You can be just a "Christian." Does this sound strange?
With over 400 religious bodies in the United States it might appear impossible to be a Christian without being part of a denomination. It is not only possible, but there are actually millions of "Christians only" in this and other nations.
THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST
Who are these people who seek to be only "Christians"? The congregations of which they are a part are usually known as "churches of Christ." This term is not used in a sectarian sense, but is intended to denote their desire to belong to Christ's church. The Bible says, "The churches of Christ greet you." (Rom. 16:16). However, it is just as correct to describe the church as "the church of God" (I Cor. 1:2), "the body of Christ" (I Cor. 12:27), or "the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). These and similar Biblical phrases are not proper names, but descriptive expressions which show how the church is related to Christ and His Father.
Individually, Christ's followers are known as "Christians" in the Bible. "The disciples were first called 'Christians' in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter" (I Pet. 4:16). Never does a human name prefix this God given name. Paul was one of the greatest of all Christians, but he did not want disciples to be called "Paulites" or "Paulite Christians." (I Cor. 1:10-17).
A DISTINCTIVE PLEA
Churches of Christ have a distinctive plea. Of course in many ways, we agree with others striving to follow Christ. We believe in the divine inspiration of the entire Bible and that it is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith; in the death of Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins; and that after death all men will be rewarded or punished in another life for the way they have lived here. And with all people of religious conviction we insist that the moral principles of Jesus are absolute truths to be exemplified in the personal righteousness of the child of God.
The Bible ONLY
However, we not only believe that the scriptures are inspired, but also are convicted that the New Testament must be our ONLY guide in religious faith. God's Word frequently warns us against changing the divine message (see Gal. 1:6-9). We, therefore, have no creed or catechism to present, but accept Christ as our only creed and the Bible as our only guidebook. In this way we are never prevented by an erroneous creed from accepting any truth which may be learned from God's Word.
RESTORATION Rather Than Reformation
It is obvious to thinking people that the religious world is badly divided. Great leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin sought to correct erroneous teachings and practices. But the reformers often started at different points and thus arrived at different conclusions. Division rather than unity has resulted.
Churches of Christ, on the other hand, plead for the restoration of apostolic Christianity rather than a reformation of existing religious bodies. Since all can agree that the early church was right, we should also be able to agree that we cannot be wrong (John 8:32) if we succeed in reproducing that church today in every essential part. While many things have changed in the present century, the teachings of Jesus and His apostles have not. Truth is absolute and unchangeable. God's Word is truth (John 17:17) and can save today as surely as in the first century if applied in the same way. "The truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
Should you visit one of the churches of Christ you will find us worshipping God as did the early disciples -- "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). You will observe that we partake of the Lord's supper, or communion, every Sunday. This is because we are following the example of the early Christians who assembled every first day of the week to "break bread" (See Acts 20:7). Likewise, in every other way churches of Christ seek to reproduce New Testament Christianity -- in organization, in work, and in other areas of teaching.
HOW TO BE JUST A "CHRISTIAN"
In few issues is there so much disagreement as in answering the Bible question, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). Here again churches of Christ reply by going to the scriptures for their answer. The Bible teaches that Christ shed His blood for our sins (Matt. 26:28), and that without it we cannot be saved (Heb. 9:22). But what does Jesus require of us if we are to appropriate that sacrifice? Those who crucified Him were told to "know assuredly" or believe that Jesus is "both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
When these people on the day of Pentecost then asked for further information, they were told, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). Today we teach as did the apostles then, that for Christ's blood to remove our sins we must believe in Him, repent, and be baptized. As we are thus saved from our sins, the Lord adds us to His body, the church. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). "For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body" (I Cor. 12:13). The saved, then, are in the body or church of Christ; one cannot be saved and be outside this body.
The early disciples were Christians only. Although we live 1900 years later, we, too, can be "Christians only" if we will follow the same teachings given to these first followers of Jesus. Christ said, "The seed is the Word of God" (Luke 8:11). Just as surely as a planted acorn will produce only an oak, so God's Word will produce Christians and nothing more. We invite your earnest consideration to this plea.
