Who will go to heaven and who will go to Hell? Your answer to this question is of the utmost importance. Scripture warns, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). So, what is necessary concerning an individual for he/she to go to heaven?
The most common answer to this question is, “Be a good person.” Other similar responses are, “Do your best”, “keep the 10 commandments”, or “live by the golden rule.” If that is God’s requirement- that we be a good person/ live a righteous life, then have you met that stipulation? It is important for us to understand that when we classify a person as good or evil, we are comparing them to a standard. For instance, compared to Adolf Hitler, we are all pretty good. But we must ask, what is God’s standard of goodness? The Word of God gives us the answer. It says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). None of us can measure up to God’s standard. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Consider God’s 10 commandments. In Exodus 20, God commanded, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor (Do not lie). Thou shalt not covet.” The Bible defines sin as the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4). We are all sinners (Rom. 3:23). Not one of us is righteous or good- “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
Many will hesitate to own their guilt before God. They will declare that their good far outweighs the wrong that they have done. The Word of God again speaks on this subject. Galatians 3:10 explains, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL THINGS which are written in the book of the law to do them.” James 2:10 declares, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Do you understand these clear teachings? If you could live your entire life, and sin only once, you are still guilty before God. Remember, God’s standard of goodness is perfection.
Perhaps you find it hard to believe that one sin would separate you from the joys of God’s heaven. Let me help you to understand what sin is and what we all have done against God. Sin is breaking God’s law. Today we call those individuals that break the law criminals. We could justly say that as a sinner, you and I, are criminals against God. How many times must one commit murder to be a murderer? How many times must one speed to warrant a speeding ticket? How many times must one rob a convenience store to be a thief? So, likewise it is with God. One lie means that we are a liar, a criminal, a sinner. One lustful look at one who is not our spouse means that we are an adulterer, a criminal against God, a sinner (Matthew 5:28). If we truly saw ourselves as God sees us, we would understand that we have broken every one of these 10 commandments (yes, even murder – see Matthew 5:21-22).
Having now established our guilt before God, what are the consequences? It is common to hear men proclaim today that God is loving and will forgive our sins, that He will overlook our “criminal activity.” However, what is the message of God’s Word? God Himself declares, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). He warns in Nahum 1:3, “The LORD…will not at all acquit the wicked.” He declares in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” Will you die one day? Of course, we all understand that death is both certain and imminent. This very fact points out that God has not overlooked our sin. Physical death is part of God’s judgment on sin. Romans 5:12 states, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” The punishment on sinners is more than merely physical death. God’s Word reveals that there is an eternal judgment on sinners in a place God’s Word calls “the lake of fire.” Listen to 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 – “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with EVERLASTING destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.”
Perhaps at this point you would interject that some sins are worse than others, that you have not committed an act that would warrant your being cast into a lake of eternal fire. However, Scripture again reveals that those sins which we would classify as the least are judged by eternal fire. Listen to the foreboding words of Revelation 21:8 – “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, AND ALL LIARS, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Men are apt to think of lying as the most insignificant sin, yet before God it is an abomination. Remember the sin for which Adam and Eve were cast from God’s presence in the Garden of Eden was what we would classify as small. They simply disobeyed God’s command. But that is true of every sin. And every sin carries with it the same punishment from God – physical, spiritual, and eternal death.
Added to these Bible truths is our current standing before God because we are sinners. Many today promote the belief that “we are all God’s children.” Again, God’s Word reveals that while God created all of us, and desires for us to be reconciled to Him, we are by nature not His children. No, not by a long shot. We read in Ephesians 2 that we are by nature the children of wrath. Ephesians 2 says that we are dead to God because of our trespasses and sins. Ephesians 5:8 says that we are darkness, not in darkness, but that darkness is who we are. In John 8:44, Jesus Christ Himself told the Jews that they were of their father the devil! This condition in which we find ourselves in fact is quite serious. John 3 reveals that we are already condemned in our sins and the wrath of God is currently abiding on us. In such a condition as this, we cannot expect our good deeds to erase our wickedness in God’s sight. Proverbs 15:8 states, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD.” Isaiah 64:6 reveals that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” in the sight of God. We are condemned by our deeds, and our good works, even the most noble, cannot help to change who we are or erase what we have done against God (Romans 3:20, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5).
