One of the most important questions your mind can ever entertain is this question: Who is going to heaven? There is only one alternative to heaven. That is hell, the place the Bible calls outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, where “the smoke of their torment ascends up for ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Rev. 14:11). And there is nothing in between. It is heaven or it is hell. God says in His Word that all men and women must appear before Him in death. Then they shall be divided as a shepherd would divide the sheep from the goats; one into everlasting punishment, into everlasting hell and torment; and the other into everlasting glory.
Who are going to heaven? Are you?
And, if so, why so?
I will answer that question from the Scriptures today. In fact, in answering the question “Who are going to heaven?” I intend to limit myself to the book of Revelation, the very last book of the Bible. The book of Revelation contains much rich teaching on heaven and on the frightening reality of hell.
I want to answer that question strictly from the Bible because it is only the answer of God’s Word that matters. It is only the answer of God’s Word which the Spirit will take to press down upon your conscience. The answer of the Scriptures is the answer of God. That is the answer you and I have to have. You see, it is not your answer to that question, it is not your opinion that counts. It is not anyone else’s opinion or answer to that question that counts. I caution you: do not try to make your own contract and your own peace with God and imagine that you can answer who is going to heaven on your own terms. No. You must know the true answer, God’s answer. The only thing that counts is God’s answer, for God Himself will either open heaven or shut heaven to you and to me.
And God’s answer is very clear. You may take up the Bible and read for yourself. I will be pointing you to many places in the book of Revelation today, so take your Bible and follow along with me.
I am going to bring at least two things that the book of Revelation says in answer to the question, Who are going to heaven? Next week I will consider two more things. But I want to say something about those four things from the book of Revelation which are an answer to the question, Who are going to heaven?
It must be very clear to you that all four of these things are true of those who are going to heaven. Not one or two of them, but all four must be true of anyone who enters heaven. I want you to listen very carefully and very personally, in your own conscience. Do you have a biblical ground to believe that you will enter heaven if you were to die today? Remember, once again, not your answer, not man’s answer, but God’s answer. And if you answer other than what God answers, your hope is only a dream.
Who is going to heaven?
First of all, the Bible answers that question this way: Those, only those, but all of those, whose names are found written in the Lamb’s book of life.
There are many references to the Lamb’s book of life in the book of Revelation. Let us look at three of them. First of all, turn in your Bible to Revelation 3:5. In this chapter the Lord Jesus Christ, as the risen Lord and King of the church, is speaking to the seven churches of Asia Minor. One of them was at Sardis. As Christ speaks, He concludes His message to the church of Sardis with these words: “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Notice what the Lord Jesus does in that verse. He brings into closest connection His confessing of an individual (of a boy or a girl, of a man or a woman) and that individual’s name being written in the book of life. All whom He confesses before the Father are those who are found written in the book of life.
Jesus says, “I will confess their name.” There is nothing more personal than your name. To have Jesus confess your name before the Father is synonymous with being welcomed into heaven itself. Jesus says, I will confess their name, I will welcome them to My presence, I will say, “Father, this is one of My own, this is one for whom I have shed My blood.” But all those who are confessed by Jesus Christ are those who are found written in the book of life. You will not be confessed by Jesus Christ unless your name is written in the book of life.
Turn to Revelation 20:15. Here we have the scene which depicts the final judgment on the last day. Beginning in verse 11 we read that John saw a great white throne. And there he sees that all men are brought from the state of death, both the believing and unbelieving, and stand before God’s throne to be judged. Then we read the conclusion in verse 15: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” That is, any name of any man, woman, boy, girl, of any age, country, whatever the social status, regardless of the race (white, black, whatever it might be) whose name is not found in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire. The absence of a person’s name in that book will result in his being cast into the lake of fire.
One more passage: Revelation 21:25-27. In that chapter the perfected church of the new heaven and the new earth is likened unto a beautiful city which comes down out of heaven. Its gates are of pearl and its streets are of gold. The gates are never shut, we read. Then, in verse 27, we read the following: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Could the Bible be plainer? Can God put it into simpler language? Who are going to pass through the gates of pearl? Who are going to go to the place of perfect peace and light, where sin and evil are done away? Who are going to go to heaven? They that are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
But you ask the question, What is this book of life? And how does one get his name written in the Lamb’s book of life?
To answer that question, turn in your Bible to Revelation 17:8. In this chapter God is speaking of the many who will wonder at the Antichrist. The Antichrist is the final man of sin who is going to persecute the church. There are many who will follow him and be stupified before him. We read this: “And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life (and note the following) from the foundation of the world.” When then was this book of life filled up with specific and individual names? It was written before the foundation of the world, which is a figurative way of referring to the creation. Before time, before the world was created, God had already written this book. The book of life is the way the Bible refers to God’s pre-determination of the eternal destiny of the souls of men. The Lamb’s book of life is a figurative way of speaking of the glorious truth that those who are found in heaven are those whom God chose, whom God chose before He created the heaven and the earth, those whom He set His own love upon before the world began and set His love upon for no other reason than that He would do so out of His own heart. Before Adam stood in the Garden of Eden, before the creation stood out from the hand of God, before the sun shone in the heaven, before you and I had any existence, God freely, God sovereignly (that means because of His own good pleasure) set His heart upon specific individual sinners and wrote their names in His book, the Lamb’s book of life. Names that he entrusted to the Lamb, to the Son of God, who would come to be slain upon the cross and in whose blood there would be forgiveness.
