One of the biggest fears people seem to have about Personal Evangelistic Dialogue is that there will be questions they can’t answer. Of course, there will be, but there is no shame in saying, "I don’t know, but I can try to find out." From time to time we’ll be publishing material to help you answer those questions. The following is a letter Moishe Rosen wrote in response to the question, "Does Jesus send people to hell if they don’t believe in Him?" (The name, Mr. Cohen, has been inserted rather than the actual addressee.)
Dear Mr. Cohen:
You wrote and said, "The statement, ‘. . . if you do not believe in Jesus, you cannot go to Heaven,’ sounds harsh, unfair and absurd." Let me start at a different place. I believe that in the original creation of man, a fellowship, a bond of love with God, and a oneness with the Creator were part of the Divine intention. I believe sin entered the human race and subsequently infected every single person with a spirit of rebelliousness. There is one thing all human beings have in common, and that is sin. Let me cite a few examples from the Bible.
"… There is no man that sinneth not. − I Kings 8:46
"Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." − Psalm 143:2
"Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" − Proverbs 20:9
"For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." − Ecclesiastes 7:20
Because of sin, or simply what we call human nature, all mankind has been put under a spiritual quarantine by God. God cannot become one with a mankind that is spiritually unclean, or else the very holy nature of God would be made unholy. There is a cure for this disease called sin, but there is only one remedy, not many.
Isaiah 53 tells of a suffering servant who would atone for others. In the sixth verse it says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Let me ask you a question from a story. In 1938, a German merchant vessel was in the midst of a storm in the North Atlantic . The pressure of the sea was so great that the plates in the hull began to buckle, and within moments, the ship sank.
Almost miraculously, one sailor stayed afloat by holding onto a cot mattress which had somehow not soaked through and was somewhat buoyant. Then from the south came a British cutter. The German sailor was spotted along with the wreckage of the sunken ship. The British ship "hove to," even though this was a very dangerous thing to do in a storm. The German sailor rose and fell on the billowing waves. A seaman on deck threw out a lifesaver. The big doughnut landed next to the German sailor, but the sailor looked up and saw the British flag and the British faces. He knew that these people represented the traditional enemy of Germany . He turned his back on the lifesaver and slowly the mattress which buoyed him up sank under the waves. The sailor was lost. Now the question: did the German sailor perish because of the lifesaving device that was thrown him, or because the ship was British?
I think you can already see the answer. He perished, first of all, because the condition of his existence was one, which could not support life. The fact that the lifesaving device and the British ship could have altered that condition of existence was something he chose not to accept. Even so, no man perishes because of anything Christ did or said. Our condition of existence is sin. Read through the Book of John, Chapter 3, in the New Testament. You’ll see that Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but rather that through Him the world might be saved. All of mankind existed in the state of condemnation already.
Now, if you can recognize that life is a sea in which you can’t survive, you can also recognize that Christ is the Lifesaver so that you can be rescued. Will you spurn Him and choose death over the abundant life He wants to bring you? We’re ready to help if you want to know more.
(Editor’s Note: Just one note of explanation − we don’t present the above as a complete apologetic dissertation on the subject. Rather, this is written to help you communicate a principle of belief to one who does not believe.)