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Are There Degrees in Heaven?

Randy Skeete


Randy Skeete

Evangelist and revivalist from Ann Arbor, Michigan.



  • March 3, 2005
    12:00 PM
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00:00 Are there degrees in heaven?  How many of you have degrees of some kind may I see your hands? Alright. Hands down. I have a couple of them and I paid for them. So they are mine. Are there degrees in heaven? The subject is extremely serious and I must be able to depend on your maturity to take it right between the eyes. May I do that? Alright. In the book of Matthew 10:37 Jesus is speaking and He says “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Jesus being God [the Son] is clearly calling for us to love Him, to love [the representative of God] the Father more than we love anyone else. There must be a clear and a sharp distinction between our love horizontally and our love vertically. Each expression of love must be pure but one must be more intense than the other. Our love for God must be unmistakably greater than our love for friends, family, yea spouses. That’s Jesus, not me, saying that. The wording of this same statement in the book of Luke is even more severe. Luke 14:26 Luke says “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” If any man comes to Jesus and does not hate father, mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters, yea his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Now the word hate must not be misunderstood. It simply means love less but I suspect Luke uses the word ‘hate’ to knock us between the eyes that we may wake up and understand that Jesus wants there to be no confusion. We must love God more than we love anyone else. Hands down, no controversy, no contest, no competition. So in that sense, there are degrees—yes—in heaven. I am not talking about academic degrees. I mean degrees of affection. God wants our highest degree of love. Now, there are degrees in the punishment of sinners. Luke 12:45 Christ is giving a parable of the unfaithful servant who because his lord has delayed his coming becomes irresponsible. And the Bible says “But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes”—stripes there refer to the final punishment. Jesus is saying in the judgment when people are punished some will be punished more severely than others. All sinners will be destroyed—that’s common to all. But the degree of suffering before you’re finally vanquished off the face of the earth will vary from person to person depending on the degree of sinfulness of the sinner’s life. The Bible says in Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) There is a gift of eternal life for all who are saved. But then there is the reward. All saved people receive the gift, same gift which is eternal life. Remember the parable Jesus told a man went into the marketplace looking for workers? He went early in the morning he said one penny. He went two hours later, one penny. A few hours later, one penny. He went the 11th hour, one penny. Same gift—salvation. But the rewards we enjoy in the New World vary from person to person based on our degree of faithfulness on this earth. I don't have time to get into that but I need to stress that the Bible teaches every man and woman is rewarded individually and the reward is different from the gift. The gift is salvation. The reward refers to all the privileges that come with living in Heaven. It will vary from person to person based on how faithful we've been down here. Of course my favorite writer Ellen White says whatever our reward, everyone will be satisfied and happy. There are degrees in heaven. Luke 11:24-26  “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. 25And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. 26Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself”—there are degrees of wickedness among the inhabitants of the kingdoms of darkness, that’s a Biblical teaching. Now let’s go back to our original introduction. God desires there to be degrees in the amount of love we show between Him and between our fellow men. We must love Him more. Now in Mark 12:28 “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, Which is the first commandment of all?”—what he means by first is the foremost. That’s the question the scribe is asking Jesus. Jesus responds immediately, “The first of all the commandments”—or the foremost—“is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 30and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” [Mark 12:29-30; Deuteronomy 6:4, 5] “And the second (commandment) is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:31] Jesus says the foremost: love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. And the second one is love thy neighbor as thyself. This is consistent with what Jesus says in Luke 14:26 if you come to Me, you have to love me more than father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, more than your very own life! Matthew 22:34-40 we have a similar situation being reported by Matthew “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 22:36-40]—meaning every other precept and judgment that we read in the Bible find their meaning in the context of love to God and love to fellowman—meaning the 10 Commandments. Are there degrees in heaven? When the Bible says thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart thy soul, and mind, strength and understanding it’s referring to the