Am I saved? Will I go to Heaven when I die? What does Salvation really even mean? If you have ever contemplated questions like this, you are not alone.
Normally, our focus here at “Answers From The Book” is on delving deeper into the Bible in order to better know the Lord through His Word. Today, I would like to take a look at some of the fundamental questions and answers about the most important topic in the Scriptures: our eternal destiny when we die or, Salvation: what it is and how to receive it. Many Christians and non-Christians alike have questions about how Salvation works, why we must trust in Jesus Christ to be saved, and how a person can really know where they are headed when this life ends. I would like to invite you to join me as we consider what the Bible has to say with regards to the most important questions a person will ever ask:
Q: What Is Salvation?
“[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
What does the Bible mean when it refers to Salvation? Salvation means that a person has been saved from what would otherwise be his or her destiny. It means that God has intervened on their behalf and rescued them from the doom they are facing. Sometimes called redemption, being saved ultimately means that a person is destined now to spend eternity in Heaven with God.
Q: What Is The Destiny Of Those Who Are Not “Saved?”
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14-15 KJV)
The eternal destiny of those who are not saved is the lake of fire spoken of in the Book of Revelation. Notice that it does not say that those whose names were written in the “Book of Death” were sent into the lake of fire, but those whose names are not written in the Book of Life. A person does not “earn” a place in Hell through exceptionally wicked actions. Hell is already our default destination. Unless our name is written in the Book of Life, we are headed for Hell already. This is why it is referred to as Salvation; because the person is saved and rescued from going to Hell.
Q: So What Is So Terrible About Hell? Some People Even Say That “Hell” Is Just Another Name For The Grave.
“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:23-24 KJV)
The above verses come from a parable of Jesus about a rich man and a beggar. Whoever says that Hell is just another name for the grave is either unfamiliar with what Jesus taught about it or doesn’t believe Him. Jesus taught that Hell is a horrific place, a place of torment and agony. Jesus spoke of Hell as a “furnace of fire” where people would wail and weep and gnash their teeth in misery (e.g., Matthew 13:42, 13:50, Luke 13:28). Neither is Hell a temporary place where a person will ultimately be removed or else annihilated. Jesus referred to those in Hell as having their “worm not die” (the “worm” referred to is believed to refer to the soul or the seat of man’s consciousness) as they are tormented in unquenchable fire (Mark 9:48). Far from spending eternity “asleep” in the grave, every person will either be resurrected unto eternal life or unto eternal, conscious separation from God in Hell (John 5:28-29).
Q: That Sounds Terrible! Why Would God Send Anyone To Hell?
“Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
In reality, it is not God Who sends people to Hell, it is our sin which sends us there. We might say that a judge sent a criminal to prison, but it was really the criminal’s crimes which sent them there. It is our rebellion and disobedience to God which separates us from Him both in this life and the next (cf. Isaiah 59:2).
Q: But I Don’t believe That I Am Guilty Of Any Sin. Are You Saying That I Am Headed For Hell, Too?
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10)
In the eyes of God, we are all guilty of sin. Any violation of God’s Holy Law is sin and any one who commits even a single sin is guilty before Him. According to James 2:10, even if we were able to perfectly obey God’s Law and only missed the mark at one point, we have become lawbreakers and are guilty of sin. A thief will not avoid punishment just because he hasn’t murdered anyone and neither will a bank robber escape justice simply because he isn’t also a kidnapper and an arson. If you break even one law, you are considered a lawbreaker by the courts and judges of this world. If you break even a single one of God’s laws, you are guilty before Him.
So, have you personally broken any of God’s Laws? Are you guilty of any sin? Lets take a quick test and see:
Have you ever told a lie? Even one single lie? If you have, that would make you a liar. Have you ever killed anyone? Most people haven’t physically murdered another human being. But First John 3:15 says that whoever hates his brother is a murderer at heart. What about adultery? Have you ever committed adultery? Maybe not physically, but Jesus said that whoever looks with lust has already committed adultery in his heart and is an adulterer (Matthew 5:28). And what about the first and greatest Commandment? The Bible says that first and foremost we are to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (Matthew 22:37-38). I don’t think any of us can say that we have really done that. Any time we put something else first in our lives besides God we are guilty of idolatry.
We could go on, but it is easy to see from this checklist that we have all violated God’s Law in at least some of these areas. And if we are liars, murderers, adulterers, and idolaters at heart, then we certainly cannot say that we are not guilty of sin. If God judges us according to His Laws, how will we fare in the Day of Judgment?
Q: But What About Those Who Are Worse Sinners Than Me? At Least I Am Not As Bad As A Lot Of Other People.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
Notice that Romans 3:23 says we have all fallen short of the glory of God. It doesn’t say some of us have fallen short of the glory of someone else. Our tendency is to compare ourselves to other people, rating our moral behavior against them. But we are not competing against our neighbors to see who is the best behaved. The standard against which we are measured is God’s perfect holiness alone. It doesn’t matter if we are “better” people than Hitler, or Stalin, or Ted Bundy, or even our next door neighbor; what matters is whether or not we have perfectly obeyed God’s holy Law without a single infraction. And, as we have already considered, none of us have.
