For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
There exists a common misconception among non-Christians and, sadly, even among some Christians, that when it comes time to meet our Maker that we can gain entrance into the celestial realm based on our merits. As our lead verse suggests, “God shall bring every work into judgment … whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” If challenged, those who hold that view almost always see themselves as better than most. They may admit to “small” sins like telling a “white lie” now and then, stealing a pack of gum, failing to correct a cashier when given too much change, or something equally innocuous. By their estimation, their “good” works will outweigh their “evil” works on the cosmic scales, and God will say, “Good enough!”
To some extent, it seems that the Bible teaches merit-based salvation. Our lead verse teaches that God looks at every work, both good and evil. Superficially, one may get the impression that He weighs the two – good on one side, evil on the other. First Peter 1:17 says that “the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work…” (emphasis mine). Indeed, at the end of time when Christ’s millennial reign on earth has ended, a scene unfolds where all who ever lived appear before the judgment seat of Christ. “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 20:13).
It indeed appears that people will be judged according to their works. Should this be cause for hope for those counting on their own goodness? Taking a closer look at our leading verse, note that God scrutinizes “every work” and determines whether it is good or evil based on His standard of goodness. God made man in His image (Genesis 1:27), and for that reason, God deemed man “very good” (Genesis 1:31), but man messed that up in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Beginning with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), man’s attempt at covering up his sin always falls short of the perfection he possessed before the Fall. Only perfection qualifies for entry into the presence of God. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27, emphasis mine). Interestingly, I cannot find the word “sin” in the book of Revelation, but there are several synonyms: anything that defiles, whatever works abomination or makes a lie. All of that is sin, so whether one has a little sin or a lot of sin, one is disqualified from entering heaven.
The Great White Throne Judgment scene in Revelation sees “books” opened, and the “dead” judged by the content of the books “according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). Evidently, there are “ledger books” recording both the good and evil deeds of every person that has ever lived. Since NOTHING that defiles “shall in no wise enter,” no one qualifies. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). However, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). There the guilty sinner stands before the Righteous Judge, “and another book was opened, which is the book of life … And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
Reader, is your name written in the Book of Life? Do not think you are good enough – that your sins are minor compared to someone else. Only perfection gains entry into heaven and no one qualifies. However, there is a way. Please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”