That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10:9
A topic for discussion.
For most cases, it is fairly straightforward matter with near unanimous agreement on whether or not a particular self-professed Christian is ‘saved’ – that is, will be allowed into heaven upon death.
For instance, it is usually agreed that someone who accepts Jesus but then lives a life of wilfull sin is not saved – as explained on several parables by Jesus, Paul in Romans 6, and in Hebrews 10:26-29. (Whether he was ever actually saved or not is a matter of debate: My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[a]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. – John 10:29).
But what about the following, more nuanced cases such as the following?
1. Just before the fall – Let’s say Bob committed his life to Christ but eventually ends up living a life of wilfull sin at age 50. What if he died just before making the conscious decision to choose sin? (For a more direct take on it, take that old story about the two prisoners who are tortured unless they deny Christ. One night, the first man says he cannot take it anymore – he will deny Christ the next morning. The second prisoner contemplates killing the first to save the first man’s soul, but realizes that it would be wrong to do so. Mercifully, by morning the torturers find that the first prisoner had died on his own in the night. Is the first prisoner thus still saved, having died just before being able to deny Christ? Or is he condemned, as he had already surrendered in his heart?)
2. Just before the rebound – Similar to the above, but instead Joe was saved but then wilfully choose a life of sin, but would repent of his ways at age 60 and be a saint until his natural death. What if he dies at age 59 and 11 months?
3. Partial biography – Alice has believed in Jesus as her Lord and Saviour since age 17. But for her whole life, she never realizes that Jesus is not just a human considered the Son of God, but also God Himself. Is she condemned for her incomplete knowledge which causes her to have a wrong idea of who Jesus is?
4. Wrong biography – Similar to case 3, Frank believes in Jesus is God, the Son of God, Lord and Saviour – but thinks Jesus was a gay man. Is Frank saved? (Also try switching around what Frank thinks – that Jesus was a black man, or a white man, or a woman, or didn’t actually die on the cross, or an angel.)
5. Spoof biography – Donna similarly believes in Jesus as the Son of God and her Lord and Saviour. However (just to take it to absurd levels), she also genuinely thinks Jesus was a 40-foot radioactive Buddhist monk. Is she saved despite her bizarre understanding of who Jesus was? (Compare this to those who claim to follow Jesus, but simultaneously believe that He is just one of many ways to salvation.)
6. Seconds before death – First, read this Chic Tract. At the time of his death, Benny the soldier probably has even less real understanding of Jesus than in case 3 – is he saved?
7. Seconds after death – Similar to case 6, but this time the soldier dies just before he accepts Jesus – say, a car bomb hit him while he was talking with the new chaplain for the first time. Is he saved?
8. Death before spoof – Take case 6 again. Compare with case 5. If Donna hears about Jesus and believes in Him, and then dies before learning any of the other nonsense she would otherwise end up believing, is she saved?