“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” C.S. Lewis
Heaven has been defined as a place where God lives. It is often described as paradise, a place to spend the afterlife. It is defined as the polar opposite of Hell.
A prerequisite is something that is required or necessary as a prior condition. So Heaven’s prerequisite by definition would be something that is required or necessary as a prior condition for entering Heaven.
You want to get a group of fundamentalist up in arms begin a Q & A on this topic. Pose this question, “What is required to enter heaven”? “What is required to secure a reservation in Heaven?” Those dragnet type folks who just want the bare facts sometimes ask “What must I do to avoid going to Hell?” All very good questions … all eternally important questions.
If you ask these questions you will receive a variety of answers with a plethora of biblical scripture to back up each point of view. This can be confusing at best and damning at worst. For instance, have you ever heard you must be baptized to go to Heaven? Many believe baptism is the right of admission or adoption into the family of God. Some believe you should be submerged in water to be baptized, some believe you need only be sprinkled with water, others believe you must be sprinkled with water as an infant and then at the “age of accountability” you must determine for yourself when is the appropriate time to be submerged in water baptism. As you can see the debate can be confusing.
Others believe you must not die with unconfessed sin in your life. I would agree confession is good for the soul. I would further agree that admitting to God we have fallen short of the mark is invaluable as a possible change agent. In order for change to take place, we must have knowledge that something needs changing right?
Others believe you must have a member of the clergy issue you last rites. Last rites are generally given to people who have knowledge of an impending death, i.e., those awaiting execution, mortally wounded or terminally ill. This has its origin in scriptures that talk about praying for the sick and anointing them with oil.
Some believe you must belong to and be an active member of a local church fellowship. Hebrews 10:24 says “do not forsake the assembling of yourself together”. I think most would agree church attendance can have a positive, life changing effect on a person.
Each one of these “prerequisites” is valid and good in their place. Baptism is a good thing. It is a choice, an outward behavior that signifies an inward change. It is a public acknowledgment that we are a new creature in Christ.
It is good to confess to God sins or shortcomings when they occur. This keeps honest people honest as they say. Admitting fault is a sign of maturity that signals a readiness to grow or change.
Laying on of hands and anointing with oil is good also; whether it is the sick or the dying. It is a display of faith. It is a signal of our acceptance that God is in control and our belief that He will do what is His best for the situation.
Belonging to a church fellowship is good. It surrounds you with a built in support group and allows you to be supportive of others. It provides an environment to grow and mature.
Each of these is important in the proper place, however; none are a prerequisite for Heaven. The ONLY prerequisite for Heaven is to accept and acknowledge the need for a Savior, recognized the one and only Savior is Jesus the son of God, believe he died on the cross for every sin ever committed or that will ever be committed in the future, He resurrected three days later and now sits at the right hand of God the Father. Nothing more … nothing less.
The Bible is full of scriptures about behaviors that can be added to make the Christian life more rewarding, more intimate, more productive, more fulfilling, more effective, more joyful. But there is nothing that can be added as a prerequisite for heaven. Nothing.
Some people are troubled by what happens to individuals who have never heard the name of Jesus. Which is difficult to understand in our Western world, but the very person we so often take for granted, the salvation we take so lightly was given freely by someone of whom some have never heard. In this case I believe the Old Testament holds the answer. For those whom have never heard the name of Jesus it is as if Jesus never lived and most importantly never died or rose from the dead. It is difficult to believe on the topic of salvation a loving God would hold a person accountable for knowledge he/she do not possess.
Having said that, we are each born with an innate sense of right and wrong. Some call it a conscience. Abraham in the Old Testament was called righteous and faithful without the blood of Jesus. So was King David, Moses, Noah, Ruth, Elijah, Elisha, Queen Esther, etc. None of these people could be cleansed by the blood of Jesus, as it had not been shed and many of them committed egregious sins. However, God called them righteous because of their faith and their desire to do good. Their willingness to follow and be guided by their God given conscience. I have even heard some say it is better to have never heard the name of Jesus than to have heard it and rejected it. But that is a topic for another day.
The good news is, thankfully for those of us who have heard the name Jesus we can choose to have absolute assurance. Once you have heard the name, once who He is has been explained to you, then the decision is yours. Jesus + Nothing = Salvation. #whosoever