Have you ever felt out of place? I remember a few times in life when I was in a place where I felt entirely out of my element. Maybe I was underdressed, uninformed, or in some other way not in the right place at the right time. While I made the best of the awkward situation, I most definitely was feeling like that old Sesame Street song I remember from childhood: “One of these things does not belong here…”
At the end of time, when Jesus wraps up all of history and begins His reign, the Bible tells us that there will be people that He won’t know. When it’s all said and done, Scripture leads us to believe that not only IS there a hell, but hell will actually be more densely populated than heaven. We’re told that comparatively speaking, only a few get in to heaven. (Matthew 7:13-14)
And while this might be a point of contention for Christians and non-Christians alike because of the seeming harshness of Jesus’ words in that final day, it is no less part of the gospel message that must be shared. It’s the “bad news” that leads us to the “good news”. The gospel is offensive before it is redemptive. It is the slap in the face before the embrace of grace. In order to receive the good news of Jesus Christ, we must first face our own sinful depravity. We must confess our need of a healer, of a Messiah, of a Savior. It is those willing to make this confession that Jesus came for.
(This flies in the face of most people’s view of how entry into heaven is gained. Most people are relying on their good works outweighing their bad works. Sounds fair, right? Too bad God isn’t as interested in fairness as He is in repentance and obedience.)
Now, at the risk of sounding self-contradictory, I want to also state that I believe that Jesus died for all people. (1 John 2:2) I absolutely believe in the “whosoever will may come” aspect of Jesus invitation to relationship with Him. (Luke 14:16-24) A wonderful hymn of the faith puts it beautifully, “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives!”
Sadly, it is this exclusivity of the Gospel message that so many can’t choke down. For a wide variety of reasons, its difficult to think of God as being that narrow, that cruel, that mean, that unfair, that prejudiced–that He would only welcome those who welcome Him, and to the rest of humanity give an icy cold, “I never knew you.”
There’s a 3-year-old inside every one of us that screams, “But that’s not fair!!!”
But do you see that the exclusivity of Jesus is the great equalizer? Jesus completely takes the effort out of our hands and places it on Himself. All that was needed to secure your salvation was accomplished on the cross. Throw out the scales. Forget the past. There’s no such thing as worthiness when it comes to us and an eternity with God! “There are none that are righteous, not even one!” (Romans 3:10) So, in grace–beyond all notions of us trying to reach Him, beyond all thoughts of us being good enough, beyond all laborious and futile expressions of us closing the gap between our sickness and His holiness–God levels the field and says, “Anyone of you is eligible.” when the Scriptures declare, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” (Romans 10:13)
So, its not that Jesus is exclusive insomuch as He only takes some and not others based on effort or goodness; it is that He is exclusive in that He only receives those who willing to make their confession of lostness apart from Him.