Heaven’s Coin-of-the Realm

Published: September 4, 2013

What really “spends” in heaven?


Everyone knows that when you travel abroad, you need the right currency to purchase goods and stay in hotels.  Each of us will die some day and face the issue of what it will take to “pay our bills” in heaven.  Is it true that “you can’t take it with you,” or will we be required to come properly prepared when we meet our maker?

Will our good life, good deeds, or good behavior carry any weight?  Could we be turned down and sent somewhere else if we don’t have the right “coin of the realm” in our pocket?


If you were to die today and find yourself at the Pearly Gates and God were to ask, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” what would you say?  Most folks would rely on something good they did in their lives, or offer their “good character” as reason enough for God to admit them to eternal bliss.  But suppose the rules for admission were entirely different and nothing you did on your own in life counted?  Suppose the only means of admission depended on what someone else did for you?  The salvation offered in the Bible is based on a worthy sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ on our behalf–an offering that only He, as our sinless Substitute could make.  To refuse to receive this free gift, humbly and gratefully, is to insult God and place oneself before the bar of eternal justice alone and with no defense.

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”  Titus 3:5

If you were you to go door-to-door through any neighborhood in the world and ask the simple question, “when you die, why should God let you into His heaven?”  the answers would come back, by an overwhelming majority, along the following lines: “Oh, I’ve lived a pretty good life,” or, “I’ve never killed anybody, or robbed a bank,” or, “I belong to a church and have been baptized and confirmed.”  Even more presumptuously some may say, “God is a good guy and He would’nt send someone like me away to suffer eternally.”

In these scenarios, God is viewed like a school teacher who “grades on the curve,” looking out over the great sea of humanity and calculating the relative “goodness” or “badness” of an individual’s life, and then assigning a grade based on the average of the class in question.  He is viewed as putting all humans to various tests in life and depending on how well they “perform,” He determines their relative “fitness” for eternal rewards, or lack thereof.

I’m OK, You’re OK, Right?

These inner convictions are not unreasonable if all you do is look at how the world works in general; it runs on a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” principle.  Of course it seems logical that God would think the same way.  People can easily convince themselves that upon death, they arrive at the “pearly gates” and plunk down their accumulated “cash” of good works and avoided sins upon heaven’s “registration desk” with the intent of paying their admission fee.  Why not, it works that way everywhere else?

Those holding to these beliefs wander off with a vague sense of assurance without a single scrap of documented evidence or divine confirmation, truly believing that they have done their “due diligence” on the matter of their eternal souls.  Paradoxically, they would give ten times more research to the purchase of a kitchen appliance than they would about their destiny after death.

God’s “Take” On This

Trouble is, the Bible annihilates these beliefs with unequivocal assertions like the ones in Romans 3:10-12, 23, “There is none righteous [acceptable in God’s eyes], not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;   all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”  “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The Apostle Paul’s writings in the Book of Romans leave no “outs” for any class of people, whether they are “religious,” “moral,” or not; “NONE righteous, not even one…”

But then, rising out of the seeming doom of these scriptures, we read that He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”  And in Romans 4:5 it says, “But to the one who does not work [attempt to establish his own righteousness by good works] but believes Him who justifies the ungodly [unrighteous] his faith is reckoned [1] as righteousness…”  God is making a promise here.  He’s giving us that much-needed documented evidence that we lacked before.

A Lesson From Everyday Life

Suppose you were to go to Zimbabwe, and walked into a hotel and wanted a room.  The desk clerk asked you to pay in advance and you pulled out American dollar bills and coins.  The clerk would say, “we don’t accept that currency here,” and ask you to leave.  Dollars are simply not the “coin of the realm” in Zimbabwe.  Put another way, we could not pay our hotel bill, and therefore were not deemed “righteous” [2] to enter. There is nothing personal in this, nothing emotional, and nothing negotiable, it just is.  Similarly, the above passages of scripture indicate that if I arrive on heaven’s doorstep without the proper “currency” in my pocket, I’ll be turned away, for the same reason as in Zimbabwe, my money won’t “spend” there–nothing personal.

Imagine the prevailing belief system mentioned above as a coin with two sides.  The coin represents human righteousness.  One side is human merit, and the other side is human de-merit.  This is what most people attempt to bring with them to heaven’s “entrance gate.”  Looking down at their personal pile of coins, the religious or moral person would say, “look at the big pile of coins I’ve accumulated, let me in!”  Others, like the lifelong alcoholic or outwardly immoral person might say, somewhat sheepishly,  “I don’t have many coins, but the few I have are nice and shiny and bright, please let me in.”  Sadly in both cases, their currency will be rejected, not because of its quantity or condition, but because it is simply not the “coin of the realm” in heaven.  Sorry.

