Stages on the way to heaven

To die, serve, and love: this is a simplified description of the path that leads to eternal glory. There is a role model we can follow, someone who has walked this path before. Here is a step-by-step guide from a divine service by the Chief Apostle.

It was not just a case of the Son of God returning to the Father. The ascension of Christ marked the first time that a human being ascended to heaven with a resurrection body. This is what Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said on Ascension Day, 10 May 2018, in Trier (Germany). The Bible text for this divine service was John 12: 32: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.”

The first of many

“The Son of God came to earth and took on human form,” Chief Apostle Schneider said. “This Man led a sinless life on earth. This Man died on the cross. This Man rose from the dead and received the resurrection body.” In other words, Ascension is the feast on which the first man with a resurrection body entered the glory of God.”

“Do you notice something? There is something there for us.” Ascension is not only a nice chapter dealing with an episode from Christ’s life, it is also a promise for us. “This is what we are to experience. We are human beings and are waiting to receive the resurrection body in order to be able to enter the glory of God with this resurrection body.”

A role model for starters

“What did Jesus Christ have to do in order to go back to His Father?” the Chief Apostle asked and gave an answer consisting of three parts.

  • Jesus Christ died on the cross. “He gave His life for the sins of others, even though He was without sin, resisted the devil, and conquered him.”
  • Jesus Christ placed Himself entirely into the service of God and mankind: “He fulfilled the will of His Father perfectly.”
  • Jesus loved to the extreme: “His love for God and His neighbour was so great that He loved them to the end and went to the cross.”

“That was only the beginning,” the Chief Apostle continued, because Jesus wanted to return to take His own unto Himself. “What must we do to be able to experience this ascension?”

To die, serve, and love

“The first thing Jesus Himself said was that we must believe in Him: Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He really died. He really rose from the dead, and His ascension is divine reality.” But, the Chief Apostle added: “That is not enough of course. We must follow Him faithfully, as it says in our 2018 motto, and also follow His example.”

  • We must be dead to sin: “We are determined to fight against sin, persistently and constantly. With time our will to resist does not diminish, but it increases.”
  • We must serve Him: “Today, God is often seen as a service provider. You order from Him and then you pay what you think the price might be: offering, prayer, and going to church. And if we do not get what we expect, we are disappointed. But the opposite is the case: we serve God because we owe Him.”
  • We must love until the end: “We don’t want to escape because things are going so badly for us in the world. That’s not the case. We are not running away. But we love God, we love the Lord Jesus, and because we love Him we have this sincere longing to have fellowship with Him, to be with Him.”

Growing together as a congregation

“The Lord will not come and take scattered individuals with Him. He will take us along as a group, a congregation. What matters is not only that we believe and follow, but that we also become one,” Chief Apostle Schneider said.

“However, that does not mean,” he added, “that I love every sister and brother in the congregation in the same way that I love my wife and children. It is not this kind of love. We are talking about the love of Jesus Christ here. What is the love of Jesus Christ? It wants my neighbour’s salvation. Let us form a community that is united in the Lord and will be completed in Him.”

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Andreas Rother
Chief Apostle, Divine service