Are people with special needs automatically going to heaven?

Are special needs kids and adults who have very little comprehension saved?

What this really deals with is what can be called the “Concept of Accountability.”

There are some Christians who are dismissive of the “age of accountability” but I believe that the principle is established in the Scriptures – not according to a specific age, but as a concept. We can’t say exactly when a child becomes accountable, but we see the principle in many passages.

In Deuteronomy 1:35-39 God indicates a difference in moral culpability between children and adults: Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give to your fathers… Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.

We find this principle at work with Israel in the wilderness, when God held the adult generation of Israel guilty of their sin of unbelief in entering into Canaan, yet did not hold the children to the same account (Numbers 14:29-33).

Isaiah 7:16 speaks to the same principle: For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.

Paul said that he was once alive apart from the law – plausibly, before he was of age to understand his culpability before God.

I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. (Romans 7:9)

For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (Romans 7:11)

It is true that we are born with an Adamic nature, and that we sin because we are fundamentally sinners. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that God does not condemn individuals on the basis of having the Adamic nature alone – guilt under their own sins is also a basis for judgment: The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. (Revelation 20:13)

This is one of those areas of theology where you feel like you’re walking through a minefield, because there are many potential errors, some of them serious errors that someone can make when talking about doctrines like this. It is true that we are born with an Adamic nature, a nature received from our first parents, Adam and Eve. We are born with an Adamic nature and we sin because we are fundamentally sinners. I don’t think that those two things I would question at all, from the scriptures. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that God does not condemn individuals on their basis of having the Adamic nature alone. I’m not trying to deny that there is a fallen a damaged old man in humanity.

We read in Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Notice that Paul did not write, “Everyone born with a sinful nature falls short of the glory of God.” The emphasis is on the individual’s sin. Paul also wrote this in Romans 5:12: Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

Several passages lay our guilt to our own trespasses and sins, and not to our inherited Adamic nature alone. These passages mention our guilt, without any reference to inherited sin. For example, and you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and even when we were dead in trespasses(Ephesians 2:5) are illuminated by Colossians 2:13: and you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. The Colossians passage says that it is your trespasses that are the issue.

The Scriptures again and again give us a principle of accountability, where it is not only what we inherit from Adam, that is under God’s judgment, but it is also our own sin. Therefore, our own sin is measured and evaluated, according to how much knowledge or how much light that we have. Most straightforwardly, I have to say, the Scriptures do not clearly and categorically speak to whether or not special needs children or adults will be in heaven. However, the principles we have, which do establish the concept of accountability, tell us that they will be under a far less severe judgment than the mass of humanity in general. And it may very well be that there is room in the mercy of God to bring those to salvation in and through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Will smokers go to heaven?

Good day David. I want speak about my dad who recently passed away, He prayed many times even with tears I have seen. But he did not have victory over smoking and drinking. Will he go to heaven?

Let me say, first of all, I’m so sorry to hear about your father. That’s a loss for any person, and our sympathies and condolences are with you. Now, in the question that you asked, you say that your father was a man who prayed, and that’s good.

I suppose that it’s possible that somebody can pray merely out of religious ritual, or they can pray to a false god. But I’m going to take your statement that your father was a man who prayed many times – even with tears – I’m going to take that in the best way possible, that there was definitely some evidence of true spiritual life in your father.

Given that, if your father did not have victory over smoking and drinking, does that mean that he will not go to heaven? Let’s examine this, on the basis of just general principles.

First of all, it is true that someone can be a genuine Christian and still have sin in their life. I hope that’s true – because I know me, and you know you, that I and you have sin in our life – even if you are a godly believer. None of us have achieved a place of sinless perfection. So, someone can be a Christian and still have sin in their life. The question is (and it’s a valid question) how much sin? How many sins? What types of sin? To what degree will the sinfulness be present?

