Mommy, Do Jewish Kids Go To Heaven?

damn sign
Nice sign, huh? Spread the Good News.

Anyway, we’ve been talking lately about whether or not Christians are in some way special in the eyes of God – if one must be a Christian in order to be ‘saved’ from damnation or at least from missing out on heaven. Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish scholar of the New Testament, and very sympathetic towards Christians, addresses this idea in her book; “The Misunderstood Jew”. Here she shares a parable of her own making:

After a long and happy life, I find myself at the pearly gates. Standing there is St. Peter. This truly is heaven, for finally my academic questions will receive answers. I immediately begin the questions that have been plaguing me for half a century: “Can you speak Greek? Where did you go when you wandered off in the middle of Acts? How was the incident between you and Paul in Antioch resolved? What happened to your wife?”

Peter looks at me with some bemusement and states, “Look, lady. I’ve got a whole line of saved people to process. Pick up your harp and slippers here, and get the wings and halo at the next table. We’ll talk after dinner.”

As I float off, I hear, behind me, a man trying to gain Peter’s attention. He has located a ‘red letter Bible’ which is a text in which the words of Jesus are printed in red letters. This is heaven and all sorts of sacred art and Scriptures, from the Bhagavad Gita to the Qur’an, are easily available (missing, however was the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version). The fellow has his Bible open to John 14, and he is frenetically pointing to v.6: “Jesus says here, in red letters, that he is the way. I’ve seen this woman on television (actually she’s thinner in person). She’s not Christian; she’s not baptized – she shouldn’t be here!”

“Oy”, says Peter. “Another one – wait here.”

He returns a few minutes later with a man about five foot three with dark hair and eyes. I notice immediately that he has holes in his wrists, for when the empire executes an individual, the circumstances of that death cannot be forgotten.

“What is it, my son?” he asks.

The man, obviously nonplussed, sputters, ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but didn’t you say no one comes to the Father except through you?”

“Well”, responds Jesus, “John does have me saying this.” (Waiting in line, a few other biblical scholars who overhear this conversation sigh at Jesus’ phrasing – a number of them remain convinced that Jesus said no such thing. They’ll have to make the inquiry on their own time.) “But if you flip back to the Gospel of Matthew, which does come first in the canon, you’ll notice in chapter 25, at the judgment of the sheep and the goats, that I am not interested in those who say ‘Lord, Lord’, but in those who do their best to live a righteous life: feeding the hungry, visiting people in prison…”

Becoming almost apoplectic, the man interrupts, “But, but, that’s works righteousness. You’re saying she’s earned her way into heaven?”

“No”, replies Jesus, “I am not saying that at all. I am saying that I am the way, not you, not your church, not your reading of John’s Gospel, and not the claim of any individual Christian or any particular congregation. I am making the determination and it is by my grace that anyone gets in, including you. Do you want to argue?”

The last thing I recall seeing, before picking up my heavenly accessories, is Jesus handing the poor man a Kleenex to help get the log out of his eye.

I particularly liked her reference to Matthew 25. That parable of Jesus’ lays it all out.

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  1. #1 by Michelle on April 4, 2008 - 8:37 pm

    What a great goal! I’m not into Systematic Theology but I love digging into the word, but only to know my God better.

    I taught elementary school and then homeschooled my children and nephew. It’s all in the tone and expressions. They’ll know you love ’em if you’re firm, fair, and flexible. That’s my two cents…

  2. #2 by therevr on April 4, 2008 - 9:24 pm

    A few more thoughts for Michelle. There are probably more things here to agree about than to disagree, and I won’t push it beyond this comment, but: With careful reading, we can see that the Abrahamic covenant came in two parts: one unconditional, referencing all the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, signified by God passing between the pieces on the day he “cut a covenant” with Abraham; and one conditional, referencing the land of Canaan and signified by the physical act of circumcision. It was this second version that is reaffirmed with Isaac and Jacob and ultimately also Moses, and in relation to those promises it is testified by Solomon: “Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses” (1 Kings 8:56); although a case could even be made that after he made this assertion, at the height of his authority, Solomon’s realm also extended between the two great rivers.

    I’s true that post-Solomon and post-Exile, various prophets speak of a restoration; but that restoration is always associated with a sincere return in faith to God, part of the evidence of which is to be hospitality towards outsiders. Regarding this aspect, I refer you to Ezekiel 47:21-23, which speaks of the distribution of land; especially v. 22, as an indication of the prophetic view of the responsibility of any truly restored Israel towards those who live among them — i.e., in the present day, Palestinians. There is no possibility of a real restoration without a restoration of obedience; so if your charts and graphs and timelines are more correct than I am about the connection between current geopolitics and the fulfillment of Abe’s covenant, I hope you would see that the inclusion of “the aliens who have settled among you” must be part of that fulfillment.

    In any case, the great beauty of the New Covenant is that it includes the whole people of God, one new humanity as indicated in Ephesians 2, and as represented symbolically in the structure of the holy city, new Jerusalem in Revelation: the twelve gates are the twelve tribes of Israel (showing that all who enter the presence of God come through a Jewish entrance) and the twelve foundations of the city are the twelve apostles of the Lamb. To try to separate either “twelve” from the integral whole would be to tear down the very fabric of God’s new creation. In times past, some have tried to exclude Israel from God’s promises in favor of a “replacement” Gentile church; in the present day, others seem to think that quite apart from the people of faith of the New Covenant, and quite apart from the love of enemies taught and exemplified by Jesus, God has a separate plan for the family of Jacob. Both miss the great mystery that Paul struggles with in Romans 9, 10 and 11, that somehow, in the divine purpose, we are all in this together.

