This question touches on topics that need a lengthy explanation for the reader to have a sound understanding. Consequently, though at first glance the question may appear to some to be emminently easy, a simple answer will not do. The answer that might be most popular, and tweetable, is to say, “When you stand before God, He is not going to ask to what denomination you belonged.” Such an answer, those possibly accurate, skips over some crucial truths. A sound bite answer will not suffice. The most Biblically accurate answer to this question is neither. When the saved person stands forth for judgment, his salvation is not based upon himself or his church. When God looks at any one to determine his fitness for heaven, God looks at the finished work of Jesus and if that work has been applied ot the individual’s heart. The saved person’s heart is righteous because it has been made new by Jesus. The saved person’s heart is clean because all guilt has been washed away by Jesus. If God were to base salvation on the sincerity of the person’s heart none would have hope of salvation. When God looks at the saved, He looks at Jesus. Salvation has nothing to do with sincerity of heart or denominational affiliation, but on Jesus’ work and if that work has been applied by faith to the sinful heart of an individual.
No saved Christian will face judgment to determine if he will enter heaven. At a person’s salvation, Heaven is secured. At death the believer goes immediately into the presence of Jesus. Paul points to this in Philippians 1:23 when he says he desires to depart this life and be with Christ. When Jesus speaks of the death of the righteous beggar in Luke 16, the righteous man enters immediately into heaven. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. These verses all imply that at death the saved immediately enter heaven, without any kind of trial to determine if they deserve to be there.
Though the believer enters directly into heaven without an entrance examination, he does face a judgment. The judgment faced by the believer has nothing to do with salvation. The judgment of the Christian is not a judgment of guilt or innocence, but a judgment of service. 2 Corinthians 5 says every Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and will be rewarded according to the service he has rendered in this life. 1 Corinthians 3 says the Christian will be rewarded or lose reward based upon his service, but all believers will be saved though some may have no reward in heaven. What will be the subject matter at that judgment? The passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians say the believers judgment will be one regarding service and good works. This author thinks it plausible that such judgment will consider church involvement, but cannot say so with certainty. What is certain is the believer’s judgment will be one of accountability for the way he has served his Master. Those who have faithfully used the resources entrusted to him for the increase of God’s kingdom will be rewarded. Those who have squandered the resources will be rebuked. Such rebuke is not condemnation to eternal punishment but is the loss of potential reward for misusing the Master’s resources.
Lest this article run over long, the answer will be continued in the next article.