Seven Men Sought Entrance into the Kingdom
May 1, 2018
Seven men walked up to the door of the kingdom of God to seek entrance; only one made it in.
The names of the seven were: Religion, Good Works, Repentance, Confession, Do Your Best, Poor Sinner, and Righteousness.
Religion was very faithful to his church.
Good Works was known for his many good deeds in the community.
Repentance preached that repentance was the key to being accepted into the kingdom.
Confession confessed his sins every time he committed them. Well, he confessed the ones he was aware of at least; it was a full-time job.
Do Your Best was quite popular and had many followers.
Poor Sinner was sincerely humble about his sinful condition. Many times, he was heard saying, “I’m just a poor sinner.”
Righteousness was given his name at his second birth. It was not a name fitting to him. It was the name of another, but he humbly accepted it when it was offered to him.
When the first man knocked on the door of the kingdom of God, an angel opened a window that was a few feet away and off to the side of the gate.
“Yes? Who are you?”
Trembling, he replied, “My name is Religion.”
The angel went to the library and scanned the shelves until he found Religion’s book. He came back to the window and opened it. In it was an exact record of all of Religion’s thoughts, words, and actions. Every good work was written down, but so was every sin.
The angel looked at Religion and asked, “Why should I let you into the kingdom?”
Religion, a little hopeful, answered, “I was always very sincere from my childhood. I read the Bible, went to the right church, kept all the rules, and whenever I failed, I asked God to forgive me.”
The angel called him closer. Religion walked over, and the angel showed him the record of sin on his account.
“I’m sorry, Religion, but I can’t let you in.”
Religion began to plead most woefully, “But what about my religious activities?”
The angel shook his head. “Don’t you know that the wages of sin is death?” (Romans 6:23).
Religion cried, “I tried to die to myself!”
“No, no,” the angel said. “I mean real death. Innocent blood is required to take away sins.”
Religion was wailing most pitifully by now. He knew his works were not good enough, but he had hoped against hope that somehow God would have mercy on him.
Another angel took him away and cast him into hell.
The next man walked up and knocked.
“What’s your name?” the angel asked.
“Good Works!” said the man with a note of confidence; he had out-performed all his peers.
The angel said, “You have a list of good works. Let’s see . . .” and the angel looked again. “Impressive! You did many good deeds. You helped the poor, visited the sick, and never caused trouble in the church. But, my dear friend, there is also a big list of sins on your record.” The angel looked at his record and at the many sins: lust, greed, envy, gossip, and pride, just to list a few.
“But angel!” cried Good Works, “I thought the Bible said if we keep the law, we will be justified! I tried my best to obey it.”
The angel nodded. “Yes, God’s Word says doers of the law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13).
Then, the angel looked deeply into Good Works’ eyes. It seemed to Good Works that the angel was looking right into his soul. With his penetrating eyes, the angel asked him, “Are you a doer of the law?” Under those eyes, Good Works knew he wasn’t.
Though he believed that one had to obey the law, as hard as he tried, he never did fully. He always hoped God would forgive him where he failed. Now, he realized that the only way to be justified through the law was to fully follow and do the law. It only takes one failure before you have to seek some other means to be justified.
Good works turned deathly pale. “No,” he said. “I guess I’m not a doer of the law as much as I tried.”
“Then you can’t be justified by the works of the law” (Galatians 2:16), said the angel. “You have a big list of sins, and the law says sinners must die (Ezekiel 18:4). The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Good Works was about to faint. “There is no denying my sins. But what about all my good works?”
The angel looked on him with compassion. “Good Works, don’t you realize that it takes blood to pay for your sins? No amount of good works can pay for sin” (Hebrews 9:22).
Good Works began to wail. An angel picked him up and cast him over the edge of the pit into hell.
Repentance was next. He knocked gingerly, and the angel opened the little window. He still had sadness written over his face from seeing the last two sinners meeting their due judgment.
“Yes?” Repentance asked as he crawled over to the window.
He was dressed in rags, and it was as if repentance was written on every piece of his rags. His very life was one of repentance, and he cried many a tear over his failures.
