Twelve Bible Dialogues
A Review of Twelve Basic Bible Doctrines
Harold P. Barker, with O. Lambert, C. A.
Miller, P. Brown,
Questions by O. Lambert and others; Answers by H. P. Barker
OUR subject is “Meetness for heaven.” A wonderful thing it is, that people like you and me, full of failures and shortcomings, can be made meet for heaven, even while living here on earth. But this is what the grace of God is able to do for us.
In Revelation 21:27 we read that
nothing that defiles can enter the
The efficacy of the precious blood of Christ is so great that it can completely remove the defilement. It can cleanse away the sins of a lifetime in a moment, and wash the sinner white as snow.
If anyone felt that his sins were as black as hell itself, and more in number than the grains of sand upon the sea-shore, we could still point him to the blood that cleanses from all sin, that makes the guilty, defiled sinner white, and pure, and fit for God’s bright glory-home.
Do taking the sacrament, doing penance, and attending strictly to all religious duties help anyone to become fit for heaven?
If such things as these can in any way help to fit our souls for the skies, it is strange beyond measure that the Bible does not tell us so! On the contrary, we find that “works,” though they have their place in connection with the Christian’s life on earth, have no place whatever in connection with his salvation, or in fitting him for the skies. Salvation is distinctly said to be “NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9); and if God has saved His people, it is “NOT BY WORKS of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5).
There are many, however, who would energetically disown and denounce the doctrine of salvation by works, who yet cherish the idea that it depends upon themselves in some way or other to fit their souls for heaven. So they sing —
“A charge to
keep I have, a God to glorify,
It is true that the Lord has committed a charge to His people, but that charge is certainly not to save their souls and fit them for the sky. His finished work is the only thing that can do that. Nothing can possibly add to the value of what Christ has done for us, or make more perfect that spotless robe of righteousness with which the grace of God has arrayed us.
Is being made fit for heaven the same as having a title to go there?
Hardly. I might receive an invitation to attend a levée at King’s House from His Excellency the Governor himself. That would give me a clear title to go there. But as I stand here I am not fit to attend a brilliant function like that. I am not suitably clad. I should need a complete change of attire before my fitness for the Governor’s company would be recognised. On the other hand, my dress might be in every respect suitable, but that would not give me a title to go. In the one case I should have a title, but no fitness. In the other I should be fit, but have no title. Now, through the grace of God both a title to heaven and a perfect fitness for that holy place are provided for all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. His precious blood makes us as perfectly fit for heaven as our sins had made us fit for hell.
But our meetness does not consist merely in the fact of our sins being washed away. Christ Himself is the measure of our meetness. We are so linked up with Him that God sees us in Him, decked with all His comeliness, and meet for the presence of God even as He is meet. Our title, too, though based upon the precious blood of Christ, lies in the fact that He Himself has entered heaven for us. We have a right to be there because He, our Substitute, our Saviour, and our exalted Head, is there.
Suppose it were possible for a sinner to be taken to heaven in his sins, what would be the result?
I suppose that such a one would feel utterly miserable. With a nature wholly unsuited to God’s presence, and without any fitness for a place of light and holiness, it would be unbearable to him. His cry would be, “Let me get away from this place!”
I heard once of a betting-man on his way to some horse-race who, by mistake, went on board the wrong steamer. He found himself amongst a lot of Christians bound for a conference. In the saloon, on deck, everywhere, hymns were being sung, and conversations going on, of which the things of Christ were the topic. The man felt completely out of place, and his discomfiture ended in his offering the captain a good round sum of money to be put down at the nearest landing-place.
People talk easily enough about going to heaven when they die, but they forget that unless they have been made fit for the place, and have received a nature that can enjoy the things of God, they would be as miserable in heaven as that betting-man was amongst the Christians on the steamer. If an hour in their company was unbearable, what would an eternity in the very presence of God be to an unregenerate sinner?
