This is a question that the disciples asked Jesus in utter astonishment after He told them that the people, whom they had been taught were the especially favored of God, could scarcely be saved. It was in this context that Jesus told them that with God all things were possible. (See Matthew 19:16–30.)
The Lord does not see or judge the way man sees and judges, because man looks at the outward appearance; the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7.) Because of this, the people that men think are hopeless and cannot be saved are often the ones that Christ is saving, and the ones that men think are the most holy are often ones that God has rejected and are lost. When we get to heaven, we will see this in all its awesome reality, but for the present, we must learn our lesson not to judge one another. It is true that, if a brother or a sister is living in open sin, this person is to be admonished. If they will not repent, they are to be separated from the membership of the church, but even here we are to move very cautiously lest we cast out of the church those that the Lord is in the process of saving. The following inspired references show the truth of these statements.
“Many have been cast out of the church whose names were registered upon the book of life.” The Signs of the Times, December 4, 1893.
“Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive. . . . Many who think themselves Christians will at last be found wanting. Many will be in heaven who their neighbors supposed would never enter there. Man judges from appearance, but God judges the heart.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 71, 72.
“O, how different are the standards by which God and man measure character! God sees many temptations resisted, of which the world, and even near friends, never know,—temptations in the home, in the heart; he sees the soul’s humility in view of its own weakness, the sincere repentance over even a thought that is evil; he sees the whole heart’s devotion to the upbuilding of the cause of God; he has noted those hours of hard battle with self—battle that won the victory. All this, God and angels know.
“Many will be lost who think themselves Christians, and many will be in heaven who their neighbors supposed would never get there. God judgeth not as man judgeth. Man judgeth from appearance, but God judgeth the heart. The Lord knows the strength of the temptations that he permits. He sees the inward conflicts, the severe struggles of him who gives up the visible on the strength of God’s promise that presents before him the invisible.” Gospel Workers (1892), 217, 218.
“Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. . . . Many will be in heaven who their neighbors supposed would never enter there. Man judges from appearance, but God judges the heart.
“Some among the redeemed will have laid hold of Christ in the last hours of life, and in heaven instruction will be given to these, who, when they died, did not understand perfectly the plan of salvation.” Maranatha, 320.