The conversation about Heaven and Hell

“Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul,
May keep the path, but will not reach the goal;
While he who walks in love may wander far,
Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.” (The Story of the Other Wise Man, Henry van Dyke, 1923)

The Story of the Other Wise Man
The Story of the Other Wise Man

I’m writing this morning in response to an article my friend, Ray, asked me read (Christian Exceptionalism and Men, by David Murrow). The article included a discussion around questions such as, “Is Jesus the only way to heaven?” and “Is everyone else going to hell?”

The author went on to argue that exceptionalism is “an essential doctrine for reaching and motivating men;” he wrote that exceptionalism appeals to men because guys like things to be black or white; right or wrong, with winners and losers.

REALLY? Let’s talk about this. I’m a Jesus Follower; I know that Jesus is the source of light and life; I want others to know that kind of life-charged life; I believe that the decision to follow Jesus is the best decision that anyone can ever make.

But the central question of Christian faith does not boil down to, “Who is going to heaven, and who is not?” No, the central question of Christian faith is this: “Am I going to accept Christ’s invitation to live in the beauty of a restored relationship with God?”

Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” But I don’t believe he was focusing on a final destination point, after we die; I don’t believe he was talking about, “these people are in and these other people are out;” I don’t believe he was talking about about punching our ticket to paradise.

What Jesus was talking about was exactly what he said: he was talking about “Coming to the Father,” about entering into a restored relationship with God, about experiencing “real and eternal life, more and better life than [we] ever dreamed of” (John 10:10).

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)

MEN: Murrow pointed to the numbers, saying that churches where exceptionalism is preached “tend to grow,” and that exceptionalism “attracts more guys.” But I have to ask, why should “lots of people show up” mean you neccessarily have the right message?

  • So you want things “black and white”? Isn’t it enough that you are crystal clear about your relationship with God, that you share God’s love with others, and that Jesus is transforming your life?
  • So you need things “right or wrong”? Who’s to say that everyone else has to be wrong in order for you to be right?
  • So you want “winners and losers”? Why does there have to be a loser in order for you to feel like your “win” is good enough? Do you really need others to burn in hell to validate your decision for Jesus?

My understanding of the Gospel is – more and more – tied up with the ongoing decision to be a follower of the Living Way of Jesus, to let Jesus transform my life, and to share the Good News with the world. When we make the decision to follow Jesus, fullness of life begins right now; we’re invited to participate in the work that God is up to; and that restored relationship will not be interrupted when we pass from life into eternity.

WHAT JOY THE BLESSED ASSURANCE GIVES: What I want to say to people is this: “Following Jesus is The Way to experience more and better life than we’ve ever dreamed of. Exactly what heaven looks like, and who gets to be there, is God’s prerogative alone.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (Jesus – John 14:1-2)

In love, and because of love – DEREK


  1. “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father except through me.”
    May I suggest that those words are NOT about who is in and who is out; they are about WHO JESUS IS. He is the agent of true life both blessed and eternal. He is the one who gets us to his Father (sometimes even before we know he is doing that). I understand that purposeful rejection of all that Jesus offers us can have deadly consequences. But the claim in that verse is that Jesus embodies and offers eternal life and truth and blessing. And that is rather different from a threat about who is excluded.
    Karen Jones .


  2. Derek, I am so glad you lovingly addressed the question of heaven and hell not because it makes me feel good because I agree but because the expanse of God’s love and mercy is unmeasurable. Eternity is now; we are called to reconciliation now….and, yes, it makes all the difference. Your thoughts and writings help to better understand theology in action. Love and peace to you, Jackie


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