I often ponder who I will meet in heaven. Gandhi? Mother Theresa? The Local Jehovah’s Witness? The nice lady who loves everyone who lives down the road? Pat Robertson? Bill Hybles? My Nanna? Will I actually be there to meet them all?
Now I know the righteous amongst us will answer “Oh it’s not for you to know these things Scott, God judges these issues, you just need to worry about being faithful”
Hmmm – Good. But I often have discussions with people about folks (like Gandhi for example) who follow the teachings of Christ, the lifestyle of Christ and so on, but would never call them self a Christian. They may even say “I follow Christ”, but also follow other teachings and philosophies and even gods.
Below is a quote from a guy who is an atheist, well maybe agnostic, but he is reading the New Testament with an open mind simple out of curiosity…will I meet him in heaven?
“I may (and have) gained value from this exercise thus far and will probably see more. But I don’t deign to call myself “Christian”. Frankly I doubt I could live up to that title. I don’t pray, I don’t go to church and I don’t talk about Christ in my “normal” life. I cuss, I drink and I hate Pat Robertson (although I do love Tammy Baker). I appreciate and honor the ideals of Jesus Christ. How could you not? Respect, love and appreciation are ideas anyone should uphold. But I don’t take them lightly and I feel they ultimately are things people should create and discover from within.”
15 thoughts on “Who Will Go To Heaven?”
I am tired of trying to tell people the truth about Mr. Gandhi. Suffice it to say that I believe that most of us Sikhs do not consider him any kind of saint, Christian, Hindu or otherwise.
Its a good question Scott, something I have been wresting with lately.
As we reject the fire and brimestone, and silliness of fundamentalism, we must also remember that we are responsible to the creator for what we do about Christ,
“believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved”
“no one comes to the Father, except through me”
But what of those who never hear of Christ?
From Otherendup –
hey bud – still can’t comment on your blog but thought this post over at Real Live Preacher had some interesting thoughts that might add to your thoughts re: Who will get into heaven (from here –
A New Abraham and a New Earth
May 11, 2007 – 8:29am
“Have you noticed the great evil that comes from religious exclusivity?
Whenever one group of people claims that they have some kind of special arrangement with the Creator and all previous ways of relating to God are not to be tolerated, evil inevitably follows.
Zoroastrians gained power in Persia and promptly threw out the pagan religion of the Magi. Christians threw out the Pagans in Europe after stealing most of their holidays. Mayday, Christmas, Halloween, Easter – it’s all spiritual booty.
Jews have hated Arabs and denied their right to live in the traditional Biblical lands. Arabs returned their lack of hospitality with as much passion. They all give as good as they get.
Christians march into places where primitive peoples practice ancient faiths, some of them not practiced anywhere else in the world. And we tell them to forget their traditional ways and give their hearts to Jesus so they won’t burn in hell.
The Taliban persecutes infidels and destroys ancient Buddhist statues by blowing them to pieces with their tanks.
Everywhere you look, the children of God wage physical and spiritual war against each other. The blood never stops flowing, and the rest of the world looks on in amazement. When will we learn that you can’t force people to change their ways of expressing faith and devotion to the Creator?
At some point your spirit or your gut or your humanity must speak to your theology. At some point you look at your holy book, and you look at all the death and terror and ugliness that comes from fighting people with other holy books and you say, “To hell with it. I’m not doing this anymore.”
At some point you look at the sacred rituals of the people you have come to save, and you fall silent. You sit quietly and listen to their ancient songs and stories. You watch their bodies perform dances that predate Christianity and are about to pass out of existence. And you ask yourself, “How is it that I have eyes but did not see?”
At some point you look at the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount, then you look at the bodies littering the streets and the children living in squalor and you say, “Enough is enough! Burn every Koran and every Bible if we must, but the lot of them are not worth the lives of these children.”
At some point don’t you start listening to the spiritual stories of other people and find the beauty and the common ground in them? At some point don’
t you realize that our myths are delicate, like environments? The oldest ones are very fragile, and many have already been lost. At some point don’t you come to understand that these things are worth saving?
HEY, RELIGIOUS GUYS!