  3. #3 by Michelle on April 4, 2008 - 10:54 pm

    Thanks for commenting further. Is it The Reverend? I do think we have more in common than not. Yet, I do not see how Abe’s cov’t became conditional based upon circumcision. Circumcision was the sign of the cov’t, to mark all those in cov’t, now that he had an heir, yet not the chosen one. But when did the promises change? Giving a more specific description does not nullify a promise previously made. When Paul speaks of the cov’t in Galatians he tells us we are part of a cov’t of faith, not based upon the Law, just as Abe, the believer. We have been grafted into that cov’t of faith through Christ.

    The boundaries of the land I feel can be disputed. Even during Solomon’s reign wasn’t the city of Tyre under its own kingdom? The prophecies based upon the Prophets given post-exile have not been fulfilled. We are still waiting for the literal reign (I believe) of Zion with Messiah ruling.

    In 1948 the Jews offered hospitality to all Palestinians, telling them they did not need to flee their villages because they would not be slaughtered if a war became reality. Only those who fought against the Jews in the War of Independence were removed from their villages. History documents that all Palestinians who wanted to remain in Israel, were given full rights as Israeli citizens. About 19% of the population of Israel are Palestinian Israelis. They have a seat in the government and they live in a beautiful land that has been blooming in the desert from Jewish settlements since before World War II. Without getting into politics, and understanding the antimsemitic slant in the foreign press (and CNN), it’s almost impossible to get a real picture of the life of Arab Israelis. I would refer you to Brigette Gabriel’s book, Because They Hate, for a Christian Arab look at life inside Israel. Also Schmoozing with Elya Katz elyakatz.wordpress.com has a political view not many see these days. All that to say, Israel is one of the most compassionate nations on earth today. They are fighting terrorism and have been since day one of their nation. Hospitality is not the issue – we are seeing the prophecy which was given when Hagar ran into the wilderness with her son, Ishmael, “He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers.” Their hand is raised against their brother.

    I am not an ultra-dispensationalist – I’m not even sure I am a dispensationalist at all – but I am a Christian Zionist (not Hagee’s version) and I do stand firmly on Israel’s side. Declare that bias if you will, but I haven’t found any other Biblical response to our current geo-political situation.

    Thanks for the inter-change. I believe, as I feel you do too, that it will all be worked out in His time, for His Name’s sake.

    Blessings to you ~Michelle.
    I believe Jesus fulfilled all of the Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost) and we are awaiting the Fall Feast fulfillments in this “time of the Gentiles.”

  4. #4 by RogueMinister on April 7, 2008 - 7:08 pm

    I am glad you mentioned A.J. Levine. She is fabulous. I hope to study under her at Vanderbilt some day. I am not fully convinced by her arguments, but I realize more and more it is none of my damn business to try and discern who gets to go to heaven and who doesnt. In the parable of the banquet table in Matthew, Jesus tells us to invite everyone we find to the party, without discrimination. Then later He comes along and ask some guests to leave because they are not in wedding clothes. He makes the decision, not us. It is our job to invite people to the party.

  5. #5 by Christian on April 7, 2008 - 11:26 pm

    I think she writes well and makes a lot of sense that is backed up by scriptures. I don’t agree with everything she suggests – I think that she tends to diminish the role that the Jewish religious leaders had in creating and maintaining a unjust social system with their marrying of their faith tradition and the powers that be (Something that religious leaders have never stopped doing).

    You’re right – it’s not for us to worry about.

  6. #6 by bshelley on April 10, 2008 - 12:23 pm

    Yikes, I should have come back sooner. Good discussion. To Michelle’s premise concerning unfulfilled Abrahamic covenants, I would submit the following for consideration. Certainly the seed promise was fulfilled in Christ. Hopefully we can agree on that one. As for the physical land promise let’s see what the scripture says:

    So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. Joshua 21:43

    “Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. “It shall come about that just as all the good words which the LORD your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you. Joshua 23:14-16

    Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court, and he said, “O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. “Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? “They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying, 2 Chronicles 20:5-8

    ‘You brought Your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and with wonders, and with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm and with great terror; and gave them this land, which You swore to their forefathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. ‘They came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey Your voice or walk in Your law; they have done nothing of all that You commanded them to do; therefore You have made all this calamity come upon them. Jeremiah 32:21-23

    Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. 1 Kings 4:21

    See the boundries of the covenant in Genesis 16:18-21.

    Call me dense, but looks like they thought they got it. God kept all His promise and covenant to Abraham. The land promise was certainly conditional. The conditions are described in Deuteronomy 30:1-10.

    If you contend that they are yet to return, how will they ever meet the requirement of keeping the Law of Moses? Are there to be animal sacrifices again? Why full atonement in Christ then? That was done away with even for the Jews. See Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 3:14 and Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14-15 and Hebrews 7:12. Besides, they already got it.

    God bless.

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