Watching a documentary entitled Heaven: Beyond the Grave on demand…
After about 40 minutes, the question comes up: Who gets to go to heaven?
To give the documentary credit, Jesus is given pole position on the subject, and they quote:
John 3:3 – “Verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 14:6 – “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Then three talking heads follow.
Randy Alcorn: Is it exclusive to say that one can only be saved through Jesus? And I would say, absolutely it is. It is Jesus who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” So I think we have to look at Jesus and say, Was that unloving and narrow of him to do? Well, certainly it isn’t unloving, because the very Jesus who said that, we’re told actually went to the Cross to die for the sins of the whole world.
Father Michael Manning: I believe that Jesus’ love is much more expansive than that, much broader. And that his desire, seen through his life, death, resurrection, reaching out to us… is reaching out to perhaps the one billion Chinese who are never going to hear the name Jesus in their whole existence. And does that mean, because they haven’t accepted Jesus, they’re going to hell? No, not at all.
Rev Mary June Nestler: John 3 and John 14 place on the lips of Jesus some difficult things to hear. I think we must read those passages in the context of the community to which the author of John was writing. A community in the late 1stCentury that was struggling with its own identity, struggling probably with its emergence from Judaism.
The documentary concludes the ‘who gets to heaven’ section with this resigned remark: “Consensus about who goes to heaven and what heaven might be like is impossible to achieve.”
Well, I for one thank God that consensus is entirely irrelevant when it comes to these questions. I couldn’t care less, frankly, with the pontifications of religious men and women with titles.
Let’s be like the dog in the HMV picture. He’s listening to His Master’s Voice. The difference is, the dog’s master was dead, and he only had a gramophone recording of his voice. We have a living Master, who conquered death and isuniquely entitled to speak with authority on what heaven is like and who gets to go there.
Of the three talking heads, only Randy Alcorn is concerned to actually listen to what Jesus says and accept it. He takes the trouble to anticipate the objections. We have to see that the same Jesus who said he was the only Way to the Father, is the Jesus who asked His Father to forgive His murderers. Anything that detracts from Christ’s uniqueness as the sole Way of salvation is an insult to the enormity of His loving sacrifice on the Cross.
And this is precisely what was see with the Catholic Father and the Episcopal Reverend. You can almost see the cogs whirring in their minds. “Hmmm… how to explain away, how to explain away…how to make Jesus mean something other than what he means… how to not listen to my Master’s voice at all….? Oh it is hard calling oneself a Christian and totally ignoring Christ, but the robes are cool…”
Michael Manning thinks Jesus is wrong about being the only Way, because he doesn’t understand that Jesus really is Lord and it is not for us to contradict him. And he doesn’t understand that the entire human race, Chinese and otherwise, is under the just condemnation of God for our sin, and all of us deserving of hell. He tramples the Cross underfoot to say that it makes no difference whether Christ is trusted in or not, just because it offends his liberal sensibilities. On what authority does he dare to presume that those one billion Chinese, as he puts it, are safe without Christ? Even the Roman Catholic Church has committed itself to mission in China; but what does the Reverend Father think is the point, if people will make it without Jesus anyway? One more thing: there are at least 40 million Christians in China, and counting, and praise God that a greater percentage every day are indeed hearing the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ and His unique salvation. No thanks to Michael Manning. He’s not fit to carry Hudson Taylor’s suitcase…
Mary June Nestler’s ear-plugging manoeuvre is even more shameless. The first line gives it away: “John 3 and John 14 place on the lips of Jesus some difficult things to hear…” Why doesn’t she just finish it off with: “… so I won’t hear them…. Na-nah-nah-nahh-laaaaa-laaa-laaa.” I think we can all learn to read passages in the Bible we don’t like ‘in context’ if that means ignoring them and still feeling quite comfortable and pious at the same time.
Mark Twain was right: “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
And Jesus is right. He is the only Way. He’s the only one who was innocent enough to represent the human race before a holy God. He’s the only one who loved us enough to do this. He’s the only one who can clear our guilt by his blood. He’s the only one who has overwhelmed death by his own power. He’s the only someone who knows what he’s talking about.
To all documentary-makers and reverends out there: remember the very words of God from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration: “This is my Beloved Son. HEAR HIM!”