Salvation How to Know for Sure that You’re Going to Heaven
One of the most important questions in life that we should be able to answer is “Do you know for sure that you will spend eternity with God in Heaven?” In this article, we'll examine and answer such questions as “Can we know for sure?”, “How can we be saved?”, “What is salvation?” and many other central questions about life.
We pray that this article (updated 2010) will be a blessing to everyone. Also, if anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us with any questions.
Table of Contents
- Can We Know for Sure that We're Going to Heaven?
- Speaking the Language
- Who or What is God?
- Can You Be Saved?
- How NOT to be Saved
- What Must We Do to be Saved
- Great News
The Problem and the Need for Salvation
The Key to Heaven
Welcome to the Family of God
- What’s Next
Can We Know for Sure that We're Going to Heaven?
In our modern day, we are exposed to numerous philosophies and theories that claim to offer the best method designed to get us to heaven. With so many systems available, how do we choose which one to follow? It’s reasonable to assume that, since God created Heaven and Earth (and the rest of Creation, including us), He alone would know the correct path to get from here to there. Fortunately, God divinely inspired human authors to record His plan of salvation in the Holy Bible. Therefore, we take this method directly from God's Word, in which the Apostle John states
I write these things to you ... so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 Jn 5:13).
While this is declaration from God is very reassuring, each of us must ask “What must I do to be guaranteed a home in Heaven?” There are many excellent short Biblical tracts containing a brief summary of God’s plan of salvation. Most folks can read through these and get some basic answers in a couple of minutes. This article will take a bit longer, but since these revelations require us to make a crucial decision with eternal consequences, we’re compelled to include additional information in an attempt to avoid any misunderstandings, and to guard against giving anyone a false sense of security. After all, isn't our eternal state worth a few extra minutes?
We begin our search for answers by clarifying some terminology.
[TOC] [Top of Page]
Speaking the Language
Most of us have been involved in conversations in which the participants appeared to be in agreement, only to find out later that one or more party totally misunderstood the other(s). All were using the same words and phrases, but common expressions often mean different things to different people. This is particularly common in conversations between believers and non-believers. In fact, believers often seem to speak a different language.
For example, have you ever been asked the question “Are you saved?”, or been told that you need to be “saved”. Your first thoughts might be “Saved from what? Why do I need to be saved? I didn’t even realize I was in danger.” The person was actually inquiring about your spiritual “salvation”, that is to say, your standing (or spiritual status) before God which determines not only your quality of life here on earth, but where you will spend your afterlife. If you are “saved”, you possess salvation and “eternal life”. This does not mean that you won't die physically, but that immediately upon your physical death, you'll go to Heaven to spend eternity with God. The alternative is that you'll experience “spiritual death”, which is an eternal separation from God in hell. Many people say hell is just a myth, but did you know that the Bible actually says more about hell (with the majority coming from the words of Jesus) than it does about Heaven. So, if you are not sure if you're “saved”, please read on.
To answer the question, “Saved from What?”, we need to be saved from the righteous wrath of the Holy God.
...man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Heb 9:27).
The Lord will judge his people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:30-31).
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Rom 1:18-20).
Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. . . . But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed (Rom 2:2,5).
Jesus said “Then they [unbelievers] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Mt 25:46).
To clarify the terms “believer” and “unbeliever”, we use “believer” to note a person that possesses salvation. Not all persons who accept the fact that God exists are “saved”, as we’ll see later in the article.
If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life [not saved], he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).
Many people, upon hearing of God’s wrath, either deny this attribute exists or accuse God of unjustly condemning people to hell. At the heart of both positions is a gross understanding of the holiness of God.
Your eyes [God's] are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong (Hab 1:13).
God is never unjust. He never falsely indicts or condemns anyone. His holiness requires that all wrongdoing be punished, but as we’ll see, He almost always tempters his wrath with mercy. There are many other common misconceptions about the one true God, so once again, let’s make sure that we’re speaking the same language.
[TOC] [Top of Page]
Who or What is God?
In our modern times, there are numerous views of God. Just using the word “god" without some context is practically meaningless between people with differing worldviews. Our worldview consists of our beliefs, presuppositions etc through which all our thoughts are filtered. Almost everyone believes in some sort of transcendence, even if it's only a higher version of our self. Many believe in a god of government, philosophy, some mysterious, impersonal force, or even a god who subsists only in their mind. We often hear a person make a statement such as “The god I worship would never send anyone to hell”. We must admit that this person is making a true statement. Since their god doesn’t exist, he (or it) not only would not, but could not send anyone to hell, or do anything else.
