There is a question every one of us asks at some point in our lives: What will happen when I die?
While we ask this question to ourselves in the privacy of our thoughts, it is a question that has seemed to disappear around the water cooler today. Not many people talk about death. What is the reason for this?
A Scary Perspective
Perhaps it is because for the average person, death is feared. It is so uncertain why death happens and what happens after death that it is better to not even talk about it! For some, it may be that death is scary. The thought of 'disappearing' from existence all together is a thought that is best to be kept to self rather than bringing despair to those who dare ponder it. However, a reason I believe to be why many do not talk about death has nothing to do with curiosity, fear, or worry. I believe the reason many do not talk about death is because they assume the end result of death.
According to LifeWay Research, 67% of people believe that heaven is real place. This figure includes those who are openly Christian and those who are not. Out of this pool of people, 40% believe that heaven is a reality after death even for those who do not place their faith in Christ. In other words, 4 out of 10 people today believe that you go to heaven when you die, regardless of what religious standing you have. To put it plainly, nearly half of the world's population assumes heaven is a place where everyone will end up after death, but is this true?
"I believe the reason many do not talk about death is because they assume the end result of death."
What Does The Bible Have To Say?
So what does the Bible have to say about this assumed entrance into heaven? In Philippians 3:20, Paul says that "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul is clear this there is a certain group of people, of which he states himself to be part of, that have their citizenship in heaven. What does this mean?
If you are going to travel to another country you know that you will need a passport. The passport is what enables you to be qualified and accepted in the land to which you are traveling. Those who receive their passports can rejoice in their citizenship of that land long before they they even arrive there because they have been given a way to go. This is the very thing Paul is saying. There is a select group that has been given a passport or acceptance into heaven. Therefore, these people "wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
This verse alone, as well as many others found in the New Testament, dispel the argument that everyone is a citizen of heaven. The question now is who is this select group of people that Paul belongs to?
Citizenship In Heaven
Who can gain citizenship in heaven? Who gets to go to heaven? Jesus Christ gives us an answer in John 11:25-26, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." What is He saying? Jesus tells us that there is life after death for those who believe in Him. This means that citizenship in heaven is not earned, it is gained through Christ. How is this possible? Read these words written by the Apostle Paul, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Whenever we do not live in submission to what God has commanded, we sin. Because of this sin we suppress the truth (Romans 1) and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Because God is holy and of infinite worth, He demands that sin be paid for. Because of His holiness, those who have sinned pay the price for their sin by being separated from God forever in a place called hell. This is what happens to us all after death.
"Citizenship in heaven is not earned, it is gained through Christ."
If We All Deserve Hell, Who Goes To Heaven?
So we are back to the original question, if we all deserve hell then who goes to heaven? Jesus once again provides us with an answer, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus is the way to heaven because Jesus paid the price for sin. The select group of people Paul talks about in Philippians 3:20 are those who have turned from their sin and placed their faith in Christ. This demolishes the idea that those who get to heaven are those who do 'good things'. The passport you and I need to get to heaven is given to us through Christ when we place our faith in Him.
While many people think that heaven is a default destination for all people after death, Jesus makes it clear that heaven is reserved for those who have repented of their sin and trusted Christ as their Savior.
I am a Husband to Clarissa, Pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, reader of many books, and tweeter at @brad_merchant.