Getting into Heaven
Recognize that you are not in charge
If you are at all interested in your personal existence after you die, you must consider this question: what will determine my situation after I die? If you think that you have that figured out, you may then be faced with this question: how can I be certain that my appraisal of the anticipated situation is absolutely correct?
Regardless of how you have pictured your situation, you have probably recognized that it will be under the control of some supreme being, some god, who is essentially different from and extensively superior to yourself or any other human being. So you may have generally accepted the fact that it will be this supreme being who will determine any and all requirements that are necessary for your admittance into the realm of the living after your death. This means that the final decision as to whether or not you get into heaven is going to be made by your supreme being not you!
Recognize that god’s requirements are perfect
If you are willing to acknowledge that, you may also recognize that any being who is supreme will have probably determined a set of requirements for this process that is perfect. That means that these requirements are absolutely fair, applied to everyone, generally knowable, and that there are no loopholes. They are really good. Anything less than such a comprehensive standard of perfection would not be worthy of any supreme being, a god by any name.
So whether or not you get into heaven will be determined by your supreme being, which leaves you with the second question. In this present life, with its assortment of different gods, different religious systems of beliefs and rituals and rules for moral behavior, different collections of religious writings that state these beliefs and rules, and different groups of people giving their allegiance to these different gods and different religious systems, you are faced with this question: how can I have confidence that I completely know all of the correct requirements?
Recognize that only one god can be in charge
Before you consider various standards by which your god will determine your worthiness to be admitted into heaven, you will need to consider another question. It is this: which god, which supreme being is going to be in charge of heaven? Any heavenly realm that is ruled by different gods, with residents who have been admitted in accord with different standards, would probably be less than perfect. It would probably be a situation in which much of the religious controversy, conflict, pride, jealousy, and disunity of our human religious situation in the world would be present forever. Unless heaven is under the absolute control of one god, who accepts no competing gods or standards for residency, it would not be heaven. In such circumstances, it could not be a place of perfect fairness, justice, peace, and harmony between any god and each resident. It would not be a good place in which to spent eternity.
So your desire to get into heaven comes down to your answers to these questions:
- Have I given my personal spiritual and human allegiance to the one true god who is in charge of heaven?
- Do I completely understand and have I met all of this god’s requirements for admission into heaven?
- What can give me confidence that when I die my god will admit me into heaven?
Give your allegiance to the god who claims to be in charge
The most reasonable thing that you might do in the midst of so many different gods and diverse religious rules and requirements for getting into heaven is to give your spiritual and personal allegiance to the god who claims to have created everything, and who determined all of the laws and regulations for its operation and the relationships that exist between it all. Isaiah, a Hebrew prophet, reports such a claim in his writings. Consider the following:
“I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself (Isaiah 44:24). I formed the light and created disaster; I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things. You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, do all these things (Isaiah 45:7–8). It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts (Isaiah 45:12).”
One of the psalmists adds this word of praise for the LORD’s laws:
“Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you (Psalm 119:89–91).”
Don’t expect absolute proof, but consider the evidence
You may assume that since neither you nor I nor a host of intelligent scientists can absolutely prove that this universe and all its life forms and rules and regulations were created and put into place by this LORD, that it isn’t wise to give your allegiance to this Lord, this supreme being. But how wise can it be to give your allegiance to any other god?
Some gods don’t make any claims regarding the creation of all that you see in the universe. The prophets and teachers of some religions declare that the gods that they seek to serve are completely blended into creation and the physical features of the earth. Their gods don’t exist with any personal identity outside of this physical universe. Others teach that individuals are a blend of self and god. Or you may go along with the opinion of some philosophers, religious prophets, and scientists that there is no supremely intelligent being that is responsibile for all of the various designed things and life forms that we observe in the universe. If that is your belief, you may have concluded that there probably isn’t any god at all; or, if there is, this god is basically unknown or unknowable or is unconcerned about individuals, their behavior, or their deaths.