A "denomination" signifies a division or a segment.
"Denominationalism" means devotion to denominational principles or interests.
All the religious denominations of our day were established by men, hundreds of years after Jesus Christ established His church in Jerusalem on Pentecost, about 33 A.D. (Acts 2).
We claim that the modern-day "church of Christ" is NOT a denomination.
Please consider with us why this claim is made.
DENOMINATIONALISM IS WRONG
Christ established but ONE church (Matt. 16:18, Acts 20:28, Col. 1:24, Eph. 4:4).
Christ is not divided. The apostle Paul said that religious division is wrong (I Cor. 1:10-13).
Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers (John 17:20-21). Our Lord did not work against His own prayer for unity by establishing conflicting and contradictory denominations.
Denominationalism retards the salvation of lost souls (John 17:21). Denominationalism breeds skepticism and doubt. Different doctrines cause many to lose respect for the Scriptures.
IN APOSTOLIC TIMES CHRISTIANS BELONGED TO NO DENOMINATION
Christians were members of the universal church for which Christ died.
When one accepts Christ, there is no need to accept anything else (Col. 2:9-10). When you accept Christ only, you become a "Christian," a disciple of Christ. Others in any place who do the same thing will be, like us, Christians only.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE UNDENOMINATIONAL CHURCH
1. It has no denominational founder.
"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it," said Jesus (Matt. 16:18).
2. It has no denominational head.
"And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18).
Christ is the Sovereign Head of the church.
The undenominational church does not recognize any human head or headquarters.
3. It has no denominational creed.
We have no creed but Christ. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" is our confession of faith (Matt. 16:16, Acts 8:37).
We have no book of discipline or rule of faith. We practice only the Scriptures. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Tim. 3:16).
God's Word is sufficient to cover every problem of congregational organization and activity.
THEREFORE, HUMAN CREEDS ARE UNNECESSARY.
"As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue" (II Peter 1:3).
4. It has no denominational name.
The church of the New Testament was known as:
"The church" (Eph. 3:10, Col. 1:24)
"The church of God" (I Cor. 1:2, I Tim. 3:15)
"The body of Christ" (I Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:12)
"The church of the Lord" (Acts 20:28)
"The church of Christ" (Matt. 16:18, Rom. 16:16)
The individual members of the church were known as:
"Disciples" (Acts 11:26)
"Christians" (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, I Pet. 4:16)
"Saints" (Rom. 1:7, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:2)
"Brethren" (Col. 1:2, James 1:2)
"Children of God" (Gal. 3:26, I John 3:1)
"Priests" (I Pet. 2:5, Rev. 1:6)
5. It has no denominational organization.
There is no ecclesiastical organization, no popes, no cardinals, no archbishops, no church councils or conventions.
Each congregation of the Church of Christ is independent, under the authority of Christ as revealed in the New Testament. We have a plurality of qualified elders (Acts 14:23), just as was found in the first century church.
6. It has no denominational worship.
We have no denominational rites or ceremonies. We seek to worship "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24), following the pattern of the first century church.
Each Lord's day worship consists of:
Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7)
Contribution (I Cor. 16:2)
A cappella Singing (Eph. 5:19)
Praying (Luke 18:1)
Preaching (II Tim. 4:2)
7. It has no denominational requirements for membership.
We ask people to do only what men and women in the New Testament were commanded to do:
Hear and understand God's Word (Acts 8:30-31)
Believe (Acts 8:37)
Repent (Acts 17:30)
Confess (Acts 8:37)
Be baptized for remission of sins (Acts 2:38)
After obeying the gospel, TO WHAT DENOMINATION DID THE FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIANS BELONG?
Catholicism had its beginning in the 7th century.
Protestantism had its beginning in the 16th century.
New Testament Christians belonged simply to the undenominational church.
