Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven? Part 2

 

 

 

Wow – I know I don’t have very many people reading my blog but I thought someone would comment on my last post – but I am new to blogging and still learning so I am going to assume I took the wrong approach and I will try again…

 

As a Christian one of the things I have been thinking about during the last couple of years is the Christian belief that salvation is through faith in Christ alone and only those who have faith in Christ will be saved and have eternal life in heaven.  Everyone else (with maybe some exceptions, like infants/children or mentally challenged persons) will go to hell and be eternally punished.

 

Now let me throw a couple of things in here at the beginning so we don’t get too sidetracked.  I am opposed to the idea that the main reason to become a follower of Jesus Christ is to get a ticket to heaven and think that is a whole discussion in itself.  Also, I am aware there is a whole discussion to be had about understanding what heaven and hell are and believe there are a lot of different ideas worth hearing.  But, I am thinking I cannot be the only person who is struggling with the idea that anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ is going to hell.  Don’t misunderstand and think I need you to convince me or need you to come here and “witness” to me.  I do have faith in Christ alone and I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ.  I am wrestling with the idea that people who don’t believe in Christ are going to have to endure some sort of eternal punishment.

 

Here are some of my thoughts:

 

Why would God limit salvation?  If Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient and paid the price for all then why aren’t all granted eternal life? I understand knowing Jesus has a lot of benefits but I don’t understand that not knowing Jesus would limit the effectiveness of his work on the cross.

 

One answer I get regarding my question about limited salvation is that I shouldn’t ask why God isn’t doing more but I should consider we don’t deserve to be saved and we should just be thankful and amazed God would offer a way for anyone to be saved.  In other words:  “Why would/should God save anyone at all?

 

But, that answer (or question) doesn’t help me.  I believe with all my heart God loves all of his creation and I don’t think love has much to do with deserving.  When I love I don’t say: “I am going to or not going to do this or that for this person because they deserve or don’t deserve it.”  When I love I do loving and good things because I love.  I can’t imagine that God loves the way I believe he does and at the same time believe he has an attitude that says “they don’t deserve it but I will offer one narrow way for them to be saved”.  I don’t think God has that attitude and I believe he even calls us away from such an attitude.

 

Then there are people who quote scriptures to me.  For instance, I might be told John 3:16 is the answer.  But when I hear John 3:16 I don’t hear anything about those who do not believe in Jesus.  Or I might hear John 14:6 in which Jesus says he is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him.  Again, I don’t hear Jesus saying if someone doesn’t believe they will be eternally punished.  That verse may make me believe Jesus (who he is and what he did) provides access to God – access which would not be there otherwise, but it doesn’t make me believe

someone must do something in order to gain that access.  Analogies are always lacking but just to give you an idea of how I am thinking consider that unless I turn on the light switch my child (who can’t reach the light switch) will not have access to light in the room he/she is in.  The child does not have to do anything – they don’t have to ask, they don’t have to believe (in me, or electricity, or the light switch, or anything).  I have a way to make the light accessible to my child and think it is a good thing and so I do what is necessary to make it accessible and  “ta da” they have light.  I know the analogy can be torn apart but I am not using it to convince you, just to help you understand my thoughts.  I am wondering why it is unbelievable (according to scripture) that what Jesus “did” took care of the “thing” which

was separating humanity from God and now no one will ever live eternally separated from God.

 

In addition to all of that there are scriptures like 1 Timothy 4:10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.  This scripture seems to come right out and say Jesus is the savior of “all”.

 

I could go on but I would really like to hear your thoughts and beliefs (or even any of your own questions you wrestle with).

28 thoughts on “Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven? Part 2

  1. gary

    none of the scriptures cited indicate that the jews, the hindis, the infants, the unborn, can get into heaven absent a belief in jesus. that single one problem has caused great consternation, if not ridicule, of christianity as illustrating the egotism of such a concept. if jesus is supposed to be humbloe, why is the path only through him? will not any othe disciple do, will not any belief in God suffice? what is so special about jesus as to exclude any other path. even the jews, the chosen people, say any path to god is good, as long as you take one of the paths. why must christianity be so restrictive and, frankly speaking

    Reply
    1. gracerules Post author

      Gary – these are excellent questions and I think one of the reasons I have questions is that the idea that anyone who doesn’t believe a particular thing about Jesus is condemned to hell is that the idea just doesn’t seem to fit with who Jesus is. I’m not convinced that Jesus was promoting an exclusive belief system – but I do think he was promoting a particular way to live.

