Queston: Does The Bible Teach A Second Chance To Be Saved After Death?

Answer: Is there second chance for people who have died without believing in Christ to believe in Him in the afterlife? Will God give anyone an opportunity to believe in Christ once this life is over?

While many people teach this is what will happen, the Bible says otherwise. The following points need to be made.

After Death There Is Judgment, Not Probation

To begin with, the Bible says that after death comes the judgment for people. There is not some type of probation for those who did not believe in this life; whatever their situation may have been. The writer to the Hebrews said.

And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment (Hebrews 9:27 HCSB).

The New Living Translation translates the verse in this manner.

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

Judgment comes after death, not a chance to believe in Jesus Christ. This is taught consistently throughout the Scripture.

The Eternal State Of Unbelievers Is Determined In This Life Alone

The Bible is clear that the eternal state of all of us, our ultimate destiny, is dependent upon what we do in this life, and in this life alone. Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day that they will die in their sins if they do not believe in Him.

I told you that you would die in your sins. Do you believe that I am the one I claim to be? If you don't, you will certainly die in your sins (John 8:24 NIV).

These religious leaders were no different than any other human being. Each and every person who dies without Jesus Christ is forever lost. Jesus gives no indication that they, or anyone else, can have some type of chance to believe in the afterlife.

The Time Of Salvation Is Now

The Bible urges people to believe in God’s promises because the time of salvation is now. Indeed, it is not some time after this life is over. Paul wrote.

For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT).

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

There Is A Fixed State After Death

There is something else. The Bible also says that the state of the dead is forever fixed. In the story that Jesus gave of the rich man and Lazarus, the gulf between the believing and unbelieving dead was explained in the following manner.

And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here is stopped at its edge, and no one there can cross over to us (Luke 16:26 NLT).

After death, the eternal state for the person is fixed; no change is possible. There is no chance of crossing over.

God Determines What Is Fair

Finally, we want to emphasize that it is God of the Bible that determines what is fair and what is not fair, it is not sinful human beings who decide this question. It is wrong to accuse God of unfairness because of what we think He should do. The Bible says the following about God’s character.

Who can ever understand what is in the LORD’s mind? Who can ever give him advice. Did the LORD have to ask anyone to help him understand? Did he have to ask someone to teach him the right way?

Who taught him what he knows? Who showed him how to understand (Isaiah 40:13,14 NIV).

The translation “God’s Word” puts it this way.

Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord or instructed him as his adviser? Whom did he consult? Who gave him understanding? Who taught him the right way? Who taught him knowledge? Who informed him about the way to understanding (Isaiah 40:13,14 God’s Word).

The answer to this question, of course, is nobody. Nobody directs God and nobody tells Him what to do. He is the One who makes all the decisions.

Paul also made this same point very clear. God does exactly what He wants to do. He wrote the following to the Romans.

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” (Romans 9:20 NIV).

Indeed, who are we to question God? He formed us. He knows what is best. We certainly do not. Therefore, we need to trust Him on all decisions.

Therefore, God is the one who determines what is, and what is not fair, it is not the responsibility of fallible human beings to make this determination.

God Will Judge Everyone Righteously

There is one other point which we need to make. The Bible says that when the Lord eventually judges the world He will do it righteously or with fairness. Indeed, He is the righteous Judge of the entire earth.

The Apostle Paul said the following to a group of people who had gathered in Athens to hear about the God whom he preached.

Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31 HCSB).

According to this statement, when the God of the Bible judges the human race, everyone will have received fair treatment. Everyone will be treated and judged righteously. Even though we may not know exactly how He will do it with certain people, this statement from Paul should settle the matter for all Bible-believers.

Consequently, we conclude from the totality of evidence in the Bible that God does not give humans a chance to believe after they have died. This life is all that there is as far as determining our ultimate destiny.

Summary To Question 24 Does The Bible Teach A Second Chance To Be Saved After Death?

Many think that the Lord will give the lost a chance to believe after death. For whatever reason, God will not make this life to be their only hope. They will have an opportunity to believe in the afterlife. This is held for a number of reasons.

For one thing, this will actually be a first chance for belief for some. Indeed, millions of people have died without ever hearing the name of Jesus Christ. It has been argued that the Lord will give them an opportunity to trust Christ some time after their death but before the Final Judgment. Many conclude this because from our perspective it seems to be the only fair way of dealing with these people.

However, the idea, that God will give people a chance to believe after death, while popular, is certainly not taught in Scripture. To the contrary, the Bible emphasizes that “today” is the day of salvation because there is no chance after death.

Scripture teaches that after the death of each and every human being there is only judgment which awaits them. There is no probation, no other opportunity to believe. The future of an individual is determined in this life and in this life alone.

As for those that argue that this is unfair, let us remember that God alone determines what is fair. He is a righteous God. Scripture emphasizes that there is no injustice in Him. We need to trust the Lord that whatever happens to each and every human being will be fairly and righteously decided by Him.

Indeed, we are specifically told that when the Lord judges the world, He will do it righteously. That should settle the issue. In whatever way that He will judge the lost, He will do it fairly. Nobody will be able to object to their ultimate fate.

This question comes from my book “Resurrection and Judgment.” It is now available (please se product page).


Don Stewart is an internationally recognized Christian apologist and speaker. He graduated cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary and the International Seminar in Theology and Law in Strasbourg, France, as well as from Biola University. Don is also a best-selling and award-winning author/co-author of over seventy books. [ read more ]


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