Of all the important questions we wrestle with in life, there is none that is more important than this one: “Will I go to Heaven when I die?” The answer to that question impacts the way you live and the way you die.
Some people say it is impossible to know if you are headed for eternal life. They believe those who say such things are presumptive and arrogant. However, the Bible says otherwise. Peter says,
10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The terms “calling” and “election” are common terms that refer to God’s work in bringing us to the point of faith. Peter is saying, “make sure you are really among those who have been transformed by God’s grace.” But Peter is not the only thing to say such a thing.
John wrote, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
At the end of his life Paul wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
And Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
There are many verses in the Bible that urge us to be sure of our eternal destiny.
Four Groups of People
When it comes to an assurance of salvation there are four groups of people in the world. There are those who are not saved and know it. These people have no interest in the things of God. They give no regard to the Lord in the way they live their lives and feel no sorrow for the sin they engage in. These people could repent and be saved but they will face eternal judgment if they do not change their direction. Since they know they are not believers these are often some of the easiest people to talk to about Christ.
Second, There are those who are truly saved but do not realize it. There are many people who have a true faith in Christ, who look to Him for forgiveness and new life, and who seek to walk with Him, but since they still see sin in their lives and recognize inconsistency in their profession, they wonder whether God’s grace has truly “taken hold”. Some believe no one can “know” they are going to Heaven.
Third, There are those who think they are saved but they are not. This is frightening. In Matthew 7:21 we read that on the last day Jesus will say to some, “Depart from me for I have never known you.” These people believe they have done what was necessary for salvation but they have a false view of salvation. They generally fall into one of these false beliefs,
- They believe everyone goes to Heaven (in other words you are saved by simply dying). They argue that God is “too loving” to ever send anyone to Hell. They fail to see that God is “too holy and just” not to send those who spurn Him to Hell.
- They believe they have earned because they are better than most people. These people seem to believe that God grades on a curve. Since there are a lot of really bad people, then it only makes sense that we are on the passing end of the curve. Such thinking vastly over-estimates our goodness and vastly underestimates God’s holiness.
- They believe they are saved because they are religious. These believe that since they have logged enough time reading the Bible, going to church, and trying to “clean up their act”, so they will be welcomed by God. However, God does not only see us in church . . . He sees us all the time! He is not impressed (or fooled) by our “performance”.
- They believe they are going to Heaven because of their experience. These people believe they are saved because they were baptized, or said a prayer at summer camp, or walked an aisle, or signed a card. These are not insignificant acts. However, putting our hope and trust in Christ is different than putting our hope in an experience we had. When we truly believe (with or without the experience) the direction of our life changes because we have been given the Holy Spirit. Coming into a relationship with Christ is what saves us, not our experience. This group of people is perhaps the most difficult to evangelize because they think they are right with God.
The final group of people is those who are saved and know they are saved. These people have put their trust in Christ for salvation and are following Him as Lord and have their full assurance in the promise of God. This is the group that Peter wants us to be part of. He wants us to be people who know where we stand with God.
Why Should We Seek an Assurance of Salvation?
There are three good reasons to seek after this assurance of salvation. First, God wants us to have this assurance. When we say things like “Who am I to say that I am saved?’ we may sound very humble, but in truth we resist the Spirit of God! God not only offers us assurance, He commands us to seek that assurance of salvation! When we fail to pursue this assurance we detract from God’s glory and our peace and joy.
When I say, “I know I am going to Heaven” some people cringe. They conclude I am arrogant and feel I am better than others. That would be true, if I was saying, “I believe I have earned salvation.” However, that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that though I know I am a sinful person and deserve Hell, my confidence is not in my performance but on the wonderful and staggering promise of God that those who put their trust in Christ will live even though they die.
When I say I know I am going to Heaven I am not saying something about me . . . I am testifying to God’s faithfulness, mercy, and grace. When you understand God’s grace and know that you are going to Heaven you are not filled with pride; it is just the opposite: you are filled with gratitude and humility.
The second reason to seek the assurance of salvation Peter says, is so we will not fall. Many car accidents are caused by the fact that someone is not paying attention. The person is combing their hair, talking on the phone, reading a text, yelling at the kids, or distracted by something they hear on the radio. Their distraction sometimes results in an accident.
When we lack assurance we are continually looking over our shoulder. We spend so much time “looking inside of us” and trying to earn grace (which is an oxymoron) that we never get around to living in fellowship with the Lord. Since we are distracted we are much more likely to stumble. If we are waiting for failure, we will likely fail.
The third reason we should seek assurance of salvation is because it will help us to live and die confidently. Peter said, “You will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Think about how differently you would live your life if you were not afraid to die? If you could truly say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” wouldn’t your life be richer? Wouldn’t you have different priorities (your focus would be on pleasing God rather than merely living for the moment)? Wouldn’t you be easier to live with? Wouldn’t you enjoy life more?
Do you know what happens to many people? They are so unsure of their future destiny that they simply choose to “not think about it”. Instead they decide to “live for the moment”. They figure they will worry about eternity when the time comes.
They are like the person who doesn’t want to think about the financial needs of retirement so they spend everything they have now. They make no plans. They save nothing. If someone told us that they approached their finances in such a way we would tell them they were being short-sighted and foolish.
