Elaine...In v.21....... It is by our actions that we abide by or go against the ways of God - of the kingdom of the heavens, our actions are initiated by our thoughts, motives and feelings.
Jesus taught that ‘the kingdom of God is within’ “I and My Father are One”..........they were NOT separate. There is no separation; we could not even breathe if we were separate from the spirit of God - of Life.
By awareness and the heeding, or not, of what has been called the ‘inner voice’, we are either adhering to, or departing from, (moment by moment) the way of God – the ‘kingdom of heaven’ within us. It follows that when the physical body is dropped off, we are returning to the fuller consciousness of that state of being at-one-with, being a part of, God. Some will not be aware of that at first – but I believe that in that spiritual sphere, after “death”, all can be taught, if they wish to, the spiritual realities, and their own relatedness to the truth of life and love.
Otherwise, why did Jesus say to the THIEF on the ‘cross’ beside Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise”?
Re sacrifice, how did anyone ever think that the taking of a life, the spilling of it’s blood, the placing of the hand upon its head, could possibly reconcile a person to God’s ways, as though that person need not make the effort himself, to try to deal with and replace his ‘sins’ with good thoughts, words and deeds! Helped of course by ‘appealing to’ the spirit of love, of grace, that is the spirit of God...within, (AND ’without’ - as evidenced in the life around us.)