You could say that your father was in bondage to that sinful habit of smoking – he was a slave in some sense to that habit, and that’s not good. But that alone doesn’t mean that he was not a Christian. If your dad was, in some sense, in bondage to alcohol, that’s not good. But it doesn’t mean in and of itself, that he wasn’t a Christian.

It is certainly true, that it is possible for bondage to sin to mean that a person is not really right with God. That’s why we read of these lists in the New Testament that say that the unrighteous, the immoral, the drunkard, and such will not inherit the kingdom of God. Those passages are speaking about people who are in habitual bondage to those sins, and they just refuse the light to be free from those sins. It’s possible that bondage to sin means that a person is not really right with God. But we don’t think that when a person becomes a Christian, even a true Christian, that they stop sinning. No, we’re going to sin, until our sin problem is finally solved, when our salvation is made complete in Jesus Christ.

In Jesus Christ, we have been saved from the penalty of sin – that’s right here, right now, in the present moment, for all those who put their trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus makes His resurrection power available to us, so that we don’t have to live under the power of sin. And in our resurrection, we will one day be freed from the presence of sin.

So, do you see this progression? Now we are free from the penalty, and we’re being taken out from under the power of sin. And one day we’ll be free from the presence of sin. I can’t speak to where exactly your father was in that progression. I pray that your father was a genuine believer whom you will see in heaven, and he simply failed to take advantage of the victory that was available for him in Jesus Christ for overcoming these sinful habits. One more thought, we should be growing in our walk with Jesus Christ. On this side of eternity, we will never stop dealing with sin. Yet there should still be a growth or a progression of our spiritual life. We should be dealing with sin on a much more basic level in our life as the years go on.

What is a false conversion?

Texas asked:

What exactly is a false conversion? Is there a scripture to reference for this? How can one know for sure they are indeed saved?

The idea of a false conversion is very much present in the scriptures. Let me give you one example. Matthew 7:21-23 says: Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

This shows us that there are those who will think they are converted or saved, or claim to be converted or saved, and they are not.

Understanding this, it is important to do what 2 Peter 1:10-11 says: Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10-11)

Peter calls upon us to make our calling and election sure. In other words, it’s not enough for us to say, “Well, am I saved or not? I think I am. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. I’ll just hope for the best.” No, make your calling and election sure. How do you do it? Let me give you a few very practical pointers. I’m really just trying to build on what Peter says in 2 Peter 1.

First, put your trust in Jesus Christ: in who He is and what He did for you, especially what He did in dying on the cross as your substitute for sin and judgement, and what He did in rising from the dead, to defeat sin and death.

Next, confess Jesus as Lord: Romans 10:9 says, If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Do it – actually say those words!

Third, ask for the witness of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:16 says, The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

One more thing to do is to simply come to Jesus, seek Jesus, and learn of Him, as a disciple learns from His Master. Jesus said in John 6:37: All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. Trust that the word of Jesus can be relied upon!

If you come to Jesus, He will not cast you out. If you come to Jesus you can trust that the Father has given you to Jesus Christ. You need to trust that the word of Jesus can actually be relied upon. Friends, this is important. This is crucial. Do these things and you can have rest in your soul that you have put your trust in Jesus Christ and that you are in fact saved. What you don’t want to do is walk through life casually, assuming you are saved and right with God, without ever doing the kinds of things that I’ve talked about in this answer to the question.

What will Jesus look like when He returns?

When Jesus comes back, how will he look? What color will he be? White, black, etc.?

When we think of the appearance of Jesus, we don’t have much evidence from the Scriptures. We can say a few things about His appearance as He walked this earth:

We know that He was not a remarkably handsome man, because Isaiah 53:2 says, He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. Some people think this only refers to his “spiritual appearance” or character, but I don’t think that is the case. Jesus had a “beautiful” character!

We know that Jesus did not have an appearance that was remarkably different than the people of His time and place. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas had to identify Jesus with a signal, a kiss of respect and greeting (Matthew 26:48). Jesus did not stand out with His height, weight, skin tone, or anything else.

