A look at “Christianity And Jesus As The Only Way To Eternal Life”
In this edition of “Theology & Culture”, we are going to discuss the unique claim that Christians make that Jesus is the only way to heaven. There are those who use this teaching of the historic faith as a reason to reject and dislike those who are Christ-followers. Let us examine this a little closer.
It is important to know how to respond to those who throw this in the face of the Christian faith. Those who oppose this belief think that only we who are Christians have this narrow view of making an exclusive claim regarding salvation, eternal life, God, etc. As we see, this is not the case.
Believe it or not, the issue, when analyzed, is not the claim itself, for all religions believe they hold the key to eternal life, knowing God, etc., as defined by them. What is important is to determine what belief system, in making that claim, has the credentials to back up the assertion of being the only way to God.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they offer the only way to heaven and a relationship with God. In fact, they see Christianity as Babylon, seen in the book of Revelation. Muslims claim the same thing, to be the only way to know God. As does Mormonism. In fact, in the book “Mormon Doctrine”, written by one of the leaders of the Mormon church, the late Bruce McConkie, we read on pg. 670, “There is no salvation outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
As noted, every group holds to the same claim they accuse Christianity of having - as being the only way to truth and heaven. The issue is not the assertion of Christianity when it comes to Jesus being the only way, it is the One Who made the claim that gives credence to whether we can believe it or not. Comparing Christ to various religious leaders shows that He rises above all others.
The world has been impacted by the life of Jesus for two millennia. In addition to this fact, let us consider something else. His claims to being God along with His clear cut statements that He was the only way to heaven, in addition to the miracles He performed and the things He taught, leads to only one of three conclusions - He was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord of heaven. Let us use this as our springboard in discussing the uniqueness of Christ as the only way to eternal life.
To begin, from what I have gathered, no honest psychologist, sociologist, or historian who has looked objectively at the life of Jesus has ever called into question His mental stability. He was not given to deceptive statements and He did not have a Messiah complex like some religious leaders have. Entire moral and ethical systems are built around the things He said. He did not lie nor did He try to lead anyone astray. He is not a lunatic, nor is He a liar. That leaves only one option.
Consider also the fact that those who knew Him best and wrote about Him (the twelve apostles) were not prone to lying. They taught others to be truthful and honest. Research shows that they were attempting to tell the story of Jesus exactly as it happened. Their lives underwent a dramatic change as well. As Jews they had to contend with the claims that Jesus made about Who He was but they came to believe in Him. They were also willing to die for Him.
Some people will die for what they believe to be true, but no one dies for what they know is a lie. The disciples were transformed by the life and message of Jesus. Not only that, Jesus would have made a poor candidate to be a Messiah in the first century. The Jews were looking for a political giant to help them break free from Rome’s control. Christ was the opposite of what the world was looking for, yet His life and teachings shook a planet in need of hope.
Continuing, let us zero in on a few facts regarding the life of Jesus. As we have mentioned, there were those who knew Him well (His apostles), along with Paul, the author of thirteen books of the New Testament. They saw the miracles He performed, heard His teachings, and watched closely His sinless life (1 Peter 2:22; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 3:5). How He lived backed the claims He made.
Not only that, but every other religious leader is dead and still in the ground. This is vital because some of them claimed they would rise from the dead but did not. Romans 1:4 tells us that Christ proved Who He was by rising from the grave. The resurrection is the centerpiece doctrine of the Christian faith (1 Cor. 15). If Jesus did not rise from the dead, our faith is worthless.
We know He was crucified and confirmed to be dead (John 19:31-35). The Romans were experts at crucifixion. He was buried in a borrowed tomb (Mt. 27:60). People would know where His body was laid. The religious leaders placed a guard at the tomb (Matt. 27:62-65). After He rose from the dead, He was seen by over 500 people (1 Cor. 15:3-8). The resurrection of Jesus is a historically provable event.
But there is more. Jesus, by His birth, life, death, and resurrection, fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies. Some of those were out of His hands, we might say. He would come through the line of Judah (Gen. 49:10). He had no say over His family lineage, from the human perspective.
He born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). There was more than one Bethlehem and He had no say in the location of His birth. He died a horrible death, fulfilling Psalm 22. He would ascend to heaven (Ps. 68:18), which was fulfilled in Acts 1:9-11.
Jesus is not a liar. He is not a lunatic. He is indeed Lord. The fact that He existed and walked this earth is unarguable, and His existence is noted by secular historians. To deny Him this, as some have done, is to close our eyes to the historical records.
Thus His claims to being the only way to heaven (e.g., John 14:6) are backed by His life and all that He did and continues to do.
He was not simply a great teacher as some like to think. This view of Jesus lessens a person’s need to respond to the claims of Christ by simply seeing Him as One Who taught us ethics, grace, compassion, etc. If He was a “great teacher”, He would not be a good one as He claimed to be God. He stated things that if not true would make Him a liar. A good teacher would not purposely lie to their students.
C.S. Lewis may have said it best. He writes regarding what people may think of Jesus,
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher…Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Jesus said He was the only way to eternal life, to receiving salvation. He is the One Who alone can bring us into the presence of God in heaven and His claims are backed by His life. You and I, who are followers of His, can rest in the evidence that what we believe about our Lord is reliable.