Is Entrance to the Kingdom Free, or Is There a Cost?
Nothing in the universe could ever match the priceless value of the kingdom. It’s worth more than any mere mortal could ever imagine— which means it is infinitely beyond the price range any of us could ever even think to afford. If you gave everything you ever had and everything you ever will have, it still would be nowhere near enough to merit entry into the kingdom. This is crystal clear in Scripture: you simply cannot buy your way in. In fact, it actually works the other way. People who are rich in this world’s goods are severely disadvantaged from the perspective of the heavenly kingdom. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19: 24). Scripture says, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6: 10). To be enthralled with material wealth makes a person unfit for the kingdom— even if the person isn’t wealthy.
In Jesus’ words, “How hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10: 24). Nor does the kingdom belong to self-righteous people or those who think their religion, morality, education, humanitarianism, philanthropy, environmentalism, political viewpoint— or anything else— might earn merit with God (cf. Luke 18: 10– 14). The demand of God’s law is very straightforward. Jesus summed it up in a single statement: “You [must] be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5: 48). James says it this way: “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2: 10).
So the law condemns us all, because we all fall far short of that measure. It is the very height of arrogant presumption to imagine that fallen sinners could sufficiently satisfy God’s perfect standard of righteousness or somehow win His favor by trying to cover our guilt with our own imperfect works. “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64: 6). We could sooner buy all the palaces and mansions on earth than we could earn entry into the kingdom of heaven by our own merits. In fact, the characteristic attitude of all true kingdom citizens is that they are “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5: 3). They recognize and confess their own utter spiritual poverty.
They know that they are unworthy sinners (1 Tim. 1: 15). That, by the way, is not one of the kingdom mysteries kept hidden until it was finally revealed in the New Testament. It is a basic truth that should have been perfectly clear already: Those who trust in their wealth And boast in the multitude of their riches, None of them can by any means redeem his brother, Nor give to God a ransom for him— For the redemption of their souls is costly. (Ps. 49: 6– 8) That’s why Jesus— the perfect, spotless, sinless Lamb of God— had to make the only possible atonement for sinners. “[ God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5: 21). In effect, Christ paid the kingdom’s entry fee in full for those who believe on His name— because He is the only one who could ever pay such an unimaginably high price.
And it was indeed an exorbitant price— worth infinitely more than all earth’s gold and material riches combined. “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1: 18– 19). He paid the price in full. That’s what His final words on the cross signified: “It is finished!” (John 19: 30). “By one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10: 14). Therefore all who enter the kingdom do so freely, “without money and without price” (Isa. 55: 1), by grace through faith— not by any merit or virtue of their own (Eph. 2: 8– 9).