“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” - C.S. Lewis
We are all eternal beings. When we leave this life we take a step into eternity. The Bible tells us that when we enter into afterlife, there are two destinations. The first option is spending eternity in the presence and comfort of our Creator; enjoying Him and glorifying Him forever. The second option is spending eternity apart from God; eternally separated and forever removed from the goodness of God. We have given these destinations the title of heaven and hell and it is clear that of the two choices, most everyone would prefer the first. With this being the case, we are left with the question “How do we get to heaven?”
The general consensus among our culture is that good people go to heaven. The world tells us that if you do your best to live a good life, you deserve to go to heaven. The question then becomes “in light of what the Bible says, do 'good' people deserve to go to heaven?”
Before discussing “do good people go to heaven?,” it is important to define whose definition of good you are using. The human definition we use for good is often times far different than God’s standard. We know that no one is perfect, so our definition of good means that if you measure everything you’ve done in your life, in the end you’ve done more good things than bad things. We can also consider ourselves good people by comparing ourselves to others. We can think “I’m not perfect, but I'm definitely a better person than that guy.” This type of thinking can lead us to believe the false narrative that we are good people who deserve to go to heaven.
When we look at this issue in light of what Scripture says, we get a very different picture of what it means to be good. The Bible tells us that in order to spend eternity with God, we need to be sinless. God is Holy and set apart, and in order to be with Him and to exist in the glory of His presence forever, we must be without sin. Jesus’ brother James states in James 2:10:
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
To fail in any area of the law is to be guilty of breaking all of it. It only takes one sin to make you a sinner. This gives us an idea of what God’s standard of good is: perfection. This is an issue for us because as we all know, no one is perfect. So what are we to do? Well, this is the exact problem that Paul addresses in his letter to the Roman Church. Paul explains that the law exists in order to show us how flawed we are. He explains that no one will be made righteous by following the law because it is impossible for us (Romans 3:19-20). One of the law’s main purposes is to show us how hopeless we are to save ourselves. This is the exact place God wants us to be, in a state of admitting we will never be good enough to make it to heaven on our own. It is for this reason that the Gospel is indeed good news. Paul explains this beautifully in Romans 3:21-24:
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
The moment we acknowledge that we are not good enough, we realize our need for a savior. Jesus was and always will be the only truly good person to ever live. By laying down His life, He paid the debt we owed because of our sin. Jesus offers to cover the sins of all who come to Him in faith and who admit their need and believe in his power to cover their cost. Jesus has provided the only way to God, and it is only through the forgiveness that He offers that we can have certainty of entrance into heaven.
So to answer our opening question: No, “good” people don’t go to Heaven, forgiven people go to Heaven.