“Believers who go to heaven?” Don’t all believers go to heaven? Doesn’t John 3:16 say whoever believes has eternal life? Yes, John 3:16 does say that and we believe that. Just as John 3:16 says that, however, Scripture – which cannot and does not contradict itself – also says there are some believers who will NOT receive eternal life. We need only go to Matthew 7, verses 21, 22 and 23 for that as Jesus pronounces judgment upon the miracle workers who called him, “Lord, Lord!” We have another video on our channel which address the people of Matthew 7 – today, we want to look at this issue: the believers who go to heaven – what do they look like? How can you know you are a believer who goes to heaven?
A simple answer to the question would be to tell you to read the first four chapters of 1 John and the first twelve verses of chapter five, because in verse 13 of 1 John, chapter five, John says, “I write these things so that you may know you have eternal life.” Recall that John was the same writer, carried along by the Holy Spirit, who wrote John 3:16. John wants his audience to have assurance of their salvation – John doesn’t write so that people might live their lives in doubt… he wants them to live their lives in assurance, and he spends four full chapters and the first twelve of the next chapter in giving them a basis for their assurance.
In 1 John, for our purposes today let’s look at just the first five verses of chapter five.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Look at the argument John makes here – first, everyone who believes in Jesus has been born of God. The new birth. Next, everyone who loves the Father, loves everyone else who has also been born again, but then how do we know we love our fellow children of God? By keeping His commandments – which are not burdensome. Didn’t Jesus say His yoke is easy and His burden is light – Matthew 11:30? Look at John’s reasoning here and the cascading argument he makes – verse two is based on what came before, and not just in verse one. Verse three then shows what the love of God in verse two looks like. Verse four expands on that argument and verse five draws a conclusion. Verses four and five say that those who have been born again – born of God – are people of love – love for God and love for the brethren – their fellow believers. And, when you love God and love the brethren you overcome the world. You overcome what John has described back in chapter two, verse 15 – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. There’s an assumed answer to his rhetorical question in verse five of chapter five – no one else overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. These all go together – the new birth, believing, loving God and the brethren, and overcoming the world. Our Bibles know nothing of a Christian who believes in Jesus who does not overcome the world. Our Bibles know nothing of a person who says they are a Christian who continues to live the life of sin they lived before they said they believed. John makes that point again in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three – who are the people who receive the reward? Those who overcome, or perhaps your translation says they conquer – conquer what? The world! They conquer the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes. The ones who conquer will be granted to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God, they will not be hurt by the second death, they will receive hidden manna, they’ll be given a white stone with a new name, they’ll receive authority over the nations, their names will never be blotted out of the book of life, they’ll be a pillar in the temple of God, they’ll sit with Jesus on His throne, But they – you – me – have to overcome the world. Anybody who tells you that a Christian does not need to lead a life of holiness does not understand what happens at the new birth – I’m not saying you live a life of absolute sinlessness, because John, our writer here, says we still have sin in 1 John 1, but our lives will not be dominated or identified as sinful… you read chapter three in 1 John and you see John, carried along by the Holy Spirit, making very strong statements about this and he says that the one who does not practice righteousness is NOT of God. NOT OF GOD! Verse 10, chapter three, 1 John.
We have other passages. The writer to the Hebrews states that there is indeed a holiness without which no man shall see the Lord – no man – a universal negative – chapter twelve, verse fourteen. Paul, in Romans 6, says that the believer walks in newness of life, and he also says the believer, having been justified by faith alone and having peace with God – chapter five verse one – is no longer a slave to sin but is now a slave to righteousness in chapter six, verse 18.
We do have a danger here which I need to address – this is not about making your salvation about works. We are not justified by works, and at the end of the day, our ongoing, progressive sanctification after having been justified is not by works either – it’s all about faith! Look at what John says in 1 John 5:4 – what is the victory that has overcome the world? Our faith! Who overcomes the world? The one who believes! That belief, though, necessarily results in a different life than the one we had before we were saved. We’ll love what God loves. We’ll hate what God hates – Psalm 97:10 charges those who love the Lord with hating evil. We’ll love righteousness. We’ll seek the Lord, but seek Him by faith, not by works. We’ll strive to love…what did Jesus say? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself, right? What does your love for God look like, though, when you say you love Jesus? Jesus didn’t descend from the perfections of the eternal glory He shared with the Father to live a perfect life on our behalf here on this earth, die the death we deserved, satisfying the wrath of God, then was buried in a tomb, and rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and ascended to the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for His people… He did NOT do all that you could go on watching porn, brother. He didn’t do all that so you could be the quarrelsome wife who drives her husband to the corner of the roof, sister. He didn’t do all that so His people could look and live just like the world – the world that we as God’s people are called to NOT love – 1 John 2:15. Yes, we have to run the race with endurance – Hebrews 12 – yes, we have to endure to the end – Matthew 10:22. Yes, we have to take care lest there be in any of us an evil, unbelieving heart, leading us to fall away from the living God – Hebrews 3:12. Keep on believing, brethren…keep on believing. Conquer this world by faith in the One who has conquered sin and death, the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep on wrestling against the powers, the principalities…but wrestle by faith. Conquer this world. Overcome it. By faith in the One who did it on our behalf. That’s how you know your belief has saved you. That’s how you hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” instead of “Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness…I never knew you.” on that great and final Day when Jesus returns. Amen.