Can Anyone Get to Heaven?
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
See Galatians 5:19-21. These are troubling verses. It might be concluded that everyone has committed at least one of these sins. If so, does this teach that we cannot go to Heaven? Does it teach saved people who are guilty cannot reign in the Millennium Age? If so, what happens to them? Moses killed and David was conspiracy to murder. David coveted and committed adultery. Moses became angry at times. Lot and Noah got drunk. Galatians 6:1 says to restore a fallen brother and this comes just after these problem verses. Discuss and come to a conclusion as to the teachings of these verses.
1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Many good, conservative Christians adopt what they call a "literal" translation of the Bible. However, either they do not truly interpret the Bible literally or else they face a great many difficult and emotionally wrenching interpretive issues. Galatians 5:21 is one such example of where literal interpretation leads to great trouble. The question of this assignment sums up this difficulty.
Read literally, Galatians 5:21 states that a person who commits the sins listed in verses 19-21 "shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Paul actually uses this or very similar language on four other occasions (1 Cor 6:9, 10; 15:50; cf. Eph 5:5). In addition, John records similar thoughts in Revelation 22:14-15: "14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."
The clear reading of these verses is that those who commit the various sins listed are not allowed to enter Heaven. Yet, this reading seems to contradict many other Scriptural verses that provide a strong assurance of salvation and guarantee the believer’s arrival in Heaven. How does one reconcile the apparent conflict in these verses?
Such a verse-by-verse, literal comparison is the tool of many cults and world religions. They attempt to seduce believers and non-believers alike away from the Bible by using the literal interpretations referred to above. Such an approach is incorrect for it fails in two areas. First, such a literal approach fails to account for the contexts of the individual verses. Second, such a literal approach fails to account for the "normal" literary uses of terms and phrases. The proper interpretation of Scripture is not literal but rather one which gives place to such normal literary usage of terms and phrases to include symbolism, poetry, hyperbole, parables, figurative speech, and the like.
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