Do you know for sure that you are going to heaven? If you’re like most people, you’re a little afraid to say “Yes.” You think it sounds a little presumptuous. I mean, can anyone really be sure?
Well, the Bible has good news for you. You can be sure. In fact, God wants you to be sure. And it’s not as complicated as you might think.
Let’s look at what God says in His Word.
Jesus Gives Eternal Life to Those Who Believe in Him
There is none righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
God clearly explains in His Word that we are all sinners. “All have sinned.” None of us is good enough to get into heaven on his or her own merits to spend eternity with God. “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
But God loves us so much that He provided a way. That way is through His Son, the Lord Jesus. By dying on the Cross, Jesus paid the full and complete price for our sins so that we don’t have to.
Because He shed His blood and died for us, Jesus Christ is able to fulfill His promise to freely give believers eternal life.
But what is eternal life?
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
“He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)
The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. (1 John 1:2)
In one sense, eternal life is what its name suggests: unending life. After all, if eternal life could be lost, then it is misnamed, because it wouldn’t really be eternal. All who have eternal life will live forever in God’s kingdom. No one who has come to faith in Christ will ever go to hell. Once you believe in Christ, your eternal destiny in God’s kingdom is guaranteed.
In another sense, eternal life is not merely unending life. It is the life of God. Indeed, John refers to Jesus Christ Himself as eternal life. Eternal life is God’s kind of life. It is life that comes from God. Thus a person who has eternal life has God’s life within him.
It is obvious from what we have just said that eternal life doesn’t begin when we die. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has [present tense] everlasting life.” He didn’t say that the one who believes in Him will have (future tense) everlasting life. He said that he has eternal life–from that very first moment of faith. Thus a brand-new believer has God’s life, which is unending and full of potential.
But I already believe that Jesus is God, that He lived a sinless life, and that He died and rose again.
Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27)
Just believing in Jesus’ deity, sinlessness, death, and resurrection won’t give you assurance that you have eternal life. Millions of people believe those things and yet lack assurance. The reason is because it is sadly possible to believe that Jesus died and rose again, and yet not believe His promise to give eternal life freely to all who believe in Him. Multitudes of people believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection was necessary for their salvation, but that it wasn’t enough. They believe that their commitment, obedience, and good works are also necessary for them to go to heaven.
To be sure you are saved, you must believe that Jesus Christ has given you eternal life as He said He would if you believed in Him. It’s simply a matter of taking God at His word. Martha did, and she knew she had eternal life. So can you.
Is it really that simple?
Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27)
Yes, it really is that simple. Take a second look at how Martha responded to the Lord’s question, “Do you believe this?”
She was definite and assured. Martha didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes, Lord I believe.” She believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the One whom the Old Testament prophets had foretold.” She knew that the Messiah gives eternal life to all who believe in Him. There was no doubt in her mind.
Like Martha, you too can be sure you have eternal life. The Bible says that you must believe in Christ for eternal life. Have you done that? If you have, then you are saved! It really is that simple!
But… aren’t good works necessary for assurance?
By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Knowing you have eternal life is dependent on believing Christ’s promise, not on the works you do. Since the possession of eternal life is based on believing God’s promise and on nothing else, how could works ever be necessary for assurance?
As we’ve already noted, many people think they gain eternal life by believing in Christ and by doing good works. Yet the Bible says that salvation is “the gift of God” and that it is “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Only by believing in Christ can you be sure you have eternal life.
Until you come to the place where you stop depending on your own good works, you won’t have eternal life. To be saved you must believe in Christ, not in your works. And, once you believe in Christ, you will be sure you are saved because your salvation is dependent on your belief in God’s promise, not on your works.
But… I thought I could lose my salvation.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24)
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst…All that the Father has given Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:35, 37-39)
There is no way salvation can be lost. Jesus said that the person who believes in Him shall not come into judgment. That’s a promise. If a person who had everlasting life ever “came into judgment,” then Jesus would not be true to His word. Yet it is impossible for God to lie.
Many people think that staying saved is a matter of their doing God’s will. However, Jesus Christ said that it is really a matter of His doing God’s will! Jesus promised that whoever believes in Him will never hunger or thirst. Never. He promised that He will by no means cast out anyone who comes to Him and that He won’t lose even one person who has believed in Him.
If anyone who came to faith in Christ ever lost his or her salvation, then Jesus would have failed to fulfill His promise and to do the will of the Father. Christ’s eternal gift can never fail for any reason. He guarantees it.
Can Assurance Be Lost?
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)
Yes, assurance can be lost. While eternal life can’t be lost, assurance can. Whenever a believer stops looking to Christ for assurance, he will lose assurance of his salvation. The believers in Galatia were confronted by false teachers. The false teachers told them that they had to keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved. The result was that some of the believers in Galatia lost the assurance that they were saved.
