So what do we do with texts, especially in the synoptic gospels, where it seems that Jesus is preaching works rather than mere belief?
Some quick examples would be Matthew 7 (mentioned yesterday), Matthew 25 (sheep and the goats), Luke 16 (Rich Man and Lazarus), Luke 12 (The Rich Fool), and Luke 10 (The Good Samaritan). Not to mention, where in scripture do we find Jesus saying that if you believe rightly then you will go to a place called Heaven?
A few quick observations that are of course up for discussion…
First, I suggest that when most people in churches today read about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven they automatically believe it is referring to a futuristic place with streets of gold and pearly gates where the “saved” will reside in their mansions for eternity. So when someone asks questions such as, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” they aren’t asking how they can spend eternity in heaven somewhere else. Instead they are asking how they can take part in the life of God and the recreation/restoration of ALL things, here and now! (It was understood that God alone was eternal.)
Also notice that Jesus never responds to this question by saying anything like, “Well there is nothing you can do, all you have to do is have faith and believe I am the Son of God, I was born of a virgin, I died and rose again, and I am coming back. If you think this is true about me and say a prayer and really mean it then I will come live in your heart and you will go to heaven.”
(To be continued…)