The General Populace
First of all, it is already difficult for anyone to enter the kingdom, contrary to popular opinion. This is what Jesus taught. He said:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” (Joh 14:6)
People want to believe that there are many ways to God, but Jesus taught that there is only one way and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Christianity is very exclusive. There can be no other gods beside Jesus. He alone is Lord. No idols are allowed. It matters not how nice of a person you are or how many good works you do, if you don’t come through faith in Jesus Christ, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
You have to repent and believe in Him. “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’" (Mat 4:17). Yet the message of repentance is seldom heard today.
Jesus also said to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God…Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.’” (Joh 3:3,5,7)
You might be raised as a Christian and attend Church all your life, but you must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. Without being born again, born of water and of the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.
You must be converted and become like children, or else you will not enter. Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3)
And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luk 9:23)
Much of what is being preached these days is a cross-less gospel. People want to have all the positive benefits of following Jesus without the cross. If you don’t accept the crucified Christ you cannot get to heaven. If you don’t take up your own cross daily and follow Him, you cannot be His disciple.
"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luk 9:24)
As I wrote in my article, The Cost of Discipleship, following Jesus will cost you everything.
Jesus said that many people follow the wide road that leads to destruction, and few people follow the narrow way that leads to life. "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mat 7:13-14)
This is why entering through this door requires striving. "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luk 13:24)
There are four types of soil and only one of the four produces a crop when the seed is planted on it. The hard-packed soil along the path, the rocky soil, and the soil that has thorns are the three types that do not produce any lasting fruit. Only the good soil that hears the word and accepts it is the one that produces a crop, thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold what was sown (Mk 4:14-20).
Now that I have set the stage by showing how difficult it is in general for anyone to be saved, let’s look at how it is for the righteous to be saved. Peter wrote, “And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” (1Pe 4:18). This clearly teaches us that it is with difficulty that the righteous person is saved.
Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:20)
He also said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Mt 7:21)
The apostle Paul also taught that we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. “After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’” (Act 14:21-22)
As I wrote in my article, Remember Lot’s Wife, once you have decided to follow Jesus, don’t look back. “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”(Luk 9:62). As that song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus. The cross before me; the world behind me. No turning back! No turning back.”
Yet of all the people in the world, it is perhaps hardest for the rich to enter the kingdom. Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mat 19:23-24).
Jesus told the rich young man that, in order to enter life he must obey the commandments. While the man was confident that he had kept these since he was a boy, Jesus told him that to be perfect, he should go sell his possessions and give to the poor. But he went away sad, because he was wealthy. The deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this world are like thorns that choke the life out of the seed of the Word that is planted in our hearts. So beware of riches.
Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Mat 6:24).
He also said, "Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort." (Luk 6:24, NIV).
Paul wrote to Timothy, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1Ti 6:9-10).
Despite all these warnings in Scripture, the prosperity gospel is one of the most popular teachings in the Church today. I’m warning you, flee from the love of money.
The last type of person for whom it is most difficult to enter the kingdom of heaven is the teacher. In this same group we have all those who preach the Word, and any minister of the gospel. James wrote, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (Jas 3:1). This means that those who teach the Word will be judged with greater strictness and the punishment will be more severe.
Jesus said, "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luk 12:47-48)
Those who teach are the ones who know the Master’s will. If they do not get ready or act according to His will, they will be beaten with many blows. They have been given much. Therefore, much will be required of them.
Paul knew this very well. That is why he said, “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1Co 9:27).
Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'” (Mat 7:21-23)
Notice that these people who call Jesus their Lord even prophesied, cast out demons, and performed miracles. Yet the Lord said He never knew them, and told them to depart from Him, because they did not do the Father’s will, but practiced lawlessness.
Don’t assume that because you are a preacher or teacher that you will go to heaven. In fact, it is quite the contrary, since it is even more difficult for ministers of the gospel to be saved.
Putting it All Together
We must come through Jesus alone, repent, be converted through the experience of being born again, born of water and of the Spirit, and become as children. We must deny self, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. We must do the will of the Father in heaven. We must put Jesus words into practice.
Scripture teaches us that it is a straight and narrow way to get to heaven and few are those who find it. Fewer still are those who after finding it remain on it until they reach the holy city.
We must enter the kingdom through many hardships. It’s hard for the righteous to be saved. But it is even harder for the rich, as well as the preachers and teachers. I’m sure that plenty of people in both those categories have lost their souls, despite confessing Jesus as Lord. Indeed, the ones for whom it will be hardest of all are those who are rich teachers or rich preachers. They have the least chance of ever entering the kingdom of heaven, because they have two major challenges, either of which would difficult enough on its own.
Therefore, let me encourage you today to fight the good fight, beat your body and make it your slave, throw off every sin that so easily entangles us, run the race with perseverance, compete according to the rules, enter through the narrow gate, walk the straight and narrow path, deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Jesus, get ready, and do the Father’s will. Don’t be deceived by the riches of this world. And let not many of you become teachers, much less wealthy preachers or prosperity teachers.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading my articles What's Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?, A Biblical View of the Poor, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, The Cost of Discipleship, The Straight and Narrow Path, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Ibrahim's Experience in Hell, Exposing Heresy, The Top Ten Things Jesus Taught, Better a Little, All Things Handed Over to Jesus Christ, The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer, Holy Fire Baptism, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, Is Obedience Optional?, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, and Costly Grace. I also recommend Kenneth Hagin’s Forgotten Warning by J. Lee Grady. You may access more of my articles on the Main Directory of this blog, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org