Deserving Heaven

It is proper Christian thinking to talk about our unworthiness and general horribleness. Our heads puff as we utter, “I am not worthy of heaven.”

Certainly there is truth in these utterances and it may indeed be possible I’m being cynical a tad. But I do think we often go overboard in our voluntary humility to the extent we miss biblical teaching.

You can indeed be worthy of heaven. And, for our NIV readers, “worthy” means “to deem entirely deserving.” Yup, it is possible to claim that you deserve heaven.

Now, don’t go saying that because I said so, listen to Jesus talk about a group of people who “shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead.” “Accounted worthy” means deserving.

Or perhaps you’re a Paul guy. Well here’s Paul talking about the suffering Thessalonian believers that they “may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” “Counted worthy” is the same Greek word and it means to deserve.

It is possible to deserve heaven, now I suggest you figure out how to go about deserving it!

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  1. paul walton

    Can “accounted” be interpreted the same as “counted as”? Those who are worthy are counted as deserving, because they are trusting in Christ, thus they are worthy.

  2. Frank Zimmerman

    Good topic Jeff, we just had a study on it in our church last week. I’m not satisfied that I’ve mastered the topic, but will give a few thoughts:

    Worth is value, goodness…or righteousness.

    There are two things that make us “worthy” in God’s sight:

    1. Possession of righteousness.
    2. Our utter need of righteousness.

    Since those two classes include everyone, God “so loved the world.”

    Adam had #1 in the beginning and God testified that all things He had made were “good”, which is the same as “worthy”. The Law approves of righteousness…it is the standard of real worth.

    But then sin entered, and God hates sin because it ruins things. Sin is unworthiness. Sin made us all utterly unworthy. And so the Law, which is the standard of “worth”, condemned us.

    But then a new element of God’s character, which was always there (since God made all His creation from nothing, so we never deserved life), but not so noticed, came into the light: grace. This is an aspect of God’s love that is exercised to those who have no righteousness anymore.

    In a sense it exists in the Law, for the Law is simply a definition of unselfish love, but we tend to think of the Law as a code of rules, and so in that sense, we don’t see it there.

    Now God had a whole planet of unworthy people. But love, which is exercised not according to material value, but according to need, was moved. Now our value consisted not in what we possessed, but in our utter lack, and our utter need, of what we did not possess.

    So Christ was given to the human race, in order to make them righteous, or “worthy” again. Some, like the publican in Jesus’ parable, respond to the Holy Spirit, and cry out in their need, and so are justified. They actually receive something they did not have before, in exchange for the old rags of character that they were born with. Justification is not just a legal transaction, it is an exchange of life. Righteousness is life (see Gal. 3:21).

    In the same parable, the Pharisee, on the other hand, did not look to Christ to give him what he needed, but looked to his own flesh…his Jewish heritage and blood-line. His confession that he was “not like other men” was not true, it was a lie. He was just like other men in his heart…completely unworthy. But he didn’t acknowledge it.

    What you have described in your article is the modern tendency to be a Pharisee, yet take the words of the Publican. It is just another trick of the flesh. To say that you are a sinner, but not to feel your utter need, and to fall short of exchanging the sin for a new life, is hypocrisy. In either case, whether you trust in your fleshly heritage, or whether you trust in your supposed confession of your need, you fall short of receiving the “worth” that Christ wants to give. The rich are sent away empty.

    To use two simple examples: if Abraham would have given up and said, “I’m just too old to have children, God will have to save me in spite of it,” that would not have been faith. There would have been no son, no new life. But he didn’t give up, he grasped that God’s promise could bring life from death, and sure enough, the son was born “through his flesh” but not “of his flesh”. Another example would be the sick Jesus healed. If they had stopped short of believing that Jesus could actually take the sickness away, and had just asked Christ to carry them around, or act as a leaning-post, propping them up as they hobbled around, this would have been a lack of faith. They might have confessed their great need, but without the faith to believe it could be healed, they would have remained sick.

    “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” “Sin is transgression of the law.” Therefore, whatever IS of faith, results in obedience to the law, and therefore, by faith we are not just declared, but actually made worthy again.

  3. Dustin

    I would have to say that the only thing in a man that is righteous is Christ. With that said, the only thing worthy is the Lamb that was slain and if Christ has saved us, we are worthy by no work of our own but by the work of Christ. We are only deserving of Heaven because of the work of Christ and His saving grace in our lives, not because we did something righteous.

  4. Frank Zimmerman

    Yes, it is so. However, the work of saving grace always requires our cooperation. Christ’s character becomes ours by growth. “Grow in grace”.

    There are atheists and worldly people who are looking at us, whether we realize it or not, and will get an idea of the effectiveness of our religion by what they see. We are proclaiming to them that God will do great things, even impossible things, through the work of salvation. They want to “see the goods.”

    Now, they also know there are plenty of shysters around who want to sell them “the bridge” and when they buy it they find out that the seller never actually owned it. So they are wary. Do we really “own the bridge” or do we just pretend to own it? Does our religion really work, does it give us those “impossible things” that Christ promised it would, or are we just a little less wolfish than before?