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Can Suffering Merit Salvation?

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.

The Only Entrance Into Heaven

This presents a problem though. If his statement were true, 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. This disregards 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 enough.

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. However, the Bible is clear, Jesus is the only way.

From, The Evidence Bible (Bridge Logos Publishers)

Ray Comfort

Ray Comfort is the Founder and CEO of Living Waters and the bestselling author of more than 90 books, including God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life, How to Know God Exists, and The Evidence Bible. He cohosts the award-winning television program Way of the Master, airing in every country in the world, and is an Executive Producer of “180,” “Evolution vs. God,” “Audacity,” and other films. He is married to Sue and has three grown children, and hasn’t left the house without gospel tracts for decades.

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