You don’t have to be “great” to get to Heaven

It’s a scary realization, and despite the level of cliché, is the truth: not everyone you sit next to in church will make it to Heaven.

Of course, such a thought should make us feel horrible; after all, wouldn’t it be great if everyone could make it to Heaven? But each person is free to make their own choices – and we can never truly know what’s in another person’s heart.

That’s one of the great things – but also great burdens – of Christianity: anyone can get to Heaven so long as we believe in Christ and truly repent of our many sins. It doesn’t matter if we’re a president, famous person, or even incredibly smart, strong or good-looking – anyone can get in. “Greatness” doesn’t matter at all.

We know wicked people probably don’t go to Heaven unless the repent of their wickedness, and the Bible is rife with examples of how “greatness” does not equate godliness. As Jesus Himself says in the Gospels, the least on this earth will become the greatest in Heaven; to be a great person is Heaven, He says, a person must become the least (in other words, a servant) on earth.

The Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles also has a good example. As is written in chapter 21, verse 20 (NLT): “Jehoram was 32 years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery.”

Jehoram may have been a king, and thus could be considered “great” because he ruled over many people. But no-one missed him, and they didn’t even feel he deserved to be buried with the other kings and leaders.

On the other hand, there’s Jehoiada. As 2 Chronicles 15-16 (NLT) says: “When Jehoiada was old and full of years, he died at the age of 130. And Jehoiada was buried with the kings in the City of David, because he had done what was good in Israel for God and His temple.”

Jehoiada was not a king. Rather, he was a simple priest. But, because he spent his life serving others, he was buried with the “great” leaders.

Only God knows what’s in our hearts. While doing good deeds, going to church, and outwardly treating everyone with love and respect is all fine and dandy, it’s not enough. We can’t just tell people we forgive them and love them; we need to do so in our hearts, too. And we need to truly accept Christ and believe in His mercy – deep down within the bottommost depths of our heart – if we’re to spend eternity with Him.

Being “great” doesn’t even factor into it. Because, next to Christ and His perfect example, we all fall short.

Afflicted with a terminal case of wanderlust, Ben recently relocated to the Middle East after spending several years in Europe and New Zealand. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Business Insider, The New Zealand Herald, Idealog, Deutsche Welle, and others. He can be found on Twitter @benmack_nz.