According to the Bible, heaven is the place where believers go after they die. It’s a place without death, mourning, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4). In heaven, people live in the fullness of God’s presence and experience the joy of their salvation. Many people wonder who goes to heaven when they die. Does everyone go to heaven?
Not everyone goes to heaven when they die. People who go to heaven are those who believe in Jesus Christ and repent of their sin (Mark 1:15). Believing in Christ means trusting him alone for salvation as opposed to good works. Repentance means sorrowing over sin and turning away from it as a way of life.
How does someone go to heaven when they die? Why do some people go to hell? What is the doctrine of universalism? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
How does someone go to heaven?
People who respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ go to heaven when they die. The Bible teaches that all people sin and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Sin separates people from God. Without intervention, sin leads people to hell when they die.
- Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (ESV)
Is hell the inevitable destination for all sinners? It doesn’t have to be. Because God is loving and gracious (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8), he has provided a remedy for sin — he sent his only son into the world to defeat sin and enable all those who repent of sin and believe in him to go to heaven when they die.
- John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)
- Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV)
How does the gospel save people? The gospel explains how God saves sinners. The word “gospel” means “good news” and the good news is that God has not abandoned people, leaving them to wallow in sin and go to hell when they die. Instead, God sent his only son to seek and save lost sinners (Luke 19:10).
- Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (ESV)
How does someone “respond” to the gospel? Christ repaired the relational rupture between people and God that sin caused. He offers all people the opportunity to turn from sin and put their trust in him for salvation. Through repentance of sin and placing trust in Christ alone, people can be saved and go to heaven when they die (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38).
- Mark 1:15, “and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'” (ESV)
- Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (ESV)
“The Gospel is the good news that the just and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.” (Pastor David Platt)
Why do some people go to hell when they die?
According to the Bible, hell is a place of punishment and torment. Hell is where unrepentant sinners go when they die. As explained above, sin separates people from God. When a person doesn’t appropriate the remedy for sin (repenting of sin and believing in Christ), which is proclaimed through the gospel, they die as they lived — separated from God.
Bible verses that teach about hell include,
- Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (ESV)
- Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (ESV)
- Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'” (ESV)
- 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (ESV)
Not all Christians agree about the nature of hell. Some believe it’s a place of eternal, conscious torment. Others believe that it’s a place of temporary punishment, after which people cease to exist. Whatever the duration of the torment, both positions agree that separation from God is eternal and there is no possibility of going to heaven.
“Those who reject Christ do so because they are content with darkness. And because they choose darkness rather than light, they will forever have darkness rather than light. Eternity simply crystallizes the choice into permanence.” (Pastor John MacArthur)
What is the doctrine of universalism?
Though controversial and widely denounced throughout Christian history, the doctrine of universalism states that all people will eventually be saved and go to heaven.
Most scholars, theologians, and pastors over the centuries have rejected the claims of universalism because they contradict the Bible’s teaching on several points.
“Although we can sympathize with the desires of universalists that all be saved, we must label universalism a false teaching. In fact, universalism flies in the face of Scripture and deliberately avoids much of the biblical evidence.” (Theologian Robert Peterson)
5 Bible verses about heaven
- Revelation 21:4, “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.” (ESV)
- John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (ESV)
- 1 Corinthians 2:9, “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (ESV)
- Luke 23:43, “And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (ESV)
- 2 Peter 3:13, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (ESV
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