Can We Be Good Enough to Go to Heaven?

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.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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4 Responses to Can We Be Good Enough to Go to Heaven?

  1. Paul Pavao says:

    It is a journey, Wayne. We just have to stay on the path. He will move us along and get us to our destination. Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to you as well.

  2. Katie Clark says:

    I like this post, Paul. I like it a lot. I wanted to say that, for those who say we don’t need to actually walk in righteousness or do good works, they are also ignoring the very words and commands of the Lord. Their houses will be built on sand. It’s a very fearful thing.
    I also want to bring up 2 Peter 3:14 where Paul and his letters are mentioned: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” This last phrase really sums up what is going on in the church today.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family, brother Paul.

  3. willingin2019 says:

    Hey Paul, how are you? I recently worked on a logo for a friend who is starting a Bible study group. I met him at an Alpha session at a local church. He walks the walk and finds the Alpha teachings too soft. Myself, I think everyday about God, but your article reminds me that I still have a long way to go.

    Have a great holiday!! Enjoy your family at Christmas time.



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