Maybe you feel a fever coming on and pressure in your chest. Maybe you’re older or your immune system is compromised. Will you die from Coronavirus COVID-19? Perhaps you are concerned your cancer might take you. Maybe you aren’t sure if you will recover from a bad accident. Or perhaps your mind is running ahead toward possibilities.
Either way, you are wondering, “What if I die?”
You think- maybe this is rash. My mind is jumping ahead to the worst. But everyone is headed here. Everyone will die (unless Jesus returns first). What then?
Will I go to Heaven?
God doesn’t want you to have to wonder about this. He provided the Way so that you could answer, “Yes” to that question. He clearly explained how to know and promised,
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13
It Depends On Your Answer
God wants you to know for certain. But this depends on what you believe. It depends of where you put your confidence. It depends on how you answer this questions:
If you were to die today and to stand before God, and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into my perfect heaven with Me forever?”
What would you say?
“I’m A Fairly Good Person” isn’t Enough
Would you say something like,
- “I’m a fairly good person- no worse than most.”
- “I help others the best I can.”
- “I serve the Church and give money to those in need.”
If your trust is in you being a good person or you doing anything to earn heaven, I’m sorry to say this will be a reality for so many,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ " -Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23 (emphasis mine)
Then How Can Anyone Know?
In that verse, Jesus is saying to a person who thought they deserved heaven because of the good life they lived, “You can’t come to Heaven. I never knew you.” God makes it clear that we must know Him. Well, what is heaven, anyway? I’m talking about being with God for eternity- knowing Him and living in His presence now and forever. Jesus defines eternal life as this:
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. -Jesus in John 17:3
God shows us what goodness, justice, compassion, holiness, integrity, forgiveness, kindness, and love are. These things are defined by and come from Him. Apart from Him is to be apart from these forever. But He wants you to know Him and be in His presence now and forever. And, He is the only Way for you to do that. To understand this, you have to understand some about God’s message to us from the beginning of time.
God Wants to Be at Home with Us
In the beginning, God created an incredible, perfect universe with a perfect earth and perfect people. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s reality. And He was at home with His people. They lived n His presence, walked with Him, talked with Him, and dwelt with Him.
Now, God shows us what love, justice, and goodness are. He defines them in His very self. He has infinite knowledge, infinite power, and infinite wisdom. Since we are limited in what we know and can do, it is hard to imagine God. It is difficult for brains created by Him to wrap their minds around Him. What we most need to see here is this: God is holy. He is majestic, divine, and perfect. There is nothing bad, unjust, or sinful in Him. A holy God can only be at home with holy people.
And the first people were holy. Created by God in His image to know and glorify Him, they enjoyed being at home with God each day. They lived with Him as King over them. He is the only perfect, good, just One to have the right to rule over the earth and all He has made.
We Are Not Robots
In His infinite goodness, God is worth loving with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. But, He doesn’t force anyone to love Him or to come to Him His way. It was the same with Adam and Eve, the first people. He didn’t create them with a button on their shoulder that He could push whenever He wanted that would force them to say, “I love you, God!” He gave them the freedom to know Him and love Him and live with Him forever- or not.
There was one limit they had, and that was not to eat the fruit of a particular tree. He even told them what would happen if they did- they would die (Genesis 2:16). But they were tempted to believe that God was holding out on them. If they ate from that tree, they thought, “I will know not just good, but evil, too. That will make me like God. Then I can decide for myself what is good. I can define my own morality. I can chart my own path.”
Perfection Was Marred by Sickness and Death
The perfect Kingdom where people live with their holy, infinitely good Creator was shattered right there that day. Adam and Eve rebelled against their King and ate from the tree. And they realized they were naked and tried their own way to make clothes for themselves. That day, they began the long, slow, process toward physical death. They ushered in realities they had never known of sickness, sadness, guilt, pain, injury, disease, decay, and death. That day, they died spiritually. No longer holy, they could no longer live with the Holy God. They had to go. Out of the garden, out of a forever relationship with the perfect King. And God was deeply grieved. (If you or someone you love is facing sickness, suffering, or death, you can know that God mourns over it with you.)
But God is God. He is infinitely good. That day, He made a promise that He would set all creation right again. One day, He would crush Satan and the power of sin on the earth. He would send a deliverer, who would be mortally wounded, but would defeat Satan and end the power of rebellion against God on the earth (Genesis 3:15). And at least one animal had to die that day to provide clothes for Adam and Eve God’s way.
Everyone Has Rebelled Against God
From then on, every person has been born outside the perfect garden, outside of an eternal relationship with God. Every person is born with a heart bent to do their own thing their own way- to define what is good for themselves without looking to the infinitely good One who made them. Every person is born with a rebel heart against God.
Just one thought, word, or action in rebellion against God is enough to separate us from God. Check out the ten commandments in Exodus 20. Ever lied, stolen something, looked with lust at someone, used God’s name in a way that didn’t honor Him, disrespected your parents…? All of these are sins. Just one is enough to separate you from God forever.
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"- Romans 3:23
Everyone Deserves Eternal Punishment
The only fair punishment for rejecting God as our King and for thinking, saying, and doing things that hurt others and dishonor God is to be separate from God forever. He is holy. We are not.
For the wages of sin is death....Romans 6:23 a
The paycheck we earn for our hearts bent to do things our way in our strength for our glory rather than God’s way in God’s strength for God’s glory is this death. It is eternal separation from God- and therefore from everything good in a place of eternal punishment. This place is defined with complete darkness (Jude 13), fire that never stops (Mark 9:43), and crying and pain so bad that people grind their teeth (Luke 13:28). To be apart from God forever is not the party in hell some people imagine.
