Why is Jesus the Only Way?
Why are we told that Jesus is the only way to God? In what sense is He the only way?
It is usually assumed that this means that if one does not have enough factual knowledge about who Jesus is, does not say the right prayer or believe certain things about Jesus and what He taught, that they will be excluded from heaven. There are many versions of this teaching but generally all of them involve some level of bigotry and condemnation. But what is the real truth about this concept?
I am starting to see something about this that makes more sense in the context of what God has been revealing about Himself and the truth about the relationship between the Father and the Son. The confusing and fearful pictures of God that inevitably infect teachings about this must be laid aside. They may more or less accurately reflect a very limited legal model that is sometimes employed in Scripture, but the legal model alone is woefully insufficient to explain and empower the truth as it is in Jesus. We must have a belief, a connection with God that is far beyond the legal model if we are ever to thrive and grow into reflections of God's righteousness as Jesus came to demonstrate for us.
Does this imply that we have to work hard to produce within ourselves enough righteousness to be saved? That is what we are often accused of believing, but in reality it is quite the opposite. Rather than trying in any way to produce fruit of righteousness in our lives, we are to focus so obsessively on what Jesus has revealed about what God is really like that by absorption our lives and hearts will become saturated with the essence of what God is like.
So why is it so vital that we understand what it means that Jesus is the only way to heaven? Does a person really have to be told enough facts about Jesus to make an intelligent choice to convert to the Christian religion in order to be included among the saved in heaven? What kind of a God does this notion portray? On the other hand, does God allow all kinds of nice people into heaven who seemed pleasant enough to meet muster? Just what is the criteria used for determining who can be allowed through the pearly gates and who will be excluded? And how does that relate to the exclusive nature of Jesus being the only way to heaven?
I am starting to see that the reason Jesus is spoken of as being the only path to God or to heaven is not to be based on an intellectual or knowledge basis. Only Jesus has accurately and sufficiently revealed the truth about God's attitude and disposition towards sinners like us. The enormous danger of God's presence is not that He gets impatient with sinners, runs out of mercy or suddenly snaps and gets very angry and desires revenge. All of these notions are false rumors about God that have become embedded deeply into nearly every religion on earth.
The real danger that surrounds God but that is almost universally overlooked and underestimated is the power of self-destruction that spontaneously occurs in the lives of anyone who comes too close to His intense presence of perfect love, power and holiness.
It is not God who kills people in His presence any more than it is a high tension power line that kills a person who gets too close without proper respect for electricity. Yes, the electricity does become the means of their death, but at the same time the birds sitting on those lines are not killed, and neither are the electricians who have learned to follow proper procedures and explicitly obey all the rules of electricity in regards to how to live in close proximity to such power.
Just as we have learned how to live safely in the presence of high electrical voltage that is intended to be a blessing for our lives, so too it is vital that anyone who is destined to come close to the center of infinite power and love must learn to understand the principles that govern how to survive in close proximity to such power. To fail to live in harmony and synchronization with enormous power of any kind is to invite death. And the only one really responsible for such a death is the person themselves, for they failed to avail themselves of the information provided to protect them.
But in the moral realm God is even more gracious than what we observe in the physical realm, even though the physical sciences are based on the same principles of reality that define the moral principles of the universe. God created everything, and in nature we find all kinds of illustrations of various principles of reality that can give us insights to greater spiritual realities. It is in this aspect that God can relate to people who have never been given opportunity to hear about the life of Jesus and through that perceive the truth about their Creator.
God is not limited to only saving Christians in heaven despite the insistence of many who claim that name. Taking on the name of Christian is not necessarily a prerequisite for entering into eternal life in heaven. There will likely be millions or billions of people who will be taken up when Jesus comes again that have little to no clue of who He is. Yet their hearts have sufficiently tuned into the principles and truths of heaven that they will be safe for God to save.
Does that mean it makes no difference whether we know Jesus or not? That we be educated in the Word of God?
Absolutely it makes a difference! But the difference is not so much along the line of whether we will be saved in heaven or not but it is more about how we progress in the process of being transformed into His image, reflecting the truth about God that Jesus came to reveal.
