Do All Good People Go to Heaven?
- Thursday, January 29, 2004
Many people don't take much time to really think about heaven, but figure it makes sense for all good people to end up there. After all, that would be only fair, right? So they try to be good and hope they're good enough. But, deep down, they really can't be sure whether they'll get into heaven.
No matter how good you are, though, simply being good won't get you inside the pearly gates. The only way to get to heaven is to be forgiven. Here's why:
- Nobody agrees on the standard of goodness that must be reached. Leaders of the world's various religions can't agree on exactly what constitutes a "good" life that's sufficiently good to receive a guaranteed ticket to heaven. Each religion has a different list of what good deeds someone must perform. Also, people from different cultures have different definitions of what "good" means, and even the same person's values change over time. While people do have internal moral gauges that tell them basic behavior standards such as not to kill, lie, or steal, there is no consensus as to other details and what specifically constitutes "good enough."
- God hasn't told us how He scores good deeds. A truly good God would clearly describe His system for judging whether or not each person has performed enough good deeds to gain entrance to heaven. But Romans 3:20 tells us that God doesn't use a good deed scoring system to declare anyone righteous, but, instead, He uses moral laws to help us become conscious of sin.
- Nobody in our fallen world can possibly be good enough for heaven on his or her own. Jesus told the moral leaders of his day that even the best among them couldn't reach God on his own merit. God is perfect, and His holiness demands that those who dwell in heaven with Him be free of sin. But every human on our planet is stained by the sin of our fallen world. Nobody's perfect, and our sin nature often leads us to do things we know are wrong.
- Jesus told some people who did bad things that they would go to heaven. Jesus granted forgiveness to many who had done bad deeds, and pointed them toward eternity. He told one of the criminals hanging on a cross beside him that he would be with Him in paradise.
- Jesus fully paid the debt of sin that every human being carries. His sacrificial death on the cross made it possible for every person in all of history to go to heaven. Jesus, God's Son, met us where we are and gave us the gift of salvation so we don't have to try in vain to meet Him where He is. If we could have been "good enough," Jesus' sacrifice wouldn't have been necessary. But we couldn't, and it was.
- God isn't fair, but He's just and merciful. The notion of all good people going to heaven may seem more fair than people having to accept or reject God's offer of forgiveness. But if God were fair, He would have to give you exactly what you deserve and nothing more. God has created a heaven that exceeds any human's dreams. Would you really want only what you deserve - or more than you deserve? The system God has set up is just. Through Jesus, everybody is welcome in heaven, everybody gets in the same way, and everybody can meet the requirement.
Andy Stanley is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and the pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He carries on a tradition of excellence in ministry with a youthful congregation of more than 12,000 people. Andy is the author of The Next Generation Leader and the 1998 Foreword Book of the Year finalist Visioneering. He and his wife, Sandra, have two sons, Andrew and Garrett, and a daughter, Allison.
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