Million Dollar Question

Someone gave me a million dollars today.

Well, not really.  While I was in the mall someone put what looks like a million dollar
bill in the rear windshield wiper of my car.  The fake bill is really a religious tract that asks a ‘million dollar question’: Will you go to heaven when you die?

Here is the full text of the tract:

The million dollar question: will you go to heaven when you die?  Here’s a quick test: Have you ever told a lie, or used God’s name in vain?  Jesus said, ‘Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,’  Have you looked with lust?  Will you be guilty on Judgment Day?  If you have done those things, God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart.  The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in hell. That’s not God’s will.

He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you.  You broke God’s Law, but Jesus paid your fine.  That means He can legally dismiss your case.  He can commute your death sentence.  ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’  Then He rose
from the dead and defeated death.  Please repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus, and God will grant you the gift of everlasting life. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.

The first paragraph is ok.  It convicts and condemns all people in their sins; and the ultimate answer is that if you only read the first paragraph, you will not go to heaven.  The Bible demands perfection and you are not perfect, ergo, you will not go to heaven.

The problem is that if you read the second paragraph, the answer is now at best ‘I
hope that I will go to heaven
’ and at worst, the answer is an even more definitive ‘no’.

The second paragraph starts out ok; Jesus came to suffer and die on the cross and paid for your sins.  The issue is in the next two sentences: He can commute your death sentence; He can commute your death sentence.  Sure Jesus can do those things, but where is any assurance that He will?  Will Jesus do these things if I am good enough?  Will Jesus do these things only if I have not committed to many sins?  How will I know if Jesus has done
these things or not?

What follows is a familiar Bible verse which presumably would give some comfort to those confused by the previous two less then clear sentences; but again, the idea of uncertainty has been planted, so where should the certainty of salvation come from?

The next sentence declares that Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death.  While factually true, it has nothing to do with this tract, as the focus has been on Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sins; if my sins are paid for, why does Jesus need to rise from the dead?  And if death has been defeated, why is everyone around me dying?

Finally, we come to the evangelism call: repent, trust in Jesus and God will grant you everlasting life.  No mention of baptism, maybe that is on the five million dollar tract.  While ‘trust’ is a nice word, and we certainly do want to trust in Jesus, I would prefer the
word ‘believe.’  You can trust in the government, you can trust in your spouse; but the only one who is going to grant you salvation is the one whom you believe in, which is Jesus.

Regardless of the rest of the tract, the very last line is back to condemning Law: read your Bible daily and obey it.  If you do not read your Bible, or if you do but do not obey it, you are once again condemned.  While it would cause even more confusion, I think ‘read your Bible and love your neighbor’ would work better.  There is a lot in the Bible that we should
obey, but there is other stuff that can be taken out of context without proper study.

So ultimately, the million dollar answer after reading this tract is at best ‘I hope so, but have no certainty’ or at worst ‘no’.

Is that what the person distributing this tract wanted?  Who cares; I wish I had read the
tract in the parking lot of the mall instead of at home, and then gone and taken them off of every other car.  Or at the very least given the person a catechism and told them to call me with any questions.

Allow me to offer some comfort and confidence on your salvation and mine:

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, whoever does not believe will be
condemned
.  Mark 16.  Are you baptized?  Do you believe in Jesus?  If the answer is yes, then yes, you will go to heaven and be in the presence of Jesus because He died on the cross and took away your sins and declared you holy and righteous; innocent and blessed..  No ifs, ands or buts.  No maybes, no shoulder shrugs, no head scratching.  It is as easy as that.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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