How Bad Must You Be For Hell

Introduction

How do you know that you will go to heaven to be with God for all eternity?  What sins can a person commit that will guarantee their place in hell for all eternity?  One of the hardest things that Christians sometime struggle with is whether or not they are really going to heaven or going to hell.  It is hard for us to realize that salvation, and thus being part of God’s kingdom, is not based on works, but rather on faith.  We look at our lives and the life of others and we try to determine our worth by our works.
Sometimes we wonder if we have done enough to go to heaven.  Perhaps God will look us in the face so to speak and tell us that we can’t come in because we didn’t stop doing a particular thing or we didn’t do something we should have done.  We just can’t stay away from the methodology of works and move ourselves to living by faith.

I believe that this occurs many times, as I was discussing today with my sister-in-law, that many people only know that Jesus died for their sins, but they have no idea about the Kingdom of God.  Jesus taught us a lot about the Kingdom of God during his ministry on earth, and as a matter of fact, he said to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).  However, there are many Christians who are not secure in their salvation, i.e., they are not sure about it.  They don’t know what a Christian really is and therefore they wonder if they can do something really bad that would lose it all for them they wonder how bad they have to be to go to hell.

This lesson is really about general Christian living and to renew your hope in Jesus Christ and the salvation that you have, if indeed you put your faith in Christ.  I hope that you will come away from this lesson with a renewed sense of security in the family of God and seek to live instead of trying to save yourself through works.

The Illusion of Good Works

"{17} Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17 NKJV)

"{20} But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20 NKJV)

I was asked a question the other day by a participant of our weekly Bible study that really caught my attention.  The reason this question caught my attention was because it was the same question that I asked myself many times in the past.  I was asked whether there was some type of test that we could perform to see if we are of the faith or not.  That was a very interesting and thought provoking question because, for one thing, it shows the genuine concern that this person had for their standing with God.  It also showed the difficulty that we may sometimes have with faith (not that this person was having difficulty since I don’t know that).  However, the question itself has a tone of uncertainty about it.  The question that I have asked myself and God is, “how can we know that we are going to heaven?”

We have reversed the relationship between works and faith.  Consider what the apostle Paul said.

"knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."
(Galatians 2:16 NKJV)

"being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (Romans 3:24 NKJV)

We are declared righteous (justified) by God because of faith not works. 

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God," (Ephesians 2:8 NKJV)

We were not saved because we were good enough.  We did not earn our salvation and we should never allow ourselves to believe that we have or that we can.  If we believe that we can earn our salvation by doing enough good works, then we will only place ourselves in bondage because no one can be good enough by his own strength in order to please God.  This is why Jesus Christ died, so that we could stand before God as if we never sinned.

However, doing good things and feeling some worth because of it makes us feel good and—well—worthy.  We just can’t get away from the notion that we can please God merely through works.  We need to see relationship between works and justification as it really is.  We do good works because of the Spirit that is within us.  Righteous people do righteous things, but always remember that humans still sin.  Jesus didn’t die so that we would never commit another sin.  Jesus died so that our sins would be covered.

We live in an illusion if we think that works will get us points with God.  We have deceived ourselves if we think that God is impressed with mere good deeds.

"{6} But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away." (Isaiah 64:6 NKJV)

The Difficulty to Believe

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16 NKJV)

Believe in Jesus and be saved.  This belief is something that takes place in the heart and not merely in the mind.  It is not something that happens simply because you responded to an altar call.  Salvation happens because you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins and there is nothing that you could have done to save yourself.  You have repented and confessed your sins and that you are a sinner and you have fully put your trust in God to save you through Jesus Christ.

We have a problem with this because believing seems so intangible.  We can put our head around something that we can do.  I can count the number of good deeds I have done and weigh them against a standard to determine if I’m of the faith.  However, that is not possible with faith because there is no such standard.  That is, faith is not based on works.  Either you believe or you do not.  It is that simple.

We also have to keep in mind that a person who is truly born again has the Spirit of God inside of him and that means that he is indeed new.  The old things are gone and now he can live for Christ and by Christ.  He can now live within the Kingdom of God since the things of God will no longer be foolishness to him (not that he will at once understand everything).

We tend to look at our own shortcomings and past deeds and wonder if we have done enough to be accepted by God even though we have truly put our faith in Jesus Christ.  We desire to know if we have done enough to atone for our sinful deeds not realizing that Jesus Christ already atoned for them almost 2000 years ago.  So why do we keep trying to atone for our sins ourselves?

