What happens to a Christian who dies in sin?

A young man meets an attractive girl. He asks her out but before she will go on a date with him he must attend church with her. He agrees and the next Sunday morning is seated next to her in church. He hears the gospel, believes and is saved. He is crazy about her, but after a couple dates she spurns any further advances from him. Filled with rage and disappointment he kills her and then takes his own life. Does he go to heaven?

A young man professed salvation at church youth group. One night a couple years later he prepares to go party with his friends. On the way out the door, he tells his parents he is going to the library. On the way to the party he is hit by a drunk driver and killed. Does he go to heaven?

The drunk driver had spent most of his adult life battling alcoholism. After his fourth DUI he entered rehab, sobered up and began attending church. Several months later he walked down the aisle and asked Jesus to be His Savior. One day he learns he has cancer and is given a few months left to live. In despair he leaves the doctor’s office to go to his favorite bar. Hours later he staggers out of bar, gets in his car and on his way home careens into the oncoming lane. He kills a teenager and is killed in the crash. Does he go to heaven?

The same question could be posed in many different ways and with many different scenarios. The real question revolves around passages like Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

What happens when a person who professes Christ dies in sin? Whether it be murder, drunkenness, adultery, lying or theft the Bible says that none who do those things can enter heaven. If a professing believer commits one of those sins and dies before confessing his sin, is he forgiven? Does he go to heaven?

The genuineness of someone’s salvation cannot be determined with absolute certainty by others. God knows those who are His. Those who are His are to depart from sin, but no one, Christian or otherwise, is without sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) The authenticity of someone’s salvation is not measured by a complete absence of sin. Neither is salvation dependent on the person’s ability to not sin.

Those who have been saved are transferred out of the bondage of sin and are now the children of God. The Bible describes two categories of people. Those who are dead in sin and those who are alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2) At salvation the one who was dead in sin is made alive with Christ by the active working of God’s grace. Life in Christ is always and only by the grace of God received through faith.

No part of salvation is dependent on the deeds of men. Salvation is entirely the grace of God. If it can be won or lost based upon something a person does, it is of works. “If it be of works, then it is no more grace.” (Romans 11:6) God’s grace saves and saves completely. “He is able to save them to the uttermost that cometh unto God by Him.” This is one of the most crucial doctrines of the Bible.

If salvation is achieved by any thing the person does, then Jesus died needlessly. (Galatians 2:21) If you can do something, anything, to be saved, then you do not need a Savior.

If a person is truly saved, then he cannot die in sin. He may commit murder, but he is not counted by God as a murderer. He may lie, but he is not counted by God as a liar. When a person is saved he is declared righteous by God. The righteousness of the Christian is the righteousness of Jesus transfered onto the believer. No sin can ever mar or remove the righteousness of Christ.

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and all those who believe have been made righteous by the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) Nothing the Christian does or fails to do will ever remove the grace of God and the righteousness of Jesus. If the murderer, liar or drunkard is truly saved then yes, he is in heaven.

Does Jesus base a person’s salvation on his helping the needy?

I really wish those who take it upon themselves to lecture Christians on how they should behave would take the time to correctly understand what the Bible really says about how Christians are to live. The latest example of Biblical misapplication has come in the aftermath of the Syrian refugee crisis. As thousands have flooded into Europe fleeing intense persecution in Syria the pressure on America to take in these refugees has increased exponentially. Many have taken it upon themselves to declare that Christians have an obligation to welcome in the refugees. The passage I have heard used most to press home this duty is Matthew 25:35-46.

The pertinent passage in Matthew 25 teaches that when Jesus returns He will judge mankind. Those who are given eternal life are the ones who took in the stranger, fed the hungry and gave drink to the thirsty. Those who are sent to eternal judgment are the ones who refused to take in the stranger, feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. The application is obvious. Since Jesus will judge men based upon their treatment of the needy, then those who claim to be followers of Jesus have a duty to care for those in need. Is this what Jesus is saying in Matthew 25?

A simple reading of the passage makes it immediately obvious that Jesus is not giving a blanket commandment for every Christian to provide for every needy person he meets. When Jesus grants eternal life to the righteous He tells them “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it (cared for the needy) unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Jesus is teaching that how His children treat their fellow Christians is how they treat Him. What is done for other believers is done for Jesus. He makes this same point in Mark 9:41. He tells His disciples, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you he shall not lose his reward.” When Jesus returns He will judge those who profess to be His followers based upon how they have served needy Christians.

When Matthew 25 is compared with the rest of the Bible one realizes this passage cannot be teaching that any one is saved by doing good deeds for others. Versees like Ephesians 2:8 declare salvation is only by God’s grace and is only received by faith without any works to merit salvation. 1 John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from life unto death, because we love the brethren.” A man’s love of his fellow believer does not make him righteous, it is one of the proof’s he has been made righteous. Salvation is always and only the free gift of grace. The deeds of a man in this life are evidences of salvation.

