No, but not for the reasons you’ve probably been told!
Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net
[Originally published on Helium 02-10-2009]
Can you get to Heaven by being good? Can you get to Heaven at all? What is the reward of the saved? What does the Bible say? You may be surprised to learn the difference between what the Bible says and what human traditions tell you.
We will look at what the OT belief was to the fate of the dead saints. Did King David ascend into heaven when he died? Finally, what did Jesus teach about the matter? The answers may surprise you!
What Was the OT Belief As to the Dead Saints?
19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
14 If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
15 Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.
Job and Isaiah believed in a resurrection. Isaiah wrote that the earth would “cast” the dead out of their graves. Job believed God would call him out of the grave back to life again! Not only that, but notice where His Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will be when he will see God:
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Job also realized that his Redeemer would be on the earth!
Did King David Ascend Into Heaven When He Died?
Many people can quote John 3:16, but they totally neglect not only what it says but also the context. Just a few verses before that famous verse is this one:
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
~ Jn 3:13
Here we can plainly see that John wrote that no one has gone into Heaven, except Jesus Christ Who came down to earth and was resurrected back up into Heaven. Obviously, Jesus ascended back up after His death, and many Bible erroneously have these words in red. John obviously put this in as an inset verse. Nevertheless, it is part of the inspired word.
If no one had previously gone to Heaven, then not even righteous King David would have gone to Heaven. He was an ancestor of Jesus. His was the kingly line within Judah. It was promised that an heir would come from him that would be the “Branch” or the Messiah (Jer 23:5; et al). Wouldn’t he inherit the reward of the saved? Obviously! After his death, Ezekiel wrote that King David would be king over Israel (Eze 37:24)! So, does the Bible say that David “went to Heaven”? Hear the words of Peter, who says David is still buried and in his tomb:
29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
34 For David is not ascended into the heavens…
This is the teaching straight from the Bible! David is still in the grave!
What Did Jesus Teach?
28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
~ Jn 5:28
Jesus said that He will call us out of the grave. The belief hasn’t changed since OT times! Where do the saved go after that?
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
~ Mt 5:5
10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
~ Rev 5:10
No, the location of the reward of the saved hasn’t changed from OT to NT, either. Nowhere in the Bible does it state that Heaven is the reward of the saved. In fact, you will not find the phrases, “When we get to Heaven”, “We will all meet in Heaven”, “When I meet Jesus in Heaven”, or “The saved go to Heaven”.
So, we see that the OT belief was in the resurrection, and it did not change in the NT. We see that no one except Jesus Christ, not even King David, went to Heaven after death. We see Jesus’ own words and in the vision He gave to John in the Book of Revelation that the reward of the saved is here on earth after His return.
So, the answer is, “No, you cannot get to Heaven by being good because no one goes to Heaven when they die.”