He looked up at the angel and said, “I know I have sinned, but I have repented as sincerely as I could.”
It sounded pitiful, but the words just wouldn’t come out any more eloquently than that.
The angel looked at his record.
“Yes, I see many sins on your record. But, my friend, don’t you know that even if your tears should forever flow, they could never wash away a single sin? Only the blood of Jesus can wash away sin. Therefore, every sin you have ever done is still on your account.”
“Yes, yes, I know I have sinned, but the Bible clearly says that if we repent, God will have mercy.”
“Yes,” said the angel. “God is very merciful, but repentance is not a currency whereby you can buy God’s mercy. It is not merely a change of mind, but rather a turning to God and receiving His forgiveness that is freely offered because of the blood of Jesus. His blood is the currency that bought your forgiveness. Jesus should have been the focus of your repentance, not your act of repenting” (Acts 20:21).
“It is not the quality of your repentance, but rather the quality of the blood of the lamb that counts. Here, let me show you: Ephesians 1:13 says, In WHOM [Jesus] ye also trusted. . . .”
The angel looked at Repentance and said, “See? You should have trusted Jesus like the Ephesians did. Instead, you trusted your tears of repentance. Look at verse 7: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins . . .”
Repentance stopped him and said, “Yes, but that is only true according to how sincerely one repents.”
The angel replied, “No one repents sincerely enough. Let’s read the rest of the verse. Where were we? Oh, yes.
“. . . in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
“See? Forgiveness of sin cost the Son of God His life. He freely offered it to you, and yet you tried to earn it by your tears.” The angel was saddened even more. He thought to himself, “People treat sin to be such a small thing. How could repentance deal with sin?”
He motioned the other angel to take Repentance away. He took him by the arms, carried him to the edge, and cast him into hell.
A few days later, Confession came to the gate and knocked.
“Who is it?” the angel asked.
“It’s Confession,” he said, quite humble in his demeanor.
The gatekeeper opened the window and looked out. Upon hearing the noise of the window being opened, Confession came over to the angel and asked, “Can you let me in?”
“Well, let me see,” said the angel. He found his book and opened it. “I’d gladly let you in, but we can’t let sin into God’s kingdom,” he said a little exasperated.
“Yes, but I confessed them all!”
“That may be, though I highly doubt it. Even if you had, it still wouldn’t have erased any of them.” The angel paused and looked over one of the pages of sins under the heading: “Unconfessed Sins.” He picked one at random and asked, “Do you remember that time you plotted a prank on your classmate simply because he looked arrogant one day after winning the spelling bee in school?”
Confession turned pale. “I missed one! I can’t believe it!”
The angel said, “You missed myriads of sins, my friend. Now, if confession is the means to have your sins forgiven (not saying it is), you are unforgiven because I have many pages of unconfessed sins here on your ledger.”
Confession had nothing to say. He was carried to hell and cast in.
Do Your Best
Do Your Best came to the gate a while later the same day. He knew he wasn’t perfect, but he always believed he simply had to do the best he could. He didn’t believe anyone could know if he would be accepted until Judgment Day; all one could do is hope.
As weird as it sounds, Do Your Best seemed to have a certain amount of hope in not knowing where he was going. The very fact that he didn’t know gave him some measure of assurance, because if he knew he was going to heaven, he would have the unforgivable attitude of confidence. And once anyone is confident of his salvation, he is most certainly lost because of the saying:
Aber ein Mensch, wenn er gleich sein Bestes gethan hat, so ist es noch kaum engefangen; und wenn er meinet, er habe es vollendet, so fehlet es noch weit.
When a man has done his best, it is barely begun; and when he thinks he has fulfilled it, then it fails yet by far (Sirach 18:6).
Do Your Best did not take the above verse as a revelation of how hopeless it is for a man to do his best. He still believed one had to do his best, but along with doing his best, he also had to avoid the attitude of thinking he had done it perfectly. He kept himself in this grey area between trying his best and avoiding confidence.
Ignorance kept him from thinking he was going to make it, and therefore increased his chance that he will make it. Standing at the gate, he was about to lose the ignorance that had kept him humble all his life.
