Friday, July 27, 2007


How do you get to heaven? A recent letter to the editor in the *other* Sterling newspaper (not the one for which I write) posed this question, and raised some doubts as to whether the question could be answered with certainty.

Frankly, it’s a question we all should be asking, because eternity is a very long time.

Of course, your eternal destiny doesn’t depend on simply asking the right question, but rather on knowing the right answer. And there are lots of wrong answers.

The most common wrong answer in western society is that people get to heaven by being good, or pretty good, or perhaps even not so bad. The typical rationale of this position is that since heaven is a good place, then good people go there.

There are at least two serious errors in this view. First, heaven is a perfect place, not a good place. Scripture makes it clear that no sin is allowed into heaven (Revelation 21). Second, there are no good people. God’s Word is unequivocally clear on this point. “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). So, the getting-to-heaven-by-being-good notion is obviously out.

Other people believe that everybody eventually goes to heaven, even if they spend time being punished for their sins after they die. Again, this view is contrary to Holy Scripture, which declares, “it is appointed for people to die once – and after this, judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus made it clear that some people go to heaven and some people go to hell, and they all stay in their respective places forever. Plainly, the everybody-goes-to-heaven idea is also wrong.

Jesus’ mission on earth was “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Therefore, He taught with extreme precision about how you and I can be certain we will spend eternity in heaven. His conversation with Nicodemus, recorded in John 3, encapsulates His teaching on the matter. Here’s the gist of what He said there.

The eternal Son of God was sent to earth by His Father to take our sins upon Himself, and suffer the just punishment of God on our behalf. He gave His life for us – a life that is perfect and eternal – so that by trusting in Him we could have His life in us and live forever in heaven with Him.

Jesus also stated very clearly that He is not merely one way to heaven among many, but that He is the only way. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” He stated. “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

With these words, Jesus conclusively put to rest any and all other notions about the way to heaven. You can’t get there by being good, by being religious or by suffering for a little while for your sins. Only Jesus can get you there.

I remember sharing this once with a man who had recently been told he had only a short time to live. His response amazed me. “I’ve led a pretty good life. I’ll take my chances,” he told me.

Take your chances?! With eternity? That’s a pretty big gamble. And the consequences of taking the wrong chance are immensely tragic, especially in view of the sure thing Jesus offers you. He’ll take your sin if you’ll give it to Him, along with the punishment you deserve. In return, He’ll give you His life and eternity with Him in heaven.

Be sure you know where you’re going. Indeed, you can be sure, if you’re trusting Jesus.

And please remember: eternity is a very long time to be wrong!

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