Paint me conservative. Call me narrow-minded. But it seems that if we want to stand with Scripture, we have to accept that no one is saved apart from Christ.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
This may seem reasonable to those of us who grew up surrounded by heaven-bound, Jesus-loving, like-minded people. But if you pause long enough to consider the ramifications of these verses, a number of disturbing questions come to mind.
For example: Is there really a cut-off age where Jesus decides that a child has had enough time to consider his or her eternal destiny, or is this age-of-accountability concept something we made up to make sure that no infants or children go to hell?
If we go with that, we should also be able say that people raised outside the sphere of the gospel should be exempt as well. Are they not just as innocent? What do we do with the untold billions throughout history that were raised in a Christless culture?
But if we start down that path, where does it end? We might have to take those verses about salvation and . . . well, take it from Captain Barbossa.
I think Scripture gives us an answer to these tricky questions. And the answer is not as complicated as you might think.
“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” John 5:22
He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Acts 10:42
He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. Acts 17:31
When you think of Judgment Day, think of Jesus. It’s called the Day of the Lord for a reason.
Jesus is not a typical human judge. There is no transcendent law governing his decisions. He is the Creator. He is sovereign. His word is law. In this way, there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. In this way, no one comes to the Father except through him.
Jesus determines our salvation. It’s that simple. I’m not saying that believing in Christ’s death and resurrection is not important, or that we do not need to embrace him as Lord. Of course we do. These things are critical and transformational. But remember, Jesus was forgiving sins before he even went to the cross. Salvation and damnation have always been his decision, and no amount of sacrifices, even his own, can twist his arm one way or the other.
So how does our future Judge make his decisions? What is he looking for? His earthly ministry can offer a few important clues:
His Judgment is Personal
Imagine spending a lifetime in the Church, tithing weekly, experiencing the presence of God, even performing miracles, then stepping before Christ on Judgment Day only to hear these terrifying words: “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
Can we assume that the people Jesus mentioned in Matthew 7 were actual believers, acting in the name of Christ? Can we assume that the miracles they performed were genuine? Jesus called them workers of iniquity. Were demons helping them do miracles? We know that the devil likes to masquerade as an angel of light. Can we ever be absolutely sure that we are experiencing God for real and not reveling in some spiritual counterfeit?
The only way to stand in absolute confidence on Judgment Day is to have an established relationship with Christ, to know without a doubt that you are on good terms with him. There is no pastor or priest that can do this for you. With Jesus, judgment is always one-on-one.
His Judgment is Fair
Though he is gracious and compassionate, God is also just. “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” Granted, the strict requirements of the Mosaic Law were paid for on the cross, but consider who paid that price. I suspect that our Judge will take a very close look at how we embraced his free gift of life. It wasn’t as free as we’d like to think.
God is also just when it comes to dealing with people. He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. The valleys are exalted and the mountains laid low. The first are made last, and the last first.
James wrote that teachers would receive a stricter judgment than students. We see that with Christ. He came down hard on the Pharisees, but showed much more patience with others. In fact, Jesus told a group of Pharisees that by claiming he was operating in the power of the devil, which was a direct insult to the Holy Spirit, they had essentially damned themselves to hell.
Did they commit an unforgivable sin? Maybe. But in my mind, the Pharisees were just standing in front of their Judge, said absolutely the wrong thing, and basically sealed their fate. Jesus doesn’t need a list of various sins and their consequences to make that kind of decision. He just makes it.
His Judgment is Reasonable
Jesus looked down at the Roman soldiers that had nailed him to a cross and said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” These were uncircumcised Gentiles that had driven nails into his hands and feet. Why wouldn’t he damn them like he did the Pharisees?
Probably because he knew that they were just following orders. They didn’t understand. The Pharisees, however, had the Scriptures. They knew the prophecies. They had the witness of Christ’s miracles and sermons. Jesus told the Pharisees that all of the murders of all of the prophets would fall on their generation, yet he let the Roman soldiers off the hook.
This gives me a lot of hope, especially when it comes to aborted babies, tragic child deaths, and people that live and die without ever hearing the gospel. If Jesus would forgive the Roman soldiers for acting in ignorance, I think we can count on him being reasonable in these other cases.
4: His Judgment is Conditional
Jesus makes some pretty strong statements about what he wants from his people. He did not give his own life just to change people’s eternal destinations. He gave his life to change their hearts, making humanity useful again.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Eph. 2:10
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” Matt. 5:13
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. John 15:5-6
How did Jesus sort the sheep from the goats? By their works—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, and so on. Apparently being on good terms with Jesus goes beyond just a simple confession and baptism. It extends to what we do with our new lives, how we invest the ‘talent’ that is given to us.
Do I believe in eternal security? Absolutely! But I believe that our security is bound to the will of one person—Jesus Christ. He is not bound to me, as if his hands are tied as soon as I say the Sinner’s Prayer or am doused with baptismal water. These are good starts, and absolutely important, but they are not eternal guarantees.
Only Christ can offer that.