Joel Osteen, Homosexuals, and Heaven

Joel Osteen, the popular mega-church preacher known for proclaiming the gospel of prosperity, was interviewed recently by Oprah and asked if he believed homosexuals would be in heaven. Osteen stated his belief that they would. He then explained that while he believed homosexuality was described as a sin in the Bible, he did not believe it was any worse than any other sin. Therefore, his conclusion was that since those who commit other sins will be in heaven, then homosexuals must be there as well.

Where Osteen is Right

Joel Osteen is right about a couple things. First, he is correct when he states that homosexuality is a sin. It is condemned in the Bible in every dispensation.

  • The practice was so widespread in Sodom that God destroyed the city (Genesis 13:13; 18:20-21; 19:4-5). Jude makes it clear that this punishment was specifically for the sin of homosexuality (“these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh,” Jude 7), not some other sin.
  • Under the Law of Moses, homosexuality was condemned in very clear language. “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them” (Leviticus 20:13).
  • Even under the New Testament, homosexuality is never said to be an acceptable practice. Paul described it as being contrary to both nature (Romans 1:26-27) and to sound teaching (1 Timothy 1:10).

Second, Osteen is right when he says that all sin is worthy of punishment. Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin separates man from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Scriptures do not classify some sins as being damnable and others not. James wrote, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).

Where Osteen is Wrong

While Joel Osteen may be right in his belief that homosexuality is sin and that all sin is worthy of punishment, he is wrong when he says that homosexuals will be in heaven. Notice what Paul wrote:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Homosexuals were listed among those who would not inherit the kingdom of God. I will accept the word of the inspired apostle Paul over the speculations of a modern-day, so-called preacher. Osteen’s claim that homosexuals will be in heaven is directly opposed to what Paul told the Corinthians.

However, Paul does not teach that homosexuals are without hope. After telling these brethren that homosexuals (and others) would not inherit the kingdom of God, he said, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). The implication is that there were former homosexuals among the brethren at Corinth. Though they had lived one way before responding to the gospel, they had repudiated their old life of sin in order to follow Christ and gain entry into His kingdom. So while homosexuals will not be in heaven, former homosexuals certainly could be.

Heaven is Open to All

God’s grace has been extended to all – homosexuals, adulterers, murderers, thieves, alcoholics, etc. Paul said, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). This extension of grace to all does not mean that all will be saved unconditionally. It means that all have the opportunity to be saved by God’s grace. But we must become dead to sin (Romans 6:11) and obey the Lord (Hebrews 5:9) in order to be saved.

Rather than warning of judgment and encouraging people to repent, Osteen is like the false prophets of old, “Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). God has made heaven open to all, including those who currently practice homosexuality. But we must follow God’s way to get to heaven, not the way professed by Joel Osteen or any other man.

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  1. Saying to people that they “must follow God’s way to get to heaven” isn’t going to help anybody. Tell them the way!!!

    A person must agree with God that they are a sinner, and then trust in the all sufficient work of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only acceptable payment for their sins. This is a faith choice that every individual must make – to trust in that and in that alone, adding absolutely nothing to the all sufficient work of the Saviour.

  2. John, you’re right that people need to be told the way to get to heaven. I have dozens of articles on this site about that subject and preach it regularly. Faith, as you mentioned is necessary for salvation (Hebrews 11:6; John 8:24). But the Scriptures teach we must also repent (Luke 13:3,5; Acts 3:19), confess our faith (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21) in order to be saved. Telling people only part of God’s way to get to heaven isn’t going to help anyone either.

  3. Wayne D. Teel says

    Excellent article! Your response to John is spot on as well. Open minds are essential to salvation.