This is one of the most commonly asked questions about Heaven and Christianity in general (understandably so). There’s no prospect more terrible than the thought of losing one’s own soul — of leaving the world unprepared to meet our Maker. We all want to be sure that we go to Heaven when we die. All other questions about life no matter how seemingly important mean nothing compared to, “How can I be sure I’m going to Heaven?”
Sadly, the very phrasing of the question shows that many have no idea how to get there. And, as we’ll see, the standard for getting to Heaven is far more stringent than trying to be good more often than we’re bad. The idea of arriving at a Heavenly state by being good isn’t a surprising notion. This is the prevailing belief of most world religions, after all. We’ve all heard things like, “Just be devout and obey the rules and hopefully things will work out for you.”
The problem is that no one ever knows if they’re living up to that standard or not. The idea is that you try your best and then you find out what happens to you after you die. But that’s a scary way to live and an even scarier way to die when your eternity is on the line. There are two crucial aspects to finding out how good you need to be to get to Heaven. There’s both bad news and good news. Let’s start with the bad news first.
You Have to Be Absolutely Perfect (Sinless) to Make it Into Heaven
And good luck with that. Sin is any thought, word or deed that goes against the character of God. This is spelled out in detail in the Bible and leaves absolutely no hope for us to get to Heaven based on our goodness. No, God doesn’t grade on a curve as some suppose. You have to live a completely sinless life to ever get to Heaven on your own merit.
In fact, the book of James shares that even if we only sinned one time our entire lives, we’d be guilty of breaking all of God’s rules.
10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10
So, where does that leave all of us? Completely without hope of Heaven unless there’s another way there besides our own futile attempts. Because God is completely perfect and without sin (holy), he cannot allow any impure thing into Heaven including all people since we all sin.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good, No, not one. Psalm 14:2-3
Even worse than that, because God is perfectly just, He’s required to judge sin. If He failed to do this, He would cease to be good (an impossibility for Him, by the way). The terrifying thing is that our sin eternally separates us from God in a place of judgment and torment called the Lake of Fire at death. But, thankfully, as we’ll see, God deeply loves people and provided a way of salvation so we could have incredible hope in life and at death. Let’s take a look at what God’s love did to provide a path to Heaven for sinful people like you and me.
God Lovingly Provided a Way for Us to Go to Heaven
God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world. Jesus is a part of the Trinity along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus took on a human form although He was God. Jesus, because He is God who cannot sin, was able to live a perfectly sinless human life. That doesn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t tempted by sin. He experienced that painful pull towards darkness because of his humanity. But, because He was God, He was able to completely say no to sin despite being tempted. He also was able to avoid sins of omission (Sins committed when someone knows the good they should do but fails to do it).
Jesus did what all other humans could never do by not sinning—Most of us couldn’t remain sinless for ten minutes! It was God’s plan for Jesus to die at the hands of sinful human beings who, apart from God changing their hearts, hate God. So, Jesus was crucified on a cross. He was condemned although he was completely innocent. After his death, he was resurrected on the third day.
Jesus became a perfect sacrifice who could save all who believe in Him by being their sin substitute. He freely offers his perfection to cover our sinfulness so we can be acceptable for Heaven. For those who trust Jesus as their Savior from their sin, his perfect blood sacrifice covers all of their sins.
Because the blood of Jesus covers the sins of those who believe in Him, they can enter Heaven. It isn’t because the followers of Jesus deserve salvation from their sins. Rather, it’s because of God’s grace and mercy only.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Therefore, there’s no reason to boast about our salvation. It only came about because of the goodness of God, not due to our own goodness.
When sinful people die in faith, God views them as perfect. The sin payment of Jesus has been applied to their sin. Because of this, God can let them into Heaven. They are viewed as perfect. However, anyone who dies without faith in Jesus, dies in his or her sins. Because Jesus’ perfect salvation was rejected, they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They enter an eternity apart from God where they will be eternally judged for their sin.
The worst part of Hell is the irreparable loss of a relationship with God. Because the Lake of Fire is a complete God vacuum, absolutely no good can exist there since the source of all good things is God. On earth, we experience something we often don’t consciously appreciate—goodness. All the good things of life come from God: good food, friends, fun, family and so on. These things are given to us because God is kind to all people, even to those who will ultimately reject Him.
In contrast, those who enter Heaven will experience perfect goodness, joy and restoration of their physical, mental and spiritual faculties (Something that was always out of reach on a sin-filled earth).
The most wonderful thing about Heaven will be to exist in the presence of God forever. We don’t experience that close contact with God on earth yet and so we can only imagine what this experience will be like. That’ll be a thrill nothing else will ever rival. No pleasure on earth will ever come close to comparing to perfect acceptance by the Author of your soul and all creation. It will be the ultimate experience of coming home.
Unconditional love will saturate us and to desire to leave the presence of God will be unthinkable. Yes, Heaven will hold many pleasures such as being reunited with loved ones but all the joys of paradise will find their ultimate meaning and fulfillment in God—the One we were made for.
That day when we see God face-to-face will be like no other and we’ll owe it all to the free gift of Jesus. That gift is open to anyone who will believe in Him. God doesn’t play favorites like sinful people too often do. People from every ethnic group and economic background will be represented in Heaven.
Do you know Jesus as your personal Savior? If not, you can make a decision to follow Him today. The Bible says that today is the day of salvation.
2 For He says:
“In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2
It says that because only God knows how much more time we have left on this earth.
Life is not a “right” as we often wrongly assume. It only exists because God gave it to us. All of us will live only for a very short time on this earth in light of eternity. However, whether we accept or reject Jesus as our Savior will have a far-reaching, eternal impact on our future.
If you’ve never made a decision to follow Jesus, you can do that right now.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
You can pray to Jesus, ask Him for forgiveness from your sins and seek Him and his word to help you turn from your sins. You’ll also need to spend time with his children to grow in your faith. You shouldn’t wait another minute because nothing is more important than getting right with God. Nothing.