Where in the Bible do we read of being made fit for heaven?
In Colossians 1:12-14. Let me read the passage: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
Ought we to pray to God to make us meet to be partakers of the heavenly inheritance?
If you will glance at the chapter from which we have just read, you will see that from the ninth verse to the eleventh we read of various things which as Christians we can PRAY for. We should earnestly pray, for instance, that we might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, and walk worthy of the Lord, and be fruitful in every good work, and so on. But verses twelve to fourteen mention things that we can GIVE THANKS for. Now, we pray for things we want, but we give thanks for what we have already received. You will note that meetness for the inheritance above is one of the things we are to give thanks for, and not one of the things we are to pray for. That is very clear from verse twelve. It is something which, by the grace of God, is ours already.
We were speaking the other evening of that golden little word “hath.” How many have been enabled to bid farewell to all their doubts by seeing that “hath” implies present possession! The same word is used here with reference to our meetness for heaven: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet.” Oh, let us give thanks indeed to Him for this great gift!
Who are the “us” referred to in that passage?
The fourth verse of the chapter will answer that question: “Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.” They were people who had come to Christ and believed in Him as their Saviour. The apostle does not refer to unbelievers or mere professors. They are not made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. This great blessing is the portion only of those who have trusted in Christ.
Are not believers left on earth for the purpose of being made more and more fit for heaven by the grace of God and the influence of the Holy Spirit?
One might answer that question by asking another: Can anything wrought in our souls, or produced in our lives by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit, add to the value of the precious blood of Christ? Surely not.
God has most assuredly left us on earth for a purpose, but that purpose is not that we might be made more meet for heaven.
I am aware that some good people cherish the thought that Christians are gradually ripening for the skies, just as an orange, under the influence of the sun’s rays, becomes sweet and mellow, and fit to be plucked and eaten. Whatever other aspect of a Christian’s blessing that orange may illustrate, it certainly does not show how he is made fit for heaven.
Why, if from the day of your conversion to the day when you bid farewell to earth, you could live a life of holy zeal and devotedness in the Master’s service; if by continual prayer and the study of His Word you became a giant in spiritual knowledge, you would be no more meet for heaven at your last moment than when, as a poor sinner, you first trusted in Christ. Growth there would be, in many respects —in knowledge, in experience, in devotedness, in zeal; but there would and could be no growth in meetness for heaven.
Is there not a place where souls are sent, after death, to be finally fitted for heaven?
Such a place exists only in the imagination of men’s minds. The Bible is not only silent as to there being such a place, but its testimony is dead against it.
I know that a good many present with us this evening have been accustomed to hear of what is called purgatory. But will anybody tell me that any suffering through which I might pass can accomplish what the suffering through which my Saviour passed for me could not? Would my sufferings be more efficacious to fit my soul for heaven than His sufferings were? Impossible!
Oh no; thanks be unto God, my Saviour has won for me by His finished work, not a place in purgatory, but in the Father’s house. His work is all that is needed to fit the believing sinner for that place, and we are only waiting till He comes to enter the place He has made us fit for. If called to die, it will not be to undergo a further process of purification by purgatorial fire, but “to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). To depart and to be with Christ is a very different thing from departing to be in purgatory, is it not?
There were some Christians at
Their case in no way
invalidates the truth we
are insisting on. The apostle Paul himself said to those same
ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name
Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” The place that they were not fit for was
There is all the difference in the world between being “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” and being “meet for the Master’s use” (2 Tim. 2:21). Many are fit for glory who are very far from being fit vessels for the Master to use here on earth. So God has to chasten them, and discipline them, and sometimes to take them away from earth altogether.
Is the case of those Corinthian believers an instance of the “sin unto death”? (1 John 5:16)
Yes, I think so. If God has made Himself known to us in grace, we must not conclude that He ceases to be a wise and just Governor. He cannot allow sin to go on amongst His people unchecked. But even though the sin be of such a nature that God sees necessary to check it by the removal of the one who sins, yet that one, if a believer in Jesus, is removed to heaven.