Based on that, we can assume (and it’s not a crazy assumption) that Jesus was of a normal height, weight, and skin tone of the people of His time and place. That would mean that He would have a darker complexion than people from Northern Europe; it would be more like the complexion of those from Southern Europe, the Mediterranean World.

However, it is important to remember that Jesus has ascended to heaven, and He has received a resurrection body.

His resurrection body looked “human” and not “angelic” – we see this from the travelers on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24.

From John 20 we see that the resurrection body of Jesus still had at least some of the marks of His suffering, specifically the nail prints in His hands and the wound in His side.

We also must connect this with the vision of Jesus in Revelation 1:13-16. John saw Jesus as: One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

Some of this description in Revelation 1 is metaphorical – communicating to us in “word-pictures.” But even the metaphors describe a real appearance.

I would expect that the appearance of the returning Jesus (as described in Revelation 19) will be an appearance of glory, much more like what John described in Revelation 1.

But at the end of it all, we see no emphasis on Jesus’ race, but on His glory.

Do you have to belong to a particular church to be saved?

There are people who say we will go to hell for not being in a certain church. What do you say about the church being one, as a living body of believers, not being an organization or human institution?

We should have a high view of the church, because God has a high view of the church. However, our emphasis is not on the church as a particular institution or organization, but as something created by and organized by the Holy Spirit.

It’s what Paul called the “unity of the Spirit” in Ephesians 4:3-6: endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. This is a spiritual unity, not necessarily a structural or denominational unity. It is evident in the quick fellowship possible among Christians of different races, nationalities, languages, and economic classes.

Notice that Ephesians 4:3-6 does not say, “Endeavoring to keep up your ecclesiastical arrangements for centralization.” Nor does it say, “Endeavoring to keep the uniformity of the Spirit.” So the emphasis here is not on a structural unity.

Structural unity can even work against true unity of the Spirit. We can perhaps see a purpose God has in preventing a structural unity of the church right now, to keep misdirected efforts of the church (such as ambitions for political power) from fulfillment.

The idea, “You have to belong to our denomination or particular church structure, or you are not really saved” is wrong and dangerous. It goes against the “unity of the Spirit” proclaimed in Ephesians 4:3.

After death and before resurrection, will we have a conscious existence?

I have a question regarding Daniel 12:13. For me it looks like Daniel is waiting to be resurrected in the last days and he is not in Heaven or the Paradise at this moment. The question is whether after death we are alive, or we are actually unconscious and we do stop to exist until the resurrection? Thank you in advance.

The idea referred to is sometimes called “soul sleep” – it is the idea that when believers die, they have no conscious existence until they are resurrected on the last day.

There are a few passages that suggest this, such as 1 Thessalonians 4. I don’t see the Daniel passage as being that strong – this is what Daniel 12:13 says: But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days.

The problem with the idea of “soul sleep” is that there are several other passages that directly contradict the idea, such as 2 Corinthians 5:8 where we read of being absent from the body and present with the Lord, and in Philippians 1:21 we learn that to live is Christ and to die is gain.

There are several other passages, but this gives us an important principle. We need to rightly divide the word of truth – and this means bringing together all of what the Bible says about a subject and seeing how it harmonizes together.

We don’t use some verses to “cancel out” other verses, and we don’t just pretend that some verses don’t matter. This means bringing together all of what the Bible says about a matter and seeing how it harmonizes together.

So, if all we had about the world beyond was Daniel 12:13, or the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 that spoke of the resurrection, if all we had in the scriptures was those passages, maybe we could think a little bit more about this idea of soul sleep. But the answer is simply this. those passages are not all we have. We have many clear and convincing passages that speak to us of the truth of the fact that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

Will the church endure the Tribulation?

During a Revelation study this week there was a discussion on whether the Church will be taken out of or have to endure the Tribulation. Can you address?

I believe that the “catching away” of the church that is described in 1 Thessalonians 4 will happen before the tribulation, before the last seven-year period that precedes the glorious return of Jesus Christ.

