The Way of Salvation and Why it is Different from what You Imagine!
The amazing, eye-opening and shocking truth about how to go to heaven!
We know that there are many factors that contribute to our choice of a religion in life. You may have been born in India and was raised in a devout Hindu family. What will you generally become? That’s true, you will usually become a Hindu in religion. This religion will become “second nature” to you; it will thoroughly fill your mind and heart. And, generally, you will not only be raised Hindu, but you will live Hindu and die Hindu.
This is true for other people and other religions. Depending on their geographical location, their parents and relatives, their friends, their education, and other factors, people will become part of a given world religion. Some are of the Hindu religion, as we’ve seen, but there are many others. There is Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism. When it comes to the broad category of Christianity, we think of either Catholicism, Orthodoxy, or Protestantism, but there are others: many independent churches, sects, and cults that don’t easily fit into the above categories.
If you want to do yourself a favor, you will want to examine the religious claims of the leading world religions to determine where you stand on these vital subjects. But we then come upon a virtually impossible task: If we take the leading 100 religions in the world, and make an exhaustive study of each one, we might need to live ten lives and read at least 1,000 books of perhaps 500 pages each. Again, this is an impossible task. Does this lead us to defeat as we contemplate such a daunting exploratory job?
No, not at all. While it might take more than an hour one Sunday afternoon, seeking and arriving at the truth is achievable. We can do it! If we believe in God or a Higher Power who created us and knows us thoroughly, and if such a God is all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, omni-present, and eternal, we surely believe that God is able and willing to show us His way, the way to eternal life with Him after our earthly life ceases. This is good news!
Before we look at a few of the individual religions, let’s notice what the Person called Jesus Christ said some 2,000 years ago. Even though you may know little about this historical character, you must reckon with Him and His claims. For instance, Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Startling claims like this made people say, “Never did a man speak the way this man speaks” (7:46). The Lord’s declarations were so frank and shocking that they would have been blasphemous—unless they actually were true!
In another place, the Lord Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Since sin is the universal predicament of people, we can see how important this is: the only way to die in forgiveness is to believe in Jesus! If we fail to believe or refuse to believe, Christ said that we will die in our sins. This is not an option that you or I would want!
Consider a few more statements before we go on. Jesus said, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). Again we see that eternal life is completely dependent on whether we are willing to rely on or place our faith in Jesus as the Son whom God the Father sent. This is the only way that we can be “saved” from eternal punishment.
We must notice a few more scriptures so that we are prepared to examine some of the world religions. Jesus declared, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). What are the only destinies that await you and me and all people? Eternal life with God—or God’s eternal wrath or righteous anger! Either we must “believe” in Jesus and “obey Him” or we will avoid Him, reject Him, disbelieve Him, disobey Him, and suffer the eternal consequences! Those deluded people who blithely say that all religions are basically the same and “we’re all going to the same place,” just don’t know what they are saying. Such a misguided conception is entirely false.
Finally, notice this clear statement of the Lord Jesus in His prayer to God the Father: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” John 17:3). Once again, we see that if we hope to have eternal life with God in heaven, we must “know” God and Jesus Christ—which consists in believing in Him, loving Him, and living for Him! Let’s summarize what God says to us about what we must believe about Jesus if we want to escape eternal punishment and receive eternal life in God’s presence! We must believe:
- That Jesus created the universe in the beginning (Colossians 1:16-17; John 1:1-4).
- That Jesus became a human being (flesh and blood) some nine months before He was born in Bethlehem in Judea (John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-9).
- That Jesus lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 7:26; 1 John 3:5).
- That Jesus was fully God (John 1:1-3, 18; 20:28) and fully man (John 1:14).
- That Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins and mine (Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 15:3).
- That Jesus was raised from the dead three days after He died (1 Corinthians 15:4-22; cf. Matthew 28:1-8).
- That Jesus is the “power” of God to save everyone in the world who is willing to accept Him (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24; Romans 1:16).
- That Jesus went back to God the Father in heaven (Acts 1:9-11; Luke 24:50-53).
- That Jesus is going to return for His followers one day (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
- That Jesus will judge everyone in truth and righteousness (John 5:22; Acts 10:42; 17:30-31).
