We cannot buy our way to heaven

Heaven is not for sale: You cannot buy your way to heaven

In 2017, a pastor from Mexico claimed God authorized him to sell plots in Heaven for $100 per square meter, with VISA payment options or installment plans. The certificate guaranteed a spot near God’s palace. While it’s ridiculous and amusing, there were buyers.

1. Selling Certificates of Indulgence

Historically, Roman Catholic Pope Urban II first granted plenary indulgences in the 11th century, particularly to the Crusaders who received “remission of sins” for their acts, particularly reclaiming Jerusalem from Muslim control.

During the 1500s, the church needed funds to build St. Peter’s Basilica, marking the rise of the Roman Catholic Church as the preeminent authority on earth. With this power, the church can absolve temporal punishment for sins by donating money to the church.

False assurance of heaven

Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar, played a key role by selling “Certificates of Indulgence.” He used dramatic displays, such as burning his hand, to promise forgiveness and a quicker path to heaven for loved ones in purgatory. He instilled fear and urgency in potential buyers, saying, “As soon as the money in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

Example of Certificate of Indulgence

The document below was issued by Pope Innocent VIII in 1498 for the financial contribution to the hospital of Saint James (Sanctum Jacobum) in Compostela (Compostella), Spain.

Latin: “In dei nomine Amen. Notum sit vniuersis fidelibus qualiter Sanctissimus Dominus noster Innocentius Papa octauus concellici speciali gracia be ani mac Caritate ab hac luce decefferint salus procuretur quod li qui parentes amici aut alii epil ritideles pietate comon cuiuluio nacionib et prouinte a bbicunqz fuerint ac bbienqs degät bicelimam partem baine ducati pro anima bniufcuiulq sic defuncti dederint aut mulerint pro erediticatione holpitatio maiorio apud sanctum Jacobum in co polella nec non produarum capellarum in dicto hofpitali fundacione quarum bna biris alia mulieribus tam dan tro onimbus mittetes o defuncti predicti In Suffragio Precibus a Elimolinis. Jeiumio. Oracionibu. Disciplinis piis operibus eterilqz spiritualibus bonisque in dicto Golpitalia Capellis ciufdem pro tempt ent perticipes efficiantur.”

English translation: In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let it be known to all the faithful how, by the special grace of the Holy Lord Pope Innocent VIII, from his sincere heart, salvation is assured after departing from this world; that whoever, out of piety, shall give or bequeath a good part of their wealth, up to five ducats, for the soul of any deceased person, for the assistance of the hospital of Saint James in the city of Compostela, and for the maintenance of the chapels founded in the said hospital, whether by men or women, let them receive the benefits of fasting, prayers, disciplines, pious works, and other spiritual and good deeds in the chapels of the said hospital.

Issued: The General Treasurer’s office or its deputy, testimonial letters are granted to you, sealed with the seal of the Treasurer and signed by Alfonso de Iola, Notary Apostolic Deputy. In the year of our Lord, 1498.”

2. The modern form of “indulgence”

Today, the church no longer sells Certificates of Indulgence. However, indulgences come in a new form to earn God’s favor and the remission of sins. The Sacrament of Penance and Confession includes charitable works as part of the penitential reparation process.

On the other hand, the Bible tells us that our sins are already forgiven because of what Christ did. No one comes to the Father in heaven except through Jesus, who we can approach anytime and anywhere.

We become God’s child through faith and repentance, which comes with a promise of entering heaven.

The right motivation for doing good things

Charitable acts can lead to pride, making us think we deserve God’s favor. Therefore, we must always ask God to expose our motives. God commands us to love, help, and share, which pleases Him. However, our motivation should be selfless love.

3. We will have rewards in heaven

Crowns of glory

Five heavenly crowns are mentioned in the New Testament—the Crown of Life, the Crown of Righteousness, the Crown of Rejoicing, the Imperishable Crown, and the Crown of Glory.

Apostle Paul spoke about heavenly rewards, assuring us that our earthly ministry is not futile; we receive rewards. However, our motivation should be the pursuit of being Christ-like through obedience and faithfulness.

What Christ has already done

All those who belong to Christ will enter heaven. The only payment required was already paid by Jesus when He died on the cross. Charitable or good works result from our faith and obedience to Christ—not a means to heaven. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Romans 5:8
“But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”


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