Do All Religions Lead to Heaven?


Let us consider, that, in matters of religion, whatever is different is contrary; and that it is impossible the religions of ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China, all of them, be established on any sound foundation
DAVID HUME

Perhaps you’ve heard the statement, “Getting to heaven is like climbing a mountain. Both have many paths, but they all lead to the top.” While that may be true for climbing a mountain, it’s not true for getting to heaven. Heaven’s architect, Jesus Christ, clearly stated, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus’s claim runs counter to the pluralistic contention that all roads lead to heaven. He said, “I am the way to heaven.” If there were another way to heaven, Jesus would’ve been a fool to die on the cross. The cross shouts out, “Pluralism is false.”

If you read Scripture, you will quickly see that God’s never been a pluralist. He’s never said, “Just pick a god and head my direction.” In the Old Testament the Israelites got themselves into trouble when they started collecting the gods of the nations surrounding them. As a result, they were sent into captivity. That’s because God’s not a fan of pluralism. He knows that no other gods exist—that He alone is God.

The belief that pluralism is true crumbles once you juxtapose the other faiths against Christianity. Hindus and Buddhists believe in samsara, a continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation whereby they hope to one day be set free. Muslims believe that Allah will weigh our works, and if our righteous acts outweigh our unrighteous acts, we may have a shot at getting into heaven. Atheists believe that death is the end. It’s lights out and there is no heaven.

So, which is it—samsara, scales, or no heaven in the first place? This mere sampling reveals the contradictions. Not all of these beliefs can be true. They may all be wrong, but they can’t all be true. When Jesus was asked about truth, He claimed, “I am… the truth.” On the cross Jesus became heaven’s visible GPS. It turns out that He’s our true north after all. He is the only way to heaven.

Now, this may produce a secondary question for you. If religious pluralism is false and Jesus is the only way to heaven, then what’s the fate of those who’ve never heard about Jesus? This is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, questions for me personally. And there’s no easy emotional answer. Nevertheless, no worldview comes without its hard questions. This happens to be one of our hard questions as Christians. And I think we need to admit it. It’s hard. Nevertheless, here are some principles that I’ve tried to remember when I find myself struggling to cope with the fate of those who’ve never heard:

  • God passionately loves the world (John 3:16)
  • God’s not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9)
  • God’s nature is just and He will do what is right (Genesis 18:25)
  • God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23)
  • God went to great lengths to save us (Romans 5:8)
  • God has provided both general and special revelation (Romans 1:20; 2:14-15)
  • None of us will have an excuse (Romans 1:20)

While these principles don’t eliminate the question, they at least cultivate a biblical view of God’s character and remind me that I can trust Him to do what is right.

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

One-Minute Apologist Video: Erwin Lutzer, “Why Is Jesus the Only One Qualified?”

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Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?


Baptism is the discarded jewel of Christian churches today.
MARK DEVER

There is a lot of confusion about baptism today, and many end up at one of two extremes. At one end are people who exclaim, “Baptism is necessary for salvation.” At the other end are people who avoid baptism altogether. What do we do with this tension? For starters, realize that both extremes are extreme.

Baptism is not necessary for salvation. If it were, Paul the apostle never would have said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17a). Paul valued baptism dearly, but preaching the gospel was his core concern because he knew that receiving the gospel by faith was the necessary ingredient for salvation.

However, Jesus did expect believers to be baptized. He commissioned His disciples, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

But beyond the fact that baptism is commanded, it also provides a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ publicly, to depict outwardly what took place inwardly. Going under the water of baptism shows that you identify with Christ’s death and burial, and coming out of the water demonstrates that you identify with His resurrection, which enables you to walk in newness of life.

Furthermore, in the early church, baptism was taken very seriously. It was seen as a necessary part of Christian discipleship, as it should be today. However, here’s something to consider. If baptism were necessary for salvation, the thief on the cross would’ve never been saved. That’s worth pondering. Therefore, as important as it is, baptism was never meant to be a salvation issue; it is a discipleship issue. Note the difference.

Thought to Ponder : Baptism isn’t commanded for salvation; it’s commanded to commemorate it.

Memory Verse: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).

One-Minute Apologist Video: Bobby Conway, “Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?”

What Is the Heart of Apologetics?


The gospel which we possess was not given to us only to be admired, talked of, and professed, but to be practiced.
J.C. RYLE

When people think about apologetics they usually don’t associate the word with “heart.” That’s because apologetics has been unfortunately relegated to just the head. But apologetics should involve both head and heart. During the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

When we think about apologetics, we often think about giving heady arguments to defend the reliability of Christianity. We carefully lay out our arguments for the existence of God, the infallibility of Scripture, the empty tomb, and so on. Yet here Jesus says, “I’ve got a ‘hearty’ apologetic for you.” Jesus says if you want to give a great defense of Christianity, then do so by loving each other “just as I have loved you.”

Now that’s a tall order, isn’t it? Expounding on Jesus’s words, the late apologist Francis Schaeffer said,Yet, without true Christians loving one another, Christ says the world cannot be expected to listen, even when we give proper answers. Let us be careful, indeed, to spend a lifetime studying to give honest answers. For years the orthodox, evangelical church has done this very poorly. So it is well to spend time learning to answer the questions of men who are about us. But after we have done our best to communicate to a lost world, still we must never forget that the final apologetic which Jesus gives is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians.*

As Christians, we are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14). It’s hard to impact our culture if we turn people off by the way we live. Our life is meant to be an apologetic. Without love, our apologetic is powerless. We are like a noisy gong (1 Corinthians 13:1). The heartbeat of apologetics is spelled with four letters: L-O-V-E. It turns out that love is far easier to spell out than it is to live out.

