The Undeniable Biblical Connection Between Holiness and Heaven

By David Servant

Dear Friends,

For almost 20 years, I’ve penned a monthly e-teaching that has been e-mailed to a growing list of subscribers that is currently a little over 57,000. This e-teaching begins a new format that is shorter in length but more frequent in publication. From here on, we’ll be emailing “mini” e-teachings most Saturdays. They will continue to be relevant to your spiritual life and hopefully serve as a blessing and an encouragement!

So glad for the us in Jesus,


Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter (Matt. 7:21, NASB).

That well-known warning from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ—spoken near the end of His Sermon on the Mount—could not be clearer. He was, indisputably, talking about what is required to enter heaven. Calling Him Lord is not enough. Rather, one must “do the will” of Jesus’ Father “who is in heaven.” That is, to enter heaven, one must do the will of the One who rules heaven. Heaven is for the holy.

Clearly, Jesus was addressing the grave error of those who call Him Lord with their lips but whose lifestyle denies His Lordship. His words imply (and His very next sentence confirms) that some who regularly call Him “Lord” wrongly presume that they will enter heaven. Unless they “do the will” of Jesus’ “Father who is in heaven,” they will not. Again, heaven is for the holy.

Yet, tragically, there exists in our day an entire class of professing “Christians” and “ministers” who claim that entrance into heaven has nothing to do with obedience, and who often declare that anyone who disagrees with them is preaching a “works-based gospel” and is a “false prophet” or “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Ironically, those are both phrases Jesus used just seconds earlier in His Sermon on the Mount to describe those who call Him Lord but who don’t do His Father’s will (see Matt. 7:15). To them Jesus warned, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 7:19).

Thus, some modern “false-grace” teachers—whom Jesus labeled as “false prophets” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing”—are labeling those who teach exactly what Jesus taught as “false prophets” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing”! In so doing, they unwittingly label Jesus as a “false prophet” and “wolf in sheep’s clothing”! Many such folks are pastoring churches that are full of people who think, like them, that they are guaranteed entrance into heaven no matter how they live their lives. What error could be more tragic? They are not, as they think, “safe in God’s grace.” Rather, they are dangerously unsafe in their gross state of deception.

Directly after His Matthew 7:21 warning, Jesus elaborated with an example. Note that the people in His example are people who call Him “Lord.” In fact, they even call Him “Lord, Lord” when they stand before Him in judgment:

Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness “(Matt. 7:22-23, emphasis added).

Why were they not permitted to enter heaven? The reason is because they “practiced lawlessness.” That is another way of saying that they didn’t do the will of Jesus’ Father. Jesus was not their Lord even though they called Him “Lord.” As Jesus asked at another time, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

What is perhaps most shocking is that “many” people (Jesus’ words) who prophesied, cast out demons, and performed miracles in Jesus’ name will be denied entrance into heaven. If their miraculous works were authentic (and it would be surprising that they would try to talk Jesus into allowing them into heaven by making reference to phony miracles), then that makes their damnation even more shocking. Every miracle they performed would likely have assured them even more that they would one day inherit eternal life. “God is using me!” would have been their regular thought. “Surely I’m on the path to heaven.” Yet in reality, they were on the road to hell because they “practiced lawlessness.” Perhaps their public and private lives were at odds with each other.

But why would God use such people in authentic, miraculous ways, people who presumably helped others come to faith? We note that Jesus told them that He “never knew” them, which would seem to indicate that they were not backsliders, but had never been born again.

I don’t know the answer to that question. But four things are crystal clear: (1) It is possible to deceive yourself into thinking you are securely on the path to eternal life when you are in fact not. (2) Being able to perform miracles in Jesus’ name is not proof of a genuine relationship with Him. (3) Doing the will of the Father is required to enter heaven. (4) Jesus is going to say to those whose Lord He is not, “Depart from Me.”

In light of those four sobering and irrefutable biblical facts, why does anyone believe or preach that salvation “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9) precludes any requirement of obedience? The answer is that they do not understand God’s grace, which offers, not a license to sin, but rather a temporary opportunity to repent of sin and be born again. And neither do they understand faith, which always produces actions, and in the case of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, always produces obedience.

Jesus wasn’t done elaborating on His warning. Loving all, He continued with a final admonition:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them [NASB alternate: “does them”], may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them [NASB alternate: “do them”], will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall (Matt. 7:24-27).

So we see that, contextually, Jesus was not warning about the “storms of life” which we can overcome by “applying His wise words.” No, Jesus was warning about the wrath that will fall on the disobedient—those who are foolishly unprepared.

And that ended Jesus’ sermon, a sermon in which He repeatedly emphasized the fact that heaven only awaits the holy (see Matt. 5:3, 8, 10, 12, 19-20, 21-22, 27-30; 6:1-5, 14; 7:13-19, 21-23, 24-27). It is no obscure subject. Near the start of His sermon, Jesus warned, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). Contextually, it is quite clear that Jesus was not speaking of “imputed righteousness,” but rather, “lifestyle righteousness.” We must do better than the Pharisees, which is actually not too difficult, and the remainder of Jesus’ sermon explains how to do it.

All of this is so obviously true that some false-grace teachers resort to concocting absurd interpretations. Some make the claim that, because Jesus was speaking in His Sermon on the Mount to Jews under the old covenant who were allegedly “saved by works” (which, of course, is entirely false, because the only way any sinner can be saved is by grace), His words have no application to new covenant Christians who are “saved by grace” (which they think is a license to sin).

So, by such reasoning, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was only valid until He died, when the new covenant was inaugurated. It is too bad the apostle Matthew didn’t know that, because if he had, he would not have thought he needed to include in his Gospel Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. And it’s too bad the apostle James also didn’t know that when he penned his epistle years after Jesus’ resurrection, because he mistakenly made many applicable references to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (see Jas. 2:13; 3:18; 5:2-5, 12, and so on). Incidentally, that was the same epistle in which James warned his readers: “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death” (Jas. 5:19-20, emphasis added.

Other false-grace advocates claim that Jesus actually knew it was impossible for anyone to do what He commanded in His Sermon on the Mount. Therefore, they say, His actual purpose was to help us see how far we fall short of His standards so that we will finally realize that we can only be saved by grace (which in their minds means obedience becomes optional.) So, the Sermon on the Mount was actually a big deception, full of lies, as Jesus misled His audience into believing what was not true! And Jesus never did reveal His true intentions. He allowed everyone to remain in the dark.

May God have mercy on those who turn Jesus into a deceiver!

For these reasons, run from false-grace preachers and their gullible, misled disciples. And run to Jesus who, by His grace, draws, convicts, and delivers those who are captive to sin, and who empowers them to live righteously by His indwelling Spirit. Heaven is for those who “walk after the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16-24; Rom. 8:12-14).

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14, emphasis added).