Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
(Philippians 1:19-20 ESV)
Even though Paul was facing the very real possibility of death he was not afraid. He did not know whether he would live or die, but he was sure of one thing and that was that he would not be ashamed when it was time for him to meet Jesus.
Notice that Paul was “eager” to have this experience. He was eager because he had no doubts about his standing with Jesus. It was his full “expectation and hope” that he would not be ashamed. The word “hope”, when used in the Bible, is not a fingers-crossed-waiting-to-see-what-the-future-holds way of thinking. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “hope” as “to desire with expectation of obtainment” or “to expect with confidence”. There is a certainty about true hope.
This is not how the word is commonly used anymore and this causes many to misunderstand the Bible. Many people think that the Bible offers no more certainty than anything else in life. Many “hope” they will go to heaven in the same way they “hope” to win the lottery. They aren’t assured that it will happen but they do expect to find out.
One the other hand the Bible tells us that there are certain things we can know for sure, including whether we are going to heaven or not. Throughout the Bible God teaches us that heaven is for those who believe that Jesus was God and paid for our sins on the cross. Of course, we also have to believe that we need our sins to be paid for. Many, many verses proclaim this truth including John 3:3, John 3:16 to mention just two. Heaven is for those who build a relationship with Jesus in this life and for no others [Matthew 7:21-23].
The apostle John wrote that those who don’t know Jesus will be ashamed when they meet Him when they die [1 John 2:28]. At that moment they will realize that they wasted their entire lives. What a horrible experience that will be!
Paul had no reason to be concerned about such a thing because he had lived in such a way as to honor Jesus in this life. Sure, Paul started out wrong. He was initially against The Way (as Christianity was originally called) and as such murdered those who believed in Jesus [Acts 22:19-20, Acts 26:9-11]. But he turned his life around and finished strong.
No one has to be ashamed when meeting Jesus after death. No one has to fear being told they cannot enter His eternal presence. Anyone can know for sure they are going to heaven. The way to this certainty is to have a relationship with God through His Son.
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