Christian, why is your sure destiny the Celestial City?
And be sure of it Christian, that City is your readied abode. But why?
Well, to answer this question with verity, it is good to consider, “What is necessary to enter therein?” What does the Lord of the City say?
Not so long ago, when our Lord truly did dwell among us, He said upon the mountain, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Our Lord is astonishingly plain here. The scribes and Pharisees of the day were the religious elite of God’s chosen nation on earth. To enter the kingdom of heaven, one’s allegiance to God Almighty, in heart and life, must exceed even them. All must dismay at this proclamation, for mankind is unfaithful in heart to his Maker, going astray, to meet the piercing arrow of destruction, like a stag in heat. Enter the Celestial City man will not, unless his righteousness exceeds the most religiously dogged among us. And how far must his righteousness exceed theirs? As a lily barely exceeds its floral neighbor in weight, or as the oceans of this earth far exceed a drop of dew in volume?
In the very same proclamation cited above, our Lord answers. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” What our Lord has declared is that the qualification for entrance into the Celestial City is the very same perfection as that possessed by God Himself.
Do you have it? The question need not be asked, for each knows the answer. We have it not, that is, not of ourselves. By nature we were children of wrath. Far from seeking God and his righteousness, we sought and seek pleasure in defiance and opposition to God. The end of opposition to God is eternal torment, as our Lord stated, when telling us of the Great Day of Judgment. On that day, when every man comes before the Judgment Seat, he will find himself before an impartial, righteous Judge, who judges man according to his works, and gives to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and fury. All mankind has done evil, being evil; and there will be tribulation and distress for every man who does evil, no matter what his surname.
And so Christian, you have no native heavenly merit. All that for which you naturally qualify is hell-fire and brimstone. However, what you do have is an alien merit, an alien righteousness. That is to say, you have been qualified for entrance to glory on the basis of the righteousness of the Lord of Glory imputed to you by his death.
The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
God pours forth his wrath upon the Lord Jesus in judgment of your wickedness. He justly pours out his favor upon you in right response to the excellence of the Lord Jesus credited to you. You have that which you need in Christ. The degree of perfection needed for entrance into the Celestial City, the degree of perfection of God himself, is yours because of the exchange made on the cross of Calvary, your unrighteousness to the Lord and his righteousness to you.
It is by grace that you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of your good works, so that no one may boast.
Christian, you are bound for the Celestial City, as surely as God is God, for God the Father has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light by the obedience of the King, God the Son.
So be sure. Be steady. And give thanks to your great God in Christ.