Can a rich man enter into the kingdom of heaven? Most today say yes. Jesus said such was impossible. But Jesus did give a solution which most find impossible to accomplish.
“And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and knelt to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. You know the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor your father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatsoever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and said unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answered again, and said unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them said, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:17-27; ff. Matthew 19:16-26; Luke 18:18-30).
In response to the rich young ruler’s question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus pointed out the necessity of keeping the Law and because of his love for the young man, he told him the one thing he lacked to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus instructed the young ruler to “go your way, sell whatsoever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” The text tells us that this man rejected the instructions he sought from the Good Master “And he was sad at the saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22). Most today also reject Jesus commandment for him to give up his life of luxury, take up his cross and follow after Christ. Jesus had little money. Jesus had no house or bed to lay his head. Jesus suffered the cross and so must we bear our own cross if we want to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was saying this was a lot harder with those who had great wealth and lived in luxury.
Not only did the words of Jesus have a marked impact on the young ruler, but the disciples of Jesus who had witnessed this encounter were astonished at his words as well. Jesus then began to teach the impossibility of one entering heaven who trusts in riches. In verse 23 Jesus said, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” Upon the astonishment of the disciples by this saying, Jesus in verse 25 uses a proverbial statement to illustrate this impossibility by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
Jesus uses the literal “camel” and the literal “needle’s eye” (Luke 18:25) to illustrate the absolute impossibility of one entering heaven who trusts in riches. Even those who use Greek and Hebrew lexicons find no relief from the conclusion that Jesus was speaking literally and not figuratively. The Greek word rendered “eye” in Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25 is trumalia,..used of the eye of a needle” according to Vine. Some have attempted to soften this saying of Jesus and water it down by saying that the needle’s eye was only referring to a small passage way or small gate. Such a notion is unfounded! The Lord’s object in the statement is to express the human impossibility and there is no need to endeavor to soften the difficulty by taking the needle to mean anything more than the ordinary instrument. The needle’s eye here is the literal needle.
These attempts to soften this and other sayings of Jesus is not surprising. What Jesus and the apostles taught as being an impossibility, many religious rebels, renegades and even brethren, try to make a possibility in an effort to justify their lawlessness! The impossibility of putting that camel through the needle’s eye can be set in contrast to other impossibilities we find revealed in the Scriptures!
It is impossible for those who have not been baptized into Christ to enter the kingdom of God. John 3:4 f; Mk 16:16. It is impossible for those involved in religious error to inherit the kingdom of God. Matt 7:21-23. It is impossible for those living in an adulterous marriage to enter the Kingdom of God. Matt 19:9 Paul taught that the adulterer shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9 f; Heb. 13:4)! It is impossible for the sexually immoral to enter the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:15-20 f ; Gal 5:19-21). It is impossible for the liar to enter kingdom of God. (Rev. 21:8) It is impossible for those consumed with worldly pleasures to enter the kingdom of God. Philip 3: 18, 19 These are listed just to illustrate that there are some thing impossible.
Conclusion: Some teach and many are deceived into believing that such people will inherit the kingdom of God. Paul’s teaching says that this notion is not so! The truth is, heaven is reserved only for the obedient child of God whose faith has endured “the trial of fire” (1 Pet. 1:3-9). All the saints must suffer the same persecution (2 Tim 3:12 f; 1 Pet 5:9,10) and there are no exceptions for the wealthy saint (Col 3:25). Jesus gave them the only solution: Sell all you have, give it to the poor, take up your cross and follow after me. Let these Apostolic words sink deep into our hearts, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world” (Tit. 2:11, 12). To attempt to put the ungodly, the disobedient, the alien sinner, or an erring brother into the eternal kingdom of God (heaven), is like trying to put that camel “through the eye of the needle.” An Impossibility! “Be not deceived” my friends and brethren!