1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
Do you think you will go to heaven after you die? As I’ve asked people this question over the years, most times the answers come in a couple basic forms. Some say, “No one can know.” I’ve heard that from lots of people, some of whom are regular church attenders. Others say “Yes.” But when I’ve asked the next question “How do you know?” the most common answer is along the lines of “Because I’m a good person.”
So, for the first response, that no one can know . . . Well, the Bible clearly says that we can know. An example is in the verse above, which says that the things that have been written have been written specifically for the purpose that you can know that you have eternal life. In Romans 10:9, Paul tells us that “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.” Note he didn’t say “might be saved” or “could be saved” but “you will be saved.” Jesus said in perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Either the Bible is a lie and these verses give a false hope, or they are true.
Now for the answer “Because I’m a good person.” Jesus said the following to a man that tried to justify himself by claiming that he had perfectly kept God’s law: “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). Jesus also said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) as well as “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Remember, the scribes and Pharisees were the most religious people of that day. They were so meticulous in keeping the Old Testament law that they would strain their drinks through a cloth so as not to accidentally swallow the smallest “unclean” animal, a gnat. They were so meticulous in keeping the Sabbath, that they claimed Jesus had sinned by the way he observed it. Yet Jesus made clear that these religious people were lost and that their father was the devil (John 8:44)! Of course, they proved this by murdering Jesus. So, then, on what basis can people know they are going to heaven, and how good do they have to be?
This is the most critical question of life, for it is absolutely certain that we all will die someday. The Bible tells us the answer with clarity through such verses as John 3:16 and Romans 10:9, above, as well as in the following verses “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
You see, it is only when we humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are sinners, and that our “good works” are worthless in earning favor with God, and then receive the free gift of forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus’ life on the cross – for he died for our sins, not his own – that we can be saved. 1 Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Some have rightly called this “The Great Exchange.” Jesus took our sin on Himself so that we could receive His perfect righteousness though placing our faith in Him.
So again, do you know if you are going to heaven after you die? I hope you can say “yes,” and know that you know for certain based on God’s own words.
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