This is adapted from Tullian Tchividjian’s blog. The whole blog is here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/09/26/mercy-always-comes-running-2/
[I know that illustrations always break down at some level, but I still think the following one makes a good (albeit, not perfect) point.
A friend of mine recently told a silly story about a man standing at the gates of heaven waiting to be admitted. To the man’s utter shock, Peter said, “You have to have earned a thousands points to be admitted to heaven. What have you done to earn your points?”
“I’ve never heard that before, but I think I’ll do alright. I was raised in a Christian home and have always been a part of the church. I have Sunday school attendance pins that go down the floor. I went to a Christian college and graduate school and have probably led hundreds of people to Christ. I’m now an elder in my church and am quite supportive of what the people of God do. I have three children, two boys and a girl. My oldest boy is a pastor and the younger is a staff person with a ministry to the poor. My daughter and her husband are missionaries. I have always tithed and am now giving well over 30% of my income to God’s work. I’m a bank executive and work with the poor in our city trying to get low income mortgages.”
“How am I doing so far”, he asked Peter.
“That’s one point,” Peter said. “What else have you done?”
“Good Lord…have mercy!” the man said in frustration.
“That’s it!” Peter said. “Welcome home.”
My friend who used this silly illustration ended it by saying, “Teach the law. The Psalmist called it perfect. Teach it until people recognize their inability to keep it and cry out for mercy. Mercy always comes running.”]
Tullian was careful and correct in saying that this type of illustration “always break down at some level.” For example, Peter is not at the heaven gate judging who may come in. And the fact that crying for God’s mercy at the heaven gate is always too late. We should do it while we are still alive.
The reason why this kind of illustration works to certain extend: it puts us in a scenario where there is no other options. You are dead. You are at the heaven gate. The reality check is: can I pass through the gate to heaven, if not, where am I going, hell?
What should we say to those who don’t believe heaven and hell exist?