THE concept of heaven is a point of convergence for all the world’s major religions. It is believed to be the dwelling place of God and the ultimate destination of the faithful who meet certain conditions and please God. The point of divergence – a critical one – has to do with the kind of passport and visa required for entry into heaven.
For some of the religions, one only needs to believe in God and live a
life that is pleasing to Him from that moment till departure from
earthly life. The teachings about the nature and character of God on the
one hand, and God’s expectations of mankind on the other, differ
significantly from religion to religion.
Of the passport and visa requirements for heaven, Jesus in whom the
Christians believe as both God and Saviour of the world, is unequivocal.
He declared to His apostles and, by extension all those who profess
faith in Him, in the sixth verse of the 14th chapter of John’s gospel:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father
except through Me.” His declaration made over 2000 years ago was
unprecedented and there has not been any other quite like it ever since.
In His teachings, Jesus gave the number one requirement for the
journey to heaven as faith in God and acceptance of the divine plan for
salvation which He came to execute through, His earthly ministry. To
make heaven, one must believe in God, profess this belief, embrace the
plan of salvation, live a holy life and love God and fellow humans. But
while most of the religions espouse various doctrines of heaven, very
few faithful actually look forward to making it there.
As the famous reggae star, Peter Tosh, sang “everybody wants to go
heaven but nobody wants to die except Jesus.” A disappointed Master of
Ceremony who was finding it hard to get his audience to applaud the high
moments of a function deviced a funny but effective strategy. He urged
the crowd to clap the number of years they wished to live with each clap
representing an additional year. They just went on and on with even the
elderly struggling to outclap younger folks.
Even among Christians, heaven is becoming a rare sermon topic in a
generation where motivational talks and prosperity messages present a
stronger appeal. Way back then in His earthly ministry, Jesus had
wondered: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world,
and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his
soul?” Matt 16:26.
The case of Julianna – the dying five-year-old American girl is
therefore worthy of celebration in a generation that is so afraid of
death and cares little about heaven. Julianna is the daughter of Steve
and Michelle Snow. Steve is a retired U.S. Air Force pilot who gave up
his job partly to take care of terminally ill Julianna while Michelle is
a neurologist. Julianna was born with a hard-to-diagnose incurable
disease on August 25, 2010 as a second child to the couple.
According to excerpts from the mother’s blog, she and her husband
noticed that at the age of nine months, Julianna could not sit up
steadily. By her first Birthday, she could not stand, talkless walk. As
the parents were to painfully discover, Julianna was suffering from
“Chacot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, a neurodegenerative illness,” a
hereditary condition where neurons in the brain and spinal cord are
progressively destroyed. Julianna obviously inherited the disease from
her father who had a very mild form of it only detected after suspicions
over the origin of the little girl’s plight led in that direction.