How to Get to Heaven According to the Bible: It’s NOT by Being Good

Woman sitting on a roof with a sign that says: Jesus Saves

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and not think about what happens when this life is over.  But sometimes, things can happen that make you pause to ask the important questions. As a pastor, and a police chaplain in the past, people have asked me these questions – some of them on their deathbed. The Bible has clear answers and guidance that has brought peace to many people.

How to get to heaven according to the Bible? According to the Bible, You get to heaven by putting your trust in Jesus Christ and following Him.

The Bible doesn’t actually use the phrase “go to heaven.” That’s more of a modern-day way to talk about it. The Bible talks about having “eternal life” or being “saved.” In Acts 16:30-31, someone asked how he can be saved. The answer is: “Believe in the Lord Jesus.”

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 

Acts 16:30-31 (ESV)

This is what the Bible calls the Gospel, or Good News. To believe in Jesus doesn’t mean to know some facts about a religion. In this article, we’ll explore more what that means.

Before we do, here’s a video that explains the Gospel. It’s a drawing called the 3 Circles.

The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, Explained Using the 3 Circles

You Don’t Get to Heaven by Being a Good Person

A common misconception is that you get to heaven by being a good person. You don’t go to heaven if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds. The Bible is very clear that this is not the case. No one would be good enough to earn heaven.

God doesn’t grade on a curve when it comes to getting to heaven.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Eph. 2:8-9 (ESV)

Eph. 2:8-9 explains that you are saved by grace, through faith. 

  • Grace means that we get to heaven by God’s gracious, free gift, not because we earned it.

Faith means that you get to heaven by believing in God and His way. It’s based on something that He did, not something that you did.

  • Faith is trusting in God and what He did and not in yourself or something you did.

It’s not a result of works. This means that you don’t get to heaven based on your good or bad deeds in this life. That “no one may boast” means that you can’t take credit for it. You can’t get to the pearly gates and say: “Peter, let me in because I’ve been a good person!”

Note: This is not in the Bible. Peter is not at a pearly gate waiting for you. Even if he happens to be, the point is, you won’t be able to take credit for getting into heaven by your good deeds.

This might be a relief to some people but a frightening idea for others! The bad news is that you can’t get to heaven by being good. The good news is that even if you’ve lived a less than stellar life, or have done much worse, God did something for you so that you can get to heaven.

The good news is that even though you are not a good person (everyone has sinned), Jesus died for your sins. You can be forgiven of your sin because Jesus paid for the penalty of your sin. He paid for it with His death on the cross.

Heaven Is Not the Default Destination

Another misconception is that heaven is the default destination. You don’t automatically go to heaven. The Bible says that you can be saved because there is something you needed to be rescued from.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Rom. 6:23 (ESV)

The Bible says that the wages, or penalty, of sin is death. Sin is when we depart from God’s way and go our own way. Sin is what separates us from God. Sin leads us into brokenness in this life.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Rom. 3:23 (ESV)

You don’t automatically go to heaven. The destination of mankind is separation from God. If God is life and the author of life, our sin has led us away from God and into spiritual death.

The Bible doesn’t talk about “going to hell.” Revelation 20:14-15 describes the final destination as the lake of fire. This would be what people would be referring to as “hell.” The lake of fire is what is prepared for Satan, who opposes God’s plans in the world.

The whole story of the Bible is that God makes a plan to rescue and redeem people from the lake of fire. To “get to heaven” in the Bible means to be saved from death and eternal separation from God. What are we saved from? From sin and the results of it. We are rescued from our eventual destination, the lake of fire.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Cor. 4:4 (ESV)

According to the Bible, people have been blinded from the truth. It takes God’s work to help you see the light of what your real situation is and understand the good news of what God has done for you through Jesus.

You Get to Heaven by Trusting in Jesus

God did something about our situation and our destination of the lake of fire. God wouldn’t be a just Judge if He didn’t uphold justice. But in His love, He did something so that He can save as many people as possible from going there. He wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17 (ESV)

The most important point in the Bible about getting to heaven or being saved is that you have to trust in Jesus. John 3:16 is possibly the most well-known verse in the entire Bible.

John 3:16 means that God shows His love to the world in this way: He sent His only Son, Jesus. If you believe in Jesus, God will rescue you and you will have eternal life. You will not perish as a result of the penalty of sin. You’ll be saved from your final destination, the lake of fire.

Jesus came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 9:10). Jesus saves you by dying in your place. He became your substitute by dying on a cross. He became the sacrifice for your sin to pay the penalty. Jesus died so you can have eternal life.

And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:15 (ESV)

The Bible says that you need to repent and believe in the gospel, the Good News of Jesus.

