WHAT MUST I DO TO GET INTO HEAVEN? That is the most important question one could ask. In his book Redemptive Reversals, Theologian G. K. Beale suggests that most people think the answer is good deeds.  I need to be good. When God weighs my life on the scales of divine justice if my good deeds out weigh my bad deeds I will get in. In other words, if I am better than average I will be OK. This is works salvation. Be good and everything will be OK.

The problem with this approach is its failure to understand God’s nature and the reality of heaven. God is absolutely holy. That means he is intolerant of all evil, even the slightest hint. And, because God is there, heaven is a place where there is absolutely no evil of any kind—not even a suggestion. Therefore, good deeds will not get you in, and even if they could you wouldn’t like it. Everyone in heaven is busy taking the lowest place, rejecting notoriety, serving others, confessing their weakness and inadequacy.

The password that gets one into heaven is faith in the Gospel, and that faith is always a humbling faith.  All true conversions are humbling. Why do I say that? Because saving faith confesses its inability to earn God’s favor through good works, and this confession is the first step down. Saving faith is a confession of moral bankruptcy—a transfer of trust from my good works to Christ’s perfect works imputed to me through my faith.

Jesus made our problem clear when he said at the end of Mathew five, “You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Perfect! Are you kidding? No. I’m not kidding. Perfection is the requirement! That is the problem. Other places in the Bible call this “perfection”  “the righteousness of God” (Romans 1:16-17). Therefore, humility, the willingness to believe the gospel, which presumes my bankruptcy,  and the confession of my spiritual poverty of spirit is the key. In the words of Tim Keller—

The world isn’t made up of good people and bad people…Only the humble enter the kingdom of God. The proud are left out… Jesus has done for us what we could not do for ourselves in fulfilling the law perfectly. In every other religion, God owes us blessing in exchange for our obedience. But in Christianity, we get Jesus’ perfect record, so we owe him everything.

Hansen, Collin. Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation (p. 218). Kindle Edition.

Here is the great irony. Everyone in hell is proud thinks they deserve to be in heaven. They are shaking their fists at God demanding the good treatment they deserve. They feel angry, bitter, and entitled. They think they deserve better. That is their great sin. They were never willing to humble themselves and admit that they can never measure up to God’s standard of moral perfections. They would not confess that their good deeds were nothing but filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6).

By contrast, everyone in heaven has humbled themselves. They know what they deserve—eternal conscious torment in hell. They “cast their crowns” before God’s throne, overflowing day and night with thanksgiving for the unmerited grace that they have received through Jesus perfect life and substitutionary death on  the cross.

So, which are you? Will you spend eternity shaking your fist at God  or will you spend eternity humbling yourself before God’s throne, overflowing with love, joy, and peace, confessing God’s just requirements, and your inability to meet them, letting Christ save you rather than insisting on trying to save yourself?  “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Revelations 7:10).

It doesn’t belong to us and our best efforts.