Category: How to get to heaven – what are the ideas from the different religions?


Face it. The day that each of us will step into eternity may come sooner than we think. In preparation for that moment, we need to know this truth—not everyone is going to heaven. How can we know for sure that we are one of those who will spend eternity in heaven? Some 2,000 years ago, the apostles Peter and John were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to a large crowd in Jerusalem. It was then that Peter made a profound statement that resonates even in our post-modern world: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Even as it was then, in today’s “all ways lead to heaven” climate, this is not a politically correct message. There are many who think they can have heaven without having Jesus. They want the good promises of glory, but they don’t want to be bothered by the cross, much less the One who hung and died there for the sins of all who would believe in Him. Many don’t want to accept Jesus as the only way and are determined to find another path. But Jesus Himself warns us that no other path exists and the consequences for not accepting this truth are an eternity in hell. He has told us plainly that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

Some will argue that it’s extremely narrow-minded of God to provide only one way to heaven. But, frankly, in light of mankind’s rebellious rejection of God, it’s extremely broad-minded for Him to provide us with any way to heaven. We deserve judgment, and instead He gives us the way of escape by sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins. Whether someone sees this as narrow or broad, it’s the truth, and Christians need to maintain the clear, untarnished message that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

Many people today have believed a watered-down gospel that does away with the message of repentance of their sins. They want to believe in a loving, nonjudgmental God who requires no repentance and no change in their lifestyle. They may say things like, “I believe in Jesus Christ, but my God is not judgmental. My God would never send a person to hell.” But we cannot have it both ways. If we profess to be Christians, we must recognize Christ for who He said He is—the one and only way to heaven. To deny that is to deny Jesus Himself, for it was He who declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The question still remains: who will actually enter into God’s kingdom? How can I guarantee my eternal destination? The answer to these questions is seen in the clearly drawn distinction between those who have eternal life and those who do not. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Those who believe in Christ, who have accepted His sacrifice in payment of their sins, and who follow Him in obedience will spend eternity in heaven. Those who reject Him will not. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).

As awesome as heaven will be for those who choose Jesus Christ as Savior, hell will be that much more awful for those who reject Him. Our message to the lost would be delivered with more urgency if we understood what the holiness and righteousness of God will do to those who have rejected the full provision of forgiveness in His Son, Jesus Christ. One cannot read the Bible seriously without seeing it over and over again—the line is drawn. The Bible is very clear that there is one and only one way to heaven—through Jesus Christ. He has given us this warning: “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” (Matthew 7:13-14).

There is only one way to heaven and those who follow that way are guaranteed to get there. But not everyone is following that way. Are you?

There appear to be five major categories regarding how to get to heaven in the world’s religions. Most believe that hard work and wisdom will lead to ultimate fulfillment, whether that is unity with god (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Baha’i) or freedom and independence (Scientology, Jainism). Others, like Unitarianism and Wicca, teach the afterlife is whatever you want it to be, and salvation is a non-issue because the sin nature doesn’t exist. A few believe either the afterlife doesn’t exist or it’s too unknowable to consider.

Derivatives of the worship of the Christian-Judeo God generally hold that faith in God and/or Jesus and the accomplishment of various deeds, including baptism or door-to-door evangelism, will ensure the worshiper will go to heaven. Only Christianity teaches that salvation is a free gift of God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9), and no amount of work or effort is necessary or possible to get to heaven.

Atheism: Most atheists believe there is no heaven—no afterlife at all. Upon death, people simply cease to exist. Others attempt to define the afterlife using quantum mechanics and other scientific methods.

Baha’i: Like many other religions, Baha’i doesn’t teach that man was born with a sin nature or that man needs saving from evil. Man simply needs saving from his erroneous beliefs of how the world works and how he is to interact with the world. God sent messengers to explain to people how to come to this knowledge: Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and Baha’u’llah. These prophets progressively revealed the nature of God to the world. Upon death, a person’s soul continues its spiritual journey, perhaps through the states known as heaven and hell, until it comes to a final resting point, united with god.

Buddhism: Buddhism also believes that heaven, or “Nirvana,” is to be rejoined in spirit with god. Reaching Nirvana, a transcendental, blissful, spiritual state, requires following the Eightfold Path. This includes understanding the universe, and acting, speaking, and living in the right manner and with the right intentions. Mastering these and the other of the eight paths will return a worshipper’s spirit to god.