Isn’t this even more so when it comes to eternity? If we make no preparation, if we do not “lay up for ourselves treasures in Heaven”, are we not being equally short-sighted? The person who has saved wisely does not fear the future. The person who has invested their lives in the things of God will be able to live joyfully and die without fear.
How Do We Gain This Assurance?
Examine your beliefs. Remember, one of the reasons Peter wrote this letter was to warn the people about false doctrine or wrong belief. There will always be those who teach, “You must earn your salvation, so work harder”. Others say, “Don’t sweat it; we are all going to Heaven.” Both are false doctrines.
False teachers mix truth and error. If it sounds a little like the truth the error becomes much more seductive. It is important that we know what the Bible says about becoming a child of God. The Bible says,
- We are lost and unable to save ourselves . . . we do not even desire salvation. We are spiritually dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1)
- God brings us to life and brings us to faith in Christ for salvation. It is something He does for us and in us. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
- When we truly trust Christ as our Savior we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. In other words, God now resides within us.(2 Cor. 1:22)
- Those who possess the Holy Spirit are led to serve God in the way they live. The Holy Spirit is continually drawing us to Christ. Being a true follower of Christ means we will be living life differently than we did I the past. (2 Cor. 5:17)
- God is faithful even when we are not. Paul writes, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) God begins the work in us (by leading us to faith) and He always finishes what He starts
The first question you must answer is this: Do you embrace these truths? Do you believe that you need a Savior and that Jesus can and will save you even though you are weak and inconsistent? Do you believe the declaration that He paid the FULL price for your sin so that you would stand before the Lord not as the sinner you are, but as one who has been cleansed by the work of Christ for you? If you believe this . . . then stand on God’s Promise and Word!
Second, live each day on the basis of what you believe. The person who is not living out their faith is likely a person who has no genuine faith to live out.
God has provided everything we need for salvation. However, faith is active. The person who truly trusts Christ is the one who seeks to live the way Christ directs. If we really trust Him then we will trust Him when He gives us directions for our life. This is true in all of life.
- If you trust your Investment advisor you will follow his financial recommendations
- If you trust your GPS you will follow the directions it gives you.
- If you trust your doctor you will take the medicine they prescribe
- It you trust your coach you will run the play they call
In the same way, if you really trust Christ you will follow Him in your daily living. You will define truth as He defines truth. You will live in the way He calls “wise” and “fruitful”. This is why Peter says, “If you do these things you will never fall and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Take a broad look at your life. Look at the last year of your life. Do you see evidence that you are you growing in Christlikeness or are you becoming more like the rest of the world?
- Are your friendships different than they used to be?
- Are your amusements more honoring to Christ?
- Are you more self-disciplined in spiritual pursuits?
- Is your language more God-honoring?
- Are your values (what you consider most important) coming in line with the values of Christ?
- Are you more sensitive to the needs of others?
- Do you quickly recognize when you sin and make corrections?
- Are you getting better at forgiving those who hurt you?
- Are you less afraid of dying?
If you see growth then you have evidence that you are really following Christ. You do believe! When you progress it is evidence that your calling and election are SURE.
These are two simple verses but they echo a theme that goes throughout the Bible. Peter calls you and me to make SURE we belong to Christ. We must not leave this to chance. It is much too important an issue. Be SURE!
This confidence will never be found in our feelings. Feelings are fickle. Some days we will feel close to Christ. Some days we will feel far away.
Our confidence will never be found in experiences. Experiences come and go. Some are genuine and some are spurious.
Our confidence will not be found in our performance. On any given day we may feel like we are falling back rather than moving forward.
Our basis for assurance must be our trust and confidence in the promise of our great God and Savior. Faith is not an emotion we muster. Faith is acting on what we believe is true. The person who has real faith in Christ will take Him at His Word and will try to do what He tells us to do.
Satan wants nothing more than to take this assurance away from you. He does not want you to live confidently, joyfully, or expectantly. He wants you to be afraid, tentative, and always aware of your own weaknesses. He wants you to trust your senses rather than God’s promise and character. He wants you to be weak rather than strong. He wants to marginalize your effectiveness as a testimony.
Let me ask you the question: Are you sure of your eternal destiny? If you were to die today do you know for sure that you would be in Heaven? If you are sure, ask yourself what is the basis of your confidence? Is it based on your goodness, your service, your giving record, your reputation or some experience you had in the past? If so, I encourage you to take another look at your life. You may think you are trusting Christ but you may actually be putting your trust in your own ability. You ability is insufficient and inconsistent. That is a problem.
Most of you know my favorite riddle: three frogs are on a log. Two decide to jump in the water. How many frogs are left on the log? The answer is three because deciding to jump and actually jumping are two different things.
Perhaps you have long ago decided that following Jesus is the only way to get to Heaven. Maybe you have even decided that you want to trust Christ.
I invite to “jump” today. Trust Christ with your whole being. Turn to Him for salvation and for new life. Dare to believe His promise. Live as one who has been forgiven due to nothing you have done. Follow boldly, serve enthusiastically, and die confidently.
Being sure of Heaven boils down to one question: Do you believe in God, or do you actually believe Him? Do you believe what He tells you about life, faith, and your eternal destiny as a follower of Christ? How you answer that question will determine how sure you are (or aren’t) of Heaven.