My youth group recently began a study on “The End: Hard Questions About Eternity.” In preparation for that series, I sent a survey to students asking for their questions about heaven, hell, along with other issues. The overwhelmingly most common question was this:
What if I don’t go to heaven?
What if I go to hell?
This isn’t a fear that only teenagers struggle with. I’ve talked with many Christians who struggle with assurance of their salvation and eternal destiny. Assurance is simply confidence that something will happen… so the question is this: Is there eternal assurance for the Christian?
The Foundation of the Christian’s Assurance
Simply put, the foundation of Christian assurance is the gospel, which proclaims good news that God saves sinners. Sinners don’t save themselves (they can’t!). Instead, it is God who rescued and adopted Christians through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By our faith in Jesus, we are saved.
“For you are saved by grace through faith,
and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift
— not from works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 (CSB)
I’ve emphasized the verse above for a reason. No one’s salvation is earned… it’s always a gift of grace, purchased for us by Jesus Christ. Since we didn’t earn it, and since it’s a gift, we can be assured that nothing we do (or don’t do) will lose it for us.
Here’s the truth: Salvation isn’t about us, it’s a gift for us. So next time you feel like you’re not a “good enough” Christian, or like you’re not impressive enough or godly enough or whatever… remember that was never the reason for your salvation in the first place. Your salvation is purely the work of God, and he worked in you so that you would recognize the gift and receive it. You didn’t do anything except receive it… so why could you work your way out of it?
Living With Assurance
If you have confessed your sin, repented from sin, and professed faith in Jesus Christ as God and savior then you are a Christian. What, then, does a life of eternal assurance look like?
- Believe God (don’t just believe in him). God is not an idea, but a living Person (Trinity). Christianity is about more than a set of theological ideas… because those theological truths describe our real, personal, and holy God. Trust God, not merely ideas about him.
- Receive the Gift (don’t work for a paycheck). Our new life in Christ is the “effect” of salvation, not the “cause” of it. Receive the gift, then live out from the acceptance you’ve received because of Jesus’ finished-work.
- View today’s joys and struggles in light of God’s promise (don’t live with a worldly, here-and-now mindset). Because we believe God, and because we have received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, then we live with a different viewpoint on the world. We know that God uses both suffering and victories in order to make us more like him and to show the unbelieving world that God’s promise is greater than the worst and the best this world has to offer.
If you’re a Christian who has struggled with assurance of salvation, consider talking with a pastor or another mature Christian who can remind you of the gospel. If you’re not a Christian, but you’re fearful and worried about eternity, consider the weight of sin and the promise of God to forgive and redeem sinners who repent and trust in Jesus Christ. God is faithful.