What then is the solution to the great dilemma which faces every man? How can we be saved from this ultimate punishment? How can we be made right with God? What can we do about this eternal judgment that awaits each of us? The answer is found in God’s greatest act of love, mercy, and grace. God Himself took on humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Jesus lived the perfect life that none of us could ever live. Though He was tempted in every way such as we are, He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). He, and He alone, fulfilled all the demands of God’s law and was perfectly good and righteous. Having thus proven Himself worthy as a spotless sacrifice before God, He went to the cross as a willing substitute for each man and woman who has ever lived. Remember, the punishment for sin is death- physical, spiritual and eternal. Christ suffered the penalty of our sins for us and endured the wrath of God in our place. Consider the following verses of Scripture. Isaiah 53:5 declares – “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” Romans 5:8 pronounces – “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 Peter 2:24 states – “Who (Jesus) His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes ye were healed.” Now we can begin to understand God’s amazing love to us. Though we had broken His law, gone our own way, despised His love and goodness, and lived as the child of Satan, yet He would come to earth and pay the penalty of our sins Himself. He endured our punishment in the greatest act of love, one that can never be matched.
The Word of God reveals that this work of Christ on the cross meets all of God’s demands to pay for our sins. Jesus paid our sin debt completely, and God is satisfied completely by Christ’s sufferings. Jesus declared while on the cross, “It is finished.” His declaration was a statement the Greek world used to indicate that a debt had been completely paid. That is exactly what Jesus did. All that the law demanded, He paid in full. 1 John 2:2 makes this glorious statement – “And He (Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” The word “propitiation” indicates that Jesus was the complete Satisfaction that God demanded. Isaiah 53:11 declares – “He (God the Father) shall see the travail of His (Jesus’) soul, and shall be satisfied.” In Christ’s death, the work of redeeming man’s lost soul was completed.
The good news does not stop there, though. The good news is that Jesus rose from the dead, defeating sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Jesus, in rising from the dead, offers to raise us up to eternal life as well (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Listen to Jesus’ own words in John 11 – “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.” What Jesus’ death did was pay for our sins. What His resurrection does is offer us eternal life so that we will never face eternal death, but can have life, eternal and abundant, today. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” This is the work of Jesus and His offer to every man, that He might pay our sin debt and provide eternal life through His substitutionary death on the cross and His glorious resurrection.
What will you do with this good news? Many will try to make themselves worthy of what Christ has done. Some believe being baptized, or joining a church is how we accept this offering of eternal life. But Jesus preached, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:15) Repent and believe- that is the solution. But what does it mean to repent, and what does it mean to believe?
There are many misconceptions regarding the word repent. Some believe it means you have to change your life, or weep over your sin for hours, or maybe even days, to prove you are truly sorry for your sin. However, the word repent is literally a change of mind. This change of mind is in regard to God. He is holy, just, and righteous and cannot approve of sin or accept us in our sin. We must see God for Who He is. This change of mind is in regard to our sin. We are exceedingly sinful and have fallen far short of what God’s demands for righteousness are. We must not excuse our sin, or believe ourselves to be “not that bad.” Nor can we attempt to live in our sin, but we must seek to be saved from our sin. This change of mind demands that we see ourselves for who we are – guilty, vile, wicked, and fit for the lake of fire. This change of mind that is true repentance also demands that we turn from trusting ourselves, our good deeds, or any other means to make us acceptable before God. We must count our works, “religion”, and lives as worthless and utterly incapable of gaining favor with God (Philippians 3:7-8). If we will not repent, we cannot be saved. Listen carefully to the warning of Jesus – “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
If repentance is seeing God for Who He is, we for who we are, and turning from sin and self-righteousness, what then is believing? Believing is more than a knowledge of facts, or merely accepting them as true. Biblical faith or believing is a complete and total reliance upon the work of Jesus Christ in His death on the cross and His resurrection. It is depending upon His sacrificial death as the only sufficient means to atone for our sins. It is abandoning all hope for eternal life apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is true biblical faith. It is not a “let’s give this a try” thing. It is a total relinquishing of hope in anything apart from Jesus to save us from our sins.