THE CURE FOR DENOMINATIONALISM
We must have an unreserved commitment to the Bible as the sole, objective standard in religion. Unity can exist only when there is allegiance to a single objective religious authority. When all men will lay down their creeds, disciplines, manuals, confessions of faith, catechisms, think-so's, maybe's, and subjective feelings, and with an unprejudiced and receptive heart turn to the Word of God, then, and ONLY then, will unity result. We must be committed to being nothing, calling ourselves nothing, obeying nothing, and saying nothing except that which is authorized by the Word of God.
Surely, it is possible to occupy an undenominational position. It is our plea for all to abandon the things that divide those who profess to be Christians, and occupy, with us, this undenominational ground.
If we preach ONLY the gospel, it will produce in our day the one, true New Testament church that it produced in the days of the apostles, when no denominations existed.
It is primarily a plea for religious unity based upon the Bible. In a divided religious world it is believed that the Bible is the only possible common denominator upon which most, if not all, of the God-fearing people of the land can unite. This is an appeal to go back to the Bible. It is a plea to speak where the Bible speak and to remain silent where the Bible is silent in all matters that pertain to religion. It further empasizes that in everything religious there must be a "Thus saith the Lord" for all that is done. The objective is religious unity of all believers in Christ. The basis is the New Testament. The method is the restoration of New Testament Christianity.
One of the earliest advocates of the return to New Testament Christianity, as a means of achieving unity of all believers in Christ, was James O'Kelly of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1793 he withdrew from the Baltimore conference of his church and called upon others to join him in taking the Bible as the only creed. His influence was largely felt in Virginia and North Carolina where history records that some seven thousand communicants followed his leadership toward a return to primitive New Testament Christianity.
In 1802 a similar movement among the Baptists in New England was led by Abner Jones and Elias Smith. They were concerned about "denominational names and creeds" and decided to wear only the name Christian, taking Bible as their only guide. In 1804, in the western frontier state of Kentucky, Barton W. Stone and several other Presbyterian preachers took similar action declaring that they would take the Bible as the "only sure guide to heaven." Thomas Campbell, and his illustrious son, Alexander Campbell, took similar steps in the year 1809 in what is now the state of West Virginia. They contended that nothing should be bound upon Christians as a matter of doctrine which is not as old as the New Testament. Although these four movements were completely independent in their beginings eventually they became one strong restoration movement because of their common purpose and plea. These men did not advocate the starting of a new church, but rather a return to Christ's church as described in the Bible.
Members of the church of Christ do not conceive of themselves as new church started near the begining of the 19th century. Rather, the whole movement is designed to reproduce in contemporary times the church originally established on Pentacost, A.D. 30. The strength of the appeal lies in the restoration of Christ's original church.
The most recent dependable estimate lists more than 15,000 individual churches of Christ. The "Christian Herald," a general religious publication which presents statistics concerning all the churches, estimates that the total membership of the churches of Christ is now 2,000,000. There are more than 7000 men who preach publicly. Membership of the church is heaviest in the southern states of the United States, particularly Tennessee and Texas, though congregations exist in each of the fifty states and in more than eighty foreign countries. Missionary expansion has been most extensive since the second World War in Europe, Asia and Africa. More than 450 full time workers are supported in foreign countries. The churches of Christ now have five times as many members as were reported in the U.S. Religious Census of 1936.
Following the plan of organization found in the New Testament, churches of Christ are autonomous. Their common faith in the Bible and adherence to its teachings are the chief ties which bind them together. There is no central headquarters of the church and no organization superior to the elders of each local congregation. Congregations do cooperate voluntarily in supporting the orphans and the aged, in preaching the gospel in new fields, and in other similar works.
Members of the church of Christ conduct forty colleges and secondary schools, as well as seventy-five orphanges and homes for the aged. There are approximately 40 magazines and other periodicals published by individual members of the church. A nationwide radio and television program, known as "The Herald of Truth" is sponsored by the Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas. Much of its annual budget of $1,200,000 is contributed on a free-will basis by other churches of Christ. The radio program is currently heard on more than 800 radio stations, while the television program is now appearing on more than 150 stations. Another extensive radio effort known as "World Radio" owns a network of 28 stations in Brazil alone, and is operating effectively in the United States and a number of other foreign countries, and is being produced in 14 languages. An extensive advertising program in leading national magazines began in November 1955. There are no conventions, annual meetings, or official publications. The "tie that binds" is a common loyalty to the principles of the restoration of New Testament Christianity.
