The worst possible surprise that anyone could have is to realize on judgment day that they aren’t going to heaven, but to hell. Pollster George Barna tells us that only 0.5% of American adults think they will go to hell, most think they are going to heaven. Most people think they are Christians and have eternal life. Jesus tells us that there are going to be a lot of surprised people on judgment day. Matthew 7:22-23 (NIV) Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Actually the claims of the people around us won’t be nearly as impressive as those Jesus talks about. People today will say, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not attend church on Christmas and Easter, were we not basically good people, weren’t we baptized in church?” and they will get the same answer from Jesus.
How can a person avoid being deceived about whether they have eternal life or not? John wrote the book of 1 John for the following purpose. 1 John 5:13 (NIV) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. The book of 1 John gives three tests that anyone can use to test themselves to see if they are going to heaven. You must pass all three tests to know whether you have eternal life.
Test one can be summarized with the question, “Do you believe right?” 1 John 4:15 (NIV) If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. To believe right is to believe what the Bible tells us about Jesus and to trust your life to Him. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the divine, perfect Son of God who became human to save humanity. Jesus took our sins upon Himself on the cross to pay the penalty of eternal death so that believers might have eternal life. However, 41% of American adults believe that Jesus sinned when He lived on the earth. They don’t believe right and don’t have eternal life. 1 John 2:22 (NIV) Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son.
Test two is the question, “Do you live right?” The reason the next two tests are important is that a lot of people have fooled themselves into thinking they believe in Jesus. If you truly have believed in Jesus, then you will pass the second and third tests. If you are fooling yourself, you will not pass these tests. 1 John 2:3-4 (NIV) We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. In other words, John is saying that those who have eternal life consistently obey God’s commands and do not continue to live in sin. If someone does not obey God’s commands and continues to sin, they do not have eternal life. Now, John does not say that a believer is perfect and never sins. However, a believer does not engage in habitual sin.
The third test is the question, “Do you love right?” 1 John 3:14 (NIV) We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. In today’s world, a lot of people have dropped out of church. They think they can live a faith-filled life on their own without the so-called hypocrites in the church. John is telling us here that if you don’t love other believers enough to be part of a church family, you aren’t a believer, you’re fooling yourself.
Three tough tests. How did you do? If you failed a test today, you can still do something about it. If you fail on judgment day, it’s all over for eternity for you. If you failed any test, you need to go back to test one and make sure that you truly believe. To believe in a biblical sense is to commit your whole life to Jesus Christ. To believe is to not only trust Jesus to forgive your sins, but to trust Him enough to obey everything He tells you to do. When you believe like that, when you acknowledge Jesus as Lord, then you will pass the second and third test easily.