The evangelical story that’s told is people need Jesus to get into heaven. Why is Jesus the prerequisite for heaven? The story continues to go on and say that we need Jesus because we need a savior. We are in a position where we can’t remedy our predicament ourselves and need someone to save us from this situation, and Jesus is the only one who is qualified to save. Now, upon examining the situation we are in, we see that we have severed our relationship with Yahweh and that only Yahweh can restore the relationship. This broken relationship is something we are incapable of mending ourselves and actually can’t do anything to fix it. No matter what we do or how hard we work, we are incapable of restoring or reconciling this relationship. It is God and God alone who is capable of bringing forth the reconciliation and the restoration, and that means he gets to set the terms for the reconciliation and restoration happens on His terms. The next claim is that it is Jesus who is God’s terms for restoration. And so that’s why it’s through him alone we are saved.
Well now it’s time to ask, how did we sever the relationship? We rebelled against God, we sinned, and when you rebel against God or sin, you get “stained” with sin. It’s this stain of sin that keeps someone out of heaven. If you didn’t sin, then you wouldn’t have a “sin stain” (unless you adhere to a certain understanding of original sin) and you wouldn’t have severed your relationship with God and wouldn’t be in this position where only God can mend it and his choice of mending it is through Jesus. No sin, no need to be saved by Jesus. Therefore, it is sin that keeps us out of heaven. For what else besides a rebellion against God could jeopardize your relationship with God? Maybe I’m pushing the relationship analogy beyond its limits, but it seems that there’s no good answer to what would keep someone out of heaven besides going against heaven, sinning. So somehow Jesus saves us from sin and its consequences. It is the case that somehow with Jesus, our sins no longer keep us from heaven, they are “forgiven” or “don’t count against us”. Without being absolved of sin you don’t make it into heaven and without Jesus you don’t get absolved of sin.