This past week, I was asked to address this question because several people within the Church of Christ have been asked this question. It has been asked to the members of the church, “Do you really believe you are the only ones going to Heaven?” This stands as one of the top three questions people have asked me through the years. I have heard several members of the churches of Christ give a variety of answers, but my initial thought on the matter is, why would someone even ask such a question in the first place? Do people ask this question from other churches? Unlikely.
Firstly, it should not matter what another person believes of someone else’s eternity because God is the only judge, and His Word is all that matters. The world will be judged based on the Word of God (John 12:48). So why ask the question in the first place? Is it to make the member of the Church of Christ look bad because the person asking the question assumes the answer will be, yes? Does the person ask because he/she has heard that the Church of Christ teaches they are the only ones going to Heaven and would like confirmation on the rumor? Whatever the reason, Christians can have a reasonable and fitting response (1 Peter 3:15,16).
The question reflects bias and confusion against those who teach that Christ built one church (Matt. 16:18-19; 1 Cor. 12:12-13). Christ built one church and stated that only His kingdom would be received in His Second Coming (1 Cor. 15:23-24; Matt. 7:21-23). The popular doctrine of Christianity features the idea that as long as one believes in Christ and loves others with sincerity in their hearts then they will go to heaven. The majority of believers hold that all followers should be free to worship God how and where they feel it right in their hearts. Those who teach otherwise have evil spoken of them. It is not politically or socially correct to tell anyone that they are going to Hell, but it is the responsibility of the Christian to teach the truth (2 Tim. 4:2). If the Bible says that only certain people are going to Heaven, then Christians must teach it (John 17:17, 1 Peter 4:11). To the disappointment of many, the Bible does teach that only certain people are going to Heaven (Matt. 22:14).
Who are these certain people that will be accepted into Heaven? Obviously, it will be those who are saved by their obedience to God’s Word. What does God’s Word require of one to be saved in obedience? Christ says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Paul writes, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Paul preaches, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). Christ says, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Peter writes, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Finally, John writes, “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). God commands through the Word that those who are saved must believe, confess, repent, be baptized, and remain faithful.
This plan of salvation is what Christians must teach regardless of people who are offended by it. Being offensive is not the determining factor of whether or not someone is right or wrong. The truth that Jesus spoke was so offensive that people crucified Him and hunted down His followers who taught His doctrine (John 15:18-21, 2 Tim. 3:12). Just because someone is offensive does not mean that he/she is wrong. The aforementioned question is designed to make the members of the Church of Christ appear offensive, but whether or not it is offensive; it must be taught that the Bible requires certain acts of obedience in order to be saved (James 2:24, 26). Only those who teach God’s plan of salvation as it is written in the Word of God can go to heaven (Rev. 22:18-19). Those who teach God’s message correctly, God adds them to His church, the only true and one church that Christ established (Acts 2:47).
Ultimately, there will only be one body of believers, that is one church (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-6), who get to go to Heaven. The strict standard of teaching and inclusion of the Law of Christ that the Church of Christ teaches makes it hard for people to accept, which is why people assume that means they (the churches of Christ) are the only ones that are going to Heaven because many think they are the only ones who teach such a strict doctrine of salvation, but through the years, there have been many people around the world, many groups that have taught the same gospel plan of salvation. They are the united church that Christ established in the 1st century. Perhaps they use different names approved in the scriptures besides “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) to identify themselves, but they are the same church, the same body of believers that Christ established in His name. – Essentially, the answer is that there is only one church going to Heaven, but one cannot always identify them by name alone because God identified His church in scripture by several names (although the one church going to Heaven will be using one of the names mentioned in Scripture); one must identify the one church by their doctrine. Not every group with “Church of Christ” written on the building is teaching the truth, and there can be other groups with other names on the building that teach the truth; the doctrine determines the true identity of the church.