FAQ: If Jesus died for everyone, why doesn’t everyone go to heaven?

heavenOne of the most significant objections to Christianity is the idea that ‘only Christians go to heaven’. Not only does this come across as incredibly intolerant, it’s also horrifying for all those who have not come to place their faith in Jesus to save them.

Many have asked why God can’t just take everyone to heaven the moment they die. And in response they’re often told that a Holy God can’t reconcile with sinful human beings unless a payment is made for sin.

Now this might explain the need for Jesus to die on the cross, but it still doesn’t explain why everyone can’t just go to heaven: Doesn’t God love everyone? Doesn’t the Bible teach that He wants all people to be saved? Didn’t Jesus die to pay for everyone’s sins? If so, why can’t everyone just go to heaven?

Here are three things to consider…

1. THE BIBLE IS CLEAR THAT FAITH IS A REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION

John 3:16-17 says… 
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” 

2. THE BIBLE DOESN’T EXPLAIN WHY FAITH IS A REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION

Unfortunately the Bible doesn’t really say why faith is a requirement. And this can be very frustrating. But just because we don’t understand why something happens, doesn’t mean it’s not true. We experience this in science all the time.

Take Gravitational Force for example…

Gravity Formula

Scientists know that the Gravitational Force between two objects increases as the size of the masses increases. They also know that the Gravitational Force decreases as the distance between the masses increases. They’re even able to use the above formula to calculate the exact strength of the force in newtons.

But there are still many questions that remain: Why is Gravitational Force related to the amount of mass? Why does it decrease as the masses move further apart? Why is it so consistent? Why isn’t it affected by temperature, or volume, or density, or the type of matter? And why are we able to be so precise? It’s one thing to be able to notice a trend, it’s another thing entirely to be able to develop a formula that’s so precise we can use it to put a man on the moon.

Just because something is difficult to understand, doesn’t mean it’s not true.

3. HERE ARE SOME POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS

A) Passover
In the Book of Exodus, we read the story of the Passover. God told the Israelites to cover their door posts with the blood of a lamb. When the Angel of Death saw the blood, He knew to ‘passover’ that particular house. It’s interesting though that it wasn’t enough for the blood to be shed. It had to be personally applied to each family’s door post.

In the same way, Jesus’ blood was shed for all humanity, but it has to be personally applied to each person’s life. This happens when we place our faith in Jesus to save us. His blood saves us from death.

B) Gift
Just because someone has bought us a gift, doesn’t mean we have actually received it.

In the same way, just because Jesus has bought us the gift of eternal life, doesn’t mean we have actually received it. We must receive it by faith.

C) Ransom
Just because the ransom has been paid, doesn’t mean the child has come home.

In the same way, just because Jesus laid his life down as a ransom for us, doesn’t mean we have come home to live with our heavenly Father.

D) Bridge
Just because the bridge has been built, doesn’t mean we’ve walked across it.

In the same way, just because the bridge between God and humanity has been built, doesn’t mean we’ve walked across it.

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ILLUSTRATION: ABC

simpleWE CAN BE SURE THAT WE’RE GOING TO HEAVEN BEFORE WE DIE

One of the best things about Christianity is that it teaches us that we can be sure we’re going to heaven before we die.

At the crucifixion, Jesus was placed on a cross between two criminals. One of these criminals became a Christian just before he died. Here’s what happened…

LUKE 23:39-43
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

HOW TO BE SURE THAT YOU’RE GOING TO HEAVEN

The criminal was assured a place in heaven because he placed his faith in Jesus to save him. Here are the three things he did…

(A) ACKNOWLEDGE: He acknowledged that he was a sinner who’d done the wrong thing and deserved punishment.
> He did not promise to make up for his past sin. He certainly would not have been able to.
> He did not promise to never sin again. It was irrelevant. He was about to die. He could offer God nothing.
> He simply acknowledged that he was a sinner who’d done the wrong thing and deserved judgement.

(B) BELIEVE: He believed that Jesus was able to save him.
> He did not believe the whole Bible. It hadn’t even been completed yet.
> He did not necessarily understand a lot of theology.
> He did not even understand how Jesus could save him. He just believed that he could.

(C) CAST: He cast his entire life & eternity into Jesus’ hands.
> He did not promise to live for Jesus. He was about to die.
> He did not promise to obey. Again, he was about to die.
> He simply bet his life and eternity on Jesus. He had no other option. Everything rested on Jesus.

So just like the criminal, we too can be sure that we’re going to heaven. All we need to do is ‘ACKNOWLEDGE that we are sinners who deserve judgement’, ‘BELIEVE that Jesus is able to save us’ & ‘CAST our entire life & eternity into Jesus’ hands’.

