PSALM 15 TALK
(WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GO TO HEAVEN?)
(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.
A few years ago a friend of mine who attends a different church to me told me of the unexpected death of one of her churches lay leaders. When his family were preparing for his funeral they found in his study some bible study notes he had prepared the day before his death on Heaven. My friend said his bible study notes were read out at his funeral and they helped turn a very sad and difficult day into a time of praise for the life of one of God’s faithful servants. Praise also for our God and his wonderful promise of eternal life with him in his amazing heavenly home. What he had written on paper the day before he was now experiencing in all its fullness.
It’s been said there are only two certain things for all in this life, death and taxes. We are all going to die but who will go to heaven? Today’s Psalm and other passages of scripture will give us some answers to that very important question.
In the previous Psalm, David described the typical ungodly man headed for eternal destruction. Now David describes the man of God headed for eternal life with God in his heavenly home.
The Structure of this Psalm
- THE QUESTION OF WHO WILL GO TO HEAVEN IS POSSED (1)
- THE TEN VIRTURE’S OF THE PERSON HEADED FOR HEAVEN IS EXPLAINED (2 – 5a)
- THE PROMISE OF STEADFASTNESS IS STATED (5b)
Read Psalm 15
- THE QUESTION OF WHO WILL GO TO HEAVEN IS POSSED (1)
The Psalm opens with a simple question,
“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
But what is David actually asking here?
At first glance he is speaking about the physical Hill in Jerusalem that the Temple was eventually built on, which became known as Mount Zion. Mount Zion however was not the name of that hill as it is actually called, Mount Moriah, 2 Chronicles 3: 1,
“Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David”.
Mount Zion gets a little more confusing as a name of a place when you follow through the Old Testament’s usage. Mount Zion in 1 Kings 8: 1 is the name of Jerusalem or the city of David,
“Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Zion, the City of David”.
Finally Mount Zion is also used to describe the presence of God as it appears in Psalm 74: 2,
“Remember the people you purchased of old, the tribe of your inheritance, whom you redeemed Mount Zion, where you dwelt”.
So, Mount Zion is a term that denotes more of a spiritual place and is deeply connected with the dwelling place of God or heaven. This is exactly what the writer to the Hebrews implies in Hebrews 1: 22,
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.”
David only set up the Sanctuary, a large tent like structure on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. This tent contained “The Ark of the Covenant” which contained the tablets of stone given to Moses, which had written on The Ten Commandments. The place the ark sat in was called “The Holy of Holies” and was a representation of God’s throne in Heaven. This also then would represent God’s dwelling on earth in the midst of his people as Moses was told to do in Exodus 25: 8 – 9,
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you”.
All Israelite knew that only the High Priest, once a year entered this place so David is not asking who will dwell in the sanctuary but who will one day live with God in heaven, the real Mount Zion or Holy Hill.
If you want a more detailed picture of this sanctuary you can read Hebrews 9: 1 – 9.
So, the sanctuary represents God’s dwelling place or home. Therefore, as Christians we are headed for a heavenly home and the old song’s words are true, “
“This world is not my home I’m just a passing through”.
So, David is posing the question, who gets to go to God’s heavenly Home?
- THE TEN VIRTUES OF THE PERSON HEADED FOR HEAVEN IS EXPLAINED (2 – 5a)
From verse 2 on, David now answers the question he has asked and in doing so presents 10 virtues of the man headed to live in God’s Sanctuary on his He’s Holy Hill (our heavenly home).
Before we look more closely at each of these 10 virtues we must understand a couple of guiding principles for the Christian believer.
- SAVED BY FAITH AND NOT OBEYING THE LAW
First of all, we are not saved by doing good works or in this case for filling all of the 10 virtues as if this was the case non-of us would go to heaven. We of course are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and his death for us has one the way to heaven. We see this from passages like Romans 5: 1 – 11,
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we= rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but wealso rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”.
2. THE LAW BECOME OUR GUIDE TO HOW GOD WANTS US TO LIVE
Secondly the law of God and also these 10 virtues have a different function for us since we are saved through faith. Paul points out in Romans that the law and our inability to keep it brings us to faith in Christ and once we have this faith acts as a guide to how we should live. Paul’s teaching on this in the book of Roams comes to a head in Romans 8: 1 – 4,
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering And so he condemned sin in sinful man,4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit”.
How does Jesus and his spirit want us to live now that we are headed for God’s heavenly home?
