Is There a Heaven?
Heaven’s a familiar idea to many of us, but what exactly is it? Most simply, it’s the place where God lives. Now, this doesn’t mean God is absent elsewhere; he’s present everywhere. But heaven is the place where his presence uniquely dwells to bless. It’s the place of our treasure (Matthew 19:21), our citizenship (Philippians 3:20), our inheritance (1 Peter 1:4–5), and our stored-up hope (Colossians 1:5).
Perhaps you’ve noticed I keep using the word “place.” That’s because heaven isn’t a mere concept or state of mind; it’s a real location (John 14:2–3; Acts 1:9–11; 7:55–56). When followers of Jesus die, though our bodies remain on earth, our souls immediately enter God’s presence (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8). This is a temporary situation or “intermediate state” until the day when Jesus returns and our bodies are raised and reunited with our souls forever.
How do we get into Heaven?
If you believe being a good person is enough to get you into heaven, you’re not alone. A variety of religions teach that people will be rewarded after death if they simply do more good deeds than bad ones. But this is not what the Bible teaches. Also, this kind of thinking often leaves us with more questions than answers.
For example, what exactly is the definition of a good person? Is a good person just anyone who doesn’t commit a serious crime? Or maybe the bar is higher? Maybe being good also means working at a food kitchen once per week serving the less fortunate. Or maybe it should be twice per week? How do we know how high the bar is set and how can we know if we made the cut?
Others say that you simply need to do just enough good deeds to tip the scales. If all your good deeds make up at least 51% of what you do, then heaven should be your final destination. But how can you be sure that at least a little more than half of your life has been good? And don’t some good and bad deeds carry more weight than others?
The answers to all these questions will vary depending on who you talk to.
The Bible, however, clearly teaches that even our best attempts at being good fall short of God’s high standard.
Romans 3:12 says, “There is no one who does what is good.” Romans 3:23 says that all of have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In short, even the best person among us falls far short of what God expects. His standard is complete obedience and no one has ever met that standard except Jesus.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Wait a minute! That seems a little extreme. I’ve done so many good things and kept almost all of the commandments in the Bible! I’ve never hurt anyone. I’m not perfect but I’m certainly better than most people I know.”
But James 2:10 says, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” Just one act of disobedience in an otherwise good life is all it takes to be found guilty and worthy of punishment in the eyes of God.
Think about it this way. Imagine that you’re an accountant for a multi-million dollar corporation. You’re a good person who works hard and takes care of your family. But one day all that money becomes too tempting and you embezzle several thousand dollars. Will a judge let you off the hook for embezzlement just because you didn’t murder anyone or deal drugs to children? No. You may have kept all the other laws of the land, but you’re still a lawbreaker and breaking the law has consequences.
You may be wondering at this point what hope anyone has of going to heaven if what the Bible says is true. That’s a great question! The answer is that no one has any hope of escaping God’s judgment apart from trusting in Jesus.
What does that mean? It means that God’s forgiveness depends on faith or trust in Jesus, not works. It can’t be earned by us. Jesus alone earned it for us. Nobody deserves it. Nobody can work for it. It is a gracious gift from God. We must believe it and trust Him. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!”
Ephesians 2:8-9 in the Bible also specifically says that we are not saved from God’s judgment by our own good works. It says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation – created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”
We can only be saved by putting our faith in Jesus, the Son of God. We must believe that He loves us. We must believe that He is ready to forgive us even though we don’t deserve it.
How is that possible? God made it possible Himself. He couldn’t just let our disobedience go unpunished. That would make Him a bad and unjust judge. Someone has to face the consequences for what we’ve done. God, in His love, was willing to sacrifice His Son, Jesus, to face death in our place.
John 3:16 in the Bible explains it this way: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Even though He was fully divine, Jesus became a man so that He could die for us. The Bible teaches that He rose from the grave and still lives today.
If we turn away from our sin and turn to Jesus, we can be saved. We must receive His forgiveness and ask Him to be the new master of our lives.
Romans 10:8b-9 says, “This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 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.”
If you have lived with the heavy burden of trying to be good enough to get into heaven, let me invite you to lay that burden down today. It’s a burden you can’t carry. Trust in Jesus. He is the one who said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)