Those who have never had opportunities to hear about Jesus, who were born in lands, cultures or times in which the record of Jesus was not available or was so distorted that it was nearly useless, are still well within the grace and mercy of God. Such people are not measured or evaluated with the same standard that those with much greater light are viewed. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart. This has always been the case and always will be the truth of how God relates to His children. By this standard He can legitimately and safely accept into heaven many who have not yet even heard the name of Jesus, and He will be amply justified in doing so while at the same time leaving outside many who have loudly proclaimed their allegiance to Him but who have failed to have their hearts transformed by the truths they professed to embrace.
It is the condition of our heart that is the primary factor that determines our eternal destiny, not the level or lack of intellectual education we have had available to us about the Bible. Those of us who have had great light and have been privileged with insights into the nature and character of God as revealed in Jesus will find ourselves far more accountable than many who have never been exposed to anything close to that level.
All of us are far short of grasping the real truths about God that we need to understand to live safely in His immediate presence. However, there will be a period of time after we arrive in heaven to be brought up to that level of safety training. But this is not the key factor in whether we will be safe to save in heaven or not. Only those who have responded positively at the heart level to the revelations that God has communicated to their own heart, taking into account the context of where they have been born and how much real truth they have come to know about God, will be safe to enter into the next level of intense training to prepare them to live fully exposed to the power of God's glory.
So the true sense in which Jesus is the only way to heaven or to approach God is that Jesus is the only reliable revelation of what God is really like, how He feels about us and about the principles of safety that must be adopted and fully integrated into the life in order to live in the unveiled presence of the Power Source of the universe. Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father, only in dimmed terminology in order for us to perceive and appreciate what is needed to come closer to the Father ourselves. Jesus is the veiled glory of the Father to attract us to want to know Him more, to come closer and to learn how we can do that safely.
The immense power and glory of God is summed up in the word love. The Bible says that God is love. But love is far more dangerous when encountered in its full strength than any of us can begin to imagine. That is not because love turns ugly when it is rebuffed but lies in the reality that spurned love reacts in the mind of the one spurning it, producing deadly consequences in the heart. The unavoidable result of rejecting love in our heart is the entrance of pain, torture and death. These consequences are never imposed by the one whose love is spurned but are induced internally by the effects of the resistance and conflict between two incompatible principles that clash with each other and produce all the damage that naturally results from such tension.
Therefore, the reason that Jesus is the only way to God is that Jesus is the only person the universe has ever seen that demonstrates both what God is really like and what we must be like to live in His immediate presence. To believe anything about God that is not observable in the life and teachings of Jesus is to believe a lie about God. Jesus explicitly stated that only God is righteous. But in order to live in God's presence of passionate, dangerously powerful love, we must be in synchronization with that love and must be free of all resistance to it. As any good electrician will assure you, resistance and electricity do not mix very well without producing a lot of heat. And resisting love while getting exposed to high levels of love will produce the same results.
Jesus was the perfect conduit of love who never allowed any resistance to infect His heart. Because He never resisted either the love of the Father flowing through Him to undeserving recipients, nor did He resist the animosity, violence, shame and pain inflicted back on Him from His rebellious children, He demonstrated fully the character of God and the character needed to live in His presence. Jesus' life is the only example that is safe to look to in order to come into appreciation of what God is really like. And Jesus' life is the only model, the Source of light and character that can safely be reflected if we want to survive in the atmosphere of heaven where God's love pervades everything and everyone.
Do I have to have a knowledge of Jesus to some level before I can be saved? That is really a tricky question and depends a great deal on extenuating circumstances unique to my life. God is looking at the condition of the heart of each person to see how their choices are shaping their character. Those choices are necessarily made in the context of how much we know, what culture we grew up in and our appreciation or rejection of the principles of heaven revealed both in nature and in His Word. If we had never been exposed to the Scriptures directly, we would still be influenced by the principles of nature, God's other lesson book. How we respond to what is available to us from these two sources is the determining factor of whether God can trust us to continue to grow into a deeper knowledge of truth in heaven or whether rebellion becomes the core of our character. Our ongoing choices as to which set of kingdom principles we will weave into our characters ultimately decides our own destiny, not any arbitrary choices on the part of God.