My last post was an answer to an inquirer who asked what I meant when I said it requires works to enter God’s eternal kingdom. He wasn’t satisfied. He asked, “How do you know if you are good enough to enter your version of heaven?”
I answered, “That is always the question. Is that a challenge, or is it a real question?.”
He did, after all, ask about “my version of heaven.” My answer tackled both his question and his challenge. Here it is?
How Do We Know if We Are Good Enough to Enter Jesus’ Eternal Kingdom?
Evangelicals do not seem to be able to conceive of the idea that we might have to worry about the judgment. Peter, however, says, “If you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each man’s work, then conduct yourself throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear” (1 Pet. 1:17). Later in the letter, Peter says, “If the righteous are scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and disobedient?” Paul said he disciplines his body and brings it into subjection “lest having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
I have one more thing to add, but first I have to ask: “Did you look up those verses I sent in the first email?” I believe I simply quoted every verse I cited. Those were not interpretations; those were citations. At the very least, can you look at 2 Peter 1:3-11 and compare that to what I said? (See yesterday’s post for the verses and explanations I had already given him.)
The worst and most deceptive doctrine taught by the evangelicals is that God will send a person to hell for eternity for one sin. That is outrageous, unjust, and unscriptural. Read Ezekiel 18:20-30. Is that talking about sinless perfection, or just a general pattern of righteousness? in 1 John 3:7, John says not to be deceived. Notice what he says not to be deceived about. He says, “Do not be deceived, little children, the one who practices righteousness is righteous as he [Jesus] is righteous.”
There are amazing promises to those who walk in the light (1 Jn. 1:7) and who practice righteousness (1 Jn. 3:7). Their sins are forgiven on an ongoing basis (1 Jn. 1:7) and they have the righteousness of Christ (1 Jn. 3:7). This lines right up with Romans 4:8 (which is a quote from Psalm 32). There are people to whom God will not impute sin. Those people, according to 1 John 1:7 and 3:7 are not those who believe and live how they want; they are those who walk in the light and practice righteousness. Yes, the way to walk in the light and practice righteousness is to follow the Spirit and let the life of Jesus live through us, but those things are choices. They are choices we have to make every day. If we make that choice on an ongoing basis, we will find that God both imparts and imputes righteousness. If, however, we are not willing to suffer, not willing to deny ourselves, not willing to make the effort, we may find ourselves mocking God, and God will not be mocked. Sow to the flesh, and you will reap corruption, not eternal life (Gal. 6:7-8).
It is amazing to me that evangelicals have such a problem with saying we have to have works to get through the judgment and enter the kingdom. James said we are justified by works and not by faith only (Jas. 2:24). He was talking about the judgment. Evangelicals simply do not believe that verse. Instead they twist the words into words they find more palatable, like “we are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.” What is wrong with the holy, God-inspired words of James that evangelicals need to improve them? God is not going to treat people favorably for changing words he chose.
Early Christianity: A Defense
I hope you understand that there was a time when all Christians agreed with what I have written here. The fact that one branch of modern Christianity, a branch that produces 4 or 5 half-hearted Christians for every whole-hearted one, is offended by what I teach does not bother me. It is not historically doubtful that the churches of Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, Antioch, and the other apostolic churches taught in the second century what I teach today. None of what I teach about works and judgment is controversial among those who read the writings of the second and third century churches. I am not going to forsake the teaching of the united, holy, and apostolic churches of the second century—a church that did not defend itself and gladly gave themselves to persecution and martyrdom—in order to agree with Christians who are afraid to repeat James 2:24 and consider it heresy to discipline oneself in order to avoid being disqualified.
So, that’s my argument in case your question was actually a challenge. If it is really a question, I will be happy to continue to explain that God does not require sinless perfection, but that he does require working out our salvation with fear and trembling. There are those who are worthy and will walk with Jesus in white, and there are those who are defiled and will not (Rev. 3:4). Worthiness is not sinlessness; it is worthiness, and we are commanded several times to walk worthy of our calling. Revelation 3:4 tells us what happens when we don’t.