He knocked on the door that had been built into the large gate. The angel opened the side window and asked, “Who is it?”
“Do Your Best,” he said meekly.
The gatekeeper checked for his name and found it. “What right do you have to get into the Kingdom of God, my friend?”
“I don’t know. I am letting you tell me,” Do Your Best responded. He had been feeling uneasy ever since he left his body, and now he was shaking a little.
The angel looked at him for a moment, wondering why he would say such a thing.
“I did the best I could,” added Do Your Best hesitantly, realizing even as the words left his mouth that he could have done better.
The angel voiced his realization. “Are you sure you did the best you could?”
“Well, there were times I could have done better.”
The angel asked him a startling question: “Since you believed you had to do the best you could, and since you knew you failed, why did you keep trying? Your own standard was condemning you.”
“That was the point!” answered Do Your Best. “That kept me humble. I’d try my best and when I failed, I took comfort in the fact that my failures kept me from thinking I had fulfilled it.”
The angel had never heard anything so strange in his life. Why would anyone take comfort in his failures? Failures should scare one so much that they should seek God’s answer until they know they have it.
“Let me get this straight. You believed you should be completely righteous in order to get into heaven; is that correct?”
“Yes, I believe one should BE completely righteous, but since no one is, then no one should ever THINK he is completely right,” answered Do Your Best.
The angel thought for a moment, and then replied, “I agree that one should be righteous, and I also agree that if an unrighteous person thought he was righteous, he would be deceived.”
“Yes,” said Do Your Best. “I warned people of those false teachers who claimed they knew they were going to heaven.”
“What’s wrong with knowing you’re going to heaven?” the angel asked.
Do Your Best was surprised and replied, “Didn’t you just agree that thinking you’re righteous is a deception? Those who say they know they’re going to heaven are saying they know they’re righteous.”
It finally dawned on the angel that this man’s belief was based purely on his own performance and excluded the finished work of Christ.
“Do Your Best, I’m looking at your book. About one eighth of one page of your book contains your best efforts. The rest of the book records your failure to live up to what you knew was right. There is a huge gap between your performance and your knowledge of right and wrong, and if I’m hearing you correctly, you believe your attitude of humility and lack of confidence covers that gap.”
Do Your Best answered, “Yes, I don’t want to presume I am righteous; therefore, I will let you tell me.”
“Do Your Best, you already know you are not righteous.”
“But what about my lack of confidence?” cried Do Your Best. He couldn’t believe how foolish it sounded. How could I have thought that lack of confidence is a virtue?
“Take him away!” ordered the angel. He found out where he was going when he was cast into hell.
Next up, Poor Sinner came to the gate and knocked.
The angel answered, “Who is it?”
“I’m just a poor sinner,” he said.
The angel looked at him and asked, “What’s your name?”
“My name is Poor Sinner.”
The angel found his book and opened it. He was baffled by the name. Why would anyone own his sinfulness so completely? When he opened the book, he saw it full of sins.
“What do you have to say for yourself, Poor Sinner?” The angel was actually curious.
Poor Sinner was at a loss for words and didn’t say anything.
“Why did you adopt the name, ‘Poor Sinner’?”
“Well,” he stammered, “it sounds stupid now, but I thought there was humility in admitting I was a poor sinner. I simply wanted as much humility as I could get, so I adopted it as my identity.”
The angel was dumbfounded. Why would anyone own something that condemned him? He must have gone to the same church as Do Your Best, he decided.
He turned to Poor Sinner and asked, “Did you know sinners go to hell?”
“Then why did you keep calling yourself a poor sinner?”
Poor Sinner thought a while, and then responded, “I think it’s because we all knew we were sinners.”
“Yes, but why weren’t you scared to death of your sinfulness instead of owning it?” cried the angel.
“Because of the words of Jesus.”
At this response, the angel almost fell off his seat. Before he ordered him to his fate, he thundered, “Where did you get that idea?”
