Opinions on faith and life

Go To Heaven!

2006-12-01

Note: The content of this article was replaced Dec. of 2008. The content of the old one is now modified and expanded into a new article, Salvation Under the Microscope.

Is this all there is? What, if anything, happens after this life?

Some say you just keep coming back in different bodies, maybe even as an animal or plant or rock. Others say you just stop existing or you get absorbed into some cosmic consciousness. But if any of those are true, then it really doesn’t matter how we live, because we won’t remember it.

But what if this life is really just a test, a rehearsal for eternity? Then it really would matter how we live here and now. So how do we find out, or should we just play it safe and pick a belief that seems to offer the best “fire insurance”? The first thing we have to do is decide the best way to determine what is true and real (my personal method is here under The Fountain of Truth). Then we can decide what to do about what we discover.

The fact is, someone called Jesus of Nazareth appeared in history, born as a human but from a virgin mother. He fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, including a manner of execution that hadn’t even been invented when the prophecy was made. But most important of all, Jesus rose from the dead after three days, another fulfilled prophecy. And if you’re thinking that this is all made up from only the Bible, think again; consider the articles Here, Here, and Here, as well as books like Evidence That Demands A Verdict and Who Moved The Stone?

Some brush off all the evidence but blindly accept many other facts without any evidence at all. If the same requirements were made for everything they believe, they would find themselves doubting even their own existence— which many do. So again, it comes back to how you determine what is real, and how consistent you are with that. The bottom line is that no matter how you approach this question, the Bible’s answer is at least as good as any, and has the best number and quality of evidence.

But so what? If the Bible is true and Jesus really is God in the flesh who died for our rebellion against Him, then rose again, why should it matter to us? And what was that all about, anyway?

God originally created humanity with direct, face-to-face communion with Him. But that relationship was broken by the rebellion of the first human, Adam, resulting in mortality and a cursed world. Every person since Adam and Eve has been born into this world of suffering and death, unable to directly relate to God. But God provided a way for us to be reconciled: He Himself would become human and pay the ransom with his own blood to restore that relationship. But just as it takes two to reconcile, and a legally nullified divorce doesn’t guarantee a restored relationship, so also God has made the offer but it’s up to each of us to accept it or reject it. Here is what the Bible says:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
— 2 Cor. 5:17-21

That’s the gospel, the message of salvation, the way to heaven: Be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. And accepting Jesus by faith is the only way that can happen. To put your faith in someone is to have a deep conviction about them, to “put all your weight” on them. You can’t just say the words, “I believe Jesus is God who died for us and rose again”, you have to accept this as a personal conviction. You don’t just believe about him, you believe in him. You want to be reconciled to God.

Once you have as a personal conviction that Jesus is God who died and rose again to reconcile you, you are guaranteed to “go to heaven” after this life. Yes, guaranteed!

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
— 2 Cor. 5:5

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession— to the praise of his glory.
— Eph. 1:13-15

There is no other requirement, no hidden fine print, no organization to join:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
— Eph. 2:8-9

Now to anyone who works, their wages are not credited to them as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to anyone who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
— Rom. 4:4-5

But doesn’t this amount to “a license to sin”? Of course not!

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. — Rom. 6:1-4

We wouldn’t dream of living a life that angers or insults a person we claim to have reconciled with, so neither should we do this to God. This isn’t about meeting some minimal requirement to buy our way into eternal happiness, but an honest desire to be reconciled to God; it’s all about the relationship. We have this guarantee of eternal happiness because of the love of God for all the world (John 3:16), so love is the “meat” of that relationship.

Naturally, the next thing to do is to find out more about God, to know what pleases Him and what does not. That means studying the Bible and getting instruction from the spiritually mature, who can be recognized by how well they model the life of Christ and the disciples He chose to write the Bible. Good deeds will follow from the truly transformed life. They can be faked by the lost, and the saved are certainly spiritually “sick” if they have not changed or have fallen back into a life of sin. But we are to focus on our own spiritual health, not on whether others meet our personal level of spirituality. Spiritual maturity is not a means to a high position of rule, but a low position of service, of being an example to others, of slowly becoming like our Master and Savior. One very important factor in our spiritual growth is to hang around with other believers (Heb. 10:24-25). And this is the only way we can use the spiritual gifts God gives each believer (1 Cor. 12:7), since their purpose is to help other believers and be helped in turn by them.

So even though the only requirement to be saved is faith in the risen Jesus, this “rebirth” is not the end but the beginning, the start of a new life. But don’t think that an easy life awaits you. This life is a temporary testing ground, and the test is not always pleasant or easy while you are taking it. But the reward is happiness for the rest of eternity. We live to please Jesus, in gratitude for salvation, to be His hands in this world.

Here is a handy chart of all the changes that take place spiritually when we place faith in Jesus. It’s good to refer to whenever you may have doubts later on. To quote the disciple John, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)

What happens the moment we are saved?

declared righteous Romans 3:28, 4:5, 24, 5:1, 9, Gal. 3:24, Phil. 3:9
become children of God Romans 8:14-17, Galatians 3:7, 26
clothed with Christ Galatians 3:27
belong to Christ, not ourselves 1 Cor. 6:19-20
heirs according to the promise Galatians 3:29-4:7
the flesh was crucified Galatians 5:24
redemption through Jesus’ blood, forgiveness of our sins Eph. 1:5
became God’s own possession Eph. 1:11
sealed with the Holy Spirit who guarantees our inheritance 2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13-14
made alive with Christ Eph. 2:5
raised up and seated with Christ in heaven Eph. 2:6
brought near to God, have peace with God Romans 5:1, Eph. 2:13
citizens of God’s household Eph. 2:19
sealed for the day of redemption Eph. 4:30
buried and raised with Christ Romans 6:4-6, Col. 2:12
made alive and forgiven Col. 2:13
died but life now hidden with Christ in God Col. 3:3
protected from the evil one 2 Thes. 3:3
given eternal life Romans 6:23, 1 Timothy 1:16, Titus 3:7, 1 John 2:25, 5:12-13
set free and purified Titus 2:14
born again Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:3,23
given an imperishable reservation in heaven 1 Peter 1:4
ransomed 1 Peter 1:18
kept from falling 1 Cor. 10:13, Jude 1:24
are God’s temple 1 Cor. 3:16
washed, sanctified, justified Romans 3:24, 1 Cor. 6:11
are a new creation 2 Cor. 5:17