The apostle Paul describes heaven as “home.” Echoing the promise of the Nazarene -- “In my Father’s house are many dwellings. ... I will come again and take you home to myself.” [John 14:2, 3] -- Paul writes about such a hope: “For we are well aware that if our earthen house -- this tent -- should be dissolved, we are to have a building -- not man-made, but from God -- everlasting in the heavens.” [2 Corinthians 5:1] Thus, a Christian’s “citizenship belongs to heaven from which place we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” [Philippians 3:20] It is a joy to reflect on the steps which lead to such heavenly glory! What is involved in the final attainment of heaven where there will be an everlasting home?
There are about fifteen "steps" to heavenly glory in three phases. Revelation 17:14 mentions these three: “... also those with him -- the called, chosen, and faith.” Using this phrase we present these fifteen steps to heavenly glory.
Some call it a “calling” while others prefer the word “invitation.” Regardless, the Bible teaches us about a marvelous calling or invitation which is open to all who wish to respond. Compare the Nazarene’s parable in Matthew 22:1-14 where God sends out an invitation to a marriage feast. Though some decline to accept the invitation, a variety of other persons do so with joy. Concluding the point of his parable Jesus states: “For many are invited but few chosen.” [Matthew 22:14] Let us examine six steps involved in the initial or invitational part of the steps to heavenly glory.
A person must first learn or hear of this invitation as it is mentioned in the Bible. This requires a degree of preliminary knowledge resulting from a study of the Bible. Compare how Jesus described this first step: “No person can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them. ... In the Prophets it is written: ‘And they will all be taught by the LORD.’ Every person who has heard the Father and learned comes to me. ... If any person wishes to do His will they will realize whether my doctrine is my own or I speak from God.” [John 6:45; 7:17] Usually this knowledge comes from reading the Bible with a discussion group or home-church.
This knowledge of the Bible arouses faith or conviction in matters pertaining to God and His Son Jesus Christ. This conviction is manifest by accepting Jesus Christ as God’s Son. [John 1:12, 13; 3:16; Romans 10:9, 10] This faith or conviction will continue to grow stronger and become healthier the more one studies God’s purposes. [Hebrews 1:2] This faith will also be characterized by prayers and fellowship with other Christians.
This knowledge and faith combine to convict the person so they become aware of their sinful state before God. They realize from their Bible reading that they need to repent, or feel regret for thoughts, words, attitudes and actions in their past life. [Acts 2:38] Repentance will also be a life-long experience because sins will occur from time to time. These need to be taken to God, confessing them, as well as seeking the aid off a mature Christian.
Repentance is useless if not followed by a change of conduct, desisting from the sin of which one feels regret. This calls for a conversion, or a turning around and heading in a new direction. (Acts 3:19; Romans 12:2)
The above four steps will move the new disciple to the point of a serous commitment to “follow the Lamb no matter where he goes.” (Romans 6:13; Matthew 16:24; Revelation 14:4) Some call this dedication or consecration. This step usually occurs in a heartfelt and earnest prayer to do God’s will and make Him the center of life.
Jesus said only by water immersion could we “fulfill all that is righteous.” [Matthew 3:15] He also commissions his apostles to “Go and make disciples of people of all nations, baptizing them.” [Matthew 28:19] Baptism is necessary to have a “good conscience.” (1 Peter 3:21)
These six steps above are those taken by the one whom would be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now, God begins to take his own steps in the “choosing” of the individual in order to finally gain heavenly glory.
Jesus had said, “Many are invited.” [Matthew 22:14] That included all the Jews in his own day. “But, few chosen,” the Nazarene concluded. Though multitudes were invited, only a few of that number were actually chosen. What God does in this “choosing” involves the next six steps to heavenly glory.
Once a disciple has repented, turn around, and then immersed fully in water as an outward indication of willingness to serve God and follow the lead of His Son, God can then apply the value of “redemptive price” or “ransom” of His Son in behalf of the one invited. In the Scriptures this is called “justification.” The Greek word means to “pronounce innocent” or “declare righteous.” (Romans 5:1, 9, 18) All past sins are forgiven and such a person now stands before God as perfect as Adam was before he sinned. [Hebrews 7:19; 10:1, 14] As far as God is concerned the person is “perfect” and He is not able to declare this person a “son” or “child.”
