When people think about heaven, their thoughts are mostly joyful, but one reality that concerns them is who won’t be there. Some may even wonder if they aren’t going to heaven. Rather than relying on other people’s speculation or best guesses, many are curious about what the Bible teaches on the topic.
According to the Bible, the people that won’t go to heaven are those who haven’t repented of their sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. God invites all people to turn from their sin and believe in Christ who came to Earth to seek and save the lost so that they could live forever with him in heaven.
If people are sinners and sin is so horrible, why does God invite them to heaven? What is the alternative to heaven? Can people repent and believe after they die? Do only “good” people go to heaven? What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Does God really invite all people to go to heaven?
The Bible teaches that God the Father sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die as a punishment for people’s sin (Rom. 5:8; 1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus willingly paid the price so that sinners wouldn’t be separated from God for eternity.
If people are sinners and sin is so horrible, why does God invite them to heaven? God invites people to heaven because he loves them (John 15:13; 1 John 4:16). God’s love is powerful and transforms people. That said, a person doesn’t need to be perfect to go to heaven, even after they put their trust in Christ. They just need God’s forgiveness.
“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).
Why doesn’t everyone put their trust in Christ? God created people with free will. Just as people are able to choose to repent and believe, they are also free not to do so. People have different reasons for rejecting God’s invitation for salvation. Some don’t want to repent. Others refuse to put their trust in Christ.
What is the alternative to heaven? According to the Bible, the alternative to heaven is hell (Matt. 10:28; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 21:8). Most of the Bible’s teaching about hell comes directly from Jesus himself. God doesn’t want people to perish and go to hell.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9, ESV)
Can people repent and believe after they die? No. There are no second chances after a person physically dies. Their fate is sealed at that point. Hebrews 9:27 teaches that judgment immediately follows death: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (ESV).
How Exactly Can a Person Go To Heaven According to the Bible?
How a person is “saved” and goes to heaven when they die is a central belief in Christianity. It’s important because it’s fundamental to the teachings of Christ and the rest of the Bible. It’s also a vital issue related to the human experience because death is an inevitable reality for all people.
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. All people sin (Rom. 3:23). Sin results in separation from God, pain, suffering, and ultimately eternal death, according to the Bible. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ESV)
- Second, a person is saved from the eternal consequences of sin, which is hell. John 3:16 reads, “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)
Do only “good” people go to heaven? According to the Bible, no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10). People don’t go to heaven based on their goodness, but on Christ’s righteousness. Neither a person’s moral character nor their good works can earn them salvation. Only Christ alone can save people from their sin and its consequences because he alone is sinless and righteous.
How does Christ’s righteousness enable people to go to heaven? Christ lived a sinless life while on Earth, which enabled him to be a perfect sacrifice for sin. He willingly died on a cross in the place of sinners and as a punishment for their rebellion. Christ rose from the dead three days later, defeating sin and death. Through faith, Christ’s righteousness is transferred to sinners, so that they can be saved.
- Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV)
- 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (ESV)
- 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV)
What is the role of good works? People don’t go to heaven based on their good works. Rather, good works are the result of responding to the gospel. Christians don’t do good works to be saved; they do good works because they are saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, “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.” (ESV)
How does can a person respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Who can respond to the gospel? Anyone. The Bible teaches that any person that responds to the gospel of Jesus Christ can be saved and go to heaven when they die. People of any race, gender, or social class can respond to the gospel.
What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? The word “gospel” means “good news.” The “good news” of Jesus Christ is that God sent him into the world to die for sinners. What motivated the Father to send his only son as a sacrifice of atonement is the great love he has for people (John 3:16).
How can people respond to the gospel? People are invited to respond to the gospel by confessing and repenting of sin, and believing in faith that Christ died for them and rose from the dead three days later (Rom. 6:23, 10:9-10).
“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)
Confessing sin in prayer to God. Repenting of sin involves a momentary act with an ongoing result. First, a person needs to confess to God that they are a sinner in need of mercy and grace. They must acknowledge their need for God and that even their best works fall drastically short of God’s righteous standards.
“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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)
Second, a person’s prayer of confession should have ongoing results. After a person confesses their sin and puts their trust in Christ alone for salvation, they should strive to live free of that sin. Striving to live a holy life isn’t accomplished through will-power, but by means of the Holy Spirit who dwells in every true believer.
How can a person be sure that they are saved? How can a person be sure that they will go to heaven? Any person who responds to the gospel, repenting of sin, and genuinely puts their trust in Christ alone for salvation will be saved. Author Jerry Bridges, in his book The Gospel for Real Life, articulates three means by which God assures people that they have eternal life:
- The promises of His Word. The Bible teaches that people who respond to the gospel are saved and will go to heaven when they die. People can fully trust God’s promises.
- The witness of the Spirit in our hearts. The Holy Spirit indwells every Christian. He gives them assurance within their hearts that they are God’s son or daughter and that God will not abandon those who belong to him.
- The transforming work of the Spirit in our lives. Even after a person responds to the gospel, sin still tempts them and sometimes they fall short. However, Christians should strive to grow in their faith, continuously overcome sin in their life, and live out their identity in Christ whose righteosness has been transfered to them.
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