In each congregation, which has existed long enough to become fully organized, there is a plurality of elders or presbyters who serve as the governing body. These men are selected by the local congregations on the basis of qualifications set down in the scriptures (1 Timothy 3:1-8).
Serving under the elders are deacons, teachers, and evangelists or ministers. The latter do not have the authority equal to or superior to the elders. The elders are shepherds or overseers who serve under the headship of Christ according to the New Testament, which is a kind of constitution. There is no earthly authority superior to the elders of the local church.
The original autographs of the sixty six books which make up the Bible are considered to have been divinely inspired, by which it is meant that they are infallible and authoritative. Reference to the scriptures is made in settling every religious question. A pronouncement from the scripture is considered the final word. The basic textbook of the church and the basis for all preaching is the Bible.
Yes. The statement in Isaiah 7:14 is taken as a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. New Testament passages such as Matthew 1:20, 25, are accepted at face value as declarations of the virgin birth. Christ is accepted as the only begotten Son of God, uniting in his person perfect divinity and perfect manhood.
Only in the sense tht God predestines the righteous to be eternally saved and the unrighteous to be eternally lost. The statement of the apostle Peter, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable unto him"(Acts 10:34-35.) is taken as an evidence that God did not predestine individuals to be eternally saved or lost, but that each man determines his own destiny.
The word baptize comes from the Greek word "baptizo" and literally means, "to dip, to immerse, to plunge." In addition to the literal meaning of the word, immersion is practiced because it was the practice of the church in apostolic times. Still further, only immersion conforms to the description of baptisms as given by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-5 where he speaks of it as a burial and resurrection.
No. Only those who have reached the "age of accountability" are accepted for baptisms. It is pointed out that the examples given in the New Testament are always of those who have heard the gospel preached and have believed it. Faith must always precede baptism, so only those old enough to understand and believe the gospel are considered fit subjects for baptism.
No. Ministers or evangelists of the church have no special perogatives. They do not wear the title of Reverand or Father, but are addressed simply by the term Brother as are all other men of the church. Along with elders and others they do counsel and advise those seeking help.
No. God the Father is considered the only one to whom the prayers may be addressed. It is further understood that Christ stands in a mediatorial position between God and man (Hebrews 7:25). All prayers are therefore offered through Christ, or in the name of Christ (John 16:23-26).
It is expected that every member of the church will assemble for worship on each Lord's day. A central part of the worship is the eating of the Lord's supper (Acts 20:7). Unless providentially hindered, each member considers this weekly appointment as binding. In many instances, as in the case of illness, the Lord's supper is carried to those who are hindered from attending the worship.
As a result of the distinctive plea of the church - a return to New Testament Faith and practice - acapella singing is the only music used in the worship. This singing, unaccompanied by mechanical instruments of music, conforms to the music used in the apostolic church and for several centuries thereafter (Ephesians 5:19). It is felt that there is no authority for engaging in acts of worship not found in the New Testament. This principle eliminates the use of instrumental music, along with the use of candles, incense, and other similar elements.
Yes. The statement of Christ in Matthew 25, and elsewhere, are taken at face value. It is believed that after death each man must come before God in judgement and that he will be judged according to the deeds done while he lived (Hebrews 9:27). After judgement is pronounced he will spend eternity either in heaven or hell.
No. The absence of any reference in the scriptures to the temporary place of punishment from which the soul will eventually be released into heaven prevents the acceptance of the doctrine of purgatory.
Each first day of the week the members of the church "lay by in store as they have been prospered" (1 Corinthians 16:2). The amount of any individual gift is generally known only to the one who gave it and to the Lord. This free-will offering is the only call which the church makes. NO assessments or other levies are made. No money-making activities, such as bazaars or suppers, are engaged in. A total of approximately $200,000,000 is given on this basis each year.