The answer to this is found in these ten virtues:
- LIVE A BLAMELESS LIFE (vs. 2)
“The one whose walk is blameless”
The virtues start with one that will force us to see that obeying the law for salvation would be fruitless. Only Christ was blameless or sinless and as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5: 21,
“In him we might become the righteousness of God”.
So, if we are headed for God’s heavenly home we should obey him and seek to live a life of upright moral character.
2. LIVE A RIGHTEOUS LIFE (vs. 2)
“Who does what is righteous”
This is the positive side of the first virtue. Living a life as close to the way Jesus lived as we can. Jesus lived an obedient life and encourages us to have good coming out of a good heart, Luke 6: 45,
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks”.
This concept of God’s people being a blameless and righteous people and through that being a kingdom of priests to the rest of the world was the basis of God’s original covenant to Israel as we see in passages like Exodus 19: 5 -6,
“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
Of course, Israel failed to live up to this high calling and through the work of Christ we are now this chosen people who through him are a people of priests to the world.
3. SPEAKS THE TRUTH FROM THE HEART (vs. 2).
“Who speaks the truth from their heart”
As Jesus said in the Luke reference
“Out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks”.
Jesus spoke on a number of occasions about how evil comes from within, like Mark 7: 20 – 23,
“What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ “
James points out even clearer the use of our tongue and righteous living in James 1: 26
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless”.
Paul says that if we want to be Christians who want to mature as we head for the heavenly home we should,
“Speak the truth in love”Ephesians 4 verse 15.
4. HAVE NO SLANDER ON HIS TONUE (vs 3a)
“Whose tongue utters no slander”
Speaking the truth is the positive side of the use of our tongue and not being involved in slander is the negative side. Gossip and slander are even ripe, sadly even in Christ’s church and we are not reflecting our heavenly destiny if we are involved in it.
5. BE GOOD TO YOUR NEIGHBOR (vs.3b)
“Who does no wrong to a neighbor”
Being good to our neighbor is a natural follow on from gossip and slander as probably the best way we show that we don’t love our neighbor is through gossip and slander. This come right out of the 1o commandments which Jesus sums up this way, Mark 12: 30 – 31,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” There is no commandment greater than these.”
6. CASTS NO SLUR ON HIS FELLOWMAN (vs. 3c)
“And casts no slur on others”
Again, we see the negative side of the previous virtue. If we love our neighbor we will not be involved in seeking to bring them down. Jesus gave us the great golden rule for loving our neighbor living when he tells us, Luke 6 : 31,
“Do to others as you would have them do to you”
7. DESPISE A VILE PERSON (vs. 4a)
“Who despises a vile person”
As we saw in Psalm 1 walking standing and sitting with Godless people is not the way to blessing and indeed heaven. Those we hang around with will have an influence on us and a person who despises God cannot be a close friend as he will only pull us away from the way to heaven.
This does not mean we should cut ourselves off from the world but it does mean we should be careful in who and how we relate with others who do not yet know the love of God in Christ.
8. HONOURS THOSE WHO FEAR THE LORD (vs. 4b)
“But honors those who fear the Lord”
Despising a vile person is the negative virtue while honoring those who fear God is the positive. David is telling us here that how we choose our close friends does have a big baring on our chances of heading for heaven, Proverbs 18: 24 says,
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’.
Proverbs has much to say about friendship and how a Godly person chooses friends. So many Christian friends of mine in the past are no longer headed for heaven because they became to close to someone who they should not have. Female friends who befriended and went on to marry non- Christian men come to mind and a couple of men I went through bible college with have fallen away from the way to heaven because of the friends they have got involved in since their college days. Proverbs 12: 26 says,
“A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray”.
I praise God that my greatest friend in my life is my beloved wife who also knows and love the Lord and together we are headed for heaven.
9. KEEPS HIS OATH (IS A MAN OF HIS WORD) (vs. 4c)
James says in James 5: 12, “
Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned”.
Christians must be known as people who keep their word, people who if they say they will do something, do it. Nothing drags down the witness of a Christian than his or her failure to keep their promises. If you think you have problems with this don’t make promises, especially those you know you cannot keep.
We must learn to be careful in what tells others we will or will not do or we might find to our horror on the day of Judgment being ashamed of promises we made but failed to keep and how they had such a negative witness for God and the Gospel message.
10. HONEST MONEY LENDERS (vs. 5)
“Who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent”.
