In an era that promotes tolerance as the highest of virtues and the idea that truth is relative, it is considered outrageous to claim that Jesus is the one and only, exclusive way, for people to attain eternal life. I have heard it more often than I can count; “What about all the people in the world who don’t believe in Jesus, who follow Buddha or Confucius or some other teacher?”. “How can you say that they won’t go to heaven?” Well there are a couple of reasons why I think we must say that. First and foremost among them is what Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Jesus made it very clear that the way to the Father and ultimately the way to eternal life in heaven is through a relationship of faith in Him. The rest of the New Testament affirms this over and over again. Just one example comes from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 The only way to say that there are other ways to eternal life is to completely discount everything that the Bible teaches on the subject. In order to be certain of a place in eternity with God you must trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You must believe that He died and rose again in order to pay the penalty for your sins and conquer death on your behalf.
Of course there are certainly some folks who would discount the Bible and decide that it only makes sense that if you are sincere in what you believe then you will live forever. The thought is that sincerity, not truth, is the higher of the two virtues. The supreme being who many believe is out there somewhere is seen as a being who is only gracious and compassionate and would never draw a line in the sand that has anything to do with truth or right and wrong. So the good, sincere Buddhist, or follower of Confucianism, or Taoist, or Hindu, will still go to Heaven.
The problem is, none of those faiths have as their ultimate goal, the kind of heaven and eternal life that most westerners have in mind. In fact, in most cases, they don’t even want to go to heaven. Take the Buddhist as an example. The Buddhist doctrine is that all of life is suffering and the goal is to end all suffering. That goal is something called Nirvana. It is a state of being absorbed, if you will, into the great nothingness of the cosmos. You no longer have an individual existence or awareness of yourself. For the Buddhist, the Christian idea of heaven and earth becoming one, and living forever in that state, would be seen as a step backwards. The Hindu faces a similar though slightly different path. For them, the cycle of death and reincarnation looks at life as being a giant wheel. It goes around and around every time you die and are reincarnated. The goal is to stop coming back, to stop the wheel of time from turning, and to become one with creation. It is another loss of self and identity. It is not heaven, but being absorbed into creation.
For the most part, it is only people raised in a western philosophical mindset who have a problem with the exclusivity of Jesus. It is only people raised in some sort of “Christian” culture who seem to be embarrassed by the claim of Jesus to be the only way to heaven. Oddly enough, most other religions try to incorporate this exclusive Jesus into their faith in some way. Muslims call him an honored prophet. Buddhists refer to him as a Bodhisattva, or an enlightened one who shows the path to other. Hindus think if him as an incarnation of Vishnu, one of their highest gods. I wonder if somewhere deep on our hearts, there isn’t that general revelation from God that points us to Jesus as in fact, The Way, The Truth, and The Life. As a result, even in religious systems that are opposed to what the Bible teaches, there is a need to honor Jesus.
There is no need for a follower of Jesus to be embarrassed by the the exclusive claims of Jesus. He is the Lord who rightly demands our allegiance. Our highest command is to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It is Jesus who is the way to eternal life.