People ask this question a lot – mainly because what they really want to say is: ‘I’m too good a person to deserve an eternity in Hell.’ Over the course of this post I’m going to take a look at that assumption and see if it holds up.
I’m not a murderer, I’m a decent person, I’ll get to Heaven
When pressed this is what most people would say about their chances at getting into Heaven. On the face of things it seems reasonable; I know most people reading this and let me be the first to call my friends good people. In many cases they’re better people than I am – more friendly, not as annoying, not as arrogant, charitable, all round good people. But there is a huge mistake people make when thinking about Heaven and Hell.
Imagine that one of your friends applied to Cambridge University. Nothing wrong there except this person was so certain of getting in that he’d bought a flat in Cambridge, ordered his textbooks for next year, got the Cambridge hoody and planned the rest of his life around the fact that he was going to Cambridge. You’d be impressed by his certainty so you’d ask him why he was so certain; you would ask him on what basis he knew he was getting into Cambridge. How would you react if he responded: “Because I think I’m good enough”? Well, you’d ask him why he thought he was good enough “Oh, I got four Cs and a D at Higher and they’re bound to love me in the interview.” At this point you’d start to feel sorry for the guy who was obviously deluding himself. Here was someone who was sure of getting in because he thought he was good enough for Cambridge. The biggest mistake he made was never thinking whether Cambridge thought he was good enough for Cambridge. He set his own entrance criteria and didn’t care about the real one.
And that is the mistake people make with Heaven and Hell. They think they’ll get into Heaven based on criteria that they set. They think they won’t go to Hell because of their assessment of themselves. But who gets into Heaven and who goes to Hell isn’t a human decision at all. Far from it, God decided who goes where. It is God’s entrance criteria that we need to look at not our own. Not to do so would be illogical and like the guy who thought he’d get into Cambridge we’d look pretty stupid.
So, what is the entrance criteria for Heaven?
Well, we know that God created Heaven and Hell and decides who goes where. Therefore it is God’s criteria that we must look at not our own. We know from my last post that God is completely Holy – that is, he is perfect in every respect. Therefore as Heaven is a place where God resides so it is also completely holy. The perfect God creates the perfect Heaven. So to get into Heaven we must be what the Bible calls ‘righteous’. As it says:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God?”
1 Corinthians 6 v 9
The Bible divides the world into two groups of people: the righteous and unrighteous. To gain eternal life in Heaven you have to be righteous. The unrighteous will be thrown into Hell as I have discussed previously.
Who then is righteous?
“For it is not those that hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it those that obey the law who will be declared righteous.”
Romans 2 v 13
To be righteous we would have to obey God’s law. And because God is completely holy we would have to have a perfect record of obeying God’s law.
What is God’s law?
Well, God’s moral law can be found in the Ten Commandments but these can be further summarised into just two commands:
“Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22 v 37 – 40
Have you obeyed both those commands all the time? No! Of course you haven’t. You haven’t loved God with all your heart, soul and mind. You haven’t loved your neighbour as yourself. You’re a sinner just like me and every other human being that has ever lived.
Who then is righteous?
This is what leads the Bible to say:
“As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one.”
Romans 3 v 10
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Romans 3 v 23
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his [God’s] sight by observing the Law; rather, through the Law we become conscious of sin.”
Romans 3 v 20
The Bible is clear: we cannot achieve righteousness by our actions. We are all unrighteous. We cannot achieve the moral perfection needed to earn ourselves a place in Heaven. It is impossible to get Heaven on the back of our works. We all fail to follow God’s law 100% of the time. In fact, God’s law merely makes our sin more obvious.
But I do good works!
“All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Isaiah 64 v 6
Our good works we like to think so much of are like filthy rags to God! A more crude translation would be the word ‘menstrual’ instead of ‘filthy’! Our goods can do nothing to hide the fact that we break God’s law. We cannot get to Heaven on our goods works if we commit just one bad work. Heaven is a perfect place, God is a perfect being, he cannot tolerate imperfection. His wrath is set against sin.