first four commandments on one table of the law—love thy neighbor as thyself refers to the other six because the 10 Commandments are divided into two: love for God and love for your fellowmen. No Bible teacher worth his or her salt has any problem with that. Love for God; love for mankind. We need not feel badly if God says love Me more because the more I love God the better off you will be. God has people in mind when He tells people love Me more; because the more I love God the more I’ll respect you. And I’ll demonstrate my love to God by how I treat you. So there isn’t a clean break between the first four and the last six. Yet, Jesus wants there to be a clear demonstration of our greater love for Him than for one another so that if my mother tells me to stop going to church on sabbath, I say Mom, I love you with all my heart. I’ll die for you now. I’ll give you both kidneys if you need them now, or my liver but I must obey God first. When the mother of Jesus found Him in the temple in Luke 2:48-50 she said “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing”—what are you doing to us? Jesus said why are you looking for me? “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”—He said that to his earthly mother. In other words: my father's business comes ahead of your business. Yet the chapter ends by saying He went on to Nazareth and was subject unto them. No disrespect. Let me stress it again. We must love God more than people. And our love for God is expressed in “thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. And remember the sabbath day to keep holy”—that’s love to God. We know the other six. I told you I want you to have courage and take this right between the eyes. Most people worship on Sunday. Why is that? (Don’t answer. Just think.) Somewhere in history an attempt was made to change God’s law. And I said an attempt because to change God’s law you have to go to heaven and change the original. What was in the ark in the wilderness was a copy. Copies have only limited value, you know that. If you want to sell your house, you better get the original deed. No copy. You want God’s law changed? You have to make the change on the original. But an attempt was made and many people follow that attempt. Throughout history the power accredited to having made that change is the papal power located in the Vatican. And that has been said numerous times by scholars of that church: they claim, the church claims, the right to make that change, the Catholic Church. And they regard it as a mark, a demonstration of the power of the church to decide which day is holy and which days are not by changing a law that God Himself made. Here is the critical and the serious implication of changing God’s law—there are now two versions of the 10 Commandments. In the Bible (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) the first commandment is “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” The changed version says the same thing “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” The second of the 10 commandments says “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.” That’s in the version in the Bible. In this changed version that commandment does not appear. So Commandment # 2 in this changed version is “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” In the Bible version Commandment # 3 is “thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.” In the changed version # 3 is “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” In the Bible’s version Commandment # 4 is “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord [YHWH] thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord [YHWH] made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord [YHWH] blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Over here in the changed version, commandment # 4 is “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Let’s skip all the way to # 10. In the Bible’s version it is “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” Over here # 10 is taken from the Bible version but split into two and made into # 9 and # 10 and that is necessary since # 2 was completely removed from here. So mathematically we have 10 here in the changed version and 10 there in the original Bible version. But the 10 over here [the changed version] different than the 10 over there because # 2 here is not # 2 there. # 2 there has vanished from # 2 here. Here is the catholic version not found in the catholic Bible but found in the catechism because Catholics instruct you from the catechism not from the Bible. What is the big thing about the changes over here? Here is the big thing: what did Jesus say is the first and great commandment? Love God more than father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, or your own life (Luke 14:26).  