      Reply
      1. Jon

        “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)

        Just one citation of what God wants. This is put pretty straight forward as you can tell. This is obviously stating that if you don’t repent your sinful ways to God, you WILL perish. As stated in other words in the Bible, to perish by Gods definition is to go to hell and suffer for your sins that were NOT forgiven because you DIDN’T repent. Just listen to what the Words tell us and it will all fall into place.

        Reply
    1. gracerules Post author

      What YOU follow is idolatry. – because you make an idol out of the interpretation that you agree with to the point of not even being able to have a conversation about something like this without putting some negative label out there. Let’s say that you are right and everybody who disagrees with you is wrong…Do you really think you have a chance in hell of changing their mind with the comment you left????? Do you care???? If not, then you really don’t believe what you profess to believe!!!!! No wonder Jesus was always jumping all over the religious people.

      Reply
  2. Shane Johnson

    Right now I am of the thought of:
    1. All people do need to go through Christ to be saved
    2. The bible shows us a way to get to Christ
    The universe is static. Everything looks like it’s changing but really
    it stays the same. It is constant and that constancy is because of God. I totally believe in Our Father Who Art in Heaven and in his only Son Jesus Christ who was Crucified…(taken from The Apostolic creed)
    At Some point all people have to be of the heart and mind to do what
    Jesus commanded, not just because He commanded it but because it is right, that we love God above all other Gods and Love others as ourselves.

    If we do these things it will, simply will, ultimately lead us to one who is
    on the cross, who was sinless, because that is, I believe, the way required
    by God for granting people power to do His will. It’s on the road of life when we really try to stand up and show caring or fruitfulness. To try to express what Love we Have.

    Reply
  3. Cliff

    There is a lot of very excellent information to be found regarding this topic – in fact there is a whole school of research on the matter that tends to indicate that early Christianity was dominated by the school of thought that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross achieved universal reconciliation – that is, all are ultimately saved – regardless of their belief…

    Please investigate this website and let me know if this has helped anyone:
    http://tentmaker.org/ (also note their banner and the use of 1 Tim 4:10!).

    Reply
  4. steven

    I Cor 15…I will define the gospel how Paul does.

    For Christ died for sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures.

    This is the message of the gospel, the propositional content of it which is to be declared, in a way that applies it to the needs of man. In other words, since Christ died for sins, first man’s sinfulness and need to be set right with God may have to be declared, to set the grounds for Christ who has died for sins.

    By the way, I agree about what you say about humility in our approach to the Word. The Bible is not always an easy book to understand, and it is good to be humble in the way we communicate with one another. However, the Bible is also meant to be understood by every believer, and a humility about our interpretation should not turn into a denial of the ability of God to make himself known to us in his Word. The Bible has all we need “for life and godliness.” Each believer has “an anointing from the Spirit” which enables him to understand God’s will.

    This is to be done in humility of course, but I think you have more than “man’s interpretation of Scripture.” You also have the Spirit of God who makes himself known as we enter the Scriptures with humility.

    At any rate, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog.

    Reply
  5. steven

    Eternal damnation of those who disobey the gospel is a pretty consistent theme of the Bible. Jesus, Paul, etc.

    As for the belief that Jesus somehow saves those who don’t profess faith in him, this is also not backed up in any by Scripture. The only Scripture produced here is the I Tim. verse. This verse must be understood in cross-reference. Since several passages make clear that all men are not destined for salvation, then clearly the word “all” is not used in the sense of “all men, everywhere, at every time,” but rather in a limited sense. We often use it in this way in every day language…for example, “I had party last night, everyone had a good time.”

