hell.

Thanks for the comment, Courtney 🙂

Joel says:

Man i dont know where to start…Jesus help me. I think i get the idea of someone trying to see if serving Christ would still be thier desire if He did not offer heaven. He is life, if He were not Life itself than there would be no point, He wouldnt of died on the cross as a perfect Lamb of God for the substitutionary atonement for our sins.
Heaven is a place where He in His fulness dwells unlike any manifestation of His power or prescence here on this fallen fleeting gulf that we are passing over. Heaven itself isnt the motivation, but that Christ Himself is what makes Heaven….Heaven. If Christ were not able to offer eternal life He would not be Christ. And furthermore He would have no power to save you, or cast out demons, or do anything, If He is not victorious over the devil and if He is not the Owner and Author of all Life. The question is Jesus or Heaven? It would be like saying would you go to eat at resturant if they didn’t serve any food? Not if you are hungry. You see Jesus is Eternal Life, apart from HIm we would not be breathing right now, in Colosians it says Christ holds everything together by the power of His Word, even the atheiest is breathing right now becasue Jesus is giving Him breath. Heaven and Christ are inseperable, you see becasue He came to give Life while we live here (which is a little tiny blip of eternity) and even more so Eternal Life (heaven), this is the gospel- Jesus is the way to the Father (heaven). Also for that reason not just anyone is going, (would you want all of the people who cussed out the teacher at the end of school year pizza party?) if someone depises and rejects the Savior in this life, heaven would not be a place where they would rejoice in His glory, they would hold no awe for the salvation and sacrafice of Christ, because they never recieved It. They would not be glad to meet the likes of Elijah, Moses, Joesep, Paul, John and Christian martyrs, missionaries all thourght history whom served Christ with fervency of heart, those who would enter in to such a holy place that ridiculed Christians and Christ in thier time on earth, they would have no fellowship with those dwelling there and especially no love of Christ, for you see while on earth they made their choice clear- physical death will not make them love Jesus. He’s layed out His word so simply and purley, like a teacher who gives the assignment and then grades the papers all semester, the students who fail at the end of the year were warned every period. Here in this life its very simple, Christ is “the way the truth and the life.” If someone comes to Him they are coming to Him on that basis, knowing that He has promised us eternal life.It is biblical to emphasise that heaven and hell are the only two destinations at hand, and that Christ and Christ alone is the Only way, you see Christ Himself spoke in very plain terms about heaven and hell in His own preaching, we see parables all throughout the gospels Matthew 22:1-14, it is the good news that Jesus has saved us from our sins and we can live with him forever in Eternity. You see if somone is serving the Lord because they soley want to be pure in their devotion, not becasue they realize that they are impure without Him that is called self-righteousness, the pharisees failed and they were the most pious men ever. They made serving God all about them. We need to realize “purley” that we are lost sinners deserving of hell without Christ, and fall on this Chief cornerstone and be broken, and saved for all eternity by His mercy, becasue “It is a fearful thing to fall in the hands of the living God…” (Hebrews). Your right no one is saved becasue of heaven or hell, but because of the Blood of Jesus, and the heart that is brought to conviction by the Holy Spirit. Heaven is the result of every true salvation, and hell for those who dont recieve, not-choosing is choosing. I guess i get the question, but i believe the problem these days is that there are too many people who don’t realize Hell is real, and Heaven is real, you will go to one or the other, but you will not disapear. Every person knows deep down that eternity is real, it says in Ecclesasties. There is no avoiding it. The question Heaven or Jesus? The answer is depending on what you choose in this life, you either get both or none, they are inseperable, Jesus is what makes Heaven…Heaven. It is fearful to not serve Christ, you are basically walking the tight rope over the abyss of hell, lest you repent and find salvation in Him. I think though God will lead you to witness what He needs you to say as long as you are listening and following HIm in prayer and reading your word, He will give you the words in the moment, what needs to be said, sometimes more grace, sometimes more sobriety of hell-fire and sin. But its all because He knows what we need to speak or preach, not us what we like to hear. Thanks for the blog, interesting question.

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