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GUILT-FREE CHRISTIANITY: Why good people don’t go to heaven and bad people don’t go to hell

THE LADDERGuilt Free

Many people view practicing Christianity a little like trying to climb a ladder to get to God. They believe that it offers them a way to earn God’s forgiveness and earn their way to heaven.

Some try and climb by living a good life. They figure that as long as they treat people well and genuinely try and do the right thing throughout their life, then God will forgive them and let them into heaven.

Others try and climb by being committed to God. They’ve made a promise to obey Jesus and live for Him. They believe that as long as they stay close to God and always try to obey Him, then God will forgive them and let them into heaven.

Many people believe that they can climb the ladder by having the right heart. They know that they fail to obey God, but as long as they never deliberately sin, and are always repentant when they do, then they believe that God will forgive them and let them into heaven.

Some climb their way through religious rituals. Some do it by making radical sacrifices. Some even climb by trying to accumulate a number of spiritual experiences. Regardless, the one thing that all these approaches have in common is that they are never able to get us to the top of the ladder.

The problem with the ladder

Trying to climb the ladder is a nightmare. It will either turn you off Christianity, or it will create people who will turn you off Christianity.

It will turn you off Christianity by making you feel like you can never do enough. No matter how hard you try, no matter how committed, how consistent, how good your intentions, you always feel guilt and shame. The reason that so many people walk away from God and the church is because they are tired of climbing a ladder that can’t be climbed.

It will create people who will turn you off Christianity by producing self-righteous, judgemental people who feel like they’ve got a right to look down on others because they’ve made their way up a few rungs. According to the Barna Group, there’s an alarming number of church attenders who are still trying to climb the ladder. They work hard, they live good lives, they pray, they read the bible, they give generously. But they aren’t humble. They don’t have peace. They aren’t driven by joy. They don’t live the kind of lives that make you want to be a Christian.

Diagram 1

All this leads us to ask if there is some other way…

The real purpose of the ladder

It’s often been said that God would never ask us to do something we’re not able to do. But actually, the complete opposite is true. All throughout the Bible we find God calling people to do things that aren’t humanly possible. The same is true with God’s commands. We naturally assume that because God has given us a command, that He expects us to be able to obey. But what if there is something else going on? What if God knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t be able to climb high enough? What if God gave us commands for an entirely different reason?

The  Apostle Paul explains why God gave us the law… “I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death” (Romans 7:7-11).

God never expected us to be able to climb the ladder. The law was never given to make us holy. Rather the law was given so that we would realize that we are unholy. The law was given to condemn us, not to save us. The more we try and climb the ladder, the more we slip and we fall, the more we realize that we are sinful, the more we realize that we need a saviour.

So when we look at the ladder, there are really three responses. The first is to keep climbing. The second is to walk away from God altogether. But the third is to go running to Jesus.

Diagram 2

What Jesus wants to do for you

Once a person stops trying to climb the ladder and runs to Jesus as their saviour, God is faced with two very significant problems…

PROBLEM #1: THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN

God has to punish our sin, but does not want to punish us.

SOLUTION #1: THE CROSS

In order to solve the first problem, God had to figure out a way to punish our sin without punishing us. So 2,000 years ago, He sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross.

A lot of people believe that Jesus’ death serves as an example of sacrifice for us to follow. Others see the cross and a great demonstration of God’s love for people. Although both these perspectives are true, the reason Jesus died on the cross was to cop the punishment for our sin.

The Bible says that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:21).

All our past sin, present sin, future sin, accidental sin, and deliberate sin was cast upon Jesus while He was on the cross. God poured out His wrath upon Jesus. Jesus was condemned so that we can become uncondemnable.

At the same time, all of Jesus’ righteousness was cast upon us. So that every good thing that Jesus ever did is credited into our account. So although we are still sinful, God now treats us as if we live the perfect, holy, and pure lives.

Cross Diagram

For this reason, we can be 100% sure that we are forgiven. We can be 100% sure that we are going to heaven. Not because we are good, or committed or have good intentions, but because Jesus paid for all our sin in full.

Diagram 3

So the obvious question is this: Can we go on sinning and still go to heaven? This brings us to God’s second problem…

PROBLEM #2: THE POWER OF SIN

God wants us to do good works, but telling us to be good doesn’t work

SOLUTION #2: THE HOLY SPIRIT

In order to solve the second problem, God had to figure out a way to transform us from the inside out. So when a person runs to Jesus to save them, they don’t just get all their sin paid for, they also receive the Holy Spirit.

Bill Bright said: “The Christian life is not difficult – it is impossible… Only one person has ever lived the Christian life, and that was Jesus Christ. Today He desires to go on living His life through Christians whom He indwells”.

In other words, the Spirit of Jesus, also known as the Holy Spirit, comes and lives in us and through us.