I believe that this is the best way to bring together the many passages that speak of the return of Jesus – to understand that there is, in a sense, two returns of Jesus – one for His people, and one to return in judgment and even vengeance to a God-rejecting world.

There are many Christians who disagree with this, and some even mock the idea. They say things like this. “You say there’s two comings of Jesus; how many do you want to have? How many second comings of Jesus are there going to be?” Please consider that the first coming of Jesus had many different aspects. In one sense, the first coming of Jesus was when he was conceived in Mary’s womb. You could also say that Jesus came the first time when He was born in Bethlehem. Then again, Jesus came when He emerged out of Egypt. One could also say that the first coming of Jesus was when He was revealed for his ministry by John the Baptist. Or, you could say that Jesus came as a triumphant King in the triumphal entry recorded and all four Gospels. In another sense, Jesus came when He did his work on the cross suffering. Finally, you could say that the first coming of Jesus was when He emerged out of the tomb victorious over sin and death. The point is this: there were many different aspects of the first coming of Jesus. Why should it surprise us if the second coming of Jesus has at least two significant aspects? In one aspect coming for His church, in the other aspect coming with His church. One coming to meet His people in the clouds, the other coming from the clouds to a God-rejecting Earth. One coming at a time when no man knows the day or the hour, another coming at a specifically set number of days after the abomination of desolation. One coming to a world that is living life business as usual, the other one that comes to a world that has endured incredible cataclysm like has never been seen before.

Simply said, the first “coming” of Jesus had many different aspects, and it should not surprise us if the second coming of Jesus has at least two significant aspects.

I do understand that there is some video out there that seeks to answer or make the case against this belief (which is commonly called the “pre-tribulation rapture”). I was surprised to see that this video even quotes me and regards me an as authority for the pre-tribulation rapture position! My quick, first impression of that video is that it is almost entirely based on a narrow, inaccurate definition of “the day of the Lord.”

Are we saved by faith, or only by works

Are we finally “saved” or judged by faith alone or by the good works produced as a result of genuine faith?

This question is a little complicated. We are put in right relation to God by God’s grace, received through faith. Ephesians 2:8 says, for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

Titus 3:5 says, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

These passages and many others make it clear that are put into right relationship with God not by anything we do, but by God’s grace, received by faith.

At the same time, how we live is important – and we will come before judgment seat of Jesus Christ to give account for how we have lived! 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 says: Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

I could quote many other passages, but the essential meaning is plain: we are made right with God by God’s grace through faith; but how we live is also important before God and believers will have their life and works judged.

We are made right with God by God’s grace through faith. But how we live is also important before God, and believers will have their life and their works judged. I don’t say that to bring undue fear in anybody’s life, but maybe a sober pause and consideration. Dear brother or sister, you do not want to have a saved soul in a wasted life. How you live for Jesus matters right now for time and eternity.

Are those who don’t tithe or volunteer a burden to the church?

I’ve heard a pastor say that people who don’t tithe and/or volunteer at church are a burden to the church. What are your thoughts?

I don’t think that is a good or helpful way to describe things. Some people come to church and need a period of just being poured in to.

I do believe that every Christian should have an intentional way that they serve God and further His kingdom. And, I do believe that every Christian should be a giver.

Yet, the statement in the question sounds like a way to use guilt as a motivation. We should never use guilt or manipulation as a way to motivate God’s people – even though those methods often work!

It is true that we do need to get away from “consumer Christianity” – where people come to a church or look for a church purely with the thinking, “what are they going to do for me.” That is not healthy, and it has done a lot of damage in the church.

But there are seasons when a believer just needs to receive – and not be pressured to give or to serve. That will come later. One more thought: remember that not all service needs to be done within the church. There are wonderful ways to serve God and to advance his kingdom, apart from serving in a church. Of course, I praise the Lord for many faithful servants in churches and I thank the Lord for them. But you can legitimately and wonderfully serve the Lord outside of the walls of your church.