Will You See Your Catholic Family Members or Friends in Heaven?
(Excerpts taken from the book of the same name, by John J. Briggle, 2018)
OPENING… I am not an apologist for Catholicism, yet, in an effort of full disclosure, I was raised Catholic and thought of myself as a Catholic forever. That’s just the teaching. So, after backsliding, living in the world, and fulfilling the lusts of the flesh for many years, what next? Am I still a Catholic?
Today, I do not pigeon-hole my faith under any specific denomination—nope, not even Catholicism, or any other “-ism.” I am self-described as a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Jesus-following, John 3:3, 5 Christian. Notice, I do not categorize myself as a Protestant nor a Catholic, nor any of the other off-shoots of those teachings. Religion is corrupt; Jesus is not.
This dissertation will only touch on the surface details, emphasis on major beliefs and doctrines.
Mainstream Protestants do not believe that Catholics are Christian, nor do they call them Christian. To me, that is puzzling, as they are followers of Jesus Christ, which is what the word Christian means. (The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Christianos—“followers of Christ”, Gr#5546, pg 99). Mainstream Protestants have an arrogant viewpoint of themselves, having captured the “truth” through teachings that essentially began in the early 16th century. Up until then?
Catholics teach that they are right and if you are not Catholic you will not go to heaven. Protestants think they are correct and any other way is the wrong way. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a better answer. Seventh Day Adventists, Messianic Jews, on and on. So, who is correct?
The Catholic population of the world is about 1.8 billion, or over 50% of the Christian population (if one considers Catholics as Christian). Hey, they all can’t be wrong, can they? One thing for certain is that we do not judge correctness or truth by consensus. If 51% of Christians say abortion is okay, the majority, therefore, concludes that the world should accept abortion as morally acceptable, right? Sadly, about 51% of Christians do believe abortion is morally acceptable and does not violate Biblical understanding. (The Bible is not a smorgasbord; we do not get to decide what we like and what we don’t like, and disregard the rest.) Repeating: truth is not measured by consensus; truth is measured solely by God’s Word. We know abortion is not okay.
The way the Catholic Church swept under the rug, and continues to do so, all those sexual predators and deviants is repulsive and inexcusable; there is no defense! All those priests and others? God will definitely judge them in His righteous manner. “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.” Rom 12:19 (NASB) I have news for you, friends, there have been Protestant preachers who have been found guilty of many of the same kinds of acts. Man is a sinful creature and it is obvious that corruption is not exempt from the pulpit of any denomination.
Moving forward, if this sounds like total criticism of the Catholic church, you may find it a defense, but only to the point that it honors God and His unchanging Holy Word. The Catholic Church has been consistently strong throughout all the centuries regarding abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage, frankly, much stronger than the changing cultural attitudes within main-stream Protestantism. God’s Word has never changed; man is fickle and always changing.
As a Christian apologist (emphasis: Christian apologist, not Catholic), I hold firm that the Holy Bible is the authentic inspired Word of God, recorded in written form by over 40 writers. The Bible has survived every challenge of authenticity since its inception and I move forward believing it is the most trusted book ever compiled.
The Catholic Bible includes 14 additional books known as the Deuterocanonical books, or Apocrypha, but were also in the early King James Version for about 274 years until dropped in 1885. The Apocrypha books were never considered the inspired Word of God but do supplement the Holy Bible from a historical vantagepoint, especially the two books of the Maccabees. I have read all fourteen books and the Maccabees, filling in the 400 year gap between the writings of Malachi and Matthew, especially do provide insightful information on the Jewish state and their survival from the second century B.C. to the first coming of Jesus Christ.
This writing was inspired by a conversation I over-heard the other day that centered on Christian brethren who have friends and family members who are Catholic and are not “born again,” therefore, missing out on the kingdom of Heaven. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an apologist for Catholicism, but there are severe misunderstandings about the world’s largest religious sect. Based upon the Word of Truth, the Holy Bible, there will be many so-called Protestants and so-called Catholics who will not enter the kingdom of Heaven. The insertion of “so-called” is necessary because many do not truly live according to their faith.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matt 7:13, 14 There are many deceptions from the pulpit today and within all denominations of Christianity (which is why there are so many off-shoots; all thinking they have the correct translation, interpretation, or understanding).
