What happens when “good” people die? The Bible tells us some go to Heaven while others go to Hell. It also tells us “bad” people can enter Heaven. How can this be, and how can you be sure you will go to Heaven when you die? If you are headed to the wrong place, wouldn’t you want to know?
It is easy to believe God will someday judge and condemn the wicked, immoral, evil, and cruel people of this world. In fact, I think most of us would cheer God on when it comes to judgment and condemnation of people such as Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, Pol Pot, Sadddam Hussein, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Osama bin Laden. When men have taken the lives of many innocent people, we tend to believe they deserve harsh judgment in return. We become cheerleaders for condemnation.
Our attitudes about condemnation shift suddenly, however, when we the people in our lives. I refer specifically those who (1) appear to be “good” people; and, (2) who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their LORD and Savior. We don’t condemn the sweet grandmother down the street who bakes cookies each day for the neighborhood children, the wealthy philanthropist who devotes time and money to working with the poor and disadvantaged, the doctor who travels to foreign countries to do free medical work, or perhaps a close family member who has always been there in times of need. What about these good people? Many of them are not Christians, yet have reputations as good, moral people. What happens to them when they die?
The answer heard often these days is that a loving God would never judge or condemn “good” people along with the “bad” people. This is a common refrain declared by those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their LORD and Savior, but they are wrong. These people will not enter Heaven.
As Christians, we must be prepared to answer this challenge that confronts us frequently. As Scripture implores us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15). How would you justify God’s intent to send unbelievers to Hell, even if they loved their neighbor?
First we need to remember the Words of Jesus, who told the rich young man “There is only One who is good.” (Matthew 19:17). Jesus points to a common mistake we make in our thinking – the use of relative comparisons. We use our own standards to judge who is “good” or “bad” instead of God’s standards. Our judgments of what constitutes “good” and “bad” are always relative to those around us, not to God’s righteous expectations.
If you asked most people whether they considered themselves “good” or “bad”, most would probably not declare themselves as a “bad” person. Most people do not consider their family and friends to be “bad” people who deserve harsh judgment from God. We compare ourselves to people such as Hitler and conclude that because we are not mass murderers, we are not bad people.
Our assessments of what is “good” and “bad” are mostly self-centered. We tend to measure “good” and “bad” by our own standards, guidelines we invent based on the ways of the world, not God’s normal ways. We also conclude self-servingly that “good” is what we are and “bad” applies to people are who behave “worse” than we. We make ourselves our own measure of goodness, our own plumb line (2 Kings 21:13), our own moral compass. We do this at our peril. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, there are no righteous or “good” people (Romans 3:10-12).
The Bible tells us it is not normal to compare ourselves to others. “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Paul reminds us again how we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). He is reminding us that as sinners, we all deserve death and eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). In God’s Holy eyes, none of us is “good”. In fact, those who claim not to have sinned are calling God a liar (1 John 1:10), and we all learned in kindergarten that lying is not good (Exodus 20:3-17, Deuteronomy 5:7-21).
The Bible tells us we can avoid perishing if we believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). He is the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). No one else can be our go-between with God (1 Timothy 2:5). Salvation comes through no one else (Acts 4:12). Christians aren’t trying to be mean-spirited when they say “good” people will go to Hell, they are just speaking the Truth.
The plan of salvation is not man’s plan, it’s God’s plan. If you don’t like it, He would love for you to take it up with Him personally because He loves to talk with you. Remember, He wants you to be in Heaven with Him (2 Peter 3:9), but being a “good” person without Jesus Christ won’t get you there.
A servant of Jesus Christ
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