Who’s in? Who’s out? (How Someone Will Enter Heaven or Hell)

Many people, without any definitive understanding of what it takes to get to heaven, believe that they are indeed going to heaven after death.

“People have different ideas about heaven. Many have no understanding of God at all, but still like to think of heaven as the ‘better place’ where we all go when we die. Most people don’t give heaven much thought until they attend a funeral or a loved one dies. It is popular to refer to heaven as the place where ‘the good people go.’ And of course, everyone they know and love is included in the category of ‘good people.'” [1]

“According to a recent news poll from a major news organization, 85% of people who believe in heaven but are not necessarily Christian believe that they will go to heaven.  Even more surprising is the fact that 77% of people who claim no religious affiliation feel that they are good enough to go to heaven because they feel they are a ‘good person.’” [2]

If this is true, then there would be little need to talk about heaven and hell at all; however, we need to remember our true state before God and that the way to heaven is hardly a multi-lane expressway:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

Being a “good person” also indicates a belief that what you do in life and how well you treat other people will tip the scales towards one going to heaven instead of hell.  What people fail to take into account is the sin in one’s life that prevents a person’s ability (or inability) to fellowship with God.

Without the atonement of sin, man cannot enter into a relationship with the holy presence of God.  Even when Jesus was on the cross, He lamented over the deep separation and abandonment that He experienced when He took the world’s sin upon His body:

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

The words uttered by Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophetic message of Psalm 22:1, but His sacrifice on the cross was the only remedy over the power of sin and death.

“2 Corinthians 5:21 says, ‘He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’  It is possible that at some moment on the cross, when Jesus became sin on our behalf, that God the Father, in a sense, turned His back upon the Son.  It says in Habakkuk 1:13 that God is too pure to look upon evil.  Therefore, it is possible that when Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), that the Father, spiritually, turned away.  At that time, the Son may have cried out.” [3]

It is the power of sin that prevents one from fellowship with God; moreover, it presents the eternal dilemma as to how a person can become righteous before God.  The answer is that no one is righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-12) and all are unable to come anywhere near God’s standard of holiness and righteousness (Romans 3:23).

The difference for man between heaven and hell is only realized through God’s provision of grace in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and in the recognition of the need to accept His saving grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  He has promised that He forgives all sin as it was left on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).  The power of sin cannot be overcome by anything that man does on his own (Isaiah 64:6).  It is faith in the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ that cleanses the stain of sin (Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:7; Ephesians 5:26-27).

In the same way that “Abram (Abraham) believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6), man must believe in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to have fellowship with God in heaven.  Even the thief on the cross received Jesus’ eternal promise because of faith in Him and recognition as to who He was (Luke 23:42-43).

Anything less than faith in Jesus Christ means that man cannot be righteous before God, and man is subject to the consequence of spiritual separation from God.  It is not God rejecting man, but man rejecting the saving grace of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:8).  When God is rejected, there is no other place for man to go than hell.  Again, while those who practice lawlessness without repentance will go to hell, so will those who believe they are “good enough.”

Consider the doctrine of Oprah Winfrey, who was elevated to the status of a spiritual icon by USA Today:

“Oprah speaks less about salvation through Christ than she does Christ-consciousness. Likewise, she describes heaven not as an eternal destination but an inner realm of consciousness. And she dismisses the idea that there is ‘one way’ to God, when she says, ‘There couldn’t possibly be just one way. One of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live,’ she said. Instead, ‘there are many paths to what you call God.'” [4]

Scripture warns of false prophets and false teaching (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Peter 2:1-3), for they will only confuse people from knowing and hearing the true gospel that is rooted in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.


1 Article – S. Michael Houdmann (n.d.). Who Will Go To Heaven? © Copyright 2002-2014 Got Questions Ministries, Colorado Springs CO. gotquestions.org. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://www.gotquestions.org/who-will-go-to-heaven.html

2 Article – Jack Wellman (2012). Who Goes to Heaven? Do Good People Go to Heaven? Copyright © 2010-2014 Telling Ministries LLC. whatchristianswanttoknow.com. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/who-goes-to-heaven-do-good-people-go-to-heaven/

3 Article – Why did Jesus cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, Nampa ID, CARM.org. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://carm.org/questions/about-jesus/why-did-jesus-cry-out-my-god-my-god-why-have-you-forsaken-me

4 Article – Steve Rabey. Oprah’s ‘gospel’- Entertainment mogul preaches ‘many paths’ to God. (2008). Christian Examiner® El Cajon CA. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Articles%20May08/Art_May08_02.html

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

Categories Bible Study, Christian Studies, Christianity, Opinion, The BibleTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

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