No. At least, there is no creed in the usual sense of the word. The belief of the church is stated fully and completely in the Bible. There is no other manual or discipline to which the members of the church of Christ give their allegiance. The Bible is considered as the only infallible guide to heaven.
In the salvation of man's soul there are 2 necessary parts: God's part and man's part. God's part is the big part, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift if God; not of works, that no man should glory" (Ephesians 2:8-9). The love which God felt for man led him to send Christ into the world to redeem man. The life and teaching of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the gospel to men constitute God's part in salvation.
Though God's part is the big part, man's part is also necessary if man is to reach heaven. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has announced. Man's part can clearly set forth in the following steps:
Now that you are aware of a church in the 20th century which is built according to the blue prints of Christ's original church, why not become a member of it ? In becoming a member of it, you will be called upon to do nothing which you cannot read in the New Testament. You will then live and worship just as the apostle-guided Christians of the first century did.
Not only is this return to New Testament Christianity a wonderful basis upon which all believers in Christ can unite, it is absolutely solid ground. If we do just what our Lord commanded we know that our salvation is certain. Come with us as we go back to the Bible, back to Christ and his church.
The Church of Christ in America appeared as a renewal movement during the Second Great Awakening, a sweeping religious revival centered at Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801. A Presbyterian clergyman, Barton W. Stone, had organized these revival meetings in response to the immorality and spiritual deadness that characterized the western frontier of the new nation. These meetings drew nearly twenty thousand people to the Kentucky woods where a massive revival swept through the area for days.
This kicked-off the Second Great Awakening in America, which produced huge growth in Baptist and Methodist churches and also gave birth to new groups such as the Cumberland Presbyterians, the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ and the Church of Christ.
As revival swept across America, clergymen like Barton Stone, Thomas and Alexander Campbell (Scottish Presbyterians), James O. Kelly (Methodist) and John Raccoon Smith (Baptist), among others, began to search for a new model for the church in America.
This new model became known as the "Restoration Movement," which emphasized several basics, such as (1) de-emphasizing denominational differences and being "Christians only," (2) looking to the Bible only, instead of denominational manuals, to establish policy for worship and Christian living, and (3) attempting to restore the spirit and simple practices of Christianity depicted in the New Testament.
Most modern Churches of Christ still believe in these ideals and attempt to live up to this high calling.
We do use music, but we don't use musical instruments to accompany our singing. While many of our friends in other churches (even some Churches of Christ) use instruments, most of our congregations don't for several simple reasons.
Early Christianity included two groups of people: Jews with a background of instrumental music (see Psalm 150) and pagan Gentiles who also worshipped with musical instruments. Yet when the church was established in about 33 A.D., those early Christians worshipped without such instruments.
According to Dr. F.W Mattox, a scholar of early church history, musical instruments weren't used until the fifth century, and organ music didn't become part of Christian worship until the eighth century. Even today the majority of Christian groups worldwide still sing without instruments, or acappella (literally meaning of the chapel or in the way of the church.)
So it seems logical, considering our goal of restoring a New Testament type Christian worship, that acappella singing would fit that model. Besides, the only musical instrument God ever created is the human voice; man created all the rest. Perhaps the purest form of musical worship on earth is found in human voices.
No, we definitely believe that God inspired every word of the Old Testament. Even the New Testament says, "For everything written in the past was written to teach us..." (Romans 15:4). Without the Old Testament revelation, we couldn't understand the New Testament.
But the Old Testament isn't our covenant with God. As Christians, we're under the new covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13). That's why Christians don't offer animal sacrifices in worship, stone adulterers to death, abstain from pork, or keep other regulations demanded by the old covenant.
By simply becoming a Christian. Just as in the New Testament, we have no special rules for joining our fellowship and no votes are taken to screen potential members. When one accepts and obeys the gospel, Christ adds him or her to the universal, worldwide church (Acts 2:47), and then that believer joins a local group of disciples to continue his or her growth and service to Jesus (Acts 10:26).
