By Peter Meadows
It is an attractive thought – that no matter what we do or how we behave, God loves everyone so He will let us all into heaven. But if we are to take Jesus' Word for it, that is not how it is.
Jesus spoke of two separate destinations after death, where some people went one way and some the other. He explained that after death comes judgment – not just for the very bad people like evil dictators, terrorists and murderers – but for everyone.
How does that work? Many wrongly assume it is like a religious weighing scale. They think that one one day they will stand at the gates of heaven where a celestial body will weigh up their good behaviour against their bad, and so long as the good deeds outweigh the dodgy ones, the gates will swing open.
God is not like that. He does not enslave us to the eternal weighing machine, so we live life always worrying whether we will ever be good enough, never knowing whether we have done enough to get in.
A much more accurate picture of God is as the doorman at a fine banquet – where there is a dress code to get in. The right clothes have been available free and in advance – you just needed to ask for them. They are simply called 'forgiveness'.
If we turn up without the 'clothes' of being forgiven for all we have done wrong, we do not get in.
You see, being transformed like Cinderella in order to get into the ball is not something we can do for ourselves. Cinderella needed a fairy godmother to magic up a new frock. In real life, we have someone much greater – a Heavenly Father – and we need Him to transform us for heaven. We can never be good enough ourselves, so we need God's forgiveness.
To those who say, "Ah well, I would rather be with my mates in the other place anyway," there is a warning. With God in heaven there is the perfect happiness you always longed for in this life but could never quite achieve. For those left outside the gates will not just be jealous but horrified. Jesus said there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:42).
It is not God's fault if we do not accept the gift of forgiveness that He freely offers others. It is our choice. Forgiveness has been arranged for us all, through Jesus' death on the cross. All we have to do is claim it.
There is no sitting on the fence. You have to choose now. It will be too late at the gates.•
Peter Meadows is co-author of The Book of Y, the basis for the Y Course that explores life's biggest questions. If you have a question about faith or God, write to Good News Editor, Po Box 9831, Nottingham NG2 9JN or use the contact form at http://www.goodnews-paper.org.uk/contacteditorial.htm