I just completed a fiction novel by Joel Rosenberg entitled The Third Target. The main character in the story is J.B. Collins. A New York Times award winning columnist covering most of the activity in the Middle East. Rosenberg’s writing has a distinct and prophetic tone to it. As J.B. is considering his fate and the after-life his brother – a born-again Christian – often challenges him to go deeper into the meaning of his existence and what happens after death. Late in the book J.B. comes face to face with the reality awaiting him. Especially after being threatened by the most dangerous ISIS terrorist on the planet. His observation, “I was now certain there was an afterlife. I was now certain heaven and hell were real places that real people went. I couldn’t explain how. I just knew it. What I didn’t know was how to get to heaven. Matt said Jesus was the only way. I wasn’t so sure. Which meant he was right about another thing – I was in danger. If I didn’t have a route to heaven, didn’t that mean I was on the road to hell?”
Isn’t that the million-dollar question for each one of us? Or an even more costly question if we don’t get the right answer. I grew up in the church, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to believe that Jesus died for me. It’s what I was taught from a very early age. But that’s not the case for many people on the planet never exposed to the message of salvation and what it means to be a Christ follower. Even if they do hear it, you have to admit, it’s a story requiring a significant amount of faith for most anyone. There’s a lot of questions surrounding this idea of original sin and the choice to eat of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve. Then getting banished from the garden, never to return until Jesus comes back. Oh, but he first must die for the sins of mankind. A substitutionary death. What does all that really mean? It sounds a bit bizarre.
The idea of there being only two roads available to us, one to hell and the other to heaven, is a bit scary for anyone. Aren’t there multiple ways to get to heaven? Shouldn’t we be capable of being good enough to get there without faith in anyone but ourselves? The Bible says no. But you first must believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. That’s also a stretch for some people. Society models a self-sufficient existence with an emphasis on people pleasing and performance. If that’s the way things work, why wouldn’t entrance to heaven require the same effort? Because the Bible says no and so does Jesus. It’s not earned or strived for. It’s an acceptance of the fact that we, in and of ourselves, could never earn it. How good is good enough and who gets to decide that? Perhaps a panel of angels or demons if it’s about being bad enough.
It’s a truth written into the most popular verses in the Bible. John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (NIV).
This is fundamental to the Christian faith. Coupled with the resurrection of Christ. It’s everything.
As we consider our destiny as believers in Christ or non-believers in Christ, don’t let the questions posed here go unanswered. Go deeper into God’s word and decide for yourself. And if you don’t believe it’s God’s word – do it anyway. What do you have to lose? Hmmm…. Maybe everything.