- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A version of this story appeared in the Higher Ground newsletter from The Washington Times. Click here to receive Higher Ground delivered directly to your inbox each Sunday.

An evangelical pastor and author says Pope Francis’ recent comments that people are “fundamentally good” and that “the heart itself is good” represent an “atheistic, humanistic, non-biblical view” that will lead people astray.

“People in leadership are deceiving not just themselves but others, [and] they’re gonna pay a hefty price for that,” said the Rev. Michael Youssef of the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta. “I think the most important thing to ask yourself: ’On what basis Is God gonna admit me to heaven? If I die today, will I go to heaven?’”

Heaven, Mr. Youssef says, awaits those who trust in Jesus — but only those who commit to their faith and not merely hope their good deeds will suffice.

His new book, “Heaven Awaits: Anticipate Your Future Hope, Your Eternal Home, Your Daily Reality” (Tyndale Momentum), distills his decades of preaching at his church, which averages 2,200 in-person attendees and 800 online participants each Sunday service.

His Leading the Way ministry reaches millions in the U.S. and elsewhere, including 260 million homes in the Muslim world, where the KingdomSat satellite network has a large presence, he said.

An energetic preacher whose looks belie his age, Mr. Youssef said the march of time and years of sermonizing helped inspire the new book.

“The fact that I’m going to be 76 this year also helps,” he said. “I’ve always been focused on heaven because that is the ultimate destination. That’s where we’re going to spend our forever.”

Mr. Youssef said another key factor in writing the book was “all the falsehoods” spread in popular media.

“[The] movies always tell you that everybody, when they die, they go to heaven to become an angel and all that,” he said. “Now, that falsehood is spreading in the churches. I’ve talked to so many church people who would say, ‘Well, you know, I hope I’m gonna make it to heaven. I’m a good person. I’m not perfect,’ but all that is a fantasy.”

He said he wanted “to know what the Bible said about heaven” so he could help others understand its teachings, which he said are the most important thing on which to focus.’’

“You do not need to spend more time planning your retirement or vacation than you should be spending planning your forever and understanding your eternal home,” he said.

Those who hope “that my good work will outweigh my bad work” will get them into heaven are believing an ancient lie, Mr. Youssef said.

“Coming from Egypt, that’s how the ancient Egyptians used to think: they will have a literal scale,” he said. “And here’s the good work and here’s your bad work and just hope against hope that your good work will succeed.”

He said that’s not what the Scriptures teach.

Mr. Youssef said “what Jesus was telling Nicodemus, ‘I am here and what you need to do if you want to be guaranteed heaven, you must be born again, just as the prophets have been saying must happen.’ This is the cry of the hour, that the confusion that is infused into many a church needs to be clarified so that people are not misled.”

Entreating people to turn to Christ is the focus of his work and his new book, he said. The pastor recently spoke to 18,000 people at a gathering in Cairo and conducted meetings in Mexico; in June, he will hold a campaign in New England.

“Wherever I go, I am pleading with people that time is short,” Mr. Youssef said. “Don’t be deceived. Come now. You’re not going to do me a favor; I’m not gaining anything. I don’t want anybody to follow me, I’m just following Jesus.”

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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