Only One Way to Heaven?
There may be no part of Christianity that is more offensive to people, both today and throughout history, than the Christian conviction that only faith in Jesus will get you to heaven. Jesus made this clear in John 14:6, when he said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The disciples echoed his words when they said, “There is no name under heaven or on earth by which people can be saved, other than that of Christ Jesus.”
Jesus’ unique claim, which is offensive to modern ears, was offensive to those in the past as well. Whereas polytheism was the norm in the Roman world in which early Christianity spread, the Christians claimed that only Jesus was Lord. Their refusal to participate in pagan rituals was deeply offensive, and was even seen as a seditious threat to the stability of society and the empire.
People are offended by Jesus’ claim today as well. I have two wonderful Jewish neighbors next to my home. I know that my belief in Jesus is not what they hold to. I have very strong neighborly relationships with them, but broaching the subject would be uneasy to say the least. It would appear an affront to their culture and ancestry, and would be to others as well.
Before I go on, it must be said that Christians haven’t always acted in accordance with the brotherly love and kindness toward their unbelieving neighbors that the Bible asks for. And if some of you reading this have been burned in some way, then as an ambassador of Jesus I have to say sorry on behalf of the church. Even though Christians hold to an exclusive view of salvation, that should never be an excuse to do anything other than love and serve all types of different people. Jesus commanded that to his disciples and lived it by example in his love for those who were even his enemies.
Even though the exclusiveness of Jesus’ claims are offensive to people, there are many examples of how exclusivity in some circumstances is socially accepted. Dr. Zack Eswine gave the example of a wedding. What would people think if during a wedding ceremony, after the vows were said and the rings exchanged, the officiant looked at the husband-to-be and said “You may kiss a bride?” We all know that a husband is called to an exclusive relationship with the wife. Exclusivity is fine there. What if your daughter was diagnosed with a life threatening illness, and there was only one doctor in the country that could fix it. Would you say, “This is unfair! Any doctor should be able to treat this illness!” No, you would quickly accept that there is only one path to healing and pursue it as quickly as possible. If exclusiveness is OK in some situations, then why should it have to be different with God?
There are at least two reasons Jesus is the only way to heaven. First, he is the only one who died for the sins of the world. Moses, Buddha, Mohammed – no other great moral teacher or religious leader claimed to die for the sins of the world. This separates Jesus into a unique category. Second, Jesus was raised from the dead. His physical resurrection can be studied logically and historically. There are excellent reasons to believe that he did, and this was vindication of his teaching and claims of divinity.
By the way, if this upsets you, you will be tempted to go to google and type in “why Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead” and read all the skeptical articles. That’s fine. But make sure you read the other side of the story too. Doubt your doubts before you make a decision.
Jesus once looked at his followers and said, “Who do you say I am?” That is the most relevant question you will ever encounter. Feel free to comment and inquire more about the claims that Jesus made.