What the Bible says about... Who Is Saved?      

By Rev. John Odhner

There is a common tendency with people to make negative judgments about other people. In high schools, this tendency shows itself in cliques. A few popular kids get into a group, and gradually begin to think that they are better than others because they are better liked. Kids who aren't "in" may become objects of pity, or contempt, or even of cruel jokes. In one way or another the clique passes subtle judgment on the others as being a lower class of human beings.

The same tendency to look down on others shows itself in various religions. Some religious groups become so self-centered that they believe no one of a different faith can go to heaven. When taken to an extreme, this kind of attitude is far more cruel than the snobbish teenage cliques.

The teachings of the Bible are quite a contrast to this. To begin with, God's Word tells us that we should not label people as "saved" or "sinner." Jesus said,

"Judge not, that you be not condemned. Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:1, 3)

The disciple James put it this way: "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?" (James 4:1)

When the Lord was on earth, a judging attitude was prevalent among the leaders of the church. Many thought that when the Messiah came, He would save Jews, and not others. When Jesus did come, they condemned Him for associating with non-Jews and Jews alike.

Jesus discouraged this kind of attitude. Once He was speaking with some people who "trusted in themselves" that they were saved and others were not. He asked them to consider two prayers: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men," and "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Jesus praised the man who thought he was a sinner. (Luke 18:9-14)

It's better to think of yourself as a sinner than to think you are saved.

You may remember the parable of the good Samaritan, too, who stopped to help the wounded man by the roadside. Even though this Samaritan was of the "wrong" faith (from the Jewish point of view), Jesus said that the Samaritan should be loved as a neighbor, because he was a good man. In fact, He said that a person who wants eternal life should be like this Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), even though the Samaritan was neither Christian nor Jewish. Jesus saw - and sees - what is in a person's heart, not just what church one belongs to.

The Bible states clearly that it is the way a person lives, not just what he believes, that determines whether he goes to heaven or not. Jesus said, "Not every one who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

Again, "He shall reward every one according to his works." (Matthew 16:27)

"Those who have done good," He says, will go "to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:29)

Since a person's life, not just his faith, determines his eternal lot, Jesus foretold that many Christians would not be saved, because they had lived an evil life.

"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 27:22-23, Luke 13:25-27)

One reason why a non-Christian can be saved, is that he can love his neighbor. Anyone who genuinely loves his neighbor also loves Christ, although he may not realize it. Jesus said, "Inasmuch as you have ministered to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40)

Faith in Jesus, without love to the neighbor is meaningless.

"Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Genuine love, on the other hand, is a sign that a person knows the Lord in his heart, regardless of the religion he professes outwardly.

"Love believes all things." (1 Corinthians 13:7)

"He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God." (3 John 1:11)

"Let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. God is love, and anyone who abides in love abides in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:7-11)


Some Christian churches teach this: Only Christians are saved.

What the Bible actually says (and what the New Christian Church teaches): Good people from all religions are saved.

Some references from teachings for the New Christian Church : Heaven and Hell 318-328, Divine Providence 326

Used with the permission of John Odhner, the author of this very useful site:

The Bible


Matthew 16:27

King James Version         

Study the Inner Meaning

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27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of Matthew 16      

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Verse 1. That they of the perverse church are desirous to be convinced in their understandings respecting truth, but without any regard to good in their wills.

Verses 2, 3. Therefore they do not know the Lord at His coming, and live at ease in their evils; or if they do know Him, they seek to destroy Him.

Verse 4. And by requiring to be persuaded intellectually, without regard to their lives, they prove that they have perverted the Word, and are incapable of being persuaded, because all persuasion is from the Word.

Verses 5, 6. This therefore ought to be attended to by those who are of the church, in whom the life of heavenly love and charity is not yet fully formed.

Verses 7, 8. And who on that account are apt to be misled by vain reasonings.

Verses 9, 10. And to forget the repeated communications of the Divine Mercy and Love.

Verses 11, 12. And not to consider that the Lord speaks by correspondences, and that therefore His Word ought not to be interpreted according to the letter only, but according to its internal spiritual sense and meaning.

Verses 13, 14. That they who are of the church ought to enquire concerning the Lord's Humanity, so as not to confound it with that of other men.

Verses 15, 16. Because the faith of the church teaches that the Lord's Humanity is the eternal Word, consequently Divine.

Verse 17. Which faith is blessed, because not of man, but of the Divine Good.

Verses 18, 19. And it is therefore the foundation of the church in man; and its security against the influx of evils and falsities from hell, and the opener of heaven, and the conjoining medium between the external and internal man.

Verse 20. Nevertheless it can only be received by those who are principled in good and truth.

Verse 21. These, therefore, are instructed concerning the Lord's temptations, and the glorification thereby of His Humanity.

Verses 22, 23. But they who are in faith alone oppose this doctrine, and thus immerse themselves in infernal falsities, by setting their own understandings above the Divine Truth.

Verse 24. Whereas they ought rather to reject the suggestions of the proprium, and endure temptations, by fighting against cravings, and approach to, and worship the Lord in His glorified Humanity.

Verses 25, 26. Since, in so doing, they would attain conjunction of life with the Lord, which is a good infinitely greater than any temporal good whatever.

Verse 27. And this good would be communicated when the Lord shall appear, and through the union of the Divine Truth with Divine Good in Himself shall conjoin those heavenly principles in all, according to the faculty of conjunction acquired by their lives.

Verse 28. In which case they will no longer experience any separation of life from the Divine Being, but will behold heaven continually open through the Lord's Divine Humanity.

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2349, 3934, 5922, 6073, 8256, 9282, 9293, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 273, 641, 642, 643, 839

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 110

Conjugial Love 524

Divine Providence 128

Doctrine of the Lord 25

Doctrine of Life 2, 105

Heaven and Hell 471

True Christian Religion 113, 376, 440, 483, 643

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 63, 98, 200, 250, 785, 875

Marriage 113

Scriptural Confirmations 6, 68

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

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