The Same Throughout History

So what is heaven’s spiritual “coin,” and how do we get it? Having abandoned the self-righteous path, we are left to search for some other means to get to heaven.  As we venture forth into the scriptures, a consistent theme is observed from cover to cover in the Bible.

The theme is substitutionary sacrifice, involving the offering up of an innocent being in the place of a guilty being.  This is first seen in the first book of the Bible where it is written in Genesis 3:21 “And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”  Adam and Eve had disobeyed a direct order from God and in so doing became exposed for the first time to fear and nakedness.  They no longer were fit to be in God’s presence; they were in other words, unrighteous. Something cataclysmic had occurred and they knew it deep down inside.

Their first reaction was to hide from fear of God, and to cover themselves with hand-sown fig leaves.  Their sad plight was of course known by God, and after pronouncing profound judgments on the two sinners, on their earthly home, and the process by which they and their forebears would need to survive in a much harsher world, He provided a wonderful, mysterious covering for them that was to represent their way back to peace with God.

“And the Lord God made garments of skin…”  While Adam and Eve sought a covering of fig leaves,  God provided garments made of the skin of living creatures.  This involved blood, which represented the taking of a life, the life of an innocent bystander who had no part in the sin of Adam and Eve.

Beginning with this event and carrying on throughout the Old Testament the note of sacrifice is consistently struck as the only means of approaching God.  From Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, the countless priestly animal offerings of ancient Israel, all the way to the time of Christ, blood sacrifices dotted the religious landscape.  For all who witnessed such ceremonies, the reminder that sin is serious, so serious as to cost an innocent bystander its life was ever before them.

What Really Happened At Calvary

The Old Testament is the “picture book” of the New Testament.  God was teaching us that He had a plan for man’s reconciliation all the way from the Garden of Eden forward, and this plan was foreshadowed in those multiplied sacrifices through the ages.  The Epistle to the Hebrews explains this ingenious plan as follows, “For it was fitting that we should have such a High Priest [Jesus Christ], holy innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily , like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.”  Hebrews 7:26-27

Ingeniously, tragically, it would cost God His dear Son, who would take our place for our personal sins and as a sinless substitute, make the final offering that would satisfy the claim of eternal justice against human sin for all time; there would be no “winking it away,” God would prove too righteous for that.  Those untold millions of animal sacrifices foreshadowed this one final offering whereby Jesus of Nazareth stood before the altar of God (Calvary) and as High Priest before heaven, offer none other than Himself as the one-and-only sinless sacrifice for the ages.  Now, what it said in Hebrews 9:22 makes more sense, “And according to the Law, one may also say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

It All Depends On Your Offering

In approaching God, only blood will do, innocent blood.  How about you, is your blood innocent?  Would you offer it to approach God?  It’s the only way.  Works of your own hands, your good behavior, do not involve blood.  Consider Cain’s offering compared to Abel’s?  Genesis 4:3-5 tells the story, “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground [grain].  And Abel on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions [live animal].  And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering, He had no regard.”

Note the direct linkage between God’s view of the man and his offering.  Bring the right offering, and you will be viewed by God as “righteous,” quite apart from any intrinsic “goodness” or “badness.”  God views at all men relative to the offering they present!  This is the “coin of the realm” in heaven.

Don’t be thrown off by all this talk of blood.  If you were a parent and knew your children were in grave danger and could not get through to them any other way, would you not exhaust all means of expression to reach them?  God knew the terrible consequences of uncovered sin;  We children of Adam did not.  How could we?

In Psalm 51, King David cried out, “ I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me…”  Looking around us,  trapped in a hideously distorted “hall of mirrors,” all we see is other people in the same fallen state; How could we possibly relate to the righteousness, the glory, the unapproachable light of the holiness of God?  He needed to get through to us in language we would understand.  We needed visual cues.  Forcing us to watch the blood of animals and eventually the blood of the “Last Adam” [Christ] pour out onto the ground and those innocent lives drain away was God’s most effective means of demonstrating the gravity of sin and the peril in which it placed His beloved children.

