|Do you need to be sinless to enter heaven?
Written January 23, 2008 by Joe Cunningham
Do you need to be sinless in order to enter heaven? In a word, yes.
Every civilized culture in the world has been asking this question ever since they looked around and saw that there had to
be something bigger than themselves that caused this world to exist. They called it God, or gods. But, this being was not
of this world, it lived somewhere else. It was spirit, and it lived in a spirit world – this place called heaven.
This heaven is perfect, and all who live there are perfect. There is no disease, no sickness, no aging process, and no
pain. There is no shame or guilt – just peace. It is the reward for a life on earth, or so we think.
Recognizing that we humans are less than perfect, the question arose that has plagued mankind from the beginning of
time: How can we be allowed into a perfect heaven when we are so imperfect? As the saying goes, "Nobody's perfect."
Thinking as humans think, we realized that a price would need to be paid in order to make things right – to make things
even with God. The Egyptians buried their dead with valuable items. Your class in society would dictate the items needed
to even the score. The poor would be buried with pottery and small trinkets, while the rich – and especially the Pharaohs –
would be buried with a wealth of gold and other precious minerals and gems. The Pharaohs would even bring along their
own entourage of servants, so as not to be a burden on the gods.
As we look through biblical history, Adam and Eve were created in paradise – heaven on earth. They lived with God, and
were in His presence everyday. And, as we know, it didn’t last long. Adam and Eve were the first to sin. And, “When Adam
sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.
(Romans 5:12 NLT) It’s interesting to point out that it was Adam’s sin, not Eve’s, that brought sin into the world.
We are eternal beings. We were created to live forever, and we will live forever – whether we like it or not. When we think
of the price Adam and Eve paid for their sin, we think in terms of pain and suffering in this life. We think of innocence lost.
We think of disease and death. But I can assure you that if you could ask Adam and Eve what the worst part was, they
would both agree that it was being separated from the presence of God.
As time went on, we became more and more wicked. Without the presence of God in our lives, we will always fall back on
our sinful nature. As we fast forward through Genesis and Exodus, we find that Moses had led the Hebrews out of Egypt,
and they are in the wilderness. They were given the Law - not as a guideline for right living - but as a way of showing how
sinful we truly are. God gave explicit instructions on building the tabernacle, and at the end of Exodus, God filled the
tabernacle with His Presence. For the first time since the Garden of Eden, God dwelled with His people.
But the people could not come near Him. He is a holy God, and He cannot be in the presence of sin. So, God gave to
Moses the basic elements of sacrifice for the atonement of sin. Moses recorded these in the book of Leviticus.
We were right, a price needed to be paid. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23 NLT). We deserve to die for our
sins, but God would provide us with a way for something else to die in our place. In Leviticus, God gave the Hebrews
explicit instructions on the atoning sacrifice of animals for the wages of their sins. I can assure you that God had no desire
to see innocent animals killed by the hundreds so that we could be made right with God. The purpose of these sacrifices
was to show the people how serious their sins truly are, and what a huge price had to be paid for them. If you have ever
seen an animal slaughtered, you know how gruesome this was. The average bull weighing 1800 – 2000 lbs. has
approximately 10 gallons of blood. This bull would be killed in the presence of all, on a raised alter. The blood would pour
down the sides of the alter, into the trough that carried it away. The internal organs were meticulously separated and
burned in a specific order. If that wasn’t bad enough, the hide, meat, head, legs, other internal organs, and dung had to be
carried outside the camp and burned on a wood fire. (Leviticus 4:1-12) It had to be the most disgusting thing to witness
and smell. But the worst part was that this bull only atoned for one sin. Every time they sinned, another animal had to die.
It was an exercise in futility. Remember, we are sinful by nature, and we will continue to sin.
This, of course presented a paradox. If our goal is eternal life with God, the price would need to be eternal death. If the
price we must pay is eternal death, then how can we ever get to heaven?
Something greater than us had to die. It had to be something of greater value. Man has always recognized that he is the
supreme being on this planet, so what could possibly be of greater value? There is only one correct answer, and that is
God Himself. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will never perish, but
will have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NLT)
He had to humble himself and become human in order to die for us. But, He couldn’t just be any human, He had to be a
perfect human. Sin is passed on through our fathers. It was Adam’s sin that brought death to mankind. So, how can a
human be born sinless? He had to be conceived without an earthly father. He had to be born of a virgin, and His Father is
Yes, God sent His son, Jesus, to be our sacrifice. And, because He is God, He was able to not only pay for the sins of man
up to that time, He paid for every sin that will ever be committed by any human at any time.