Humanity is moving on, fellas. You can get onboard the tolerance train or you can stay behind, but this train is leaving the station. Humanity is going to a new place.
Your way has not worked, and anyone with an ounce of sanity knows that. Beat your chalices and your pulpits into ploughshares. Hell, beat your sacred books into ploughshares too, if that’s what it takes. Beat everything into plowshares, but you better get on this train.
It may take a century. It may take several centuries, but the Day of the Lord is coming. The year of Jubilee is at hand. This Ramadan will last all year, and we will party like it’s 2099. The Lord God Almighty, He who created the heavens and the earth does not need you. God can raise up children from the stones and from the dirt beneath your feet. He’s done it before. He can find a new Abraham, if that is His desire. There is always someone ready to hearken unto the voice of The Lord.
So come on guys, we’d rather take you with us. You’ve played such an important role in our history, and there is deep beauty and ancient wisdom in your traditions. We’ll listen to you. We’ll try to see the beauty that you speak of, if you’ll just quit yelling and shooting at us. Hell, we’ll even pitch in and help you rebuild the sacred monuments that hatred has torn down.
It would be sad if the children of Abraham were to miss this train and end up nothing more than a sad footnote in the story of humanity.”
All very interesting from Matt via reallivepreacher – But I need to ask the same question Mark asked, “What do we do with Jesus and his claims”?
Do we discount them in what I would consider to be unlearned ignorance and say, “well maybe he never said that!”
Do we say, “He never meant what he said”
What do we do with the claims of Jesus?
C.S. Lewis tackles this most brilliantly in his Liar, Lunatic, Lord deal, worth reading in my opinion.
I do think the Church has a lot to answer for and will be held guilty of many an atrocity one day.
In fact I think many people calling themselves Christians will also be dragged one day!
But again, what about Christ? If he was truly, as I believe, God in the flesh, how do we handle this?
How do we handle the fact that he claims to be God’s only way to salvation, only access to the Father…what the heck do YOU do with this?
From Otherendup (he can’t log on for some reason)
I find the discussion difficult to engage in based on the evangelical premise it is founded on. As i alluded to the other day, i have a reluctance to default to “the Bible says…” or “Jesus said….” as i know what i’ve been told both of those things are, but i am not at a place where i want to rely on what i’ve been told.
What i am sure of is this
1. that i cannot see things from a non-evangelical point of view, even if I try to imagine it, because that is how i have been taught to see the world around me, as well as Jesus and God.
2. Truth is not contained within the ink on the pages of Bible, but it is pointed to by the BibIe. And although I am sure that the Bible does point towards the Truth, which makes it a great point of reference, it also allows it to stand aside momentarily as Truth speaks for itself through other mediums, religions, experiences and interpretations.
So what happens to the likes of Ghandi and others who do not call on the name of christ as their saviour, but who follow the law of Love and Grace? I don’t know, but if they do “get in”, my question is “what does that do to our theories of evangelicalism” which asks for a single name to be used as the only key in?
I have been reading with eyes open wide, with this discussion in the back of my head for some weeks now and I just can’t, try as hard as I might, to see another form of reading or interpreting. I know, I am a victim of my Christian culture!
For example, how do you take Paul when he says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” ?
This is scripture, but when I was 11years old I decided that this [scripture in general] would be the source of truth in my life, I decided that again at 18, then sub-consciously in some obscure way, probably every day since. I know that scripture did not save me, God did. That scripture is not truth in and of itself, but that it points to the God of truth, but in that I find it (scripture) is the source of truth, the signpost. That through doubt, ugliness disobedience, I have needed a yard stick to measure some of the new thinking and unsettledness I was having. I needed something that would not change, and indeed has not changed. The scripture is that for me. I have not changed my overall view on it. Sure some interpretations and applications have changed on some issues in it, but on scripture itself, I have not changed, for you and for me things change, uni starts, new jobs start, some finish, we think about this and that, do a Degree, have a child or three or four. But there need to be some things that DON’T change. What will they be for you and why?
Will you stay married? Why?
Will you sleep with someone just for fun, and not tell your wife? Why not?
