I have heard this idea attributed to both Rob Bell and Max Lucado, so if someone knows the genius who said it first please enlighten me, because it has burned a trail of destruction through my faith: ‘God is looking for every excuse to get people into Heaven, not keep them out.’
A merciful God truly wants everyone in Heaven with Him. So for me, with a brain that immediately determines the worst case scenario and follows it, hurtling, to its logical conclusion, this means: ‘Once Saved, Always Saved.’ So, if you believe in Jesus and then go out and become the worst criminal the world has ever seen, after the police take you down in a dramatic shoot-out, you will still go to Heaven. That’s hard to swallow.
It also means that you can become the worst criminal the world has ever seen and after the police take you down in a dramatic shoot-out, as you are dying of your wounds, you can still truly repent and be accepted by Jesus into Heaven. Also hard to swallow as it opens the door of eternal reward to people like Hitler, Stalin, and Lord Voldemort.
What is the point? Jesus is Salvation. And that’s it. That’s all. His death covers the whole kit and caboodle. (Don’t laugh. I still have two of those.)
I hear you saying ‘Yes, but…’ Yes, but after you’re saved you have to start reading the Bible. Yes, but you have to find a good church. Yes, but you have to give up all your bad habits. Yes, but faith without works is dead, so you have to start doing things to work out your salvation so that others will see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.
Yes, but none of those ideas are Salvation. They’re great ideas, and sometimes they follow naturally from a salvation experience, but they are mostly the result of solid Christian discipleship (English translation from the Christianese: mentoring), aimed at improving our and others’ lives here on earth. When it comes to Heaven, Jesus is definitive and the final arbiter of who gets in and who stays out. I think we will be very surprised who is in Heaven, if we get there to see.