Updated: May 1
By Drew Zuverink
"For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Over the years I have come to realize, just by listening to people, that pretty much everyone assumes that they will go to heaven. However, inside of the Bible we find out that there are two possible places that people can go to after death, not just one. There is a heaven and there is a hell, so surely not everyone goes to heaven - even if people talk as if we do.
So who goes to heaven then, what kind of person?
If you asked most people on the street, they would probably say that as long as you are a decent person you will go to heaven. Most people probably believe that at the end of our life we will all appear before God's judgement seat and as long as our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, God will let us in. This is fairly understandable. For most people who haven't committed any horrendous crimes, it's fairly natural to view yourself as a good person who surely doesn't deserve hell. Essentially they reason, if I don't deserve hell, then that must mean I'll go to heaven. Even if they admit that they've done some bad things, they still believe they've done enough good to outweigh the bad. Makes sense right?
This would be fine if justice worked that way, but it doesn't, and deep down we know this.
Doing something good does not erase the fact that we've also done something bad. Take Larry Nasser for example. Larry was one of the worst child abusers in American history and he's currently serving out the rest of his life sentence in prison. He did some truly terrible things. However, believe it or not, Larry also started charities in his younger years. So he did some good things as well, but when it came time to decide Larry's punishment, the judge did not take into account his charity. The fact of the matter was, Larry was guilty and he had to pay for what he had done, regardless of whatever good things he had also done. That's how justice works, if you are guilty you must pay. Could you imagine if the judge had let him off with a warning because of the good things he did? Would you call that just? Of course not! Could you imagine how the victims and their families would feel? There would be outrage! I can picture it now - thousands of people would gather to protest with signs that cried out for true justice.
So the real question is not how good are you, but have you ever done something, anything, bad. Of course you have, I have too, we all have, and so we are all guilty. And if we are guilty, justice requires that we must be punished. To make things worse, not only are we guilty, but as we already learned, doing good works isn't going to change the fact that we are guilty! So in other words, we are all going to appear before God, not as good or innocent, but as guilty and deserving of his punishment.
As bad as this sounds, read Romans 10:13 again. God understands how true justice works. He understands that every human being is guilty and deserves to be punished, but he doesn't want to punish them! So he came to earth himself to receive the punishment that we all deserve. True justice requires that evil be punished, and so God fulfilled that requirement in our place. Now he promises that everyone who cries out to him will be saved.
So when we ask the question, what kind of a person goes to heaven, the answer is not a good person, but instead it's the sinner who realizes their guilt and cries out to God for forgiveness. God came to do what would be impossible for us on our own. He made a way for sinners to be reconciled to himself and to one day go to heaven.
What is amazing about this is that it's a free gift. Jesus comes to each of us and says, "let me take your punishment." For those of us who cry out and accept Jesus' offer, we will indeed go to heaven. But for those who hear Jesus' offer and say, "No thanks, I'm going to get to heaven by being a good person," well, justice doesn't work that way. That kind of a person is clinging to false hope and will one day hear the sound of the almighty gavel, and the terrifying verdict of "Guilty."
Beloved, it doesn't matter how good or how bad of a person you are. What matters is that we are all guilty and someone has offered to receive our punishment for us. We can receive his offer or we can deny it. The choice is up to you.