Life's Pressing Question

Heaven: The Entrance Exam

Candidates must pass an entrance exam before being accepted in institutions ranging from a private elementary school to law school or medical school. In most cases there will also be a final exam. The Bible says, “...it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment... (Hebrews 9:27). The final exam will be severe. The apostle John described it in these terms:
“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12-14)

The final exam will be administered when men and women stand before God for judgment. Every human being will answer to his Creator individually and personally. There are only two available eternal destinies—heaven and the lake of fire.

According to the Bible, people do not need to do anything to enter the lake of fire for eternity. Every human being who has not passed the entrance exam to heaven is already in transit to the lake of fire. The apostle Paul described them as “...those who are perishing...” (2 Corinthians 4:3).

The final exam will be...final! There will be no appeals. There will be no second chances. There will be big surprises for some people. Many devoutly religious people will fail the final exam and be sentenced to eternity outside of God’s presence in the lake of fire. These are people who claimed to believe in God and devoted much of their lives to religious activities. However, God will not receive them into heaven.

Jesus said,

"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Every human being must pass an entrance exam in order to enter heaven. The Bible makes it clear that God has established specific requirements for entry. Jesus Christ said,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3).

To explain that statement, He said,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

John the Baptist taught,

"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36).

Those statements from Scripture indicate that God requires a person to experience spiritual birth and to believe in God’s Son to gain entrance to eternal life.

Many people believe it is impossible to know in this life whether or not one will enter heaven and eternal life. Yet, the Bible says,

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

God’s Word teaches that it is possible for you to know that you will experience eternal life in God’s presence before you die. That knowledge comes as a result of taking—and passing—the entrance exam.

Question One: Do you acknowledge that your sin has alienated you from God?

The Bible teaches that all human beings have sinned against God. As a result, all men lack the righteousness that God requires from them, the righteousness without which they cannot share His glory. That truth is taught repeatedly in passages like the following.

“...your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God...” (Isaiah 59:2)

“...as it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)

“...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

Those verses teach that all human beings have sinned against God. Individual people may commit different kinds of sins with varying frequency, but the truth is that each of us is a sinner by nature and a sinner by practice. There is not one specific kind of sinful action or a specific number of sinful acts that causes separation from God. Any sin does that! Every sin does that!

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. ...Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” (James 2:10-11)

All sin is abhorrent to God. There are no “white lies” or “insignificant sins”.

Do you agree with God that you have sinned against Him and lack the righteousness He requires?

Yes No

God wants you to be transparent and honest with Him. You may do that by telling Him you have sinned against Him by breaking His law. You may talk to Him out loud or silently in your mind.

Question Two: Do you acknowledge that you deserve a penalty for your sin?

This is where the exam becomes intensely personal. Most people admit they have sinned against God, but many people do not think their sin is very serious. According to the Bible, God takes all sins very seriously! The prophet Habakkuk indicated that God has zero tolerance for sin when he wrote,

“Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor.” (Habakkuk 1:13)Every law carries a penalty for an infraction. Civil laws at the federal, state, and local level impose penalties for breaking them. Violation of God’s law(s) carries a penalty. The penalty for sin has always been death. Before the first man ever sinned by violating the only rule God gave him, the Lord warned, “...in the day that you eat from it you will surely die" (Genesis 2:17). According to the Bible, death is the minimum wage for every kind of sin! Romans 6:23 says simply, “...the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

The Bible teaches that God exercises perfect justice when dealing with people. Psalm 19:9 asserts, “The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous (just) altogether.” That means God never punishes a person unjustly. He never withholds a penalty that is due.

Do you agree with God that He would be right (just) to punish you for the sins you have committed in violation of His law?

Yes No

Question Three: Do you realize that Jesus Christ paid the full penalty you have earned by sinning against God when He died on a cross?

You might ask, “Would Jesus do that for me?” The answer is, “Yes!” The Bible says,

“...while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for [in place of] the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).The apostle Paul wrote,
“...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).The Bible teaches that Jesus took your place and my place when He suffered and died. We sinned. He suffered our penalty so we would not have to experience it.

