If you ask most people, you'd find that they think they're okay when it comes to the afterlife. Why? Well, one common idea is that "I'm not as bad as a lot of people." I believe, however, that another popular position is, "I think I've done more good than bad." Isn't that how it often works in our minds? "Let's see ... put the plus on this side of the scale and the minus on that side of the scale and ... I'm probably okay."
Therein lies the problem. It is a dual problem. One one hand we've got a pile of plus on one side that shouldn't be there. On the other hand we have the wrong pile on the other side.
Justice is measuring what is right against what is and making them balance. We humans do not have a natural sense of what is right. We think we do, but in truth "what is right" is God, His glory, and His standards. Put that on the plus side of the balance. His perfection. Then there is our contribution. Put that on the other side of the balance. On our own, the Bible says, "No one does good, not even one." (Rom 3:12) ... with emphasis ("not even one"). God's Word says, "All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment." (Isa 64:6) We're not measuring up. If justice was to be meted out, we'd be in big, big trouble. Comparing ourselves with each other or with ourselves does not satisfy the need for balancing what is right against what is. What is turns out to be pretty bad -- awful, in fact, when laid in the balance against God's perfection.
It is here that the principle of Imputation becomes immense. The Scriptures say, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Co 5:21) Now, don't let that slip by too easily. Consider the vastness of this concept.
Imagine, for a moment, a school kid who is assigned the task of solving a math problem on the blackboard. He works away at it for awhile and accomplishes absolute error. Nothing in his work is right. The teacher walks up, looks it over ... and erases the board. Where are we now? The kid is now without error. The error he had on the board is gone. Nice ... but incomplete. The teacher then takes up the chalk and writes out the full and correct solution. He turns to the kid and says, "That's an A for you." Two parts, you see? There is the deletion of the error -- the absolution. But that would be insufficient. That would be a blank. That would be the absence of error, but it would also be the absence of good. But what we get is "the righteousness of God in Him."
Back now to that balance. On one side we no longer have our good works and our bad works on the other. We no longer have our lives over against others' lives. We have the right standard on one side -- the perfection of God. And on the other side, where we are placed for evaluation ... we have the perfection of God, Christ in us. Perfect balance. Perfect justice. Not a righteousness that is our own, but His. What a deal! It's the only way we can stand in the presence of a Holy God. It is His perfect plan.