Anyone, no matter their nationality, race, gender, social class, background, or income level, can go to heaven when they die. Heaven is the abode of God, though he is present on earth as well, and he invites people to live with him forever in the place that the Bible calls “paradise” (e.g. Luke 23:43). Yet it’s not clear to some people how to go to heaven.
People who repent of their sins and trust Jesus Christ, believing that he died on the cross for them and rose from the grave three days later, will go to heaven when they die. Sin prevents people from going to heaven when they die, but Jesus took that punishment upon himself with his sacrifice.
How good do you have to be in order to go to heaven? What does accepting Jesus into your heart mean? How can a person be sure that they are going to heaven? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also see How Soon After You Die Do You Go to Heaven? to learn more.
Do only good people get to 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 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 they can be saved.
|Romans 5:8||But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.|
|1 Peter 2:24||He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.|
|2 Corinthians 5:21||God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.|
Why did Jesus die for sinners, enabling them to go to heaven? As Romans 5:8 says (above), Jesus died for people because he loves them. John 3:16 also states this fact: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)
Will good works get me to heaven?
People don’t go to heaven based on their good works. Instead, 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.” (NIV)
Also see How Many Heavens Are There? to learn more.
What does accepting Jesus into your heart mean?
The Bible doesn’t use the phrase “accept Jesus into your heart.” Instead, Christians use the phrase to summarize the New Testament’s teaching on how to become a follower of Jesus Christ.
As Christians use the term to describe this prayer, “accept” means to believe what God says about how to be saved from the eternal consequences of sin and become his son or daughter.
How does a person accept Jesus?
There are two important parts of saying the prayer: (1) a person must confess that they are a sinner as God says they are, and (2) a person must put their trust in Jesus alone for salvation by believing that he died for their sin, conquered sin and death by his resurrection from the dead, and wants a relationship with them. Jesus did this for sinners because he loves them.
Confess sin and trust Jesus
The Bible teaches that all people have fallen short of God’s righteous standards: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Regardless of a person’s social standing, race, gender, income level, profession, political party, or the number of good deeds they do, they are a sinner.
The Bible also teaches that the consequence of sin is eternal death. Yet Jesus offers sinners a different future: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). People can’t earn salvation. God saves people through their faith in Jesus because he is gracious.
Example prayer: “Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner. I understand that the Bible says I have fallen short and I when I look at my life I know it’s true. I have not measured up to your righteous standard. I am so sorry for my sin and ask for your forgiveness even though I don’t deserve it.”
The Bible teaches that a person who confesses their sin and believes in the heart that Jesus rose from the dead, defeating sin once and for all, will be saved. “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” (Rom. 10:9).
When a person confesses Jesus as Lord, they make him supreme in their life, believing that he has people’s best interests in mind. Therefore, if Jesus is Lord of a person’s life, they will follow him, have a relationship with him, and submit their values, priorities, and behaviors to his righteous standards.
Jesus isn’t a cruel overlord. On the contrary, he loves sinners so much that he died for them. 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.”
Example prayer: “Jesus, I believe that you died for my sin on the cross because you love me. I believe that you rose from the dead three days later. I understand that you want a relationship with me and I really want to know you personally. Please come into my heart and be the Lord and Savior of my life.”
Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t just about converting to a new religion; it’s about having a brand new life. Paul, whose own life Jesus transformed, wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Also see Where Is Heaven In the Bible? to learn more.
How can a person be sure that they are going to heaven?
Any person who repents of sin and genuinely puts their trust in Jesus 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.
Is accepting Jesus a one-time decision?
People only need to accept Jesus into their hearts once because God forgives people by grace; they don’t have to earn it through an ongoing process of moral improvement.
Jesus immediately responds to sincere prayers that welcome him into a person’s life as Lord and Savior. Just like a married person only has one wedding, a Christian only needs to accept Jesus once.
People who have a relationship with Jesus love God and love other people (Matt. 22:37-39). They are devoted to studying the Bible, praying for themselves and others, and being part of a community of believers in a local, Bible-teaching church.
Also see When Did Jesus Ascend Into Heaven? to learn more.
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