I once heard a preacher say that he was asked, "Do you believe you folks are the only ones going to heaven" His answer was, "No - I don't even believe all of us are going to make it." In truth, it is not the denominational name that is going to save a person. I have often taught that if the name on the church door made a difference, the devil would paint a sign and hang it up. However, what does matter is the "doctrine in the pulpit and the experience in the pew." I believe that Jesus was very clear when he said, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) And then, "Except a man be born of the water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." (John 3:5). He also said, "Except you repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:3
The Gospel in A Nutshell Is This?
There are many who want to point out that the thief on the cross was not born again. Isn't that an exception? Well who made the exception? Jesus did, and he can. But it was Jesus who was using the term "except" in the scriptures above. One should notice that the thief on the cross was not saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ because there was no gospel at that time. The gospel is the "death, burial, and resurrection" of Jesus Christ according to I Corinthians 15:1-4. The thief on the cross could not participate or obey the gospel which had not happened. An exception is just that - an exception. And perhaps we will find Jesus making such exceptions when we reach the judgment - but it is more likely that Jesus will use the other exceptions more frequently - the ones he mentions in his Word.