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.

Although we might ask about how to go to heaven, the Bible doesn’t actually use the phrase “go to heaven.” That’s more of a modern-day way to talk about it. Rather, the Bible talks about having “eternal life” or being “saved.” In Acts 16:30-31, someone asks 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.

People today might wonder about “going to hell,” but 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.

Who will enter heaven? Those who have believed in the good news of Jesus Christ will enter heaven. 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

If you want to know for sure that you’re going to heaven, you can respond to God’s love today. It’s more than just about going to heaven when you die. It’s about living a life of obedience to Jesus Christ out of love for Him. You can respond in repentance and faith and call out to God in prayer today

Pray by simply talking 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 responded to God with that prayer, click the button below for an important next step. I want to help you with some resources as you being your new relationship with God.

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.

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, here are a few more you might be interested in:

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 Andrade on Unsplash

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.

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

  1. Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  2. 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.

  3. Being called an chosen by GOD and being sure of it is like relate to Jonah in the belly of the fish.But afther feeling GOD’S CHASTISEMENT FOR REFUSING SPREAD AND PREACH THE GOOD NEWS to those whom God has asinged to you to is far more better than what was about to happen to Jonah thank God for his grace and mercy

    1. Yes, definitely, thank God for His grace and mercy. It’s wonderful how He calls us to partner with Him to share His love and truth with the world. God bless you.

  4. So if someone doesn’t trust Jesus and surrender to Him the go to hell for eternal suffering? What if they grew up and lived in a place where Jesus wasn’t spoken of and they just didn’t know about Him? It just doesn’t seem fair to those people.

    1. Yes, it’s definitely not an easy teaching. There are a lot of things to consider, but I think these are some of the main things to wrestle through: We know that God doesn’t want anyone to perish but to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). It’s the reason that Jesus died on the cross. God is also fully just and fair, even in His judgments. God reveals Himself to people through nature and life’s circumstances if we will listen to Him. Just as God sent Jesus, He sends us to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Please feel free to reach out through e-mail if you’d like to discuss it more.

    2. God sends His mercy and grace upon those who are ignorant of Him. Some just do not know Him, that’s why we are to share our Faith, have the conversations. I do not agree with some things in this article, but I appreciate the sharing of Faith, that’s how we learn.

  5. If u been saved and baptized and u are married and stepped out one time but asked for forgiveness can u still go to heaven I believe in Jesus he died for our sins I messed up once will I be okay

    1. The important thing is: Where is your heart now? Have you opened to His love and forgiveness? Are you living for God now? No matter what you’ve done or anyone’s done to you, you can be made new if you repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ. I think of what Jesus said to the woman who was being judged by others: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). The Gospel doesn’t mean we can live however we want. If we love God, we will delightfully obey His commands (John 14:15). We do what He wants because His love overwhelms us and we love Him back.

  6. I like what you said about God die for us for our sins. I have been a believer for many years of God. He is a persons best friend and savior.

    1. It’s amazing that God desires this close relationship with us. He takes us and makes us His very own. He delights to pour out His love on His own. God bless you in your journey of following Him.

  7. Hi David I was baptized as a child and brought up catholic.I want to become a Christian if I believe in what Jesus Christ did on the cross and turn away from my sins and repent of my sins but didn’t get baptized in Jesus name for the forgiveness of sins will I still go to heaven.

    1. Hi Michael: As Christians, our greatest joy is to follow Jesus, the glorious Son of God who laid down everything for us. Going to heaven is just one of many blessings – a very important one, of course. It’s a result of putting your faith in Christ. If you have really put your faith in Christ, you will follow Him as your Lord, whether it’s into the waters of baptism or in anything in life.

      For many people, baptism in water is one of the first steps of obedience. It’s about obedience and following Christ’s example. It’s a sign of you being united with Christ in His death and receiving the promise of His resurrection (Romans 6:4).

      Whatever your decision, you can give thanks for your Catholic upbringing and honor your parents or guardians who had a desire for you to grow up in God’s ways. But most important of all, I want to encourage you to follow God’s Word and His Spirit in everything.

    2. Michael, if you were baptized in the Catholic faith you were baptized In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Also, Catholics are Christians. A Christian is someone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Keep digging, keep seeking, keep asking. God Bless.

  8. David how do we lose our salvation if we are saved by grace and what Christ has done on the cross.If a personal still sins knowingly and still believe ms can he lose his salvation thank tou

    1. Some Christians believe that you can never lose your salvation. Others believe you can lose it and be saved again over and over again.
      One alternative to both views is that it’s possible to lose your salvation just once to never return if you really want to. This is especially true at the end of this age just before Jesus returns: the great falling away/rebellion (2 Thes. 2:3). The love of many will grow cold, so Jesus calls us to endure till the end ablaze with love for Him (Matt. 24:12)

      Continuing to sin is definitely going in that direction but God is very merciful and patient to draw us back to Himself if we will respond in true repentance and faith.

      What is most important is not that someone prayed a certain prayer “to be saved,” but to ask the question: Am I following Jesus Christ right now and obeying Him out of love?

  9. Dear David
    I have said the prayer to let Jesus into my heart on a number of occassions throughout 26 years of being in various churches. I was born a Quaker and became a member of Quakers (like being committed) when i was 20. Unfortunately due to medication from being bipolar i started falling asleep in meeting for worship. So i went to church. I do believe in a creator god. I do believe that Jesus was crucified and i think its possible that he rose from the dead (afterall Lazerous did). What i need help with is forming a relationship with christ in order to follow him.
    1)How do you know his Will, without making it up?
    2) What are some tips about how to make and sustain a relationship with Christ?
    3) How can i have a conversation with Christ?

