Taken from the comments box on one of my articles:
Where do Jews, Moslems, Buddhists and Hindu's fit into the equation or is heaven exclusively for Christians?
When I read this, the first scripture that came to mind was John 3:16. Its hard to bypass. I guess the biggest problem with those who like to quote John 3:16 is that many do not read beyond that one verse. I know I'm quoting something you most likely have read dozens of times, if you read the Bible, but bear with me for a couple of minutes. For those who do not, I have quoted what I am talking about below.
John 3:16-21, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved."
The first problem I encounter when I read this, is the phrase 'that whosoever believeth in him should not perish'. This states that there must be believing in order to receive. But then it also states that God sent His Son NOT to condemn but those who do NOT believe are condemned already. We are born into the world condemned. YET, like many of you, I could not see a truly loving Father allowing folks to go to hell when they had never heard of Jesus.
The next scripture that came into my mind was in Genesis.
Genesis 1:26-27, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
God made us in His image. So now we have to know what that means. He made us according to His Spirit. Since none of us actually looks exactly like the other, outside of the multiple birth thing with twins etc., it has to be spiritual. So, we have been given a spirit like God's because we are made in His image. So that makes us gods. That would be the implication. Nope. lucifer tried that. Doesn't work. He is god of this world for only so long. When the end of his days comes, he will fall hard.
What does it mean? When God made Adam, He put His Glory into and surrounding Adam. That would be why he and Eve didn't know they were naked. Then they made critical mistakes in judgement. The Glory left them and they were naked and ashamed. Sin had entered the picture. God made it quite clear that children would now be born into a sin-natured world. Yet we are still made in His image. That hasn't changed. The Glory had left but the image is still there. That would be how God sees us.
Here is what I have discovered then. Because we are made in His image, we have information inside ourselves concerning God. That may sound crazy but there have been tribes found in remote areas (if memory serves me), that were worshiping God and His Son before any missionary had ever stepped into their territory. How did they know?
I am not trying to tell you or anyone that what I believe is the only way. BUT what God believes and says IS. Jesus quite specifically said:
John 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
If there were other ways, then why did He say that? (The critics will now say that it is because He is just one of many, that there are other beliefs and that they are just as good, that what He says is only for those of us who blindly follow Him. Not so. Scientific fact and historical records are now available to prove that what He says is true, IF you choose to look and seek.) God knows our hearts but He gives us free will. We have the choice of accepting Him or not
Our biggest failing, as Christians AND non-believers alike (this is all inclusive, top to bottom), has been that we keep God in a box and He can only do those things we think He can. We do that in Christian church services that don't allow Him to visit for instance. So many churches have those pamphlets they give out at the door. 'This is the way the service is going to go today. Here's the song time, read the scripture for today, make announcements, more songs, take an offering, prayer, sermon, final song, leave.' Where does the visitation of God fit into that?
God is bigger than the box we manage to put Him in and frankly, the Acts chapter 2 experience is one example of how He shows us that He isn't going to stay in that box we have built. What does that have to do with people who didn't get the message? God can do what He will. He knows our hearts. He will have whosoever comes to Him. Those who reject Him damn themselves to hell. Please understand that God has NEVER EVER sent anyone to hell. They make this choice themselves based on whether they choose to believe or not.
There are things that God does that we do not yet understand. For instance, no one is fully understanding of the 'last days'. God is going to take care of those people who never heard the gospel. In all of this there is what I've heard called an 'age of accountability'. At some point in our lives we are all held accountable for our actions, regardless of what we have heard and done, whether we believe in it or not. It would be chaos if God decided to let this one off for this and that one off for that but you had to enter hell having done the same things. They didn't accept Jesus but they did not hear of Him. You did not but you did hear of Him. What happens now? God knows your heart.
He is a loving God. He put the information about Him into us because we are made in His image, whether we choose to seek that information or not. Bottom line, God put His image into our spirits. Therefore, the information is there. God knows our hearts. Jesus said that HE is the way, truth, and life and that NO one comes to the Father but by Him. God said that He loved the world that He gave His Son but that those who BELIEVE shall have everlasting life. There are so many scriptures that say that in one way or another. The other beliefs and religions, if you check them out, at least many of them stem from what we believe. Many come straight from our own scriptures. The Koran comes to mind as does the Torah.
It is time that we took God out of that spiritual box we have put Him in and changed our thinking. When God says to seek His Face, then we should do that and stop concerning ourselves with what this church thinks or that religion believes. Hey, God did not need you to make the world and the universe. But He wants YOU to seek Him. Why? Fellowship, relationship, and finally, oneness. He could have made anything He wanted yet He made mankind. Free choice was given to us out of His Grace and Mercy. We are not robots nor puppets. How do those other folks fit into what I believe? Just like I do, because of the Mercy and Grace of God, whether we believe it or not.