Can a person know if they will go to Heaven when they die?

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The popular sentiment in our culture is that everyone will go to heaven, except for very bad people like Hitler or Saddam. This sentiment comes from the belief that if we do more good deeds than bad over the course of our lives, we are assured of heaven. However, if going to heaven is based on good deeds, we must not set the bar too high.

In our self-centered society, one can readily spot evil in others, but it’s almost impossible to spot evil in one’s own heart.

Today, religion is viewed as a kind of therapeutic self-help. In the market place of religion, the perceived end goal of all religions is to make us good, and therefore worthy of heaven. If you ask most people in America if they are going to heaven when they die, they’ll likely answer “yes.” A man once told me that he thought he would go to heaven because he had never killed anyone. But his answer was not drawn from the authority of the Bible; it was drawn from the authority of his own opinions and wrong ideas of what qualifies a person for heaven.

The Bible gives us a very different picture concerning the fate of mankind. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus tells us that very few people are on the narrow path to heaven—most are on the wide road to destruction. The Bible states that there is no person on earth that is good enough to go to heaven. Romans 3:10-12 says “…None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (see also Rom. 3:23)

No one will go to heaven because of their good deeds. Heaven cannot be earned; it must be received as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation comes only through Jesus, who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. Trusting in Jesus and his perfect work on the cross is the only way to heaven (Acts 16:30-31; John 3:16, 18; Rom. 10:9-10). The Apostle Peter says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Acts 14:6)

Confidence in our salvation cannot be based on our own opinion; it must be based on the authority of God’s Word and faith in Jesus Christ. According to the Apostle John we can know for sure that we will go to heaven when we die: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:12-13)

Billy Elkins is the pastor of Trinity Church. He is a graduate of Chickasha High School, has a B.A. in Fine Art from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and a Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, FT. Worth, TX. He is currently in the final dissertation phase of a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Philosophy from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.