Sure, I can say that, but let me preface this by saying this isn't my position to pass any judgment. I am just trying to explain this Bible verse, which I believe explains a lot about the concept of heaven...
There'll be Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.
in heaven due to the goodness of their hearts and purity of their intentions, and the inclination of their hearts towards God. I think this all depends on their own concepts of repentance as well. I think their striving to do better and wanting a way to be forgiven for their shortcomings, while simultaneously being gracious towards their own existence, will be important keys for them. Ultimately, they will be judged with a lower standard than Christians, and through that standard and the spirit of their selves, they can gain entrance into the Kingdom of God. This is an interesting excerpt:
Does this mean that all now outside the Church will go to hell? No. Bishop Kallistos Ware suggests that "While there is no division between a `visible' and an 'invisible' Church yet there may be members of the Church who are not visibly such, but whose membership is known to God alone. If anyone is saved, he must in some sense be a member of the Church; in what sense we cannot always say" (The Orthodox Church, p. 248, 1993 edition). Christ our God may be working in others in ways unknown to us and even to them, to bring them to salvation. And in due time, perhaps not till after death, they may recognize God and accept Christ and be united to His Body the Church-so that they can be saved.
Here is some great analysis (by a blog commentator, lol) concerning St. Justin Martyr's view on this, which I believe is very important:
On the one hand, they have personal sin. On the other, they can also have Baptism of desire.
[...] St. Justin Martyr, in his First Apology, argues that Socrates was a Christian — he seems to have in mind something like a Baptism of desire. His broader argument is that what the Law was for the Jews (a preparation for Christ, and a partial revelation of God), Philosophy was for the Greeks (by introducing them to reason, and thus, the Logos, who would take on flesh as Jesus Christ). In this, Socrates is the Greek version of someone like Abraham. Justin makes this point about Socrates twice: first, in chapter 5, where he talks about how the evils of paganism were evident to those who followed Logos, like Socrates:
“For not only among the Greeks did reason (Logos) prevail to condemn these things through Socrates, but also among the Barbarians were they condemned by Reason (or the Word, the Logos) Himself, who took shape, and became man, and was called Jesus Christ…”
Then again, in chapter 46, he argues:
“We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham, and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others whose actions and names we now decline to recount, because we know it would be tedious.”
Now, we haven’t exactly rushed out to canonize Socrates, so it’s important to remember that this is the opinion of a great Saint, but not necessarily the Church. Still, I find Justin’s argument fascinating food for thought (and reasonable grounds for hoping for the salvation even of those who don’t appear to be Catholic).
(This whole website also has a great deal about the Catholic concept of Limbo which I have heard that St. Justin Martyr believed in strongly, and he is a Saint of our Church, but he does not define what we believe🙂
During my own walk with God, a nun who has blessed me with a fraction of her great wisdom, also talked about Socrates as having within him a voice of conscience that was provided by God, and because he listened to it, it is very proepr for us to hope he is in heaven. Indeed, assuming that the account found in the Apology of Socrates is correct, we have every reason to believe that he was in the good graces of God...
It could thus be said that people who are in ignorance of Christ but use reason and exercise love in such a way as to desire Christ and Christ's message have the baptism of desire.
The Baptism of Desire is not a doctrine of Orthodoxy, but it is a concept that is still valid when understanding the nature of repentance and salvation, IMO....
People who grew up and were exposed to Christianity but reject God while knowing the message of Christianity, explicitly,
have the hardest case. I think that if someone talks about how they are respectful of Christ and love Christ but are personally trying to be some kind of universalist... that is an interesting and difficult case as well.
But the question is how much do they know (for atheists), and to what extent are they conforming themselves with the will of Christ as universalists...
But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.
Here is a good quotation on the topic:
Eternal fire was prepared for him who voluntarily departed from God and for all who, without repentance, persevere in apostasy. – Fragment in St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 5:26:2 (153 A.D.).
Any who consciously reject God and Christ are dooming themselves to hell. Those who try to equate all religions as equal and do not view Christ as the path are also in great peril, but less so. They may be forgiven on account of their generally bumbling nature. Who knows. This cannot be judged at all.
We just have to go back to statements like:
The Church believes as well that salvation depends upon the actual life of the person, and God alone is capable of judging since He alone knows the secrets of each mind and heart. Only God is capable of judging how well a man lives according to the measure of grace, faith, understanding, and strength given to him.
It must be remembered that it is Jesus Christ alone that judges who is or is not saved. The Bible teaches that not all those in the Church will be saved, but some who are never visibly in the Church are nevertheless near and dear to the Lord. (How many times did Samaritan heretics exhibit saving faith in the Gospels?) Jesus is the exclusive Judge of all. On the last and great day, all human beings who have ever lived will be brought before the Lord for the final Judgment. The Creed of Nicea-Constantinople adequately summarizes the entire Tradition when it says of Jesus, He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
And this is ultimately how it should wrap up.
Our understandings of the Patristic teachings and Bible lead us to the idea that
(1) It is possible for non-Christians to enter the Kingdom of God although they are in ignorance due to the desire of their heart to do right by God (aka 'baptism of desire'😉
(2) Those who consciously reject God are in jeopardy of hellfire.
(3) God alone can judge people and it is in accordance with the measure of grace, faith, understanding, and strength that has been provided to their circumstance.
So there are people who ar efighting very hard battles and who God maybe quite lenient with, as this passage implies.
(4) Christians are called to constant repentance.
We have been given a lot -- and our knowledge of a whole lot requires us to actively work to be worthy of the name.
Here is a description of heaven/hell that is very much from within the Eastern Christian concept. This does not fit quite exactly, but it is very illuminating and is tangentially related.
"The uncreated glory, which Christ has by nature from the Father, is paradise for those who self-centered and selfish love has been cured and transformed into unselfish love. However, the same glory is uncreated eternal fire and hell for those who have chosen to remain uncured in their selfishness."