Recently we were talking about IRA investments and planning for retirement. As discussed, it is difficult to know how much to invest for an uncertain future. If you are wise, you will live simply now so you will have enough money to retire early and comfortably. However, if you die before you retire, you won’t receive any benefit from your preparations.
During our discussion I mentioned that there is another area of future preparation you should address. This area, although often neglected, is much more critical than planning for your retirement. I am, of course, talking about "eternity" which comes after death. Retirement may not come, but eternity will. Therefore, you must be prepared.
When we were discussing this, I mentioned if I were to die tonight on my way home from work, I know beyond any reasonable doubt I will be going to Heaven. The reason for my certainty is not because I am a good person or have done some great deeds for mankind. Neither of these is true. Even if they were true, it still would not make any difference.
The reason I know I’m going to Heaven is because I have a contract which clearly spells out this privilege. When you buy a car, you make a binding contract that shows the car belongs to you. If someone were to question your ownership, you could show them, in black and white, the car does belong to you. Likewise, God has made it possible for a person to know, with certainty, he is going to Heaven.
Before I discuss this contract, I want to lay a little groundwork. As you read the next couple questions, take some time to answer them. In fact, write out your answers. First, what do you think is necessary for a person to enter Heaven? Second, what do you think a person has to do in order to be condemned to Hell?
Many people feel if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, God will allow them into Heaven. The logic for this is quite simple. Since there are no perfect people, obviously God cannot demand perfection. And, since it is unreasonable to think God will allow an incredibly evil person to enter Heaven, it must be a comparison of our good and bad. Although this sounds reasonable, it is inaccurate.
As we discussed in our earlier conversation, it does not matter what method of salvation we think is correct. The method God has established is the only method. There are no exceptions. An example of this would be a lock on a door. There may be many people who have a "key" which looks like it will work, but unless the key unlocks the door, it is worthless. So, the question is, "What does God say is the way to Heaven?"
In the physical world, there are "universal truths." Universal truths are things that are true throughout the universe and throughout time. The laws of physics are universal truths. They are consistent and universal. It doesn’t matter if you believe in them or not, they still exist. For example, even if you do not believe in gravity, if you walk off a cliff, you will fall.
I have to believe the God who created an orderly and precise universe, which is full of universal truths, also created a spiritual realm with universal truths. God has established His requirements and we must follow them if we wish to enter Heaven. Just being sincere with your intentions is not sufficient. Sincerely believing gravity does not exist only means you will have a sincerely long fall when you walk off a high cliff. Just because a concept is currently popular does not make it correct. The historical debate on the shape of the Earth (flat or round) demonstrates the need to have one’s beliefs based on facts.
I have come to the conclusion that the Bible contains God’s method of salvation. In fact, I believe the Bible is the final authority. I have not come to this decision lightly. A great deal of research and analysis has gone into this conclusion. Using the same methods of deductions used in a court of law, a person can show that the claims of Christianity are true. Although I will not cover this information now, we can talk about it later.
I would like to emphasize you should not assume everything I say is correct. You must check the facts out for yourself. Each person is responsible for their own eternal destiny. I will show you conclusions I have come to, but you must verify them for yourself.
From this point on, I will refer to the Bible when explaining God’s method of salvation. To help you verify the different points I make, I am including the references so you can look them up. I strongly recommend you take the time to read them.
The reason I an emphasizing the importance of having your beliefs based on an authority which can be substantiated is because if your belief is based on something which is not real, you’re in trouble. For example, this last decade alone, thousands of people have been victimized by various con games. These cons are usually very legitimate-looking with many impressive documents. Although these investments seem sound, they are not legitimate because they do not originate from a valid authorized source.
Just as there are investment schemes that are not authentic, there are many religions which are not authentic. The main difference, of course, is that the members of a con team are trying to deceive you, whereas the members of a religion are not. Although many of these religions have a tremendous positive impact on society, they are not authentic if they do not originate from a valid authoritative source (God). In other words, if man developed the religion over time, its method of salvation is ineffective.
When I am talking about true "religion," I am not referring to a specific church or denomination. There are no "religions" or "denominations" in Heaven. The only people who will go to Heaven are those who follow the instructions God has laid out. This is the reason it is so important to know what God says about this subject.