This dissertation is going to focus on main-stream Protestantism and Catholicism, particularly the latter. Will Catholics go to heaven? According to Protestant teaching, works are not required, only faith in Jesus Christ. What that means is a debate for another time, but for simplification, most Christians agree on the following verse: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9, 10 Guess what, Martin Luther Protestants, Catholics believe that, too! Yes, they believe that Jesus Christ was crucified, was buried and rose from the dead! The same Jesus of Nazareth that Protestants believe in.
But, but, wait, it says that “by grace we are saved by faith; it is a gift of God. Not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph 2:8, 9 According to Protestants, by their own criteria, that should not be a disqualifier for the Catholic, because they do have the pre-described faith that is the only thing many Protestants claim is required. Then the question arises, can one combine faith with works? “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Jas 2:26
Maybe this analogy fits: A man takes his family to the movie theater and the cashier says, “That’ll be $28 for all of you.” The dad gives the cashier two $20 bills and says, “Keep the change.” But sir, you only need $28 to get in….” Dad fulfills what is required to get in, then gives more. It wasn’t necessary to give any extra and the cashier did not say, “Well then, sir, none of you can get in because you gave too much.” Is God not going to let you into heaven because you did a little extra?
There is a real conundrum present here. Protestants claim faith is salvation, yet they disqualify Catholics for their faith with works, yet the Bible says faith without works is dead. Many Catholics and Protestants alike do not live according to their faith. Rem ember earlier when I included “so-called?” Works are the evidence of one’s faith, a changed lifestyle that includes love for others, taking care of the poor and the elderly, and living toward a holy and righteous life. You are supposed to be a new creation in Christ Jesus, living in the Spirit of God because the Holy Spirit is in you. “Do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” 1 Cor 3:16 If the Holy Spirit is truly in you, you will be convicted in your thoughts, actions, and have an enriched desire to please God. Your responsibility is immense as being the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s something not too many Christians realize or remember that the early church was known as “katholikos,” (Greek) or “universal.” Look familiar? You guessed it: catholic (lower case “c.”) If one was an early Christian, he/she was probably thought of as a member of the catholic church (again, lower case “c”, universal church.). Except for smaller splinter offshoots, Catholics dominated the early church. The early Crusades were the then organized Catholic Church warring against invaders, first against Mohammad in the 7th century, into its regions, and beyond. If not for the Catholic Crusades that continued into the middle of the second century, much more of the world would be Muslim today. Catholicism dominated until the mid-16th century when the great Protestant Reformation period would begin with Martin Luther leading the way, followed by Andreas Karlstadt and Philip Melanchthon at Wittenberg, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin and others followed to this date.
Thousands of books are written regarding the rivalry between the various denominations, who is right, who holds the key to salvation. The Holy Bible does not use descriptive words like Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Methodist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Those are man’s creations, not God’s. God probably cringes at every categorized stereotype of the various factions of Christianity.
Martin Luther (a Catholic himself who never denounced his Catholic affiliation but was excommunicated, in 1517, tacked his famous 95 Theses on the doorways and lampposts in Rome and surrounding area, never declaring that Catholics wouldn’t go to heaven because they didn’t believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but instead appealing for debate on corruption within the Catholic Church, their doctrine of indulgences, and on many other topics like works as a means of salvation. Accordingly, I, too, am not defending many of the non-Biblical doctrines of Catholicism.
Catholicism established the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Did you know that the three-in-one Holy Trinity was not officially endorsed by man until the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, by the Catholic Church? Up until then there was contention within the church. The word trinity is not in the Bible, an argument that Jehovah’s Witnesses and others use to support their doctrine. The word I prefer is Godhead, which does appear in the Holy Bible, and effectively establishes the three-in-one equality of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. Yes, Catholics believe in the Holy Trinity, too—they established it!
Enough of the brief history lesson. I do have one question for you to ponder, though. So, if most Christians were “Catholic” before the Protestant Reformation and were not focused on the “saved by grace” phenomenon, have they all been enduring the torments in hell all these years? Catholics, the universal church, were known as Christians from their beginning, but many Protestants nowadays say they are not Christians at all. How the definitions change….
