Summary: An examination of whether all people go to heaven for people investigating the Christian faith.
Have you ever felt totally out of place somewhere? One of the things I do to be involved in our community is I’m a chaplain for our local Police Department. Now I’ve been a police chaplain for over three years now, and that role takes me some places I wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to as a pastor. One night about six months ago I was on a ride-along on a Friday night and the officer I was riding with received a call to a popular single’s bar in the city. As we walked into the bar in our uniforms, I felt totally out of place, like I stuck out like a sore thumb. The music was too loud and the crowd was all younger than I was (I never thought I’d hear myself say those words). We’d no sooner gotten there and I was counting the seconds to when we’d be able to leave. My feeling of being uncomfortable had nothing to do with my past problems with alcohol. I simply felt totally out of place, like a fish out of water. When we walked out twenty minutes later I breathed a sigh of relief and swore I’d stay in the police car the next time.
All of us have had those kinds of experiences where we feel like we’re out of place. Maybe some of you here today are guests and just being in church makes you feel that way. The first thing we’re thinking when we walk into a new group of people is, "Is there anyone here like me?"
Well last Sunday we started a new series on death and the afterlife called BEYOND DEATH’S DOOR. In this series we’ve been looking at what the Bible teaches about life beyond the grave, and last week we explored the topic of whether there’s such a thing as the afterlife at all. But today I want to explore the question of who will be at home in heaven? Is heaven the kind of place where everyone will be, or would some people feel like a fish out of water in the presence of God in the afterlife? Who will "fit in" in heaven? Is heaven for everyone? Will every human who’s ever lived end up in heaven in the end? Or are certain people just not "heaven people"? That’s what we’re going to look at today as we continue to explore what the Bible teaches beyond death’s door.
I. Will Everyone Be In Heaven?
We start with this question, will everyone ultimately end up in heaven? Now the belief that everyone will ultimately be in heaven is what theologians call UNIVERSALISM. If you’ve ever seen the Unitarian Universalist Church, that’s what they believe, that everyone will be heaven in the end. The second century church leader Origen believed this...in fact Origen even though the Devil would ultimately end up in heaven. Diverse people throughout the ages have embraced universalism, including biblical scholar William Barclay, U. S. president John Quincy Adams, author Hanah Whitall Smith, and in our own generation, popular author Robert Fulgham. But what does the Bible teach? Does it teach universalism, that everyone will end up in heaven in the end?
Let’s look at the teachings of Jesus Christ on this issue.
Matthew 7:13-14-- "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (NIV).
According to Jesus there’s a right way and a wrong way in the spiritual life. There’s a way that ends in destruction and a way that ends in life.1 The path that leads to destruction is described as having a wide gate and a broad path. It’s a well worn road, it’s a road paved with "good intentions" as we like to say. The broad path is a direction in life that seems normal and pleasant, it feels agreeable and accommodating. Yet it ends in destruction, and the word here describes "eternal destruction."2
In contrast to this easy way, this common way, there’s a narrow gate, a gate with only a single entrance, and this narrow gate leads to the narrow road of following Jesus, a road of eternal life, a road of blessing. This is where we get the saying "straight and narrow" from in our culture, looking back on this restrictive road.
What we find in this teaching of Jesus Christ is a warning against danger: NOT EVERY ROAD LEADS TO HEAVEN.
I didn’t make this up. It’s not an arrogant claim that my way is better than someone else’s way, but it’s the clear teaching of Jesus Christ here.
Now it’s popular in our culture today to believe that all roads ultimately lead to heaven. The spiritual life is often pictured as a mountain, with heaven on top of the mountain, and every religion taking its own unique path up the mountain, but all paths end up at the same destination. But if that’s true, then it must be true that all religions without distinction ultimately end in heaven. When we think about that it poses a problem, because Satanism is also a religion, as well as some religions that practice human sacrifice. These religions must also be equally valid ways of approaching God if every road leads to heaven. In fact, we’d also have to include cultic groups like David Koresh’s Branch Davidians and the UFO cult Heaven’s Gate as equally valid ways to heaven.