    The intellectual argument is more compelling, certainly, but it remains just that…an intellectual argument that is a product of the reasoning of man. You may be able to pin God into a universal salvation by the constraints you place on his love, but his revelation of himself defies the wisdom of man.

    Reply
    1. jenna

      agreed…pretty sure God doesn’t have to explain His reasoning for doing things…but does give some explanation because He loves us. God is holy in nature (Leviticus 11.44; Revelation 4.8; etc.) and from His holiness comes attributes such as mercy, justice, goodness, wrath, etc. Just as He is loving and extends mercy to all through Christ’s sacrifice, He is also completely just. It is also against His nature to lie, so when Jesus says he is the way and no one can get to the Father except through him, I don’t think he was kidding. All inall, any statement you say shouldn’t place God in a box. Saying that God would never send certain people to hell for whatever reason is limiting the power of God which is both dumb and impossible. Confessing faith in Christ is not something we “do” for access to heaven, but rather a way in which we live our lives. Therefore, believing in Christ is not something that a Christian does to fulfill a requirement, but believing in Christ is a form of existence for a Christian. Also, if you want a person to turn on a light switch that you can’t reach, than you are putting faith in electricity and that person, faith that in the current giving light to the room and faith in the person who wiill provide the current.

      p.s. interesting that you want steven’s definition of “the gospel” since when do we look to man’s definition or reasoning to clarify the nature and actions of God?

      Reply
      1. gracerules Post author

        Jenna – Don’t misunderstand – I am not asking God to explain his reasoning but like you I am trying to understand scripture (all the time willing to accept that there is a certain amount of mystery that will remain when it comes to God and scripture). We all know what the bible says but the problem is “knowing what the bible means”. For instance John 14:6 may very well be much more about Jesus explaining the trinity and how the trinity operates rather than being about how to get to heaven OR perhaps it is about how to get to heaven and Jesus is saying that he is the only one who can provide the way but he doesn’t say anywhere in that passage that he will provide the way for “only” those who believe in him. I am weary of people trying to make a passage of scripture say something it doesn’t. My point is that to you it seems clear to you because of your preconceived ideas and prior teachings. I was like that for most of my life. Now I am attempting to strip away preconceived ideas and look at scripture alone, without reading it through the lense of what someone else has told me it means…and that is the place my questions come from. I am not trying to find easy answers – I don’t want to just explain away the contradictions – and when there are contradictions I try to look at God’s heart, Jesus’ teachings and actions to see if I can make any sense of it. My questionst have nothing to do with a lack of faith in God or Jesus – just a lack of faith in man’s interpretation of scripture. I am also weary of people who talk about the bible as if it is a no brainer to know what it means. I think some humility is in order for all of us – which means that the certainty and pride of “knowing” for certain what the bible means is out of order.

        PS you asked why I “want steven’s definition of “the gospel” since when do we look to man’s definition or reasoning to clarify the nature and actions of God?” Jenna – you always look to man’s interpretation of scripture – that is all you have.

        Reply
        1. Edwin Armer

          Grace – the first scripture seems to me to clearly state that BELIEF (not just existence) is a requirement John 3:18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God
          The second one says ALL have the ability to understand God’s word 1John 2:27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

          Reply
    1. Teresa

      Sure, I’m happy to share. This way of thinking is how I’ve resolved the tension between passages like 1 Tim 2:4, which says God doesn’t want anyone to perish, and John 14:6, where Jesus says he’s the only way to get to God. He doesn’t say “no one comes to the father except by faith in me” but just “by me.” He could just be saying that he’s the one who gets to decide.

      Parables like the Sheep and the Goats and the Wheat and the Weeds lead me to think some won’t be saved, and Acts 16:31 assures me that those who believe will be saved, but it doesn’t limit salvation to believers, as many seem to assume.

      Reply
      1. Jon

        Obviously Jesus Christ is the ultimate Judge and can, at will, decide who He wants to be with Him in His Kingdom. Jesus said that anyone who doesn’t believe that He is the Son of God is against Him. I am sure He allows what he wants, as I stated in my first sentence. It would be GREAT if EVERYONE could partake is the Gospels and learn all about Jesus and what He has done and will do, but it doesn’t seem practical at the moment.

