Saturday, April 07, 2012

Heaven and Belief in Christ the Savior

Over at the Althouse blog, the question is posed --

Do you think you need to believe in Jesus to go to Heaven when you die?

And, of course, that depends on what one means by "believe."

Is it necessary to believe intellectually, with one's mind, to have an affirmative knowledge that you believe?

Well, intellectual belief certainly helps. For one thing, the intellectual believer will presumably then go and be baptized, which provides the grace of not only redeeming one from Original Sin, which is absolutely necessary for salvation, but it provides other graces as well to grow in the faith and grow closer to the Lord, if only one accepts those graces in the heart.

However, Jesus says that it is not necessarily the case that the intellectual believer will be automatically saved, that there are many who fed Him even without realizing they were doing so. (Mt. 25:34-40) Meanwhile, Jesus also says that there are plenty who proclaim, "Lord, Lord," to whom He will say "I don't know you because you never really took me into your heart." (cf. Mt. 7:21-23) And Paul notes that the people of Athens worship God unknowingly with their altar to an unknown God. (Acts 17:22-23)

So, what is important that you "know" Jesus and "believe" in your heart, i.e., you have a sincere thirst for love and hunger for truth in your heart. (Mt. 5:3-10) That is enough to be "blessed," to at least open the door to possible salvation, even if you do not intellectually realize that you know Jesus in your heart, for the God of Divine Mercy seeks to save, not to condemn, so He will help you the rest of the way. God is not bound by the requirement of sacramental baptism by water, He is perfectly free to provide the effects of baptism by alternate means. (For example, neither Mary nor Joseph nor any of the righteous people of the Old Testament ever received sacramental baptism by water, but the Church recognizes them to be in heaven.)

At the same time, this "belief in the heart" is made more difficult if one intellectually affirmatively rejects Jesus and/or God and/or everything about Him. And sincere belief in the heart is -- or at least should be -- easier if one intellectually believes.

As for going to Heaven without Jesus -- can anyone tell me "where" Heaven is, or how one can get there without Him taking us there? Can anyone describe to me the process of transferring one's spiritual being from this present physical reality to any other? Or how one goes about resurrecting your dead body and transforming it to a glorified state?

And since Heaven is, by definition, eternal union with God, why would anyone want to be in Heaven later if he does not want to have a relationship with Him now or during this life?

Make no mistake here, though. Heaven is not some exclusive club. God is offering free memberships to anyone who wants them. And Jesus is eager to give tickets for the trip there to anyone who wants them.

Accepting such tickets to heaven does not restrict our freedom or otherwise burden us. All it does is open us to love and truth. All it does is open us to what is truly good. All it requires is that we be the person that we were made to be.

Note also that the idea that you can be a god unto yourself, that you can be your own savior, that you have no real need of God and are capable of being self-actualizing into heaven is the very first error, the very first sin, it is the original sin and such error is ultimately the origin of every other sin committed since then.

Even if you knew "where" heaven was, you do not have the ability to transcend this existence yourself, especially after you are dead.

Heaven being a "place," a state of being of perfection in truth (and love), for one to persist in error, any error but especially the error of self-salvation, is to prevent your very entry into heaven. Error and imperfection cannot exist in a place of truth and perfection.

That error and imperfection must be removed, it must be purged from you, you must be purified before you are capable of uniting with that which is all true and perfect.

If you are incapable of perfection now, you certainly won't be able to do it yourself after you are dead. You need help.

Thankfully, the Lord is a God of Divine Mercy who gives countless opportunities for people to accept His outstretched arms of love.

The Passover in Egypt is a prime example.

God gave Pharaoh chance after chance after chance to do the right thing, to do the good thing, to simply allow people to follow Him.

God did not obliterate Egypt at the first sign of rejection. Rather, He gave Pharaoh a modest rebuke (the first plague) and gave him another chance. And then another, and another, and another.

Ten times God asked Pharaoh to let His people go (the number ten has symbolic meaning, it means completeness). God gave Pharoah a complete number of opportunities to turn to truth and justice.

But eventually death comes. Death comes to us all, and when it comes there are no more chances, no more opportunities. God remains ever merciful, but being dead, you no longer have the ability to accept. Your future (your first born) is no more.

You need to accept His love and truth in your heart while there is still time, while you still live, so that death might "pass over" you. And, again, such acceptance of love and truth does not burden us, it frees us from bondage, it allows us to walk out of slavery to freedom and the Promised Land.

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