    Thanks for sharing the gospel so thoroughly
    God bless
    Will

    1. 1) As you read the Bible, you can learn God’s will (what He wants) and His heart (2 Timothy 3:6-17). As you ask God to lead you through His Word, you’ll begin to develop discernment, knowing what is helpful and what is not. And when it’s needed, God can make His specific will known to you in whatever way, but most of the time, He will guide you as you mature through His Word. His goal is mature sons and daughters that know His heart and His Word. It’s also important to be in a church or some type of community where you’ll be encouraged, supported, and when needed, corrected by people who care for you.

      2) Those things also apply to how you can sustain a relationship with Christ. The entire Christian life is by faith: how you get started, how you continue, and how you finish. You might find some things that could encourage you in the Christian Life articles on this site. https://pursuitbible.com/category/bible-study/christian-living/.

      3) If you’d like to sign up for the “Next Steps”, a 3 days of emails that I mentioned in the article above, it covers how to pray/have a conversation with God, along with a couple of other basic things. Here’s the link: https://pursuitbible.com/next-steps/

  10. Apparently, only 144,000 will go to heaven, the rest go to “paradise”. Paradise and heaven are two different things. So saying we will go to heaven isn’t quite correct, is it?

    1. 144,000 are Jewish believers who will stand in victory in the last days (Rev. 7:4). This seal of God that they receive is in contrast to those who receive the mark of the Beast. After the 144,000 Jewish believers, we also see a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues (Rev. 7:9). It’s those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 20:15) who participate in the New Heaven and New Earth. So it’s way more than 144,000 that go “to heaven.” Hopefully that helps clarify.

  11. Hello Mr. Kim,

    Thank you so very much for your web site and your articles.

    For the past few months I have been having anxiety. The specifics vary but it centers around dying. Either my passing and leaving my wife alone or her passing and leaving me alone. Although I know that eventually both will take place just thinking about this terrifies me to the extent that has me shaking in fear.

    Your web site and the information it contains has been so very helpful. I still have much to learn. But you have opened my eyes to many things I never considered.

    THANK YOU for what you do. If ever God moves you to Atlanta please let me know. I would love to become a member of your church.

    Please pray for us and may God bless you and yours.
    Jim Hawkins

    1. Thank you, I’m so grateful to be able to share God’s Word with you. I’m always amazed how God can use what we’ve learned and to share with people around us. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your story. I pray that God will continue to make His comfort and peace known to you through Jesus Christ. You are very kind. God bless you and your wife in Atlanta! I don’t have plans right now, but if I’m ever in the area, I’d be grateful to be able to connect.

  12. Thank you for this! It helped me see the bigger picture and meant alot to me! I’m very interested in getting closer to God! Looking forward to learning and reading more! God bless you for helping others find the way back!!

    1. Thank you! I’m so grateful to hear it was helpful. God bless you on your journey to His heart. Jesus is a brilliant leader!

  13. Thank you for your encouragement and easy to understand explanations. Your article was very helpful and needed by me.

    1. Thank you. I’m so grateful to hear it was helpful. I pray that God will bless you in all that you’re going through and that He would give you His peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7).

    1. I’m so grateful to be able to share this message with you. I pray that God will give you the desires of your heart as you press in to know His truth and love in Jesus Christ.

  14. I received Jesus in 1972 Jesus Movement. I pray and study Bible daily but don’t feel Holy Spirit like I used to. I am still joyful over my salvation. Do you think something is wrong?

    1. I love hearing the stories of how God moved during the Jesus Movement. My thought is that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. If your joy is in Christ and His finished work, and you’re living it out in obedience to Christ everyday out of love, I think you’re in a good place. My other thought would be to ask if you’re able to let God use you to encourage other people God brings into your life? To share your stories, offer to pray for people in need, and maybe the Gospel using the 3 Circle illustration in the video/article above? And I pray that God will bring you into a place of deeper communion and intimacy with Him through His Word and His Spirit.

      1. Hello Pastor David my name is Carl I am a Christian I read the Bible every day and pray often I do go to church but I suffer from severe social anxiety and depression and that causes me problems with going I used heroine for 17 yrs but have been clean almost a year I have been really trying to live the way Christ commanded but often fall short my personal inventory is that sometimes I tell lies about stupid stuff for no reason like I’ll be talking on the phone eating and the person I am talking to might ask me what I’m doing and without thinking I say I’m watching tv instead of being honest that I was eating idk why I just didn’t say that I was eating it really didn’t make any difference to them but then I feel guilty about it and get depressed also I smoke pot and cigarettes other then them things I really don’t see me doing any other sins I do believe that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and that He died for my sins and rose from the grave after 3 days was seen by thousands and assented in Heaven and sits at God’s right hand I witness when I have opportunity to but I’m a worry wort I am trying to stop all the sinning do you think I will go to Heaven

        1. Hello Carl, I admire how you pressed into God with all the challenges you were facing. It sounds like you’ve had some major breakthroughs too. I pray that God will reveal His love to you more and more in Jesus Christ. As you focus on who Jesus is and what He has done, I hope that it’ll bring you to a place to be able to walk with Him even more closely. The Christian life is not about our strong will and efforts to live for God. It’s about finding our lives in Christ (Colossians 3:3). It’s about Jesus being revealed in us. That’s what baptism in water is a picture of: our being united with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Our focus is not so much on getting to heaven, but in seeing who Jesus Christ is more clearly, understanding what He says and responding with love and obedience to who He is. As we focus on loving and obeying Him, God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts. I pray that God will give you the assurance of eternal life as you pursue the purity and simplicity of following Christ.

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