Friday, April 13, 2018

Proximity: Who will be in heaven?

Who Will Be in Heaven?

This week we took two questions that youth asked back in January: "Will Jewish/Muslim people be in heaven?" and "Would you still go to heaven if you swore a lot?" These two we combined into the question "Who will be in Heaven?"We looked at four different attempts to answer this question: 2 good and 2 bad.

The Bad: Religious Pluarlism

This view says that all people will be saved in the end. You do not have to "walk the Jesus path" in order to be saved. People of any religion or faith will be able to be saved in the end. There are three reasons why we do not hold this view. First, all the biblical passages that talk about judgment (if all will be saved regardless then there would be no judgment) and the passages that talk about Jesus as the only way (John 14:6). Second, it makes Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension nice but not necessary. Third, it causes the holder of the view to not evangelize or do mission work because everyone will be saved anyways with no judgment.

The Bad: Jesus-Centered Universalism

This view says that it is only through Jesus that one can be saved but eventually everyone will be saved. At judgment day those who did not believe in Jesus will spend a period of time in hell until they say yes to Jesus, upon which they can enter the kingdom of God. This period of time could be 10 years, hundreds of years, or thousands of years. They hold this view on the basis of Revelation 21:24-25 which says the New Jerusalem's gates will never be closed, which they interpret as meaning people can come in after a time of suffering in hell. Those who don't hold this view would say that it is better interpreted as saying there is no enemies and so the gates don't need to be closed because evil has been removed. We do not hold this view for three reasons. First, nothing in the Bible suggests that once condemned at the final judgment that a person can go from one fate to the other. Second, this seems to be more influenced by modern culture's emphasis on tolerance than on biblical arguments. Third, this leads to apathy towards evangelism since people will be saved in the end anyways. You may still tell people about Jesus so they don't have to spend that time in hell.

The Good: Limited Jesus-Centered Inclusivism

This view says that it is only through Jesus can someone be saved but this does not mean they need to make a verbal/mental commitment to Jesus. Children, mentally challenged, and those who’ve never heard about Jesus but “are leaning towards God” can still be saved. However only those who have heard and repented can be assured of salvation so we shouldn’t assume people are saved and should still go and invite everyone to Jesus. This view sees peoples response to general revelation as being able to save them (through the power of Jesus). This comes from Romans 1:19-23 which says that people are without excuse for God has revealed himself through Creation but instead they worshiped created things rather than the Creator. If general revelation is able to condemn then it must be able to be saved. Some weaknesses to this view is that Paul doesn't seem to hold this view (Romans 10:13-15), it could lead to Jesus Centered Universalism, and again it could lead to apathy over evangelism/missions.

The Good: Exclusivism/Restrictivism

This view says that it is only through Jesus can someone be saved. This is only accomplished if someone has heard about him and confessed him as Lord. All others are eternally separated from God in hell. This view comes from the passages that talk about the need to believe in Jesus to be saved (John 3:16-18; Acts 4:12). There are three challenges to this view. First, it seems that the majority of people are destined for hell which seems unloving and unfair for a God who is supposed to be ultimately loving. Second, how can the Old Testament saints be saved when they never heard Jesus even if they worshiped God. Third, how can children, the mentally challenged, and those who never heard be saved for it seems unfair for them to be condemned.

To overcome some of these challenges there are some branches of the exclusivist view. First is Universal Opportunity which says that those who never heard the Gospel but would have responded positively will hear the Gospel somehow, whether through a missionary, a dream, or a vision. This still doesn't deal with the problem that most people have not heard nor received a vision or dreams. The second branch is post-mortem evangelism which says that all who have never heard the gospel will hear it after death. The problem with this view is that who would say no to a gospel presentation after death and so this leads to no need for evangelism.

Whichever of the two good views you hold the Bible doesn't specifically say who will be saved in the end because it is not our job to decide who will be saved and who will not be (thank God). It does say that the only way to be assured of salvation is to believe in Jesus, surrender to him, and become a disciple. It says this because we are given the task of telling all people about Jesus so that we can be assured of their salvation. 

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