FAQ: 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.

Eternal Life Starts now

Conclusion

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

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ILLUSTRATION: McDonalds

Mcdonalds-95-logoSuppose I walk into McDonalds one day and I ask for a Big Mac. The man serving me politely asks me for $4.80. So I reach for my wallet only to realize that I left it at home. Usually I would walk away, but I am really hungry so I begin to plead with the man serving me. I tell him that I’m really sorry I left my wallet at home. I then ask him if there is anyway that he can give me the Big Mac for free. Of course he says no. But I don’t give up and I tell him how I will never do anything like this again if he could just find it in his heart to give me the Big Mac. So eventually he gives in and gives me the burger.

A week later, I am hungry again so I walk into the same McDonalds store and see the same man that served me last week. Again I ask for a Big Mac, and again he tells me that it will cost $4.80. So again I reach for my wallet and again I have left my wallet at home. Despite the fact that this is extremely embarrassing, I ask him if he can once again find a way to give me the Big Mac for free. It is even more difficult to convince him this time, but eventually he gives in after I explain that this is the absolute last time.

A week later again, I go into the same McDonalds & see the same guy working there. I again ask for a Big Mac and find myself in the same situation. For a third week in a row, I have forgotten my wallet. And this time, no matter how hard I try, the man serving me is not going to give me the Big Mac for free.

But what if I have a friend who feels sorry for me? Without me knowing, he goes up to the man behind the counter and says: “Here’s $1,000. Give that guy who keeps forgetting his wallet whatever he asks for”. That would change everything. The next time I ask for a Big Mac and  realize I don’t have my wallet, the guy serving me is going to ask “Do you want fries with that?”

Why?

BECAUSE MY FRIEND PAID FOR ME!

The same is true for us in our approach to God. So often we ask God for forgiveness, promising that we’ll never ever sin again. But within days, sometimes within hours, we have already broken our promise. So we go to God again, begging for His mercy, once again promising that we’ll never sin again. But over and over again we break our promise.

But what if we didn’t have to beg God to forgive us? What if we didn’t have to keep hoping to catch God in a good mood? What if we didn’t have to keep promising to do something that we know we can’t do?

Christians can be sure that they are forgiven because Jesus actually paid for their sin in full. It would be unjust for God to punish them for their sin, when Jesus has paid the price for them to escape God’s punishment.

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