“I (Jesus) did not come to save the righteous, but the sinner to righteousness.” Lk 5:32 The righteous already figure they have the way to salvation by their own pride and self-righteousness. The sinner, you and me, needs Jesus in their lives. Make sure your own house is in order before you begin to condemn others; “remove the plank from your own eye first, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matt 7:5
As Jesus uses us as His vessels here on earth, we do so according to His Holy Word, not by the doctrine of religious organizations. Do you think you are saved while Catholics are not? “Examine yourselves whether you are of the faith; test yourself. Do you not know that Christ Jesus is in you? Unless, indeed, you are disqualified.” 1 Cor 13:5 Are you living in faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Are you submitting fully to your Master? With evidence of your faith in your actions and demeanor? Can you be obedient to God without it being “works”? If you “do” to please God, is that “works”? And if you “do works,” are you then disqualified from your faith? If by having saving-faith, then if you live your life as Jesus did, is that a “works” issue because you are “living a good life,” you are “doing,” and thus, disqualified?
Here’s where the “works doctrine” can get real goofy, and believe me, there are Christians who teach this: To try to do works for salvation is works doctrine; to try not to do works is works, to try to not to do to not do is works, to do not to do not to do not… Works! Here is my simple advice that I think you all understand: RELAX! You know the difference between right and wrong, you know what it means to be obedient to God, you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You know that you are saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest anyone gets all puffed up and boasts in his/her own accomplishments and self-righteousness. You are not saved by the denomination you worship under.
Can anyone tell me where the Bible says anything that would disqualify a Catholic from being born again? Worshipping and honoring false idols would be a major one, for certain. The Bible indicates anyone can come to Jesus and be born again. There are many Protestants who disqualify themselves from the kingdom of heaven by their own worshipping of false idols, living in the flesh, fulfilling the lusts, living a life contrary to God. Jesus challenged the Pharisees and other accusers when He drew the line in the sand: “Anyone who is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her.” Jn 8:7 Again, make sure your own house is in order before you self-legislate who is worthy of the kingdom of God.
Distinction: Legalism and the “law” are apart from works, though one may strive toward salvation through that legalism—that is in error. The whole salvation-by-works doctrine is totally misunderstood. It simply means one cannot do good deeds or simply be a good person doing good works to get into God’s heavenly kingdom.
One cannot “buy” his/her way into heaven. Many from the pulpit, yes, even Protestants, teach that the “more you give the church the greater blessings you will receive (thirty, sixty, hundredfold!), the better room and view you will have in the mansion God has prepared for you in heaven, or similar. Let no one convince you that God’s blessings can be bought; God’s grace, love and blessings are not for sale! One thing the Bible is very clear on is that we can’t do it on our own; we needed Jesus Christ to die on the cross and rise from the grave.
Many churches lead people to salvation through a somewhat universal “Salvation Prayer,” or “Sinners’ Prayer.” This is not totally Biblical either, but many claim that once professed, this profession of faith saves that person for eternity no matter what they do. Catholics use the same prayer. So, what’s good for one is not good for another?
Jesus was very clear that he opposed hypocrites. Is voicing a salvation prayer all it takes to be saved, and it’s good for Protestants but not Catholics?
My mother, a staunch Catholic, very interestingly couldn’t wait to watch a Billy Graham Crusade on TV. I would ask, “Mom, what is the fascination?” Though Catholic, she recognized something different in the brief sermons from this Protestant evangelist. Billy Graham’s message was always short, powerful, and without a doubt was less substance-filled than your typical Sunday morning sermon, yet thousands marched from their seats to “give their life to the Lord.” My mother knew she was missing something from her upbringing, from her understanding of God and Jesus, but mostly from an indoctrination by the Catholic church.
It’s worth repeating again, I am not a Catholic apologist, so don’t categorize me as one defending their errors, scandals, and corruptions. Are Catholics Christians? They believe in the same Christ Jesus. They believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the Trinity, three as One. They believe that Jesus was persecuted, crucified, died on the cross at Calvary, and rose from the dead. That’s what you believe, too, isn’t it? Are they going to heaven? Many will, many won’t, the same with all other denominations of the Christian faith. Hypocrites! So-called Christians. (There’s that phrase again.) Do Catholics acquire the required born again condition? Many do, many do not. Are Protestants born again? Many are, many are not.
Do an internet search of the Nicene Creed or the Apostle’s Creed, both Catholic originations. Both establish much of the Catholic doctrine that continues to this day. Compare it to what you believe. Does it sound like they are Christian? It’s what they practice that causes eyebrows to raise.
This is an important Scripture verse that many forget, that God enlarged hell and not heaven: “Therefore, Sheol has enlarged itself and opened its mouth beyond measure. Their glory and their multitude and their pomp, and he who is jubilant shall descend into it.” Isaiah 5:14 As people are drawn further and further from our Lord and Savior, through deception or simply a desire to enjoy the lusts of this world, hell is awaiting, and there is plenty of room for those fallen from the grace of God.
