“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:5
Most Americans say they believe in Heaven; they just have their own ideas about who goes there. Even many professing Christians think that nonbelievers can go to Heaven. Think about it. When someone dies, there’s almost always a reference to the person being “up there.” So, what does the Bible say about who goes to Heaven?
Jesus, Himself, provides the answer. John 3 records a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus—a Jewish leader, as well as a student and teacher of Scripture. Even though he was a good religious man, Nicodemus was blind to spiritual truth. So Jesus turned the conversation into a gospel presentation. Going to Heaven requires being born again, which is a supernatural event (v6).
We call this divine birth salvation because it replaces the penalty of sin and death with the promise and provisions of life in Christ (2 Peter 1:3-4). Being born again also qualifies and equips us to live in God’s kingdom, which is why it’s foreign to this world. It’s not just a new way of living but a new life to live. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Salvation transforms us. As Christians, we are in Christ and His nature is in us. We’re given this new nature here and now because our citizenship is already in Heaven. So, the eternal life promised in John 3:15-16 starts the moment we are born again. Everyone in Heaven has the nature of Jesus Christ. In fact, you can’t get into Heaven without it. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (v7).
While God’s kingdom has an exclusive entrance, it also has an open invitation. “The Lord…is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). So while all people don’t go to Heaven, anyone can go. You see, Heaven isn’t a place for perfect people or even for good people. It’s a place for redeemed people (1 Peter 1:18–19).
We want to think that everybody we love goes to Heaven because it’s a wonderful place. But not everyone has met Heaven’s “must” requirement. Have you experienced the transformation of the new birth? Like Nicodemus, you might ask, “How?” (v4). The answer never changes—“You must be born again.”