By His spirit God confirms sonship by a divine adoption. [Romans 8:15; 8:23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5] The new disciple becomes a member of God’s spiritual Household, His Temple. [Ephesians 2:19-22] A spirit of sonship is aroused in the heart and mind and with great joy the disciple realizes a new relationship with God. (John 3:3-5; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3, 23) This is the first manifestation of God’s spirit and now that spirit leads. [Romans 8:14-17]
This state of sonship allows God to anoint and commission the person to that “royal priesthood” which makes up the Body of Christ. God has already anointed the Head of the Church, its High Priest, Christ Jesus, a greater Aaron. [Isaiah 61:1; Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14, 15] (2 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:5) This priestly commission means that each disciple must offer up spiritual sacrifices in the form of praise and charity. [Hebrews 13:15, 16] This is the second manifestation of God’s spirit and such a person is not “anointed.” [1 John 2:20, 27]
Having been spiritually begotten and anointed the disciple now becomes a member f the Christian Church, or the Body of Christ, and is thus baptized in holy spirit to indicate such a fellowship. (Matthew 3:11;1 Corinthians 12:12, 13; Ephesians 4:5) Such a baptism includes an immersion into the leadership, or headship, of Christ. [1 Corinthians 10:2] This is the third manifestation of God’s spirit and now the individual is no longer alone but part of a communal fellowship of Christians.
The fourth and final manifestation of God’s spirit is a confirmation which guarantees rights of inheritance and assures the disciple is God’s own property. (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13, 14, 18; 4:30)
God then permits another baptism to begin: an immersion into a death like that of Christ. Discipleship is described as accepting Christ’s cross while disowning self and following him daily. This is not an easy life and may involve suffering and even martyrdom. This involves an entire life of devotion to Christ. This immersion will be completed when the person is raised up to life in heaven. (Romans 6:3, 4) Now some final steps are necessary to finally experience heavenly glory.
It is not enough to just begin the course of Christian discipleship. One must endure, conquer the world, and remain faithful unto death. (Romans 5:3, 4; Luke 21:19; Revelation 13:10) There may be hills and valleys in this life-course of endurance, but no matter what befalls the disciple the final goal is kept in mind. [Philippians 3:13, 14]
Though there has been an initial sealing there must be a final confirmation establishing God’s final and everlasting approval so that the person may now be given immortality and no longer under the authority of Second Death. This involves a resurrection and a final judgment before the Throne of Christ. (2 Timothy 4:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 2:28; Revelation 7:1-4) Those alive at the time of the Great Oppression will have their “seal” in the flesh and thus become the “firstfruits” of all the Church before they are raptured to heaven. One step remains.
Having stood before the judgment-throne with freeness of speech [1 John 2:28; 4:17] the risen Saint may now be glorified with immortal and incorruptible life. These may now be seated on their thrones and find their permanent, irremovable place in God’s celestial Temple. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; Revelation 3:12)
What joy and privilege now lies before the entire glorified Church. As the Lamb’s Bride she will now rejoice at the celestial marriage feast. Following that joyous event the Lamb and his Bride, along with all the holy, chosen angels, will return to the earth for the final battle with the political powers of the earth and all their armies. [Revelation 17:14; 19:7-9; 11-19] Following their victory Satan and his demons will be cast in the Abyss there to wait for a Thousand Years. [Revelation 20:1-3; Matthew 25:46] Then will begin their glorious rule as kings and priests over the earth for a Thousand Years, leading to the “healing of the nations.” [Revelation 22:2] When the Thousand Years end they will “judge angels” [1 Corinthians 6:3] when Satan and his rebellious followers in “heaven and earth” [Revelation 20:7-11] are cast forever into Second Death. Then -- Rejoice! -- all the dead billions of mankind will be raised to the Last Judgment. They will be judged by Christ and the Church based on their past lives on earth. The righteous will gain the opportunity for everlasting life on a paradise earth. The habitually evil will be cast into Second Death to share the fate of Satan and his followers. “God will become everything to everyone!” [1 Corinthians 15:28 MOF]
NOW -- O everlasting Joy! -- “the day of eternity” [2 Peter 3:18] begins with unlimited opportunities and privileges before those in heaven and earth [Ephesians 1:10] -- all to the praise of God’s glory by means of Jesus Christ. Our hearts yearn for this blessed time. We remain determined to let nothing stop us in our faithful and enduring integrity until we all together attain such heavenly glory.
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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