You’ve probably heard this before:
“People who are basically good and do their best will go to Heaven. I’m nice and I do more good things than bad things, so I’m going, too.”
Now, before we dive into the reasons that this thinking is flawed and dangerous, let’s first see what the Bible says about who gets to go to Heaven. Christianity’s teaching on this matter is unique, because other religions would largely agree that good works are the basis for a pleasant afterlife (We will address the false belief that “all religions are basically alike” in a future post).
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
“Therefore he [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Does it sound like the Bible teaches that good works will get you into Heaven? No. The Bible teaches that only right belief in Jesus Christ will ensure that a person will be saved and go to Heaven. In James Boccardo’s book, Unsilenced: How to Voice the Gospel, he uses a helpful example:
“If someone kills three people and then saves four people from a burning house, does that make the person okay on the murder charges?”
Boccardo goes on to say “After all, he did more good than bad, right? It’s a pretty simple example, but it’s very powerful. Now [we understand] that doing more good things has nothing to do with being forgiven of a crime. This ultimately helps [us] realize that doing good things won’t help [our] sin record with God either.”
Does that make sense? By rebelling against an eternal God and choosing to reject His rule – we rebel and reject Him every time we sin – we are found guilty in His court of law. What counts as sin, you might ask? Breaking one of God’s commandments is sin. So, worshipping other gods, taking the Lord’s name in vain(using it as a curse word), murdering or hating someone, lying and stealing are just a few of the sins that are on our rap sheet. In Romans 3:23 the Bible says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That includes you. God can’t just overlook our rap sheet because He is holy and good.
You see, our guilt deserves punishment. God has told us that people who sin will be separated from Him and sent to hell forever as their punishment. As Greg Koukl states in Tactics, “We […] believe people who do bad things should be punished, and we […] believe we’re guilty on that score. […] Do you know what I call that? […] I call that bad news.” It is absolutely bad news if we have been thinking that our good deeds will somehow impress God or convince Him that we are “good enough” to be near Him. Apart from Jesus, our “righteous acts are like filthy rags.”
So, now we can see why Jesus and belief in his death and resurrection are so important. He lived a perfect life and died on the cross for all of our sins. Because he was perfect and died FOR us, when we believe in Jesus, God is able to look at us and see Jesus’ perfect life INSTEAD of our rebellious, sinful life. Do you know what we call that? We call that GOOD news!
(We would highly recommend Greg Koukl’s Tactics and James Boccardo’s Unsilenced: How to Voice the Gospel for high school students and adults. If you are squeamish about evangelism, are interested in apologetics or have your own questions, these books are for you.)