While preaching through Obadiah I asked the questions, “Do you think there wont be Catholics in heaven; do you think there wont be any Mormons in heaven?” Though I thought the context of my query was well framed, it’s been brought to my attention that these questions stirred even more in some listeners. So, a broader explanation is in order.
I do not believe there are denominational distinctions in eternity. Those who experience the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14b) will not be able to distinguish what earthly affiliation their fellow citizens practiced. The differences we see this side of heaven will be extinguished by our Lord’s glory. So, technically Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians and every other earthly designation disintegrates in heaven.
This said, I believe there will be (are) those who now think of themselves as Mormons, Catholics, Lutherans and other non-conservative evangelicals in heaven. Here’s why.
Scripture teaches there are five essentials for someone to be born again: (1) An understanding of personal sin and need for salvation, Rom 3:23. (2) The persuading work of God in the unsaved person, John 6:44. (3) A recognition by him or her that Jesus Christ is God, sent by the Father to die for their sins, was buried, rose after three days and ascended to heaven, Rom 10:9. (4) Repentance of sins, Luke 13:3. (5) A trusting faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord which leads to a transformed life, 2 Cor 5:17. I do not propose that the doctrinal teachings and practices of biblically compromised faith’s lead to salvation, but that God’s gracious offer of eternal life through Christ alone (John 14:6) can penetrate even the most corrupted teaching to reach an unbeliever. To say it another way, if someone can be saved out of a life of alcoholism, drug addiction and prostitution another can be plucked from the ravages of perverted theology.
If a person is saved while in an unbiblical church wouldn’t he or she automatically leave it to find one that teaches the unadulterated Word of God? Although this is the ideal response to saving faith in Jesus Christ, God doesn’t always get what He wants from us. I only need to look at my own life to know this is true. Here are some reasons people might stay in an unChristian faith. Missionaries cite instances of converted Muslims continuing to give lip service to their Islamic tradition in order to avoid being killed by family members. A wife may honor her pre-conversion marriage by participating in her husbands false religion with a view to leading him to biblical salvation (1 Peter 3:1-2). Although, Rahab is named in the Bible’s faith hall of fame (Hebrews 11:31) Scripture gives no evidence that she practiced the religion of the spies she hid by faith. Some converts stay in their belief tradition because God “plants” them as witnesses for Himself. Finally, some may stay out of spiritual ignorance or weakness.
I conclude with one more observation. What I write about here is not the norm. Accepting Christ as Savior in a faith that does not preach or teach the Lord of Scripture is out of the ordinary. Hearing and responding to His still small voice of salvation amid the Fajr, Islamic morning prayers, is exceptional indeed. But God’s sovereign call can penetrate the darkness wherever it exists.