Thought to Ponder: The gospel is meant to be more than defended. It must be displayed.

Memory Verse: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

One-Minute Apologist Video: Eric Metaxas, “When Is Logic Not Enough?”

What Is Apologetics?


Apologetics is to be seen not as a defensive and hostile reaction against the world, but as a welcome opportunity to exhibit, celebrate, and display the treasure chest of the Christian faith.
ALISTAIR MCGRATH

Like most people, the first time I heard the word apologetics I was befuddled. The word comes from the Greek apologia, meaning “to defend.” We see this word used in 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter says, “always being prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Let’s unpack this verse and glean a few insights from it.

First, Peter says, “Always being prepared to make a defense.” In order to make a defense, we must be prepared—or at least be preparing. We need to love the world enough to care about their questions. We can start by tackling the most common objections nonbelievers have to the Christian faith, many of which are discussed briefly in this book.

Second, Peter tells us “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” This inner hope relates to our faith in Jesus Christ. Be ready to talk about the difference Jesus has made in your life. God wants to use our hope to instill hope in others.

Third, Peter tells us to defend our faith with “gentleness and respect.” Regrettably, apologetics has been given a bad rap at times since some apologists come off as arrogant. That’s really unfortunate. And it’s exactly what Peter warns against. He tells us to defend the truth gently and respectfully. Tone matters when communicating truth. Gentleness and respect also go a long way in creating relational harmony.

What you say and how you say it are both crucial. It’s not either/or. It’s truth and love.

The need for apologetics has never been greater. In our pluralistic and secularized culture, we need a batch of Christians who are not only aware of their beliefs, but also get the gist of the beliefs of those around them. This melting pot of beliefs has caused many to question truth altogether. The confusion is systemic, and apologetics can be a great tool for providing some much needed clarity. So prepare well. And “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Thought to Ponder:
Apologetics provides credible answers to compelling questions.

Memory Verse:
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

One-Minute Apologist Video: Frank Turek, “What Is Apologetics?”

 

Is There Evidence for the Resurrection?


Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.
FREDERICK BUECHNER

I have struggled with doubt for years. I’m part of the Thomas Tribe (literally, my name is Thomas). I don’t like it, but my mind just works that way. And at times, it’s been horrifying, lonely, and even deeply depressing. I’m an obsessive analyzer. I don’t know how to turn my mind off. I fixate and sometimes sink into the quicksand of doubt.

But here’s what else I can tell you. When I struggle with doubt, I go back to the resurrection. And here’s why—I can’t get around the evidence. I’ve tried. Not because I want to get around the evidence but to see if I can, to test the strength of the resurrection.

I’m thankful that the resurrection of Jesus Christ comes fully furnished with solid evidence. It’s critical that it does, because our faith hangs on this crucial event in history. Remember the apostle Paul’s shocking statement that I cited in the previous article (Resurrection: Fact or Fiction) ?  “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). That’s jaw dropping. Paul is basically saying, “Hey Christians, our faith rises and falls on the resurrection.”

I hate to say it, but if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we are deceived Christians. We’ve been duped. We’ve bought a lie and we’re anesthetizing ourselves on a mere fairy-tale. So if our faith isn’t fiction, what evidence is there for the resurrection? In short, here are five lines of evidence.

First, women were the first to discover the empty tomb. Why is this critical? It is well known and unfortunate that the testimony of women in the ancient world wasn’t highly regarded. If the authors of the Gospels were making up this story, they wouldn’t have fabricated women as the first witnesses of the resurrection. Rather, they would’ve had bona fide witnesses as the first discoverers of the empty tomb.

Second, the empty tomb is evidence for the resurrection. Even after the disciples were claiming that Jesus rose from the dead, no one was able to call their bluff. And that’s because they weren’t bluffing. As we discussed in the previous article, if the disciples stole the body of Jesus, do you think they would have died for a lie? And if some nonbelievers stole Jesus’s body, they most assuredly would’ve brought it out into the open once the rumor began spreading that Jesus rose from the dead.

Third, post-resurrection appearances provide further evidence for Jesus’s resurrection. As I said in the previous chapter, Jesus appeared to His followers on several different occasions, and He even appeared to more than five hundred at one time. By doing so, Jesus was establishing visible evidence for His eyewitnesses that He had defeated the grave.

Fourth, fulfilled prophecy served as another line of evidence for Jesus’s resurrection. His resurrection was prophesied in the Old Testament (Psalm 16:9-10) and Jesus Himself prophesied His own resurrection in the New Testament (Matthew 12:40; Mark 14:58; John 2:18-22).

Finally, you can’t explain the early church and the radical life change of Jesus’s disciples apart from the resurrection. The disciples saw something. These once fearful disciples, who could hardly follow Jesus during His earthly ministry, would now willingly lay down their lives for Him. That’s because they saw a living Jesus and experienced a radical life change. His resurrection turned doubting Thomas into a great missionary, denying Peter into a bold preacher, and adversary Paul into a tireless advocate of the gospel.

The case for the resurrection is so robust that many skeptics through the ages have become sincere followers of Jesus Christ in light of all the evidence. Now that’s exciting.

Thought to Ponder: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the exclamation point to the truthfulness of Christianity.

Memory Verse: If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14).

One-Minute Apologist Video: Bobby Conway, “Proofs of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?”