Christians long for heaven. They look forward to being in God’s presence, reuniting with other believers, and experiencing liberation from the sin and pain of this world. An important choice that Christians make in this lifetime is what denomination they will belong to and what church they will attend. Some people wonder if heaven is dependent upon this choice.
Membership in a denomination doesn’t determine if a person goes to heaven when they die. Heaven is the eternal destination for those who have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation. Christians should belong to a church that preaches this truth, but going to heaven isn’t dependent upon their membership in it.
How is a person saved in Christianity? What is heaven like? What will people do there? What about hell? Where does the Bible teach about these topics? Keep reading to learn more.
How Is a Person Saved and Go to Heaven in Christianity?
Salvation is a key doctrine in the Christian faith. It’s central to Christian theology because of its importance in the teachings of Christ and the rest of the Bible.
Belonging to a denomination and being a member of a church is an important part of being a Christian, but those associations don’t determine if a person goes to heaven. (Also see What Are the Largest Denominations in America? See the Top 100)
What is a person “saved” from? Terms like “saved” and “salvation” are important in Christianity and are commonly used in churches, worship music, and the prayers of believers. But what do they mean?
First, a person is saved from their sin. Sin results in pain, suffering, and eternal death, according to the Bible. Second, a person is saved from the eternal consequences of sin, which is hell (more below).
Key verse: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (ESV)
How is salvation possible for sinners? Neither a person’s moral character nor their good works can earn them salvation. Only Christ alone can save people from their sins and their consequences.
Christ lived a sinless life while on Earth, which enabled him to be a perfect sacrifice for sin. He willingly and obediently died on the cross in place of sinners and as a punishment for their rebellion. Christ rose from the dead three days later, defeating sin and death.
Key verse: “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 (ESV)
How does the “gospel” relate to salvation? The word gospel means “good news.” The gospel is the proclamation that Christ has provided a way for sinners to be saved and go to heaven.
The gospel message consists of explaining the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. More than that, it announces that by repenting of sin and putting faith in Christ’s saving work, a person can be saved from sin and its consequences. (Also see What Christian Denominations Believe in Predestination?)
Key verse: “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.” Romans 10:9 (ESV)
Why is faith so important to salvation? Faith, as the Bible describes it, is an expression of personal trust. Faith isn’t merely mental awareness of Christ’s life and work.
Faith involves some understanding of history and theology as it relates to Christ’s saving work, but it’s more than intellectual knowledge. Biblical faith involves personally trusting Christ, the fruit of which is having a relationship with God comprised of prayer, Bible study, and obedience. (Also see What Is a Non-Denominational Church?)
Key verse: “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.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
What Is Heaven Like In Christianity?
Heaven in Christianity is quite different than it is in other religions. It’s also different than what is commonly found in secular and generic concepts of heaven, which include depictions like chubby angels strumming harps on white clouds. Another popular but false notion of heaven is that it’s a paradise that is customized to each individual. (Also see Can a Christian Change Denominations Or Is It a Sin?)
What is heaven really like? According to the Bible, heaven is the realm of God, which saved people enter upon their death. Even though God is present in the world today, his presence is experienced in a different way in heaven.
Heaven is full of angels. People of different eras, races, and languages are there too. The Bible also indicates that heaven will contain other aspects of God’s creation, like animals.
Key verse: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9 (ESV)
What will people do in heaven? People will worship God as angels do. According to the Bible, worshiping God is a central activity in heaven because of the worthiness of his nature, character, and work.
Some scholars believe that people will also work in heaven. They observe that Adam worked in the garden (Gen. 2) before sin came into the world (Gen. 3). People will also have meaningful relationships with other believers.
Key verse: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (ESV)
What Is the Alternative to Heaven?
According to the Bible, every person who dies will either go to heaven or hell. Like heaven is the realm of God, hell is the domain of Satan and demons. Satan and demons don’t rule in hell.
Rather, they are the target of God’s judgment and wrath for eternity. People who go to hell have no additional opportunity to respond to the gospel. (Also see Do All Christian Denominations Baptize?)
Key verse: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46 (ESV)
- Some Bible scholars believe people will experience eternal conscious torment in hell for eternity.
- Others think those in hell will be consciously tormented for a certain amount of time and then cease to exist like a fire that consumes, leaving only ash.
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