Going to Heaven, What Does It Take?
A Sunday school teacher was testing the children in her Bible class to see if they understood the concept of getting to Heaven. She asked them, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?” “NO!” the children answered.
“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?” Again, the answer was, “No!”
By now the teacher was starting to smile. “Well, then,” she asked, “if I was kind to animals, and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?”
Again, they all answered, “NO!” She was just bursting with pride for them, and asked one final question, “Well then, how can I get into Heaven?”A five-year-old boy shouted out,”You gotta be dead.”
Kids just have a way of seeing right to the heart of an issue sometimes, don’t they? You gotta be dead to go to heaven, and you can’t earn your way there!
Going to heaven takes a bit more than just dying however. Now, make no mistake, no one can earn their way into heaven. God proved that to Israel by giving them a law “that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). He basically challenged Israel to be good enough to earn salvation, and they–not to mention the rest of mankind–failed miserably. And we still do, anytime we try to be good enough to earn a place in God’s presence. Just can’t be done on our own.
That is why the Bible says we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). No matter if you sold your house, and were kind to every one you met, that does not ensure going to heaven. Going to heaven is not dependent on what you have done, it depends on who you know! It depends on where you “are” when you die.
Knowing Christ by faith, and being “in him” is what determines whether we go to heaven. In spite of the efforts of some to soft soap the message, Jesus and the inspired Word of God says that there is no salvation outside of Christ. (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Furthermore, knowing Christ is far more than just saying “I believe in Jesus.” That is important to be sure, but to truly believe in Jesus is to obey him. As Deitrich Bonhoeffer said before his death at the hands of the Nazis, “Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes… Faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.”
In other words, saying you believe Jesus is not enough. Doing what Jesus commands is believing in him. We can’t be perfect, but we can trust in his perfection, and do what he says to the best of our ability. His grace covers our weaknesses and our mistakes. Without being in him, however, there is no grace. And without his grace, dying is not a good thing.
Dying takes no faith. Dogs, cats, cows, birds and people all die. Dying is no guarantee of going to heaven. A life of faith in Christ is, however. Going to heaven takes that faith and that committment to him.