Will you give to the poor? Show hospitality? Care for hurting people? Why do this?
What will you combat teaching at uni with that contradicts some of your world view or will you just embrace any wind of teaching that comes your way? Or will you base your discernment upon your own home grown ‘human wisdom’?
Why do I hold such a high view of God as revealed in the scripture?, because I have not found another revelation from which I find a better description of the type of life that looks right to live…True, I have not gone looking for one, call me arrogant,ignorant, I call it plain old satisfied, content! I know there are other women out there that are better looking and might even be better in bed than my wife, but I made a choice, it’s about covenant, I am not going looking anywhere else.
It is my understanding that Matthew, Mark Luke John, James. Peter, and yes, even Paul all wrote with the wisdom that God gave him (them). He [Paul] writes in the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other scriptures, to their own destruction…[so] be on your guard that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless people and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
2 peter 3:14-18
*** Otherendup/Matt is a close mate, I love him. This response is a cut down less personal version of the response I gave to him via our email discussion.
Bloody Blogger – wrote a great comment and lost the lost – ah well, here goes again. . .
Great thread and comments, and certainly a lot of the things I have grappled with over the years are touched on here.
I fear the arrogance of fundamentalism and I have seen the damage it can do – is this reflective of the teachings of Christ or the result of human desire to be ‘right’. At the same time it is important to acknowledge the beauty – spiritual and cultural that exists within the practice of some religions. I also acknowledge that there are many people who hold faithful to religious beliefs and live their lives in a way that builds those around them up. For these people I have a vast and enduring respect.
I do have a problem with the view that one who does not follow a creed can be condemned to an eternal punishment.
There have been, are, and will be, too many creeds throughout human history. Would a benevolent, loving creator really condemn so many of It’s creation simply because of poor decision-making skills?
From Otherendup –
“i think you have misunderstood my point – i am not looking for a new “wife”, but rather other ways in which to appreciate “her”. In other words, having caught a glimpse of God through the bible and evangelical christianity, I am not looking for a new “God” but rather looking for other ways which help me to see, understand, love and appreciate Him MORE.”
“i’m not saying that i don’t agree with some of the points you have concluded from your bible passages, but I am saying that I am no longer willing to simply trust what I think they mean or what you think they mean, because I am aware that most of what I think they mean, is what i have been told it means by others who have done exactly the same thing before me – all through the evangelical lens.”
“Although I am eternally thankful for the signposts of the Bible and evangelical tradition, i feel in a free-er place now than ever before to continue to discover God both through these methods, as well as beyond them.”
I hope I am on the right track here about this post but here goes. I remember years ago asking God why can’t we follow Buddah and He said “He didn’t die for you”. By the way Buddah on his death bed said to his servant “I am not the first or the last but one is coming after me named Matraya (which means love)about 500 years from now”. Jesus was born 496 years later, and He says “I am the first and the last”. Then I asked God, “people say Jesus isn’t you” and He said “Everyone looks to the relationship between Me and my son but it is between you and Me, now Lissa your a parent, if your child was lost in the harsh wilderness would you send someone else or would you go?” before he finished I said “No I would go”. He is a better parent then we will ever be. Therefore brethren do not be deceived. Beware of the anti Christ spirit that is here. Read 1 John. The cross is the stumbling block for many unbelievers and so it seems for some believers too, have you ever been in discussion about Buddah, Martin Luther King, etc. etc. no problem, until you mention the name Jesus, all hell breaks out! Remember Paul said to the Galations “Oh foolish galations who has bewitched you?” they were teaching false doctrines
The minute we start believing all roads lead to God then we have denied Him in whom He sent to atone for mans sin. Remember do not be deceived in the last days, Christians are going to die for believing in Jesus when anti christ sits on his throne read Rev 13?. The last days will be religions that deny Christ or throw Him in with every other religion and it will be based on morality and legalism. I believe lots of good people are in hell because they deny what God has done for them, because they believed in their good works and morals and perhaps religion to get them to Heaven, we believe in a person as the way, the truth and the life. Keep sitting at the feet of Jesus and keep doing good till He comes, brothers and sisters in Christ encourage one another in the faith and the teachings that Jesus gave us and do not go after strange gods and teachings. As a Christian and having the Holy Spirit I love all people, but that does not mean I forsake my Jesus and accept their gods. Islam would have me convert or die. As a Christian I would love them to convert and if they don’t wont to then I am taught by Jesus to wipe the dust of my feet and move on. We will be persecuted for Christ’s sake. King Solomon is very likely to be in hell according to Pastor Zac Poonan and I have to agree with him, scary isn’t it, so if we are faithful to the end and get to heaven we might be amazed at who and who didn’t get to there. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
I’m not sure that is an accurate translation. of the The Prophecy of Maitreya.
