No Surprises in Heaven
By: Joel Joyce
No one who makes it to Heaven will be surprised to be there. People won’t be running around the first ten minutes shouting “I can’t believe I made it” with the shock of a person who just won the lottery or landed a dream job. That’s not to say there won’t be excitement, supreme joy, and appreciation to God for preparing a place for them, or surprise that they arrived when they did. But people won’t be shocked that they made it.
Hell, on the other hand, will be full of surprised people. There will be people there who never believed such a place existed, and others who never thought they were bad enough to land there. Still others who fully expected to be in Heaven because they were baptized and confirmed, or “prayed the sinners prayer,” or “made a commitment to Christ,” will be surprised to discover that these experiences did not fit them for Heaven. To their horror, they will find themselves in Hell instead.
People who will end up in Heaven know they are going there while they are still living on earth. The Apostle 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” (I John 5:13). Eternal life gives the only possible certainty we can have about our future—except for the certainty that we will end up in Hell if we do not have eternal life. We make many plans for the future: where we will work, where we will live, and whom we will marry. But all our plans are tentative. We may feel healthy today but develop terminal cancer next month. We may be in a fatal car accident tomorrow. Morbid as that may sound, it’s reality. With so many uncertainties in life, it is essential to have one thing that we can be absolutely sure of –eternal life. Do you know if you have Eternal life?
Some people make the mistake of thinking that getting to Heaven is like taking an exam. We do the best we can, but we don’t know for sure whether we earned a passing grade until the exam is checked and the grades are given. If our lives exceed some minimum standard, known only to God, we get a passing grade and enter Heaven. We never know until we die if we earned a passing grade. But God doesn’t wait to the end of our lives to determine whether we earned a passing grade. We have already failed God’s exam. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “There is no one who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12).
Despite our failure, God has provided a way for us to go to Heaven. “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). If we are willing to admit our moral failure, that we are ungodly, and we trust alone in the death of Christ for salvation, the Bible promises that “Whoever believes on the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).
Some people have a false assurance of Heaven. They think they have eternal life because they merely repeated a prayer or responded to an altar call. However, the message of salvation that the Apostles preached was repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). Repentance means to have a complete change in our thinking. It is to agree with God’s assessment of ourselves as helpless sinners, deserving God’s punishment rather than his blessing. Many people just try to add Christ to their lives without facing their guilt before God. Or they believe in Christ intellectually: They believe that He was God’s Son who died for sinners, but they have never come to a point in their lives where they acknowledge their sinfulness and trust Him alone for salvation.
While salvation is not based on good works, if faith is genuine it will change a person’s life so that he produces good works. God’s Word teaches that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). The eternal life that God gives to those who trust Christ is a new nature which works itself out in their lives by producing good works. If you think of yourself as a Christian but have never had a change in your life, then your faith is dead. It didn’t die; it never was alive to begin with. Your sins are not forgiven and you don’t have eternal life.
If you want peace of mind about your future after this life, God’s Word teaches that you can have it: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).