Mark Mayberry commenting on this last virtue writes,
“The man of God does not overestimate the value of material wealth. He rejects the greedy, grasping practices of usury”.
A Jew was forbidden under Mosaic law to charge a fellow Israelite interest on a loan. We see this in Exodus 22: 25,
“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest”.
How the Jews got around this is no mans guess but many of the prophets of Israel pointed to this breakdown of the law as a sure sign that the people of Israel had fallen away from the one true God of Israel. A good example of this is the prophet Ezekiel who at the end of a long list of things he says the people of Israel are doing says,
“He lends at usury and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head” (Ezekiel 18: 13)
In the mid 1980’s we had the famous line in the movie, “Wall Street”, “Greed is Good”. Well if your seeking to head for heaven “Greed is Bad”.
11. THE PROMISE OF STEADFASTNESS IS STATED (5b)
David has now finished setting out his 10 virtues the person headed for heaven
must have. He now finishes the Psalm rather abruptly with the words,
“He who does these things will never be shaken”.
What is David saying by these words?
The word shaken means,
“Disturb my well being or unsettle my security”
and is therefore speaking about the concept of staying on course. As I said earlier
I have seen over the years how some of my Christian friends wonder away from following the Lord for variety of reasons, often started by spending to much time with the wrong kind of people.
Jesus spoke about this problem in the Gospels and makes this statement
“He who stands firm to the end will be saved” Mark 13: 13.
A story I once heard comes to mind here, an English bible believing Bishop in the eighteenth century was traveling on a train in England when a young salvation army girl approached him and asked, “Are you Saved”? and his answer was,
“I am saved, I am being saved and I will be saved”.
This is the correct biblical answer to this question. We are saved by faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross and we are being saved by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives changing turning us into new creatures to be more like Christ and will be saved and glorified when we either die before Jesus returns and go to heaven or are caught up in his return to earth when he will take all his faithful followers to heaven forever.
David was sure of his destiny and he believed that as long as he kept trusting in the Lord and practicing the ten virtues, he set down, he would one day dwell in God’s heavenly Sanctuary.
A WORD ABOUT OUR GLORIFICATION
Before I move to looking at three New Testament applications I would like to remind you of how we get to heaven and therefore come into our glorification, the will be saved aspect of our salvation.
We don’t get there by obeying the virtues but by having faith in Jesus, who became sin for us on the cross and took our punishment so that the righteousness of God can be given to us as a gift. This is what Peter says in 1 Peter 3: 18,
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”.
However, what should we do if God has done so much for us and is, through Christ, leading us to heaven?
The answer is live as though you are headed for heaven. This puts things like the ten commandments and of course David’s ten virtues into a different perspective.
I have heard many non- Christians say, they don’t wont to go to heaven because it would be boring and none of their friends would be there. They say they would prefer hell where they can continue to partying with their friends. This of course is really silly because hell wont be a parting place to go to. Jesus has a very vivid picture of hell for us in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus and the words of the rich man in hell calling out to Abraham in heaven with the words,”
“’Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
This picture of hell is of a lonely, frustrating and tormented existence where there is no relief from the suffering.
However, the non- Christian who does not wont to go to heaven because none of his friends will be there has a point. The point is heaven will be filled with people who have lived and wont to live the way God wants them to live.
How does God want us to live?
Well David answered that with his 10 virtues. These ten virtues then give us picture of what the people in heaven will be like. They will be living blameless and righteously. They will speak the truth from the heart and not slander each other. They will love each other and look out for each other. They will no longer associate with anyone who hates God and spend all their eternity with those who love God.
Finally, those in heaven will know where everyone stands forever and greed will no longer be part of any one’s existence.
I let Peter have the final words, from 2 Peter 3: 11 – 12,
“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming”.
THREE NEW TESTAMANT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM 15
- HOW WE GET TO HEAVEN
Jesus had a lot to say about heaven and we can get there when we die
According to John 11: 25 – 26,
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”
These words were spoken by Jesus to one of his followers, Martha, who had just lost her brother, Lazarus who had died four days earlier. Lazarus was both dead and stinking. Jesus of course backed up his words by calling Lazarus back from the dead proving he had the power to give life to the dead and we access his power by believing in Jesus.
Lazarus came back to life but eventually died again. However, Jesus is saying that those who come to faith in him will have eternal life. A little later in John Jesus makes this even clearer when he says to the doubting Thomas,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.John 14 :6
Jesus is saying here that he alone can take us to God in Heaven when we die because he has made the way to heaven. This way was via the cross of Calvary, where he paid for our sin and by doing so made the way to heaven for us.