The only true and living God is the infinite, all-knowing, eternal, all-powerful and yet, personal God who reveals Himself in the Holy Scriptures. God, who created, and continues to guide and sustain the universe, also created man in His own image. Thus, without knowledge of the true God, there are no answers to the ultimate questions concerning life and mankind.
So, if you've accepted the postmodern fantasy that life has no meaning or purpose, please read on. You'll find that God exists, speaks, and has a great plan for your life.
[TOC] [Top of Page]
Can YOU be Saved?
Many people realize their need for salvation, but are not sure if they personally can be saved. A common thought is that, “Heaven may be attainable by others who have done a lot of good in their lives, but I’ve just done too many bad things to be saved.”
Fortunately, we don't get to Heaven because we're worthy (none of us are), or because we deserve to go (none of us do), we get to heaven because we're forgiven. The greatest saints of the Bible were ordinary folks just like us. David, called “a man after God's own heart”, was a murderer and adulterer. Paul, who wrote over half the New Testament, was on his way to kill Christians when he was “saved”. Remember that we can't sink too low that God can't raise us up, but our time is limited.
The Bible says that no one can come to God unless He draws them (John 6:44,65). After continued rejections however, a person can reach a point beyond which God will no longer reach out to him or her. The fact that you are reading this article, and possibly having doubts and regrets about whether or not you can be saved is a sure sign that God is still drawing you to Him. Those past this point no longer feel the need to be saved. Only God knows how much time we have left, so please don't be like the foolish virgins in Matthew 25.
...And the door was shut. Later the others also came. “Sir! Sir!...Open the door for us!" But he replied, “I tell you the truth, I don't know you" (Mt 25:10-12).
It is sad that there will be so many people who will one day stand in judgment before the door to Heaven, sorrowful and desiring to enter, but will be shut out because they always thought they would have more time.
[TOC] [Top of Page]
How NOT to Be Saved
Before we get into how to be saved, let’s look at some things that many people think will get them to Heaven.
Being a Good Person and Doing Good Deeds
Belonging to a Particular Church or Denomination
Keeping the Ten Commandments
Going to Church or Mass
Being a Pastor or Teacher
Having Christian Parents
Giving Money to Charity
Creating a Christian Website
While these are good worthwhile endeavors, they will not get us into Heaven.
[TOC] [Top of Page]
What Must We Do to be Saved?
We’ve mentioned the various religious leaders who believe that following their various methods will probably get people to heaven, but can’t offer any guarantees. We must follow their system the best we can and hope that we’re good enough to qualify for our preferred eternal destination. This of course begs the question, “How do we know if we’ve done enough good, or been good enough?” Some say that our good deeds must outweigh our bad, while others suggest that a person has to merely be better than certain “bad” people (or groups of people).
All of this of course, is based upon arbitrary human reasoning, so we must ask “What is God’s standard that we must meet?” Again, God’s Word gives us the answer:
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48).
So, as we can see, all we have to do to save ourselves is to be as perfect as God. He also specifically rules out grading on the curve by declaring that only one minor sin will keep us out of Heaven.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).
And, just in case anyone believes they have kept all of God’s commandments, the Scriptures add
As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one (Rom 3:10), and If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us (1Jn 1:10, and finally, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
It then becomes obvious that, our sin is the roadblock that nullifies even our best efforts to save ourselves. Returning to terminology, many think of a “sin” as breaking a major commandment, or doing something really bad such as committing murder or adultery, stealing or doing hard drugs. Furthermore, man’s views of what actually constitutes a sin tend to change with the culture; so many things are considered acceptable today that would have been a deplorable in the past.
In contrast, God’s view of sin (the only one that counts when it come to our judgment) never changes. The Bible consistently portrays “sin” as anything contrary to the law, character or will of God. This includes both things we do that we shouldn’t, as well as things that we neglected to do that we should have done. Sin can be by thoughts, actions or attitude. Common examples are lying (even little white ones), cursing, lust, anger, gossiping, and immoral thoughts or behavior, just to name a few.