If only we would truly hand our life over to Christ and stop trying to live it ourselves.  If only we would really trust him to save us each day instead of slipping back into a standard of works for righteousness.  That is just the way we are.  We are surrounded by a system of works so it is no wonder we slip back into that paradigm.  It is simply hard to believe sometimes.  However, we must keep pushing forward by yielding our lives to God daily so that we would mature in our faith, not by works, but by the Spirit of God within us.

What is a Christian

The first thing we need to get a grip on is the idea of a Christian.  A Christian is a born again believer.  A Christian is a repentant child of God.  A Christian is someone who has put her faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

A person becomes a Christian by responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ and then he or she lives according to the gospel that Jesus Christ preached.

  1. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that he died for our sins (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-3)
  2. The gospel Jesus preached is the Kingdom of God and its relevancy in our lives

Bruce Lee made a statement many years ago that I will never forget.  He said something like, “if you are running as fast as you can then you shouldn’t feel as though you should be running faster.”  If you are a Christian then you shouldn’t feel as though you need to do something to become a Christian.  You also shouldn’t allow yourself to feel as though you can be booted out of God’s family once you become a Christian.

It is so easy for us to fall back into the righteousness through works.  We need to concentrate instead on living the holy life by the Holy Spirit that is in us.  We have to stop trying to save ourselves and live ourselves.  We will always need God for everything.
You are a member of God’s family because of what Jesus did, not you.  You are a Christian because Jesus died and rose again for you.  You are a Christian because God loves you and wants a relationship with you.

I think that it is also important to realize that Christianity is not a balance act.  God is not putting checks by your name so to speak so that the number of good and bad things that you do could be weighed.  You are not going to stand before God at judgment and have him lookup the number of checks by your name.  If you have sufficient checks for heaven then you will get in and if not, then you will go to hell.  That is not the salvation that the Bible reveals, but it is the salvation that some people believe in even in other religions.

The Good Tree and the Bad Tree

"Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. {18} A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. {19} Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 7:17-19 NKJV)

Jesus said that a good tree brings forth good fruit and a bad tree brings forth bad fruit.  Once an apple tree has been planted and it grows, then it will always be an apple tree.  Nothing can come along and make it to be an orange tree.  Likewise, consider yourself an apple tree and you will always bear apples.  How many apples you bear depends on your maturity.  Also, consider that an apple tree does not produce good apples 100% of the time.  Some apples may not grow properly or may get infected by an insect or the like.  Just because you are a Christian does not mean that you will not sin.  However, the Christian has a disposition for righteousness.
A Christian need not concern himself with whether or not he has committed enough sins to be booted out of heaven.  For one thing, a Christian is more concerned about pleasing God even though they still sin.  There lifestyle changes and they see things differently.  They will always be a Christian tree, if you will, regardless of how many fruit they allow themselves to bear.

Stay Strong and Grow

Mature as a Christian.  Allow your faith to produce according to the will of God.  You stay strong in your faith by building a strong relationship with God.  Being saved does not mean that you have a strong relationship.  How do we do that?  I suggest that we do the following.

  1. Read and study your Bible
  2. Generally feed on the word of God to sustain yourself and to keep faith alive
  3. Be a part of an edifying fellowship
  4. Don’t allow life to choke the word out of you
  5. Build an intimate and personal relationship with God

These things will help protect you from slipping into a mentality of righteousness through works.  Remember, you can’t work your way to heaven in the same way you couldn’t earn salvation.

Conclusion

How bad must you be in order to go to hell?  You have to be bad enough to reject the salvation provided to you by God.  If you reject the salvation through Jesus Christ then you will have to die for your own sins and therefore hell will be your home (actually you will be in the bottomless pit according to Revelation 20:14).

A true Christian is one in the heart so saying not to worry about works is not dangerous as he or she will always strive to do the will of God.  A Christian can never be bad enough to go to hell because the Spirit of God is within him or her.  Instead of worrying about your good deeds, concentrate on fulfilling God’s purpose for your life by doing all you can to mature in your faith.  Spend your time pleasing God instead of not displeasing him.  It is more productive and fulfilling that way in my opinion. 

I must say that this isn't a license to sin. As a matter of fact, a true Christian does not want to sin. A true Christian has an affinity towards God. So a true Christian will not see this discussion as a loophole to sin. He or she will not think that because we are justified by faith that what we do doesn't matter any longer. On the contrary. What we do does matter. From within us is a well of righteousness that springs forth as we mature in our faith. We don't have to worry about going to hell, but we are concerned about holy living. Amen.

 


How Bad Do You Have To Be To Go To Hell?
By William R. Cunningham
October 21, 2007