I believe that God created us (mankind) to know Him; that the joys and happininess of life we experience are droplets of what life was intended and foreshadows of what is to come when He returns to free this planet of the bondage it has been in since the Garden of Eden.
The heartbreaks and tragedies we encounter are results of a fallen world; a world in rebellion against God. Imagine though, for a moment, a world where people were nice to each other, there was a real love for your neighbor and the thought of even calling someone a fool never crossed your mind; you were always content, but that desire to learn still tugged at you to explore. Imagine a world, where life and love were tangible, because God Himself walked with you; or better yet, went swimming with you and diving off thousand foot waterfalls with you, because you could enjoy doing so without dying. In this world, friendships are what they were always meant to be. There is no back stabbing or being let down. You are doing what you were created to do: to worship God and enjoy Him and His creation.
This is the kind of world (and so much more) that we were intended to inhabit, but God out of His desire to have His love and affections reciprocated, endowed us with freewill. And we have followed in the footsteps of our forefather Adam in choosing our ways over His. Adam, being named the steward and king of this planet, relinquished control to Satan when he rebelled against God and went the way of the devil. So called "Acts of God" are more often results of a dying world that has been ravished by sin. It was created perfect and has been deteriorating since the "Fall". The hearts of Men, meant to be pure, are corrupt and self serving, but we still have traces of God's goodness inside us that survived the Fall, having been made "in the image of God".
Life is a balance. God is and was and always will be. Before us there was God. God has no before, He has always been. He formed the Heavens and the angelic host and gave them freewill. A certain angel rebelled and led many others to join him in defying their creator. Because all was perfect, there had been no need for a balance of Heaven. But Satan had tipped the scales, and the place known as Hell was created for Satan and his followers. Evil, of ANY degree, cannot exist in God's presence. There was Heaven and there was Hell, but God had yet to form the crown of His creation, Mankind; a race of beings made in His image, with whom He could have true communion. So a "limbo" of sorts was made; what we know of as Earth. On this planet, there could potentially exist both good and evil (history has shown that there are plenty of both). Mankind, created perfect, was given control of this Eden, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Here's the part though, that we are really pre-disposed to not like. No one likes to hear that they are wrong, much less deserving of punishment where they see no serious fault. But bottom line is that we exist on this "limbo planet" for only so long. The soul, that was created to last forever, cannot exist in our world without a body, but moves on to either Heaven or Hell. There is no in between. Scratch that. There is an in-between, but we are living in it. After this though, there is no in-between.
If you are perfect, you can go to Heaven. If you are like me (not perfect) you don't have very good prospects. Shucks, we are all sinners. We have all intentionally disobeyed our consciences and sinned against God. We are not at all like the inhabitants of the world we "explored" earlier. Not only our actions, but our thoughts condemn us. Balance must be maintained, and God must uphold Justice and Righteousness.
We had our turn in "limbo" and now we all will have our day in court. God is our judge, and His Law is His standard. But wait, God thows out the "wild card". He did have an ace up His sleeve. God knew that what He had created perfect, would turn from Him and go to disorder and rebellion. He knew, what would be needed to redeem His wayward creation. Even knowing the price, He went ahead with the plan to create.
Because of our sin, we cannot inhabit Heaven. God, in order to have any hope of true fellowship with us, and to save us from our terrible fate, had to come up with a way to make us holy. The Gospel (meaning good news) is that God Himself became a human, lived a perfect life and while hanging from a cross (the physical punishment of a criminal in those days), bore in Himself the punishment for all sin ever; past present and future; yours and mine and everyones. He took our place and offers us the opportunity to take His.
Your debt of sin has alrady been paid. Your punishment has already been meted out. Not on you, but Someone pure and holy that freely offered to take your place in exchange of giving you His. The only reason I am going to Heaven is because I have repented (turned from my sin to God in true penitence) and accepted Jesus as my Lord, having received God's forgiveness due to Jesus's having made me pure. Because the price of our sin "has already been paid", we are forgiven of our sins when we humbly ackowledge our sin before God. Just because Jesus "paid the price" does not mean that everyone gets off "scot free" though. The ones allowed into Heaven are the ones who are followers of Jesus, having repented and commited to following Him. A supernatural event takes place then, and you are pronounced Innocent in God's court. There will be no double jeopardy, you have already been tried and are found washed in Jesus's righteousness. There is no evidence found to convict you.
But you are not just a convict thats been forgiven and given a ticket to Heaven. You become a child of God, and are invited to know God as your father. Because of the fall, we have such a hard time realizing that what we are looking for in relationships with others, we were meant to find in God. No doubt part of the plan is for us to enjoy relationships with others; its a big part even, but God has always been the source, and we must go to Him first. God promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes and to make all things right again. He will judge this world in righteousness, but those of us who stand with Him should have no fear. He promises to create a New Earth where He will dwell with us physically. We will be given new bodies incapable of corruption.
"Salvation" is from Hell and to God (and Heaven). It is a free gift, and no amount of good deeds can buy it. We come to God with nothing to offer Him, and He gives us all of Him. This redemption is a restoring of what we were made for. Cars run on gas, we need God. To experience Hell is to experience a place where there is no trace of Him at all. All things good and lovely, gone. Sucked from you, is every ounce of goodness that you had on loan. Goodness is God's. Hell knows not God. Heaven, on the other hand is Life. All things bad in you are burned away, and you enjoy life to the fullest in a never ending adventure.
This may all seem redundant, but this is what I believe. I will own what I think. This is what I teach and this is how I try to live. I am a citizen of Heaven, passing through. Change in this world--bringing people to God; is made one person at a time through living examples of lives changed and hearts healed. There have been people who have gone before us that have walked with God and can testify of His faithfulness. May this be said of me.