“Suppose for a moment you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness,” the nineteenth-century evangelical leader J. C. Ryle once asked. “What would you do? What possible enjoyment would you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself, and by whose side would you sit down? Their tastes are not your tastes, their character not your character.”
Heaven is marked by holiness, the primary attribute of the God who has His dwelling place there. The biblical concept of holiness is rooted in the notion of being set apart. Objects or people that were designated as holy in Scripture were set apart for God’s use. God, on the other hand, is holy because He is set apart from us.
When the Ten Commandments were given on Mount Sinai, the Lord appeared in a dense cloud. He commanded Moses to put a barrier around the mountain and warned him not to allow the Israelites to come up (Ex. 19:9, 24). These restrictions were a vivid reminder of His holiness. God is holy, set apart from every creature and all creation. He is unparalleled and majestic in His nature (Ex. 15:11). He cannot abide sin or injustice (Hab. 1:13).
Why Theology Matters
All holiness is derived from God. Only the work of Christ can bridge the chasm created by our sin (Eph. 5:27). Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, the barrier that once separated God’s people from His holy presence has been torn down. Unlike the Israelites of old, we do not need to keep God at arm’s length. Instead, we are to “draw near” to Him (Heb. 10:22).
FOR FURTHER READING
To learn more about God’s holiness and its implications for our practice, read Holiness by J. C. Ryle (Evangelical Press).