Following God’s standard instead of ours leads us to the terrible conclusion: we all deserve Hell. Not one of us deserves Heaven. I cannot say this is a nice truth; it is not a truth you want to hear but that does not detract one iota from its truthfulness! God is a god of justice and holiness – he has to punish the wicked in Hell, he cannot let the imperfect into Heaven. We’re all F grade students – we’re all Fails when it comes to Heaven. We all break God’s law; we don’t love God with all our heart, mind and soul. We don’t love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God.
Good people deserve Hell because no one is good. I deserve Hell. You deserve Hell. We all do. There is no discrimination – all are equally damned. Hell is what we deserve for none of us are righteous. No, not one. And God's wrath against sin is set against us.
Is that it?
This could be it. We deserve nothing more. Hell could be the single reality facing all of us on our death. God’s wrath against sin would be satisfied. We would all spend eternity being punished for our failure to keep God’s holy law.
IS THAT IT?
No! Wonderfully, gloriously, that is not it. There is another way to gain eternal life. There is salvation!
“For God so loves the world that he sent his one and only Son, that who so ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3 v 16
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 6 v 23
2000 years ago God became Man in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life, his record was blameless. He was crucified on the cross and in dying for us he took God’s punishment against sin for us.
“For God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.”
Romans 3 v 25
He satisfied the wrath of God against sin. By his death he bought salvation.
Are you sure?
Yes! For on the third day Jesus rose again. To prove that death was defeated, to prove that his death on the cross was a complete sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ resurrection is the staring point of the Christian faith – if he did not rise from the dead then our sins remain unforgiven. But he did.
“For what I received I passed onto you as of first importance: the Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised from the dead on the third day,”
1 Corinthians 15 v 3
Does that mean all sins are forgiven and everyone gets in Heaven?
No. There are qualifiers.
“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.”
Romans 10 v 9 – 10
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
Acts 17 v 30
“From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Matthew 4 v 17
To be saved from your sins you must repent of your sins and believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins and that through him you will be saved.
What does it mean to be saved?
Simple, Jesus’ perfect record, his perfect soul becomes our perfect record and our perfect soul. Jesus washes away our sin so that we become righteous in God’s eyes.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Romans 5 v 8 – 11
Jesus Christ reconciles us to God. He allows us to form a relationship with God. His perfection becomes ours. We become righteous and therefore God can turn to us and welcome us into Heaven.
I don’t believe in this
Whatever made you think that your opinion matters? Do you think that when you die God will accept that excuse? You’re a fool if you do. For when you stand before God at the Judgement seat and tell him that you refused to accept his offer of salvation he’ll respect that choice of yours. He’ll respect your free will and send you to an eternity if agony in Hell as a consequence for your sin.
God wants me to go to Hell
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3 v 9
God is giving you every chance to repent. He is patiently waiting for you to come to him. And if you do so he will not turn you away.
I’ll wait until I’m older
How old? How long do you have left on this earth? You’re going to die yet you don’t know when. The truth you have heard should make you realise how serious the reality of Heaven and Hell are. You need to act on this now in case death takes you tomorrow.
You have no excuse. I have presented the gospel message as clearly as I can. To get into Heaven one must obey God’s laws perfectly. No one can do this. We are all sinners. We all deserve Hell. But God in his love provided his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we can be saved. But only if we repent of our sins and believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord. We do not get to Heaven by works but through the grace of Jesus Christ.
It is now down to you: what I’ve told you is the single most important truth you will ever hear. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to continue on in your sin and suffer eternal punishment in Hell? Or will you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and gain an eternity in Heaven? If so, then pray to him, now, just speak to him, he’s listening, he’ll hear you and he will not turn you away.
“For God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
“Romans 5 v 8
You enjoyed writing this!
No! A thousand times no! Do you really think I like telling people that they deserve Hell? You forget that I also am fully deserving of Hell it is only by the grace of God that I am saved. It is nothing I do. And I write this because you need to hear the truth. If Hell is a reality how could I not warn you? That would make me a monster!
If you have any questions about what you have just read please, please, please email me with them. This is an immensely serious truth and I will gladly answer any question as best I can.