Can One Be Saved After Death?

Can One Be Saved After Death?

The belief that God will give the lost a second chance to believe after death has been held by many. They argue that those who have died without believing in Christ will have an opportunity to do so in the afterlife. Is there any scriptural support for this claim? Can one be saved after death?

Two days ago, my colleague asked me this question, which did not come as a surprise at all. Her mother passed away almost a year ago, barely three months after being diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. It all happened so quickly that she was not prepared to lose her in such a short time.

She misses her every day but she is holding on to the thought that someday they would see each other again in heaven.

Let me just say this, I do not know her standing in the Lord, nor was her mom’s. As Roman Catholics they believe that Jesus is God; I’m just not sure if they have confessed Him as their Lord and Savior. But every opportunity I get to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with her and God’s gift of salvation through faith in Christ, I make sure to get the message across to her loud and clear.

Can One Be Saved After They Die

Judgment Comes After Death

When my colleague asked me if a person can be saved after they die, I said, “No. There isn’t any scriptural evidence to support the claim that God will give anyone a second chance to believe in Christ once this life is over.”

First of all, the Bible says that after death comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). There is not some type of probation for those who did not believe in this life. The New Living Translation translates the verse this way:

“And just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NLT).

It is consistently taught throughout the Scripture that judgment comes after death and there’s no chance to believe in Jesus Christ.

Eternal Life is Determined in this Life Alone

The Bible is clear that our ultimate destiny is dependent upon what we do in this life and this life alone.

Jesus said this when He spoke to the religious leaders of His day, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

These religious leaders were no different from any other human being. Jesus never gave any indication that they or anyone else can have some type of chance to believe in the afterlife. That being said, each and every person who dies without placing their faith in Christ is forever lost.

Not only is eternal life determined in this life, but also the state of the dead is forever fixed. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus that Jesus gave, the great gulf between the believing and the unbelieving dead is permanently put in place so that no one from either side could cross over.

“And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:26).

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The Day of Salvation is Now

The Bible urges people to believe in God’s promises because the day of God’s salvation is now; not tomorrow or sometime after this life is over. Paul wrote:

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV).

Salvation is today; right now. It should never be put off until later and certainly not until someone gets to the next life.

If you haven’t made a decision yet to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I encourage you to do it right now. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow and there is no guarantee that you will still be alive by then. Most people are afraid to die but if we are in the right relationship with God, we do not have to fear death.

God Determines What is Fair

It needs to be emphasized that it is not a sinful human being who decides what is fair and what is not but the God of the Bible. God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11), thus it is wrong to accuse Him of unfairness because of what we think He should do.

The following says this about God’s character in Isaiah 40:13-14 (NIV):

“Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as His counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way? Who was it that taught Him knowledge, or showed Him the path of understanding?”

The answer to the question, of course, is nobody. Nobody tells God what to do; nobody directs Him. God alone makes all the decisions and He does exactly what He wants to do.

Paul made this clear when he wrote to the Romans, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this’” (Romans 9:20 ESV)?

Who are we to question God? He formed us and He knows what’s best for us. Therefore, we need to trust Him in all decisions.

When we die we don't cease to exist; we just change location

God is a Righteous Judge

Another point that needed to be made is that the Lord eventually judges the world and He will do it righteously or fairly. God is the righteous Judge of all the earth and we can be confident that everyone will be treated and judged righteously.

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

We may not know exactly how God will judge but we can conclude from the totality of the evidence in the Bible that God does not give people a chance to be saved after they have died. As far as determining our ultimate destiny, this life is all that there is.

Bottom Line

While many hold the view that the Lord will be gracious enough to allow people to trust Christ sometime after their death, this is certainly not supported by the Bible. On the contrary, the Scripture emphasizes that now is the day of salvation because there is no chance after death.

What about the millions of people who have died without ever hearing the name of Jesus Christ? Again, we need to remember that God determines what is fair and there is no injustice in Him. We need to trust the Lord that whatever way He will judge each and every human being, it will be done fairly and righteously.


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Recommended Resource: Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation After Death by James Beilby 

Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation After Death by James BeilbyOne of Jesus’ most basic commands to his disciples was to tell the world about the good news of his life, death, and resurrection.

From the earliest days of the church, Christians have embraced this calling.

But for those Christians who emphasize the need for an active response to the gospel in order to be saved, this raises some difficult questions: What about those who did not hear the gospel before death?

Or what about those who heard an incorrect or incomplete version of the gospel? Or what about those who were too young or who were otherwise unable to respond?

In light of these challenging questions, theologian James Beilby offers a careful consideration of the possibility of salvation after death.

After examining the biblical evidence and assessing the theological implications, he argues that there is indeed hope for faith―even beyond death.

4 Replies to “Can One Be Saved After Death?”

  1. This site only repeats that one must be saved before death. I’m trying to find out WHY one can’t be saved after the soul leaves the body since bodies are meaningless matter.

    The Bible doesn’t address this, and neither do preachers.

    1. Hi K M,

      There is no chance to get saved after death because salvation requires repentance from sin and trusting in the Lord Jesus. A dead person won’t be able to repent and confess Jesus as their Savior.

      This is not to say that the soul ceases to exist at death. But the Bible is clear that only those who are physically alive can be saved.

      I cited Hebrews 9:27 that what awaits the person after death is judgment. Clearly, there is no second chance to repent after one dies.

      It is for the same reason that praying for the dead is worthless.

      Also, if one can be saved after death, why shouldn’t they do everything they want while they’re still alive? They can commit every kind of evil and wickedness and just repent when they die.

      We can question God all we want; we may not be satisfied with what He has revealed in His Word. But at the end of the day, God is just; no doubt about that.

      P. S.

      There is an exemption though; those who have never heard of Jesus or the Gospel while they were still alive. You can refer to my recommended resource should you want to read more about it.

      Blessings … ☺

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