We Can’t Get to God Our Own Way
The entire Bible unfolds the Way that God made. Throughout time, He showed people that He is the only One who can define the Way to Him. He reveals His power over everything He has made. And He defines what it takes to live in His presence.
I can’t tell the whole story here, but throughout the Bible, you see people trying to come to God their own ways. Many, different ways. But they can never get to Him their own ways. Even one sin is enough to separate them from Him forever. Good works can’t make us clean or earn our way back to God. He says, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” Isaiah 6:23. The only way back is for God to make one Himself.
So What is the Way God Made Back to Him?
Throughout the Bible, God makes promises- hundreds of them, of how He would remedy all the bad that sin brought into the world. He would create a way for us to be cleaned from our sin and forgiven. A perfect Deliverer would come. He would fulfill hundreds of predictions made five hundred to thousands of years before he set foot on the earth.
How did He do it?
He would be the only one to live a perfect life. He showed us what it looks like to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (the greatest commandments, Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:30-31). He taught us how to love, obey, and live close to God. He is fully God and fully man; Jesus is God the Son.
He defeated Satan and crushed the power of sin over people (Genesis 3:15), suffered and died taking the punishment for sin for all people of all time who would come to Him in repentance and faith (Promise: Isaiah 53 Fulfillment: 1 Peter 2:21-25, Acts 8:32-35, Romans 4:25, Hebrews 9:28, Revelation 5:6-12, 13:8), rose again conquering death (Promise: Psalm 16:10 Fulfillment: Acts 2:27, 13:35-37), and is the blessing to all the nations of the earth promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Matthew 28:18-20) and through the covenants God made with His people throughout time.
He lived the perfect life we couldn’t and suffered and died to take the death we don’t want but fully deserve. He defeated death and the power of sin. He Himself is the Way back to Himself.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
The Gift of Eternal Life
What was purchased at great price to God is offered freely to us. He offers us a gift.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
God offers His free gift of life with Him to all who will come to Him in repentance and faith. Those of His day saw Him after he rose from the dead. He stayed for 40 days teaching, showing how the entire Old Testament pointed to Him, and preparing them for His departure. After He returned to heaven, promising His return as Judge, his followers were willing to face torture and death to tell of the free gift of life Jesus the Promised One had lived, died, and risen again to provide.
What Did They Say Is Required?
I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. Acts 20:21
Throughout the whole Old Testament, from Abraham, the man of faith to David trusting in the King to come that would forever rule on his throne, we see God’s followers trusting God to do for them what they couldn’t. They sought to turn away from sin and to obey God with their lives. They showed us through their sin and failing that we cannot come to God on our own- we are utterly dependent on God. They showed us through their faith, for which they are praised (Hebrews 11),
Repentance is like a 180 degree turn. I was living for me; now I am living for God. I was defining what is right for myself; now I look to God’s definition of what is right for me. I was using my time and resources selfishly; now I see them as God’s and steward them for His glory.
We are agreeing with God-
- I am a sinful person.
- I deserve eternal separation from You
- Jesus died in my place so I can be forgiven
- Jesus rose to life again, conquering death and the power of sin, and is preparing an eternal place with God for all who come to God by faith in Him
And we are asking God to forgive us and to help us to live the rest of our lives for Him.
Trust in Jesus Alone
Some people think that they have to earn or deserve forgiveness and an eternal relationship with the Holy God. But we couldn’t ever earn it or deserve it. Our sin is to great and our problem too significant. That’s why He offers His gift by grace. Grace is undeserved, unearned favor with God. God in His grace saves us as we trust completely in Him.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Receive God’s Gift
Every gift must be received. You can’t just say, “Oh, I believe that.”
Even the demons believe that-and shudder. James 2:19
You might look at a chair and say, “Yes, believe that chair is sturdy and could hold me,” but unless you sit in the chair, you are not putting your confidence in the chair.
Monsieur Charles Blondin’s manager Harry Colcord believed that Blondin could cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Blondin had done it many times- blindfolded, somersaulting, with a wheelbarrow, with a camera, cooking and eating an egg in the middle, backwards. Harry knew Blondin could do it. But he placed his trust and life in Blondin’s hands the day he climbed on his back and let Blondin carry him across the falls.
Putting our trust in Jesus is more like that. We are trusting Him alone to bring us into the presence of God now and for eternity. It is a trust that places our life in His hands. We are saying with all our heart to God,
"God, you alone can forgive me of my sin that separates me from You forever. I believe Jesus died in my place and rose again so I could be forgiven. Please forgive me. Help me walk with You, in Your presence, Your way for the rest of my life. In thankfulness for all You have done for me, I want to live the rest of my life on earth for Your glory. And may I walk into Your presence forever in eternity."
Living Close to God
And once we receive His gift, we trust God to help us live the rest of our lives close to Him. We walk with God through our days, talking to Him, asking Him for advice, and learning about Him and from Him through reading, studying, pondering, and memorizing His Word. We praise Him for Who He is, thank Him for what He has done, grieve with Him over sin and loss, seek Him for direction, and all out enjoy living close to Him. We ask Him for forgiveness every time we fail and seek the Holy Spirit’s help to obey. We serve His family, the Church, worshiping and fellowshipping together with them. We tell others about Him, helping them know the Way, the Truth, and the Life for themselves.
In the end, we are held accountable for every word we have spoken, every motive of our heart, and everything we have done. Most of all, we are held accountable for what we have done with Jesus Christ. Have we looked at Him from afar and said, “Yeah, He can do that.” or have we climbed on His back and trusted Him alone to carry us across into an eternal relationship with God.
What About You?
Do you know Him? If so, please share in the comments what it is like to know God and to know you will be with Him forever.
If not, with one hand His arm beckons for you to come to Him. With the other arm, He holds back His wrath. Come to Him before He drops His hands, unleashing the full weight of His wrath against sin.
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