Can We Know For Sure That We Will Go to Heaven When We Die?

By Colleen Donahue

This article is the heart of a letter that I sent to my mom. I had called her from an airport on my way home and somehow we started talking about the likelihood of a plane crashing. I said that if it did, I was ready to be with Jesus in Heaven. Mom commented that "she hoped that would be the case." I realized then that she didn't really know for sure for me and maybe not even for herself. I thus sat down to write a thoughtful response to her "hope".

The Bible makes it very clear that we can KNOW without a doubt that when we die we can be with the Lord in an abundant life for all eternity. It has brought confidence and rest to my life as I hope it will to yours. Let me explain.

These verses in 1 John 5:11-13 are the heart of God’s promise to us.

“And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. So whoever has God's Son has life; whoever does not have his Son does not have life. I write this to you who believe in the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.”  NLT (New Living Translation)

Many people (even those who consider themselves Christians) believe that to get to Heaven it will all be a matter of having lived our lives to be good enough in God’s sight. Therefore they “hope” they will be good enough to “make it”. But God’s word (the Bible) tells us that it’s a matter of F.A.I.T.H.  Each letter in faith stands for something.


We can’t have eternal life and Heaven without God’s forgiveness. And how do we get that?

Ephesians 1:7  says,
“ He (God) is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven." NLT

A=Available to All But Not Automatic

Jesus tells us in his own words in John 3:16-17

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” NLT

While God’s forgiveness is available to all it is not automatic.

Matthew 7:21-22 says -- "Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as 'Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven." NLT


It’s impossible for anyone to make themselves right with God on their own.  When our first parents sinned, everyone from then on inherited a sin nature and passed it along to their children. With that sin nature we just naturally sin. (We can see that’s true because we never have to teach a child how to be “naughty”. It happens naturally.) There is nothing we as humans can do about it.

Sin isn’t the individual “acts” that we all think when we use this word. Sin in essence is living life independent of God. It’s operating as though we know best. We go about our days hardly ever thinking about God or consulting him in our day to day decisions. Sin is living as WE want irrespective of God. Sadly this is even how many church going folks live. We don’t have to hate God to live in sin. We can just ignore Him on Monday through Saturday while paying our respects on Sunday.

That’s why the Bible says in Romans 3:23

“…all have sinnedall fall short of God's glorious standard.”     NLT

Knowing the decision our first parents (Adam & Eve) would make and all that would follow, God from before the foundation of the world made a plan to redeem us by giving us His Son Jesus.  He was born “Emmanuel” which means “God with us”.  The task of redemption had to be done by someone who was both God and man.  Why?

God alone could not just pardon us. He is holy and just and his judgment must be against sin of any kind. He loves his children but if he allowed sinful men into Heaven then Heaven would soon become hell as is happening here on earth.

Man alone could not atone for himself or others because men are "all in the same boat" – i.e. they have a sin nature and therefore they sin.

If God won’t allow sin into Heaven and all men are sinners (because they have a sin nature) this leaves us with the question: “Who then can be saved?”
(Matthew 19:25b)

Jesus answers this Himself in the next verse Matthew 19:26 --- “Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.’"  NLT

As a man, the sinless Jesus was able to take the punishment of God (in our place) for the sins we have committed. This is the only reason we can be forgiven.  The prophet Isaiah prophesied this thousands of years before it happened.

Isaiah 53:5-6
“But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.” NLT

As God, Jesus was able to take our sin nature and destroy it in himself on the Cross.  This is a cosmic miracle that he did for everybody.

Romans 6: 6-7 says, “ Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.”     NLT

And this is what gives us a reprieve so that we can turn around (repent) and receive the Holy Spirit of Jesus into our lives.

T=Turn Around

To turn around is what it means to repent. We turn from going one direction – 180 degrees in the opposite direction.  We turn FROM sin and self:

Acts 3:19 --- “Now turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sins.”      NLT

Luke 13:3 --- “…..You will also perish unless you turn from your evil ways and turn to God.”    NLT

We turn TO Christ (who is God)…..

Romans 10:9 says that “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.”     NLT

This wonderful promise is then repeated again a few verses on in Romans 10:13:  “For anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  NLT

H=Holy Spirit

Scripture says in Romans 8:9b
“And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”  NIV (New International Version)

When Jesus was about to leave the earth He said it was important that he leave so that he could give us His Holy Spirit. While on earth Jesus could only be in one place at a time. He tells us in John 16:7

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (or Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. “  NKJV (New King James Version)

How do we receive the Holy Spirit so that we can belong to Christ?

Acts 5:32 answers this for us:   “We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him."  NLT

When we obey God He gives us the Holy Spirit to live within us. We actually start to obey God when we turn or repent. That was the very first thing Jesus told us to do when He started his ministry. It’s in Matthew 4:17

Jesus began to preach, "Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near." NLT

This is now where you have to stop and listen to God speak. If you’ve asked the Holy Spirit to dwell within you, then ask Him to speak to your heart and show you what you need to repent of.  Obey him and then…..

Thank God for giving Jesus to take the punishment for your sins.
Thank God for dealing with your old sinful nature in Jesus at the cross.
Thank God that with the death of your old nature you now have the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit (Christ’s own Spirit) into your heart.

These actions altogether is what it means to be born again.  With the death of our old nature we are born again when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. The Bible says we become “new Creations in Christ.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 --- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” NIV

And when we are born again it says in 1 John 5:14-15 ---- “And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will.  And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for.” NLT

Then you can pray something like this with confidence. “Lord, I am your child and I know that it’s your will for me to spend eternity with you – starting right now and then in Heaven. I ask you as your child to prepare me and thank you for your promise of eternal life – especially that I can know for certain that I will be with you forever when my life is finished here.” Amen

FAITH has another definition that defines the action all of us need to take in regards to these things.  It is:
F.A.I.T.H =Forsaking All I Trust Him.

I know that this is a lot to take in but I hope it brings some clarity for you. This life will be over soon enough and we all want clarity on where we spend eternity. In Jesus alone we can know that we have life everlasting.