Dr. John Ankerberg: The Barna Research Group did a national survey of Americans, and found out the 75-78% of all Americans thought they were going to heaven. Now, the question is, how can you know for certain that you will go to heaven? People are saying, “I want to know for sure, Erwin, that I am going to heaven. You’ve got me wondering, am I going?” And some people are saying, “I’ve never heard this before. Tell me the first time. How does Jesus take somebody to heaven?”
Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Well, you know, John, when my mother was 100 years old, I said to her, “Mother, do you know, absolutely sure, are you absolutely sure that when you die, you’ll go to heaven?” And I’ll never forget her answer. She said, “I am so certain that it is as if I am already there.” Wow! Where does that certainty come from? Now here’s the thing. You and I know that there are people who believe that their religion is right. They are willing to die for their religion, and so they would disagree with us. But here’s the interesting thing. If you ask them personally, “Do you know that you’re going to go to heaven and be with God,” every single time they will say, “No, I’m not sure. As a matter of fact, nobody really can be sure.”
So, how can my mother have that assurance? Is it because she studied all the different religions of the world? No. There are two ways: the Word of God and the Spirit of God. The Bible says in Romans 8:16, that the Spirit of God, “bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” But it isn’t simply based on something that subjective. It is based on the promise of Jesus that “he who believes in Me has eternal life.” And because of her faith in Christ alone—my mother is dead today—but when she died, if she was asked why she should enter heaven, she wouldn’t have said, “It’s because I’ve been a good mother and because I’ve done this, that, or that.” It is based completely on the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.
And we have to say to everyone; we have to say to millennials who believe in such things, for example, as the gospel of social justice; we need to tell them that the gospel is not what you can do for Jesus. The gospel is what Jesus has done for you.
Now, let me talk about assurance. You know, we fly quite a bit, my wife and I, and sometimes we’ve flown by stand-by. And you’ve had that experience, John, you know, you’re pacing the floor there in the lounge, and you’re not sure whether or not you’re going to get on. I remember bugging one woman, you know, “Am I going to be on this?” “Well, we don’t know.” And then a few moments later finally she said, you know, “I’ll call your name if you’re going to be on the plane or if you’re not going to make it.” Uncertainty.
How different it is when you sit there, and you have a ticket. And when you have that ticket you can kick back, you can rejoice. Why? Because you know, “There’s a seat on the plane for me.” It may be 6F, but there it is. And the Bible says that for those who believe the gospel, there is a place reserved in heaven for you. Like I tell people, there’s a crown that only you can wear; there’s a door that only you can enter; there’s a place reserved for you—if you meet the requirement of receiving what Jesus Christ did on our behalf. And it’s not even pledging your allegiance to Jesus—we break our promises—it’s coming to Christ and receiving the gift of eternal life. But we come in humility; we come in faith; and we come with a great sense of need because we know that we are sinners. And then we transfer our trust to what He did for us.
John Ankerberg: I love what you said: If you will believe and trust that Jesus Christ did everything that is necessary on that cross for you to go to heaven someday; if you put your trust in Him; He’ll take care of the rest. If you do that, then you can know you’re saved.
Erwin Lutzer: And when you stand before God it won’t be about you, it will be about Him. And as we sometimes sing, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin has left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” And He’s the only one who has the credentials to do that. There’s no other teacher, there’s no other guru that has ever made those kinds of promises. Christ alone is able to save.
Editor’s note: The content of this article is excerpted and slightly edited from our television series, “How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God – Part 1.”