You know what they say about assuming...

We make a lot of assumptions. We assume that our car engine will start when we turn on the ignition. We assume we'll land a job after graduating from college or grad school. We assume that when we die, we'll go to heaven. If we are wise, we make an active effort to back up our assumptions. For example, we research reliable cars before buying them and make sure not to leave the lights on so the engine has a good chance of starting the next time we turn it on. We work diligently in college or grad school to make ourselves marketable when we send out our resumes and job applications to prospective employers. But how do we back up our assumption that when we die, we'll go to heaven?

Society, i.e. via TV and movies, and even some religions teach us that good people go to heaven and bad people don't. Plus, we live in a world that rewards good, so we figure the same rules apply beyond this world. For example, we believe, "If we're good in this life, we'll be rewarded with heaven in the next." But this assumption is flawed for many reasons:

1) Society, religion, etc. aren't always right. (You're probably thinking DUH)

2) Unlike with the car and job examples above, no one alive can testify of their personal experience of having made it to Heaven. (Again, I hear you thinking DUH)

3) Our definition of good is based on society's standard, delineated by manmade laws and generally accepted morals. We take a big risk in assuming that whoever determines whether or not we go to heaven uses those same standards.

It goes without saying that our eternal destiny is too important of a matter to leave up to the uncertainty of our assumptions. So rather than making more assumptions, we ought to start asking questions like

1) "Am I going to heaven when I die?"

2) "How do I get to heaven?"

3) "Who can I trust for the answers to these questions?"

We'll see that it's best to address these questions in reverse order.

Question #3: "Who can I trust for the answers to these questions?" These questions all address an issue that transcends this world. So the answers should come from someone who also transcends this world. That someone should also be omniscient and at the same time care enough about us to answer these questions in the first place. The only one that meets all these qualifications is God.

Question #2: "How do I get to heaven?" Now that we know who has the answers, how do we get the answer from God? I mean, it's not like God speaks in an audible voice right? Wrong actually. I personally know individuals who've literally heard the voice of God loud and clear, and the Bible explicitly records numerous instances of this. But the vast majority of the time, God communicates with us through His written word—the Bible. It's in the pages of the Bible that God has given us the answer. There are many places to start, but how about we start with the bad news first. That way we can appreciate the good news even more.

The Bible says, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). So no matter how "good" we think we are, we're all sinners, even if the biggest sin we ever committed was a white lie. And certainly a review of the 10 commandments would easily prove us all guilty of much more than just lying.

Our sin has eternal consequences: "For the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23). "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Romans 20:15). "Death" and "the lake of fire" both refer to hell. So while the vast majority of us think that we automatically go to heaven, the exact opposite is true. In other words, our default destination is actually not heaven, but hell. But why hell? Isn't that punishment a little too harsh, especially from a caring, loving God?

Indeed God is caring and loving, but He is also just and holy—in fact so holy that He cannot allow sin into His presence: "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong" (Habakkuk 1:13). And because we are sinners, we are not entitled to enter the presence of a perfectly holy God. We cannot enter Heaven the way we are.

Thankfully, it's time for the good news: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "...the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). "He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and then was raised to life to put us right with God. By faith in this, then, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand" (Romans 4:25-5:2).

This is jaw-dropping. Let's hear that again... God, who is bigger than the universe, knowing the punishment we deserve, sent His only son Jesus out of the comfort of heaven to dwell among us here on earth, teach us, feel our pain, and die an excruciating death by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, that God would then raise him from the dead and back into heaven—all in order to not only forgive our sins and cancel our punishment, but also grant us eternal bliss?! How much God must love and care for us that He did all that!

We are now then confronted with a choice—to believe and receive this priceless gift from God, or reject it and face eternity in hell, separated from God. The obvious choice would be to believe. But to truly believe means more than to passively acknowledge the facts of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection. Rather, it means actively following him and trusting in him instead of ourselves.

Furthermore, Jesus instructed us, "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14). If in faith we turn toward Jesus, then at the same time we must naturally be turning away from something else, and that something else is sin. This turning away from sin is called repentance, and it goes hand and hand with faith as God's requirement for our admission into heaven: "...[God is] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

Finally, we must trust in Jesus as the ONLY way to heaven, and not as just one of several ways to get there. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

So instead of taking any more chances in assuming you'll go to heaven when you die, you can pray something like this: "God, I now know that I'm a sinner, and because of that, my default destination is hell, not heaven. But I also know that you want me to be with you in heaven, so much so that you made a way for me to get there through your son Jesus. I believe that you sent Jesus to die for me in order to forgive my sins. From now on, I trust in Jesus as the only way to Heaven, and I turn to him now by turning away from my sins."

Finally, Question #1 should be easy now: "Am I going to heaven when I die?" If you prayed the prayer above and meant it from your heart, then YES! Visit www.john424.com for the next step.

References:

1) http://deeptruths.com/bible-basics/salvation.html

2) http://www.9marks.org/answers/repentance-necessary-salvation

3) http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Mar/29/heaven-our-default-destinationor-hell