The sad news is, you have to die. With the Mayan appocolypse just around the corner, that may happen sooner than you think. Unless you’re talking about a PERSON named “Heaven,” then you just have to go for a visit. Otherwise, the chances that you’re going to die some day are 100%, it’s an absolute certainty, and then what?
There are a lot of colorful stories about meeting St. Peter at the “pearly gates” and having to pass some test or quiz to get into Heaven. The Bible does mention that Jesus gave Peter the “keys to Heaven” so maybe he will actually be there. Kind of a stretch, but who knows. Most people believe that it’ll be a numbers game; all your good deeds will be weighed against your bad deeds: if your good deeds outweigh the bad ones, you get to go in! If not, then you go straight to Hell to burn in flames and tortuous separation from God. Catholics believe there’s another option called Purgatory, which means, well, you’re not THAT bad, so you have to go to “timeout” for a little while to pay off your remaining debt. Purgatory is not mentioned in my King James bible, so I tend to not believe it. There’s actually a narrative of what actually happens on Judgement Day in Revelation chapter 20:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works…And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
There’s not much wiggle room here; no mention of anyone pleading their case, or being given a chance to make amens. If your name’s not in the book of life, then you’re doomed. Sounds a little harsh, but we’re looking at it from the wrong perspective. It’s true, that people are judged by their works, but for the Christian, it’s to determine what kind of reward you get; for the non-Christian, it’s to convict you. So how many sins does it take to send someone to Hell?
One. The sin of being born.
Adam and Eve were without sin when they were created. When they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they became sinners. That was the first time that they needed someone ELSE to pay the penalty, so they wouldn’t have to; God sacrificed an innocent nearby ram, both to cover their sins and to make coats to cover their naked bodies. From then on, sin was in the world, hard-coded into Adam’s DNA. Any descendant of Adam is automatically a sinner at birth. It’s part of our human nature, passed down from father to child. (Interestingly, it’s not passed via the mother: the Bible says, God “visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation.” Something like that, anyway.)
So, mankind has a problem. You are a sinner, I’m a sinner, and the only way to be in the presence of a perfect God is to have someone pay for that sin; either you pay for it yourself, spending eternity in Hell, or someone else, someone who IS actually perfect, who actually HAS no sin, has to pay it for you. And, it can’t be just anybody; he has to be human (like you), and has to be perfect (unlike you). But, if everyone who is born is already a sinner, how can ANYONE be prefect? Ah, but remember, Jesus was born of a virgin; he inherited no sin from a tainted father, but was conceived of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, Jesus was born sinless, remained sinless his whole life, and gave his life willingly to pay the price for our sins. It’s a substitution, law-type thing. You have a hefty fine to pay, and you can’t pay it; either you accept someone else’s offer to pay it for you, or you go to jail.
I can hear what you’re saying: but what about little kids? ESPECIALLY the tiny little unborn ones that never ever got a chance to even see daylight? Well, there’s an exception for those little guys. Jesus was talking about some kids, and in Matthew 18:14 said “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Kids are innocent and aren’t held accountable until some time when they reach, oh I don’t know, 13? Depends on the kid. There are all kind of other groups that you may wonder about; one is, what about those isolated little villages that never even heard of Jesus?
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”
Faith. That’s all it takes. That’s how everyone in the Old Testament got saved. Read the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11. Faith in the coming savior. Worship of the Creator rather than his creation. And it’s absolutely, positively not about works. Remember, Jesus was crucified with two other criminals. One saw Jesus as who He was (took a lot of faith to see a dying man as a king), and that day, Jesus said he would be with him in Paradise. That’s what you call a last-minute goal, a full-court throw at the buzzer – nothin’ but net… He had probably thousands of bad deeds on one side of the scale, and one good deed (faith) on the other, and it wasn’t even close.
So how does one get saved: Easy peasy. 1. Recognize you are a sinner, born that way, a child of the devil, and if you can’t remember, just ask your mom 2. Trust Jesus as your savior and put all of your faith in Him and only Him. 3. there is no three. This is a two-step program.
It’d also be nice to join a church, a Bible study, even an online one can be helpful, and to publicly proclaim your new faith. If you never say it out loud or tell anyone, it may not really have happened. Personally, when I got saved, I got baptized; Full immersion in the water, showing that I identify with His death (into the water) and Resurrection (coming back up). Technically, it should have been three days & nights, but I couldn’t hold my breath that long…
I’m still a sinner. If you doubt that, just look at my other posts… but I’m in God’s family now, not Satan’s. No matter how bad I am, no matter how many imaginary bullets have flown from my mind into other drivers on the freeway, there is nothing I could do, even if I wanted to, to get out of my new family. Just like my kids. Sure, they can do all sorts of bad things, misbehave, run away, hurt themselves or others, but there is nothing, NOTHING they could do to ever get out of the family. And as angry as I may get, they will always have my unconditional forgiveness. No matter what. Period.