In human life, and history and experience, London is England, Paris is France, Moscow is Russia, Rome is Italy, Cairo is Egypt and Sydney is Australia; and so throughout the whole vast, inhabited world; and especially is that scene in the Bible. For example, in the Old Testament, there were six cities of refuge, three on the east side of Jordan, three on the west side of Jordan. And if a man committed murder by accident or unpremeditated, his family often sought to murder him. But if he could find a way to the city of refuge, he was saved forever.
Or again, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Luke, the doctor wrote of the holy city of Jerusalem: “Jesus steadfastly set his face to go to the city, to Jerusalem.” There He was tried, crucified, buried, raised from the dead and, on a mount overlooking the city, ascended up to heaven, from that city.
Uncounted multitudes are seeking a way to the city of God. How do I go to heaven when I die? How do I make that journey in assurance that some day I’ll be saved? Some are following the legalized lane, by keeping the commandments. If I strive in this boulevard of righteousness, if I work at it, if I obey the commandments, if I am morally upright, I will find the way to the kingdom of God.
St. Paul writes in Galatians 5:4 that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God. Any attempt to be justified by the law moves a man away from the grace of God. You can never be good enough, God says, to enter the bastion of heaven in your good works. Try as you may, you never obtain perfection.
That’s an amazing avowal. The righteousness of man is never enough to form a passport into the holy city of God. It’s like a chain; just break one link and you will fail. That’s the way it is with the commandments of God. We are never perfect.
Some seek the road to heaven by observing liturgical loyalties. “I was baptized and confirmed; I tithed and faithfully received the Holy Communion. I observed days of fasting, abstinence; surely I am in a state of grace.” While I observe the rituals of the church with deepest respect, and hold them in highest honor, they are not my passport into heaven. I truly believe that they point us to Jesus, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The great Martin Luther flayed himself, beat himself, starved and abused himself. He crawled upon his knees up the Scala Santa. It is supposed to be the place where Jesus went up to appear before Pilate. When Luther was climbing those steps of the Scala Santa, it came to his heart like the blowing of the wind of the Spirit, “The just shall live by faith.” Not by liturgical loyalties, but solely by faith. He stood up and walked down those steps and back to Germany. And the Reformation had begun.
Surely the road of moral motivation will take us to heaven. “Surely if I am morally correct and ethically pure, God will accept me.” Wonderful, glorious! You may consider yourself to be morally and ethically pure, but you are not sinless or stainless. You cannot find your way into heaven because of your purity. What are you going to do when the Lord says, “But there is none righteous, no not one….all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23; 26)
How many intellectuals present themselves as scientifically sufficient. “I am a scholar, a scientist. I bow down at the sign-post of knowledge and the discovery of truth. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in religion. Those who seek religion, use it as a crutch. They’re feeble-minded and I look upon them with contempt. I worship truth.”
When time comes to die and this scientist is on his death-bed: “Bring me my laboratory, my test tubes, my chemical formula. I’m facing eternity. Bring me my mathematical formulas and computations; bring me my geometrical designs, especially the treaties I wrote on natural law.”
Oh, God, these roads to the city are misdirected and wrong. They fail in despair, darkness and spiritual death.
There is just ONE WAY to the city of God. Just one! Here is a simple Greek lesson. John 14:6: Ego (1) eimi (am), he (the), hodos (way), kai (and), he (the), aletheia (truth), kai he zoe (the life). Then Jesus added this word: “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” There is one way to be saved and only one. And that way is through personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. You enter the city of God (heaven) by trusting in the finished work of Christ Jesus on the crucifixion cross. As the hymn writer wrote, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.”
Romans 10:9-13: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation…for whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
There is no exception to it – anybody, everywhere, anywhere, all alike, can enter the New Jerusalem, heaven, the city of God, by giving his/her heart to the Lord Jesus. Do not be swayed by false ideologies, or fall prey to unbiblical ideas, beloved. The way of the cross leads home.
(Dr. Gary Heikkila is a Certified Master Chaplain, CMC, Homeland Security, and a Minister-at-Large.)