Each of these points could be expanded many times, but, in brief, these are the main points that we must know and believe to be saved from our sins and enter into an eternal relationship with God through Him.
I know that this short summary of how to come to know God through Jesus Christ has been very brief. We just didn’t want to prolong something that otherwise may have taken many hours and hundreds of pages to discuss. In short, we see that the only way to experience eternal life with God our Creator in heaven, is to believe in and obey God and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. As we read in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation [deliverance from sin and hell] in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
The Response of Various World Religions
If we must believe in the Lord Jesus as we noticed above, we must briefly discover what the leading world religions believe and say about Jesus. In this way, we can easily dismiss certain beliefs and religions as false or, on the other hand, we can examine what the religions teach more fully. If they were to believe what is true, we would want to accept it.
Although certain elements in this Asian religion may be positive and hundreds of millions follow its precepts, there are grave deficiencies also. In Buddhism, “the existence of a personal creator and Lord is denied. The world operates by natural power and law, not divine command. Buddhism denies the existence of a personal God” (Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Understanding Non-Christian Religions, p. 70). We know that if anyone denies the true and living God, he cannot be saved—since one must believe in God to receive eternal life (John 5:24).
Further, some people deify Buddha, the monk who began this religion about 500 BC—but he was merely a man. Thousands of images of Buddha, the exalted human being, may be found across Asia, but this popularity in no way proves that it is the truth! A human being is not to be worshipped! “You shall worship the LORD your God, and serve Him only” (Matthew 4:10). This religion conveniently denies sin and guilt, but everyone knows deep in his heart that he has sinned and stands guilty before the Lord—and will one day be called to give an account to God for his or her sin (2 Corinthians 5:10; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Therefore, we must categorically reject Buddhism as having any possibility of leading to heaven! Regardless of its acceptance by millions and its popularity by many, it simply cannot be the truth.
This is an important world religion found in India and elsewhere, and it predates Buddhism by hundreds of years. However, here we find a denial of sin against a Holy God; evil is merely a lack of knowledge that requires instruction. On the contrary, sin is real, something that every reader will testify if he is honest with himself and his heart. We instinctively know that we sin and need deliverance from it. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Brahman is impersonal and undefinable.
In reality, Hinduism believes that there are some 330 million “gods” which actually are no gods at all but false conceptions of the imagination. We have been created and exist for the sake of the one and only God of creation! There is only one true God. “We know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. . . . there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Corinthians 8:4, 6).
There are actually only “one Spirit” and “one Lord” and “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). The only way to be united to God the Father is to go through the “Mediator” who is Jesus Christ: “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). We instinctively know that idols of the imagine didn’t make us and can’t save us (see Acts 17:22-31; 14:15-17).
We can see that Hinduism can’t take us to God and eternal life since this religion says that there are millions of “gods” instead of one true God. It further says that there is no such thing as sin, whereas sin and its guilt is real and we must seek forgiveness. It also says that we must seek to save ourselves through personal involvement, whereas only God can save us through Christ Jesus His Son. We are powerless to save ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9). We were and are helpless and powerless to effect our own deliverance from life’s predicament, but “while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).
This religion is found in the Middle East, western Asia, northern Africa, and increasingly other countries, including Europe and North America. It has become worldwide in scope! Following the instructions of the Koran which they claim to have came from God without error, Muslims emphasize that God is one and Allah is the only true deity in the world. They seem to be slow to emphasize such Biblical attributes of God as love, holiness, and grace (1 John 4:8; 1:5; Ephesians 2:5-9).
Muslims believe that Jesus did exist and was a “prophet” like Abraham, Noah, and David. They believe that He was sinless and a miracle-worker. He was was born of a virgin, Mary, but this was through the mediation of an angel rather than God Himself. He will eventually come back as Judge. When speaking to a devout Muslim, he or she may emphasize these points and say that they do hold a “high view” of Jesus.
