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How To Get to Heaven
According to the Christian Bible
John Holland
One popular religion teaches, or at least many of its adherents teach, that a quick and guaranteed way to reach that religion’s concept of heaven is to commit suicide or otherwise die in such a way as to cause the death of a maximum number of Jews. Another, less popular religion guarantees its version of heaven to those who successfully traverse one million years of successive, sufficiently spiritual reincarnations. The Christian Bible, the Old Testament of which is the Jewish Bible, teaches a uniquely different method of attaining heaven, a method of which vast numbers even of people who consid­er themselves to be Christians are entirely ignorant. This paper cites the King James translation to describe the Bib­lical method. Italics in the quotations indicate words that do not occur in the original languages: the translators added them to satisfy English-language exigencies.
The Bible offers two places to spend eternity:
Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt [Daniel 12:2].
Although some people have other ideas, the two Biblical destinations are heaven (“everlasting life”) and hell (“ever­lasting shame and contempt”). Would you like to know that you have done precisely what the Bible requires to be among those who “shall awake … to everlasting life”?
The Problem
Everyone has sinned. A single, universal problem causes many people to doubt that they will go to heaven: “For there is no man that sinneth not” (1 Kings 8:46). The problem is that everyone has sinned, including me, unfortunate­ly; and if you are not the unique exception, you have the same problem! So what happens to us sinners? Do we go to heaven anyway?
Sin brings the death penalty. Sinners do not obtain everlasting life and go to heaven; instead, “Every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16). This penalty is spiritual death: “The wicked shall be turned into hell” (Psalms 9:17). Since everyone including me has sinned, and since sinners deserve hell, do we therefore have no choice but to go to hell?
The Koran (Quran, Qur’an) provision seems fair. According to the Koran (Quran, Qur’an) (vii, 8, 9; xxi, 47), Allah compares our good works with our bad works by weighing them on a set of balance scales. If the good works outweigh the bad, we go to heaven; if the bad works outweigh the good, we “are firewood for hell” (lxxii, 15, Pick­thall translation)! This method might seem logical, but it has at least three problems:
1  Pity the poor fellow who has only one or two more sins than good works. While he screams, “Please! Let me have just one more little chance!” Allah stokes the fires of hell with him!
2  You might think and hope that you have more good works than sins, but you can never be completely certain that you have enough good works to ensure that you will go to heaven.
3  If you have only a few sins and could take them to heaven with you, those sins would make heaven no better than earth!
The Biblical standard is very strict. The God of the Bible is so holy that he cannot abide even one sin in heaven, since by its very nature sin separates him from us: “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). So if vast quantities of good works outnumber my sins, I would still deserve hell; only with zero sins can I go to heaven. So if Sarah is shot through the head with one bullet and Samuel with 24 bullets, they are both equally dead; Samuel is not “deader” than Sarah! Or if one glass of water con­tains a single typhoid bacillus and another contains one million, you wouldn’t want to drink either one unless all of the bacilli were removed. Sin is like that: the first sin killed me spiritually and the next million did not make me any more separated from God. Since everyone has committed at least one sin, the problem is that no one deserves to go to heaven—and God would seem to be very lonely! Only if he takes away all of my sins—and yours, too—can we go to heaven! But is God prepared actually to take away our sins?
The Solution I: God’s Provision
Someone takes away our sins. In fact, God has provided a substitute to take away our sins from us: “The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6); “he bare the sin of many” (verse 12). The substitute then pays the death penalty which God demands for our sins: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5) as an “offering for sin” (verse 10). But who is this substitute willing to take upon himself both our sins and also the punishment for them?
The substitute is Jesus. Although thousands of individuals have founded religions, only one has ever even claimed to die in order to take away your sins and mine. The New Testament reveals his name: “The next day John [the Bap­tist] seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). So the substitute who “bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) is Jesus (Hebrew Yeshua; some people mistakenly call him “Yeshu”). No one else took our sins upon himself and died for them: Jesus has no competitor! God’s requirement is a single death for our sins, either Jesus’ or ours; he does not accept two deaths for one person’s sins. So if Jesus had your sins on him when he died, you cannot die spiritually and go to hell. But if he did not have your sins on him when he died, you still have them and you therefore will have to go to hell to pay for them. You decide if you want Jesus’ death to substitute for yours. If that is what you want, and you do not want to die spiritually and to go to hell for your own sins, then you need to know how to allow Jesus to take them away!
The Solution II: Our Response
Jesus takes away our sins as a free gift. It surprises a great many people who think that they believe in Jesus, to learn that Jesus takes away our sins as a free gift: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). By definition, a free gift cannot be obtained by working for it: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). You obtain this gift by the same method that you receive every gift: by taking it! But although you have already experienced receiving gifts like coffee and maybe even money, you have never before received the gift of everlasting life in heaven; if you want that gift, you need to know how to receive it.
The gift is Jesus himself. The gift is actually Jesus himself: “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11,12). You therefore receive the gift by receiving Jesus: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). But how do we go about receiving Jesus?
We receive Jesus by inviting him to come into our life. Jesus himself tells us how to receive him: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20). You ask him to enter your life precisely the way you ask someone to enter your house: you invite him in! It suffices to bow your head and to close your eyes (you don’t actually have to bow your head and close your eyes, but it helps), and to say to him something like the following:
Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and that I deserve to die for my sins. Thank you for dying in order to take them away from me, and for offering me that benefit as a free gift. I now accept that gift and invite you to come into my heart to take away my sins. Thank you for just now entering my heart, taking away my sins, and giving to me the free gift of eternal life. Amen.
We now know that we will go to heaven when we die. If you invited Jesus to come into your life, he has kept his promise and has come in, and the first part of 1 John 5:12 applies to you: “He that hath the Son hath life.” The next verse also applies to you: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (verse 13). You now know (not wish, hope, doubt, think, wait) that you have (not might have, could have, would have, might get, will get) eternal life! By the way, if you did not receive Jesus into your life but have read this far anyway, then the second half of 1 John 5:12, a verse that divides the entire human race into two groups, applies to you: “He that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”
The gift is permanent; we can receive Jesus only once. If you received Jesus, you might want to know, When will he leave me? The Bible records Jesus’ answer: “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (He­brews 13:5). Jesus never leaves you; you cannot send him away! So you need only once to invite him to come into your life. When you talk to him in prayer, you never ask him again to come into your heart; instead, as you bring your requests to him with thanksgiving, you can thank him for having already come in.
Receiving Jesus gives us another birthday. When you received Jesus you obtained eternal life. The obtaining of life, or entering into life, is called birth. Since you already obtained physical life when you were born from your mother, obtaining this new, spiritual life is thus a second birth. Jesus told Nicodemus, a religious Jew, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), and added, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (verse 7). You therefore ought to remember the date when you in­vited Jesus into your heart, because that date is your new, spiritual birthday in Jesus; one year later you will be one year old in Jesus! You now have two birthdays every year—unless you received Jesus on the date of your physical birthday!
Jesus wants us to tell someone! Jesus does not want us to be ashamed of him and of what he has done for us; he said, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed” (Luke 9:26). And the Apostle Paul practically equates verbal confession with heart belief: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9,10). God wants you now to describe to someone else how he can share your experience of receiving eternal life!