We welcome the thought of heaven and all that it conjures up in our minds, but it is possibly the last item on the agenda of our busy lives. Heaven will always be there for the future, so why think about it now?
The Bible is very clear that not everyone will get into heaven.
Although there is an increasing number of views on who goes to heaven and why, the only way we can know for certain is to consult the unchanging source of all truth – God’s Word which is the Bible. Jesus himself said “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Heaven is one of the trending subjects in the Bible. It tells us how to be sure we will be there after we die. The Bible removes any uncertainty when it comes to matters beyond this life.
To help understand why everyone will not go to heaven, we need to examine three areas.
The true appeal of heaven
The Bible explains the often-overlooked reason as to why heaven should be so appealing to us. Heaven is the place where God resides and from where He rules. Jesus repeatedly verified this fact by saying that “Heaven ... it is the throne of God” (Matthew 5:34 NASB).
This is fundamentally important to an understanding of who will go to heaven. Perhaps we have never thought of this, but heaven is actually much more than an impersonal place. It is entirely to do with a person: Jesus Christ, who is God. Heaven and Jesus are inseparable. Like north and south or night and day, we cannot have heaven without Jesus Christ.
This may conflict with our notion of heaven as a place that exists solely to satisfy all of our desires, a place where all our dreams come true. Someone once asked, “If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”.
For many people the answer to that question will be yes. Just imagine that version of heaven existed: unlimited money, a perfect environment, everything conceivable. Perhaps we would have enjoyment for a few years, but after some time we would have a longing or an emptiness that our surroundings or possessions could not fulfil. That version of heaven would not ultimately satisfy any of us. Inside all of us there exists an “infinite abyss (that) can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”. That longing comes from our soul and cannot be fulfilled by a place, only in a person, Jesus Christ.
Jesus, God’s Son, is the unique appeal of heaven and that is why Jesus told a thief who was dying on a cross beside Him, and believed in Him, "today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Those who reject Jesus Christ cannot go to heaven. The very essence of heaven is Jesus and to reject Jesus as Lord, or to merely pay lip service to Him, without genuine faith, is to reject His present status in heaven. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Jesus’ response to complete rejection of Him is “I never knew you; depart from Me” (Mathew 7:2).
Heaven is only a place for people who have accepted that Jesus Christ is the solution to the problems of their life because of His crucifixion, death and resurrection.
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)
Not everyone believes in Jesus and for this reason not everyone will get into heaven.
An accountability that awaits us all
Heaven demands accountability from those who get to enter. In our world the grey areas have perhaps never been greyer: Criminals often cut deals, historical crimes go unpunished and guilt exists only if it is proven. The distinction between right and wrong is blurred to the point of extinction. No one wants to be held accountable for his actions. People want to live how they please and be answerable to no-one.
Perhaps this is true of us.
It is no surprise that the idea of full accountability after death is so strongly disliked and rejected. However, the Bible says that every one of us will give an account of ourselves to God, who has witnessed everything in our lives and who will determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell (see Revelation 20:11-15).
The problem today is that many people are under the misconception that we are the ones who decide. Everyone goes to heaven, apart from the really bad people who we have judged to be unfit for heaven. As long as we avoid the wrongs that are deemed unacceptable by society, we will fit into the “good” category and God will allow us into Heaven.
The Bible shatters this belief in many ways. It makes it clear that it is God that judges and not us. God’s standards and criteria are not on the same spectrum as ours.
The Bible declares God to be perfect, sinless and uncompromising in His justice
This means that, no matter what excuses we may offer, God cannot overlook the sin in our lives – “we are all like an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). That includes everyone. Furthermore, any attempts to justify ourselves, clean up our lives or become acceptable in God’s sight are just like those filthy rags – of no use.
Speaking of heaven, the Bible says “nothing unclean....shall ever come into it” (Revelation 21:27 NASB). That makes it clear that no one will enter heaven based on their own merit. This automatically disqualifies everyone, as we have all disobeyed God’s law. However, the Bible is full of individuals who had all sorts of sin in their lives yet are in heaven today. How is that possible?
"The Bible is full of individuals who had all sorts of sin in their lives yet are in heaven today. How is that possible?"
Quite simply, the penalty for their sins was paid by another. When we believe on Jesus as our Saviour and Lord we can have total forgiveness of our sins. In His death and sacrifice Jesus Christ became the sin bearer, for “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24 NASB).
Jesus died to provide a way to heaven. He assumed the accountability for sins which were not His own when He died on the cross at Calvary. If we realise and believe that Jesus died for us to pay the price of our sins, we can know as a certainty we will go to heaven when this life ends because God has already accepted Jesus’ sacrifice.
"Jesus died to provide a way to heaven."
The amazing truth is that out of love, Jesus offers this entry into heaven freely to whoever will receive it as a gift from Him - “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV).
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
This eternal life is coming to know God, with that relationship continuing throughout our life and beyond into heaven. The true appeal of heaven becomes spending eternity where Jesus Christ is, the one upon whom we depend and our hope is built, the one with whom we have begun to experience the satisfaction of eternal life here upon earth.
Admission into Heaven by only one Way
Admission into heaven is no accident. Not everyone will be there.
The Bible says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NASB). No one goes to heaven by accident or chance.
Although many people today do not accept or adhere to absolutes in their lives, the Bible teaches that there is only one way by which anyone will enter into heaven. It is not by church attendance or by holding a belief about God, it is not by trying our best or by our good outweighing our bad, nor is it by achieving any spectacular thing in our life. In order for us to enter heaven there has to be a complete change in our lives - a spiritual regeneration.
Only a true heartfelt confession of our sins before God, an admission of helplessness, an acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord and as the one who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) will bring about this change. He is the only way back to God, and only by asking Him to save us from our sins will we be guaranteed one day to enter heaven and spend all eternity with Him. The decision is ours.
This truth is unchangeable. Although the idea of a final and irreversible destination after this life is commonly rejected, the Bible teaches that everyone will be in heaven or hell for eternity. We will either be with God, or separated from him forever. There is no convenient place halfway between these two eternal destinations for all mankind. The good news from God is that He wants us to be in heaven with Him and sent His Son to be the Saviour that we need.
Are you going to heaven? The Bible makes it clear that not everyone will go to heaven. It must not be the last item on your agenda. Life passes quickly and this matter must be addressed now. Jesus Christ left heaven so that one day you could join Him there. But you must decide. Are you willing to accept Him as the only way to get to heaven?