Can A Homosexual Go to Heaven?

            As the number of people who openly proclaim their sexual orientation increases, more and more people find themselves knowing someone who is either experiencing same sex attraction (SSA) or is actively participating in a homosexual lifestyle. Since many of these people seem to be kind, gracious, polite, loving, and often professing faith in God or even Christ and the gospel, we find ourselves asking the question: ‘Can a homosexual go to heaven?’  The answer to this question is complex. Some would like to quickly answer ‘no,’ thinking that will help deter SSA and ultimately the behavior itself. Does the Bible permit us to answer ‘no,’ or does the Bible lead us to answer ‘yes?’
           Revelation 21.8 is one of the strongest texts in the New Testament concerning people who will ultimately go to hell.  John the apostle wrote, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (ESV). Notice how John provides a list of various sins or descriptions of sins, all of which according to this verse, will result in punishment in hell—what a scary thought. Notice, he has murderers in the list as well as those who are sexually immoral—certainly homosexuals would fit in that category! But then notice what is included in the last group: “liars!” Wow! Liars. That’s frightening—what person who calls himself a Christian could say, ‘since becoming a Christian I have never lied.’ Ironically, only a liar could unabashedly proclaim such a lie. And John is not the only apostle who gives us a list like this; Paul does the same.
1 Corinthians 6:9–10 is just about as strong a text as Revelation 21.8. Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  In this text, Paul specifically identifies “men who practice homosexuality.” This is very helpful language in understanding this issue. “Men who practice homosexuality” helps us distinguish from those who battle with SSA.  Paul makes it clear that these men (humans) “who practice homosexuality” will not inherit the kingdom of God—but they are not alone in this list. Homosexuals are NOT a special category of sinners. They are included with the greedy, drunkards, swindlers, and adulterers. All guilty of the sins in his list will not be with God when they die. They will all be eternally separated from God. What Christian can say they have never been greedy since becoming a Christian? None. And if they say such a thing, I would suggest they are now guilty of telling a lie.
So then, what is the point of these lists, and how do I reconcile the forgiveness of God that Christ provides through his death, burial, and resurrection? The Apostle John provides us much help in solving this problem. He wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10, ESV).  All Christians continue to struggle with sin—no one is without it. Not only does the blood of Christ cleanse us from former sins, but it continues to cleanse us of our present sins. The text says “all unrighteousness,” which would include all imaginable forms of sexually deviant behavior. But John does not stop there. He continues to write about the Christian’s ongoing struggle with sin. He said, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:8-10).  The evidence of being a true Christian is victory over sin—not sinless perfection—no one achieves that. Even the great Apostle Paul talked about an ongoing battle with sin (see Romans 7:14-25).  It is clear that not everyone who professes to be a Christian is in actuality a Christian (see Matthew 7: 20-23; John 2:24).
Does telling one lie make me a liar? Yes. Does experiencing a moment of lust make me an adulterer? Yes, according to Christ in Matthew 5.28 (And that is why I need Christ’s righteousness so much.) But I don’t’ think that is the point John or Paul is making with their lists. I think each list serves to help us understand that true Christians don’t keep murdering people; they don’t keep lying; they don’t remain greedy all the days of their life.  Could a person who practices homosexuality put their faith in the gospel? Yes. Yes, in the same way a person who is characterized by being a liar could put their faith in the gospel; and in the same way we would expect the liar to become an honest person, we would expect the homosexual to stop practicing homosexuality; and in the same way that we would NOT say that a momentary lapse in integrity would prove the person wasn't truly saved, we also would not say that a lapse in SSA or even sexually deviant behavior would demonstrate the person wasn't saved. We can’t have double standards. We can’t say that practicing homosexuality sends me to hell, but when a Christian young person engages in premarital sex, that is a sin that God forgives.  The Bible is consistent. All sin sends me to hell. And more importantly, all sin can be forgiven, and true Christians are characterized by experiencing victory over sin in varying degrees throughout their lives by the grace of God, through the LORD Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit (see 1 John 4:4; 5:1-4,13,18).          

The Angel of the LORD is Wonderful

This morning as I was preparing for class with my BBA students, I was reading the story of Samson’s birth in Judges 13 and discovered that the angel of the LORD tells Samson’s mother and Manoah (Samson’s father) that his name is ‘wonderful?’ Since I was reading in the ESV, I immediately went to the KJV to see why I had not seen this potential connection to Christ before. I knew that Christ’s name is called Wonderful in Isaiah 9:6.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

And then I discovered that the KJV renders the Hebrew word in this verse with the word ‘secret.’ At this point, I wanted to know why there was a difference between the KJV and the ESV. Wonderful and secret are not the same. So I went to to compare the Hebrews words from Judges 13:18 and Isaiah 9:6. (Use the interlinear navigation link to make this happen.) Here is what I found.  Both Hebrew words derive themselves from the exact same Hebrew word. In Judges 13:18, the word is pil•ē' (an adjective) (H6383) and in Isaiah 9:6 the word is peh'•leh (a noun) (H6382), but both derive their origin from the same Hebrew verb (Strong’s H6381) which means ‘to be marvelous, be wonderful, be surpassing and extraordinary.’

I do not know why the KJV translators chose the word ‘secret’ in Judges 13:18 because the KJV uses the English word ‘wonderful’ to translate the same Hebrew word in Psalm 139:6. I do not know if the translation committee that translated Judges also translated Psalm 139, but every other English translation I could find also uses the word ‘wonderful’ in Judges 13:18. When I compared the two words in the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible), the connection between the two verses is very clear. Let me show you. In Judges 13:8 the word is mirabile and in Isaiah 9:6 the word is Admirabilis. 

Does all this prove that the Angel of the LORD that appeared to Manoah was in fact a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ—of course not—but it certainly gives further evidence that it is possible that these humans witnessed a Christophany. Moreover, the angel of the LORD in Judges 13 leaves the presence of the parents through the flame of fire created by a burnt offering to the LORD. In Exodus 3:2, the Angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in a flame of fire from a bush that was not consumed. Again, this does not prove that the Angel of the LORD was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, but Christ did tell us to search the Scriptures for they testify of me (John 5:29).

Finally, it is interesting to note that the Angel of the LORD ceases to manifest himself to humans after the birth of Christ. In fact, the final reference to ‘the Angel of the LORD’ is found in Zechariah 12:8 where we read ‘and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them.’ One verse later, we read about Israel looking upon ‘him whom they have pierced’ (v. 10). Again, this doesn’t prove anything; however, the fact that the Holy Spirit led Zechariah to include a particular reference to the Angel of the LORD in a chapter that prophetically points to Christ is not an accident.

As a final point, all this serves as just another example of the value in reading more than one English translation for all of us who do not read and write in Hebrew.