Feature Article of Sunday, 26 August 2012
Columnist: Annor, Joseph
Since the former President Atta Mills passed away, many people have spoken very good things about him including even the members of the opposition parties. However, it appears that as a result of the goodwill that Ghanaians have shown towards the first ever President to pass away in office, some people have taken that as privilege to portray the late President as a sinless saint, who has already ascended to heaven. In fact, all these started when at his funeral the Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur is said to have noticed a dove that perched on the car of Mrs Ernestina Naadu Mills, the wife of the late President. What we were not told however, is that several doves were released into the sky at the funeral. Therefore, there appears to be nothing unusual associated with one of the doves to perch on any of the cars around.
In addition to the above, a faked letter purported to have been written by the dead President Mills, has also been released.
Further, on 13 August 2012, it was reported that according to Bishop Heward Mills and Reverend Adarkwa Opambour, the late President Mills had already ascended into heaven.
Above all, it has also been reported that some Ghanaian television stations are showing a documentary demonstrating the late President ascending into heaven and seated at the right side of Jesus on his throne.
On the basis of the above mentioned claims made in relation to the late President Mills, I am going to discuss what the Bible teaches about what happens after death, that is, whether the righteous people in general, go to heaven immediately after death or they have to wait until the second coming of Jesus. It is not my intention to discuss whether President Mills will go to heaven or not, since according to John 5:21 & 23, it is only Jesus who has the sole authority to judge because his father, the Almighty God has given him the authority to perform all judgement. However, since Jesus alone has the authority to judge, on what basis are these people including the so called “two of Ghana’s celebrated Christian leaders” pronouncing the judgement on President Atta Mills and by so doing, arrogating to themselves the sole prerogative of our Lord Jesus Christ?
In Acts 1:6, the apostles asked the resurrected Jesus (immediately before his ascension), "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (in other word, judge the world). Jesus responded in verse 7, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority". Jesus demonstrated clearly in the above passage that God has set a date to judge the world through Jesus. In fact, in Mark 13:32, Jesus stated, "Of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." The fact that according to Jesus, he even does not know the date shows its extreme significance to God, the Father. Furthermore, the following passages among others also talk about one specific day set aside for the judgement of all people by Jesus.
Jesus stated in:
Matthew 11:22, but I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
John 5:27-29, do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
Matt 12:36, but I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
Matt 25:31-33, when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
Paul also stated in:
Acts 17:31, He [God] has fixed a day on which He will have the world judged in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given proof to all by raising Him from the dead.
Romans 2:5, but because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. And also in verse 16, this will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
1 Corinthians 4:5, therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
1 Corinthians 15: 51-52, behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (Again, all dead will be resurrected on one day).
1 Thessalonians 4:16, according to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Further, the following passages state:
2 Peter 2:9, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgement.
Jude 6, 14, 15, and angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. . . . And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him".
Revelation 6: 17, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?
Revelation 20:11-12, and I saw a Great White Throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
1 John 2:28, and now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
Clearly as indicated in the various passages quoted above, God has set a day that through his son Jesus he would judge all mankind and this is particularly, stated plainly in Acts 17:31 that God has fixed a day on which He will have the world judged by Jesus. It is therefore not true that people receive their judgement immediately after death, by either going to heaven or hell. It is therefore a fantasy for anyone to suggest that the late President Mills is already in heaven. Against this background, Peter stated in Acts 2: 29-3, fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day. Clearly, Peter indicated here that despite the favour God had on David, he has still not ascended to heaven, because the day for the judgement of all mankind has not occurred.
Also in Hebrews chapter 11, after the author has described what the patriarchs and prophets including Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham achieved through faith, he stated further in verse 13 and 39 that 'All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance ... And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised'. Clearly, the author of Hebrews has shown that even people considered prophets of God did not immediately receive their promise, as they have to wait in their tombs until the judgement day; despite that according to Titus 1:2, God who does not lie, promised the hope of eternal life before the beginning of time.
In addition to the above, it is stated in Deuteronomy 32:48-52 that God instructed Moses to go on the top of Mount Nebo in Moab, and view Canaan, the land he was giving the Israelites as their possession. God stated further that on that mountain Moses would die as his brother Aaron died on Mount Hor, because both of them broke faith with him in the presence of the Israelites and did not uphold his holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, Moses would see the land only from a distance; but would not enter the land he was giving to the people of Israel. I think the story is very familiar to most Christians. According to Deuteronomy 34 1-6, Moses went to Mount Nebo as God instructed and after the LORD had shown him all the land to be given to the Israelites, he died there in accordance with the word of the LORD. According to verse 6, the Lord buried him there but no man knows his burial place to this day. Now, let me tell you what happened to Moses' dead body before he was buried by the Lord. According to the New Testament book of Jude 1:9, when Moses died the devil wanted to steal his body and God had to dispatch his archangel Michael to dispute with the Devil, in order to prevent the Devil from taking possession of the body. Yes, there was no human to bury Moses, which the Devil is aware and the Devil was also aware of some of the mistakes that Moses committed, including those listed above from Deuteronomy 32. Yet, to God Moses was his man and therefore, sent Michael, the archangel to prevent that. Unfortunately the book of Jude is silent about what happens to the body of Moses after the encounter, but I can confidently state that despite that a whole archangel had to take the body of Moses to prevent Satan from taking it, the archangel did not take Moses to heaven. The reason is that according to Deuteronomy 34:6, the Lord buried him someone near where he died. It is my belief that it was the archangel who buried Moses on behalf of God. Clearly, this story also confirms that people do not go straight to heaven immediately after death; otherwise the angel would have taken Moses to heaven instead of burying him.
