During the personal ministry of Jesus, questions were often asked of him by his hearers, disciples, and critics. 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 your 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” (Mk 10:17-23).
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 (wealth) enter into the kingdom of God!” Similar language is used also in verse 24. 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 “needle’s eye” (Luke 18:25) to illustrate the absolute impossibility of one entering heaven who trusts in riches. 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 totally unfounded and filled with wishful thinking! The needle’s eye here is the literal needle, and the expression was a proverbial one to indicate that which is absolutely impossible.
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 some of my 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. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:4, “…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned.” Paul said that “we are buried with him in baptism” (Rom. 6:1-6); that those who “have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Recorded in the book of Acts are those who were baptized in the name of Christ in water on Pentecost 3,000 were baptized (Acts 2:1-47), the Samaritans (8:5-12), Simon (8:13), the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-40), Saul (9:1-18; 22:1-6; 26:12-18), Cornelius and his household (10:1-48; 11:1-17), Lydia and her household (16:14, I5), the Philippian jailer (16:25-40); the Corinthians (18:8). Therefore, those who have not been baptized into Christ have not put on Christ and shall not enter the kingdom of God.
It is impossible for those involved in religious error to inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus denounced doing things religiously without his authority. He said in Matthew 7:21-23 , “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” Jesus also identified the worship of doctrines and commandments of men as vain worship and proclaimed, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:9, 13). Religious error of any kind is iniquity in God’s sight and will prevent those involved in it from entering the kingdom of God. All things must be done by the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17).
It is impossible for those living in an adulterous marriage to enter the Kingdom of God. Many have tried to soften the definite teaching of Jesus on the subject of divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:9 where he said “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away commits adultery.” Even those who heard Jesus were shocked at this strict law of Jesus. Jesus in this encounter with the Pharisees reaffirmed Genesis 2:24 one man for one woman for life with one exception for divorce given to the man for the cause of fornication. Therefore when a man divorces his wife for a cause other that fornication and marries another, he goes to the bed of adultery with the unlawful wife and Paul taught that the adulterer shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9 f; Heb. 13:4)! How often do preachers of every denomination tells their members that they can remarry for any reason. How often do preachers in the Lord’s church mislead women into believing they can divorce their unfaithful husband and remarry. This they do despite the scriptures twice instructing women that they are bound to their husband as long as he lives (Rom 7:2,3 f; 1 Cor 7:39). This they do despite the absence of Jesus instructing women that they could divorce their husband and remarry if their husband was unfaithful (Mat 5:32 f; Matt 19:9). Teaching such things may get preachers a pat on the back and money in their pocket, but by teaching error they are dooming not on their own soul but all those who believe them.
It is impossible for the sexually immoral to enter the kingdom of God. The word “fornication” includes all sexual immorality. This word includes homosexuality, lesbianism, incest, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, whoredom, and adultery. This also includes the ungodly practice of “shacking up” that so many are involved in where a man and woman live together and are joined sexually without being married. Paul condemned those involved in sexual immorality as well as those involved in the list of sins in Rom 1:21-32 ff; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Cor 5:1-5; 6:15-20; and Col 3:5, 6).
It is impossible for a liar to enter kingdom of God. John said “…and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). The lake which burns with fire and brimstone is far from the kingdom of Heaven__ it is eternal damnation in Hell!
It is impossible for those consumed with worldly pleasures to enter the kingdom of God. Paul said in Philippians 3: I8, 19, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Sadly to say, many brethren are in this condition and this truth can be applied to those brethren who more interested in stuffing the stomach rather than feeding the soul (Jn 6:26-37).
It is impossible for the unrighteous or disobedient to enter the kingdom of God. It should be obvious to all who are honestly trying to live a godly life, that the there is no end to things that could be mentioned that will keep one from entering the kingdom of God. What about the gossiper (Psa. 16:28; 26:20 f; Eph. 4:31)? What about the hypocrite (Matt. 23:1-30; Luke 12:2; Jam. 3:17)? What about those negligent in their service to God (Matt. 25:1-3)? What about the rebellious (1 Sam. 15:23)? What about those who engaged in addictive practices such as smoking, drinking alcohol socially, illegal drugs, and gambling, etc? And what about those with the wrong attitude toward the truth and preachers of it? In Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-19, Paul lists numerous sins that are “works of the flesh.” In answer to his own rhetorical question, “Know you not that the unrighteous shall not enter the kingdom of God?”, he answered with the warning, “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10).
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). 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” for whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap (Gal 6:7).