We will suppose that a father, as he sits in his house, hears his son’s voice mingling with the voices of some bad, rough lads in the street. He is shocked to hear the language that comes from his own boy’s lips. Opening the window, he calls: “George, come here!” George turns round, and his father continues: “I have seen how you have been misconducting yourself. I cannot trust you out there any longer. Come in at once!”
Thus he calls the boy away from the street, where he was bringing discredit upon his father’s name; but where does he call the boy to? He calls him home.
That is what God has sometimes to do with His children. Their sin is a sin unto death. God removes them from earth (the place they are not fit for) and takes them to heaven (the place that, through the blood of Jesus, they are fit for).
Is there any other instance in the Bible illustrating the same principle?
Yes, the case of Moses. A wonderful servant of God he was, but he sinned in disobeying God’s directions on one occasion, and failed to maintain God’s honour in the eyes of the people. For this God said to him: “Get thee up into this mountain Abarim … and die in the mount whither thou goest up” (Deut. 32:49, 50). Moses was not allowed to lead God’s people into the promised land. His service was given to Joshua, and God called him away from earth.
If anyone asks, “But how do you know that after his failure Moses went to heaven?” I reply, “Because when the Lord Jesus was transfigured upon the mount, Moses was one of His companions who appeared in glory with Him” (Luke 9:30, 31).
Moses’ fitness for heaven did not depend on his faithfulness, or he never would have got there. His continuance as God’s chosen servant on earth did depend upon his faithfulness, and because he failed he was called away. So with us. If unfaithful, we are not “meet for the Master’s use,” and God will have to deal with us as He sees fit. But our meetness for glory depends upon something the value of which no failure on our part can ever diminish, the precious blood of Christ.
In saying that, are you not setting forth very dangerous doctrine?
It is enough for me that it is the doctrine of Scripture. But after all, do its practical effects strike you as so very bad? Are those who are assured that Christ’s precious blood is all that is needed to make them fit for heaven such very careless and dreadful people? As a matter of fact, it is the other way round, and in real life full confidence in the power of Christ’s blood to cleanse, and the assurance that through it we are made fit for glory, are found to go hand in hand with a godly walk and a concern for God’s glory on earth.
Does not the case of the dying thief illustrate how a sinner is made fit for heaven without any works on his part?
It does indeed. Poor man! with his hands made fast to the cross, what manner of work could he do? He could only turn to the Lord in all his vileness and helplessness. This he did, and was blessed at once with the promise, “To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” Little matters what men say or think as to what or where “paradise” was. The point is that he was there and then made fit for the company of Christ, and had the assurance of being with Him.
Why did Christ institute the sacrament if, as you say, it does not help to make us fit for heaven?
I am not in any way implying that the Lord’s Supper, or the sacrament, as you call it, is unimportant. I take it myself, when possible, every Sunday. But in doing so I have not the remotest thought of being made more fit for heaven thereby. If you wish to know why the Lord Jesus instituted the Supper, you have only to turn to the Scriptures for the reason. It is stated distinctly enough. See Luke 22:19. He Himself said: “This do in remembrance of Me.”
That is a very different thing from saying, “This do in order to be made more fit for heaven.”The truth is, that the bread and wine are given to us that we might be constantly reminded of our absent Lord, in His death. He desires that we should not forget Him, as the butler forgot Joseph, and instituted the Supper as a simple means of remembrance. There is no hint anywhere in the Bible of its being a “means of grace,” or of its having any virtue in it for helping to make us meet for heaven. Only those who know that they are saved, and made fit for heaven through Christ’s precious blood, can rightly take the Supper, for they only are able to remember Him as His own loved ones, who owe all their blessing to His death.
Twelve Bible Dialogues -
Harold P. Barker et al.
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