Heaven: How good must you be to get there?
In nearly every church or religious group you can name, doing good for acceptance by God is a part of what is taught. If you ask people if they think they’re going to heaven when they die, they’ll say all kinds of things about this, such as the following:
I sure hope so!
I was baptized at my church!
I seek to live a clean, moral life!
I hope my good works outweigh my bad ones!
I don’t think I’ve ever done anything worthy of hell!
And on and on it goes. Again, in nearly every church, you’ll find people who would say such things as these. Some of these have been attending their church faithfully. Some have even enjoyed a position of leadership there for many years. But this is the best they can do in providing an answer for such an important question. There are some who can even quote lots of Scripture to you, or at least reference it for their beliefs. But what’s the reality concerning this very important subject matter? What IS involved in qualifying for heaven? In nearly every case, you’ll hear people talking about some form of work or works that must be done for it. If you don’t believe it, ask some people this question—If you were to die and face Jesus Christ, and He asked you why He should let you into heaven, what would you say? Then just quietly listen to the answer you’re given. The chances are excellent that they’ll come back with some sort of works centered answer. In most circles of people, it will happen nearly every time. It seems the issue for all is faith, it’s just a question of what one’s faith is in. What work or combination of works are people putting their faith in for this? The list of what people give as an answer is long and diverse. But what are YOU depending on for it? What is the source of YOUR confidence about YOUR standing with God?
Hopefully we can all agree that the answer to this very important question about how to get to Heaven is found in the Bible, for it is there that we have the word of God on it. I hope we can also agree that the solution to this matter centers around the word faith. In other words, there’s something we must put our faith in to be qualified for Heaven. But what is it? What can we do and/or believe about all this that will please God? People pray, meditate, attend church, join a church, light candles, burn incense, fast, walk isles, get baptized, ask forgiveness, confess their sins, give money, stop doing certain things, and much more. During the time of His earthly ministry Jesus provided some stern warning regarding the things people DO in their attempt to please God for their salvation. Here in this next passage, He’s giving out stern rebuke to the “religious” leaders of that time much as He would today.
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees [speaking of the perceived religious leaders of that time], hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres [tombs for burial], which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. [Emphasis added]
Here He rebukes them for their works of righteousness to make themselves appear righteous and acceptable to God. These were men who were well known for their dedication to the works demanded of the religious leadership of that day, thinking that would make them acceptable to God. They were sticklers for following the teachings of Moses, but actually had no love for God, only themselves and the image they tried desperately to create for themselves. The things they did were for show, not for love of God.
1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. [Emphasis added]
Unlike things in this present age of grace, these statements were made in a time when God required works as a manifestation of one’s faith. For instance, we see that in the writings of James where he’s not addressing us, but the twelve tribes of Israel.
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes [Israel] which are scattered abroad, greeting. [Emphasis added]
Some people love to quote his words to tell us works are required for salvation today.
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. [Emphasis added]
There are many similar passages outside the apostle Paul’s writings that express this about the need for works. But we’re not living then, we’re living now. We’re living in this period of history that the apostle Paul spoke of as the Dispensation of Grace. This is a time when God does not require ANY works at all for salvation. We’ll soon look at some passage on this in this article.
But these men who lived during the earthly life of Christ loved their prestigious positions of authority over the people. They had even accumulated a vast amount of wealth in their religious role over the people. It is for this reason that Christ spoke to them as He did about this. Notice what He says to these same religious leaders in that same passage we were just reading.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. [Emphasis added]
These men loved wealth, high social status, authority, and formalism. Because of how Christ exposed all this, it is no wonder that these men grew to hate Him as they did. At every opportunity He’d rebuke them publicly for their hypocrisy. They were counterfeit men of God.
5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. [Emphasis added]
In these days leading up to Christ’s arrest, the tension between Him and the religious leaders had become extreme. Christ spared no words in His rebuke of them, even speaking of them as poisonous snakes. This being because when they opened their mouths, they poisoned people with their teaching.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? [Emphasis added]
Their every thought came to be centered around how they could eliminate this Jesus of Nazareth.
In those times, Saul, who later became the great apostle Paul, was one of these Pharisees Christ spoke of. However, what ultimately happened to him shows us there’s still hope for the salvation of such people, even though it rarely occurs.
Jesus made the remark that to please God one’s righteousness had to exceed that of the Pharisees. That is just as true for us today as it was then.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. [Emphasis added]
But how is it possible for one to acquire such righteousness? How does anyone meet this perfect standard God has? Answer: By faith and faith alone! In our time, one’s faith must be totally in what God provided through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
II Corinthians 5:21
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
In a verse leading up to verse twenty-one, we read of what Christ did to make this possible and available to anyone.
II Corinthians 5:19a
19a To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; [Emphasis added]
All our sins were imputed to Christ on the cross where He was judged for them. Then by our personal faith in Him, His righteousness is imputed [credited] to us. It is our identification with Christ’s righteousness that not only exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees but is a perfect righteousness. It is then THAT righteousness, His PERFECT righteousness, that makes us acceptable to God. That righteousness comes to us only by faith in Christ.
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [Emphasis added]
No personal works of any kind are involved at all in providing our salvation.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]
Yes, it is by grace through faith alone that we are saved today. The object of our faith for salvation is often spoken of as the work of Christ.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
It is partly because of the absence of the need for works on our part that this is called the gospel, meaning good news. It is by far the best news that has ever come to this world.
So many people have a hard time accepting this gift by faith alone. So many are always wanting to add their own works to it, as if they had something worthy to add to it. But the Bible is clear that it is by grace through faith alone that salvation becomes ours forever.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Emphasis added]
Therefore, it is in this manner that we acquire a righteousness that is acceptable to God for salvation and Heaven. It is only in this way that we can gain the perfect righteousness, that is, the goodness God demands for salvation and entrance in Heaven. Any goodness we supply falls way short of what God demands. God’s standard is perfection! Only He can provide that for us. We are totally incapable of producing it on our own. Hence, it is our identification with this righteousness, that is, Christ’s righteousness that qualifies us for entrance into Heaven.
It is Satan and his angels that work to blind people to this wonderful truth about the means to salvation and heaven.
II Corinthians 4:3-4
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. [Emphasis added]
Only by believing God’s word and putting one’s faith in Christ alone can anyone be saved. Salvation doesn’t come by one doing one’s best. It doesn’t come by trying to be good or by trying to live by the Ten Commandments. It only comes through the righteousness of Christ. If you’ve not put your faith in Him, please do it now. God knows your thoughts! You’ve never had a thought He wasn’t completely aware of. So, believe these things now. Put your faith in Christ and Christ alone and you’ll be saved immediately and forever. Heaven is guaranteed for all those who do this.