The situation in Syria is serious. Tens of thousands of refugees are in serious need. Every Christian should be deeply concerned about those needs, especially the needs of the Syrian Christians. There is a clear New Testament example of Christian’s caring for the needs of believers across the world in distress. The Christian’s love for others will compel him to do what he can to provide real help those in need. This help cannot be defined based upon a visceral or political reaction, but must be built upon Biblical wisdom. Misusing a Biblical passage to make a point may make good rhetoric, but properly applied Biblical truth is always more powerful and transformative than any sound bite.

What role does obedience play in salvation?

The gospel message is God’s promise of full forgiveness of sin because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection to life. Central to the gospel is the promise that salvation is received through faith alone apart from any individual effort to purchase, earn or deserve God’s salvation. Salvation is only by the grace of God and is never given as reward or repayment for good works. The classic way of stating this is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. This is the most basic Christian teaching. One is not saved who believes salvation can be gained, whether partially or completely, through any meritorious deed.

Obedience will never bring salvation to a person. Obedience will never secure salvation. Obedience will never sustain salvation. Obedience will never strengthen salvation. All obedience necessary to save a person has been completely accomplished by Jesus. Some protest that such a full and free salvation would encourage men to receive salvation and then live a sinful life with no regard for obedience. Paul answers this exact objection in Romans 6, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” The freeness of salvation is never an excuse to live wickedly. Since the obedience of the individual plays no role in gaining or securing salvation, what is the relationship of obedience to salvation?

Obedience shows the reality of one’s salvation. Obedience is the certain result of salvation. Many denominations and religions teach unbiblical ideas on this point, so clarity is crucial. Obedience is the inevitable fruit of salvation, just like an apple on a tree. The apple itself brings nothing to strength or stability of the tree. Fruit reveals the health of the tree. The gospel seed that is received in a believing heart will bear fruit. One fruit of salvation is diligence to obey the commands of God. The absence of obedience does not remove salvation from the soul. The absence of obedience does not prevent one from being saved. The absence of obedience reveals the person was never saved. 1 John 2:4 says, “He that says, I know Him and keeps not His commandments is a liar.”

Obedience is the inevitable fruit of salvation but this does not mean the saved person will never sin, nor even that the person will never commit serious sin. Peter is a powerful example of this. Many remember Peter’s denial of Jesus. Though He most vigorously and blasphemously denied Jesus, Peter remained a disciple. The book of Galatians describes an event many years later. After the gospel began to spread into the regions around Jerusalem Peter fell into an act of collusion with apostates who denied the gospel. The seriousness of his sin brought a stern and public rebuke from the apostle Paul. Peter’s sin was one that undermined the gospel, but he never ceased to be a Christian, nor even to be an apostle. Failures in obedience do remove salvation, nor do incidents of disobedience disprove salvation. Rather, a pattern of striving to obey God in all things is a mark of genuine salvation. A life of willful disobedience is evidence that a professing Christian has not actually been saved. Obedience is the evidence of genuine salvation, the by-product of the transformed heart.

Will those who worship Allah go to heaven?

Recent statistics show there are over 1.5 billion Muslims and approximately 1 billion Hindus in the world. Besides the two and a half billion people of the world’s second and third largest religions, there are hundreds of millions of other people who worship deities other than the God of the Bible. Many of these worshipers are devoted and serious about their religion. Many are good people who treat others with respect, contribute to their society and sincerely worship the god of their culture and heritage. Do Christians really believe these good, sincere people will be sent to hell because they don’t worship God the same as western Christians? Does the Bible teach sincere worshipers of other gods will go to hell?

These kinds of questions strike a chord deep in hearts. For good people to go to hell for not worshiping the right way or for not calling God by the right name seems patently unfair. The assumption of divine unfairness towards sincere worshipers of other religions reveals wrong ideas about salvation, heaven and hell. The question reveals a belief that one gets to heaven by worship, devotion, good behavior and sincerity.

The Biblical explanation of who goes to heaven has nothing to do with sincerity, goodness or practicing the proper religious rituals. The Bible gives specific examples of sincere, religious men who worshiped and did good but who were nonetheless condemned. Nicodemus was a good man who had great respect for Jesus and who sincerely worshiped God. Jesus told Nicodemus he was lacking something very important and could not enter heaven without it. In the book of Titus, we are told that salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done.” (Titus 3:5)

What Nicodemus lacked is what every man needs. Jesus said, “”Except a man be born again can, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Only those who are born again by believing Jesus is God the Son and their personal Savior will enter into heaven. Going to heaven is not a matter of sincere worship. Going to heaven is a matter of turning to Jesus for forgiveness and trusting only in Him to remove one’s guilt and its consequences. The issue is not an issue of devotion or sincerity. The issue is a matter of reliance.

Those who sincerely worship Allah have no more chance of entering heaven by their devotion than those who sincerely worship Jesus have by their faithful church attendance. Those who worship Allah cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge Jesus is God and Savior and ask Him to forgive their sin. Those who worship Vishnu cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge Jesus is the only God and Savior and trust Him alone to forgive their sin. Those who worship their ancestors cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge Jesus alone is God and is the only one able to wash away the stain of sin. Those who worship Jesus cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge He is God and Savior and rely only on Him for forgiveness of sin. Worship (in the sense of religious ritual and devotion) is never a means to salvation, no matter who is being worshiped.