Salvation is God's gift to us, but we must accept it. We can never make up for our sins by self-improvement or good works. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God's offer of forgiveness can anyone be saved from sin's penalty, which is death. When we turn from our self-ruled life and turn to Jesus Christ in faith and commitment, we are saved. Eternal life begins the moment one receives Jesus Christ into her or his life by faith.
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" -John 1:12
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." -John 14:6
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" -Romans 5:1
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" -Romans 6:23
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." -Galatians 3:26
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." -Ephesians 2:8-9
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" -Titus 3:5
*all referenced Scripture are from the King James Version.