GALATIANS 2:16-18: “…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. “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Am I going to heaven when I die? This is one of the most important questions I need to answer in my life. It is more important than where will I go to college, what will my career choice be, have I saved enough for my retirement, or what will people think of me when I die.
There is something innate within every human being that hungers for eternity. Some have argued that the concept of eternal life in itself is the strongest argument that it exists. All cultures and religions focus on some sort of afterlife. The Bible speaks of this as eternal life with Christ. Paul put it this way,
- “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” II Corinthians 5:6-10 NKJV
While we are alive, we are absent from the Lord. When we die, if we have walked in faith, we will be present with the Lord. The Bible teaches that the decision of where we will end up when we die is permanent the moment we die. The writer of Hebrews adds to these thoughts when he writes,
- “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…” Hebrews 9:27 NKJV
According to the Bible, there is no second chance, no purgatory, and no reincarnation. When you die – you enter into the eternity that you have chosen. This is why the opening question is one of the most important questions you will ever answer in your life.
“When I die – will I go to heaven?”
Some try to dismiss the reality of a literal heaven and hell. How could a loving God send anyone to hell? The Bible teaches us that hell was never created for man. It was created for Satan and his fallen host of angels. Yet, misery loves company. Satan is working hard to lead men and women astray so that they will miss the gift of eternal life in heaven and spend eternity with him in hell! This is why Jesus came to the earth. This is why He suffered and died. Jesus gave Himself on the cross for our sins so that we could experience eternal life.
- “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
So, I come back to this most important question.
“When I die – will I go to heaven?”
Can I get to heaven on my good works? I can always find people who are living worse lives than I am. Surely my good life will get me into heaven – right? So many people look at life this way. They think their lives are ok and surely they will go to heaven. Yet, if we choose to get to heaven through our good deeds we are going to be surprised and disappointed. Trying to earn your way to heaven through good works is what the Bible calls the works of the law. And, the reality of trying to earn our way to heaven through the works of the law is…
We must score a 100% in life to make it into heaven! (We will have to obey all of God’s laws perfectly.)
Paul is quick to tell us that this is impossible. No one in life scores 100%. There is no batter in baseball that bats 1000%. No basketball player hits every free throw. The very law of God that we think we are keeping is the very thing that condemns us. Through our inability to keep it perfectly, it reveals that we are sinners in need of a Savior. This is why Paul boldly says,
- “…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.”
This may seem like a simple truth from the Bible. You may wonder why I am spending so much time discussing it. While it is a simple truth, it is one of the hardest truths to live out. There is something within us that always reverts to trying to earn our way to heaven and justifying our lives by measuring our lives against others. This is futile and will lead us to a lifetime of disappointment and an eternal future that we would choose for no one.
No one can obey God 100% of the time and earn their way to heaven!
The only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ!
The Bible is clear – “The just (those declared just and forgiven by God’s grace) shall live by faith!” If we begin our journey to heaven by grace through faith, can we finish it any other way? Do we start out in faith and then, like a Boy Scout, start earning merit badges along the way that secure us a place with Jesus? Paul is addressing this very misconception. If we trusted in Jesus Christ, by grace through faith for our salvation, we need to continue trusting Him as we move through life – until we enter into His presence on the day we die.
- “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”
We need to live our life in Christ through the cross. The cross reminds us that we had to die to our old sinful nature so that we could receive a new nature through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Each day we need to come to the cross anew. We need to remember that we brought nothing to the cross and we cannot add anything to it. If we revert to our old way of life, if we try to earn our way to heaven, we will quickly be reminded that we are sinners wandering away from the only source of salvation and eternal life. Therefore, Paul emphatically confesses,
- “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:20-21 NKJV
Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ do not earn eternal life – they receive it!
This is the reality of the one who lives by faith in Christ. Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ do not earn eternal life – they receive it! It is the glorious gift of God’s grace. It is the fruit of the cross in our life. We are crucified with Christ and now Christ lives in us – by faith in the Son of God (his death and resurrection). The believer never really dies. He is not earning his way to heaven. He is merely walking each day by faith until he lays down his earthly house (body) and steps into the gift of eternal life with Christ.
So, will I go to heaven because of all the good works that I have done?
Absolutely not! If I try to work my way to heaven I will be shocked when I receive my final paycheck. Romans 6:23 reminds me – “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus my Lord!” The cross cancels all debts. It ushers me into the life of Christ now and keeps me in His care. It gives me the assurance of eternal life in heaven and the hope of the resurrection. So, the question is not – “Will I go to heaven when I die?” The real question is…
“Will I trust Jesus Christ through faith and receive His gift of eternal life?”
This is the ultimate question of life. We will all have to answer it. Some will answer it through faith unto everlasting life. Others will try to earn their way to heaven and be eternally disappointed when they receive the wages of their sin, which is death, eternal separation from God in hell.
What will your answer be?
In Jesus’ Name!