Probably everyone thinks about salvation occasionally. Who will go to Heaven--you, me, him? Who knows?

The various denominations of Christianity give somewhat different answers.

Some groups answer "Pretty much everybody." The procedure is to be baptized (usually as an infant) and then, if you don't mess up too badly before you die, you're in!

Some groups answer "Nobody but us." Most of these believe that God created them to straighten out the rest of Christianity. The problem is, of course, that they think that they obey God while nobody else obeys him, and they think that they are saved because of their obedience. But any casual observer has little problem noticing the hundreds of places where these folks display their imperfections. If obedience wins the prize, they come up short.

Some groups answer "Who cares?" They believe that we should focus our attention on this world rather than Heaven. Obviously they don't really believe in Heaven, because a real Heaven would be infinitely more important than this world. Upon examination they probably would reveal that they don't believe much else that's in the Bible, either.

Behind these answers lie certain beliefs concerning revelation, that is, how does God communicate his will to us?

Some trust their church. This is particularly true for some Catholics and Greek Orthodox. They believe that their churches are God's presence on earth and cannot err. Of course popes, councils, and traditions do not all agree--so somebody erred. Trusting a church is risky business.

The "just us" people limit salvation to those who hear God perfectly. Miss it by a hair and you're toast. But it seems unlikely that God would send his son to die for the sins of the world, invite everyone to come and be saved, and then limit it to those who were bright enough to get all of their ducks in a row.

Having ministered the word of God for a number of years, I've come to believe that right opinions have very little impact on one's salvation. This is not to say that "almost everybody" is saved--far from it! I think that the opposite is true. (Jesus said that the gate into life is narrow and few find it.) I think that very few of the people we see around us day-by-day are going to Heaven. But it's not because of their opinions. The matter is more basic.

Don't we all agree that the Bible teaches repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ? Catholics, Baptists, and everyone in between know that this is in the Bible. But how many actually do these two things?

Repentance means a real change of mind. If you're not ready to quit your sin, you're not repentant. This is true for every Protestant who "goes forward" at the end of a meeting and makes a decision, and for every Catholic who confesses and does penance. If you haven't changed your mind, you haven't repented.

Faith in Christ means more than mere mental assent. Even demons have this much faith, yet they remain demons. To believe in Christ sincerely involves trusting him exclusively. Do you still think that your acts of obedience can compensate for your sins? Then you are trusting in your obedience. Maybe you are trusting in the fact that you belong to the "right" church. But honestly, is everybody in that church going to Heaven? If not, then the church itself can't do the trick. Quit trusting in it.

Repentance and faith. Most people miss it because of pride and dishonesty. They love their sin and refuse to repent, even though they claim otherwise. Or they think too highly of themselves, don't trust Christ, and intend to slide through Judgment Day on a wing and a prayer because they think that they really aren't "all that bad."

My conclusion: people don't miss Heaven because of wrong opinions or the wrong church; they miss Heaven because they never get serious about the two things that matter the most: repentance and faith.

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