At various funerals I have attended I have heard lots of different statements about heaven, many contradictory, but virtually all delivered with great authority. At one funeral a somewhat surprised crowd were assured by a Christian spiritualist that: “This man has not died, he has merely gone through the garden gate”. Some churches teach that when end times arrive we shall all finally be united in heaven- and others teach that people who have admitted their sins have already gone to heaven -and still others that St Peter waits outside the Pearly gates to determine who is in and who shall be cast out into an eternity of servitude in the fiery pits. Some are sure that our departed parents are waiting for us there – and others that we will have to play harps and sing a lot of choruses.
(I fear I might be excluded if harp playing and singing in tune is a prerequisite).
You can find scriptures to support many different beliefs about life after death and predictions about end-times etc. I am assured by women who considered they should be allowed to speak in Church or pray without their heads being covered that although Paul was right on many things – he did not always get everything entirely correct! (Am I allowed to allow such things on the internet?) If this failing of Paul is true we might remember in passing that many of the authoritative statements about getting to heaven originate from Paul. Because the statements about after-life and end-times all refer to things which cannot be verified by anything other than non-verifiable statements from elsewhere – and because some of the predictions have now passed use-by date and have actually been shown not to have come to pass (including I might add, a statement ostensibly attributed to Jesus by one of the gospel writers about what people listening to him would experience in their lifetimes), just maybe we should say a little less with certainty.
In any case I want to suggest the huge list of failed prophecies (which I collected for one of my posts) should at least make us a little less confident and a little more cautious about setting ourselves up as authorities on such matters.
This being the case, why not simply admit the nature of statements about who gets to heaven and when it will happen are simply beyond our ability to know… yet there are lots of great ideas that can be implemented in the here and now, ie the things that James called “True Religion”. Jesus’ instructions about forgiving our enemies, turning the other cheek, do unto others etc and Paul’s lists like Love being patient and kind and keeping no score of wrongs etc etc give us plenty to go on with in the meantime.