However along with these points which they acknowledge, they deny many Biblical truths that are absolutely essential for salvation. For instance, they deny the pre-incarnate existence of the Lord Jesus and surely would deny that Jesus was Creator (Colossians 1:16-17). They deny that Jesus is God (John 1:1-3) or the Son of God (John 20:30-31). They flatly deny that Jesus died on a cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-24), insisting that someone else (such as Judas) was crucified instead of Him. Further, they deny that Jesus was resurrected from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:4-22). He was merely a finite human being. They deny that Jesus, the Son, was “one” with God the Father, considering it blasphemy to affirm that Christ Jesus is the Son of the living God.
These denials of important truths show that Muslims cannot be saved from sin, death and hell. One must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, in order to have eternal life (John 20:30-31), something that all Muslims deny. They think in fleshly terms and assume that Christians affirm that God the Father was physically the “Father” of Jesus through sexual relations with Mary—something that true Christians would find blasphemous. They deny that one can be a child of God, although this is essential and a blessed truth for the Christian (1 John 3:1-2). If one denies that Jesus died for our sins, he cannot be saved; and if one doesn’t confess that Jesus rose from the dead, he cannot be saved (Romans 10:9-10). All of this demonstrates that while Muslims do affirm that the Lord Jesus was special in some way, they reject the most important elements of His life, death, resurrection, and relationship with God.
Muslims would think that one can only enter Paradise through obeying Allah through the Koran. They think that this future destiny is only for those who are submissive to Allah (the noun “Islam” is from an Arabic term that means “to submit” or “to surrender”). In reality, no one can be saved through perfect submission to God, and this is why God had to give His beloved Son to pay the price for our sins, failures, or misdeeds. Only when one comes to God through Christ by repentant faith does he or she live a life that is “submissive” or “surrendered” to the Lord and willingly obeys God’s commands found in His revelation found in Holy Scripture. We are not saved “on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5). We are not saved by good deeds but we cannot be saved by rejecting them (Ephesians 2:8-10).
It may be that many think that Judaism comes directly from the Old Testament (the Old Covenant), but there are various forms and expressions of this religion. Amazingly, we find that some Jews are actually atheistic, denying the existence of God—thus they are merely traditional or cultural Jews. The most liberal of the branches would be the Reform Judaism. The centrist view is called Conservative Judaism. And the more Biblical of the groups is smaller, called Orthodox Judaism. Even here, the Orthodox don’t follow the Mosaic instructions completely, such as the blood sacrifices given in Leviticus 1-7. Since the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Romans in AD 70, Judaism doesn’t practice the key doctrine of the sacrifice and doesn’t have a priesthood to officiate at the temple even if there were one.
What does Judaism think about the Lord Jesus? Some may deny that He even existed, but many do believe that He was a moral teacher and reformer. We know that this is entirely deficient, especially for our salvation. We must believe that He was more than a moral reformer, for He was the very Son of the living God (1 John 5:11-13). He was born of a virgin (Luke 1:32-35), lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21), gave Himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin (1 Peter 1:18-19) so that He might die for us and our sin (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Romans 5:6-11) and be raised to new life after three days (Romans 10:9-10). He is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6), and those who reject Him will be condemned (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:16-18). We can say that the “Jesus of Judaism” is not the true Jesus of Scripture.
Furthermore, Judaism has become a means of “self-salvation” since the object is to live a moral and “good” life. Most don’t even evangelize Gentiles or non-Jews, thinking that one need not obey God’s instructions through Moses to be accepted by God in heaven. It is basically a deficient moral or ethical system. Scripture is clear that all have sinned (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:23; 5:12) and because of this all are worthy of death and condemnation (Romans 1:32; 2:1-3). We can’t be saved by being “good enough” but we need the grace and mercy of God, given to us through the death and resurrection of Christ. We must take our confidence away from ourselves and our performance and place all of our faith on God through the crucified and risen Son (John 3:14-18, 36; 5:24). Apart from this, all of those in the Jewish faith are lost and under God’s judgment—just as all others are. It takes a great deal of humility and honesty to admit our lostness and inability, but this is the only way to find God’s forgiveness and salvation.
