Arrival time not crucial when you believe in a faithful God
The Rev. Maria Campbell, pastor, Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Mass.:
I believe that it is God's desire to have all people enter heaven.
There is a wonderful story about laborers in a vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). It begins by saying "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner ... who went ... to hire laborers for his vineyard." Some of the workers showed up early and agreed to work for the usual daily pay. Other workers arrived throughout the day, and were promised to be paid what was right. Some began working as late as 5 o'clock.
When the day was done, the workers returned to the owner to be paid. The last to arrive were paid the regular daily wage. Those who arrived early in the day saw this and expected to be paid more. But they were paid the agreed-upon wage. The landowner pointed out that he had treated them fairly. It was his choice to pay those who arrived late the full amount. It was his right to be generous.
Like those who arrived late, those who make death bed professions of faith are generously welcomed by our loving God. God wants all people to share in eternal life. It is not for us to judge a person's qualifications for heaven. Salvation is not earned. We are all equally saved by God's grace.
God's design is a world of peace and justice. To live justly, we must follow the command to love our neighbors as God loves them. If we do, then we will celebrate with joy those who come to join the heavenly banquet.
It is not the time when you arrive that matters. It is your profession of faith in a God who has always been faithful.
- Send e-mail to Maria Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Admission to heaven requires faith alone in Christ alone
The Rev. Marc Day, associate pastor, Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive:
According to the Bible, the entrance requirement for heaven is faith alone in Christ alone - regardless of when a person comes to faith.
When Jesus was dying on the cross, he said to the thief, also dying on a cross, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23.43). The thief had no time for church membership, baptism, communion or any other religious activity. Although these things are important in Christian faith and practice, they are not necessary for eternal life.
Faith in Christ is the sole necessity for salvation (Rom. 3.24; 5.1; 6.23). Yet while the death-bed believer gains the security of eternal life, he or she has missed out on many of God's blessings in this earthly life and will miss out on some heavenly rewards (1Cor. 3.14; 2Cor. 5.10).
Postponing a commitment to live for Christ until the final days of one's life is a dangerous gamble since no one knows the hour of death. The decision one makes regarding his or her eternal destiny must be made during this earthly life since "it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9.27).
Importantly, the word "accept," in the biblical sense, includes turning and trusting - turning from the sin that separates (Isa. 59.2) and trusting Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin. The Bible says, " ... without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" and that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Heb. 9.22; 10.4) God fully satisfied the problem of sin in the shedding of blood on the cross of Jesus Christ.
- Send e-mail to Marc Day at email@example.com.