Who’s read C.S.Lewis’ book, “The Great Divorce”? In this stimulating novel Lewis sees some people who make it to heaven as being brilliant, vibrant beings, shining as the sun. Others are portrayed as just feint wisps: dim, almost ghost-like forms-the difference being due to the way they had lived their lives on the earth…
Please don’t mistake my message. I’m not speaking about a gospel of works here: salvation is by faith. However, rewards are conditional.
Socialist-minded readers will automatically recoil from the concept of “inequality” in celestial rewards, as in Lewis’ work. But like it or not, there is considerable Biblical basis for the idea that some will be greater than others in heaven. After all, Jesus said so himself. The parable of the talents is clear on this (Matthew chapter 25). And when it comes to how we act on God’s word or otherwise, Jesus said:
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19 NIV).
Perhaps the verse which inspired Lewis is this one:
…they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3).
I’m convinced that Lewis was really onto something profound in his descriptions of post-human beings in heaven-something which we should, perhaps, consider much more than we do.
Have you ever looked at some people and seen them almost as shells only? They’re human, and they’re loved by God, but they have no depth of mind or character. They look only upon mundane, every-day things, like what they will eat for the next meal. There’s no depth of thought or concern for others, or for God, or for anything with any meaning or significance. In some ways they’re almost like animals.
How will God judge the simple and the shallow? Perhaps the first answer is “fairly”, because He’s the righteous judge. It’s not brains or knowledge which endears us to our Creator: He doesn’t look down on them like we do. It’s not material wealth or popularity, or great energy, or success, or imagination or wide experience of life, and it’s not our earthly achievements. What we drive and where we live doesn’t impress our God at all. And it’s not our humanity which God loves in us. After all, “The wicked are like chaff that the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4). Those who displease God are of no lasting value.
The route to God’s heart, and to a “greater” you in eternal, lasting terms is through his word, as we read in the Matthew verse. If we consider it highly, and if we seek to live it out, we are then building our own eternal nature-what will remain when the ultimate trial comes, and what will live on for ever. Our faith in God is also of utmost concern to Him. Works born of true faith is what He’s looking for in us. This is what Jesus called “fruit”.
I’m not speaking here about human works. Only what is truly Godly can last through the fire of judgment, and human righteousness without our God is not acceptable to Him. It can’t be done without Jesus Christ. Neither do I subscribe to a common view in some areas of the Church that we can’t do anything-God does it all. That’s a cop-out and it’s not what Scripture says. It’s team-work, where we live in Christ, and we apply ourselves to what we know we must do, and He works in our efforts:
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:4-6).
It’s our Godly character-that which is living in Christ, which will live on. By growing in Him, what grows will be our real, lasting, eternal self: everything else about us will be gone.