The truth and revelation that Jesus reveals in the Gospels is truly amazing. Remember, it was predicted before Jesus arrived on earth that Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, would reveal things that had been kept secret from the foundation of the world. (Psalm 78:2) It would be wise of us to listen, hear, understand and act.
One of the themes he addressed was the whole question of “Who receives the Gospel, and therefore who makes it into heaven?”
So, let’s look at that.
First, it is clear that the Gospel- the Incredible News of Jesus Christ- is for everyone. It’s available to all. God wants to save EVERYONE. Remember, for God so loved THE WORLD, that He gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Amen.
For discussion sake, and to simplify this message, I want to divide the human race into two basic groups: the haves and the have-nots.
If we look at the world as a whole, in a general sense, there are basically two groups of people. The “haves” are fortunate to live in the developed parts of the world, often called “first world nations.” They generally have their needs provided for them. There are always challenges on the earth, but the haves generally survive well and are not consumed with the “cares of this world,” as Jesus called them.
The have-nots are not so fortunate- at least on earth. Tragically, many in the world suffer greatly every day. About 40% of the world, or 3 billion people, live on less than $2.50 a day.
About 1 billion people in the world, or 14% of the world population, cannot read.
About 20% of the world, as many as 1.5 BILLION people, do not have access to clean water and have trouble getting food and basic necessities such as electricity and health care services.
Across the world, it’s a very, very difficult life for the have-nots.
For those in the first world, going without these necessities- water, food, electricity- for even one hour or a day is traumatic. Imagine living with that reality every day of your very difficult, painful, tragic life.
But there is good news for the have-nots.
According to Jesus Christ, the have-nots are generally the ones who receive the Gospel and find God- and therefore will get to spend eternity in heaven, the glorious place God has prepared for those who love Him. Glory to God forever!
According to the Gospels, the haves- the healthy, the educated, the rich, the wealthy- generally do NOT receive the Gospel or have a relationship with God Almighty.
Please know I am writing in general terms here. There are always exceptions. We all know that members of both groups receive and reject the Gospel. Let’s look at this theme in the Gospels. There are at least nine (9) places that Jesus Christ definitively presents this general theme.
The very first clear evidence of this truth is Jesus Christ Himself when he was on the earth. The “haves,” that is, the “important” people of the day- the religious leaders, the rulers, and so forth- rejected Jesus. They opposed him and ultimately had him killed.
The masses and common people, including those in great need (the suffering, diseased, lame, blind, etc) for the most part received him joyfully. In many reports and places in the Gospels, we read that massive crowds followed him and pressed around him. When Jesus fed the large crowd with bread and fish, there were 20,000 people with him, following him. At one point, there were so many people crushing in around Jesus, he asked for a boat so he could get into the water to avoid the large crowd.
His twelve disciples were everyday folks- fishermen, tax collectors, and so forth. Make no mistake, there were wealthy people who received Jesus with joy as well. Several wealthy women provided for Jesus materially and gave him a place to live. But again, I am writing in general terms.
The “haves” today and throughout history would also include those who are considered “intelligent and learned.” At one point, Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise, intelligent and learned and have revealed them to the babes and the child-like. Yes, Father, for you saw that it was good.” (Matthew 11:25)
The “haves” have what is highly esteemed in this world, right? They have the elusive things that people everywhere want and strive for: money, power, position, importance, intelligence, connections and much more.
But Jesus specifically said these “highly esteemed” qualities are- get ready for this- an abomination to God; detestable to God; and revolting to God.
To quote him directly, Jesus said, “What is highly esteemed among men is detestable to God.” (Luke 16:15).
He spoke this against the Pharisees. The context: “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard these things, and they scoffed at and ridiculed him. Jesus said, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:14-16)
After the “highly esteemed” quote, Jesus then told the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, a very famous parable. Again, the message in this story is clear regarding the haves and have-nots.
The rich man lived in luxury and had the finest clothes. The beggar Lazarus was a low as a person can be. He was full of sores, was laid at the gate of the rich man and desired to eat crumbs from the rich man’s table. To make matters worse, dogs came and licked his sores.
Where did the two end up for eternity after they both died? I think we would all agree: eternity is more important that our brief life on the earth.
The rich man died and was “in torments in Hades (hell).” He cried out to Abraham for mercy. The rich man was tormented in the flames of fire in hell. He pleaded for even one drop of water.
Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom and was “comforted.” (Luke 16: 19-31).
If the human race was in a competition, the haves would be first, and the have-nots would generally be in last, right?
Jesus said, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matthew 19:30)
Humans are basically all trying to preserve and save their life. It’s called “survival.”
Jesus said, “If anyone wants to save his life, he will lose it. But he who loses his life for My sake and the sake of the Gospel shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
The Parable of the Man Who Hosted a Great Dinner (Luke 14:16-24) is a very direct, clear proof of this truth regarding who actually receives the Gospel.
In the parable, a man prepared a great dinner and invited certain people who were definitely in the “haves” group, sending his servants to tell those invited that “all things are now ready.” The invitees declined to attend, making excuses. Two of them had businesses to attend to and another was getting married. The host of the dinner was angry.
Who did he bring in to the great dinner? He sent his servants to bring in the “poor and maimed and lame and blind,” all of whom are definitely in the “have-not” group.
After that, there was still room at the feast, so the man told the servants to go out to the “highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” But he specifically said that “none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.”
Perhaps the strongest teaching about this subject is in Luke 6. Jesus very openly said “blessed and happy” (blessed in the greek means “happy”) are the poor, hungry, mourning and persecuted people (persecuted for Jesus’ sake).
Whereas, he very openly pronounced “woe” (which means suffering, misery and hardship) for the rich, full, laughing and well-spoken of people.
Jesus said, “How hard it is for a man who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God. I say to you, it is easier for camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24)