There is a common thought that the Gospel is a ticket to heaven; give your life to Jesus and you get the free pass into a cherub filled eternity. And in that notion, the grace of God is simply a reward for believing the right thing.
Also the quality of your eternal experience is determined by your good deeds and obedience now. The size of your heavily mansion is in direct relation to your levels of spiritual achievement. You are spending your life storing treasures in heaven that you will then enjoy forever.
There is, of course, a list of Bible verses that will justify this understanding of the Gospel and heaven. You just have to ignore almost all of what Jesus’ said to believe it.
The biggest problem with this view is that it simply turns the ‘Game of Life’ into the ‘Game of Afterlife’. The material accumulation of possessions, power and status is given a spiritual veneer. But ultimately it’s all just a game.
Jesus comes to offer something else. No game. No competition. No fight for the finish. He offers what he and his disciples call ‘The Good News of the Kingdom of God’. It is not a ticket to heaven but the public announcement of a new reality.
Here is one of his descriptions in a parable:
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet
There are some great excuses here. New land and property is a sign of growth and needs looking after properly. A successful business needs expanding and oxen require care. “I’m on honeymoon” is as solid an excuse as you can muster. Looking after land, animals and spouse are God-given responsibilities straight out of Genesis 1 & 2.
However God does not care about the successful businesses and relationships because he is throwing a party. And the ONLY thing he cares about is that the party is full. That is why he rounds up whoever is available. Starting with those who are losing.
The Grace of God works by raising the dead, not rewarding the righteous.
The whole system of winning and losing at life (even spiritual life) is jettisoned by a God who is only interested in having the very best party. The message of the Gospel is not to grab a ticket to heaven but grab a plate to the table. And a glass too.