Holding Out Hope for Heaven
If God allows more people into heaven than I might expect, will I be upset? No! I'll rejoice.
When approaching a question like "Who goes to heaven?" we need to remember God is God, and we are not. To use God's own words, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." (Isaiah 55:8)
For a long time, this truth ameliorated some of the inevitable skepticism that arose from answers I had been given to the question about who gets to heaven. Growing up in a conservative Christian tradition, the answer was simple: Only those who confess with their mouth that Jesus is the Son of God and trust in him for the forgiveness of sins. (Romans 10:9-10)
"But what about people who never had a chance to believe that?" my adolescent self protested? "What about the kids who starve in Africa by the time they're five years old?" If, as I'd been taught, there will be someone from every tongue and tribe and nation (Revelation 7:9-10), what about those tribes and nations which had risen and fallenbefore
the news of Jesus reached them, or which had passed out of existence by the time Jesus even walked the earth? "Well, God is God, and we are not" put the questions uneasily into the back of my mind.
Then, in the early years of adulthood, I started to travel. Simple answers to questions about the eternal destiny of most people in the world across its history lost their comfort in the ancient jungles of Peru, in the slums of India, in the centuries old habitations of East Africa, in the remote mountain villages of Nepal, and in a dozen other countries.
In the middle of one of these long journeys, I found myself in Bangkok for several weeks helping out with Baptist missionaries. I was tired of the huge questions, content in my newly deepened belief in Jesus, and ready to read some brain-candy. I picked up C.S. Lewis' children's seriesThe Chronicles of Narnia
once again, and in the final pages of the last of the seven books,The Last Battle,
found harbingers of an encouraging line of thought about this question from one of the godfathers of evangelical philosophy and orthodoxy.
As creatures are being divided between those who will go to a new world with the golden lion, Aslan (the Jesus figure), and those who will go to their destruction with Tash (the Satan figure), a surprising character winds up in the company of Aslan. He is a good and noble servant of Tash, who, although looking for Tash, finds himself at the feet of Aslan and in awe of his glory. Still, he assumes that this is his moment of judgment, "for the Lion will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him." Instead, the Lion welcomes him as a son, and the man does not understand. "But I said, Lord, I am no son of Thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done for Tash, I account as service done to me."