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How Can I Go to Heaven?

Life After Death

Most of us would say that we want to go to heaven when we die, but what does a person really experience after physical death? When such questions go unanswered, there is considerable and justifiable cause for fear in the mind of the average person. Monumental consequences ride upon the answers, and the Bible is the only source of truth in this matter.

Physical Death

To begin understanding life after death (and heaven), we must first know what physical death is, and what it isn't, because misconceptions on this matter are widespread. Death is neither the end of one's existence, nor temporary unconsciousness. Death does not signify the end of one's body forever, and it does not imply that one's good works will be weighed against his bad works in order to determine his destiny.

Eternity

Death means separation, and physical death is the separation of the body from the soul (the real person). The Bible views the body as simply a tent for the soul (Genesis 35:18). At death, the body is temporarily placed in a grave, until it is resurrected (1 Thessalonians 4:14). This is true for both Christians and unbelievers (Revelation 20:12-13). At death, the soul and spirit of a Christian enter heaven and enjoy peace (2 Corinthians 5:8), but the soul of an unbeliever enters a place called Hades, or Torments, which is a terrible place of pain and sorrow (Luke 16:22). The bodies of both believers and unbelievers will eventually be reunited with the soul. The Christian's body will be reunited with his soul in heaven, and the unbeliever in the lake of fire (Acts 26:8). A human being is eternal in body and soul, and physical death is only a temporary interruption. Most importantly, where that body and soul will spend eternity, is determined in this life on earth, prior to physical death (Hebrews 9:27).

Spiritual Death

While the matter of physical death can bring terror to us, there is another factor which is even more frightening. All of us face two deaths: physical death, and spiritual death. Remembering that death means separation, spiritual death means separation from God, even while one is physically alive. Everyone is born into the human race spiritually dead, because we inherit a sin nature (Ephesians 2:1). To experience physical death while one is in the state of spiritual death, will result in what the Bible calls the second death, and that person will spend eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Therefore, spiritual death brings a much greater tragedy than mere physical death, and a destiny that cannot be reversed after physical death.

Separation From God

Since we are all born spiritually dead, we are born separated from God. A spiritual wall separates us from God. On one side of this wall is spiritual death which dooms us to the lake of fire, and on the other side is spiritual life which results in our eternal destiny of joy in heaven. All types of people remain on the spiritual death side, including moral, immoral, and religious people. Unless a person crosses to the other side of the wall, they are doomed to terror for eternity, regardless of their moral or religious character (Hebrews 10:31). Furthermore, we humans are incapable of crossing into spiritual life. How then can we go to heaven? The answer is that God must intervene for us.

This spiritual wall separating us from God could be said to contain five distinct barriers, each representing a distinct problem requiring a solution if we are ever able to be united with God in heaven:
  • Barrier Number 1


    • The Problem - Enslavement to Sin - Our personal sins have enslaved us to a slave market of sin (Romans 3:23).


    • The Solution - Redemption - The solution for the problem of enslavement to sin is to be redeemed from that slave market. This was accomplished by the death of Jesus on the cross, which removed the barrier of our personal sins (1 Peter 1:18-19).The guilt of our sins is forgiven due to the payment, which was totally provided by Jesus, to redeem us out of the slave market of sin (Mark 15:37-38).

  • Barrier Number 2

    • The Problem - Spiritual Death - We are all born spiritually dead, as the penalty for our sin nature (Romans 6:23).

    • The Solution - Atonement - How can a dead person solve the problem of his own death? The answer again is that Jesus accomplished this with His death on the cross. He died spiritually on the cross in our behalf (Matthew 27:46).

  • Barrier Number 3

    • The Problem: Works - Man's righteousness falls short of God's standards (Isaiah 64:6).God is perfect, and He cannot allow imperfection into His heaven. However, there is nothing that we can do that would merit eternal life from God (Romans 4:5). We cannot produce the good which is required to go to heaven. It must come from outside of ourselves.

    • The Solution - Justification - Jesus again accomplished this for us by imputing His perfect righteousness to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). His righteousness was credited to our account.

  • Barrier Number 4

    • The Problem - Justice - God is perfect justice, so He must punish sin. In order to let us into heaven, He must be satisfied regarding our sin, without compromising His holy character. However, again, we have nothing with which to pay for our sins. How then can we meet the justice of God which demands that since we have sinned, we must pay for it. The required payment is spiritual death, but since we are already spiritually dead, how can we die spiritually to pay for our sins? We cannot pay it.

    • The Solution - Propitiation (Satisfaction) - Again, the solution was provided by God. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins with His spiritual and physical death, so God's divine justice was satisfied. This is the heart of the gospel (the good news), that God is satisfied concerning our sins (1 John 2:2, 4:10).

  • Barrier Number 5

    • The Problem - Position in Adam - Since we were all in the loins of Adam, God rightly holds us as responsible for Adam's sin as Adam was (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22).

    • The Solution - Position in Christ - Again God solved this problem for us in His grace. He said that if we trust in His Son as our savior, we will receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and be removed from position in Adam, and placed into position in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), and thereby given eternal life in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Therefore, the wall between God and man has been removed by God himself. Now, how does a sinner cross from spiritual death into spiritual life? He does this by trusting in Jesus Christ as his personal savior. We simply place our faith in Jesus Christ, abandoning our feeble good works as a basis for entering heaven, and trusting the work of Christ on the cross for that basis (Romans 3:21). We simply receive Him as our Savior, in an act of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is not accomplished by our works, but rather by receiving it as a gift from God when we trust in Christ as savior (John 3:16). It is therefore impossible to be saved based upon our works (Romans 4:4-5). Salvation is by grace alone. It is by all of God's doing, and none of man's. We must not try to add anything to God's grace. Those who do so may think they are going to heaven, but they're not (Matthew 7:21-23).

Assurance

God declares us righteous, and our salvation is certain. If it were based on our deeds, it would not be certain, but since it is by God's grace through faith, it is absolute and forever (Romans 4:16). Once we're saved, we will never lose that (eternal) salvation (John 10:27-30).

The Bottom Line

In order to go to heaven, you must: know that you've sinned (Romans 3:23) and that your sin condemns you (Romans 6:23), and believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior (John 3:16).

Owen Weber 2008