What will happen when I die? Where will I go? What will I do? Who will I see? Many people think about these questions because they know that they won’t live forever. Death is inevitable for all people. According to the Bible, there are two possibilities for where a person will go when they die: heaven or hell.
Anyone can go to heaven when they die if they have responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Responding to the gospel includes turning away from sin and putting their trust in Christ alone, whose death on the cross enables their forgiveness and whose resurrection from the dead gives them new life.
What does the word “gospel” mean? What exactly does a person need to say or do in order to respond to it? How can a person know for sure that they are going to heaven when they die? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also see Will We Know Each Other in Heaven? to learn more.
How To 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)
Also see How Old Is Heaven? to learn more.
How exactly does the “gospel” relate to salvation and going to heaven?
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. Romans 10:9 reads, “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.” (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 Heaven? to learn more.
How exactly can a person respond to the gospel?
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, repents 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 righteousness has been transferred to them.
Also see What Does Heaven Look Like? to learn more.
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