Because Jesus never sinned, He was not liable to suffer the death penalty for personal violations of God’s law. Because He is infinitely righteous, God the Father could accept Christ’s death as a substitute for ours. The Bible says,
“He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21The astounding truth is that Jesus died for you!

You might ask, “Why would He do that? I don’t have any friends or relatives who would do that for me.” Good question. The Bible gives us the answer. It says,
“...one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).The reason God sent Jesus to die in your place and to suffer the penalty for your sin is that He loves you! The reason Jesus paid the penalty for your sin is that He loves you! Scripture says,
“...God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).Christ’s death fully satisfied the demands of God’s justice regarding your sin. In fact, Jesus’ death has such infinite value that it satisfied God’s justice for the sins of every person who has ever lived or ever shall live. As a result, Jesus is the only means that any sinful person can ever take to become right with God. He said,
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6)As a result, the apostle Peter asserted,
"...there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).Do you understand that Jesus paid the full penalty for your sin when He died on the cross and that He is the only way to enter a right relationship with God?

Yes No

Question Four: Do you understand that God will remove the penalty due your sin and give you eternal life as a free gift if you ask Jesus Christ to save you?

You acknowledged that you have sinned against God and that your sin has alienated you from God. You admit that you deserve a severe penalty as a result of sinning against God—physical death and eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire. You have come to understand that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty due your sin.

Many people have acknowledged those three truths without experiencing forgiveness by God or receiving eternal life from God. The reason is they think they must have faith and strive to become good enough to please God by their own effort. They have not recognized that Jesus Christ is able to save them completely apart from any merit of their own. They are trusting in belief about Jesus and participation in religious rituals, keeping a list of laws, church membership and attendance, et al.

How can you discover what God requires from you in order to experience forgiveness of your sins and receive eternal life? You simply have to take God at His word! The Bible contains many of God’s statements about how to be saved. Let’s look at two of them.

A prison warden in the Greek city of Philippi asked the apostle Paul, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). The apostle replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). He did not provide any requirement other than personal faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord as a condition of salvation from sin.

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the churches located in Rome, outlining in detail God’s conditions for salvation. He explained it with these words:
“...if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation...for ‘whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10:9-10, 13)God requires a sinner who desires to be saved to do two things:

  • To confess that Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord (God).
  • To believe that God raised Jesus from the dead after He suffered the penalty for the sinner’s sins.

Some have asked, “Is that all there is to it? How can it be so easy? Don’t I have to do something in addition to earn God’s approval?” The apostle Paul explained why these are God’s requirements in verse 10:

  • When a person believes that Jesus rose to life after dying in his place, God credits that belief as righteousness to the sinner’s account.
  • When a sinner confesses openly that Jesus is God (“Lord”), acknowledgement of Christ's deity results in salvation from the penalty of sin.
  • God promises that whoever asks Jesus to save him/her “...will be saved” (v. 13).

Do you understand that God will forgive you, remove the penalty for your sin, and give you eternal life as a free gift if you ask Jesus Christ to save you?

Yes No

Conclusion

If you answered “Yes” to all four questions of the entrance exam, God invites you to call on the Lord Jesus to save you. You can do that by praying a simple prayer. Include these five things in your prayer if you mean them in your heart:

  • Tell God that you have sinned against Him.
  • Thank Him for sending Jesus Christ to suffer the penalty for your sin.
  • Tell God that you believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son of God.
  • Tell God you believe that Jesus rose from the dead after He died for you.
  • Ask Jesus to save you by taking away your sin and giving you eternal life as God’s free gift right now.


The Bible contains many promises that a sinner who asks Jesus to save him/her will experience God’s salvation. Jesus Christ said,
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36)."Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24)The apostle Paul wrote,
“...whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).The apostle John wrote,
“He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1John 5:12-13).If you called on Jesus to save you a moment ago, you can be completely confident that God forgave your sins, gave you eternal life as His free gift, and made you a member of His family by spiritual birth. You can be certain that you have passed the entrance exam and will enjoy the blessings of God’s presence forever in Heaven in eternity. Why not thank Him right now?