One of the most difficult topics that can be addressed by every monotheistic religion that makes the claim that it is the one that God intended is what happens to all the people who sincerely follow other religions and have valid religious experiences with God and find meaning and value in them. Christianity, in most of it’s forms, has a simple answer. Everyone who does not profess basic Christian belief is condemned to hell. On the other side are the Hindus and some of the new age belief systems that believe all roads lead to the same place and all are equally valid. Historically, Judaism has stood in the middle of these two opinions. While professing that Israel is the unique people of God and that the Torah they follow is the truest example of God’s will for man, they have also maintained that those who adhere to the basics of righteousness contained in the covenants God made with Noach and A’dam will have a place in the world to come.
There are several things that complicate the issue today. First of all is understanding the meaning of salvation in the Scriptures, and in the Brit Chadashah in particular. Suffice it to say here that generally salvation in the Scriptures has to do with deliverance from calamity in this present world, and in the Brit Chadashah it refers specifically to deliverance in the coming ‘Day of the Lord’. It rarely concerns an individual’s eternal destiny.
The other primary complication is that right now both Jews and Christians claim to be the unique people of God and worthy of ‘salvation’. Various theological schemes and twists of Scripture have been used to justify these claims but regardless, both cannot be true at the same time. So what we need to look at is the words of the Messiah Himself and that will clear up the issue and show who is going to be saved and who is not.
The basis for our discussion is Matt 7:21-23. “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast our demons in your name and done many wonders in Your name.’ And than I will declare to them ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
This verse answers two questions. One, how Christians can serve God and have genuine religious experiences and even perform miracles yet not be part of God’s unique people worthy of deliverance on the Day of the Lord and second, what is the criteria by which one is judged to be worthy of deliverance.
The first is obvious from the verse. The people ending up on the short end of the stick on judgment day are people who claim that Yahushua haMashiyakh is their Lord or, according to the Christians, that this person named Jesus Christ whom they identify with Yahushua, is their ‘Lord and Savior’. And they do miraculous and wonderful things in His Name. In other words, they have a genuine religious experience through ‘Jesus’, they find meaning and purpose in Christianity and this experience has even allowed them to perform miracles. Certainly such people are sincere and devoted. So why are they condemned?
Two lines in the verse answer that question. First, they did not do the Fathers will, and second, they practiced ‘lawlessness’ from the Greek ‘anomian’ meaning what is contrary to law, a state of wrong, lawlessness, wickedness, and iniquity (see 1Jn 3.4) or an individual violation of law. Anomia is the strongest word used in the Brit Chadasha for sin. It does not mean ‘missing the mark’ or even breaking the Law. It means to abolish the Law, to live as if there were no Law. The anti-Messiah personifies this spirit (II Thes 2:3).
It is the Father’s will that we love and obey Him. Those who think they are doing the Father’s will while ignoring Torah are deluded by the spirit of lawlessness already (II Thes 2:7). It is in the Torah that God’s will for the redeemed individual is most clearly revealed. Without it we are just shooting in the dark, thinking we are pleasing the Master we claim while bringing ourselves under condemnation.
“Whoever breaks the least of these commandments (of Torah) and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches them will be called the great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Unless your righteousness exceeds that or the Pharisees and teachers of the Torah, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” A true follower of the Messiah will have the heartfelt conviction of truth as well as the outward appearance of obedience to Torah. Then there will be no surprises on judgment day.