There is a way to hell—even from the very gates of heaven!
(James Smith, "Not Far from the Kingdom" 1859)
"You are not far from the kingdom of God." Mark 12:34
Many are in this dangerous position. They are not far from the kingdom of God—but not actually in it.
They have clear light in their heads—but have no grace in their hearts. They know the gospel in theory—but have no inward experience of its power. But no man can be saved by light in the mind; there must be the life of God within the soul.
They have not only clear light—but correct morals. The tongue is controlled. The temper is governed. The life is regulated. But with all this, the soul is dead in trespasses and sins. There may be morality—without spirituality. The life may not only be correct—but there may be a regular attendance on gospel ordinances. They may come as God's people, sit as God's people, hear and sing as God's people—and yet not be in the kingdom of God!
There may be no objection felt, or opposition shown to the doctrines or duties of the gospel. All may be admitted, professed, and even admired; but still the person may not be in the kingdom of God.
There may also be a form of prayer—but prayer without faith—prayer without the heart, without the soul.
They may be employed in teaching God's Word, either in the Sunday School, or in the pulpit—and yet not be in the kingdom of God.
O how solemn is the thought, how searching is the fact—that people . . .
may have correct views of truth;
may regularly attend on the means of grace;
may acquiesce in the doctrines and duties of Christianity;
may associate and unite with God's people;
may regularly bow the knee in prayer; and
may employ their time and talents in instructing others in the things of God—and yet never enter into the kingdom of God themselves!
Reader beware! for many rest short of vital religion. They know nothing of a broken heart for sin, of living faith in Christ, or fellowship with God through Him. They rest in a form of knowledge, or in a routine of religious services. Such may find out their mistake too late, as did the foolish virgins—when the door was shut! Or, like those referred to by our Lord when He said, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:22-23
Many will come very near to the kingdom—but will never enter it. As John Bunyan says, "There is a way to hell—even from the very gates of heaven!"
But it must be dreadful to come near, so near to heaven—and yet to be thrust down to hell!