The Bible says that people are condemned eternally because they do NOT love the truth and God is actually very angry with people for refusing to come to the light. God HAS made a way for people to truly know Him, but there are thousands of deviant ways people follow instead, to their own destruction. A lot of these ways involve sincerely trying hard to keep religious and ethical rules according to what MEN have taught. Whether people think they have failed or succeeded in these systems, they are in deep deep trouble. Please read on. Let me explain. This is very important.
Religion Itself Cannot and Does not Save you from God's Condemnation
For the purposes of this article, I am defining "religion" as a system of beliefs, combined with a set of rules and a set of practices designed to get you closer to what you should be.
Some people will say "Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship". But the word "Christianity" is not in the Bible. So then, who decides its definition? What the word "Christianity" means to MOST people is exactly as I have defined "religion". Christianity has a system of beliefs – called "Theology", a set of rules – e.g. the Ten Commandments, even the commandments to love and a lot more, and also a set of practices designed to get you "grace" or help you on the path of transformation. It therefore comes within my definition of religion. And you can adhere mentally to doctrines of Christianity, and work at keeping rules and partaking of the "means of grace" and still go to hell. I will show you that from the Bible if you dare to read on.
Its not only those who believe in Christianity who might go to hell. A lot of people who believe in Islam also go to hell. The Qu'ran teaches that this is so for many, but even if it did not, there is reason to believe that no living man or woman has lived well enough to be considered worthy for heaven. Certainly, the Bible teaches that those who reject the belief that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose again – ALL SUCH PEOPLE WILL GO TO HELL. That is what the Bible teaches anyway. You might want to hope the Bible has been changed by men to say that. You might want to be a multi-millionaire tomorrow. Just wanting something won't make it true. You'll need to look deeper, and you'll need to explain how before the time of Mohammed substantially identical versions of the New Testament were translated and disseminated all around the Mediterranean region, all teaching the same thing as the Bible says today.
The major religions of the world teach different ideas about God, about heaven, and about hell. Someone somewhere has got it wrong. They can't all be right. They might all be wrong. Please consider: just because YOUR PARENTS happened to be in a certain religion and they raised you that way DOES NOT MAKE THEIR RELIGION TRUE. In and of itself, there is no guarantee that following the religion of YOUR PARENTS will take you or me to heaven any more than you following the religion of MY PARENTS will. Just being taught in a religious system does not make it true. We have to look deeper than that. We need to face the uncomfortable truth that most people in the world have been raised in wrong religious beliefs. This has to be the case, because religious beliefs are actually so fragmented and every belief system is in a minority. But everyone is secretly hoping that it is THEIR belief that will work for them. OR they like to hope that "it doesn't really matter" by thinking and saying something so ignorant as "all religions are basically teaching the same thing". The only people who say that are people who haven't looked properly into any of them.
If Islam or Christianity is true, then Buddhists will go to hell, and so will Hindus. But in any case, how can we know the truth about God, about the spiritual world, and about eternity?
How Can We Know?
I claim we cannot know through human philosophy. Human philosophy and logic might help us see where some belief systems are foolish or illogical. But Eastern Religions have a different approach to philosophy. Some Eastern Religions think that illogical sayings might be exactly what we need to achieve "enlightenment". This is the purpose of the Koans in Zen Buddhism for example. So even here people are not agreeing – even on the basic methodology of how we know and perceive truth. How then do we know we are even on the right path?
God Had Better Reveal Himself – or we will be Confused
Human philosophy can promote a kind of spirituality. But unless God Himself comes and reveals Himself to people, we won't know for sure which of the human philosophies is most reliable. How could we? Someone might say, "Well, there is one God – Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet!" To which I reply: "Says who?" "The Qu'ran!" "Who says the Qu'ran is God's Word?" "Prophet Mohammed does!" So you see, it all gets down to trusting "Prophet Mohammed". You are going to trust your eternal soul to the words of Mohammed. You had better have damn good reasons to do it. If you are wrong and die in that path, you WILL be damned.
Jesus Claimed to Reveal God Perfectly
One day Jesus told his disciples that they knew the way, but Thomas said, "Lord, we don't even know WHERE you are going? How can we know the way?"
Seems like a reasonable question to me.
If you don't even know WHERE you are going once you die, how can you be sure you are on the right path?
Jesus answered with the famous words, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father except by Me." (John 14:6).
Jesus is hated for this statement. Most religions and people want to acknowledge Jesus SOMEHOW, but NOT LIKE THIS. This is exclusive. This leaves no scope for feeling secure in a religion of your own making, or anyone else's making. Jesus is saying: "You have to be connected with Me, and embrace Me, or you will be on the WRONG PATH, you will be IN DECEPTION, and you will be IN DEATH."
What are Jesus' qualifications for making such bold statements?
Someone once asked: "Why follow Jesus? Why not follow ME?" Well, "1. You are not good enough. 2 You are not smart enough. 3. You can't raise yourself from the dead, as Jesus did." Jesus proved He was who He said He was not only by miracles like healing the sick and casting out demons, which by the way, He STILL does today if you call upon Him sincerely. Jesus did MORE than that. Jesus actually ROSE from the dead after three days. Actions like this sort out the men from the boys.