Matthew 10:37 “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” And Jesus said the first and great commandment is thou shalt love the Lord with all thine soul, and heart, and mind, and strength; and that is the summary of the first four commandments. If you look at the man-made version as it appears in the catechism of the Catholic Church, the first four commandments in their decalogue which [ought to] express love for God alone, that [their] commandment includes a human being because in their version # 4 says honor thy father and thy mother. So Jesus, He could not say thou shalt love the Lord with all thine heart, soul, might and mind. He’d have to change the arrangement of the division of the Decalogue because now there is a human being in the side that’s assigned only to God. And Christ is clear, you must love God more than you love human beings; but there is now a human being introduced in the first four: honor thy father and thy mother. The Bible says in Matthew 23:9 “And call no man your father upon the earth”—Christ means spiritually because in the parable of the prodigal son He said a certain man had 2 sons and the youngest son said unto his father—so Jesus understands blood relationships. He means spiritually you have one Father. Matthew 23:9 “for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Now, what is one of the names of the pope? (holy father) John 17:11 Jesus Christ is praying “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” We have 2 holy fathers. The one Jesus prayed to and the one who sits in the Vatican. He is, as people call him (and I’m using this as a historical reference), the holy father—in that context Jesus says in Matthew 23:9 do not call anyone on this earth father, spiritually speaking. In this version we have a human being now. Jesus said to love God more than you love people—with this version that has been changed what we have is that this father here is receiving a devotion and a love, an affection that only belongs to God. And any man who receives a devotion that only belongs to God must consider himself to be god. In this version we have a man not of God who is a god. We have a man who needs to be saved from sin who is a god. And now the commandments read in this version “Thou shalt love the lord thy god with all thy heart” and that includes a human being. This is more serious than we think. Catholic writers have written that the pope is god on earth. I’m not beating any church. I’m not doing that, I’m really not. In the presence of God, I say from my heart: I am trying to present what is historical. If I said there was a holocaust in WW II, does that mean I have anything against Germans? No. If I say the U.S.A. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, does that mean I am against my own country? No. If I say the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941, does that mean I have something against Japan? No. If I say Jesus cast out the devil long time ago, do I have something against the devil? Yes! Yes! Great prejudice, yes: but that’s an exception. I don’t like him. What I am saying from my heart, as your brother, and I have a moral responsibility, and God expects me to bring this to your attention: it is not a light matter that an attempt has been made to change God’s law. The change was made in a place where a man is now receiving what only God should receive. A man is now part of the first and great commandment. It is no wonder that this man is regarded as being infallible when he speaks ex cathedra or from his throne. When God set up the Ark of the Covenant, He said put the mercy seat right above the ark “And there I will meet with thee.” This is where I will speak, God said. Exodus 25:22. “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” God says when I speak I will speak ex cathedra from My throne. The catholic church says when the pope speaks ex cathedra he is infallible. Ex cathedra means—he's not taking a shower then he says something—when he's fully robed and he is officially speaking then he is infallible—ex cathedra for him—ex cathedra for God. Our minds have to be clear and our understanding sharp. Revelation issues a very serious warning. Revelation 22:18 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book”—meaning this book [the Bible]. I have told you the law of God is the expression of His sacredness, His holiness, His righteousness, His character. I have told you the law of God is the very Constitution on which the kingdom of God functions throughout the unfenced expanse of the universe. I have told you the law of God is the Constitution that operates on this earth because the kingdom of God in you and in me represents an extension of that heavenly kingdom with the same Constitution; but the Constitution has been changed. And so the second commandment has been removed, not modified, removed and the power that removed it is represented on the first table of the Decalogue which represents absolute devotion to God; and that power is personified in the pope. I say personified because if he passes away someone takes his place. It is a system more than a person. People just come and fit into the system. The U.S.A. democracy is a system. George Bush goes someone else takes his place then he goes and someone else takes his place. They fit into the system. It is a system that places a man where God ought to be. And that places a man where he ought not to be. The last person, the last created being who tried that, was cast down to hell. Isaiah 14:13, 14 “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God”—the stars of God being more than just the stars that shine, it means all the created beings. That’s why at creation the sons of God and the stars shouted, the morning star shined together, the sons of God shouted. “I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” That was Lucifer's desire. With all due respect, that is what has been attempted. And millions of people, not realizing it, are giving a devotion to a human being that belongs only to God. Of all the 10 Commandments, if I may use the word violent, the most violent is commandment # 2. # 1 says “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”—is that violent? No. That’s plain and simple. Commandment # 3 “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain”—there is a little threat but not very obvious. Commandment # 4 “Remember the sabbath”—fine. Commandment # 5 “Honor thy father and thy mother”—fine. Commandment # 6 “Thou shalt not kill”—that’s not violent, that’s peace, don’t kill.  