The best one I have found (by Edward Conze of early sanskrit texts) outlines the prophesy that men, gods and other creatures worship the Maitreya Buddha and:
“will lose their doubts, and the torrents of their cravings will be cut off: free from all misery they will manage to cross the ocean of becoming; and, as a result of Maitreya’s teachings, they will lead a holy life. No longer will they regard anything as their own, they will have no possession, no gold or silver, no home, no relatives! But they will lead the holy life of chastity under Maitreya’s guidance. They will have torn the net of the passions, they will manage to enter into trances, and theirs will be an abundance of joy and happiness, for they will lead a holy life under Maitreya’s guidance.”
Sounds positively Messianic I know, but given the preconditions stated in the prophecy I am not sure that I would want to make the claim that Jesus is the incarnation of Maitreya Buddha – or vice versa.
Interesting perspective however.
hi guys, interesting discussion.
i find the writings of lesslie newbigin very helpful in regard to how christ relates to other faiths. Newbigin lived as a missionary in india and as such was exposed to many different belief systems. his approach to christianity involves us recognising that jesus has in a special way revealed God to the world. Yet, as an individual who has encountered Christ, i must recognise that my understanding of Jesus (and truth etc) is (of course, as it must be) contingent upon my culture and point of view. So, I believe ( a faith commitment, though not without reasonable grounds) that Jesus is the unique revelation of God to humanity – but I can’t prove that. I can witness to my faith, and I can be convinced (by various experiences etc) that my faith is true but I can’t “prove it.”
Fundamentalism (of all sorts) demands that my faith is true and provable, and that you must have my faith. As a contingent human being, I can’t say that. But, I can believe certain things are true (about god, jesus truth etc.) And I can have good reasonable ground to do so.
Newbigin also talks about the “salvific role of other faiths” – where, while not saying that they are the same as jesus and christianity, allows for the fact that the teachings and ideas contained in many belief systems do point people towards a god, creation, and a sense of justice and ethics in the world. In doing this, such faiths are acting as a light to their adherents. Again, they are not true in the same way that Christianity is true (a belief of mine, by the way – which I can’t prove but have a lot of reasons why I hold it to be so), they do point people towards God.
The offense of the Gospel (and indeed the whole judeo-christian tradition) is that God would choose 1 person (abraham, etc) and through that one person reveal himself to many. Why has not god made himself and truth in general more readily available to all? I don’t know, but that’s the way the bible works. It all follows from the concept that God chooses 1, then works in a few, and then spreads this to the many. That is the core of the offensiveness – that the God of the Universe (whom many believe in) would choose a particular person, or people, or nation etc. and work through them to bring about blessing in the whole world. Why does God give this to one person, and not to everyone universally? Why is it through Jesus, and not through other teachers etc. that salvation comes?
This is not to say that God does not love all, or want to bless all. It’s just that in the process of bringing about that blessing, god does it first through one, or a few, and only then to the many. Thus, access to God is not equally available to all but is contingent upon historical realities. I was born in Australia – I heard the christian message. Someone else was born elsewhere – they don’t get to hear it.
What’s the answer to this?
Firstly, to recognise that there is more mystery involved than is normally given scope for in evangelical circles
Secondly, that God is a god of truth and justice and in the end will be seen as having done the right thing by everyone
Thirdly, the biblical injunction to “make disciples of all nations.” Ie. for those who have “gotten on board”, to share what you have found with others.