Poor Sinner was feeling very poor by now, but he managed to explain, “Jesus said a publican prayed, God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
The angel straightened up in his chair, a little understanding coming to his mind. “So you thought Jesus was saying God is impressed when a man is poor and pitiful?”
The angel thought for a while. “I think I see it now. You thought coming to God humbly as a sinner would cause Him to be merciful.” The angel was scratching his head. He looked at Poor Sinner, who had just quoted Jesus. Then, he looked at his book full of sins.
“Let me ask you a question, Poor Sinner. When you realized you were a sinner, did you ask God for mercy?”
“Yes, all the time!”
“Did you go away justified?”
“I was never sure. I simply hoped He heard me and that He would have mercy on me.”
The angel said, “Let me tell you something. God had plenty of mercy for you, but His mercy comes out of His own heart, not out of your humility; His mercy cannot be bought. If He could have forgiven you based on you presenting yourself a sinner, why did Jesus have to die for you? Why didn’t you come to the cross, where Jesus was made to be sin for you, and believe on Him? (2 Corinthians 5:21) Mercy was flowing so richly there, you would have received a witness of the Spirit that He had indeed justified you” (Romans 8:16).
The angel paused. “Okay; you had me quite confused for a while. For my own satisfaction, I had to understand your way of thinking before I had you taken away. What strange ways to seek mercy and yet fail to receive it!” With that, he ordered him taken to his place in hell.
The angel fought off a wave of discouragement. “I’m sure I’ll never see a man enter the narrow gate.”
At that moment, Righteousness came to the gate and knocked.
The gatekeeper, prepared for another failure, answered, “Who is it?”
“Righteousness,” came the answer.
The angel felt something surge through his very being as he opened the window. There was Righteousness, fighting tears amidst a smile. The angel stared for a moment. The look on the man’s face must have been the most beautiful sight he had ever seen; it was a look of knowing he was worthy of hell, but at the same time boldly trusting in Christ.
“Angel, would you check my book? I can’t wait to get in and see my Savior.”
“Oh, yes; just a moment.”
The angel found his name and was startled with what he found. It said, “Born in Bethlehem, grew in favor with God and man, obtained a testimony from heaven when a voice said, ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,’ went about doing good, healed the sick, and preached the gospel. He knew no sin, but was perfect in every way.”
The angel looked at Righteousness. “This is not your record! Where is YOUR record?”
Righteousness answered, “My record is in the book of the Lamb.”
The angel couldn’t believe it. He got the Lamb’s book and was shocked. It said, “Began to lie right after birth, had eyes full of lust, was selfish, greedy, and disobedient to parents, slandered, gossiped, spoke filthy words, . . .”
The angel couldn’t take it anymore. “Who messed with the records? This claims to be Jesus’s record; this is NOT Jesus’s record!”
Righteousness explained, “When I believed on Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit took my sins and placed them in Christ’s account. The Holy Spirit then took Christ’s righteousness and put it in my account. The consequences of that exchange caused Jesus to be put to death, but it granted me the gift of life.”
Almost moved to tears at the thought of it, he continued. “He died because of my sins, and I live because of His righteousness. He took my name so I could take His. He was covered with my sins and died . . .”
Righteousness paused. He lifted both arms, and shouting, he continued, “…so I could be covered with His righteousness and live!”
The angel was stunned. He looked at him again. There was not a stitch of sin in his robe; it was perfect in righteousness.
“How did you live so perfectly?”
Righteousness answered, “I didn’t. This is not my righteousness. It is the righteousness of the Son of God, who became a man and walked out this righteousness for me. Will you open the gate?”
The angel opened the gate. Righteousness walked in and was greeted by saints and angels in the most beautiful paradise he had ever seen.
“Where’s Jesus?” He looked around, and there He was. Righteousness fell at His feet and worshipped Him. “Thank You, thank You, thank You,” he said over and over. “Thank You for taking my place down on earth on that shameful cross, so I could come up here in this beautiful place and be with You forever!”
“Welcome home, son,” Jesus said. “Welcome home.”
— Moses Schrock
Who are you?
Religion? Good Works?
Do Your Best? Poor Sinner?
Righteousness?comments powered by Disqus« Back to Articles