God’s Priceless “Coin” Revealed

The work of Christ on the cross can also be described as a two-sided coin.  Similarly, this coin represents human righteousness.  But rather than righteousness that originates from within, it is “imputed” to the recipient.  In other words it is “reckoned” by God to be true on the basis of something someone else did on our behalf.

On the one side of this coin, is the legal aspect of what Christ accomplished on Calvary’s Cross.  We were sinners, both by birth as descended from Adam, and confirmed by acts of sin during our lives.  Romans 6:23 tells us “For the wages of sin is death…”  We found ourselves with a debt to pay and with no means to pay it.  But then we read in Colossians 2:14 of the death of Christ as “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”  He did what we could never do ourselves, He paid the debt and stamped “CANCELED” on our personal account.

Had Jesus stopped there, leaving our debt canceled, we would still die and remain in the grave.  That brings us to the second side of the coin.  Ephesians 2:3-7 explains, (speaking of everyone) “…we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature, children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come, He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

We had a basic nature problem.  As earthbound creatures, we were not “fit” to enter heaven any more than a we could leave the earth’s atmosphere without a space suit.  The only way God could get us there was through resurrection, indeed the resurrection of Jesus, the second great work He performed on our behalf.  Scripture asserts that Jesus was not raised alone, we were also raised in Him.  We were given a new nature, born from above and fitted for heaven.  In the unfathomable mystery of God’s great escape plan from the prison of sin, we were “baptized [immersed] into His [Christ’s] death.  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the Glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  Romans 6:3-4.

Those who believe the gospel and receive Christ into their lives are quite literally placed into Christ Himself.  Gone is that nagging “nature problem,” for they have entered into an organic union with God and have become partakers in His life through the Holy Spirit.  They have been “born again” out of their original “BIOS” [derived life] and transformed into “ZOE” [eternal] life, the moment they ceased their own efforts, and placed the full weight of their reliance upon Christ’s work on their behalf.  And thus II Corinthians 5:17 triumphantly declares, “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away, behold new things have come.”

Our “Ticket” In

God’s salvation has nothing to do with “doing,” far more to the point, He calls us to cry out as Christ did, “It is Finished!”  Rest dear soul, His work is done and so is yours.  “Therefore, lest us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it.  For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also, but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”  Hebrews 4:1-2

Jesus Christ never called anyone to a cause, program, or membership in one church or another.  He called us to Himself for He knew there was safety there, and nowhere else.  The Shepherd, who laid His life down for them, called His Sheep home then and He does so now.  “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:12.

How about you?  Will you insult the kindness of God, with what He calls “the filthy rags” of your own “good life”, or “good deeds?”  Or will you receive His free gift, His only begotten Son, who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men…humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Philippians 2:7-8.  If He was willing to humble Himself, who among us would be so proud as to ignore His example?

THINK OF IT THIS WAY…Suppose the President of the United States invited you and your family to the White House to honor you as hard working citizens.  No expense was spared in preparations and every important member of the President’s Cabinet was in attendance.  The food was sumptuous, accompanied by world-class entertainment and an evening of dancing.

At the end of the unforgettable night, as all the guests are streaming out, you are the last to leave and as the President puts out his hand to shake yours good-night, you reach in your pocket and pull out a quarter and press it into the President’s hand saying, “Mr. President, this affair must have cost you a fortune, here’s a little something to help with the expenses.”

Insulting?  Arrogant?  It would be all of these things and more.  This is what we are saying to God when we try to add our “two cents” of “righteous deeds, good works and right living” to what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.  The blood of Christ plus NOTHING.  That’s the ticket.


[1] The term “reckoned” is a legal term used in courts of the day.  It is used 41 times in the New Testament and 11 times in the 4th Chapter of Romans.  It means that something is declared by a judge in authority to be true, regardless of any merit or de-merit on the part of the recipient.

[2] The term “righteousness” means right-standing.  For example, in the USA, if you want to vote for political candidates, you must be qualified.  That means you must be (1) a citizen and, (2) not a convicted felon.  If you qualify, you are deemed “righteous” to vote.  In scriptural terms, you must be a citizen of heaven and cleared of all felonious convictions before you are considered righteous before God.  As to citizenship we read in Ephesians 2:19, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow-citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.”  As to criminal convictions, we are told in Ephesians 1:7, “In Him [Jesus Christ], we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”  We could not “earn” these things, they were accomplished apart from us, just as the place and time of your physical birth were outside our control.

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