Chinese Religion: Chinese Religion is not an organized church, but an amalgamation of different religions and beliefs including Taoism and Buddhism. Upon death, worshipers are judged. The good are sent either to a Buddhist paradise or a Tao dwelling place. The bad are sent to hell for a period of time and then reincarnated.

Christianity: Christianity is the only religion that teaches man can do nothing to earn or pay his way into heaven. Man, a slave to the sin nature he was born with, must completely rely on the grace of God in applying Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to the sins of the believer. Upon death, the spirits of Christians go to a temporary paradise, while the spirits of unbelievers go to another temporary holding place. At the final judgment, Christians are given a new body and spend eternity with God in paradise, while unbelievers are separated from God for eternity in hell.

Confucianism: Confucianism concentrates on appropriate behavior in life, not a future heaven. The afterlife is unknowable, so all effort should be made to make this life the best it can be, to honor ancestors, and to respect elders.

Eastern Orthodox: Orthodoxy is a Christian-Judeo derivative that reinterprets key Scripture verses in such a way that works become essential to reach heaven. Orthodoxy teaches that faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation, but where Christianity teaches that becoming more Christlike is the result of Christ’s influence in a believer’s life, Orthodoxy teaches that it is a part of the salvation process. If that process (called theosis) is not performed appropriately, a worshiper can lose his/her salvation. After death, the devout live in an intermediate state where this theosis can be completed. Those who have belief but did not accomplish sufficient progress in theosis are sent to a temporary “direful condition” and will go to hell unless the living devout pray and complete acts of mercy on their behalf. After final judgment, the devout are sent to heaven and the others to hell. Heaven and hell are not locations, but reactions to being in the presence of God, as there is nowhere that He is not present. For Christ-followers, God’s presence is paradise, but for the unsaved, being with God is eternal torment.

Hinduism: Hinduism is similar to Buddhism in some ways. Salvation (or moksha) is reached when the worshiper is freed from the cycle of reincarnation, and his spirit becomes one with god. One becomes free by ridding oneself of bad karma—the effect of evil action or evil intent. This can be done in three different ways: through selfless devotion to and service of a particular god, through understanding the nature of the universe, or by mastering the actions needed to fully appease the gods.

In Hinduism, with over a million different gods, there are differences of opinion regarding the nature of salvation. The Advaita school teaches salvation occurs when one can strip away the false self and make the soul indistinguishable from that of god. The dualist insists that one’s soul always retains its own identity even as it is joined with god.

Islam: Islam is a take-off on the Christian/Judeo God. Muslims believe salvation comes to those who obey Allah sufficiently that good deeds outweigh the bad. Muslims hope that repeating what Muhammad did and said will be enough to get to heaven, but they also recite extra prayers, fast, go on pilgrimages, and perform good works in hope of tipping the scales. Martyrdom in service to Allah is the only work guaranteed to send a worshiper to paradise.

Jainism: Jainism came to be in India about the same time as Hinduism and is very similar. One must hold the right belief, have the right knowledge, and act in the right manner. Only then can a soul be cleansed of karma. But in Jainism, there is no creator. There is no higher god to reach or lend aid. Salvation is man as master of his own destiny, liberated and perfect, filled with infinite perception, knowledge, bliss, and power.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: The teachings of the Watchtower Society lead us to categorize the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a cult of Christianity that misinterprets the book of Revelation. Similar to Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach different levels of heaven. The anointed are 144,000 who receive salvation by the blood of Christ and will rule with Him in paradise. They are the bride of Christ. For all others, Jesus’ sacrifice only freed them from Adam’s curse of original sin, and “faith” is merely the opportunity to earn their way to heaven. They must learn about Kingdom history, keep the laws of Jehovah, and be loyal to “God’s government”—the 144,000 leaders, 9,000 of whom are currently on the earth. They must also spread the news about the Kingdom, including door-to-door proselytizing. Upon death, they will be resurrected during the millennial kingdom where they must continue a devout life. Only afterwards are they given the opportunity to formally accept Christ and live for eternity under the rule of the 144,000.

Judaism: Jews believe that, as individuals and as a nation, they can be reconciled to God. Through sin (individually or collectively) they can lose their salvation, but they can also earn it back through repentance, good deeds, and a life of devotion.