Perhaps you have heard a hymn once which went this way:
There’s a new name written down in glory.
And it’s mine!
That is not true. That is false. There are not new names written down in glory. My name was written before I was converted. I am converted because my name was written. For those whom God has pre-determined to save are also the ones whom God, in time, calls to His Son, Jesus Christ. You may look at Romans 8:29, 30. God is the Scribe. He writes the name down. Grace is the determining factor. God Himself determines who shall be saved. And the Lamb, Jesus Christ, is the Steward entrusted to save those whose names are written in the book of life. It was entrusted to Him to do all that was necessary to save all those chosen by the Father and given to Him.
What does that tell us?
It tells us at least this. It does not matter a snap about the prestigious organizations and clubs and societies that your name may be written upon. Your name may be written upon the marble and polished slab of great accomplishments. But that does not matter. If it is not on God’s registry of His elect, you will not enter the gates of that city. Mark it well. At death, whether your name is found on the rolls of clubs, unions, countries, or whatever does not matter. Is it found written in the Lamb’s book of life and inscribed with the blood of Jesus Christ?
That also shows you and me that the things we are going to talk about (as being true of those who go to heaven) are true about them because of God’s grace, because of the free electing love of God. Salvation is of God, of God’s grace. If you have any hope of going to heaven it must be something outside of yourself. It must be in the free grace of the living God.
You say to me, well, if it was written down from eternity I cannot change that. I guess I’m hopeless. The answer to that is: Yes. The way of salvation is a way in which you are shut up to a sovereign God. You see, the message of the Bible, first of all, that God must give you to understand is this: it is not you who have God in your hand and that you determine who are going to be saved. Oh, no! The message of the Bible is that God has you in His hands.
But the Bible tells us more.
Who are going to heaven?
The second answer to that question is this: only those washed from the guilt and filth of their sin by the blood of the Lamb. You see, it is not enough to have your name written in the Lamb’s book of life. It must be written there, but, in the grace of God, you must also be washed from your sin and your filth from before God. Listen to me carefully. God’s eternal election brings no one to heaven. God’s election determines who will be brought to heaven. Those elected must be washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the way to heaven.
Turn in your Bible to Revelation 7:9-14 (another marvelous picture of the redeemed standing before the throne of God). John sees that they all fall upon their face before God and worship God in a glorious song of praise. Then the question is asked, Who are these who are glorified and how did they come to be in heaven? The answer is spoken in verse 14: “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Who are going to heaven? Only those who are washed from their sin in the blood of Jesus Christ. The focus falls upon this: those who stand before God are washed from their sins and their filth by the blood of Jesus Christ, washed in the blood of the Lamb.
You say to me, What does that mean? One’s robes or garments refer to how one appears, how one appears before God. Of ourselves, we appear defiled in sin, guilty and filthy and unclean. In the Old Testament book of Zechariah, chapter 3, the first four verses, God pictures a high priest who stands before Him with dirty and defiled garments. Then we read that God replaces those garments with pure and clean garments so that the high priest is acceptable for the presence of God.
So the blood of Jesus Christ is the cleansing power. That blood that Jesus poured out upon Calvary removes the filth and the guilt of my sins. And that is very powerful. Whoever heard of taking a filthy garment and making it white as snow by washing it in blood? We understand that blood stains. Yet the Word of God teaches that the only way to heaven is through the cross, through the blood of Jesus Christ, through His dying for our sins in such a way that when He died for them He washed them all away out of God’s sight and made me clean and whole before God.
You see, heaven is not a place for people who of themselves are inherently good and pure and clean and lovely. It is not a place for people who say, “Basically I am OK, I’m a pretty good guy. I need a few fixing-ups here and there, but basically I’m all right.” Heaven is not a for these kinds of people.
Heaven is for those who know that of themselves they are filthy. They need to be washed. And they know there is nothing that can wash away their sins except Jesus Christ and His cross. Those who are in heaven have found only one solution to their filth of sin: the blood of the Lamb. They did not wash themselves in the washing machines of their own works. They did not come along and try to scrub out the stains of their sins by their own works. They did not trust in their own human efforts. They know that all that they can do is rub the stain of sin deeper into their life. But they were brought, by the grace of God, to a fountain, a fountain for spiritual cleansing. And that fountain is Christ crucified. Plunged into that blood, they come forth clean, clean before the eyes of the holy and almighty God who says, “I cannot find a stain in them.”
That is why Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. They that are whole need not a physician.” Jesus Christ came for those who are given by God to see that they are guilty, that they are filthy sinners. Those who no longer bring excuses before God. Those who no longer exalt themselves before others as being better than others, but those who are oppressed with one question: How shall my filthy sins be washed away from the sight of God? How can I be clean?
Everyone who goes to heaven is given to know the precious answer to that question: The wonderful grace of God in Jesus Christ. The answer is this: You are made clean not in yourself, not in man, not by anything you can do, not by having some water sprinkled over your head. Do not put your trust in that, but in the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, that cleanses us from all our sins.
We will come back next week to the question, Who are going to heaven? Today you heard God’s answer: those who are found written in the Lamb’s book of life, that is, those who are the objects of God’s grace. And those who are washed from their sins in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Search the Scriptures yourselves. I hope you wrote down those passages that we looked at together.
Next week we will return to the question and will go to God’s Word to answer the question, Who are going to heaven.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word. We pray that we may search it out, and may Thy Spirit write it on our hearts. Amen.