But I am going further with this passage. Philip, another disciple, then says, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus replies "… if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father". (verse 8). This is outrageous, really. Jesus is claiming to be a perfect representation of Almighty God.
Jesus is claiming to be THE Revelation of God and who He is. If this is true, all speculation about where to find the truth about God and religion ends here.
What Lies Was Jesus Addressing in His Ministry on Earth?
I hope you know why Jesus died and rose again. But before considering that, let us consider how most people view religion.
Most people view religion as something in which you kind of do your duty by keeping some important rules and believing in what some Teacher or Prophet said. Every religion, including Christianity, has rules to keep.
There are three basic approaches to this.
The first approach is to say, "I don't care about the rules. Give me money, sex, pleasure, power, fame – rules be damned." This is the approach today of many people in Western Culture, but not only in western culture. People deal selfishly and deviously for personal advantage, without caring about who they hurt along the way."
I hope you understand that God will not be pleased to accept such people into His Kingdom unless and until there is a big change of heart.
The Second Approach is a LEGAL approach. This approach says, "OK, show me the rules. I will keep the rules of my religion. I will keep them better than others, and surely God will accept me, but if not, well I have done the best I can – better than lots of others in any case."
Some people mix this approach with the first approach, so as not to be too fanatical. But as we will see, "Two wrongs do not make a right". This second approach I call the "legal approach".
Many sincere people think like this. For some people, the "rules" are attending mass and confessional. For others, keeping Saturday as the Sabbath. For others, making a pilgrimage to Mecca, giving a certain amount of money to the poor or fighting and killing those who are enemies of "the true religion", "the religion of peace" or whatever. Some people deny themselves all kinds of things they like thinking that this in itself will make them more pleasing to God. When such people fail to be ethical or to keep their religious rules, they feel bad for a while, and then redouble their efforts, and try to make up for it. Perhaps by punishing themselves or going on a "holy war". Approaches vary. But they are more often not approaches that do not lead to us loving our neighbour as ourselves, which is what Jesus taught was the sum of all God's ethical requirements for us.
I want to say that a lot of what Jesus said was to counter this "second approach". The Scribes and Pharisees were the religious experts of the day in the Jewish world, and they not only tried to keep lots of the Laws of Moses – they also made extra laws and traditions in an attempt to be even more holy.
I recommend you read the Gospel of Matthew right through to understand where Jesus was coming from. The Sermon on the Mount – chapters 5 to 7, especially give us an insight into the core teachings of Jesus Christ. Teachings which are very different from what we hear today in many religious places, including a lot of churches.
One of the main themes of the Sermon on the Mount is that outward rule-keeping religion, especially if it is for show, doesn't please God at all. God is looking for people who are sincere, and pure in heart. Not people who are looking at religion as a way of making money, or becoming famous, or boasting in what they have done. Certainly not those who are violent and lustful in their hearts.
Religion like this gets people feeling guilty and condemned. If you can't keep your own standards – and actually, NO ONE DOES, you WOULD normally feel guilty and condemned. And unless you have a very good reason to believe you are accepted by God, you can be sure that you ARE NOT ACCEPTED – yes, you are on the path to hell and you are in big trouble.
If you think you have mostly succeeded in keeping your rules or the rules you believe God has given, you might feel quite proud of yourself. You might think youself to be a very good person – even though you still basically do everything for your own pleasure and glory. This kind of self-righteousness is not what Jesus came to earth to establish. Paul the apostle said, "If righteousness could come from the law, then Christ died in vain",
I urge you to consider carefully what is going on in your heart heart, if you are a religious person. What REALLY motivates you? Is it pride in who you are and what you have done religiously? Or is it love for God, and love for people?
The Nature of the True Christian Message
The true Christian message talks of God stepping into human history through Jesus Christ, and becoming a man to take the punishment of man and the corruption of man through a sacrificial and voluntary death on the cross. God's message is that we NEED SAVING DESPERATELY, but also that we CANNOT save ourselves! True Christianity strikes a death blow to all human and religious pride, and this is one reason why the Christian message is so hated.
If you can see that you are guilty, that you have failed, I have good news for you. One who never sinned has come to help you. Not just to teach you a better way – but to DIE IN YOUR PLACE.
It takes the death of the spotless Son of God to take away the sins of the world. Nothing else will do it. Nothing else will be accepted by God. You can object, but you cannot change God's mind. Everything in the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament points to the need of mankind for a BLOOD SACRIFICE to cover sins. And Jesus Christ was the Ultimate Blood Sacrifice – given to take your sins away.
You MUST accept this message and this Jesus if you want to enter Life. If you reject Jesus OR His message, you may be religious, but you will join millions of other religious people in the Lake of Fire forever.
It is far wiser to accept that God knew what He was doing in revealing Himself through Jesus and paying for your sins as He did.
Ask God to reveal to you if this be so. Ask God to make Jesus and His cross real to you. Amazing transformations take place in the hearts of those who sincerely talk to God along these lines.
God bless you.