Commandment # 7 “Thou shalt not commit adultery”—fine.  Commandment # 8 “Thou shalt not steal”—fine.  Commandment # 9 “Thou shalt not bear false witness”—fine. Commandment # 10 “Thou shalt not covet”—fine. But Commandment # 2 “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. Nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers”—visiting means pouring it out on them—“visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me”—I’m going to pass it down the line if you worship any other person beside Me—and that’s the commandment that was taken out. One major reason: in the papal system, the roman church, images are worshipped. I use to worship them because I use to be an acolyte with great pride serving next to the priest as a little boy, I prayed to them, I kissed their feet; but God called me out of darkness into His marvelous light. (Amen!) Now I kiss the feet of Jesus with great joy and that foot is warm. There is blood in it that He shed for me. But the church had to remove that commandment in order to permit the worship of images. Now before we sit back smug and say well, we don't do that—yes we do! Some people set aside God in order to get a man. Some men set aside God in order to get a woman. No difference. An idol does not have to be made of stone and wood. An idol is simply that which comes before God. Some people set aside God because of a career opportunity—same idol worship. Some people set aside God to get a degree—I'm going to study on sabbath. The exam comes on sabbathI've spent all these thousands of dollars in tuitionam I not to take the exam on sabbath? No, you are not suppose to—well, I’ll take it then say I am sorry—putting an exam ahead of God is worshiping an idol! Removing the second commandment in order to do whatever it is you want to do? God's commandments are not to be changed. The second was removed in the Catholic Catechism. It doesn't appear so that idols may be worshipped. Commandment # 4 in God’s version remains with modifications; which means it is not the commandment at all. Now it is # 3 in the Catholic version which says “remember the sabbath day to keep holy” and that's where it ends. It doesn’t say six days shalt thou labor. You keep the sabbath, yes; but you keep the one the church made not the one God made. And so by keeping that sabbath which is Sunday [or any other day following the Gregorian calendar] you are still worshiping idols because you are putting someone else ahead of God. How many of you, how many of us, accept the words of Jesus?—if any man love father or mother more than Me, he's not worthy of Me—do you accept that into your heart? Christ must come first. When you and I say the first commandment is thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, we must not have the pope in mind, or the G.C. president, or the Dalai Lama, or whomever, Shiva, Zoroaster, Quetzalcóatl, we must not have these, we must have only God who created heaven and earth, and we must be sure because the devil’s deceptions are so subtil; he will have you worshipping a man and you don’t even know. You don’t even know because that’s what has happened with the change of the 10. The first Decalogue that applies to God— as far as expression of love in that corrupted version—a man is involved. And so if you say that based on that version, you are simply saying I love that man as much as I love God—that is a tremendous insult to God! And He cannot let it pass by. I believe you are comprehending with your heart and your head. This is very, very serious. I have one simple appeal for you. How many of you will say Lord my eyes have been opened by Your grace, by the power of Jesus Christ, give me the spiritual courage to worship You alone. Stand to your feet. You and you alone. Every head bowed. Every eye closed. [2 Selected Messages p. 32]


23:00 Loving Father in heaven, we bow in this quiet hour to thank You that You are always eager to open our eyes. Father, the deceptions of the devil are so sophisticated that for many people it is too late before they recognize it. But for us in mercy You have sent us a message that has opened our eyes: we must love You more than we love anyone else and that love is expressed in the first four commandments which does not include a human being except the god man Christ who was both God and man. Lord if we in any way have put anything or anyone ahead of You: relationships, education, career we apologize from our hearts because we do not want the judgment to be brought upon us or our children as expressed in the second commandment. Forgive us Father because that is Your nature. Grant us the spirit of obedience that Jesus had. Now take us to our responsibilities with the consciousness that we must work in such a way that demonstrates we love You so much that we will work faithfully. Grant us traveling mercies and bring us back tonight at the appointed place. I offer this prayer in Jesus’ name and for His sake. Let all God’s people say amen and amen. God bless you.


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