Thinking of Home: What is Heaven? 2
Previously, we shared some insights from evangelist and Bible teacher John Blanchard concerning heaven. He explained that according to a recent survey, seventy-eight percent of those interviewed thought they had a “good or excellent” chance of getting to heaven, while only four percent thought they would probably go to hell. Per our culture’s perspective, truth is determined by one’s personal opinion and not by biblical truth.
The Apostle Paul stated, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21). There are similar lists in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, Ephesians 5:5–6, and Colossians 3:5–6. Taken together, they leave today’s glib assumptions about earning one’s way into heaven in pieces.
Blanchard also stated that the moral issue is summed up by John when he says of heaven, “Nothing impure will ever enter it” (Revelation 21:27). Someone has said it would be as impossible a contradiction for an unrepentant sinner to enter heaven as it would be for a worm to teach calculus or a lion to appreciate great works of art.
As if this were not serious enough, Jesus warns that among those denied entrance into heaven would be some who had claimed to prophesy in His name, drive out demons, and perform miracles. To hear these dismissed with, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22), is surely to kill complacency stone dead.
With all these dire warnings, it begs the question “who will get to heaven?” Blanchard goes on to say that one vital clue comes in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge one’s spiritual bankruptcy before a holy God. This cuts right across the arrogant grain of human nature, which renders man incurably confident that he can earn his place in heaven by religious observance, intellectual conviction, or moral activity.
The answer to how one reaches heaven is a radical and spiritual one. As Jesus put it, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Blanchard correctly teaches that this is a miracle that God alone can perform and to which the sinner contributes nothing. In Iain Murray’s words, “We are as helpless to cooperate in our regeneration as we are to cooperate in the work of Calvary.”
However, Blanchard continues by saying that God never does a saving work in the heart without doing a changing work in the life—and the change is real and vital. Jesus warns, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of’ the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). There is no way to heaven for the hypocrite; there must be a genuine spiritual and moral transformation.
Blanchard concludes with this one final, critical principle we can ignore only at our peril: “Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). According to Scripture, “No holiness, no heaven!” Perfection is not required, but progress is. The way to heaven is “the Way of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8). In John Owen’s words, “If we follow holiness, we shall as assuredly see the Lord as we shall come short of this without it.”