I talked to a gentleman a few days ago and noticed how he seemed to think that he would not make it to heaven even though he has put his faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. He understands the concept of justification through faith alone, but for some reason, he thought he had to earn a ticket to heaven.
It’s not surprising, given his religious background. He was raised in a system of works, not faith. He told me many times that he probably wouldn’t make it to heaven but hoped that he could indoctrinate his children with Christ so that they would make it in. That would make him satisfied.
Many people believe that heaven is the goal of Christianity. Their effort now is to earn a ticket to make it in. That is understandable, given the altar call that happens in some churches. However, the good news of the Gospel of Christ is that you don’t need to earn a ticket to heaven. Jesus did not come to secure our entry into heaven. He came for another more liberating reason, which I will describe in this article.
What Does God Want From You?
Let me summarize what God wants from you in one word: relationship. God the Father wants a personal relationship with you. It’s that simple. He’s not trying to get you to be sinless, a good person, etc. He wants a relationship. He wants his life to permeate yours, bringing you into communion with him.
Jesus did not come to make us members of heaven. He came so we would be part of the family of God, i.e., joined to him, and for that to happen, our sins needed to be dealt with.
The Problem of Sin
It was sin that separated humans from God spiritually when Adam and Even sinned against God in the Garden of Eden. Their disobedience brought sin onto the earth and severed our intimate relationship with the Father.
God could have left it there, but he didn’t. Instead, he implemented a plan to get us back into right relations with him. He sent Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.
Matthew 1:21 (NKJV) — And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Jesus will save his people from their sins. Who are “his people?” In the context of Matthew 1:21, “his people” refers to the lost people of Israel. However, that salvation was later extended to all who would believe in Christ for salvation.
John 3:16 (NKJV) — 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.
Paul writing to the Ephesians (non-Jews).
Ephesians 2:8–9 (NKJV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
What is keeping us from being in a relationship with God? Sin. God does not join with sin. Therefore, we cannot join him if we are sinful. Therefore, something must happen so that we transition from sinful to righteous. Read Romans chapters one through 4 where Paul explains how we are justified by faith, not works.
Paul explained how, through Abraham’s faith, anyone who had that kind of faith would be justified. That includes the lost people of Israel and the Gentiles. That includes you.
What About Heaven?
In the New Testament, Jesus identified heaven as the abode of God. Jesus came from heaven and returned to heaven after the resurrection. He told his disciples he would prepare a place for them in heaven. Read John 3:13, 6:33-51, 14:1-6).
Philippians 3:20–21 (NKJV) — 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Once we are saved, we become citizens of heaven and, therefore, do not need to earn a ticket to enter. Our names will be in the Book of Life, generally a record of all who are saved, i.e., the righteous. Remember, our righteousness is through Christ, not works.
If you believe in Christ for salvation, you are already a citizen of heaven. No ticket is necessary. Therefore, you do not need to worry about entering heaven. You’re already there spiritually.
What about now?
Relationship Not Religion
Unfortunately, many call themselves Christians who are trying to earn God’s love, favor, and a ticket to heaven for when they die. They have missed the point of what God wants. He wants you! Stop trying to get into heaven and get closer to God.
James 4:8 (NKJV) — 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
We miss many blessings by focusing on an outcome that we already have. We try to earn God’s love through religious deeds. The Bible says those deeds are filthy rags.
Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV) — 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.
What can you do to draw nearer to God, i.e., build a relationship and have him more involved in your life? You can pray often, speak to him often, and, of course, read the Bible. I love the passage in Proverbs.
Proverbs 3:5–6 (NKJV) — 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Be aware of God in all the things you do. Think about how you would build a relationship with anyone. You would spend time with that person. You would talk and listen to them.
Too many people are spending a lot of energy and effort to earn a ticket to heaven when they die. That means they are not sure about their salvation. We need to realize that salvation is obtained through faith, not works. We can’t earn our way into heaven.
Besides that, heaven is not the goal. Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead so we would be able to enter heaven. He died and rose from the dead so we could be in right relations with God and, therefore, in his family. That means we have become citizens of heaven when we believe in Christ.
Understanding that heaven is not the goal could help liberate many from a life of works for salvation, which is futile. Rest in your salvation and grow in all aspects of your life. Amen.