Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Does Everybody Need Jesus
(to go to Heaven?)

by Dennis Pollock

The interviewer was known as a nice guy who usually made it easy on his guests and avoided the temptation to back them into a corner, or push too hard. But even he couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask the one question he knew this particular guest would have a hard time answering: “What if you're Jewish or Muslim, you don't accept Christ at all?”

The interviewee, pastor of one of America’s largest churches and popular television preacher, fumbled the ball: “You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know ...” The issue was revisited a couple of times more during the interview, and each time the attractive pastor with the pleasant smile could not bring himself to say what he knew was true. He could not declare that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven for Jew and Gentile, Arab and Asian.

This issue is not a new one. Talk show hosts have harped on the exclusivity of Jesus for years. Liberals love to bring up this question. If the Christian leader caves in he looks like a wimp, and if he answers that Jesus is the only way, he looks like a bigot, worthy to be sneered at by all the enlightened ones who embrace multiculturalism and different strokes for different folks. Few Christians seem to have the grace to answer forthrightly and lovingly. 

 Nature of Exclusivity

The truth is, exclusivity can be, and usually is, an ugly thing. Ku Klux Klaners believe the only people America is worthy of are the white, Anglo-Saxon protestants. To see their ignorance and their venomous hatred would repulse any reasonable man or woman. One of the few things that liberals and Christian conservatives can agree on is that racial prejudice is a great evil. Likewise when the rich or the highly educated show little desire to associate with people of lesser wealth or intelligence than themselves, most thinking individuals would consider such snobbery to be both wrong and abhorrent. In most situations exclusivity is not pretty.

But to be exclusive can be a very, very good thing in some circumstances. When a doctor prescribes a powerful antibiotic for a life-threatening infection, it would be most unwise of the patient to reason thus: “This doctor is being far too narrow-minded. He has prescribed but one medication for me. Why, the shelves of Wal-Mart are filled with wonderful medicines! I will go there. I can surely find something that will be more pleasant to the taste and less painful to the wallet.”

Nature is filled with exclusives. Water never boils at 209 or 210; it always waits patiently for 212. It never freezes at 36 or 34, but holds itself in reserve for the magical 32 degrees. Gravity resolutely pulls us toward the earth; never sideways or heavenward. Certain fish can thrive in acidic water but would soon die in alkaline. Try as we might to alter these laws, they carry right on, punishing those who ignore them and rewarding all who will accommodate them.

Jesus the Only Way

When liberals try to corner Christians with what they perceive to be the unreasonableness of our insistence that Jesus is the only way to heaven, all we need to do is point to the Scriptures. Unlike our secular friends, we are not at liberty to believe whatever we choose. We are those who have based our lives and futures on the veracity and integrity of God’s word. The same Bible that tells us that we have eternal life through Jesus also tells us that the only way to that life is through Jesus. Let us consider a few examples.

Paul the Apostle

Skeptics have never liked Paul very much; in fact many have absolutely despised him. Paul was so black and white in his views, so sure of himself and his understanding of Christ, and so determined to proclaim Jesus as the only way to God. In Paul’s writings we find such statements as:

  1. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His (Romans 8:9).
  2. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Romans 1:16).
  3. Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you are disqualified (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Paul was convinced that Jesus was the only way to God, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was well worth giving your life for. The gospel wasn’t merely for some certain population group. It was for Jews and Gentiles, the devout and the pagan. It contained within it the seeds of eternal life, and he considered himself a debtor to the whole world, to preach this “glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11).

John, Apostle of Love

John was known as the beloved apostle, and also as the apostle of love. His first epistle includes the famous declaration that “God is love,” and “love is of God, and everyone that loves is born of God.” Yet this man of love was not the type to walk around spouting, “It’s all good,”  or “whatever works for you.” John had definite ideas about the absolute necessity of Jesus Christ, and writes:

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:11).

