A few nights ago, December 20th, 2005, Barbara Walters had an ABC television special called “Heaven: Where Is It ? How Do We Get There?" On the show, Walters interviewed everyone from the Dalai Lama to Failed Suicide Bombers in Israel, from an Evangelical Leader to the head of the American Atheists, from Muslim Scholars to Jewish Rabbis, as well as celebrities such as Richard Gere, Maria Shriver and others. With Gregorian chants and other ethereal music playing in the background, she even interviewed several who actually died and claim they went to Heaven. The comments were fascinating and ran the full gamut of “heavenly" descriptions.
For centuries mankind has looked up and asked the question: Where is Heaven and how do I get there? People have dreamed of Heaven, dedicated their lives to the promise of Heaven, even martyred themselves - committing heinous acts of terrorism - for the promise of Paradise.
There are probably as many opinions on who gets to go to Heaven as there are people. The 7 most popular opinions are:
1. We become angels and go to Heaven when we die.
Certain angels that sinned have already been cast into hell. Read 2 Peter 2:4 to see that being an angel is no guarantee of getting to Heaven.
2. Whoever obeys the Ten Commandments goes to Heaven.
The Bible never states that obeying the Ten Commandments will get anyone to Heaven. The Ten Commandments are ONLY about 0.06% of the Bible (Exodus 20:3-17 and Deuteronomy 5:7-21). If that was all people needed to know, the other 99.94% of the Bible would not have needed to have been written. Besides, even the best people can not keep the Ten Commandments. Though many people think they always obey them, a few questions will reveal that they've broken most of them many times each. Example: most people broke the commandment “honor your father and your mother” at least once as a kid. People then realize that by the time they finished their teens, they broke that Commandment many MORE times. If you ever criticize anything about your parents as an adult, you are STILL breaking that commandment. We could continue with examples from the other commandments, but the point is, people who examine themselves truthfully will discover they've broken most of the Ten Commandments at some time or another.
3. Whoever attends Church goes to Heaven.
The Bible never states that attending church will get anyone to Heaven. Besides, since churches disagree with one another, how do you know you're in the right one? What of those who go to church each week and fall asleep or what if the church they attend is actually a cult? They're STILL attending, right? No, going to church will not get anyone into Heaven.
4. Whoever does more good things than bad goes to Heaven.
This is called “balance scale” judgement, and is one of the most common wrong beliefs. The Bible never states that doing more good things than bad things will get anyone to Heaven. God is so holy (perfect and sinless) that “our righteousness is like filthy rags” to Him (Isaiah 64:6). Going to Heaven is a free gift of God. He made it that way so nobody could brag that they made it to Heaven by their own good deeds (Ephesians 2:8,9). Besides, if anyone actually COULD be perfect, he'd get prideful and that's a sin so. . . well, you get the point. Does this give us a license to sin? No, but we don't need one; we're going to do bad things anyway. Remember, we WILL reap as we sow. There will be consequences for the sins we commit.
5. Whoever believes in God goes to Heaven.
Wrong. Satan believes God exists and he trembles (James 2:19). In fact, he talks with God in Job 1 and 2 yet, he is not going to Heaven. In fact, he is going to be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, according to Revelation 20:10. Angels that sinned were cast into hell. . . and they knew God (2 Peter 2:4).
6. Whoever has not killed anyone or done anything really bad goes to Heaven.
The Bible never states that NOT murdering anyone will get anyone into Heaven. The same is true of not doing “lesser” crimes. In the Bible, we read there are at least two murderers that went to Heaven: Moses and David. There are some people who never killed anyone (or did anything else “really bad”) who still faced judgement. Read an example in Luke 16:19-31.
7. Whoever comes from a Christian household will go to Heaven.
Sorry, the Bible never states that being part of a specific family will allow us to go Heaven. No one is physically born a Christian like we are born a citizen of a particular country. To become a Christian and go to Heaven, one must be “born of water and the Spirit, " (John 3:1-8). The Bible states that some members of a family will go to Heaven while others sleeping or working next to them will not (Matthew 24:40,41 and Luke 17:34,35).
Surprise! According to the Holy Bible, ALL SEVEN of these opinions are dead wrong.
WHO DOES GET TO GO TO HEAVEN?
Simply put, according to Scripture, only those who know God get to go to Heaven.
Those who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and have refused to believe, having rejected Him and His provision for their sins, will fall under the judgement of God (John 3:36; 12:48). In other words, that choice is between them and God; my job is to GIVE them a choice. I believe it's YOUR job, too. Therefore, atheists remain without excuse in rejecting God (Romans 1:18-20). Those who perpetrate evil, even without the knowledge of the Gospel, will likewise be judged, for they have violated their God-given conscience. In the same way, those who “play Church, " but live apart from a relationship with God, are no more “saved" than the worst among us.
There are many Christians who say that those who die without faith in Jesus Christ will spend eternity in Hell - even if they have never heard the Gospel. Personally, I believe Scripture suggests otherwise - that we are judged on the basis of what we know and how we act upon that knowledge. I'm not talking about some sort of ecumenical theology or claiming there are many ways to God. Jesus declared that He alone is the Way and I've made it my personal mission to make sure that as many people as possible will get to make that choice. Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). He did not merely point the way to God or provide rules and rituals that, if practiced, would allow us to get to Heaven. He Himself claimed to be the ONLY way to the Father and the source of eternal truth and life. As it's been said, Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic. . . or He really was Lord of ALL things; God in the flesh, in other words. His voluntary death and subsequent resurrection - His victory over Death itself - was proof of that.
