Stairway to Heaven
July 13, 2023
I saw a recent pic of a window sign – The fact that there is a “highway to hell” but only a “stairway to heaven” tells us a lot.
This devotional is about obtaining “2 tickets to paradise” and how we hope to avoid the “ring of fire” for eternity. Matthew chapters 5-7 are Jesus’ famous sermon on the mount. Let’s look at the backdrop for His sermon. Jesus had just started His public ministry and testimony of His miracles were spreading. The religious society of the day was skeptical, his disciples were excited, and the casual Jewish person was anticipating a Messiah to overthrow the Roman government. The common teaching in the synagogue was a salvation by works. Jesus puts them all on notice with His groundbreaking sermon.
Among the many themes taught, Jesus raises the bar for getting to heaven. In a works-based religion (like 1st century Judaism), there must be the possibility of someone making it – even if it is difficult. A religion based upon rules and regulations can’t be so stringent that no one gets in. That would remove all incentive to follow the religion. I believe Jesus gives examples (adultery, murder, divorce, swearing, love, giving, fasting, money and judging others) all throughout the sermon to raise the bar so high that people realize they can NEVER meet those standards. He cites a very high standard in Matthew 5:12 – “For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” In 7:12 He raises it a bit further (this is where we get the golden rule) – Therefore, whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
I remember reading this sermon and feeling completely dejected. How in the world was I going to be able to live up to what Jesus teaches? Am I going to be able to enter the narrow gate that leads to life or am I destined to walk through the wide gate of destruction?? One of the neat principles of studying the Bible is to always interpret Scripture with other Scripture. No verse stands alone. The key to the sermon is found in Matthew 7:21 and John 6:40 – both quotes of Jesus. Please read them a few times together.
Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
John 6:40 This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Jesus’ intention of the sermon on the mount wasn’t to give people no hope by telling them they had to be perfect to enter heaven. His intention was to let people see they could NOT reach perfection. Man made religion gives us a set of rules to live by so we may hopefully one day be good enough to enter heaven. Jesus’ gospel message says we will never be good enough and the only way to heaven is to trust Jesus (Romans 10:9-13). The wide gate leading to destruction will unfortunately be filled with those who are trusting in themselves and their “good” works to get to heaven. Matthew 7:22-23 is very clear that many who appear to be religious will be turned away. The key to entering through the narrow gate is “don’t stop believin”
’69 / ’83 Quarryville PA
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