7.4 Salvation In Hinduism
Death is real. Many Bible passages stress the unconsciousness of the grave. There is a real pain in the loss of loved ones, which Hinduism seeks to obscure. But death and loss are real and they can be deeply painful; this pain is real and not foolish illusion, as Hinduism bids us think. Death and loss are not to be ignored, and they teach fundamental lessons for mankind. Jesus Christ came not only to provide forgiveness on the cross, but has broken the power of death to those who trust Him, through His resurrection. As we have said, through baptism into His death and resurrection, we have the personal hope of a resurrection like His (Rom. 6:3-5). He could say in sober truth: “Because I live, you will live also”. Hinduism claims that the power of sacrifice depends not upon moral fitness but upon the correct ritual of sacrifice. Yet the whole purpose of the death of Jesus was that here was a perfect man, who never sinned, who overcame every aspect of our humanity, who died for us. And we can identify with that sacrifice and be counted as if we too have died to sin, and thus we will share in the inevitable corollary of His perfect sacrifice, i.e. His resurrection to eternal life.
According to the Bible, the first lie was ‘You will not really die’. Hinduism and many other false religions, including those who believe in an ‘immortal soul’ within Christendom, are merely repeating that essential lie.
The Biblical message concerns the establishment of the Kingdom of God on this earth, to be inhabited eternally by those who in this life have accepted His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and lived His life. They will thus share the eternity of that life at His return. This is in sharp contrast to the Hindu idea that “You are the world. When you transform yourself, the world you live in will also be transformed.”
“Vaishnava Hinduism states in its major writings, the Puranas, that the god Vishnu causes a cyclic manifestation and dissolution of the world. Each cosmic cycle (mahayuga) has four ages (Krita Yuga – 1,728,000 years, Treta Yuga – 1,296,000 years, Dvapara Yuga – 864,000 years and Kali Yuga – 432,000 years) followed by the dissolution (pralaya) of the physical world. The whole cycle is repeated 994 times, which is a period called kalpa, and then a dissolution (pralaya) of both the physical and subtle world follows. 36,000 kalpas and pralayas make the lifespan of Brahma, the creator god, which is followed by a total dissolution (mahapralaya) of the physical, subtle and causal world. Then all worlds, time and space return into Brahman, and the whole cycle starts again in an endless process of manifestation and dissolution”.
All these figures appear to be quite arbitrary. There is no actual evidence that this is true at all. I would argue that Hinduism is merely seeking to make intellectually acceptable the essential nihilism and hopelessness which there is in all those outside of Christ. Churchill admitted: “Our problems are beyond us”. Jean-Paul Sartre likewise: “There is no exit from the human dilemma”. And Hinduism effectively says the same, wrapped up in religious terms. The Bible teaches something far more hopeful- that God created this world out of love, in order to give Him pleasure, in order to give His people the highest possible level of joyful existence. Creation was not therefore a mere necessity, due to its cyclical nature. It was a consciously achieved act of love, a decision was made by God and acted upon. The cycle of Hinduism is most depressing- there is no ultimate plan nor progression, and everything comes to nothing in the end. Biblical Christianity offers the wonderful prospect of eternal life in a real, concrete, definable Kingdom to be established on earth. The effort which we put into character development now will be eternally reflected in the persons we will eternally be. This adds a zest and urgency to human life and character development. It’s why true Christians read their Bibles daily in order to fervently know the mind of God and to be changed by His Spirit. This is based on the teaching of the Bible, rather than the confused and variant oral traditions of Indian philosophers handed down through human traditions. There is absolutely no evidence of the length of the four ages- if, e.g., a priest somewhere taught that the Kali Yuga age lasts 420,000 years rather than 432,000, who could prove him wrong? The whole thing is so lacking in meaningful doctrine. In the Bible, each doctrine has meaning in practice, and each one connects into other doctrines within the framework of the Christian faith. What practical, logical or moral difference would it make, for example, if the lifespan of Brahma is 6,000 kalpas and not 36,000? Or 360,000? These figures are purely arbitrary.
The Bible promises clearly that this planet will not be destroyed. God is a saviour God, not a destructive, vengeful being. He has a purpose which He will execute and towards which all things are related and purposeful. Consider these Bible verses:
“The earth which he hath established for ever” (Ps. 78:69).
“The earth abideth for ever” (Ecc. 1:4).
“Sun and moon...stars...heavens...he hath also established them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass” (Ps. 148:3-6).
“The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9; Num. 14:21) - difficult, if God lets the earth destroy itself. This promise has not yet been fulfilled.
“God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it; he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited” (Is. 45:18). If God made earth only to see it destroyed, then His work was in vain. And yet the Hindu view of endless cyclical destruction implies that everything was created in vain. One can’t believe both the Bible and the Hindu writings.
Right back in Genesis God had promised all this to Noah. As he began to live again in the new world created by the flood, perhaps Noah feared that there could be another wholesale destruction. Whenever it started raining after the flood, this thought must have come to his mind. And so God made a covenant (a series of promises) that this would never happen again.
“I, behold, I establish my covenant with you...I will establish my covenant with you (notice the emphasis on “I” - the wonder of God choosing to make promises to mortal man!); neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen. 9:9‑ 12).
This covenant was confirmed by the rainbow. “When I bring a cloud (of rain) over the earth, the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant...between me and you...the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth...This (rainbow) is the token of the covenant” (Gen. 9:13-17).
You can see rainbows today. The Bible has meaning for human life in practice. The rainbow is an eternal covenant between God and the people and animals of the earth, it follows that the earth must have people and animals living on it forever. This in itself is proof that God’s Kingdom will be on earth rather than in heaven. God has an eternal purpose with man upon this earth; He would not destroy the planet which He had promised to Abraham’s children as their eternal inheritance. And this is the promise which Paul says is at the heart of the Christian Gospel (Gal. 3:8). We find therefore that the Bible is full of literal descriptions of the literal kingdom which is to come upon the earth.