Heaven or Hell?

At the close of a most amazing book – Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, John Piper is being interviewed.  His response to the question “How do you prepare for suffering and death?” is sticking with me – and I thought I would share.

Piper is my modern day author of choice.  If you have ever seen him, he exudes a love for God.  His passion spills out whenever he talks, and there is no doubt he lives what he believes.  I cherish him and his ministry, and desire to live a God honoring life such as the one he evidences.  All this to say that his answer to the above question surprised and challenged me. 

“And as I am lying there with my head on my pillow, I take my wrist and catch my pulse.  I can just see the alarm clock with its big, yellow numbers.  And it doesn’t have a second hand, so I have to count for a whole minute.  And as soon as the six goes to seven – like 10:36 going to 10:37 – I start counting: one, two, three, four.  I count just to see what my sleeping pulse rate is.  And when I’m done before I go to sleep I remind myself: Anyone of those beats [finger snap] stop, and it’s finished.  There’s no reason this heart should keep beating, absolutely none, except God.  If He wanted to, He could say to any one of those beats, “last beat,” and I’m done.  Will I wake up in heaven or hell?  I ask myself that.”

 There is more, and it is all fantastic – but it is that last line that gripped me.  “Where will I wake – in heaven or hell?”  Piper, Piper questions this?  Every night?  Am I so naive then, to assume my salvation?  Is this why we are commanded to work out our salvation in fear and trembling?  We are so flippant, are we not?  We know the truth, we often neglect to love the truth, or our God – we spend so little time with Him…. we show no more love to those who love us than those who do not have the Bible do, and we almost never love our enemy…

But, do we stop and consider then, how can we, how can I, be so sure that “if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”?  The easy-believism gospel has left in its wake many apathetic people, who profess to know God, but whom I fear God does not know…  Will He say “depart from Me!”  Will He say it to me?  If Piper, who lives and breathes in God’s glory and the delight of it, asks himself where he will wake if he were to pass in the night, then should I not also wonder?  And fear?  There is no more weighty concern on this earth than to make sure one is right about eternity.  And being right is not so easy as a sinner’s prayer ticket.  No!  It is a deep, overwhelming love of a Savior who first loved me…..  And, I find myself suddenly nervous, and nauseous, and praying – “oh God!  More love for Thee!  May You be my all-sufficient treasure!”  With Piper I say “Jesus, as much as it lies within me, You are my God…. I trust Your blood wholly for my salvation.  And I now commit myself to you this night.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Raquel
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 11:31:55

    I spent a lot of my childhood years FREAKING out about heaven vs. hell. And then I met Christ and felt His love and the panic thermometer went WAY down. (That was a lot of ands).
    Maybe I should worry about it more? I dunno… I like the safety that the relationship between He and I has brought. That He isn’t going to decide that, since I forgot to ask forgiveness about that one time that I was prideful, I am not going to make it. This one is a thinker…


  2. Verity
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 12:21:21

    I think it is when I look at a man, such as Piper, who wants that daily assurance that I think to myself “Is Christ supreme in my life? Do I act as though He is better than life? Do I love Him more than my husband, my children, my best friend?” And when, so often, the answer feels no – I have to turn to Him and plead the blood. I do not ponder this as often as I ought….

    I certainly believe that once saved, always saved. That there are no sins too great for Christ to have paid for – but I know that faith without works is dead – and (man I am starting to sound emerging : ) so I have to examine my life in light of Scripture – I do not want to be the seeds planted in a rock that spring up for awhile….


  3. Raquel
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 13:41:22

    Maybe I misunderstood… I agree with you that if the questions are a result of our doubt in Christs’ grace, rather than a way to pursue deeper relationship with Him…
    I thought more on this while cleaning up the house a bit and remembered “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John something). And then I sat down at the computer and did a word search on Biblegateway for “love fear”.
    We’re obviously called to feel both ways towards God – but how to apply this? I may do a word study on the ‘fears’ that came up later on today. Good stuff, chica!

    P.S. No, you don’t sound emerging. More on that one later 😉


  4. Verity
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 15:05:08

    I liked your use of 1 John… you’ve got me thinking now too. : ) I think we have so forgotten what it means to stand in awe of God, haven’t we? We are losing, more and more as the Church, the sense of His holiness, and justice.

    I am not sure I understand your first sentence, can you clarify?


  5. Raquel
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 16:19:44

    Sorry about that first sentence. If only you could see how I talk with my hands! We would’ve been on the same page…

    My point was that I agree with you in questioning our security in heaven as long as the end result is a deeper relationship in Christ, rather than insecurity and false guilt. Is that any better? (laughing) I kinda doubt it…


  6. Raquel
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 16:25:14

    And I do think that we are loosing the ‘fear’ portion of God ~ at least in the western world. I have a very shakey hypothesis on this… It appears to me that we, in the western world don’t NEED God for anything other than eternity.
    We’ve drugs to keep us happy, jobs to fill our pockets, the government to feed us, doctors to heal us, blah, blah, blah. And because of this lack of ‘need’ (albeit not what we actually need) we witness fewer miracles and experience less than the fullness of God.


  7. Verity
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 07:56:33

    Number 6. clarifies things- thanks!

    There is definately something to be said for our North American culture not “needing” God… I used to wonder how people did life without God, and then went through a real season of dryness in my relationship with Him in the end of 2006 – I was surprised at how well I could function without paying much attention to Him….

    I think too, for all our talk about being too focused on doctrine, and not enough on practice, that we really suffer a lack of both. If we were searching the Bible for an encounter with God, we might be pleasantly, overwhelmingly surprised.


  8. raquelamisto
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 01:22:55

    I started reading a book called “The Shack” by William P Young. GET IT! Are ya with me? If you don’t get it, I will get it for you. It’s that good (granted, I’m not done with it yet but, ya know).


  9. Verity
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 11:41:02

    I went out and bought it… 🙂 I have20 pages left in my current read, and then I will get this one going….


  10. Verity
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 18:45:24

    Are you past page 84 yet? I do not want to say too much – but I do not know if I want to continue… It was good, up to this point.


  11. raquelamisto
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 19:12:06

    I just wrote a comment on the prior post about this book without reading here first! I’m on page 135. KEEP READING.

    I’m not particularly fond of the style of writing (after the first third of the book) but the content that the author grapples with is fascinating! I wonder if you’ve read anymore…???


  12. Verity
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 22:46:00

    on page 150. I will get a blog going on it when I finish it – I have alot to say (especially interesting, since it is a novel) I am sure you do to!


  13. raquelamisto
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 23:44:25

    Just spoke/wrote-back-and-forth-with Jeromy and he’s down for the read and post discussion… He suggested starting a group on facebook. Whadda ya think?


  14. Verity
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 08:31:41

    got the invite from Jeremy – thanks!


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