What must I do or believe to have everlasting life?
I’m sure you’ve heard it said before, “Only two things in life are certain: death and taxes."
Most people aren’t too concerned about taxes (even though we don’t like them). However, death is something that we all face with some anxiety. What happens to us when we die? Do you wonder what comes next? Will you exist at all? Is there a Heaven and a Hell? Many people believe in Heaven and Hell, and most people expect they will go to Heaven when they die. Is this merely hopeful thinking? Could there be a way we can be SURE there is a Heaven and that we will enter Heaven when we die?
Fortunately, the one true God gave us His answer to that question in the Bible, a book written over centuries by many different men inspired by God to record His words precisely. The Bible describes both a literal place called Heaven and a literal place of judgment called Hell.
Some people believe they will go to Heaven because they are a good person. If going to Heaven requires that we are good, then we should ask are we good enough? How good do we have to be? Even if we're better than average or better than most, is that good enough? Again, how can we be SURE we are bound for Heaven?
Some people believe they will go to Heaven because they believe in the existence of God. However, the Bible tells us that even the demons (evil angels) know of God and believe in Him, even trembling in fear of Him (James 2:19). Nevertheless, the Bible also assures us that demons will never enter Heaven despite their awareness of God. This means that merely acknowledging the existence of God is obviously not enough to gain us entrance to Heaven.
So what does it take to enter Heaven?
In the Bible, God tells us that His standard for allowing us to join Him in Heaven requires perfection. However, the Bible also tells us that no person can meet that standard:
Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Only sinless perfection may enter into His presence and live. If we commit even one sin in our entire life, we are not perfect, so we are not eligible to enter Heaven.
What is sin? The Bible tells us that sin is any action or word or thought that violates God's standards of holiness and perfection. God summed this up in His Ten Commandments:
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in Heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below…
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:3-17)
Can you meet this standard of perfection? Have you ever broken one of these commandments by action or word or thought? For example, have you ever lied (even a little lie) or have you ever stolen anything (including stealing time from your employer)? Have you ever spoken God’s name as part of a swear word? Have you ever felt hatred against someone? The Bible says that if we harbor hatred in our hearts toward someone, we commit the sin of murder by our hateful thoughts (Matthew 5:21-22). If we are honest with ourselves, we know in our hearts we are guilty of sin.
Consequently, the Bible declares truthfully that all human beings have sinned, and therefore all fall short of the standard for entering Heaven. The Bible also tells us that there is only one payment God will accept in restitution for sin: spiritual death, which means spending eternity separated from God (commonly called Hell). God tells us in the Bible that He is perfectly holy and just, so He must do what a perfect judge is supposed to do: He must punish all sinners for sin. No amount of good works on our part can cancel out even one of our sins since God has set the payment required for sin as eternal death.
So, if all people have sinned and sin requires eternal death, how can anyone hope to reach Heaven?
In the face of our hopelessness, the Bible brings us God's good news (also called the "gospel"). This announces to all people whom God, being rich in mercy, provided a way for people to enter Heaven. The Bible tells us in :
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
God's only Son is a man named Jesus. Jesus was God Himself who was born into the form of a man and lived on Earth over 2,000 years ago. The entire Bible teaches us about this man, Jesus, who is also called the Christ.
Because Jesus was God, He lived a perfect, sinless life, never breaking any rules or commandments of His Father. Though Jesus was without any sin, He voluntarily died the death of a criminal on a Roman cross, and His soul descended into Hell in our place. Jesus took our punishment upon Himself. Three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead to prove that God has the power to raise people from death and is prepared to raise us, as well, if we trust in Jesus's sacrifice.
The Bible tells us that on the cross, God punished all sins (past, present and future) for any who place their trust in Jesus for their salvation. Through Jesus' death, God received the payment He requires for our sin. In return, God gives us credit for Jesus' sinless life.
This is the Great Exchange: Jesus took our place to receive the punishment for our sins, then God credited us with the sinless life of Jesus. This exchange assures us of Heaven, since Jesus' payment and His perfection are ours to have by faith.
All who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will receive this salvation without doubt or reservation. This is because after death every Christian (or Christ follower) will stand before God clothed with Jesus’s righteousness and without sin.
As God says in the book of Romans:
Romans 10:9-10 If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Friends, it is our great desire that those who read this will repent and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior to become saved. We encourage you to search our resource library if you have further questions.