Is Suffering the Entrance to Heaven?
In January 2000, a well-known
ex-televangelist said on a worldwide TV talk show, "I
believe that every person who died in the Holocaust
went to heaven." He was very sincere, and if he
was seeking the commendation of the world, he surely
got it with that statement. Who wouldn’t consider
what he said to be utterly compassionate?
However, let’s look
at the implications of his heartfelt beliefs. His statement
seemed to limit salvation to the Jews who died in the
Holocaust, because he added that "their blood laid
a foundation for the nation of Israel." If the
slaughtered Jews made it to heaven, did the many Gypsies
who died in the Holocaust also obtain eternal salvation?
If his statement includes Gentiles, is the salvation
he spoke of limited to those who died at the hands of
Nazis? Did the many Frenchmen who met their death at
the hands of cruel Nazis go to heaven also?
Perhaps he was saying that
the death of Jesus on the cross covered all of humanity,
and that all will eventually be saved— something
called "universalism." This means that salvation
will also come to Hitler and the Nazis who killed the
Jews. However, I doubt if he was saying that. Such a
statement would have brought the scorn of his Jewish
host, and of the world whose compassion has definite
limits. If pressed, he probably didn’t mean that
only the Jews in the camps went to heaven, because that
smacks of racism.
He was likely saying that
those who died were saved because they died in such
tragic circumstances. Then Jesus was lying when He said,
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man
comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). There
is another way to heaven—death in a Nazi concentration
camp. Does that mean that the many Jews who died under
communism went to heaven? Or is salvation limited to
German concentration camps? If their salvation came
because of the grim circumstances surrounding their
death, does a Jew therefore enter heaven after suffering
for hours before dying in a car wreck . . . if he was
killed by a drunk driver who happened to be German?
Bear in mind that his suffering may have been much greater
than someone who died within minutes in a Nazi gas chamber.
Many unsaved think we can
merit entrance into heaven by our suffering. Their error
was confirmed by this sincere, compassionate man of
God. They may now disregard the truth, "Neither
is there salvation in any other: for there is no other
name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be
saved" (Acts 4:12). They can now save themselves
by the means of their own death . . . if they suffer
The ex-televangelist was
concerned that his indiscretions of the 1980s brought
discredit to the kingdom of God. However, those actions
fade into history compared to the damage done by saying
that there is another means of salvation outside of
Jesus Christ, on a program watched by untold millions
around the world. Who on earth needs to repent and trust
in Jesus, if millions entered the kingdom without being
born again? No one.