Someone I follow recently asked the question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Well, presuming for a moment that the Bible is meant to be taken as literally as most evangelicals seem to believe, what does it say that I have to do (and avoid) in order to go to heaven and not get sent to hell? Here are some of the requirements I’ve managed to find in Scripture so far:
– Say the right things.
For by thy words thou shalt be justified. — Matthew 12:37
– Do the right things and avoid doing the wrong things.
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life. — John 5:29
For you render to each one according to his works. — Psalm 62:12
When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness … and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul. — Ezekiel 18:27
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Matthew 16.27
Who will render to each one according to his deeds. … For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. — Romans 2:6, 13
For we must all appear before the jugment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. — 2 Corinthians 5:10
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. — 2 Corinthians 11:15
The Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work. — 1 Peter 1:17
I will give unto every one of you according to your works. — Revelation 2:23
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. — Revelation 20:12-13
– Feed the hungry, give beverages to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. — Matthew 25:34-36
– Have faith.
A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. — Romans 3:28
Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. — Romans 5:1
A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. — Galatians 2:16
For by grace are ye saved through faith. — Ephesians 2:8
– Have faith and do works.
Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. James 2:17
– Believe in Jesus.
Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. — John 3:16
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life — John 3:36
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. — Acts 16:31
– Just ask.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.– Matthew 7:7-8
– Be born again.
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. — John 3:3
– Hear the words of Jesus and believe in whoever sent him.
He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life. — John 5:24
– Be born of water and the spirit.
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. — John 3:5
– Be washed by the Holy Ghost.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. — Titus 3:5
– Be converted and become like a little child.
Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 18:3
– Believe and be baptized.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. — Mark 16:16
– Call upon the name of the Lord.
Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. — Acts 2:21
– Confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. — Romans 10:9
– Follow the commandments (at least some of them).
If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. — Matthew 19:17-19
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life. — Revelation 22:14
– Keep the commandments (at least some of them), sell everything you own, give all your money to the poor, and follow Jesus.
And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? … Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. … lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.– Luke 18:18-22
– Be poor, not rich.
Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. — Matthew 19:23-24
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. — Luke 6:24
Ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. — James 5:1
– Keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. — Revelation 14:12
– Endure to the end.
He that endureth to the end shall be saved. — Matthew 10:22, 24:13, Mark 13:13
– Avoid judging other people.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged. — Matthew 7:1, Lk.6:37
– Have lots of babies (if you’re a woman) and make sure they don’t backslide when they grow up.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. — 1 Timothy 2:14-15
– Be given by the Father and come to the Son.
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. — John 6:37
– Be chosen (predestinated) by God.
For many are called, but few are chosen. — Matthew 22:14
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate … Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.– Romans 8:29-30
For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. — Romans 9:11
He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Having predestinated us … according to the good pleasure of his will. — Ephesians 1:4-5
– Be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees.
Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:20
– Eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood.
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. — John 6:53-54
– Don’t blaspheme the Holy Ghost.
And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. — Luke 12:10
– Mutilate your body whenever it offends you.
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. — Mark 9:43-48
Okay, that’s all I could come up with for now, but I’m sure I missed some so I hope somebody can fill me in on the rest because I don’t want to risk going to that place where I have a worm that doesn’t die (no idea what that means but it doesn’t sound fun) and there’s a fire that isn’t quenched.
The above list should get us asking ourselves why we choose certain Bible verses over others when it comes to salvation (not to mention everything else, but we’ll focus on soteriology for now). Many of those verses, if taken literally, contradict each other, yet seem to clearly tell us that the requirements in each verse is necessary for salvation. Many Christians take the last half of Mark 9:43-48 literally when they want to prove that there is an everlasting torture chamber called hell, for instance, and yet they don’t seem to take the first half very seriously or else we’d see a lot more blind and disabled Christians. So, what reasons do we use to justify picking the particular verses we prefer when it comes to soteriology and deciding that the rest of the verses are not meant to be taken literally?