Why doesn’t everyone go to heaven?
This past Sunday, March 15th, our 5th grade Sunday School class started a new multi-week study on the theme our students voted for in January, “Why do some people not go to church?” We started with a Grapple lesson on “Why doesn’t everyone go to heaven?” Our discussion on this topic focused on the existence of sin, how sin separates us from God, and how our “good work” here on earth cannot save us from our sins. It is only through faith in Jesus, and our asking for forgiveness for our sins, that we can be forgiven and be able to join Christ in heaven. We discussed the meaning of “holy” (set apart) and how even the “saints” of history were sinners. No one except Christ has been or is without sin. We discussed how it is not our SIN which keeps us out of heaven (otherwise all human beings would be prevented from getting into heaven) but rather human failure / unwillingness to repent in the name of Jesus which prevents entry into heaven.
Our Grapple curriculum suggested several verses for us to discuss and explore in this lesson. These included:
Isaiah 59:1-2 (New International Version)
Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.
Matthew 7:13-14 (New International Version)
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Romans 5:20-21 (New International Version)
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In discussing our own perceptions and definitions of “sin,” one of our students suggested that “killing is a sin.” This led to a discussion about whether it was moral or a sin to eat meat of any kind: beef, chicken, etc. We discussed how the ten commandments include the commandant “Thou shalt not murder,” which is different than “Thou shalt not kill.” I briefly mentioned Just War Theory and the idea which has been developed through the ages that the use of violence to defend innocents can be justified on moral means. We didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time discussing these issues, since of course these are very deep in themselves, but we did touch on them since they were raised by one of our students.
In the context of the above verse from Matthew, we discussed the role of shepherds in the time of Jesus and both the Old and New Testaments, guarding their flocks and being willing to put their lives on the line (lay down their lives) to protect their sheep from predators. We discussed the “sheepfold” and how shepherds would position themselves in the only place where a sheep (or other animal) could enter or leave the sheepfold. In this way, the shepherd was “the gatekeeper” and tightly controlled all access to the sheepfold. This is the context for the Matthew verse as well as verses from John (John 10) when Christ refers to himself as “the gate.” I shared some photos as well as videos of sheep in New Zealand with students during our lesson, and discussed (as an aside) how different the “shepherd” role is in New Zealand since they don’t have ANY natural predators in the entire country. (No wolves, coyotes, foxes, snakes, etc.)
These are challenging teachings to study, understand and embrace in our relativistic and postmodern age. I didn’t use those terms with our 5th graders, but I point it out because there are plenty of folks “out there” calling themselves Christians, professing a belief in Christ, and professing faith in the Bible, who have universalist and Unitarian views of salvation. The Bible and New Testament specifically is clear on this point: There is one way to salvation, and that is through confession and profession of faith in Christ.
Our memory verse for next week is Psalm 46:10 (New International Version):
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth
Students don’t need to recite the entire verse for next week, the first line (“Be still, and know that I am God”) will be sufficient. 🙂
Have a great week, and please discuss these topics and issues with your family!