This religion is part of the umbrella term called “Christianity” or “Christendom.” In fact, there may be as many as 1.3 billion Catholics in the world, with headquarters in the Vatican in Rome, Italy. This church is overseen by the so-called Pope before whom every loyal Catholic must render absolute submission and homage. He is thought to speak for God!
Since Catholicism is part of so-called Christendom, devotees do have some belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and they claim that he gave His life for our salvation. However, Catholic belief is not as simple as this. An accumulation of false teachings have arisen over the years, especially since this church emerged in the fourth century (with roots earlier).
One of the most wicked and far-reaching beliefs is related to the mother of Jesus. An assortment of false teachings relate to the “Virgin Mary,” such as the following: the idea that Mary was “immaculate” (or sinless and pure) since her conception and through her life—whereas the Bible says that only Jesus was sinless (1 Kings 8:46; 1 John 3:5-9). It has been taught that Mary was bodily “assumed” into heaven so that she would not need to await the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 35-58). Mary is referred to as the “Queen of heaven” but the Bible refers to Christ as the King of heaven and earth (Revelation 17:14). Catholicism calls Mary the “Mother of God”—whereas God had no mother! (The earthly and human Jesus did have Mary as His mother.) Catholicism says that Mary is not only in heaven bodily now, but she is able to hear the prayers of over a billion people at the same time! Worship and prayer must only be offered to God Himself—and not a human being (Matthew 4:10; 6:9).
All of these false teachings have caused some to say that Catholicism teaches not a Trinity—but a Quadrinity! In other words, the blasphemous teachings about Mary have taken Catholicism out of the realm of Christianity and into the realm of a cultic counterfeit. Other aberrations would include the papacy, the mass, the priesthood, the place of tradition, the office of bishop and cardinal, infant baptism, and much more. All of this perverts the teaching of Scripture, especially as it relates to the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In no way can this be considered an acceptable church with Scriptural teachings.
The Orthodox Church
Although “orthodox” means “belief in or acceptance of the truth of doctrines taught in Scripture” (orthos, “right,” and doxa, opinion or belief), sadly much of what we know as Orthodoxy is far from a “right belief.” (Terry L. Miethe, The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words) This general category of churches or denominations (such as the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Coptic Church, etc.) is found from Russia in the north, to Greece and the Middle East, to Egypt, and elsewhere.
Just what do we mean by Orthodoxy in the contemporary world? “In the Christian sense the term means ‘conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church.’ The first seven Ecumenical Councils were held between the years of 325 and 787 with the aim of formalizing accepted doctrines” (“Orthodoxy,” Wikipedia). While much is taught regarding the correct formulations of the confessions of faith in the fourth through the eighth centuries, probably most laymen will find the Orthodox Church in its various expressions to be formal or ritualistic in worship, highly structured, and carrying along various false beliefs and practices, such as having a “Patriarch” (or Pope), baptizing babies, and others that we may often associate with the apostate Roman Catholic Church. When I’ve visited Orthodox Churches, I’ve been dismayed with the gross perversions masquerading as Christianity.
In this churchly tradition we also find an exaltation of Mary, the use of icons or pictures of “saints,” all similar to Catholicism, the extreme liturgy and ritualism, and a special priesthood. All of these false teachings and practices serve to corrupt this large group of churches and those who partake of its corruptions. As Paul warned the elders of Ephesus: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). Generally those who adhere to these false churches fail to have a conception of what is Biblically right and wrong so that they may walk in it (2 Timothy 4:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:1-3). Orthodox adherents fail by following the same sort of heretical beliefs and practices as Roman Catholicism. Generally, their conception of Jesus Christ has been colored by all of the other false views promulgated by this fellowship.
