Do we have to wait until we die to find out if we’re going to heaven?


The Problem

Many of us assume that we can’t be sure. As a result, we end up living in fear of God. We never experience His love and intimacy because we’re not sure if He’s going to condemn us to hell. We do good works, but they can all too easily be motivated by a desire to go to heaven rather than a grateful heart.

The good news is that we can be sure.

We can be sure now because God wants us to be sure now

When Jesus was on the cross, he hung between two criminals. One of them acknowledged his sin, and then placed his life and eternity into Jesus’ hands by saying: “remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus turned back and said: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus didn’t grant the criminal eternal life and then keep it a secret. Rather He made sure the criminal knew for sure that he had a place in heaven before he died.

The Apostle John concludes one of his letters by saying: “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). Again we see that God doesn’t just want us to have eternal life, He wants us to ‘know’ that we have eternal life.

We can be sure now because eternal life starts now

Jesus made it clear that eternal life is not something we receive when we die, it’s something we receive the moment we become a Christian: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). 

Perhaps the best way to think about this is to consider the crossover between our physical life and our spiritual life. Just as we enter into this physical life through a physical birth, the Bible teaches that we enter into eternal life through a spiritual birth. This spiritual birth takes place when a person becomes a Christian.

In this moment, the person crosses over from eternal death to eternal life. Though their physical life will come to an end, their life with God will live on for all of eternity.

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We can be sure now because God wants us to be sure now, and because eternal life starts now.