You get Jesus you get life; you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have life! It was pretty simple with this apostle of love. Jesus was God’s only means of salvation for Jew and Gentile, for every race and culture. This was what the early apostles and Christians leaders passionately believed. It motivated them to give their lives in a great evangelistic fervor, which defied Roman and Jewish authorities. They paid dearly for this belief, counting their lives as expendable for the great privilege of telling the world that Jesus is the one and only remedy for the eternally fatal disease of sin.

What Did Jesus Teach?

Some liberal commentators have suggested that Jesus was far more open-minded than His disciples. They protest that Jesus Himself simply taught a religion of love; it was his fanatical followers that took it to another level and began insisting that those who refused to accept Christ as Savior and Lord would be lost forever. One television minister has even suggested that Christianity has taken on a “Pauline” perspective, getting away from the more compassionate and open-hearted truths of the Savior. He and others point to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His exhortations to love one another as being at the heart of Christianity. All of this business of “getting saved” and threats about hell were an invention of the disciples to force folks to see things their way.

It takes little Bible knowledge to realize the error of such claims. In truth Jesus was far more of the “hellfire and brimstone” preacher than Paul was. In fact Jesus was so insistent on His being the only way to escape the wrath of God, that the only way to get around this would be to make Jesus out to be a liar and a fraud, as C. S. Lewis has so eloquently pointed out.

It was not Paul, but Jesus, who declared:

  1. “No man comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6).
  2. “If you believe not that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).
  3. “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Jesus not only declares that He is our only hope, but insists that even the act of believing on Him is a gift of God: "…no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father'' (John 6:65). When unbelieving skeptics try to corner our Christian leaders during interviews, it should not be hard to mount a defense. To use Muslim terminology, we are “people of the book.” Those who dislike the idea of Jesus being man’s only hope do not have an argument with us; their argument is with the Bible and with Jesus Himself.

A Very Strange Belief

There is a bizarre theology that sometimes rears its head even in Christian circles, which declares that Jesus forgave every sin of all humanity at the cross and therefore the only sin that a person could possibly commit is to reject Jesus Christ. If this is so, then those who live in places where Jesus is not proclaimed will go to heaven, having never heard of Him and being therefore incapable of rejecting Him.

If the only sin we are capable of committing is the sin of rejecting Jesus, then the worst possible thing the church could do would be to send out missionaries. We ought to immediately send out a call to withdraw every missionary from every land across the globe, for they would not be ambassadors of life, but ministers of death and condemnation. If man is not guilty until he hears about Jesus, the churches should close their doors, the missionaries should shut their mouths, and we could all live in silence and innocence as forgiven pagans!

Of course such a thought is absurd. Those who proclaim Christ are bringing life and hope to a people who are already living under condemnation for their sins. John tells us: "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him'' (John 3:36). To say that God’s anger abides on a person is to declare that it has already been resting upon them, and it isn’t going anywhere! This is the condition of the sinner. They live, eat, sleep, work, and play with God’s anger abiding upon them. It is only when they put their faith in Jesus that this abiding wrath is done away.

“I don’t want to judge.”

In the aforementioned interview, the Christian leader tried to give himself wiggle room by stating that he “didn’t want to judge people” and therefore he would not say that Jews or Muslims who didn’t believe in Jesus would be lost. Jesus did indeed tell us not to judge, but that has nothing to do with stating that people who are without Christ are lost. If a person comes up to me and says they are a Christian, but I don’t especially care for their personality or some of their habits, and assure them that they couldn’t possibly be saved, I am judging. I cannot look into the heart and determine whether the miracle of the new birth has taken place simply by my approval or disapproval of them.

It is an altogether different matter when asked if someone without faith in Jesus can make it to heaven. I simply declare what the Bible says: “He that has the Son has life and he that does not have the Son of God does not have life.” I am not judging; I am simply believing what the Bible tells me. It takes no great courage or scholarship or intellectual acumen to make such a statement.

It simply requires faith in God’s inerrant word.


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