It seems ridiculous that a sinner would be allowed in heaven, doesn’t it? I mean, really? If I sin, then I cannot be in the presence of the Lord, God Almighty, can I?
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No, of course not.
But then why does Yeshua say this, in Matthew 5:19 (CJB):
So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Yeshua just finished telling those thousands who were listening to his Sermon on the Mount that he did not come to change anything in the Torah, and when he follows that up with this statement it is clear that he is saying there are those who will sin and teach others to sin, but they will still be allowed into heaven.
How can that be? Well, I think I know the answer!
There is a difference between sinning by volition, and sinning accidentally. We are told throughout the Tanakh that God sees the heart and he knows our mind, which means when we are praying or acting in some way, God knows better than we do our true motivation. We may know we are sinning but don’t care, or we may know we are sinning and regret it, asking God for help to overcome it, or we may be sinning and not know we are sinning, at all.
If you sin, you know it, and you just don’t care that makes you an unrepentant sinner, and I don’t believe an unrepentant sinner is going to be allowed into heaven.
If you are sinning and hate that you do so, which is often the category I find myself in, and constantly asking God to help you overcome this sin, that is repentance. And, I believe any repentant sinner asking for help and forgiveness will be heard by our compassionate and understanding Father in heaven. I also believe he will help you to overcome that sin, but it is not something that he will not just do for you. Just as he told Cain, sin is crouching at everyone’s door and we must overcome it. God will help, and he will forgive when we repent and ask forgiveness through Yeshua, but it is up to each and every one of us to overcome sin in our lives.
The last type of sinner I identified, which is the one I believe Yeshua was talking about, is the sinner who is sinning and has no idea that he or she is sinning. As such, this person will teach others to sin, all the while thinking it is a proper form of worship because this is what they were taught, by those who were taught the same thing, by those who were also taught the same thing, going back for millennia.
In other words, just about every Christian who has been taught that the Torah is just for Jews, or that Born Again Christians are now God’s Chosen people (Replacement Theology), or that Jews have to convert to Christianity to be saved has been sinning. Not on purpose and not even knowing it, but still and all, sinning. And not only have they been sinning, but they have taught others to sin, as well.
These are the ones I believe Yeshua was talking about, but wait a minute! – there were no Christians when Yeshua walked the earth, so how could he be talking about them?
The very next lesson Yeshua gave after talking about those who sin and teach others to do so was to teach the Remes, which is the spiritual meaning of the Torah commandments. He taught the spiritual meaning of “Do not murder” and “Do not commit adultery” and implicitly identified the Pharisees as having taught only the P’shat, the plain or literal meaning. Because of this teaching, the people were not being properly instructed in what God really wanted from them- a heart for obedience, not just obedience for the sake of earning salvation.
The Pharisees were teaching performance-based salvation, and Yeshua was teaching that obedience should be from faithful desire to do what God wants from us, spiritually as well as physically.
The Pharisees weren’t really teaching to sin, but their rabbinic traditions did, as Yeshua pointed out, often take precedence over what God said, and THAT is a sin. They never intended to sin, and they never wanted anyone else to sin, but there it is- they were sinning and teaching others to do so.
At that time, the means for forgiveness was there- the temple still stood in Jerusalem and anyone could bring their sacrifice to receive forgiveness, but before that century ended, the temple was gone and the only means of forgiveness, the only path to Adonai, was through Yeshua.
So, today we have Christians who are sinning and teaching others to sin by rejecting the Torah completely, and we also have Jews that are sinning and teaching others to sin by rejecting Yeshua as the Messiah, leaving them with no means of forgiveness, at all!
Yet, so long as these people do repent of the sins they know of, and ask forgiveness, I believe God will hear their prayers and act, because he is an understanding and compassionate God who is more than willing to work with us, so long as we want to work with him.
So, yes, Virginia- there are sinners in heaven, but not those who do so on purpose without repentance. A repentant sinner- as King David points out in Psalm 51 – is someone who approaches God with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and (if they have accepted Yeshua) will find forgiveness and be allowed into the kingdom of heaven.
I feel for my Jewish brothers and sisters who reject even hearing about Yeshua because even though God will listen to them, they will have no Intercessor on their behalf when they come before his Throne of Judgment.
Let’s all pray for those who sin and teach others to sin, that their eyes be opened and their hearts softened so that they will not be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And give thanks to God who sees the heart and judges fairly, with compassion and mercy.
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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!