Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John 14:6 (CEB)
I recently spent some time with a friend who I had not seen in some time. Knowing he is a professing Christian and seeing his big truck parked nearby, I commented on how much I liked the fish symbol that is mounted on its side. His reply was something along the lines of “God likes it too.” This, of course, sparked further conversation about the faith and it became quite clear that he and his wife had become sporadic churchgoers and, that while it worked for him, he didn’t think his faith was the only way. I then got the “many paths to God” rhetoric that I have heard so many times before– and which I myself said at one time in my life. Why, raised as a Christian, would I say that sort of thing that is so often reserved for “liberals?” Because, like so many of us, I don’t like to think about the many people I know and love who do not share the same belief in Jesus that I have. The thought of losing them for all eternity is a hard one to entertain. I suspect that most [if not all] of us wouldn’t mind finding out that we’re wrong on “the only way” concept and that we would see them in eternity, embraced by God in His infinite love. I know I am far from alone in my concern for those who do not know Christ to find their way to God. In fact I read a book about a year ago that put forth the idea that,in the end, everybody would be saved by God. The authors (one a Baptist minister and the other one a Quaker) illustrated their belief with stories of those who were decent people but never quite found their way to the Lord. Through their stories and the application of some plain old human logic and belief system, there is no way God could turn His loving back on them. His grace was too huge to allow for such a thing. Sounded nice– but nonetheless it is wishful thinking. I don’t mean to sound callous or cold about this, but if one is to accept Jesus and believe what He said [and the Scriptures that He validated] then they must be in 100%. Jesus is everything or He is nothing.
If everybody is going to get it in the end, then the suffering of Christ on the cross was for nothing, He said He came to save the lost. If everybody is going to be OK with God in the end, then why send His Son to suffer the indescribable agony of Calvary? Not only that, but where would the concept of free will enter into the equation if, in the end, everybody will love Jesus and come to Him on their own terms? It would be nice but not of much value if He are forced into it. God wants us to come to Him on our own, not through force. I don’t mean to speak for God, and I’m not. The Bible clearly tells the story of a God who gives us the choice to love Him or reject Him. If we reject Him, does He punish us with hell or do we send ourselves there? We can only be in one of two places for eternity: with God or apart from Him. I know where He wants us and He paid huge price in the person of Jesus to get us there. But still, it’s our choice.
I don’t claim to fully grasp the concept of hell– other than the knowledge that it is a place of suffering that is apart from God. If I cling to the hopeful idea of everybody eventually getting it, faith then becomes nothing more than a thing of convenience. After all, what would be the urgency of witnessing for Christ if everybody was going to be saved anyway? What would it matter if I cheated on my taxes, slept around on my wife, stole things from friends and others simply because I wanted them and drank and used drugs all the time? If there were no consequences, why not live it up? Why would something like love matter in this life if we believed we’d discover it in the next? We would have never come to know Jesus and received the Holy Spirit into ourselves. We would not have the power to work things in accordance with His will or even to love Jesus as we ought. Christianity would become nothing more than an exercise in futility. There would no hell because there would be no point of having it. Following this to its logical conclusion, we would have to think that the Bible lied to us when it recorded Jesus warning us of hell and the narrow path, where many are called but few chosen. If it lied to us about that, why believe any of it? Once it lacks credibility, it is no longer credible!
Sometimes people who deny the deity of Jesus refer to Him as a great teacher or man– or something along those lines. That is, in no uncertain terms, a complete contradiction: they are saying He is a liar, but also a great teacher. Great teachers don’t teach lies. Jesus spoke plainly about who He was and what His mission was (and still is to this day). Go back to John 14:6– there is nothing left to the imagination about the statement He made.