By Jack Glover
Are you saved? Do you want to be?
In a recent survey, more than 90 percent of Americans answered “yes” to the first question? Clearly, most people think heaven will be their final dwelling place. This is also demonstrated by the fact that we seldom hear any comments at funerals except those placing the deceased in heaven, no matter how sinful a life they have lived. Often even those who have shown no faith in God, or attended any type of church, are preached into heaven.
But salvation in heaven is a biblical subject. The statements of men cannot alter the rules of God concerning it because only God can offer salvation. Heaven is His domain, and He will determine who dwells there. With this in mind, let us explore what the Bible says about God, His home in heaven and who can expect to go there.
Does God want you to be saved?
The answer is an unequivocal “yes.”
- Peter said, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9).
- John wrote: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
- And Timothy was told, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:3-4).
God desires the salvation of His creation and has provided the perfect sacrifice for sin.
Do you want to be saved?
God wants all men to be saved, but that is not the end of the story. To receive the promised salvation, we must individually desire it.
- Amos admonished Israel to “seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name” (Amos 5:8).
- Paul wrote, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
- Jesus taught that man should “seek first the kingdom of God” instead of being overly concerned about food, drink and clothing (Matt. 6:31-33).
Notice where the priority is placed for those who want salvation: We must seek God; we must seek Him first; and we must seek Him diligently.
Put your service to God on the back burner, and you will be burned. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (I Pet. 4:17-18)
What must you do to be saved?
This is a good question to ask, especially in view of various answers concocted by man. The jailer in Philippi asked it when he realized the power of God (Acts 16:30), as did those present when Peter and the other apostles preached on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37).
In both cases the questioners realized that God was displeased with their sins and that they had to do something to rectify the situation. Only God could answer the question correctly. This is what He said:
YOU MUST BELIEVE IN GOD AND HIS SON, JESUS
In the two cases mentioned above, we have believers in God and a non-believer. Those present on Pentecost already believed in God; that is the very reason they were in Jerusalem at the time. They did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
The jailer was probably a Gentile, thus a non-believer. The jailer was told, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house (Acts 16:31).
The following scriptures further enforce faith, as a prerequisite to salvation:
- “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1)
- “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8)
- “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)
- “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)
Other scriptures also show the necessity of faith, but these will suffice.
YOU MUST REPENT OF YOUR SINS
Most people would not question the necessity of faith, but many want to stop there, making it the only answer to the question about what we must do to be saved. This doctrine is comforting and easy to obey, but it is not biblically correct. Remember, if we seek salvation it must be on God’s terms, not man’s (Matt. 15:9). Other actions are required to receive a home in heaven.
Repentance is one of those actions, as the gospel writer Mark makes clear. “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says of the word repentance: “In the [New Testament], the subject chiefly has reference to ‘repentance’ from sin, and this change of mind involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God. Christ began His ministry with a call to ‘repentance,’ Matt. 4:17, but the call is addressed, not as in the [Old Testament] to the nation but to the individual.”
A good example of repentance is found in Matt. 21:28-32, which reads:
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
Other examples include:
- The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).
- The godly sorry that caused a reversal of attitude in the church at Corinth (II Cor.7:9-10).
- The Pharisees and Sadducees who were told to “bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” (Matt. 3:8)
- Jesus’ teaching that “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
- The answer to the question asked by those on Pentecost: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
Obviously, one cannot expect to receive the reward of heaven unless he not only has faith in God and Jesus but allows that faith to cause repentance from a sinful life.
YOU MUST CONFESS JESUS
Jesus is the promised Messiah, prophesied in the Old Testament. Jesus is the Savior. Jesus is king of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus is the only hope that anyone has to enter heaven because his blood atoned for the sins of all nations.
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. 9:12-14)
Being willing to confess Jesus is a requirement of salvation. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32-33)
Confession with the mouth demonstrates the faith that is in the heart. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom. 10:9-10)
Jesus’ name is exalted above all names and must be confessed. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philip. 2:8-11)
When the apostles preached the gospel, some believed. Their faith caused them to change (repent) from the life they had lived to one directed by the word of truth. They openly made their faith in Christ known by confessing him with the mouth (Acts 8:37).
YOU MUST BE BAPTIZED
The necessity of baptism for salvation is one of the most clearly taught doctrines in scripture. Many accept the scriptures’ teaching on faith, repentance and confession but refuse to accept the necessity of baptism.
Please notice the following facts about baptism.
- Jesus commanded it (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16).
- Those who asked on Pentecost what they had to do to be saved were told to be baptized (Acts 2:38-41).
- Every example of conversion in the book of Acts includes baptism.
- Paul taught it (Acts 19:3-5; Rom 6:3-4; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12).
- Peter said it saves us (I Pet. 3:21).
If your desire is to serve God, and the Son who died on a cross for all men, why refuse to obey one of their most emphatic commands? To make it as simple as possible, if you want to obey God and receive the promised salvation, you will not object to doing what he asks.
It may not be within your reasoning to understand why He has commanded such, but the one who loves God never questions his commands, he just obeys them.
Here are some other important things to know about baptism:
- It is immersion in water, a burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Sprinkling and pouring are additions of men.
- A subject of baptism is one who is capable of believing and repenting (Acts 2:38; 8:36-38; Mark 16:16).
- It is not water salvation; t is not the washing of the flesh; it is the act of a good conscience toward God (I Pet. 3:21).
- It is not salvation by works of man. God is performing the work (Col. 2:12).
- It is necessary to unite with Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27).
- There is only one baptism (Eph. 4:5). Other baptisms are mentioned in the bible but for a specific purpose.
(If you want to study some objections of men to the necessity of baptism, follow this link.)
YOU MUST BE FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH
The crown of life is only promised to those who live a faithful life (Rev. 2:10). When we commit our lives to God, He expects us to follow His commands. To the Corinthians, Paul pointed out that “circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” (I Cor. 7:19). The promise of the tree of life is to those who keep the commandments of God (Rev. 22:14).
Notice a few more scriptural points proving the necessity for continued faithfulness:
- Those who substitute men’s traditions and commandments worship in vain (Mark 7:6-13).
- Man can know God’s commandments and turn from them (II Pet. 2:21).
- Christ is the author of salvation to those who obey him (Heb. 5:8-9).
- Christ will return to punish all who do not obey (II Thess. 1:8-10).
- Making a profession of righteousness is not faithfulness (Matt. 7:21-23).
- The consequence of unrighteousness is the indignation and wrath of God (Rom. 2:8-9).
- Judgment for wrong will be without respect of persons (Col. 3:25).
What is the conclusion of the aforementioned scriptures? Simply stated, God has requirements that those who desire salvation must meet. We cannot ignore His commandments and then expect salvation. The scriptures, both Old and New testaments, contain many examples of those who expected salvation while disobeying God’s commandments. There are no examples of their success but many examples of their failure — and punishment.
God has been very specific about what He requires of man. Do you want to be saved? If you do, strict obedience to His commands is necessary.