BTW. I hope we can give up the terminology of “Going to heaven.” It seems to me that the biblical trajectory is of “heaven coming to earth.” That perspective changes things significantly also.
As a universalist, I believe that God’s redemptive purposes will not be thwarted and as such, He will reconcile all things to Himself.
Given that it is God’s will and purpose is that none should perish, given that God is able to accomplish all things and given that God has all time or eternity… what could keep him from saving every person?
Hello, I don’t know any of you but this is a very interesting discussion and I’d like to comment…
Can someone follow Christ’s teachings yet not be Christian? I have friends that follow Buddha’s teachings but do not call themselves Buddhists. Why? Because they only follow SOME of Buddha’s teachings, yet not all (ie. they only take the ones that they like and discard the rest). Jesus taught stuff such as loving your neighbour and being generous with your wealth but that was not all he came to do. What makes him so unique is that while other religious gurus came to teach about God, Jesus claimed to BE God, to be the ONLY way to God and he rose from the dead. This is either true or it isn’t. He’s either a liar, a lunatic or Lord.
The gospel of Jesus is SO offensive because it is so humbling and pricks at our pride. He claims we cannot save ourselves through good works, morals or even by just following some of his teachings if we do not call on his name to be saved.
I agree with Scott when he said that people who commit atrocious acts done in the name of Christ will be called to answer for it. I get disgusted when Christians say, “we have the truth” as if it were something they discovered themselves. No, it’s Jesus who claimed to BE the truth. I believe what he said and I cannot even claim that I’m intellectually superior to others because I understand it and they don’t. No, it is by the grace of God that he revealed his wisdom (1 Corinthians 2), it is not by man’s wisdom.
I was having a conversation with a non Christian friend about the gospel once and I said to her that I was sorry if I offended her if I was rude or arrogant – but I will not apologise for any offense the gospel caused because the gospel is offensive in itself. She understood.
So what about other faiths? Well, yes they DO understand something about God. Romans 1:20 says that God has revealed himself in the creation even if they do not understand the creator to be Jesus. Christians do have something in common with people of other faiths because we share common beliefs such as there is a God, good works, peace etc. This can lead to great conversations. But if I believe Jesus’ claims to be the only way to God, then I cannot say other religions are true. I love these people of other faiths (or no faith) but that doesn’t mean I need to agree with them in the name of ‘tolerance’.
So how can I tell who’s going to heaven and who’s not? Well I only know that I believe and trust Jesus’ promise of eternal life for all those who repent and put their trust in him. I may be able to have some sort of idea by people’s understanding of the gospel and the way their lives reflect this. But I cannot know what it’s in people’s hearts. I’m sure I’ll be surprised by the presence of certain people in heaven.
What about those who haven’t heard? Well I know God is merciful and fair and wouldn’t he judge people according to what they know? What this means for remote people groups, people with severe intellectual disabilities and babies who died, I don’t know. I only know that God is fair.
Among people with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome(a developmental disability not an intellectual disability) that I have encountered, there is a very high proportion of athiests. Some of these people have speculated that the nature of their developmental disability does not have ‘space’ for faith and that they cannot accept that something can exist for which there is no proof. Intellectually they can understand religion, but cannot understand why one would adhere to it.
No faith, in any god, at all and no capability to ‘have’ faith.
To hell with them?
Grendel – I would speculate that this type of thing would come under grace of God, like a child who is not old enough to decide or aperson never having heard of Jesus, I can’t imagine a God who wants everyone to be saved (agreeing with ‘Rock’) not pouring out his grace to those unable to commit to faith in Christ.
In fact, Rock, it’s my thinking that God as so desperate to see all enter into relationship with him he got off His holy butt and came down to tell us about how to get there…He was called Jesus, but I do like your point regarding all of time to make it happen.
Mikeb, The “goingto heaven” thing. Interesting you said that because last night our study at our group contained much discussion on this topic. We are looking at Acts. And in Acts 4 there is a comment about Christ returning to resore all things…does not sound too much like I am “going up to heaven” in this comment.
Thanks for your insight mate.
Enjoying the tone here, lots of grace! Thanks for the chats