We further understand the significance of sin by noting that God's moral and ethical laws are not just an arbitrary set of rules, but are based on His attributes and character. For example, God doesn't say “Do not lie" just because He thinks it's a good directive, He says “Do not lie" because it is against His very nature to lie. So, when we sin, it is not merely an act of disobedience, but an attack on the holy nature and character of God. We must never underestimate the seriousness of sin, or the holiness of God. In fact, the Scriptures state that
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
Thus, sin is also the answer to our question “Why do I need to be saved?” Because of sin, man stands morally guilty before Him. We're not speaking here of man experiencing psychological guilt feelings, but man being in a true legal state of guilt which demands the spiritual “death sentence” of being eternally separated from God.
In the previous section, we listed some things that people believe will qualify them for entry into heaven. Notice that each entry involves trusting in our own efforts in an attempt to save ourselves. It is now clear however, that it is impossible for us to earn our way into heaven. Fortunately,
What is impossible with men is possible with God (Lk 18:27).
Since our salvation is absolutely unachievable by our own efforts (it can’t be earned), this leaves only two alternatives. The first option is that God could have abandoned us, giving us what we deserve by condemning us eternally to hell. Fortunately for us, God chose the second option, so we have the wonderful news that
God offers Heaven to us as FREE GIFT.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8-9).
Salvation is by the grace and mercy of God, not by the merit of man.
But, we immediately notice a problem.
God is loving and merciful, so he doesn't want to punish us.
After we’ve spent time examining the true nature of mankind, it is only natural to wonder how God could love us in our current state. Fortunately, the foundation for God’s love is not our worthiness, but His grace. It is His very nature to love.
The Bible tells us that God is love (1John 4:8). This means that God's love is so deep, consistent and profound, that it is the ultimate standard to which all other forms of love are compared. He also says “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3).
But God is also holy and just, and therefore must punish sin.
Many people think that God is too good to punish sin, but the truth is, He is too good NOT to punish sin.
He says “...I will by no means clear the guilty...” (Ex 34:7) and The soul who sins shall die (Ezek 18:4).
So, we see the dilemma, how can God love us, punish our sin, and forgive us without violating His own laws and just nature? The answer to this question is the greatest news ever shared.
God solved this dilemma in the person of Jesus Christ.
We must ask the question “Who is Jesus Christ”. Jesus is not just the Son of God, but “God the Son”. He is God in the flesh, fully human and fully divine.
In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made... The Word [Jesus] became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (Jn 1:1-3,14)
The Son [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation… This is the gospel [good news] that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven… (Col 1:15-23)
Jesus came to earth to reveal God's love for us by living a perfect life and paying the penalty for our sins. So what is the penalty for our sin? As we mentioned before, the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).
Jesus died on the cross for us, taking our place in judgment, and paid the debt we could not pay. He then rose from the grave and ascended into Heaven to purchase a place for us.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).
Notice that He died for us while we were still sinners. We didn't have to do anything to merit this (and indeed, we could not). He loves us the way we are, with all our imperfections. Remember earlier when we said that you have to be a perfect as God to get into Heaven.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2Cor 5:21).
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us... (Rom 8:3-4).
by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Heb 10:14).
The incredible news is that, at the cross, Jesus bore our sins, letting the wrath of God fall on Him so that we could be credited with being as perfect as God. God treated Jesus as if He were us so that we could be treated as if we were like Him.
Now that Jesus offers us eternal life in Heaven as a free gift, we must ask “How do we receive this gift”. The transaction of a gift is not complete until it is accepted by the receiving party. For example, someone can lay a $20 bill on the table for you, but it is of no benefit to you until you pick it up and except it.
The greatest gift ever offered is received by FAITH. “Saving Faith” is the key to Heaven's gates.
We all have an idea of what faith is, but exactly what is this “saving faith”. I think it might help to list a couple of things that it is NOT.
First, saving faith is NOT mere “Intellectual Assent”, that is, merely accepting certain historical episodes as fact.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder (James 2:19). So, intellectual knowledge of God merely qualifies you to be a demon. Remember our earlier statement that not all persons who accept the fact that God exists are “saved”.
Second, Saving Faith is NOT “Circumstantial Faith”, that is, trusting God in temporary crises such as financial, illness etc. We sometimes treat God like a spare tire. As long as everything is going great down the highway of life, we don't acknowledge God, but we want Him to be available in case something goes wrong. When we have a blowout such as a lost job, we want to call on God, but as soon as the crisis passes, we often put him back in the trunk so He doesn't interfere with our agenda.