These two, repentance and faith, always go hand in hand. You cannot experience true repentance apart from faith, nor can you express saving faith apart from repentance. Perhaps an illustration of this truth will help us to gain an understanding of this important understanding. Suppose you found yourself an unfortunate passenger on a doomed aircraft. You discover that the plane has experienced complete engine failure, has run entirely out of gas, and has suddenly caught on fire. Destruction is both certain and imminent. Now, suppose the pilot were to hand you a parachute. At this point you have several options. You may choose to believe that nothing will happen, and just sit back and enjoy the ride. Such a confidence will have tragic consequences! You may choose to believe that you can rectify the situation and attempt to land the aircraft against all odds. Again, such a confidence in yourself would have devastating results! You could look at the parachute, study it, and be able to describe it to its fullest. Such knowledge, however, would again prove futile in an effort to save you from the coming destruction. No, there would be only one way to safely escape the destruction that awaits. That is this- to see the imminent danger, abandon all hope in yourself and the plane, jump from the aircraft and come to depend entirely on the parachute’s ability to save your life. In this illustration we see both repentance and faith. To jump from the plane is to repent and to believe in the parachute. You cannot believe on the parachute without repenting from the plane. This illustration also summarizes the “beliefs” of men today when faced with the judgment of God. Some will try to ignore its certainty and its imminence and “enjoy the ride.” How devastating will be the consequences of that attitude! Others believe that they can save the condemned vessel that is their life by their own efforts. How tragic, and how foolish when Christ has done the work in its entirety. Still some know all of the answers about Jesus, but it never comes to anything more than a knowledge, and they never abandon themselves to His care. Thankfully, many have expressed saving faith in Christ. They have depended on Him as the only Savior of their lives, have abandoned all hope in themselves, and cast themselves entirely at His mercy. This is what is meant by repentance and faith.
Listen to the promises of God to those who believe on Christ’s work for salvation. “But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “He that believeth on Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). “These (the Scriptures) are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” (John 20:31). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5). “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). “Knowing that a man is not justified (declared righteous in the sight of God) by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Can you see that what God demands for us to find salvation from sin and eternal life is believing on the death and resurrection of Jesus to save us?
If you believe there to be another way to God than through belief in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus by faith, consider these Words of Scripture. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Listen to the plain teaching of John 3:18 once more – “He that believeth is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Scripture explicitly states that faith in Christ alone can save.
Do you desire to express such saving faith in Christ? In Scripture, when an individual believed on Christ, they expressed their faith by crying out to Him to save them from their sin and grant them eternal life. Remember, it is the faith in the heart of man that saves, not the words of the mouth. Our prayer to God is meant as a plea from the heart. Consider the publican before God. He cried out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Overwhelmed by the burden of his sin before God, and seeing God for Who God is, holy and just, the publican threw himself upon the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Jesus declared that this publican went home justified (declared righteous). Consider also the criminal crucified next to Christ. Seeing he was justly condemned for sin, fearing a greater condemnation before God, and recognizing Who Jesus was (he called him Lord), the man cried out to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus’ answer to that man condemned by the courts of man was that when the criminal died that day, he would be with Jesus in Paradise. In both cases, and in every Scriptural example, those who were saved by faith threw themselves on the mercy and grace of God and cried out to Him for salvation.
Salvation is found the same way today. Express your faith in Him by crying out to God, confessing your sin, your belief in Christ’s death on the cross as your Substitute, and your faith in His resurrection to grant you eternal life. Accept his free gift. Romans 10:13 sweetly promises, “For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” When the Lord says “whosoever”, he included you. You can be saved today. While the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Put your faith in Him today! Cry out, “Lord, save me from my sin! I believe in Jesus and His death and resurrection! I accept His free gift of eternal life. I trust Him to make me a child of God!”
The Word of God declares many changes will follow our faith in Christ. John 1:12 tells us we become a child of God. John 3 tells us we are born again, born of the Spirit of God. Scripture also explains that the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, transforming us to be more like Christ and empowering us to live a righteous, godly life (1 Corinthians 6:19, John 3:8, 2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit produces fruit from our lives- love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (self-control). He empowers us to be a witness to the world, bringing the gospel to sinners (Acts 1:8). These changes do not grant us salvation, but are a result of the transformation that came about due to our salvation and obtaining eternal life by faith.
This salvation can be yours today. If you will repent and believe on Jesus today, you can be saved. The final message of Scripture to sinners is “Come” (Revelation 22:17). Come to Jesus today! The Word of God declares, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Scripture also warns, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). Do not wait until tomorrow. Know the joy and peace of coming to rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ on you behalf. Receive the promise of God that you can know that you have eternal life. Jesus promised, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:28). Contact us at First Baptist Church, and let us know of your decision, or any questions that you may have!