It is natural to assume Jesus knows about Heaven. The Bible suggests Jesus can down to earth from heaven in human form to convey His love. We know Hell as an alternative to living in Heaven after death is a biblical myth. See here. It can be troublesome to defend a loving God who would punish people forever for sins committed in a few short years on earth. Who doesn’t know unending suffering is pointless as it doesn’t produce any good. As it turns out the Bible also says very little about what heaven will be like.
Enough biblical passages suggest all will meet God one day for an accounting of their deeds – good and bad. Paul speaks of our eventual citizenship not being back on earth but forever in heaven (Philip. 3:20). The word heaven appears the most in Matthew in references to the “kingdom of heaven” which was coming in Jesus’ readers’ lifetime (Mt. 3:2; 16:28). Thus, we are presently living in the kingdom of heaven (i.e. age). The second most frequent time the word heaven appears in the NT is in the book of Revelation. Revelation speaks of upcoming events in the writer’s lifetime (Rev 1:1; 22:6), thus the new heaven and earth is referring to an age than a physical location in the future when God will destroy the earth and come down to reign.
Jesus possibly thought speaking more about life after living on earth a short time lead to passive earthly living, similar to focusing on Jesus’ coming again rather than making a difference in the world we live in currently. The Bible seems to speak mostly of a life where one is either spiritually dead or eternally alive. Jesus when asked about eternal life referred to a quality of life than destination. One is living or dying. John 3:36 is like many Johannine passages that advises readers that eternal living is something that begins immediately on earth.
One may be surprised what Jesus said when asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus simply said to love God and your neighbor. Loving God is to love ourselves and others like we want to be loved. Jesus implied immortality begins in this world by running from selfishness. Obviously, changing directions not perfection was Jesus’ message or heaven will have no citizens. Jesus didn’t talk so much about life after death; Jesus talked about how true living begins here on earth by knowing how much your Creator loves you. Such knowledge empowers one to shun evil and be the unselfish person we all desire to be deep down.
Jesus wasn’t being exclusive and passing out get-out-of-hell-free cards when quoted: 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 (Matt. 7:13-14). Jesus was only warning that selfishness leads to regret and destruction. The narrower path – loving others as we wish to be loved – leads to true freedom.
Who doesn’t know the story of how Jesus responded to the religious elite who had caught a woman in adultery (Jn. 7:53-8:11). When Jesus rightly shamed the crowd by forcing them to look in the mirror, they dropped their stones and left Jesus and the woman alone. Jesus didn’t lecture, pray with the woman, or tell her to go to church. Jesus simply said “Go now and leave your life of sin.” It didn’t matter that Jesus may never see this woman again. Jesus had said all He needed to – God loves you and encourages you to do what you know is right in your heart.
Jesus when preparing to enter Jerusalem and face death (Mt. 19:1-10) told Zacchaeus how one can be saved. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and had cheated many people out of their money. Zacchaeus reflected on his actions and told Jesus he intended to payback four times stolen money. Jesus responded: “Today salvation has come to this house.” There was no formal confession or baptism though believers were being baptized. Jesus simply praised Zacchaeus for recognizing a journey necessary to avoid personal destruction. Salvation is not a future destination but a currently reality.
Was the thief simply lucky being at the right place at the right time? Will the thief, only sorry when hanging on a Cross with Jesus, go to paradise and others who lived conscientiously be out of luck? If you don’t care how the hell you treat others, you might worry! We often reject God because of poor role models or bad information about God. Those who believe in God on earth are not simply more enlightened or moral. God never thought fear lead to authentic relationships. God knew true love could not be forced or manipulated. God’s continual encouragement and mercy is our necessary nourishment for life transformations. Obedience to God, which is always in our best interest, is caught not taught when we understand God is not a representation of our earthly parents but the perfection of the human parents we have always desired.