Mormonism: Mormons believe their religion to be a derivative of Judeo/Christianity, but their reliance on extra-grace works belies this. They also have a different view of heaven. To reach the second heaven under “general salvation,” one must accept Christ (either in this life or the next) and be baptized or be baptized by proxy through a living relative. To reach the highest heaven, one must believe in God and Jesus, repent of sins, be baptized in the church, be a member of the LDS church, receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, obey the Mormon “Word of Wisdom” and all God’s commandments, and complete certain temple rituals including marriage. This “individual salvation” leads to the worshiper and his/her spouse becoming gods and giving birth to spirit children who return to Earth as the souls of the living.

Roman Catholicism: Roman Catholics originally believed only those in the Roman Catholic Church could be saved. Joining the church was a long process of classes, rituals, and baptism. People who had already been baptized but were not members of the Roman Catholic Church had different requirements and may even already be considered Christians. Baptism is “normatively” required for salvation, but this can include “baptism of blood” (i.e.: martyrdom) or “baptism of desire” (wanting to be baptized really badly). From the catechism: “Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized.” Despite the changes through the years, baptism (or the desire for baptism) is still required for salvation.

According to Catholicism, upon death, the souls of those who rejected Christ are sent to hell. The souls of those who accepted Christ and performed sufficient acts to be purified of sin go to heaven. Those who died in faith but did not complete the steps to be purified are sent to purgatory where they undergo temporary, painful punishment until their souls are cleansed. Purification by torment may be lessened by suffering during life and the offerings and prayers of others on the sinner’s behalf. Once purification is complete, the soul may go to heaven.

Scientology: Scientology is similar to Eastern religions in that salvation is achieved through knowledge of self and the universe. The “thetan” (Scientology’s answer to the soul) travels through several different lifetimes, attempting to expel painful and traumatic images that cause a person to act fearfully and irrationally. Once a Scientologist is “cleared” of these harmful images and becomes an “operating thetan,” he/she is able to control thought, life, matter, energy, space, and time.

Shinto: The afterlife in Shinto was originally a dire, Hades-like realm. Matters of the afterlife have now been transferred to Buddhism. This salvation is dependent on penance and avoiding impurity or pollution of the soul. Then one’s soul can join those of its ancestors.

Sikhism: Sikhism was created in reaction to the conflict between Hinduism and Islam, and carries on many of Hinduism’s influences—although Sikhs are monotheistic. “Evil” is merely human selfishness. Salvation is attained by living an honest life and meditating on god. If good works are performed sufficiently, the worshipper is released from the cycle of reincarnation and becomes one with god.

Taoism: Like several other Eastern religions (Shinto, Chinese folk religions, Sikhism), Taoism adopted many of its afterlife principles from Buddhism. Initially, Taoists didn’t concern themselves with worries of the afterlife and, instead, concentrated on creating a utopian society. Salvation was reached by aligning with the cosmos and receiving aid from supernatural immortals who resided on mountains, islands, and other places on Earth. The result was immortality. Eventually, Taoists abandoned the quest for immortality and took on the afterlife teachings of Buddhism.

Unitarian-Universalism: Unitarians are allowed to and encouraged to believe anything they like about the afterlife and how to get there. Although, in general, they believe people should seek enlightenment in this life and not worry too much about the afterlife.

Wicca: Wiccans believe many different things about the afterlife, but most seem to agree that there is no need for salvation. People either live in harmony with the Goddess by caring for her physical manifestation—the earth—or they don’t, and their bad karma is returned to them three-fold. Some believe souls are reincarnated until they learn all their life lessons and become one with the Goddess. Some are so committed to following one’s individual path that they believe individuals determine what will happen when they die; if worshippers think they’re going to be reincarnated or sent to hell or joined with the goddess, they will be. Others refuse to contemplate the afterlife at all. Either way, they don’t believe in sin or anything they need saving from.

Zoroastrianism: Zoroastrianism may be the first religion that stated that the afterlife was dependent upon one’s actions in life. There is no reincarnation, just a simple judgment four days after death. After a sufficient amount of time in hell, however, even the condemned can go to heaven. To be judged righteous, one can use knowledge or devotion, but the most effective way is through action.

Want to learn the truth about going to heaven?