"The way, the truth and the life..."
"What happens to Them after death?"
("Them" can include Jews, Muslims, other sorts of non-Christians, or even *low whisper* non-believers, agnostics and atheists.)
Now, I realize that some of my esteemed brothers and sisters in Christ believe they have an easy answer to this one. They quote a favorite verse, John 14:6, as Jesus' definitive answer to that question:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
And they assume that settles the issue. Christian believers will be welcomed into Heaven, while all others get a ticket on the fast train to Elsewhere.
The thing is, the Bible has this pesky foible: there's more in there than just one verse. There are actually lots of verses, and they say lots of things about Jesus, God, faith, life, and so forth. Which means, as my favorite NT professor often notes, it's more complicated than that.
Even after learning a little in seminary about a couple thousand years of discussion and debate, the short answer is, I don't believe we really know. No one does for sure, except God. But I can tell you what I believe...
First, yes: I believe that Jesus matters. Knowing the Messiah makes a difference. I do believe that. It's why I'm Christian, and a priest.
However, we hear a few other things as well.
1a. We know that for thousands of years before Jesus, God had a covenant with the Hebrew people-- a connection, a relationship, affirmed and reaffirmed, repeatedly. Jesus did not erase that-- as he said, he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17).
1b. Throughout scripture, over and over, we see that ours is a God of second chances. Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab... all the way forward through Samaritans and sinful women and even wayward apostles in the Gospels, God is always giving people another shot, another chance, another opportunity. I could quote verses all day-- it's a consistent theme, from Genesis to Revelation.
So why wouldn't it be true that the people beloved enough to be the ones with whom God's first covenant was made, not have the same sort of second chance option offered them yet again?
2. I believe this is also true for many sorts of non-Christians, especially when you consider what a lousy witness to Jesus we his followers have often been. Never mind history; think about the Christians that make the press in our own day with mean-spirited announcements and/or bad ("UnChristian") behavior: pedophile clergy, money-grubbing televangelists, Ted Haggard, Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, Donald Wildmon, etc. Let alone the far-less-than-perfect rest of us! With this sort of witness to go by, I can see why it would be very hard for a non-believer, looking at the Body of Christ, to accept Jesus as a Savior worth following.
But of course, that is not the fullness of Christ, not by a long shot.
Given all that, I have to believe that God, who so loved the world that he came in the flesh to live with and die for ALL of us, would provide an opportunity at some point to see clearly what Jesus was/is all about-- if not in this life, then perhaps in the next. I do not know how it happens, nor can any of us on this side of eternity; but that's what I believe.