Oh … You Can’t Get to Heaven

We took a lot of car vacations when I was a kid.

A lot.

We’d drive thousands of miles pulling a trailer behind the wagon. For the kids who got to sit in the “way back” as we called it, that meant staring straight at a trailer for thousand of miles. How could we stare straight at something trailing along behind us? Because the way back of our station wagon looked like this:

The rear seat folded flat for cargo or up for passengers, which meant the whole car looked something like this with the rear seat in passenger position.

That middle portion was the back seat and the rear portion is the way back. Depending on mood, the way back was at times highly coveted even if offering a limited view.

Another way to pass the time besides stare at the front of the trailer to our rear, though, was through song.

Singing the Miles Away

In the olden days cars didn’t come with mp3 jacks and video players. In my childhood we didn’t even have tape players. Just radio.

The radio only provided a distraction from the tedium as long as there were radio stations whose broadcasts reached our car. Satellite radio hadn’t been invented, and even FM stations were not yet available on car radios. Just AM stations, some of which operated on the lowest of watts out in those small towns we passed through.

So we sang our own songs.

Well, not really our own but songs that everyone could join in, even the youngest (me). These were mostly sing-along type songs. “When the Saints Go Marching In” would be followed by “You Are My Sunshine” and invariably we’d sing “Oh, You Can’t Get to Heaven.”

Last night I had a dream where that last song featured prominently. What was the dream about and how did the song prominently feature? I have no idea on either score. But I woke up wondering why the song insisted people can’t get to heaven.

“Oh, You Can’t Get to Heaven” is sung in a call and response format with everyone joining together on the chorus, like this:

Oh, you can’t get to heaven
(Oh, you can’t get to heaven)
On roller skates,
(On roller skates,)
‘Cause you’d roll right by
(‘Cause you’d roll right by)
Those pearly gates.
(Those pearly gates.)

Oh you can’t get to heaven on roller skates,
‘Cause you’d roll right by those pearly gates.
I ain’t gonna grieve my Lord no more.

The song continues for as long as you can come up with ways to not get to heaven. It’s a silly song, but worth a look for one important purpose: the truth of the gospel in it.

Because the truth is you can’t have a right relationship with God by any means of your own: roller skating or otherwise. The only way to come to our heavenly Father is through Jesus and the work he’s already accomplished for you.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”(John 14:6.)

Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” …  And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:9-10.)

Your right relationship with God is sealed once for all by the work of Jesus in fulfilling all God willed, and that will never change.

Jesus answered, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:25, 28-30.)

So not only is Jesus fulfilling the Father’s will, but he is fulfilling his own since he and the Father are one. This is his plan for you, and he’s not letting you go.

And that’s worth singing about.


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17 Responses to Oh … You Can’t Get to Heaven

  1. Jolene says:

    We sang that, usually as a camp song, as we were growing up too. The last verse was:
    Now the only way to Heaven…(echo)
    Is trusting Christ…(echo)
    He’ll then give you…(echo)
    Eternal life…(echo).
    Now the only way to Heaven is trusting Christ, He’ll then give you eternal life. All my sins are washed away;
    I’ve been redeemed.

  2. It all depends on our relationship to time, as to whether when we were children was a long time ago or not. I would suggest that it wasn’t all that long ago that were a little boy, Tim.

  3. I love this Tim! We had a Chrysler Town and Country wagon that had a “way back.” I have a couple of stories on my blog featuring that car. Such great memories of car trip games and family sing-alongs! Nice post with a good reminder for us all!

  4. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    We didn’t have a way back but we did sometimes ride in the back of Dad’s pickup truck: not big road trips though, just country drives. I like the message here, Tim, and it reminded me of a similar gospel favourite:

    So high you can’t get over it
    So low you can’t get under it
    So wide you can’t get around it
    You must come in at the door

    (Jesus, that is!)

  5. Kathy Heisleman says:

    I feel your pain ~~I too am of the 9 passenger station wagon era….fortunately I suffered from car sickness so always got a favored seat facing forward……but still–how many radio stations were there between Los Angeles and Oregon on Hwy 99 in California….utter boredom.
    We did sometimes play a tally game of counting the grasshoppers hitting the windshield in 10 minutes….it was forever.

  6. We sang that song when we were taking trips with a church group. We had a cassette player in our car, so we sang along to Christian music, like Sandi Patti and Steve Green. What memories!

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