Heaven and How to Get There
by Dave Breese
One of the most important facts of life to remember is that this world is not our final dwelling place. Our lives may be said, happy, short, long, fulfilling, or discouraging. That be as it may, in the midst of whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we must remember that the word “temporary” applies to everything. This life is not by any means the final thing. Rather, it is the brief prelude which will be followed by our eternal existence in another world.
In that life which is to come, beyond this life, there are two possibilities as to our eternal dwelling place. Those two possibilities are heaven and hell. We will spend eternity either in that place of bliss called heaven or in an inexpressibly terrible place called the lake of fire. No one in this life is intelligent who has not faced the first truth of the future, namely, that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.
Since it is true that most intelligent people, when they hear these simple facts, desire to go to heaven – let us talk about heaven. What is it like and what is required of me to go there someday?
What is heaven like? It is more wonderful than can be described by any known words in this world. That’s why the Bible, when it speaks about the future says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear head, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). The Bible says, “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand, there are pleasures forevermore” (Psa. 16:11). To understand, therefore, even the beginning of what heaven is like, we must think of earth’s greatest pleasures and multiply them by a thousand to even begin to imagine the joys of heaven. All of the beauty and the delight which we may notice in the best of the things of earth are not to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. Yes, heaven is so wonderful that every person who is not a fool should make going to heaven the dearest desire of life and the object of his daily attention. Heaven is a wonderful place and everyone who lives is invited to go there when this earthly life is done.
But the question remains, how do I go there? The answer to that question is very simple; so simple, in fact, that it is missed by many people. They think that, in that heaven is so wonderful, the only way to get there is by some enormous expenditure on our part so as to guarantee ourselves heaven someday. This is a mistake. Heaven is not obtained by the expenditure of anything on my part. Rather, it is – and we are astonished to say it – a gift from God.
Misunderstanding this, however, the world pursues many an alternative course to get to heaven. These really are foolish pursuits and could be called by a list entitled, “How Not To Get To Heaven.” Think of the false pursuits by which people hope to obtain a home in heaven someday. These include
1) Good works. This is the idea that by doing fine things, helping people and the like, I will be assured of heaven. Heaven is, therefore, thought by these people as a reward for doing good.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible says that we are saved “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The amazing truth is that salvation comes “to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). Heaven is neither given nor made more sure by righteous works on our part.
2) The practice of religion. Religion is a very common thing in our world, with hundreds of thousands of church buildings, synagogues, mosques, and temples scattered across the world. The presence of immense structures, institutions, and doings that are conducted in the name of religion in our world cause many to believe that heaven is given to those who are faithful religious practitioners. “Being religious” is thought by millions as being a key to heaven.
The fact is that the practice of religion has nothing whatsoever to do with going to heaven. Vast religious traditions have been built up across our world but they, for the most part, darken rather than illuminate the path to heaven. About all of these multiplied efforts the Bible says, “Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold, from your vain manner of life received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18, 19). The religions of our world represent but a “vain manner of life” about which the Bible warns. Few things have done more to obscure the truth of salvation than has religion in our time.
3) The giving of money. Millions in our world are instructed regularly that money will buy them a place in heaven. The giving of money is, therefore, understood by too many people as the key to a sure salvation, the buying of a ticket that will bring one to heaven. These people are astonished to discover that the Bible says, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing “ (1 Cor. 13:3). One day, a man by the name of Simon offered the apostles money, in order that he might receive spiritual favor. Simon Peter spoke to him and said, “Your money can perish with you” (Act 8:20). Money cannot purchase salvation, favor in heaven, nor can it purchase salvation for someone else.
4) Church Membership. A popular view in our time is that church membership and salvation are the same thing. One heretical denomination teaches that “there is no salvation outside of the church,” meaning, of course, their human organization. The fellowship of true believers, as they gather in local places of assembly, is a wonderful thing. However, salvation by church membership, which often grows out of this good fellowship, is totally false.
5) Faith plus works. Sadly, new religions are growing in our time which call themselves “Christian” but which teach a subtle perversion of Christianity that calls for works in addition to faith in order that one may be saved. Some such sub-Christian religions even call themselves “evangelical” and deceive many. Believing something plus doing something is not the way of salvation.
What then is the qualification which I must have to go to heaven? With beautiful simplicity, the Bible clearly answers the question, saying, “By grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8). Salvation, then, is a gift from God via a process which He himself calls, “By grace through faith.” Salvation finished, full and free, comes as an absolutely free gift from the Lord.
What then must I do to obtain this free gift? In human terms, we all understand that a gift is, simply, received. I reach out and take it and it is mine. If there is something that I must do, then it is not a gift. The taking, the receiving of that gift, is called in the Bible “believing.”
So in response to the pressing question, “What must I do to be saved?” the Apostle Paul answered the jailor at Philippi and said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Salvation is free to us, but it was actually purchased at great cost by the Lord Jesus. That’s why the Gospel is stated in Scripture as the message that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3, 4). It is clear, then, that an awesome price was paid for our salvation, a price infinitely greater than we ourselves could pay. Salvation, therefore, must be a gift or it never could be ours.
How, then, do I know that I will go to heaven some day? The answer is to believe on Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, and that He died for our sins. When we do this, God speaks of us, saying, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (Jn. 10:28). Believe on Christ. Do it today. Then, we can be sure that we will meet in heaven.