I know it’s not biblical, but I always imagine it this way: Satan saw Jesus, the Son of God, take on every sin that ever was
and ever will be, and he watched Jesus die with those sins on Him. Satan must have been jumping up and down shouting “I
win, I win!” Then he sees Jesus coming down to the gates of hell with the Holy Spirit walking beside him. Satan opens the
gate and says to Jesus, “Come on in, I’ve been expecting you.” Then, Jesus looks at the Holy Spirit, looks back at Satan,
and throws all of the sins of the world on the ground at Satan’s feet. Every one of them has a little note attached that
reads’ “Paid in Full”. Jesus looks at Satan and says, “You have no power over me, and you have no power over anyone
who believes in me. The Holy Spirit will see to that. Yes I died, but I am living again!” Satan must have just screamed! I
love the way it was depicted in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”, towards the end, all you see is Satan sitting at the
bottom of this pit, screaming at the top of his lungs, “NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” How cool is that?
What an incredible gift! And it is ours for the asking. As the Apostles set out on their mission to spread the Good News of
the Lord, they preached the power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit that is available to all who believe that Jesus Christ is
God, made man, who took upon himself all of the sins of the world…past, present and future. We believe that He died to
release us from the bondage of sin, and He rose from the dead to give us eternal life.
Yes, it’s a free gift, and a gift is something that is not earned. Our salvation – our admission to heaven, if you will – has
nothing to do with us, it has everything to do with Christ. Paul wrote to the church in Rome; “Can we boast, then, that we
have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our
faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. (Romans 3:27-28 NLT)
Paul continues; “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of
what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into a place of highest privilege
where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Romans 5:1-2 NLT)
Christ Himself said, “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be
condemned.” (Mark 16:16 NLT).
We are saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing more, nothing less.
“For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will
be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that
you are saved. (Romans 10:9-10 NLT)
Christ is the head of the church, which is His Body. He is the first of all who will rise from the dead, so He is first in
everything. For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and by Him God reconciled everything to Himself. He
made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of His blood on the cross. This includes you who were once
so far away from God. You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now He has
brought you back as His friends. He has done this through His death on the cross in His human body. As a result, He has
brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault.
But you must continue to believe this truth and stand in it firmly. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you
heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed by God to
proclaim it.” (Colossians 1:18-23 NLT)
So, do you need to be sinless in order to enter heaven? Yes. And how do we miserable, sinful humans accomplish that?
By trusting in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. By believing in Christ and clothing ourselves in His righteousness.
And, once you accept this free gift of Christ’s righteousness, it cannot be taken away. Jesus said to the crowd, “I am the
bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst. But you haven’t
believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never
reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do what I want. And this is the will
of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given me, but that I should raise them up to eternal life at the
last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life – that I should raise
them at the last day.” (John 6:35-40 NLT)
Paul explains: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or
calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? No, despite all these things,
overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His
love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow,
and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean,
nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:35,37-39 NLT)
Nothing can take it away… Nothing.
Remember, the only involvement that we have in our salvation is believing and accepting Christ. Make sure that your name
is in the Lambs Book. For me, the saddest and most horrifying verse in all of scripture is Revelation 20:15. Every human
that ever lived has now stood before the throne of God. The books were opened and judgment has been passed. It reads,
"And anyone whose name was not found in the Lambs Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.” There is absolutely no
hope, no second chance, no appeal. If your name is not found in the Book, you are lost forever. These people had their
chance. Throughout our lives, the Holy Spirit works constantly to draw us to Himself. No one will be able to stand in front of
God and say they didn’t know.
In the Christian walk, there are two very different dimensions: The first is Salvation (or often referred to as Justification),
and the second is Sanctification. Salvation is the saving Grace of God that brings us into His family as His own children, so
that we can stand before Him completely blameless. Our sins are forgiven. This is the free gift of God that is ours through
our faith in Jesus Christ. It is the writing of our names in the Book of Life, and, like I said earlier, it cannot be taken away.
Sanctification is the empowering by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we accept Christ, we are baptized by
the Holy Spirit. We die with Christ to our old nature, and are born again through the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We
become new creations. “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the
same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)
So now what? Do we just all-of-the-sudden stop sinning when we put our faith in Christ? Of course not. I wish it was that
easy, but it’s not. The Apostle Paul, who is probably the greatest evangelist in the history of the church, and the author of
13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, had this to say about himself. “It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do
what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that
is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable
person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is Jesus Christ our Lord.