So what makes some people think that President Mills has ascended into heaven, when even the prophets who dedicated their lives solely to serve God have to wait in their graves until the judgement day? Clearly, anyone spreading such false views should be very careful. As indicated above, Paul stated in Romans 2:16 that his gospel declares that God will judge people’s secrets through Jesus Christ on the day (God has appointed). Unless, those people spreading the false views have gospels different from Paul, then they are preaching something contrary to the gospel of Jesus and Paul. While they may believe that their actions will help them to win some favours in one way or the other, they are simply bringing curse on themselves. Jesus stated in Matthew 5:19, whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. Further, Hebrews 10:31 states, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Also as quoted above, Matt 12:36 states that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. It is therefore strange to notice that the so called “two of Ghana’s celebrated Christian leaders” are among those fabricating these false views. What Bible are they using and where did they receive their training from?
Before I conclude the essay, I just want to boldly state that no human being has ever (and I mean ever) ascended to heaven, either alive or after death. I know some of the readers will be quick to ask, what about Elijah, Enoch and Moses? Well, as for Moses I have already discussed it above. Unfortunately however, it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss comprehensively what the Bible states about the translation of Enoch and Elijah. Suffice to state that the Bible states plainly in the passages below that no one has ever ascended to heaven other than Jesus:
Proverbs 30:4, who has gone up to heaven and come down? ... Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!
Jesus stated in:
John 6: 46, not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.
John 1:18, no one has ever seen God, it is God the only son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.
1 John 4:12, no one has ever seen God.
Above all, Paul stated in 1 Timothy 6:16, that it is he alone who has immortality and dwell in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion.
Most importantly, Jesus again stated in John 3:13, and no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man.
It is clear from the foregoing passages that if indeed, Elijah and Enoch went to heaven where the throne of God is, then John 3:13, 1 Timothy 6:16 and the other passages will be directly contradicting that fact. It will also be wrong for Paul and Jesus to have stated that no one has ever or can see God. As aforementioned, it is beyond the scope of this paper to answer that question. Suffice to state that the Son of God himself who came from heaven stated that no human being has ever been to heaven. I hope to write another article to address what actually happen to Elijah and Enoch. Meanwhile, please do not tell me that Moses saw the back of the Almighty God, as if that was the case Jesus would not have made his statements above as well as one in John 5:37 that 'The Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form'. Although, it has been stated in some places that God spoke, for instance, as in Matthew 3:17, and a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Well, the scriptures show that the voices that were purported to be the Almighty God, were either Jesus or angels. I have addressed the identity of who showed himself to Moses and Abraham in another article that I am writing about the Trinity. Suffice to state that in the old testament, it was Jesus who always acted as God.
Another issue is that the documentary which is said to be showing the ascension of the late President to the heaven, indicates that President Mills and other heavenly being are sitting at the left hand side of Jesus. This is what irritates me most about the whole saga. The reason is that according to the Bible, Jesus sits at the right hand side of God. Therefore, the Almighty God is sitting at the left hand of Jesus, because if someone is on my right, I will have to be on the left of that person. For this reason, to state that President Mills and others are sitting at the left hand of Jesus means such people will be occupying the place of God. In fact, according to Matt 20: 21-23, the mother of John and James asked Jesus “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” Jesus told them you don’t know what you are asking. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” They answered, “We can”. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” Jesus clearly knew that it was the Father who sits on his left side and it seems to me that it was one of the reasons that he told them that they do not know what they are asking. So, are those claiming that the President is sitting at the left side of Jesus believe that Jesus would regard President Mills more than two of his only twelve apostles, who supported him in his ministry, and yet, Jesus refused them their request to sit near him. Also, according to Jesus, it is God himself who determines who will sit near Jesus. Clearly, what the documentary is showing is a tantamount to sacrilege, for the Almighty himself occupies Jesus' left hand side.
From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that people do not go to heaven immediately after their death and that each one has to wait for the appointed time for Jesus to come to judge everyone. In that regard, those that are seeking either political or electoral favours, hence making all sorts of false claims should stop, because President Mills was not a sinless man and as such, all this overly eulogistic canonisation of President Mills is purely politically fantasies. Yes, the President achieved a lot in life and is also said to be humble, but that does not make him a saint and certainly not better than David, Moses and others who worked solely for God, but have still not received the promise of eternal life.
Written by Joseph Annor:
BA (Hons) Study of Religions Major (University of Ghana), Graduate Diploma in Accounting (Monash, Australia), Master of Business in Accounting (UTS, Australia) and member of CPA Australia.