"So if Jesus died for the sins of the world as the Bible teaches, then why doesn't everyone get to join Him in heaven one day? After all, we are all sinners, right? What else is necessary?"
Well, Jesus used the phrase "the kingdom of God" to refer to His reign in the hearts of His followers here on earth, as well as His eternal reign in heaven where believers will spend eternity.
"I see. So you say Christ's kingdom is for believers then. Is that right?"
Yes. That is correct. And in the New Testament, no one is called a believer unless he has faith and repentance. Faith trusts in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for my salvation. And repentance involves a heart which turns away from sin in order to follow Christ. There is no such thing in the New Testament as faith without repentance, or repentance without faith. They are flip sides of the same coin. And the coin in this case is a loving relationship with Jesus, the Messiah.
The apostle Paul had an amazing grasp on this spiritual dynamic. If you doubt that fact, just read the book of Romans. It is the most insightful treatise on the subject of Christian faith ever written. And while Paul was the one writing down the words, the letter actually came straight from the Holy Spirit to the people of God.
Paul often addressed the subject of repentance. For example, he wrote this warning to the church in Corinth, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9,10)
In other words, only repentant sinners inherit the kingdom of God.
A repentant sinner is one who is sorry for his sin, and by the grace of God sincerely seeks to avoid giving into temptation. Not only that, but a repentant sinner has become "convicted" of his sin by the Holy Spirit. And the weight of his sin is heavy and uncomfortable. He knows that his only hope is to come to the cross where Jesus shed His blood for sinners. And then to simply believe that the penalty for his sin has already been paid in full.
This is the Gospel, the good news, the message of salvation.
Paul worked with all kinds of people in his day. Some of them had repentance and faith, while others didn't. Those who were repentant all experienced the same spiritual phenomenon. They had godly sorrow over their sin.
Paul wrote these words in his second letter to the church in Corinth: "Your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done." (2 Cor. 7:9-11)
Without godly sorrow and alarm over your sin, you remain lost.
Paul's first letter to Corinth obviously accomplished its purpose. The reason Paul was specific about those who would not inherit the kingdom of God is so that these folks would experience godly sorrow, repentance, and salvation. And that is exactly what happened.
The city of Corinth in Paul's day had many similarities to America today. It had a reputation for being one of the most sensual cities of the ancient world. And folks in the church were being tempted to give into sensual lusts. Paul wanted them to realize that only repentant sinners will inherit the kingdom of God. Those who throw themselves into sensuality will find themselves locked outside the gates of heaven on that final day. Unless of course they repent and believe the good news.
That has been the clear message of Christianity for 2000 years. It hasn't changed. Cultures have come and gone, and sensual temptations have been a part of every culture to one degree or another.
We live in a day where sensuality is constantly broadcast over the airwaves, and easily accessible on the computer. Not only that, but we have courts in America that legislate unrighteousness. The sensual bombardment is pervasive in our society today. And the hearts of people all across the country are suffering as a result of it.
And yet through it all, there remains an eternal kingdom which is alive and well. Thankfully, God visited planet earth, and after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came here to pick up where Jesus left off.
Christ earned our salvation on the cross. And the Holy Spirit continues to reveal the truth of this message to people all over the world. But only those who repent of their sin are able to enjoy the benefits of being in God's family today and forever.
Everyone would go to heaven if this sentence was true: "All sinners inherit the kingdom of God." But that is a false statement. Being a sinner is not enough to get you into heaven. There must be repentance and faith. And this work of God in the heart of man is a miracle of the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Cor. 12:3.)
Have you had your miracle? Are you in the kingdom of God? Or do you lack repentance and faith? If so, today could be your day to enter God's kingdom. And once inside, God will work through you to reach others with this life-changing message of hope, forgiveness, and salvation.
What do you say? Are you ready to turn away from anything sinful, including sensuality, and bring it to the Cross? Now is the time. Today is the day. You won't want to be left outside the gates of heaven when the final hour comes.
"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). And if you will take Jesus at His Word, you will instantly become one of His followers. In fact, people are entering God's kingdom today all over the world.
Will you be the next one to inherit the kingdom as you repent of your sin and receive Jesus as your savior?