You don’t get to heaven by being a good person, but by believing in the good news of Jesus. According to the Bible, there is no other way to salvation except through Jesus (Acts 4:12). Jesus says in John 14:16 (ESV): “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

To repent means to see things differently. Repent doesn’t mean to just feel bad about your sin our your life. It means seeing things from God’s perspective. In the Bible, repent literally means to “think differently after.” After you hear the good news of Jesus, think differently about God, the world, and yourself.

How would your life be different if you saw things differently? If you believed that God really loved you enough to give you His only Son? If your sins are forgiven so you don’t have to live in fear, shame, and condemnation anymore?

  • Would you have a peace that can carry you through the difficult times in life?
  • Would your life be filled with gratitude?
  • Would you begin to live life in God’s design and not be the boss of your own life?

If you repent and see from God’s perspective, you will live life differently. Jesus will become the Lord, or boss, of your life. To trust God means to surrender to Him and to live life in His design.

Going to Heaven Is More Than About a Final Destination

What the Bible says about going to heaven is much more than just going somewhere when you die. It’s more than having “fire insurance” from the lake of fire.

The Bible presents a way to think about your entire life from God’s perspective. It helps you put things into perspective so you can find peace and thrive in this world. You can be filled with God’s true love. God’s plan for your life is that you would have life and that more abundantly (John 10:10).

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 (ESV)

It’s not just about going to a certain place when you die. It’s about how you can live life in God’s design starting today. It’s about experiencing how God begins to restore your life to His design.

The way the Bible defines “eternal life” is not by the destination or how long eternity will be. Eternal life is defined by the quality of life, of knowing Jesus. If Jesus is the King of your life, how would your life be different? To live because of Him and for Him defines your life.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17:3 (ESV)

To know this life that the Bible talks about, you don’t have to wait for your deathbed. That life can start now. You can receive God’s forgiveness and you can forgive others. You can find peace and love and live in God’s design.

What God wants from you is not burdensome. But, it does require you to surrender your life to Him. Following Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll have a perfect life with no problems. Everyone on earth has problems. Jesus promises to give you a peace that goes beyond your understanding (Phil. 4:7).

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 (ESV)

You Can Be Sure That You Are Going to Heaven

The Bible says that you can have assurance that you are going to heaven. It’s not something that you can just go by people’s opinions or experiences. It’s not a matter of emotions or guesswork. It’s not something that’s worth gambling eternity on.

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Rom. 10:9 (ESV)

Here’s another presentation of the Gospel using the 3 Circles.

The Good News of Jesus Explained Using the 3 Circles Illustration

After you watch the video, would you consider praying to God and say: “God, I admit that I’m living in brokenness because of my sin. I will not trust in my own strength to get me out of my brokenness. Thank you for sending Jesus, Your Son, to die for me. I turn from my ways and believe in Jesus as the Son of God. Be the Lord of my life. Thank you for forgiving me of my sin. I ask that you would begin to restore your life in me. Amen.”

If you do what you prayed in that prayer, you can know for sure that you are going to heaven when you die.

How to be sure you are saved? Praying to believe in Jesus isn’t about saying some magic words. It’s what you mean in your heart and how you live your life from now on that will give you the certainty that you belong to God.

If you prayed, would you let me know through the Contact Us page that you “prayed to receive Jesus?” I’d want to encourage you and help you get started right with God.

Also, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have about the Bible or what steps to take next as you follow Jesus.

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If this article was helpful, I would recommend:

5 Surprising Truths About Heaven in the Bible: What Is Heaven Like? Sometimes our assumptions about heaven are based more on movies or books than on what the Bible says. Do you know these 5 significant and important truths?

How to Become a Better Person According to the Bible. In this article, I share what the Bible says about how you can begin to see lasting change and growth in your life.

Easiest Way to Study the Bible. In that article, I share a simple tool you can start using right away to read and study the Bible. You can start using it on the book of Mark in the Bible.

Photo by Edwin AndradeOpens in a new tab. on UnsplashOpens in a new tab.

David Kim

I'm David Kim and the Bible has been a passionate pursuit of mine for many years. This is a site where I get to share with you some of the things that I’ve been learning. I’m a husband, a father, pastor of a church in Northern California, and a life-long student of the Scriptures.

6 thoughts on “How to Get to Heaven According to the Bible: It’s NOT by Being Good

  1. Appreciate this. Needed to read this. My bf and I have been arguing about salvation , he is part of a church that only believes their members will be granted eternal life.
    I’m glad I read this.

    1. Oh, I’m grateful to hear it was helpful. Thanks for sharing. I know that people can sometimes get very passionate in their pursuit of God, but it can be based on their own energy and not based on the Bible. I hope he’ll have the courage and the openness to wrestle with what the Bible says.

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