Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Go to Heaven, According to the Bible

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The Holy Bible describes itself as "the Word of God." So what does the Word say about ensuring a person ends up in heaven someday? The Book of John, written by an eyewitness and one of Jesus' closest friends, says, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, NIV)."

This one sentence pretty much sums up the Bible. So who is Jesus, anyway?

Why Did Jesus Come?

Before Jesus was ever born, early man offered animal sacrifices to God in appeasement for sin, and these burnt offerings were pictures or the precursors of Jesus' substitutional, atoning sacrifice on the cross. Significant animal sacrifices occurred during the spring, and there were many ceremonial rules about how to accomplish the ritual.

Jesus' arrival changed everything. Jesus was crucified in the spring, coinciding with the ancient rituals, and that is why he is known as the Lamb of God. "God spoke to our forefathers through prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by [Jesus] his Son (Hebrews 1:1, NIV)," Paul the Apostle wrote during the early days of Christianity. The entire Jewish law with its animal sacrifices was a training ground to bring ancient people to a mature understanding of what God really demands, which is simple faith or trust in Jesus Christ.


Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)." He made it clear that getting to heaven was only through faith in Him, and nothing else. He claimed to be the Son of God, the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world. In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis describes the question about Christ every individual must answer: Was He a liar, a lunatic, or who He actually claimed to be, the Son of God? If Jesus wasn't who He said He was, then He had to have been either a liar or a lunatic. If Jesus wasn't crazy, and those who lived during his day never claimed Him to be insane, and if He also wasn't lying, then the only alternative is that He must have been who He said He was, the literal Son of God.

How to Go to Heaven

Religions are cultural systems that try to help man reach up to God's level, but raw Christianity is just the opposite. Christianity is God reaching out to man, coming down from heaven to man's finite level to redeem him. Man doesn't have to do anything except freely accept what God offers, but the result of genuine belief in Jesus Christ is a repentance from sin and an inner transformation.

Afterward the believer in Christ will naturally change his behavior toward the good, some more dramatically than others, however, any outward good works or accomplishments are not what has saved or redeemed the person. It was Jesus Christ's atoning death on the cross alone. Onlookers may mistakenly assume a person's good deeds have earned him heaven, but that isn't the case.

Once a pastor was confronted with a statement that people don't ever really change. He responded, "You are right, because apart from the power of God, they don't." But simple faith in Christ does activate God's power, changing people from the inside out, and their subsequent actions will indicate if their salvation is authentic.

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