God will judge the most heinous and wicked of sins and most of us would applaud that. The only problem for us is that God is a perfect Judge Who will not stop at the most wicked of sins. Yes, He will judge evil, murderous dictators; sadistic serial killers; and heartless child abusers. But He will also judge liars, adulterers at heart, and those who have put any other thing in the place where God alone belongs. We might not think those little white lies we told were very serious, but a perfectly just and holy God does. The Bible makes it clear that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 21:8).
Q: Why Can’t God Just Overlook Our Sins? Doesn’t The Bible Say That God Is Love?
“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9)
The Bible does say that God is love (1 John 4:8). But it also says that God is holy (Leviticus 19:2, Psalm 99:9) and that God is just and righteous (Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 7:11). God cannot judge one man’s sins and overlook another’s. If He did this, He would be unjust and no longer righteous. Even if one person’s sins might seem worse to us, God cannot let one person escape judgment just because someone else’s sins were more depraved. Sometimes imperfect human judges do this in order to focus on the “big fish” criminals but, remember, God is not constrained by the limitations of man and has unlimited time and resources to judge each and every sin ever committed. Even the words we speak will be accounted for in the Day of Judgment (Matthew 12:36).
The Bible says that the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Romans 1:25). When a person refuses to repent of their sins and turn to God, then they are storing up wrath for the Day of Judgment (Romans 2:5).
Q: But Don’t We Get A Chance On Judgment Day To Have Our Good Deeds Weighed Against Our Bad?
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6 KJV)
Man has created a fictional idea of Judgment Day where each of us will stand before God and have all the good things we have done placed on one side of a scale and all the bad things placed on the other. As long as the good outweighs the bad, we’re home free. But the Bible paints no such picture at all. John 3:18, just two verses after the most famous verse in the Bible, says that He who does not believe on Christ is judged already (emphasis added). John 3:36 says that the person who believes not shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on them. God’s wrath does not fall on them on Judgment Day because their bad deeds outweigh their good; God’s wrath abides upon them right now.
We might be impressed with the “good” things we do, but God is not. Romans 3:10-19 gives the ultimate indictment against mankind by a Holy God. There is none righteous, none who seek God, and none who do good. None. No amount of kind acts or donations to charity can ever erase even a single sin.
Q: So Then How Can A Person Be Saved From Judgment?
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26)
In these 5 verses from Romans 3, we have a concise explanation of how God saves sinners. Obeying God’s Law cannot save us (since none of us can perfectly obey it), so Salvation must work apart from the Law of God which can only convict us of sin, not save us from it. God publicly displayed Jesus Christ as a Propitiation, a Sin-Offering, upon Whom He would pour out His holy wrath. Second Corinthians 5:21 says that He Who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf so that we might be declared righteous. Isaiah prophesied concerning the crucifixion of Jesus Christ saying,
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Jesus Christ bore the penalty on the Cross that we have earned by our sins and He received in His own body the judgment we are due. If we will put our faith and trust in Him, repenting of our sins and turning to Him for forgiveness, we will be saved. By transferring our judgment upon the Lord Jesus Christ, God has judged our sin and therefore can justify us while still remaining just Himself. But we can only avail ourselves of this Salvation by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus and accepting Him as our Savior.
Q: Is There Any Other Way To Be Saved? Aren’t There Many Paths Which Lead To Heaven?
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)
There are no alternate routes to Salvation but to come through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He is the only Way to the Father. The Apostle Peter confirmed this in the Book of Acts by declaring,
“…There is salvation in no one else [but Jesus Christ]; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
The Book of Hebrews begins by declaring that Jesus Christ is God’s final Word to man (Hebrews 1:1-2) and His Message reflects all that God has to say to us concerning Salvation. God left no other avenue open for us to come to Him and be saved from judgment.
Q: So How Do I Know I Am Going To Heaven If I Am Trusting In Jesus Christ?
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37)
If you genuinely put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for Salvation, then you have God’s promise that you are saved and going to Heaven. If you come to Jesus in faith, then you are one whom the Father has given Him. If you are one whom the Father has given Him, then He will certainly not cast you away. We have the testimony of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have become children of God when we are born into His family (Romans 8:16). Once the work of God’s grace has been accomplished in our lives and we are born again, then absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 8:38-39). Jesus said in John 10:27-29,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (KJV)
If you have never come in faith to Jesus Christ for Salvation, I invite you to do so now. Pray to Him, in your own words, admitting that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Ask Him for forgiveness for your sins and welcome Him as Lord. This isn’t about reciting certain words but speaking to God from your heart.
Pray often to the Lord as you begin your new relationship with Him. Get into His Word, the Bible, and learn what His will and desire for your life is. Get involved with a Bible-believing church where Christ leads and God is glorified. Turn toward God and, as you do, you will turn away from sin and seek to please the One Who gave Himself for you.
If you would like to read more about the topic of Salvation, then I encourage you to read through the online e-book “How To Find Peace With God” by clicking here (or on the Salvation tab at the top of this webpage). You can read through previously posted Bible studies on this website by clicking on the links to the right or by using the Bible commentaries tab which indexes each post in order by each book of the Bible. If you wish to be notified of each new post, please click on the email subscription box at the right of this page. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.