Did you know there are (at least theoretically) two ways to get into heaven? It works something like getting out of jail and back into your home. Either you come up with your bail, or someone else pays it for you. You either have the funds, or you know someone who has the funds. Of course, if neither one of you can pay then you have to stay in jail. But that’s not the issue with heaven.
Heaven and Earth Use Different Currencies
Money is a common earthly currency. With enough money, you can do all kinds of things, gain all kinds of privileges, and get into or out of all kinds of places. Except heaven.
Money can get you from jail to home, but it can’t get you from earth to heaven. No matter how much you spend or where you spend it, money won’t get you into heaven. Neither will earth’s other “currencies” – like doing good deeds or sincerely trying to do what’s right or attending church or having Christian parents.
Heaven uses a different kind of currency: it’s called perfection. Only perfection buys your way into heaven. That’s hard for a lot of people to swallow; it seems so unfair. So they try to substitute a lower fee: trying to be “good enough” to get into heaven. That’s Method #1.
Method #1 – Trying to Be “Good Enough” (The Balance Scale Illusion)
A lot of people assume that that when we die and meet God, He’ll be sitting in front of a balance scale. There He’ll put our good stuff on the “you’ll get into heaven” side of the scale, put our bad stuff on the “you’ll go to hell” side, look at the results, and make His decision. If He sees that our good stuff outweighs the bad, we’ll get into heaven. If He finds that our bad stuff outweighs the good, we’ll go to hell. That’s not how it works.
The “you can be good enough to get into heaven” theory depends on our being relatively good (compared to others who obviously don’t qualify). But getting into to heaven doesn’t depend on relative goodness; it depends on absolute goodness – i.e. perfection.
If we could be perfect – and by perfect I mean totally without flaw – we would get into heaven. But perfection requires that we never ever do anything wrong. No errant thoughts, no white lies, no dirty secrets, never a tinge of selfishness or manipulation or meanness. Perfect means that zero items go on the bad stuff side of the scale. But none of us can pull off perfection. We all fall far short. It only takes one slip up to disqualify us. Every person on earth falls short of perfection. (See Romans 3:23.)
Method #1 is an illusion. A lot of people try it anyway. How many people have told you “I’ve lived a good life.”? (They assume their good deeds will compensate for their flaws.) Just a few days ago I read an obituary that described in detail how one man’s kindness and generosity brought a smile to the face of everyone he met. He was apparently well liked and had many accomplishments. I think I would’ve enjoyed his company. But I wonder. What happened when he and Jesus met at the entrance to heaven? Had he already asked Jesus to pay his bail? I hope so, because we don’t get a second chance to ask after we die. (See Hebrews 9:27.)
Only the perfect get into heaven. Either we manage to attain perfection ourselves (method #1), or we know someone who will give it to us (method #2). And that’s where Jesus comes in.
Method #2 – Ask Jesus to Pay
Did you know that falling short of perfection carries a death penalty? Not just earthly death, but death for eternity. Since we can’t make ourselves perfect, we need to find a friend who is willing and able to make us perfect. That’s what Jesus did on the cross. He substituted His death for ours. He paid our bail. He bought our way out of jail.
If we accept His payment, an amazing thing happens: the perfect Jesus makes us – at the deepest level of our beings – perfect as well. Our core identity shifts in a profound, unexpected way. We become new creations: righteous, complete, and perfectly qualified for heaven.*
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Making This Personal
Have you thanked Jesus for His gift of the cross?
Have you asked Him to apply the cross to you?
Two Ways to Get into Heaven (#1 Is an Illusion)
© Lynne Fox, 2017
*Read about the details of this profound identity shift in my book, Grappling with Your Identity, available from the BibleGrapes Bookstore or through Amazon.com.