If you want to get into heaven, it would be wise of you to give your allegiance to the LORD God who claims the intelligence and power to create the universe, to have set in place all of the laws and rules for its operation and the behavior of its life forms, and who oversees every relationship within this kingdom of the spiritual and physical realms of existence. The work, power, authority, will, attributes, standards, personality, relationships, and kingdom of this LORD, this supreme being, is described for you in The Bible. The evidence of this LORD’s handiwork is seen in creation, in DNA, in the people of Israel, in the life and ministry of Jesus, in the world-wide Church of Jesus’ followers, and in human history. No other god is worthy of your allegiance! This God is GOOD!
Consider what your god requires to get into heaven
Different religions provide different instructions for individuals who would like to be admitted into heaven by god, the LORD, or the supreme being in charge. They each generally list numerous laws, rules for human conduct, religious rituals that must be regularly performed, or other acts of personal moral and spiritual devotion that make a person fit for heaven. In light of the vast number of all of these different laws, rules, rituals, and spiritual acts, any individual who is seeking to get into heaven must consider this question: do I completely know and understand all of god’s requirements for getting into heaven and have I met all of them?
Some religions like Hinduism and Buddhism believe that individuals have numerous cycles of birth-life-death-reincarnation in which to achieve the required level of goodness that would free them from the cycle of suffering that is commonly experienced in life. Others believe that individuals can overcome any record of bad actions that might prevent them from being accepted into heaven by having a record of more good actions that would please god. Followers of Islam believe that they can be accepted into paradise by performing five religious duties and generally keeping the laws that are expressed in the Koran. Jews also give great importance to the keeping of religious duties and obedience to the laws of the Old Testament and the Talmud. Others, perhaps including you, seem to believe that all religions contain some good instructions and moral principles and that anyone who consistently follows any of these instructions and moral principles will be accepted by god.
In contrast to these, Christianity proclaims that it is not possible for anyone to be GOOD enough, to do enough GOOD deeds, and to consistently perform all required religious rituals to be accepted by God. It concludes that everyone is a sinner who is absolutely unwelcome in God’s heavenly realm apart from the approval of God’s own Son, whose name is Jesus. So you have to decide which system of religious and moral standards is going to be applied to you and are you going to be able to meet the requirements.
By faith confess that Jesus is Lord
Only Christianity makes this matter of an individual’s worthiness very simple. The basic law, rule, devotional ritualistic act that enables an individual to be accepted into heaven by the LORD God, who is the Father of Jesus is this: “...if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
This is the principle of salvation by faith not by works. Faith is not a good work, because as Paul, the basic teacher of Christianity, explained “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). All any individual, including you and I, can do to be welcomed into heaven by God, the LORD, is to accept his gift of grace, which is really a good gift, by faith. Then we each should also recognize that even the expression of our faith is part of God’s loving call to bring us back into reconciliation with him so that we can be together with him in heaven forever.
Jesus is the only individual throughout all history who can give the word of approval to God regarding the acceptability of any individual into heaven, because he is the only one who died to pay God’s price for sin. As Paul explains, “...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ (Jesus) died for us” (Romans 5:8).
A simple prayer can do it
If you would like to confess that Jesus is Lord and accept him as your personal savior, you may do so by just offering him a sincere personal prayer of repentance for your sins, acknowleding that you believe that Jesus is Lord (God in human flesh) and that you are surrendering yourself to God in obedience to the guiding will of the Spirit in your heart and mind. Jesus will respond to your prayer, and He will immediately come into your heart in the divine Person of the Spirit where He will be available to you moment by moment every day to help you in your life of trusting obedience to God in your personal relationship with Him.
But you may struggle with a lack of confidence
The issue of confidence regarding which god and set of moral rules and religious rituals are ultimately the best passport into heaven is extremely important to anyone who is seriously seeking to get into heaven. Any god or supreme being who seems to want your worship and require your life-time devotion should be able to assure you in the midst of your life that your worship and devotion is being accepted and that you will be welcomed into heaven as you meet all of the requirements. It would not be very fair, kind, or even supremely virtuous for any supreme being to subject any devoted worshipper to times of anxiety, doubts, questions, and intense personal fears regarding his/her situation as he/she faces the challenges of life and contemplates death. That would not be GOOD by anyone’s standards.