Besides the ones we have examined above, there are other world religions, such as Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, and many more. Furthermore, Protestantism has a wide variety of different beliefs, practices, and lifestyles. Numerous of these have altered the nature of Christianity so that what now exists in some churches and denominations is far different from the truth as communicated to us through Jesus Christ and His chosen apostles. As Paul the apostle warned, “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). These Protestant churches have fallen away from the faith. They have been “led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Just now we are not referring to the so-called “Evangelical” segments of Protestantism, but the more liberal branches that deny basic truths of Scripture regarding the Lord Jesus. For instance, some deny the following essential truths:
- That all people are sinners and in need of salvation
- That there was an historical Adam and Eve, the first humans
- That God through Noah saved eight people from the worldwide flood
- That Jesus (in His pre-incarnate state) created the heaven and the earth
- That Jesus pre-existed (before His birth)
- That Jesus was born of Mary, a virgin woman
- That Jesus was sinless and free from all moral and spiritual imperfection
- That Jesus suffered and died for our sins on the cross
- That Jesus rose from the dead
- That Jesus ascended to God the Father in heaven
- That Jesus will return in glory to judge the living and the dead
Since all of these are “essential” truths taught in Scripture, they are ones that true Christians believe. They are also truths that His people seek to share with others.
You may wonder whether anyone does actually deny these Biblical facts. Some years ago, I made a study of a leading popular United Methodist pastor (who was seen weekly on television). He virtually denied all of the above points and ridiculed those who believed them. Further, many other pastors that come from liberal denominations (such as United Methodists, United Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Evangelical Lutherans, members of the United Church of Christ, and others) also deny one or more of the above Scriptural truths.
Besides liberal Protestantism, there are literally millions of people in an assortment of false sects, cults, and fellowships who are outside the realm of Biblical orthodoxy. They may teach some of the following false ways:
- Jesus is not God (John 1:1-3)
- Jesus is God but not the Son (John 20:30-31)
- Jesus was merely human on earth (John 20:28)
- Jesus was raised spiritually but not bodily (Luke 24:36-49)
- Jesus didn’t die for all of the sins of the world (1 John 2:1-2)
- Jesus wasn’t sinless on earth (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
- Jesus taught falsehood, such as the creation (Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:6)
- Jesus taught a “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel (Mark 10:21-27; 1 Timothy 6:9-10)
Some of these false ways or cultic teachings do pervert the pure ways of Jesus Christ and make it impossible for people to truly come to Christ for His salvation! We must distance ourselves from these aberrations and only believe the truth regarding the Lord Jesus!
Make Sure of Your Own Salvation!
Now that we have examined a number of world religions as well as professing “Christians,” have you been able to consider your own salvation? Paul the apostle warned that others may preach “another Jesus,” some may receive “a different spirit,” or accept “a different gospel,” but all of this is false! Today we find that most world religions disbelieve, deny, pervert, or reject the true Biblical Jesus Christ. They “pervert,” “twist,” or “distort” “the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:17).
Hinduism believes in millions of “gods” and Jesus is not given His exclusive place as Savior of the world. Buddhism is atheistic and may “worship” Buddah, a man. Judaism may believe that Jesus was merely an ethical teacher but merely human. Islam may say that they believe in Jesus, but He is stripped of many of the truths that God has revealed about Him—that He is God in human flesh, that He died on the cross for our sins, that He rose from the dead as our Savior and Lord. Catholicism doesn’t give exclusive saving power to the Lord Jesus, but believes that salvation is dispensed through Mary who is exalted as “Queen of Heaven.” Orthodoxy has the same defective view of the Lord Jesus. Thousands of cults, sects, and religious groups also pervert the true ways of Jesus Christ in the world.
Have you accepted the true Jesus of Scripture? Or have you accepted a substitute, a counterfeit Christ who cannot forgiven, redeem, or save from sin? I urge you to consider what we have discussed here and turn to God through Christ while you yet have the opportunity!
This study has been limited, but we have written numerous articles and booklets that show who Jesus is and how He saves from sin, death, and hell. We encourage you to repent of all your sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 20:21) and place your heartfelt faith in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ to receive eternal life and His complete forgiveness (John 1:12-13, 3:14-38, 36; 5:24; 20:30-31). Be willing to confess Jesus as your Lord, Ruler, and King (Romans 10:9-10; Philippians 2:11) and be buried with Christ in baptism so that you may rise to live a new life in Him (Romans 6:3-5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Colossians 2:11-13). Live a life completely given over to God and His will and live in obedience to God in Christ (John 14:15, 21-24) as a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 17). This is the real way of salvation that billions of people have rejected and refuse to believe!