Carol’s Spiritual Question – How do we get into Heaven?

Photo – Clement Percheron –

Many of us still have child-like dreams of what Heaven and Hell are about. As children, we cannot always differentiate between what is true and what are lies – even white ones! I have a secret feeling that teaching children about God and the Devil can almost be construed as methods of control so that they behave properly – a bit like threatening them that Santa won’t turn up if they’re naughty!

As we get older – and particularly when we become elderly – some people start to look at their own mortality and reflect upon their life so far as well as wondering how long they have left to live. Many of us, including me, look for a more spiritual balance in life and go back to church.

Many of us try to do good throughout our lives, whether we’re Christian or not, and maybe we hope that that will give us a free pass into Heaven or whatever the hereafter means to people of the various religious denominations. I now know that there’s far more to it than just being virtuous and living a good life.

Mo – Having studied theology and being a Minister for many years, you’ll know what Jesus and God have said about getting into the Kingdom of Heaven. To err is to be human, as they say, and how many of us can claim we’ve lived a sinless existence? I strongly believe that it’s one of the most difficult things in life to be a Christian, especially if we try to live by example. Can you give us some pointers from your studies about how we should lead our lives? Are there any guarantees?

What would the Lord be looking for?

Mo’s response:

These are such good questions and I have come across them many times as a hospital chaplain. In fact they touch on what is at the very heart of the Christian Good News (which is what the word ‘Gospel’ means). Over the centuries and in many religions there is a great common desire for an after-life. A desire that this life is not all there is.

Increasingly today there is a belief that there is nothing afterwards. So many live life just for today. They believe that loved ones only live on in memory or in the love that goes on. I find this deeply unsatisfying because it is all dependent on self

In all this there is a rejection or a denial of God. A Being at the centre and therefore Lord of own life. Sounds plausible at first but, in the end, it is hollow and hopeless and very dependent on ‘luck’ or circumstances

The Gospel is Good News for ALL who will receive it – no matter their circumstances in life.

Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) being very near to everyone. Really there are two parts to it – the Kingdom that we can experience now and the eternal part that we experience after we die. The Good News bit is that it does not depend on our goodness. I love your statement that to err is to be human and that we cannot claim to live a sinless existence no matter how hard we try. Sometimes I feel as if I am a walking civil war!

St Paul writes in his letter to the Romans Chapter 7 (The Message Version)

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel and, just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Also in that letter he writes in Chapter 3

23  all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

This is the starting point for us all. That we acknowledge our desire to know God and our inability to make it on our own; to be perfect.

None of us can earn our way into Heaven. God does not owe us anything. We often try to bargain with Him, eg: God, if I go to church so many times, will you bless me! Or treat Him like a heavenly Santa Claus.

But God is God! The Bible tells us He IS love and knows us so well. He cares about our fallen nature and so He sent Jesus, not just as an example because that would show up even more our inability, but to be our Saviour.

That is a very religious term so what does it mean? We have realised that we are not able to be our own Saviour and we are in need of help. This goes against the grain of most of culture today which says we can be anything that we want to be if we try hard enough. We teach it to our children. I see it often written outside schools – believe, achieve. This is all well and good up to a point but it can often make us self-centred and, perhaps I might add, our own Saviour. Our achievements become our own gods and we fall into the trap of comparison. Either we are better than others who are less fortunate or not good enough when we see others who are more ‘successful’.

If we look again at that quotation from Chapter 3, we see we have ALL sinned and fall short of the glory (the character) of God. Comparison gets us nowhere. We are ALL guilty

God is also a God of Justice and hates sin. Some folk think that if there is a Heaven only the nice people will get in. Or, if God is love, then He would not turn anyone away. But how can a holy God overlook our sinfulness? This is where Jesus comes in. He came in person not only to tell us about Father God’s love for us. He lived a sinless life, not just as an example but so that He, who was without sin, could pay the price for our sin

What does this mean? Someone once said it is like a judge who discovered a dear friend in the dock before him. The accused was indeed guilty and the judge had no choice but to give him the strictest sentence which was a large fine. Then the judge removed his wig and robes and went to meet his friend and to pay the fine himself. That is gift. What the bible calls grace – an unmerited, undeserved gift.

On my first trip to the Holy Land in 2012, I was overwhelmed as we said a prayer on the Mount of Olives looking down the road that led into Jerusalem. It is believed to be the way that Jesus took to go into the city where He was to be killed.

The prayer was one we often use here in our churches. It says ‘Father of all, we give You thanks and praise, that when we were still far off You met us in Your Son and brought us home.’ I was aware that centuries ago and so far away from the country I was born, Jesus walked down that road for me!

That prayer is based on Romans 5

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Remember, I said that the Kingdom of heaven is both here and yet to come. When we realise for ourselves the magnitude of what Jesus has done for us then we begin to live in response to His love and grace. He also comes to live within us by His Spirit. It is freeing, comforting and hopeful to live in that knowledge. In that sense the Kingdom of Heaven is here and now

But also we have a promise of life to come. An eternity with God forever.

This amazing God loves and values us not just for a limited existence but for eternity. Jesus has paid for our frailty and waywardness and inability and opened the way for us. And that eternal living in the presence of God can start NOW! No-one is worthy or good enough BUT the God of love accepts us as we are and works in us to change us by His Spirit

A Christian funeral is so different because there is hope which has begun in THIS time now.

Do I believe in heaven? A definite yes because Jesus said so.

John 11:25-26

Jesus said…., ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.

Will I go to heaven? Yes! Not because I am better than anyone else but because I believe in the One who made it possible.

What will it be like? – that’s another question! – but Jesus tells me it will be in the presence of Himself and Father (and perfect love) for ever. The pressure is off. There is freedom and hope.

Here is a prayer that you can pray if you have not known Jesus as Saviour.

Dear Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that I am not perfect and often fail in many ways. I am so glad for Your offer of new life. I accept the gift of grace that You gave from the cross where You died for me. I ask that You come and live within me by faith and I look forward to Heaven, not just after I die, but the eternal life that can start now. Amen.

Previous Questions

Super Power

Is the Bible trustworthy?

Care for the Planet

The Return of Christ



Which is the Real God

Is Satan Still Around?

Is being Good Enough?

Is God relevant to our life and modern times?

Why bother going to Church?

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