Now, we should have an intellectual knowledge of God, and we should trust Him in a crisis, but this is NOT saving faith. SAVING FAITH leads to repentance (recognizing, being sorry, and choosing to turn from our sins). Jesus said “Unless you repent, you shall perish” (Lk 13:5). SAVING FAITH involves trusting in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. It means committing our life to Jesus and relying on what He has done rather than what we have done in our vain attempts to get to Heaven. Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher frequently offered this illustration of saving faith:
A young girl was trapped on the third floor ledge of a building engulfed in flames. She looked down as a strong firefighter yelled for her to jump and he would catch here. Now the girl may have had faith that the firefighter would catch her, but she would only be saved if she jumped.
Believe [trust, commit] on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved... (Acts 16:31 NKJV).
Notice it says to believe on [in] the Lord Jesus. Many people today think that it doesn't matter who or what you believe as long as you're sincere. In effect, they put their faith in their own ability to have faith rather than putting their faith in Christ. The object of our faith is actually even more important than the amount of our faith. To illustrate, many people may remember the Tylenol incidents many years ago, when a sicko laced some bottles with poison. Approximately a dozen people died before the bottles were pulled from the shelves. So why did the folks that took the poisonous pills die and the folks that took the untainted pills did not. It certainly wasn't the amount of faith. The folks that died had just as much faith that the Tylenol tablets would cure their headaches as the folks that didn't. The difference was the object of their faith. Those that took the real Tylenol lived, while those believing they were taking the real thing, but unknowingly were taking a false Tylenol, died. Likewise, many people today will experience spiritual death by putting their faith in a false God, such as their own good works.
You have now heard the GREATEST NEWS EVER TOLD. Now I'd like to ask you a question.
Would YOU like to receive the Gift of Eternal Life with God in Heaven?
Because this is the most important question that you will have to answer in your lifetime, let’s take a moment to review and clarify what this involves.
God created man to fellowship with Him.
Man’s sin broke that fellowship and separated himself from God.
All man’s attempts to bridge the gap will fall way short.
God Himself provides the only way as a free gift.
You must receive the gift by trusting in Christ alone.
You can express your faith and receive Jesus Christ right now in a prayer to God.
That 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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Rom 10:9-10).
Jesus said “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him” (Rev 3:20).
Here's a suggested prayer to call on God, asking for the gift of eternal life. It is very important to note that you are saved by your faith, not by the prayer. The prayer is a helpful tool to express your desire to surrender control of your life and receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Therefore, the exact words are not as important as the resolve of your heart.
“Lord Jesus, I know I'm a sinner and need to be saved. I believe you died in my place and rose from the grave to purchase a place in Heaven for me. Jesus, I repent of my sins and turn from trusting in myself and look to you alone to save me. Lord Jesus, come into my life and save me. Take control of my life and help me to be the person you created me to be. I receive the free gift of eternal life.”
If this prayer is the sincere desire of your heart, let me share another promise from the Bible.
I tell you the truth, he who believes [trusts, believes in, commits] has everlasting life (Jn 6:47).
Notice that Jesus says “has” (present tense) rather than “will have”. That means that you have eternal life now and will never be separated from God.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (Jn 5:24 NKJV).
And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand (Jn 10:28 NKJV).
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 (Rom 8:37-39).
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 (Eph 1:13-14).
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2Cor 5:17-19).
Welcome to the Family of God!
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12).
[TOC] [Top of Page]
Just as a newborn baby grows physically, newborn believers need to grow spiritually. We list a few steps below to help you grow into a mature Christian (the term “Christian” is given to those who are followers of Jesus Christ).
Spend time in Prayer each day with God. Prayer is a direct conversation with God. You can pray about anything, not just religious matters.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Php 4:6-7).
Read your Bible daily. See our Bible Study Guide for reading plans and other helpful information.
as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby (1Peter 2:2 NKJV).
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2Tim 3:16-17).
Worship in a local body of believers. Find a good Bible believing church for regular worship and fellowship.
I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord! (Ps 122:1 ESV)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another (Heb 10:24-25 ESV).
Baptism. There is no saving power in Baptism. Salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus. Baptism is the first step of Christian obedience, as commanded by Christ. Baptism also identifies us with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection (Rom 6:4-5).
Witness. Tell others about what Jesus Christ has done for you. Our friends need to know how to receive the gift of eternal life also.
Jesus said “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Mt 10:32-33).
Please feel free to print and copy this page for your own use in witnessing to others.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (Jn 3:16-17 NKJV).
[TOC] [Top of Page]