Biologically speaking, death is a fact of life. For children of God, physical death is the passageway from conscious life on Earth to life in the fullness of Heaven. In Heaven, we will partake of eternal life without the hindrance of the flesh and without the corruption of sin. The will and the power of God is so overwhelming in His full presence there will be no questions and no doubts about what is right and what is wrong. However, to prevent awkwardness resulting from unfamiliarity, lack of preparation and ignorance, we are to learn the ways of Heaven while here on Earth (Mt.22:1-14, 25:1-30). Doing so likewise gathers treasures in Heaven which will be our gifts to lay before Him, there to enjoy for all eternity.
Heaven is the home of God. There are “house rules”, “cultural norms”, or “family traits” that pervade. All who enter are required to know and honor the ways of Heaven. Showing up unprepared is simply not a good thing. Jesus speaks of the importance of being prepared in the parable of the wedding feast (Mt.22:1-14), the parable of the ten virgins (Mt.25:1-13), the parable of the ten talents (Mt.25.14-30), and the parable of the watchful servants (Lk.12:35-48). God has given each of us a portion of talents, may they be polished with care and worn from use when the day comes to make an accounting. Those who use their talents to grow in the ways of our Lord, gathering up treasures in Heaven, will on that day present these gifts before the King and be blest by our Lord accordingly. Showing up empty handed and having little or no gift to present, seems an inappropriate way to spend such a glorious day of celebration as when God receives His children home.
Our time on Earth is therefore a time of preparation. Learning and practicing the virtues is how we prepare for Heaven. All deeds done while abiding in the Holy Spirit are good deeds, for whenever we surrender our will to His divine will, we allow the goodness of God to shine through us, creating treasure in Heaven. Whatever we do in our own strength, in the flesh and apart from God, isn’t a good deed because apart from Him, we can do nothing good since only God is good (Jn.15:5, Lk.18:19). The same deed can be done and be of goodness at one time, while not of goodness at another. The determinant factor is not the deed, but the presence of the Holy Spirit.
To determine whether we are operating in the flesh or in Him, we can check our attitudes, motivations, and expressions. If our attitude reflects the merciful and forgiving love of God and the wholesome desire to do good, most likely were are abiding in Him. If we are consumed with bitterness, resentments, irritations, fears, insecurities, frustrations, or weariness, or motivated by rebellions, vengeance, malice, hostility, hatred, wantonness, lust, violence, perversity, or neediness, then we reflect the symptoms of the flesh. If we are inspired and energized by the prospect of doing good and pleasing God, then most likely we are abiding in Him. If we lack the desire to please God or to practice virtue, we are operating in the flesh and have succumbed to motivations that are self-serving, self-gratifying, self-rewarding, self-promoting, and in general devalue God and others in order to have one’s own way, to do things one’s own way, or be on one’s own time schedule. Being self-centered is a poor witness for Christ and tends to repulse the lost. Our outward expressions reflect our inner attitudes. If we are abiding in Him then His goodness will emanate from within, and people will be drawn toward us as a source of life in the same way the masses flocked to Jesus in order to quench their neediness (Jn.4:7-42). Again, to get out of the flesh and into Him, we surrender, subordinating our human will to His divine will, and become willing to endure whatever comes our way while being obedient to the will of God.
The pursuit of virtue prepares us for Heaven by teaching us how we will be (or act) in Heaven as well as helping us be free of our fleshly traits that have no place in Heaven. When Jesus taught us how to pray, he commanded the will of God be done on Earth as in Heaven (Mt.6:10). In Heaven, our food is the life giving bread of our Lord, and we are likewise to draw our sustenance from Him while here on Earth. We are to trust God to provide for us and to fulfill our needs for significance and security. Jesus also prayed for us to not be led into temptations, but rather be delivered from evil (Mt.6:13). We do this by identifying our fleshly and sinful habits, repenting of them and then replacing the evil with the good, purifying our souls. The virtues we learn to practice today will accustom us to the ways of God so that we will be prepared when we come fully into His presence in Heaven. St. Paul speaks of the kingdom of God as being “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men” (Rom.14:17-18).
Mt.5:16, the practice of virtue glorifies God and is partaking of life in Heaven
Mk.8:34-38, questioning the saneness of forsaking the eternal for short-term gain
Lk.12:32-34, what we hold most dear indicates our primary focus, eternal or temporary
Jn.6:48-51, food for the body which dies verses food for spirit which lives eternal
Jn.6:63, the Spirit is life-giving, the flesh is profitless
Jn.17:1-5, Jesus speaks of eternal life as knowing and glorifying God
Rom.14:16-18, the kingdom of God is joy and peace in the Holy Spirit
1Cor.6:9-11, contrasting the identifying traits of the children of God verses the flesh
Eph.3:8-21, St. Paul speaks of the fullness and abundance of life which is in Christ Jesus
Jas.3:13-17, St. James contrasts earthly ways to heavenly ways
1Jn.3:2-3, St. John speaks of purifying ourselves in preparation for Heaven
1Jn. 4:7-8, St. John teaches that to know and express love is to know God
1Jn.4:16-17, if we have love in our hearts, we should rest assuredly in His saving grace
“All who are members of the household of faith, bond-slaves of the Master, stewards of the mysteries of grace, must be found serving each other in things of the Divine Kingdom, and together living and laboring as unto the King.”
Herbert Lockyer (1886-1984) “All the Parables of the Bible” pg. 270,
© 1963 by Herbert Lockyer