NOBODY TOLD ME!
What about those who have never heard the Name of Jesus? For starters, many Christians do not know that “Jesus" is not the real Name of the Savior. His real, Hebrew name is “Yeshua, " which is usually translated in English as “Joshua. " The Greek transliteration is “Iaysous. " In fact, in three verses of the New Testament (Luke 3:29, Acts 7:45, and Hebrews 4:8), Iaysous is translated into the English as “Joshua, " since the text refers to the Old Testament saint. In addition, the word “Christ" is not Jesus’ last name, but His title. The Greek word “christos" (translated “Christ" in the English) means “Messiah, " the “anointed one. " This is why the New Testament letters often refer to Jesus as “Christ Jesus, " which means “Messiah Jesus. " I once heard Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel in California teach that Jesus DID have a last name. It was “Bar Yosef, " or “Son of Joseph. " There were many other Hebrew boys with the name “Yeshua. " Was His real name Yeshua BarYosef? Who knows?
Other languages have different pronunciations of the name of Jesus. However, God is surely able to understand who we are talking about and save us no matter what we call the Name of the Savior. That must certainly be true for what would be the plight of those stricken with the inability to speak or whose language simply does not include the “Jay" sound necessary to pronounce “Jesus"? Also, what about the babies who died, or mentally retarded people? Job, from the Old Testament, was saved even though he did not know the name of the Savior (Job 19:25). Therefore, although it is true that Jesus is the only way to get into Heaven, you apparently don't necessarily have to know His Name to get there (John 14:6).
There may be many people in Heaven who trusted in the God who they knew was there all along without necessarily knowing His Name, through no fault of their own. Since Romans Chapter 1 says that God has left evidence of His eternal power and divine nature all over creation, so that we are without excuse, every person is responsible for responding to the light he DOES have, and God, being a fair judge, will know whether a person had the chance to hear the Gospel and name the Name of Christ.
I think the bottom line is that God would judge us all by the same standard: “What did you do with the light YOU received?"
DOES CHRISTIANITY GIVE US BLESSED ASSURANCE?
"Can any other religion save people?" This question is plainly and simply answered by both Jesus and Peter that NO religion can save anybody. NOT even Christianity. Only Jesus and His blood can save. Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved. " This echoes Jesus’ own words in John 14:6 and 10:7-9. Thus, either Jesus and His apostle Peter misled us terribly for 2,000 years, or else they are correct. If someone has rejected God’s one way to go to Heaven, there is, unfortunately, no other way.
Can those who choose not to accept Jesus - even the Jews - be saved? Original Judaism was given by God and is closer to Christianity than other religion. Yet to the very religious Jewish Pharisees, Jesus said, “if you do not believe I am He, you will indeed die in your sins. " (John 8:24) See also Acts 20:21; 3:23; 13:45-6; 18:6; Matthew 23:29-33; John 8:21; 10:7-8,14-16; Romans 9:27.
Jewishness and Jesus go together today as they did for the apostles as well as the first, predominantly Jewish, Christians. However, even in Old Testament times, it was understood that the Jews who rejected God would be rejected BY Him (Psalms 95:7-11).
"Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. " (Romans 4:3 Genesis 15:6). Perhaps Abraham could never have discovered God, His righteousness, His need for a Covenant and sacrifices, on his own. But God made sure he learned. John 8:56 indicates that God even told Abraham of the Savior yet to come.
Hebrews Chapter 11 gives examples of many people who went to Heaven without hearing the name of Jesus: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and others in his family, Rahab, and many Jews in the Old Testament. This does not mean that a person’s chances are better if they never heard of Jesus. Otherwise, Jesus did the Church a great disservice by commanding us to spread the Gospel. These people who were saved without knowing the Name of Jesus were still saved BY Him, according to Hebrews 9:9;10:8, John 8:56, Luke 2:29-31, 1 Timothy 4:10, 1 Peter 1:10-12.
Please hear me: I'm not advocating that anyone join a religious group or denomination. Nor am I suggesting that certain prayers be prayed or that there are any rituals that should be performed to earn God's favor or catch His attention. What I AM saying is that God is REAL and you can get to know Him through the teachings of Jesus and through the experiences of others with Him as mentioned in Scripture. As one spiritual mentor taught me years ago, to grow in one's relationship with God comes down to three simple things: 1) Pray (two-way conversation between you and God, 2)Bible Study (not merely grabbing a spiritual thought for today) and 3) Fellowship, getting around others who are exhibiting a Christ-like existence - not perfect, but seeking to go deeper with God.
My response to those who asked what I thought about Barbara's show the other night?
"Why don't you interview ME next time?"
Now, scroll to the bottom of this article and RATE it, then FORWARD to others! Someone out there needs this information!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pastor Michael is founder of t. e. a. m. ministries (email@example.com). His eMail broadcasts, known as “Your Town for Jesus" (SEARCH it!) are reaching tens of thousands WEEKLY. He ministers by way of email and Instant Message, too. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to SUBSCRIBE to receive his messages directly.
Michael's mission is to bring Discipleship and Encouragement to the Body of Christ. Michael is the author of numerous booklets on a variey of subjects that will interest the thinking Christian. Since 1999, he has written and broadcast hundreds of inspirational articles and a dozen booklets, all designed to accelerate the process of spiritual development in God's people.