A person is saved the very moment he believes in Christ for eternal life. At that moment, he knows for sure that he has eternal life and that he can never lose it. However, that does not mean that all Christians always have assurance of salvation. If a Christian takes his eyes off Christ, then he will lose his assurance. Each day you must believe Christ’s promise to you in order to stay sure that you have eternal life.
If you lose your faith, you will also lose your assurance. Therefore you need to cultivate your faith in order to keep your assurance. “Avoid truth decay: Read your Bible every day” is a slogan that is true of all aspects of the Christian life, including assurance of salvation.
Shouldn’t I feel happy all the time if I’m really saved?
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:33-36)
“In the world you have tribulation…” (John 16:33)
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
No. You won’t experience unbroken happiness until you go to be with the Lord. Only then will He wipe away all your tears. Only then will all your sorrows and pains cease.
Many people mistakenly think that once they receive eternal life all of their problems are behind them. Yet that just isn’t true. Even the Lord Jesus Himself groaned and wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. Christians experience tribulation in this life. Grief, depression, family problems, illnesses, injuries, financial problems, and chronic pain are just some of the things Christians have to deal with in their lives.
Feelings are like thermometers. They fluctuate. Sometimes you feel great. Sometimes you feel “lousy.” Christians can be bold and strong or fainthearted and weak. Feelings come and go. Just as your knowledge of your earthly citizenship is not based on how you feel (“I’m really discouraged today; I wonder if I’m really an American”), so neither is your knowledge of your heavenly citizenship.
God promised you eternal life if you believed in Christ for it. God doesn’t lie. The Gospel is true. If you have believed in Christ for eternal life, then you have it, even if you’re in great physical or emotional pain. You can depend on His promise regardless of how you feel.
But… if I were really saved, wouldn’t my circumstances be better?
From the Jews five times I [Paul] received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils of the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—beside the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)
It’s easy to think that if I’m truly a child of God, then nothing bad could ever happen to me. Yet bad things do happen to God’s children. As the quotation above shows, the apostle Paul experienced several lifetimes’ worth of trouble in his service for Christ.
Circumstances are fickle. Sometimes you’re on top of the world. Sometimes the world is on top of you! Until you are in heaven, you can’t look to your circumstances to see whether or not you’re saved.
But… I already made the decision to follow Jesus and to serve Him.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
You’ve made a wonderful decision. That’s a noble goal. However, it has nothing to do with obtaining eternal life or assurance. Following and serving the Lord are not the issue in salvation. The only issue in salvation is faith.
Of course, serving Christ is something that you as a growing Christian should do. The love of Christ should move you to serve Him. Serving Him is reasonable. However, you should serve Him because you know you have eternal life, not in order to try to gain it. If you think you need to serve Christ in order to have eternal life, then you don’t believe His promise.
Believing in Christ assures you that you are saved. Then, by all means, do follow Him!
You mean I really can be sure?
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:9-13)
Yes, you can really know that you have eternal life. God didn’t say that you could guess or hope or think that you have eternal life. He said you could know.
In fact, if you don’t know that you’re saved, then you aren’t focusing on the truth of God’s testimony. All you need to do to be sure you have eternal life is to believe God’s promise. Don’t look within yourself. Introspection is a bottomless pit. Look instead to God’s promise. He guarantees eternal life to all who believe on Him for it. How simple!
Let’s review: Neither your good works, nor your circumstances, nor your feelings will give you assurance. Those things are all changeable and undependable. Only one thing will give you assurance: believing God’s testimony concerning His Son. God guarantees that all who believe on His Son for eternal life have it and will never perish. If you believe in Christ for eternal life, then you are sure that you’re saved. It’s that simple.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
“As the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)
Knowing you have eternal life is just the beginning. You have before you a door of opportunity which is wide open to something magnificent and wonderful: fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. He not only wants you to live with Him forever in His kingdom, He also wants you to enjoy fellowship with Him here and now.
A life of meaning and purpose is to be found in fellowship with Christ. If you walk in fellowship with Him, your life will have eternal value and significance. Also, you will experience God’s love and joy.
Growth in Christ, like the physical growth of children, takes time. Spend time daily in prayer and in God’s Word, the Bible. The Gospel of John is a good place to start. Find and regularly attend a church where Christ is honored and where the Bible and the Gospel are clearly taught. Seek out an older, mature Christian who is willing to mentor you in the faith.
Remember one thing: Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him for it. Assurance of salvation is something which is and always will be vital to your walk with Christ. Keep looking up! As long as you look to Him and His promise to you, you will know you have eternal life.