Since I believe the Bible is our final authority, we should see what it says about Heaven and Hell. What does it say? It says sin is what separates us from God and is sending us to Hell. Although no one is perfect, a person must be perfect and sinless to enter Heaven (Matthew 5:48). Even if you have sinned only once, you are as guilty as if you were a great sinner (James 2:10). The penalty for sin is spiritual death and damnation (Romans 6:23) and since everyone has sinned, this applies to everyone (Romans 3:23, Ecclesiates 7:20). Following are verses that say our good works are not worth much: Psalm 53:3, Isaiah 64:6, Psalm 39:5, Romans 3:20, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8,9, Romans 4:5 and Galatians 2:16.
Trying hard to live a good clean life will not solve the problem. For example, let's say you got into a fender bender because you were careless driving your dad’s new car. As a result, you became determined to never get into an accident again. Even if you successfully avoided accidents for the rest of your life, did that repair your dad’s car? No. Likewise, vowing to live a sinless life will not correct the sins you have already committed.
Here’s another example. Let's say you are a doctor who specializes in brain surgery. One day a sewer pipe in your basement breaks and starts spraying all over some important documents you have stored there. In your attempt to save the documents, you are drenched with sewage. While you are moving the boxes, the phone rings. A girl had been severely injured in a car accident and you are needed at the hospital immediately to operate on her.
Without even washing up, you rush to the hospital and into the operating room. Even though you are really needed in the operating room, do you think you will be allowed into that clean and sterile room while you are still drenched with sewage? No. Likewise, an unclean person cannot enter God’s clean and perfect home. Although God wants you to be with Him in Heaven, He cannot allow you to enter in your sinful state.
Many people say doing good works and helping others will make up for past sins. This is not true. Interestingly, though, most religions incorporate good works one way or another. Most religions recognize there is a great gulf separating us from God. They each have various methods to reach God. The problem is we are incapable of moving closer to God. If the gulf is to be eliminated, God must reach down to us.
In reality, religions fall into one of two groups. The first group is man reaching up to God and the second group is God reaching down to man. In my opinion, any religion that is based on man trying to bridge the gap between God and himself is doomed to failure.
What, then, will keep a person from going to Hell? There is nothing we can do to make up for our wrongs! Realizing this is the first step in resolving this problem. Once you realize you cannot resolve the problem yourself, you must look for help elsewhere. To illustrate this, let's consider a person with a brain tumor who has been trying to cure his problem with aspirin. As long as he feels aspirin can cure his problem, he will not seek out any other help. He must come to the realization that his remedy is ineffective before he will seek outside intervention.
What is this "outside" solution? First, we have to realize God cannot simply ignore sin. Even the laws of physics demonstrate this. Everything in the universe has a cause and effect relationship. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The concept of accountability is the heart of the universe. It is deeply woven throughout every law of physics.
The God who created both the physical realm and spiritual realm has instituted accountability in both realms. When we violate a spiritual law, God is obligated to respond. His holy and righteous nature prohibits Him from ignoring it. In fact, if He did ignore it, He would be violating His own laws.
God loves and cares for you greatly. Although we severed our relationship with Him, He still wants to bring about reconciliation. In order for Him to do this, He has to completely punish every wrong doing. If we were to be punished for our sins, we would have to be punished in Hell for eternity. The only one who is capable of receiving this intense punishment and surviving is God Himself.
This is the reason Jesus came to Earth and died on the cross. He came to be punished in our place. Although Jesus endured severe physical suffering, the spiritual punishment He took for us was the spiritual damnation He was subjected to while on the cross (1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 2:9 and Isaiah 53:5). God the Father looked at Jesus as though Jesus had actually committed each of our sins. He was then punished for each of them. The sky darkened and Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" At that moment, God the Father had to turn His back on His own Son because of our sin.
As I mentioned earlier, the first step is to recognize we are totally incapable of correcting our sin problem. The second step is to understand how God was punished on our behalf. The third step is to personally accept this forgiveness. This means you must be honest with God and tell him how you feel. Tell Him you are sorry for your sins. Ask Him to forgive you; to provide you the forgiveness which is now possible because of what Jesus has done for you on the cross (John 1:12 and 1 John 1:9).
That’s it! If you were honest with God, your sins have been forgiven. You are now part of His family. You have been pardoned for all your sins, past, present and future. I would like to point out that if you do not personally accept His pardon, it is as if it does not exist. John 3:36 and Revelations 20:15 says if a person has Jesus, he has eternal life. If he does not have Jesus, the wrath of God is on him already.
At the beginning of this letter I said I was certain I’m going to Heaven because of a "contract." This contract is the promises clearly spelled out in the Bible. Since the Bible is of God and its contents has authority, I can point to these locations in the Bible and say, "Because of these written promises, I know my sins have been forgiven."