        Reply
  6. Teresa

    Nice post! I’ve struggled with this question myself. (I can’t imagine not struggling with it.) The conclusion I’ve come to is that salvation is available only through Christ, but it’s not available only through our *profession of faith* in Christ. If we have faith in Christ we are saved, sure, but he can choose to save others as well. He’s still the one doing the saving, and he knows the reasons some haven’t expressed faith in him. (Maybe they never heard the gospel at all or had nothing but crappy examples of Christians and thus were never able to give Jesus a fair hearing.)

    Reply
  7. Laura

    Started reading your other posts and appreciated this one too. In a Newsweek Magazine cover story a few years ago, Billy Graham said essentially the same thing you wrote about. An excerpt from the article:

    A unifying theme of Graham’s new thinking now is humility. He is sure
    and certain of his faith in Jesus as the way to salvation, but when asked
    whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, Graham says: “Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won’t … I don’t want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.”

    Apparently his son, Franklin, disagrees with him, and a quick Google search of the title of the article (Pilgrim’s Progress) + Billy Graham + Newsweek yields a plethora of lamentations among bloggers, some even calling him an apostate.

    I appreciate your sharing your thoughts.

    Reply
    1. gracerules Post author

      Thanks for referring me this article – it does seem to be a topic that can get people pretty riled up. I am going to check it out and see if there is any helpful info in between the complainers.

      Reply
    2. Jim

      I would like to offer Isaiah 11:1-5

      “1”: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

      Our Lord is rooted in the very beginnings of Israel and is with them (us; Christians being grafted into Israel) to this day.

      “2”: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

      He has all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and therefore all of His Power, it is important we know His Nature.

      “3”: And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

      This is my favorite verse, maybe of all time, He does not judge us after what He sees and hears us do; if He did He would be getting stopped by our disobedience and non-willingness to imitate Him.

      “4”: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

      Instead He sees me as I should be then when He addresses me as I should be I become reproved (corrected) to be that way, with my consent because I follow Him. He judges me when I am poor in Spirit and broken, and His Righteous Judgment says ” You are worthy, because you follow Me”, albeit not very well ;-). However He will strike out against evil and kill it!! He will destroy evil; no matter who it is that is evil, He does not forget these things but acts in His time.

      “5”: And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

      His acts are always correct and He never leaves His children behind, He came for us once He will always come for us, He is the Hound of Heaven.

      It is not how I think of God or how I worship Him or what stupid things I have done or what was done to me that tilts the scales for or against me. Yes, He has more flocks than these. It is my simple request “God help me” or ” Jesus I trust in You” that gets His attention and THEN He acts as spoken of above. We are but creatures that are acted on, God is the Only Actor.

      We receive joyfully and get to know Him, that being the case the truest Scripture will win out. The only way to know Him is on a personal basis, churches are supposed to help but many don’t. I know I am a priest and have been told my views are not orthodox enough. Nonsense!

      I do believe that He is Way, the Truth and the Life. That He is the gateway to heaven; but it is not through earthly arguments that is proven but through the awe and wonder of approaching Him and allowing Him to act in my life no matter what the outcome. I agree with Billy Graham, I can’t know which Muslim or Hindu or Jew or Christian has allowed the Lord in. He stands knocking at the door of our hearts, when we open it and let Him in then we know His true nature

      Reply
  8. Colleen

    This is something I have wondered & struggled with also. I believe that when Jesus died on the cross he died for everyone that is God’s creation. I have always wondered about people that are from another time or place & have never been introduced to Christ or know anything about God, the Bible & the teachings. Are these people excluded from eternal life because of their circumstances of life?

    Reply
      1. Jon

        Lack of knowledge, just as a mentally injured human, has to have some bearing on your Eternal Salvation. But it’s when DELIBERATE lack of faith will hurt you. If you have read the Scriptures, yet don’t accept it, you will ultimately suffer God’s wrath (be it in the Tribulation period or when you die and go to hell).

        Reply

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