One of the basic and persistent problems with any religious system of rituals and moral rules that a person follows to get into heaven is that there is seldom any on-going, consistent, supernatural demonstration that the devoted worshipper has met the requirements, has been GOOD enough, has performed the rituals frequently enough and well enough, has not missed any essential requirements, and is fully qualified to be accepted by the supreme being who is in charge of heaven.
Put your confidence in the personal presence of God’s Holy Spirit
One of the most unique and important blessings that comes to anyone who confesses that Jesus is Lord and who accepts him as his/her personal Savior is the very personal and real gift of the Holy Spirit that the LORD God gives to everyone who believes in his Son, Jesus Christ. This personal reception of the Spirit is the supernatural demonstration that when you take this step of faithful devotion and worship and personal commitment, God directly enters into your personal being by Jesus Christ to such a degree that you are a “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), already an accepted member of God’s eternal family with a place reserved in his heavenly realm. That is a really GOOD blessing!
Paul describes this blessing very clearly in his letter to the Ephesians, which is part of the New Testament:
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession--to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13–14).”
Notice that the individual who trusts Jesus Christ for his/her acceptance by God is “marked...with a seal”. That means that God has placed a physical sign of his ownership upon you, if you have done this. That physical sign is the Holy Spirit. As a believer, you can have confidence in your “inheritance” in God’s kingdom of heaven, because the “deposit” of God’s love and acceptance has already been made, and you can see and feel and know that it is real because you can experience the Spirit’s blessings everyday as you draw upon the Spirit’s powerful resources. That is a really GOOD experience!
Use the Spirit’s power to achieve victory and peace
One of the most immediate demonstrations of the Spirit’s power in the believer’s life is his/her ability to resist temptations, to break the hold of strong addictions, to turn away from ungodly places and relationships that previously were always irresistible and condemning. Through faith in Jesus Christ you are freed from any and every cycle of trying to earn the acceptance of God by obeying a list of moral laws and following a prescribed order of religious rituals through your own unaided will power, your own good works.
Not only is there “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, as Paul teaches (Romans 8:1), but there is a new experience of right living because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. As Paul puts it, “your spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). This is the “righteousness” of Jesus. Paul goes on to explain, “...if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you (a believer), he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). Not only does the believer who is living in submission to the indwelling power and direction of the Holy Spirit not have to fear death and what he/she might face after it, but he/she has a new ability to “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and live as a child of God, although this is not easy.
The believer must continue to submit to the leadership of the Spirit in his/her life in order to remain “in Christ Jesus” as one of God’s children (see Romans 8:1, 14–16). Do not make the dangerous assumption that God’s gift of his forgiving grace through faithful belief in the Lordship of Jesus is a free pass to continue in a life of sinful self-indulgence. It isn’t (see Romans 7:15–8:9)! The presence of God’s loving Spirit must be continuously welcomed and followed in order to be retained. Repeated disobedience of the Spirit’s loving will is like a spiritual divorce from God. It can result in one’s eternal separation from him.
Any individual, including you, who has accepted Jesus as his/her personal savior may have absolute confidence that nothing in his/her life, even death itself, can take away God’s love or negate his/her acceptance into heaven. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Romans:
“He (God) who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:32–39).”
Conclusion regarding how to get into heaven
- Recognize that the LORD God, the creator, is the only god, the only supreme being, and that he is in charge of heaven, and give your allegiance to him.
- Understand that the only thing that God requires for admittance into heaven is that you “confess” that Jesus, his Son, whom he sent into the world, is “Lord”, and accept him in repentance and faith so that his death on the Cross will pay the penalty for all of your sins.
- Live in confidence that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, which God will give to you as a gift when you accept Jesus, will enable you to live as a child of God in the world, protected in the midst of all dangers, forgiven for all your sins, and secure in God̻s eternal love with a place prepared for you in heaven.
You may address any comments or questions to Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See also “The Plan of Salvation” on this website for another guide to salvation in Jesus.
“Your new life in Christ” on this website provides additional guidance regarding your salvation.
For additional information regarding this topic, you may view this presentation on heaven.
Copyright notice: "Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House."