How Do I Get to Heaven?

Bethany Verrett
2020
24 Nov
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The search for the road to heaven is an earnest quest to ensure that whatever comes next, it is better than what happens in this life. Many religions, teachers, and gurus offer their take on paradise, and how to get there. In the Bible, God laid out His one way to spend eternity with Him.

The Book of Revelation describes Heaven as a beautiful place with streets of gold, no suffering, gates of pearl, no sorrow, and infinite beauty; all of these wonderful attributes pale in comparison to the joy that being in the eternal presence of God will bring forever.

However, man lives his life in rebellion against God, and cannot be in the Lord’s holy presence in sin, and therefore cannot go to heaven on his own merits. To rectify the issue of man’s sinful nature, God sent His Son Jesus to die and bear the punishment for the sins of the world, and Jesus was resurrected three days later. If someone acknowledges their sin, repents of it, and accepts Jesus as the Lord of their life, and His substitution for us on the cross, placing their faith in Him, that person can spend eternity with their Savior in heaven.

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How Does Someone Get to Heaven?

Heaven is the dwelling place of Almighty God. It is where His holy nature shines unveiled and in its full glory and majesty. It is where the angels dwell in service and worship. It is a place of peace, beauty, and joy. This wondrous place is also where man’s heart often yearns to be.

The Bible says that God loves His people, and wants to be in fellowship with them. When the world was created, Adam - the first man - and his wife Eve lived in harmony with God. In the Garden of Eden, there was a tree that could give man the knowledge of good and evil, when they only knew good.

When tempted, they both disobeyed God and ate the fruit of that tree, despite being told not to do so, because the Devil said they would become like God. From that moment forward, man could not be in God’s presence, choosing to sin rather than be holy and in communion with God.

Because man’s sin separates him from God, he cannot go to heaven on his own merit. The Bible makes it clear that every person is inherently wicked, and will violate God’s law and will; “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). God’s design was for man to be with Him, and for a period of time, He instituted sacrifices, where the blood of an animal was given as a substitute, atoning for sin. This system highlighted how wicked people were, as they continually had to offer sacrifices - it seemed like a never-ending cycle. They were not perfect sacrifices which perfectly and completely paid the debt for sin.

In order for man to have a perfect way to get to heaven, God the Son - one of the persons of the Trinity - came to earth, grew up living a sinless life, and died as the perfect sacrificial lamb. Three days later Jesus was resurrected, proving by the power of God the gift of new life is available through Him, and will return one day for His people.

In order to receive salvation, a person must first understand they are a sinner, and unable to justify themselves before God on their own. To be saved, all one needs to do is believe that Jesus is Lord, that He died as the perfect sacrifice for their sins, and He was resurrected. Once someone has faith in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit secures that person’s salvation until Jesus returns. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13).

In addition to sealing believers for salvation, the Holy Spirit strengthens those who have faith, helping them to repent from sins. Salvation through Jesus is the only way to go to heaven. Jesus claims absolute authority over this path, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6b). No good deeds, no chants, no sacrifices are enough. Only the blood of Jesus has the power to wash away someone’s sins forever.

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Does Everyone Go to Heaven? Or Only "Good" People?

Once Jesus paid the price for man’s sin, and rose again from the grave assuring forgiveness and new life for His people, it became possible for anyone to get to heaven, simply by faith in Jesus Christ. Because of man’s wicked tendencies, he could not be good enough to be with God in heaven of his own merits.

Man cannot even look at God’s glory. Moses wished to see God’s face, but for His own good, God would not let him. The Bible records, “‘But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:20-23).

The divide created by sin between God and man is so great, that only the blood of Jesus Christ - God incarnate - could bridge the chasm. Because of this fact, no one is good enough to go to heaven. Even Christians, who will go to heaven, are not going because they are good enough, or because of an open-door policy at the pearly gates.

God is life, and those who sin reap the natural consequences of that sin, which is death. It is not just physical death, but spiritual death. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Those who turn to Jesus Christ, putting their faith for redemption in Him, will be saved, and able to go to heaven because they accepted that Jesus paid the debt for their sins, and that it is paid in full. Those who die apart from Jesus Christ die not just physically, but spiritually as well, without accepting their debt was paid, and must pay the penalty for their sins themselves.

In the Book of Revelation, it speaks about those who will stand before the Great White Throne of Judgment. “And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Not everyone will be in heaven, because not everyone puts their faith in God for their redemption. Even before Jesus came, people were redeemed and justified before God by faith, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:2-5).

Ultimately, God wants all people to come to Him in faith, but not everyone will, and no one can get into heaven in their sin by being good. In fact, everyone in heaven will be a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and God’s promise of forgiveness.

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Can People Be Saved at the Moment of Death?

One of the most comforting accounts in the Gospel is the thief on the cross. When Rome crucified Jesus, two thieves were executed at the same time. One of them mocked Jesus, and rejected Him. The other had a different experience.

In Luke’s Gospel it says, “And [the thief] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:42-43). This thief had done nothing prior to this moment to earn eternal salvation. It is commonly agreed among scholars these thieves had not just stolen, but had murdered in the process. In that moment, the thief believed with all his heart that if he entrusted his soul to Jesus, he could be saved from his sins, which he freely admitted to having committed. Jesus confirms this fact, by telling the thief they would be together in heaven by the end of the day.

This passage confirms that someone can sincerely repent at the end of their life, even in the hours before death, and be saved. The image of the two thieves also acts as a symbol for all of humanity. There are those who will reject Jesus, and those who will accept him.

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How Can I Guide Someone Who Is Curious about Christianity?

One of the simplest and most concise ways of guiding someone through the Bible to help them understand their sin, how it affects their relationship with God, and how they can be saved and go to heaven is through a device known as the Romans Road. In these select verses, the Apostle Paul concisely explains the issue of man’s heart and how Jesus is the solution.

The Romans Road is:

- Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

- Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

- Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

- Romans 10:9-10 “...because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

- Romans 10:13 “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

God created humanity with love, and gave His only son so there was a path to redemption. “...God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:3b-6).

Trusting in the love of Jesus, having faith that His death and resurrection covers our sin and secures our souls, is the only way to heaven. Going to God in humility, confessing and repenting of sins, is the way to approach the Lord. Even though sin keeps people from God, and out of heaven, Jesus provides the way to be free from it, and to an eternity of joy with Him. 

Sources

Edwards, Jonathan. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. eBook, 2019.

Ironside, H.A. Full Assurance. Chicago: Moody Press, 1937.

Lutzer, Erwin. One Minute After You Die. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015.

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Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer and editor. She maintains a faith and lifestyle blog graceandgrowing.com, where she muses about the Lord, life, culture, and ministry.

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