So, spiritually speaking, there are really three kinds of people in the world…

1. Unbeliever

Here we find a person who has not placed their faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit (H.S.) is not in their life, and the person sits on the throne (or driver’s seat) of their life.
Holy Spirit Diagram 3

2. Spirit-Controlled Christian

Here we find a person who has placed their faith in Jesus. Their life is no longer their own. They now belong to God. The Holy Spirit (H.S.) has come into their life and is on the throne (or driver’s seat). He is giving them the motivation and power to live like Jesus. They still stuggle with sin, but they are no longer dominated by it.

Holy Spirit Diagram 4

3. Self-Controlled Christian

Here we find a person who has placed their faith in Jesus. Their life is no longer their own. They now belong to God. But they are not experiencing all that God wants to do in their life. Although the Holy Spirit (H.S.) has come into their life, they have placed themselves back on the throne (or driver’s seat). God is definitely at work in their life, but their life is still dominated by sin.

Holy Spirit Diagram 5

SUMMARY

So for those of us who have STOPPED TRYING TO CLIMB THE LADDER and have RUN TO JESUS to save them, we can be confident of two things…

1. Because Jesus died on THE CROSS to PAY FOR OUR SINS, we have ETERNAL LIFE

2. Because the HOLY SPIRIT gives us the POWER TO OVERCOME SIN, we have a NEW LIFE

Diagram 4

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ILLUSTRATION: Dog carrying a piece of meat

preview.aesops_dogSuppose there’s a dog carrying a piece of meat in his mouth as he walks alongside a lake. He turns to look at the lake’s surface, and he sees the reflection of the meat in the water. He opens his mouth and snaps at the reflection of the meat, losing both the meat and the reflection in the process.

In order to become a Christian, one needs to cling to ‘what Jesus has done’, just as the dog clings to the meat. And if they do, it will be reflected in their life, just as the meat was reflected in the lake.

However many misunderstand the message of Christianity, and rather than cling only to ‘what Jesus has done’ (the meat), they feel the need to cling also to their ‘good works’ (the reflection). And by trying to place their faith in ‘what Jesus had done’ as well as their ‘good works’, they lose both ‘what Jesus has done’ and their ‘good works’.

The key to becoming a Christian is to cling only to ‘what Jesus has done’ on our behalf. If we do, the Holy Spirit will come into our life and transform us from the inside out. So that when others see us they will see a reflection of Jesus.

(Based on an explanation by Martin Luther in his book ‘The Freedom of a Christian’. The story of the dog is one of Aesop’s Fables and is numbered 133 in the Perry Index)

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ILLUSTRATION: The Knight and the Princess

desktop_princess_dragon_knight_by_sarah_the_ninja_101-d37y8mkSuppose a princess has been locked up in a castle from the moment she was born. She’s being held captive there by an evil dragon. One day a knight in shining armor comes along. He risks his life to slay the dragon, and then offers to rescue the princess.

Now we’d naturally assume that the princess will jump at the chance to be rescued, but this is not necessarily the case. In order for the knight to rescue her, the princess needs to leave her old life in the castle behind, she needs to jump on the back of the horse, and she needs to entrust her entire life and future into the knight’s hands.

The same is true for us when it comes to Jesus.

We’ve been locked up in a prison of guilt and condemnation from the moment we were born. We’ve been held there by Satan, the most evil dragon of all. One day, our knight in shining armor, Jesus, comes along. He doesn’t just risk his life to slay Satan, He actually dies. Three days later He comes back to life and conquers death, conquers sin and conquers Satan. He does all of this in order to rescue us.

Now again, we would naturally assume that we will jump at the chance to be rescued. But in order to be rescued, we need to leave the prison of guilt and condemnation behind, we need to jump on the back of the horse and we need to entrust our entire life and eternity into Jesus’ hands.

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ILLUSTRATION: Lifesaver

MW_100804_SLSA_IRBRescue_0059Many people believe that a person becomes a Christian by committing their life in obedience to Jesus. As a result, they are never really sure if they are committed enough. But what if becoming a Christian has nothing to do with our commitment to obey Jesus, and everything to do with Jesus’ commitment to save us?

When a lifesaver is rescuing a drowning boy, he doesn’t demand that the boy commit to becoming a better swimmer, or promise that he get swimming lessons. He simply asks the boy to stop trying to save himself and to trust him.

The same is true when it comes to Jesus. When he sees us drowning in our sin and despair, He doesn’t demand that we commit to being obedient. He simply asks us to stop trying to save ourselves, and to entrust our life and eternity into His hands.

Becoming a Christian isn’t about promising to obey. It’s about waving our hands up in the air and declaring our desperate need to be rescued.

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QUOTES: Faith

jesus-walking-on-waterMARTIN LUTHER
“Faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing…

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace”

(from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522, Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith)

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