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What will Keep us Out of Heaven? Did Jesus Tell the Rich Man he can Go to Heaven just by Obeying the Commandments?
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When Jesus promised that not one of “His sheep” will “perish or be snatched out of His hand,” it was not a once-saved-always-saved, so-do-what-you-like-and-nothing-can-touch-you statement. The entire contextual truth of the Bible teaches the opposite of this deadly dogma. Jesus was referring to His sincere followers or disciples as “sheep.” He was not speaking about the “goats” that do with His Word whatever they wish, (Jn. 7:21-24; 10:26-30.) To them, He said in Mt. 25:31-46, 7:21-24, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness [or your own rebellious interpretation of My Word.] I never knew you… [for you never obeyed My Word or the precepts of My inward, Moral Law,]” (Jn. 13:34.)
Sadly, some people turn the “sheep” into “only those who are so good they are become holy and behave perfect.” In reality, all sincere disciples already possess complete spiritual holiness and perfection from the moment of their personal, sincere rebirth, as at that moment, they were transported from darkness into Light and were fully indwelt by the Holy Spirit, (Col. 1:13-14; 2:9-10; 1 Cor. 6:15-20; Jn. 3:34; Rom. 8:9 KJV; Gal. 4:4-7.) Hence, holiness and perfection are part of our blood-bought spiritual position of salvation inside His Kingdom, (1 Pt. 2:9-10.)
Nevertheless, in their humanity or on their soulical (emotional) level, “the sheep” can only strive to perfectly obey the Word of God with the motive of glorifying Him. “Not human perfection but sincerity is our human side of Gospel perfection,” someone wisely said. Even the ‘good’ Old Job was not perfect in his humanity. He was perfect in his reverent fear of God by aiming at perfection while his heart was sound and his mind was steadfastly focused on Him. Our omniscient God knew what Job would do under pressure but He allowed terrible affliction to show him his weaknesses to keep him in check. It is a great lie that the One God of both the Old and New Testament Covenants does not work in exactly the same way today, as even Jesus, in His full humanity on earth, had to learn obedience, (Heb. 5:8; 1 Jn. 2:4.)
So, we all stumble unplanned, (premeditated sin excluded,) in many things – but each time, we must get up right away by confessing our sin, repent, and renew our obedience to God’s Word, so that we can “overcome” everything the devil can throw at us until Jesus calls us home, (Jam. 2:1-3.) As long as we sincerely and obediently remain at Jesus’ feet, nothing from outside can force us to forfeit eternal life in Him. Only we ourselves can do that by our own, free-willed decisions. Thus, we ourselves remain our greatest enemies where our lives on earth and our eternal lives are concerned. Wherever each of us have a weakness, that is where the flaming arrows of the evil one will strike. If we cherish our own plans and desires, our loved ones, friends, the praise and acceptance of people, wealth, health, happiness, or whatever else above God and His true will for every situation in our lives, we are committing idolatry. And the many religious and other self-conceited ‘good’ works we often do under the guise of religiosity to hide our secret idolatry, are as witchcraft in the sight of God, (1 Sam. 15:19-23.)
The following demonstrates the above perfectly as a sure way to miss heaven. In Mt. 19:16-30, a rich man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good work shall I do that I may have eternal life?” The Master answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God, [so no one can work to become good.]” Jesus, being God and man at the same time, was speaking in His full humanity; from His human standpoint. “But if you want to enter into Life, [keep My inward, Moral Law commandments.]”
The man was referring to ‘earning’ eternal life, but Jesus explained that we cannot enter into heaven except through Him, Who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. What Jesus said was that we must enter into Him Personally Who Is Life, through our obedience to the personal rebirth, (sincerely believing in Him and fully accepting Him,) and through nothing and no one else. Then, we must persistently follow Him as His disciples by manifesting His Godly Nature through obedience to the Truth of His Word and His Moral Law; which will eventually lead us to Eternal Life, (Jn. 1:11-14; 3:3-5; 13:34.)
Hence, Jesus clearly explained, “[If you love Me above all else you must also love your neighbor as yourself. The Moral Law refers to your own and your neighbor’s life... Hence,] you shall not murder [either spiritually by false doctrine and other deception; emotionally by neglect and verbal abuse, or physically through violence, 1 Jn. 3:15.] You shall not commit adultery, [or murder your spouse and family emotionally by destroying My holy marriage covenant. You must keep your “neighbor’s” body and fidelity as dear as Life Himself.] You shall not steal. [All your own and your neighbor’s tangible goods are protected by the Moral Law which guard them.] You shall not lie or bear false witness. [As Jesus Is Truth and Satan is lies, nothing proves our allegiance to either Light or darkness better than our reaction to this commandment. It points to everything that concerns our own and our neighbor’s integrity and character.] Respect your parents [in the Lord; and parents, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the Truth of the Word. So, do not imitate or defend your parents’ sin but respect their fair authority and Godly character, Eph. 5:1-4.]”
When the man boasted that he kept the Moral Law as Jesus explained, Jesus cut straight to the one thing that separates him from eternal life, “If you want to [serve God] perfectly, go sell [all your treasures] and give the money to the poor, and you will heap up treasures in heaven. Then, come and follow Me [as My obedient disciple.] But the man went away sorrowful for [he loved his possessions more than God.]”
Jesus was not making physical possessions that were honestly earned by His grace into evil. Possessions are dead but necessary commodities. It was the idolatrous love of possessions and money Jesus addressed in this man: his weak spot; his secret sin. (Everything we love more than God is idolatry.) So, Jesus urged him to deal immediately with that particular sin that separates him from God and eternal life, (1 Cor. 6:9-10.)
This is why we cannot live ‘perfectly’ outwardly while indulging in secret sin, thus keeping heaven as a “last resort” in the hope that we will be acceptable to God just the way we are. God called us to repent from all sin, which is disobedience to the Truth of His Word, so that we can “overcome” all the schemes of the evil one. Everything we idolize will keep us out of heaven because we then prefer earthly treasures more than heaven’s treasures.
Sadly, we do not read that Jesus went after this rich man to beg him to repent and overcome his love for money, people, and position. In fact, we never read about this rich man again in Scripture.