If you are assured of going to Heaven and it’s true, that is certainly good. In fact, it’s wonderful! If your assurance is false, misguided or on a wrong basis, it’s a tragic disaster.
Not many years ago the overwhelming majority of those professing faith in Christ considered any assurance of going to Heaven to be beyond our knowledge. “Nobody can know that” was the standard statement. Why not? It was assumed there would be a general judgment for all people at the end of time. There the good or bad deeds done here would be weighed in God’s balances. Depending on which side weighed most heavily on these scales that measure human conduct, our eternal future would be determined by the Great Judge. People “hoped for the best.” Often they “feared the worst.”
None of this scenario is Biblically based. There is no single judgment for all people. There are separate judgments for the unsaved (Revelation 20:1-15) and the saved (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). The first is on the basis of unforgiven sins. The second is to recognize believers for their devotion to Christ and service for Him. Our eternal future is determined in this life, not after death. Eternal life begins on this earth and is settled on the basis of our decisions here. One is saved or lost before death comes.
If you are truly saved here in this life, God wants you to know it. “These things I have written unto you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Focus your attention on the word
know, which means to have absolute knowledge. The same word is used in 1 John 5:19. We know that we are of God. First John 4:13 says, “by this we know that we abide in Him.” Those verses certainly indicate that certainty and confidence are possible for the true believer. But they should not be the basis of false confidence for those whose professions are questionable.
Ministers can lend support to vain hopes or misplaced assurance. Preachers at funerals sometimes are said to have “preached someone into heaven.” I recall when the father of one of our young men died by firing a gun into his head while carousing with some women. He had previously left his wife and two children and refused to pay for their support despite a court order. His last words to them were these: “I will see you in Hell before I give you a dollar.” At the funeral service, which both the son and I attended, the minister used this text: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Several of the father’s reprobate friends, seated in front of me, squirmed uneasily at this absurd description. His parents were convinced he was going to Heaven. So, apparently, was the minister who had never met him personally. He was merely hired to do the service. The same thing can occur with people who have lived a more moral life than this man.
How can we be sure we are going to Heaven? God has given us three witnesses that testify to our relationship with God.
The Word of God. God’s word is our strongest witness. Assurance of salvation is based on what God has promised (Romans 10:9; John 3:16,36; 5:24). It concerns the facts of the gospel and God’s promises concerning those who sincerely believe these truths. It is not based on our subjective feelings. The Bible often speaks of being saved, not feeling saved.
Objective tests of true
salvation. Since people can be deceived, how can we be sure we have entered into God’s salvation? The Lord said, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). Good trees bear good fruit, not bad fruit (w 17-18). These are the fruits or outcome of a divinely changed life.
Obedience to God’s Word (1 John 2:4-5; 5:2-3).This obedience means the general manner of your life. We should be “practicing righteousness” (1 John 3:7,10). This does not imply sinless perfection. None but Jesus has ever been sinlessly perfect. What it means is that you must admit, confess and forsake any sin that does occur (1 John 1:8-9). When you do sin, it should greatly distress you (Psalm 32:3-5). You should do good deeds for others (James 2:14-26; Ephesians 2:10).
Confessing Christ as Lord. You must confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord (Romans 10:9). The Master warns that not only does He command this, but He rejects those who fail to do so (Matthew 10:32-33). Don’t try to be a “secret disciple.” Confessing Jesus as Lord goes along with confessing Him as God the Son (John 8:24; 20:28; 2 John 9).
Your love will be for the Lord (Matthew 22:37-38; 1 Corinthians 16:22) and for your fellow believers as God’s children (1 John 3:14). You will forsake a love for the worldly system of values and its lifestyle, controlled by Satan (1 John 2:15-17).
Inward witness in your conscience. There is a certain degree of subjectivity in this, so it should not be separated from the above two witnesses, the Word of God and our confession of the Lord. A third witness is called the witness of the Holy Spirit, assuring our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16). You believe that Christ has died for your sins and that the debt is fully paid (Hebrews 8:12; Psalm 103:12). You sense a reality in prayer, that God is hearing and responding to you (1 John 5:15). You have inner peace (Philippians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 1:2; John 14:27).
Doubting Christians Or Unsaved Professors Of Faith?
At one time or another many Christians are troubled with doubts about their salvation. The following guidelines may prove helpful for those who question their own salvation. These attitudes contrast the saved and the unsaved:
1. Are concerned about their relationship with God. They raise questions.
2. Often show repeated concern about their salvation. They worry about it frequently and wonder, “Am I really saved?”
3. Identify with Christians, though they often feel their own unworthiness to be one of them.
4. May question their salvation during mental, physical, and spiritual “lows” or during problem times in their lives.
Unsaved Professors of Faith:
1. Tend to be careless, even over-confident about being Christians.
2. Vigorously affirm the validity of their professions despite contradictory evidence in their lives; resistant or resentful of any questions in this area.
3. Often criticize believers and the Church; blame them for various prejudices and wrongs committed over time.
4. Show little or no recognition of current spiritual need.
Dealing with Doubts About Your Salvation
Recognize Doubts. You may have had spiritual worries similar to the following: “When I received Christ, nothing happened. I did not feel different.” “I don’t know whether I believed in the right way.” “I don’t have the witness of the Spirit.” “I believe I have committed the unpardonable sin.” When such apprehensions trouble you, remember that salvation is by believing and living accordingly, not merely by feeling. Make sure you understand what is the unpardonable sin (Mark 3:22-30) before assuming you have committed this deed. The unpardonable sin is to say that Jesus did His miracles by the power of Satan. No true believer would do this.
Examine Yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5). If your life is far from God or you are drifting away, it is a good thing to reconsider your relationship with Him. The following questions may help pinpoint your true spiritual state: wHave you ever known conviction of sin during your life and longed for God’s forgiveness?” “On what are you basing your hope of Heaven?” “When and under what circumstances did you receive Christ?” Any true believer has known conviction of sin and the need for personal repentance. He or she is basing any hope of salvation solely on Christ and His work. Generally he or she will be able to recall at least some point in time where there was an unconditional commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Ask them, “Did your life change and show progress after that commitment? Did you love the Word and read it eagerly and regularly?” 3.
Confirm By Prayer. Consider a prayer of complete surrender to Christ as Lord and Savior if there is any doubt of the reality of your commitment to Him. Repeated praying in this way, however, is no substitute for coming to the point of believing God’s Word and resting upon it. Do not rely just on feelings.
Jesus warned against self-deception in regard to salvation. Many will claim to have known Him and to have done much in service for Him, yet they will be cast into outer darkness because they were not true believers (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 13:23-28). Therefore, if you should have any doubts, resolve them, using the objective tests of reality given above. A real commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior can be made if you still have doubts. Be sure you are going to Heaven, but be sure you have a sound Biblical basis for your confidence.
Study Guide Lesson 6 Sure Of Heaven: Good Or Bad?
1. Those who “decide to come to Christ” are helped if they have a mature believer and beginner study materials to assist them. Often these materials begin with a lesson on “assurance of salvation.” What is a potential problem if you start with “assurance”?
2. Almost every funeral service speaks of the deceased as having gone to Heaven or being now “with the Lord.” Even when everything about the person would raise questions about this, the speaker will “preach them into Heaven.” Would that this were possible! What would you recommend to funeral service preachers as a better yet tactful approach?
3. What are the evidences that testify to someone knowing correctly that they have eternal life? Give key Scriptures for each point.
4. How would you deal with someone who seems to be saved, yet still is deeply troubled about being sure of their salvation?