A pastor told his congregation that if the speed limit was 55 miles per hour (90 kph) and you were driving at 56 miles per hour (91 kph) and had a wreck and died, you'd go to hell. Is that true?
A lady came to me very concerned about her mother who had died. The mom expressed faith in Christ before she died, but due to a very abusive marriage years earlier, was still bitter towards her ex-husband. She wanted to know if her mom was in heaven.
A man addicted to porn who also had a heart condition, was worried he would be sitting in front of his computer one day watching porn and have a heart attack and die. He wanted to know if he would still go to heaven if that happened.
A single lady I knew in church, who was active in church, one day committed suicide. Is she in heaven?
When Christians die with unrepented sin
Answering these questions touch on several 'hot buttons' for many - once saved always saved, the unpardonable sin, the judgement of God to name three - but let me start by saying something that may sound rather radical:
It isn't the forgiveness of your sins that gets you into heaven.
That is a shocker to many, yet it is the truth. What gets you into heaven isn't the forgiveness of your sins - your 'ticket' to heaven is something more than that.
Your 'ticket' to heaven is that your spirit has been recreated by the Holy Spirit
The Father has legally forgiven all people who have ever lived or ever will live, charging their sins to Christ on the cross instead of them. Yet Jesus said to get to heaven you must be 'born again' by the Holy Spirit, and then you will have Life. (II Corinthians 5:19, John 3:6)
So it is more than merely Jesus purchasing the forgiveness of everyone's sins who has ever lived or ever will live - that just presented the legal opportunity for people to become born again. Unfortunately some in the modern 'grace' teaching only see the sins paid for on the cross and think all therefore will end up in heaven, neglecting the fact that like anything done for another person, that person must of their own will take advantage of what was done for them.
If I put money in your bank account, that is a legal transaction, but it does you no good, it doesn't become living until you make use of the provision. Noah was a preacher of righteousness, there was room on the boat, but only the 8 in his family survived. He couldn't make everyone get into the Ark, which is a type of Christ we are told by Peter. All he could do is the legal thing to give them opportunity. As it was with the type, so it is with the True. (I Peter 3:20-22)
Say it another way
The only people in heaven are family of the King. Barb and I have 3 sons, and there is a little of us in each of them. That is natural family. The Father has children too, and to be part of His family there has to be a little of Him in each of His kids. That is the Holy Spirit.
There are only 2 ways to become part of a family: By birth, and by adoption. We've been both born into the family and adopted by Him. It is the answer to 'Who's your daddy' that determines heaven or hell.
"...but you have received the Spirit of adoption in which we cry, 'Abba, Father'. The (Holy) Spirit Himself testifies to (with) our spirit, saying that we are the children of God." Romans 8:15-16
"And it was of His own free will that He gave us brith as sons by His Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures, a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself." James 1:18
There are numerous other scriptures which state the same thing - your 'right' to heaven is because you were legally adopted through the cross of Jesus, and then born into the adopting family by the Holy Spirit.
If Jesus' sacrifice on the cross ONLY bought the forgiveness of sins but not the new birth, no one would go to heaven. Fortunately we cannot separate the two.
The earnest money
"The Spirit is God's down payment, earnest money, which guarantees that He will give us the inheritance that He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people." Ephesians 1:14
It is interesting to note the word 'earnest' was in Paul's time 'earnest money', and the understood reference by his original readers. It means the same thing it means to us today - a down payment given as a promise of fulfilling the whole deal. All we have in Christ is from the Father's point of view, mere earnest money down to take us 'off the market' and as a foretaste of what He has for us in the ages to come. WOW!
Live by this and you will have peace
Paul wrote the Galatians because they had left grace and gone back into legalism. He contrasts the law and grace, flesh and (S)spirit, and emphasizes NOT that their sins have been forgiven, but that they were born of the Spirit and are now the family of God.
He concluded his letter by saying this: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision (being a Jew), nor un-circumcision (Gentile) means anything, but a new creation. As many as live by this rule, peace is on them, and the Israel of God." Galatians 6:15-16
If this doesn't make it clear Paul taught there are only 2 races of people in the earth, born of God and not born of God - he said it a different way earlier:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: For you are all one in Christ Jesus." 3:28
All people are the creatures of God, but only people born of the Spirit are children of God
There is great peace in knowing this. There is no race, no nationality, no soci-economic considerations that really matter - it is only a matter of have you been born of the Spirit, or not?
Paul said in 6:16 'As many as live by this rule, peace is on them...' This RULE. This is the Greek word 'kanon', or the English, canon. It was a straight rod used as we would use a yard or meter stick today. It was a carpenter's tool, used to measure all things by it because of its unerring straightness.
Paul said this fact, that the only thing that matters is the new creation in Christ, is a rule by which all else can be measured.
How this helps
If you are grounded in the fact your spirit has been recreated by God's Spirit, it ends the tendency to go back to religious legalism - which is why Paul dwelt on this truth to the Galatians. Christ in you is the measuring stick by which all else is measured.
How can any teaching, any religious exercise, improve on Christ in you? If you hear a 'prophet' say 'Pray this for 7 days then do this...', you will recognize it as a false teaching for those edicts can't do more for you than Christ who is in you.
If someone tells you in order to please God you must worship on a particular day and not do this or that, you will recognize Christ is in you 24/7 so picking one day as holier than others is ridiculous - You are already a new creation in Him; do people really think worshipping on one day rather than another improves on that?
If you hear someone say you have to do this or that for an open heaven, you'll recognize that as error since Christ is in you already - heaven is completely open to you 24/7 - so jumping through religious hoops adds nothing to Christ in you.
Paul used 'kanon', the measuring stick, because this is the guiding line for salvation in Christ alone, separate from religious works.
This is why....
This is why he said in II Corinthians 5:16-17: "From this point on I know no person by fleshly standards, but by the Spirit...for if any person is in Christ, they are a new creation; Old things have passed away and behold! All things have become new!"
This must be our foundational understanding, which is God's point of view: There are only 2 types of people in the earth; those who have been recreated by the Spirit, and those who haven't. All people have legally been forgiven, but some have received the benefits of the legal action of the cross, making the truth of the cross Alive and their spirits have been recreated. THAT is your ticket to heaven. You are right now a citizen of heaven. You are right now already in eternity. You don't die and pass on to eternity - you are already in eternity as a child of the Father, a member of His household, a citizen of His kingdom. (Hebrews 12:22-23)
So we return to an accident at 56 mph or 91 kph in a posted 55 mph or 90 kph. We return to the old lady who loves God but struggles with bitterness towards her ex-husband. We return to the man with the heart condition falling over dead in front of a porn site on his computer. And we must not forget the woman who ended her life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Are they in heaven, even with those sins a present reality in their lives?
We've laid a foundation - you don't go to heaven because Jesus forgave your sins, you get to heaven because your spirit has been recreated by the Holy Spirit. There are therefore only 2 races of people on the planet; citizens of heaven, and citizens of hell. And that's where we'll pick it up next week. Until then, think on these things, blessings