Hello Rosary Lovers! In this post we will be asking: do you have to go to Church to go to heaven?
This is a common question, especially amongst non-Catholic Christians.
‘I believe in Jesus. I even read the Bible sometimes. Why do I need to go to Church?’
Protestant Christianity believes in the principle of salvation by faith alone. Many Protestants interpret this to mean: ‘I don’t need church to get me to heaven. All I need to do is believe in Christ. End of.’
Catholics and Orthodox Christians think differently here. In fact, there are probably a lot of Protestant groups that also disagree with this attitude towards church.
For the Catholic and Orthodox mindset, we believe that the Church is VITAL for salvation.
The Church and Baptism
For starters, it is the Church which brings us into Christ. Through Holy Baptism.
The Church baptises us, and it is through baptism that we are born again and saved.
Jesus taught this: ‘Unless you are born of water and of the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (John 3:5).
The only sensible way to interpret these words of Jesus is as follows: we must be born again of the Holy Spirit by water baptism.
This is the way this verse of Scripture has ALWAYS been interpreted throughout the entire history of Christianity.
There are many passages of Scripture which teach that water baptism is essential to salvation.
‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all I command you.‘ Matthew 28:18-19.
Here, Jesus instructs the Apostles to go to every nation and make them into disciples, that is, into true Christian followers of Christ.
How does Jesus say that we become Christians and disciples? By baptism and obedience to his teachings as passed on by the Church.
The Church baptises us into Christ, and the Church teaches us the way of Christ and his teachings.
The Church is essential for us to become Christians.
Or how about this one:
‘As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ.‘ (Galatians 3:27).
How do we put on Jesus Christ? By being baptised.
Or this one?
‘Therefore get up, be baptised, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.‘ (Acts 22:16).
Here Saul is commanded by a Christian prophet to wash away his sins. How?
By receiving water baptism by the Church, and by calling on the Lord’s name.
Faith and baptism. We provide faith by personally believing in Jesus Christ. The Church provides baptism.
But both are absolutely essential for our salvation.
So the Church provides baptism and salvation. The Church washes away our sins by baptising us into Christ.
The apostle Peter teaches: ‘baptism now saves you‘ (1 Peter 3).
The Church and the Eucharist
The Church also provides us with the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Eucharist. Jesus Christ tells us that without the Holy Eucharist, we cannot have eternal life:
‘Truly, truly, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have NO LIFE in you.‘ (John 6:53).
‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.’ (John 6:54).
We receive eternal life, that is, salvation by the Holy flesh and blood of Jesus. The literal flesh and blood of Christ.
This is the Holy Eucharist. This is what we eat and drink unto salvation.
Paul says the same sort of thing in 1 Corinthians 10:16:
‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?‘
We really have communion with the blood and body of Christ.
And who gives us the Eucharist?
The Church is absolutely essential for the salvation of every human person.
It was these two teachings from Holy Scripture which convinced me that my salvation WAS dependent on the Church.
My salvation was not by faith alone, if this meant the Church was excluded.
For this single reason, I came to realise I could not remain an Evangelical Christian in a modern Protestant Church.
I had to either become Orthodox or Catholic. You can read more about my story on this here.
Is the Church Necessary for Salvation?
And so, in conclusion, do we have to go to church to go to heaven?
The only exceptions to this strict rule would be people who cannot get to Church, because of illness or other important matters.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Evangelical and Protestant Churches held online meetings. During these meetings, there was often a long sermon.
When the restrictions were removed, and people could come back to church, the question was often asked: ‘But I can get the sermon by listening online, so why do I need to go?’
Of course, it could be said: ‘Well, you should go to get fellowship and because it’s not the same.’
But this doesn’t really show why church is strictly necessary.
If salvation is simply by faith alone, then in all honesty, I should be able to get to heaven by simply staying at home, staying away from church, and just reading my Bible and praying everyday.
This seems to be the mindset of many modern Christians, some of whom stay away from church for many years.
Church just doesn’t seem to have any essential importance to their walk with Christ.
The Bible says differently: ‘If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from every sin.‘ (1 John 1:7).
Notice that this verse teaches that if we are truly children of the light, as Jesus is Light, we share fellowship with other Christians.
This speaks of the Eucharist: we fellowship and commune with each other most especially by sharing in the Holy Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist.
And this blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins. Jesus’ blood washes us from sin every time we drink it.
It is essential to be cleansed from sin, is it not? Of course it is.
It is essential to walk in the light, is it not? Of course it is.
Such things are not optional, they are mandatory. We cannot get to heaven without being cleansed from sin and without walking in the light.
It is therefore essential to have real fellowship with other Christians.
It is essential to receive the Blood of Jesus in union with other Christians.
We do this when we gather together at Church. There is no other way.
Why Catholic Churches are Packed
When Catholic Churches reopened after the pandemic, the Churches were packed. We all longed to receive Jesus again in the Holy Eucharist.
We had been without the blood of Jesus for so long! We had been without Confession for so long.
Some had longed to be baptised and couldn’t be. Some had wanted to be Confirmed, and couldn’t be.
Some needed the sacrament of healing and couldn’t receive it during the pandemic.
Most of all, we all longed with all our souls to worship God in spirit and truth. We can only really do this by attending Holy Mass, the true worship of God.
This is why we flocked to the Catholic Churches when they reopened.
I would encourage anyone reading this to think about how seriously the Bible regards the Church.
The Church is the Body of Christ.
The Church is the Bride of Christ.
The Church is the Temple of God.
The Church is where God dwells.
The Church is where God transmits his divine life.
The Church is where the Holy Gospel is read and preached.
The Church offers the world the holy sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, plus others.
We cannot get to heaven without the Church.
The Church is so important, that Catholics are bound – on pain of mortal sin – to attend Mass on every Sunday and every holy day of obligation (of which there are about 5 yearly).
God loves us so much that he commands this of us with the highest kind of force: we must go to Church weekly if we want to be saved and go to heaven.
If you have any questions, please let me know.