In the early 1800's two men, Thomas Campbell and Alexander Campbell (father & son), came to America. These two Presbyterian clergymen became leaders in the religious idealism that sprang up after the Cane Ridge revival, and became involved in the Restoration Movement.
They believed that Christianity had become too institutionalized, divided, formalized, and denominational. They left their denominations and rallied around the Bible as their only religious guide. Their intent was to bypass the confusion of denominational differences and go back to the simple New Testament forms of worship and church life.
Since the Campbells were two of the main intellectual leaders of this movement, and since Churches of Christ are descendants of the movement, some people have called us "Campbellites." However, Churches of Christ insist on wearing only the name of Christ and not the partisan names of human beings.
What makes a church a denomination? Usually the fact that it has a national organization, a headquarters here on earth, a hierarchy of clergy, a handbook or creedal statement of belief (in addition to the Bible), and various committees and groups that operate above and outside the local congregation, while making policy for the local churches to follow.
Because of our beginnings in the Restoration Movement, Churches of Christ have attempted to minimize these denominational trappings. We prefer to operate as local self-governing congregations answerable mainly to Christ. While we cooperate with each other, and often with other Christian groups, we desire to be what one of our founders summed up in his statement: "We're Christians only, but not the only Christians."
Because the Bible does; the New Testament mentions baptism 51 times. Every conversion to Christ recorded in the book of Acts ended in a water baptism. And every New Testament writer considered baptism an essential part of a believer's response to Jesus.
The Apostle Paul wrote that the gospel, which saves us, is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ on our behalf - to atone for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4). He also wrote that water baptism is a faith-inspired re-enactment of that gospel. It's a symbolic death, reflected by burial in water (instead of dirt) and a symbolic resurrection acted out by rising from the water (Romans 6:1-7).
Christ considered it so important that not only was he baptized but he included this teaching in his marching orders as he sent his apostles out to make more disciples (Mark 16:15-16).
In any form of communication, some statements are literal and some aren't. A stop sign on the street corner sends a message: "STOP." It's to be taken literally. But when a car at that stop sign has "Mustang" written on it, we know that's a symbolic statement - the car isn't literally a horse.
In our approach to Biblical interpretation, we try to separate the literal and symbolic by using a few common sense rules: What did the Biblical statement mean to those who originally heard it? What was the context? What does it mean for us today? What was the writer's intent, to be symbolic or literal?
Those life-or-death statements in the Bible ("if you do not believe that I am (he), you will indeed die in your sins" (John 8:24)) we take at face value and teach them accordingly.
Because of the nature of the Communion. Jesus said that when we celebrate this feast, he eats it with us! (Mark 14:25.) Each time we have Communion, we participate symbolically in the blood and body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16). We also show our unity as a body, remember his sacrifice, and preach his death and resurrection (1 Cor. 11:17-34).
The Communion service is one of the most important reasons we meet on Sunday. Paul and his companions thought it so important that they waited seven days in one town so they could assemble with the church and celebrate the Communion meal (Acts 20:6-7).
Most religious groups have a few misguided people who think they're the only ones going to heaven. Churches of Christ are no different.
But membership in a church can't save anyone; Christ's church is an assembly of the already saved. One can be a member of the best church on earth and still miss heaven.
So what saves us and gets us to heaven? Jesus does. The gospel (good news) is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and was raised from the dead on the third day (1 Cor. 15:1-4.) It's God's action through Christ that saves us, not membership in a church. When you stand before Christ in the judgment, he won't ask to see your church membership card, but he will ask, "Do I know you?"
And the only way to know Jesus is through his gospel - believing that he is God's Son (literally God in flesh,) that he is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, that he died and rose again on our behalf to erase our sins, and that he is now undisputed Lord of all. Once a person accepts that gospel from the heart, places his or her faith in Jesus to save him from hell and put him in heaven, repents of his past, and is baptized, he moves into the Christian life - the life of the saved (Acts 2:22-41.)
So the only ones who are going to heaven are those who've been truly reborn spiritually. As Jesus put it, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3.)