This is a question that many people ask and struggle with. The Bible provides clear guidance on how we can be assured of eternal life in heaven after death. Here is an overview of key biblical truths relating to this important topic:
We are all sinners who fall short of God’s glory
The Bible teaches that every human being is a sinner who falls short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23). We inherit a sinful nature from Adam, meaning we have a natural tendency and inclination towards sin from birth (Psalm 51:5). This sin separates us from a holy God (Isaiah 59:2). On our own efforts, no one can earn their way to heaven or do enough good works to override their sin (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our sin deserves death and eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).
Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins
But God loves us so much that He made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself through Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, lived a perfect, sinless life that we could never live (Hebrews 4:15). He willingly died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, bridging the gap between sinful mankind and a holy God (Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 3:18). Jesus endured God’s wrath on the cross so that those who trust in Him would not have to (1 John 2:2). His sacrifice makes eternal life in heaven possible.
We receive salvation by grace through faith in Christ
The Bible is clear that we cannot earn salvation on our own merit. We are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). When we repent of our sins and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, we are saved. At that moment, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, regenerating our spirit, and we are seen as righteous before God (Titus 3:5-7). We are saved by faith in Christ, not by anything we do (Galatians 2:16). Good works and obedience flow naturally out of gratitude for this free gift of salvation but have no bearing on our salvation itself (Ephesians 2:10).
We can have full assurance of salvation
For those who have sincerely repented and believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, God wants them to have complete assurance of their salvation. The Bible says we can know with confidence that we have eternal life if we have Jesus (1 John 5:13). God seals believers with His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance in heaven (Ephesians 1:13-14). We are secure in Christ, held by His powerful hands, and nothing can separate us from His love (John 10:27-30, Romans 8:38-39). What God begins in saving us, He promises to carry to completion on the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6). Our assurance is based on His faithfulness, not ours.
Evidence of genuine saving faith
While we are saved by faith alone apart from works, saving faith will inevitably produce changes and fruit in a believer’s life. Without attempting to judge someone’s heart, we can look at certain evidence to see if their profession of faith is genuine. Signs such as desiring to obey and submit to Christ as Lord, bearing spiritual fruit such as love and joy, turning away from willful sin, desiring to follow God’s Word and commands, and enduring trials and persecution with perseverance, can indicate true spiritual rebirth (James 2:14-26, Matthew 7:15-23, 1 John 2:3-6). Our lives and desires change when the Holy Spirit indwells us.
We can have confidence based on God’s promises
Most importantly, our assurance of salvation is based on the truth and faithfulness of God’s Word. When God says that all who call on the name of Jesus will be saved (Romans 10:13), we can believe Him. When He says nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39), we can take comfort in that promise. Our confidence comes from believing the testimony of the Scriptures. Because God cannot lie, His promises to save all who believe in Jesus are trustworthy (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). He will not go back on His word. We can rely fully on His guarantee of eternal life to those who are in Christ.
Examining ourselves is still important
The Bible does encourage self-examination to see if we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). We should look at the fruit and trajectory of our lives. Do we have a new heart that desires God? Is there evidence of the Spirit’s work such as love, joy, peace? Do we enjoy learning about God through His Word? Do we turn away from sin and lies? While we can have full assurance based on God’s promises in Scripture, self-reflection is still a valuable spiritual practice.
God wants us to have confident assurance
While doubts and spiritual weaknesses may come at times, God does not want believers to be paralyzed by fear or uncertainty of their salvation. We are encouraged to grow in assurance, not diminish it (2 Peter 1:10-11). We find assurance by believing His Word, relying on the Spirit’s witness, examining the fruit of our lives, and placing our confidence in His trustworthy character to save. On the basis of Christ’s finished work and saving promises, we can go through life and death assured of our eternal home in heaven.
In summary, the Bible teaches that anyone who repents of sin and puts their faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross is saved and will inherit eternal life in heaven. This salvation is secure and assured based on God’s promises in His Word. While we should examine ourselves, our confidence comes from relying on God’s faithfulness and the guarantee of His Holy Spirit within us. God wants believers to have full assurance that heaven is their eternal destiny when this life on earth is over.