Will God punish Catholics for their doctrinal errors such as honoring the Pope as “God on earth,” for indulgences, for their belief in purgatory, for their requirement of keeping the holy sacraments? I, my friends, cannot make that judgment; that is for He who created us and that judgment awaits us all! Catholics do not have to give up their Catholicism to be born again; that is not the error of their ways. What they must do is receive Jesus before all other names and call upon His name, putting no one as His equal. God is God of this earth, not the Pope. Jesus is where the power is, not in one’s favorite ordained saint. The Holy Bible is the authoritative Word of God; man can never assimilate His ways and change doctrine contrary to the original Word. The Pope with a board of Catholic Cardinals cannot change the Gospel message or any of its meaning. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Heb 13:8
Here is a real no-brainer: Jesus is Jesus is God is Jesus! He is not the Pope, Elijah, Mohammad, Buddha, Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Santa Claus, on and on. Jesus is the only one who rose from the dead, defying all natural laws. How was that possible? Because He is God, manifested in the flesh, super-natural in powers, and we should be so thankful that He did that for us!
Since the Bible is the authoritative THRUTH, we can definitively declare that the designation of a pope as leader of all Christians is man-made, not Biblical. The Bible talks about bishops, apostles, and deacons, and none of them were to have authority over anyone else, but to serve God in service in the church. Also, as emphasized before, the Pope is not God on earth and has no authority over other Christians. We worship and serve God directly. A pope is human, fallible, sinful. God is none of that!
Key point I want to make is this; rather than partake in persecution of your Catholic brethren, take a look at your own self first. “Examine yourselves whether you are of the faith. Test yourself.” 2 Cor 13:5 Are you honoring and glorifying God in the way you live? If Jesus was with your every step, would He approve of every action you take, every decision you make, and every word you speak? Would you cuss and swear like a drunken sailor if Jesus was at your side? Would you take that package of paper from your employer’s office when no one is looking?
As flawed human beings, including the Pope, we all have idols, though many not apparent immediately to one’s heart. Every time the Pope goes on a world tour, many clamor to be present during his motorcade, lining the streets, worshipping and praising him as he moves by. They crowd the large, heavily-guarded plazas where he speaks, awaiting a special anointing as if they are one of the multitudes who followed Jesus nearly 2000 years ago. Interestingly, not just Catholics but Protestants, atheists, unbelievers, politicians who despise Christianity and pass laws censoring God’s Word, all cascade to be part of these extravaganzas. Many fall down as if touched by God’s fingertips, all because they are in the presence of the Pope. This, my friends, is the highest form of idol worship we have right now on earth.
To be fair, Evangelist Billy Graham attracted similar crowds for the “other” side of Christianity, for Protestants. Similarly, unbelievers, politicians, etc. all wanted what the Evangelist had to give. Neither the Pope, Evangelist Graham, nor any other human can give anything spiritual; it all comes from God!
This writing is intended to give hope to you and your Catholic friends or family members and ease your burden of their salvation. Encourage your Catholic friends to seek the truth that is in the Holy Bible. Don’t be afraid of them to discuss Jesus—they know who He is! Educate them to know that they can go directly to Jesus in prayer. They can go directly to Jesus to confess their sins, repent, and He will restore that which is lost. No intercessor is necessary; cut out the middle man! A personal relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ will enrich everyone’s spirit.
One last very important note: each individual is responsible for his/her own salvation; no one else can make that critical free-will decision, to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. When your loved ones die, their salvation is on them; their souls cannot be prayed out of purgatory nor hell. It’s too late, so let that also be a reminder to make sure our own house is in order before it’s too late.
In closing, if you do not know Jesus, I pray that you will decide this day to do so, develop a personal one-on-one relationship with Him, your Lord and Savior, the only way into heaven. You will become a “new creation in Christ, old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Cor 5:17 If you do not know how to do this, ask a good Christian friend, or go to my website at www.fortylessone.com. Above all, seek the truth, as only “the truth shall make you free.” Jn 8:32 The TRUTH will set you free, not a false sense of security under an umbrella coverage like Catholicism, nor any other denomination, for that matter. The TRUTH is in the Bible. Remember mostly, it’s not religion you are seeking but a true relationship with Jesus Christ. He is waiting. “Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Cor 6:2 Amen.
Read the Bible; study it diligently. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15
I love you all; share your love with others. A big Hallelujah and another AMEN!