So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Paul struggled desperately with sin in his life. But, over and over again, he explained that it was only by his faith in Christ
that he was able to continue. In 2 Corinthians 11 & 12, Paul was laying out his credentials to the Church in Corinth. He
apologized that it sounded as if he was boasting about himself, so he wrote: “…But to keep me from getting puffed up, I
was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me from getting proud. Three different times I begged
the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.’
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9
We don’t just stop being sinners when we accept Christ. We do our best to live a life pleasing to God. It’s the power of the
Holy Spirit living inside of us that helps guide us, but the powers of evil are still constantly working against us. And, the
closer we get to God, the more that Satan steps up his game. They say that if you are a Christian and you are living a
comfortable, easy life, you are not very close to God. Satan doesn’t see you as a threat.
Knowing our human nature, Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can
show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live
in it? Or have you forgotten that when we became Christians and we were baptized to become one with Christ Jesus, we
died with Him? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the
gracious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. (Romans 6:1-4 NLT)
Paul goes on to explain: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-
giving Spirit has freed you, through Christ Jesus, from the power of sin that leads to death.” (Romans 8:1-2)
Salvation is a free gift; it is ours for the asking. Sanctification is a walk, and not often an easy one. But, the destination is
well worth the price.
I felt an urging in my heart, and a need to write this study. We had a death in our family, a young man that took his own
life. I was asked to answer the question: Is he in heaven? The only answer I can give is that I don’t know. To say that he
is absolutely not, or that he forfeited his salvation, is not supported biblically. If he gave his life to Christ, his salvation
cannot be taken away. But arguably, if he was a true believer in Christ, would he have taken his own life? I don’t know.
One thing I do know is that the fact that he died with this sin, is totally irrelevant. Remember that Christ’s death atoned for
every sin that ever was, and that ever will be. James 2:10 says that if you break any part of the law, you have broken the
entire law. In God’s eyes, this sin carries no more weight than any other sin, and I can assure you that every one of us will
die with sin on our souls. What matters is where Christ is in our lives.
Without the atoning sacrifice of Christ, even the smallest, most insignificant sin is enough to keep us separated from God.
God doesn’t need the treasures of Egypt anymore than He needs our good works. He doesn’t need us – we need Him.
And this awesome, all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, holy & righteous God is also our loving Heavenly Father. He
gave us His Son because He loves us. God never wanted us to be separated from Him in the first place, we chose that.
But even in our defiance, He still made a way for us to be made right with Him.
If you haven’t already, please accept this gift. There is no special ceremony or incantation that needs to be said. Just
admit that you are a sinner, that you believe that Christ died for your sins, and that He rose again to give you eternal life.
Ask Him into your life, but don’t just leave it at that. Ask questions. Seek the truth in God’s word. Get with other like-
minded believers and talk it out. Blind faith is worthless faith. God didn’t give us His Scripture to sit on a book shelf and
collect dust; He gave us His Word to answer all of our questions, and to guide us.
As for the young man, my hope is that he is in the presence of the Lord, right now, and that in his hopelessness, and in his
despair, his hope was in Christ. Chances are good that God was the furthest thing from his mind, but he was still precious
in God’s mind.
We think about the purpose of life. We grieve when a young life is lost. We say that this life was wasted, and that it could
have accomplished so much more. We all aspire to be something great, but God doesn’t require greatness, He requires
faith. We will never know the plan that God has for our lives, at least this side of heaven. Our entire purpose in life could
be to make one person laugh when they felt like crying, or to make someone slow down when they were speeding. One
small act, guided by the Holy Spirit, could entirely change the course of another’s life. It could be the first of a thousand
steps that lead that person to faith. The Holy Spirit uses us in those moments, according to His plan and will.
Ottavio had the gift of laughter, and he made tens of thousands of people laugh. His life had purpose, and he will be
As usual, your questions and comments are always welcome, but never necessary. I know this goes against certain
denominational beliefs, but I assure you that it is the truth from the Word of God.
“Jesus said to the people that believed in Him, ‘You are truly My disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will
know the truth, and the truth will set you free’.” (John 8:31-32)
If you want to talk about it, write me. Having a better understanding of God’s Word can only help bring us closer to a
relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Please feel free to forward this to anyone that you think might benefit from this teaching. I write these bible studies, when I
feel led by the Holy Spirit, and send them out periodically.
May the grace of God be with all of you,