Just an interesting final word on this, in Psalm 15 David asks
“Who may dwell in your sanctuary?”.
I mentioned earlier that in the Sanctuary and later the Temple there was a place in it called The Holy of Hollies”, which was only entered into by the High Priest one day a year, “The day of Atonement”. This area was cut off from sight and entrance by a large thick curtain. Interestingly when Jesus died on the cross, Mark tells us in,
Mark 15: 38, that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”
Symbolising that Jesus had opened up the way, through his death, to God in heaven.
- JESUS PREPARES A PLACE FOR US IN HEAVEN
On the night before Jesus went to the cross he had a meal with his disciples and
after the meal, he spoke to the disciples about what would happen to them after he died and left them in his totally physical presence. In John 14: 1 – 4 he tells them these amazing words,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus is telling his disciples and all people who believe in him that he has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in heaven. Not only does he prepare a place for us but when we die he promises to personally will take us to that place he has prepared for us. Many people over time have had what is called “near death experience” and in them they speak of meeting and seeing Jesus who takes them to some king of beautiful place. I found on the net this account by a man named Dr. Mark Pitstick
“When, I was nine years old, my Uncle Cliff’s car collided with a semi. He nearly died from severe multiple injuries and was in the hospital for a long time. When he finally came home, he was pale, thin, missing teeth, and couldn’t walk. From his hospital bed in their living room, he spoke through a wired jaw about what he experienced when he almost died. Walking in a meadow of lush green grass, hearing beautiful music, and seeing Jesus. Feeling an accelerated awareness with everything being more brilliant and colorful than usual. No longer fearing death. Being so peaceful that, except for missing his family, he didn’t care if he came back”.
- WHAT WILL HEAVEN BE LIKE
Even though Jesus spoke a lot about heaven he did not give us a detailed picture of what it would be actually like.
The idea that we will be up in the clouds, floating on them, with wings on and plucking a golden harp has no biblical credence. I think Jesus could not tell us what it would be like because if he was even able to we would not be able to comprehend it as it is an- other world place so different than what we know in this existence. The bible does give us little glimpses of heaven and the one I like the best is in, Revelation 21: 1 – 7,
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son”.
Again, I think even this beautiful picture of heaven is only a poor representation of what it will be like as in this world in our mortal bodies we could not understand what it will really be like.
Paul has something to say about this in 1 Corinthians 13: 12,
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.
We believe then that in Jesus we are headed for heaven and this is a wonderful gift he has given us. But if we are headed for heaven we must show by our actions and deeds that we do really believe. This is the point of seeking to live out the 10 virtues of a heaven bound person found in Psalm 15.
According to James, in James 2: 14 – 17, if we claim to have faith we must show it. My final bible reference on this study on heaven is James sobering words,
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”.
I close this Psalm talk as usual with a poem inspired by my study of this Psalm and a final word of prayer:
(Based on Psalm 15 and John 14 vs.2)
Who will enter your house O Lord?
Who will join you on high?
Who will have a room in your house?
When they have to die.
Those who obey the word of God
And trust him every day.
Who speak the truth with love and joy
And follow in God’s way.
Who will join the Lord on high?
Who will enter the room?
That Jesus has prepared for us
Beyond our cold dark tomb?
Those who seek to serve the world
And follow the steps of the Lord’s.
Whose tongues are free from slanderous words
And seek for heavens rewards.
Who will enter your house O Lord?
Who will join you on high?
Who will have a room in your house
When they have to die?
Those who despise the rebellion of God
And seek the lost to be found.
Who long to be with the people of God
Who’s promises are always sound.
Who will join the Lord on high?
Who will enter the room
That Jesus has prepared for us
Beyond our cold dark tomb?
Those who are generous and giving souls
Who follow the steps of the Lord
Whose lives are secure in knowledge of God
And seek for heavens reward.
Father God in heaven I want to thank you that you sent your only Son, Jesus Christ into this world to die for my sins on the cross. His death and resurrection has made a way for me to go to heaven. I thank you daily for the wonderful promise of a heavenly home and I ask you to help me show by the way I live that I am indeed heaven bound. I ask you to help me invite others to believe in Jesus and know for themselves this wonderful promise of eternal life both now and in heaven. In Jesus name, I pray this Amen.