What can be said about the following scriptures Mt 5:3; 5:5; Ps 37:9- 11, 29; 2 Pt 3:13 to those who believe that all good people will go to heaven?
We hear the idea of all good people going to heaven from all over the place in our society today. People want to be able to justify their good deeds. But I believe you are trying to provide evidence to the contrary. You cite a lot of scriptures here, so let me go through them one by one.
““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3, ESV)
To be poor in spirit is a state of the heart. It means that we realize we are spiritually bankrupt. We come to Jesus and seek him, chasing after him because we want to know him. Spiritually bankrupt means we need Jesus to be complete.
It’s only when a person realizes their spiritual bankruptcy, that they are poor in spirit, that they look to Jesus to be fulfilled. These are the people that seek Jesus and his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). They get exactly what they seek, the kingdom of God.
Luke uses the phrase “kingdom of God” while Matthew uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” It is referring to the same thing, God’s kingdom completely revealed to us. It’s end result is heaven. This is the promise given to those who seek God and know they need him.
““Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, ESV)
A couple of verses later in the Beatitudes we find another desired outcome for our kingdom character and its end result. Jesus says that those who are meek are blessed. To be meek means to be gentle or humble.
Scholars describe meekness as a humble, gentle strength. It stands up under oppression. The meek person finds the right ways and right moments to exert strength. It’s not forced. This is a person who is not weak. Strength is shown through gentleness and humility.
Those who demonstrate meekness will inherit the earth. This is not the same as going to heaven. However, it is a kingdom character Jesus is working in his people. As they realize how do use strength the way Jesus’ kingdom works, they inherit the earth.
This could be related to the end times after God creates the new heavens and new earth. This could be the inheritance of those who are meek. It could be used to refer to inheriting the current earth as well.
“For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” (Psalm 37:9–11, ESV)
“The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.” (Psalm 37:29, ESV)
Psalm 37 is a wisdom Psalm that evaluates the results of foolish and wise living. Verses 9-11 compare the destiny of evildoers versus the destiny of the meek. It could be that Jesus referred to Psalm 37:11 in the Beatitudes we just discussed earlier.
Evildoers don’t exist in “just a little while.” People look for them but they will not be there. This may refer to God’s end time judgment of the wicked and their destruction out of the land. On the other hand, those who wait for the Lord and the meek shall inherit the land, perhaps referring to Israel or referring to the future when God re-creates the new heavens and the new earth.
So the Psalm contrasts evildoers and the wicked with those who wait on the Lord, the meek, and the righteous. These are all synonyms for both groups. The Bible talks about deeds in two ways. And we see them both here.
Much wisdom literature counsels a person to live in a godly way that leads to success with God that pleases him. But the wicked follow a different path that leads to destruction through folly. These passages introduce the two ways to live.
They talk about our deeds and the results of them when it comes to eternal destinies and the benefits of each path. But they have not shown that our good deeds guarantee heaven.
“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13, ESV)
Second Peter 3:13 points to the eternal destiny of those who live a righteous life. However, righteous deeds cannot be done on our own. The rest of Scripture bears out this understanding. Isaiah says that our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Christ clothes us with his righteousness through justification. This is how God sees us as he sees his Son. We cannot gain heaven just threw our own righteous deeds. The whole point of the Old Testament law is how much we fail at being holy like God.
Therefore, Jesus had to give us his righteousness. This is an act of God’s grace. We cannot get to heaven based on our own deeds, even with passages like 2 Peter 3:13. He is speaking to Christians who have been given Jesus’ righteousness.
God’s promises for those who are righteous like Jesus is that they will receive the new heavens and the new earth. God is making this new creation for his people. They have been made holy and righteous like Christ. But they didn’t do it on their own. They received it from Jesus as part of salvation and sanctification.
After going through all of these scriptures, there’s something that is even more imperative for us to explain to those who believe that their good deeds give them a free ticket into heaven. Other religions use deeds as a way into heaven.
One of the most popular approaches to heaven is karma. It is the Hindu belief that if you are good deeds outweigh your bad deeds you will be reincarnated into either a human or higher life form. It is their version of heaven to be reincarnated.
To my knowledge even Muslims are very strong on the deeds categories. But they are not even sure if all of your good deeds while outweigh your bad deeds for you to go to paradise. Because Allah is not a personal god who does not speak to Muslims, there’s no way for them to know until they die.
Christianity is not based on ideas, good or bad. Instead, it is based on a Person, Jesus Christ. It is the only religion I know in the world where God’s grace is the beginning to our relationship with him.
Jesus came and died on a cross in our place, taking on our sins. When we begin our relationship with him, he forgives our sins and cleanses us from unrighteousness. While our sinful deeds can keep us separated from God, when he cleanses us from them, our relationship is based on grace, not works.
So the best understanding we can have about heaven is that it’s not about deeds. I always tell people that it’s not about what you do; it’s about who you know. As long as we know Jesus, we will go to heaven.
The invitation to heaven is the inheritance we receive by God’s grace through our faith working by his power. Our deeds don’t save us or make us holy before him. Jesus is the initiator and works in us. Once we know him, any deeds we do are for him out of gratitude and love.