Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself and by whose side would you sit? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes are not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy, if you had not been holy on earth?
Now perhaps you think praying and Scripture reading, and hymn singing, dull and melancholy and stupid work, a thing to be tolerated now and then, but not enjoyed. You reckon the Sabbath a burden and weariness; you could not possibly spend more than a small part of it in worshipping God. But remember, heaven is a never-ending Sabbath. The inhabitants thereof rest not day and night, saying, “Holy holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” and singing the praise of the Lamb. How could an unholy man find pleasure in occupation such as this?
Think you that such a one would delight to meet David and Paul and John, after a life spent doing the very things they spoke against? Would he take sweet counsel with them and find that he and they had much in common? Think you, above all, that he would rejoice to meet Jesus, the crucified One, face to face, after cleaving to the sins for which He died, after loving His enemies and despising His friends? Would he stand before Him with confidence and join in the cry, “This is our God… we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:9)?
Think you not rather that the tongue of an unholy man would cleave to the roof of his mouth with shame, and his only desire would be to be cast out? He would feel a stranger in a land he knew not, a black sheep amid Christ’s holy flock. The voice of cherubim and seraphim, the song of angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, would be a language he could not understand. The very air would seem an air he could not breathe.
I know not what others may think, but to me it does seem clear that heaven would be a miserable place to an unholy man. It cannot be otherwise.
People may say, in a vague way, they “hope to go to heaven”, but they do not consider what they say… We must be heavenly-minded, and have heavenly tastes, in the life that now is, or else we shall never find ourselves in heaven, in the life to come.
This is why we who are in Christ, i.e. the saints, are saved and called to live a life of sanctification. It is a progressive sanctification that is to become Christlike every day while getting rid of our fleshly members. This life will end in heaven where we will be glorified in the perfect measure of the sanctification of Christ. Unlike an unholy man, we will not be strangers in heaven, we will understand the language of the saints, their tastes will be ours, their character ours, we will be complete in our joy and more than delighted to meet our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified so that we could share in the peace and divine joy.
No shame, no malaise, we will be filled with unimaginable joy.
Therefore, the truest and most passionate desire of a holy person is to go to heaven more than anything else.
This is the work of J. C. Ryle edited by Pawòl La.
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Read this article in French here: “Supposons qu’un Homme Impie aille au Paradis”