“Are you telling me that if a good person like Nelson Mandela doesn’t accept Jesus’ offer of salvation he can’t get into heaven?”
Without knowing that Nelson Mandela HAS accepted Jesus’ offer of salvation, this was the challenge laid down by an atheist. His point however was clear.
. Are you telling me that if a good person doesn’t have any money, he can’t buy the car?
. Are you telling me that if a good person doesn’t apply for the job, he can’t get it?
. Are you telling me that if a good person doesn’t put the sandwich into his mouth he can’t eat it?
. Are you telling me that if a good person doesn't have the tickets he can't get into the concert?
. Are you telling me that if a good person doesn’t go to the game he can’t be there to watch?
. Are you telling me that if a good person doesn’t accept Jesus' offer of forgiveness he can’t be forgiven?
Yes, that’s what Jesus is telling you. He's saying that we cannot be reconciled to God based on merit, effort or desire. A transaction needs to take place. Either we do something in response to what Jesus has done for us, or nothing happens, nothing changes, we remain God's enemies with the consequences that go along with that. John 3:18,36.
Many atheists rant about this faux dilemma or that Jesus said that He is the only way to God. Like Jesus' comment, "I Am the resurrection," (Without Me there is no resurrection) Jesus is saying that without Him there is no reconciliation with Creator God. Rather than fretting over the fact that there aren't many paths to God, we should be thankful that there is ONE path by which we might escape the loss of eternal hope.