Can people who die without confessing Christ be saved? Someone very close to me recently passed away, and I don't know if she is in heaven or not.
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First, my condolences on your very recent loss. Also, let me say that, as far as I am concerned, if someone were to ask me the general question, "Is a Catholic a Christian?", my personal response would be, "Yes." I realize that many Protestants take issue with various aspects of Roman Catholicism, going so far in some cases as to not regard Catholics as Christians. (The official doctrinal position of some Protestant denominations even identifies the pope as the Antichrist.) However, I believe that God looks on the hearts of individuals, irrespective of denominational distinctions, or of how sinful humans (which include all of us) have distorted the word of God as given in the Bible. The crucial question for everyone (including Christians of whatever denomination) is, "What are you depending on to make you acceptable to God and to receive eternal life?" No element of human works or effort (no matter how faithfully performed, or how meritorious in the eyes of other people) -- or even faith in anything other than the redemption gained by Christ through His sinless life, His atoning death, and His resurrection -- counts in answering this question. The duty of Christians is to witness to the necessity of faith in Christ in their dealings with others. Beyond that, the decision that those others make based on that information is their own responsibility. The Bible makes clear that our only chance to accept Christ through faith occurs in this life (Hebrews 9:27). Only God can judge the condition of our hearts (including that of your late wife). But He in His omniscience will do so with such perfect equity and justice, that even those whom He condemns will have no basis on which to question that judgment. And if even the condemned will not be able to question it, then Christians who loved them here on earth should also not allow this matter to dominate their thinking. That being the case, I would say that you should not allow yourself to be troubled by this question, but should seek God's help in being granted His peace about it.
Dear Ken, I have been thinking and praying about your question all day, and I want to be compassionate but faithful to the truth of the Word of God. I am sorry for your loss, but also grateful to God, that it seems that you had a lot of very blessed years of love and faithfulness in your marriage. Your question when read carefully raises a lot of other questions. If you are truly born again, these questions and this question have probably been on your mind for a long time. Unfortunately, as much as we want someone else to be born again, we can only pray that they will be since no one is born again except by an act of the Holy Spirit of salvation through faith alone. Romans 3:27, Ezekiel 36:25-27, John 3 So you know that Jesus said you must be born again in order to enter heaven. I was very active in the Baptist church all my life until age 45 when God brought me to brokenness, godly sorrow that produced repentance and a surrender to dying to self to be born anew. I started hearing from the Lord and following and have ever since had a huge appetite for the the Word of God and for telling others the gospel. It has been 11 years now, and I have lost many friends and family members who were religious but did not have a relationship with Jesus, and they have disowned me though they are in church every Sunday. Now I don't believe in denominations because I feel they are divisive which is not what God intended for "the church" which is made up of all the called, holy people across the world of God that have the indwelling Holy Spirit in them. We have unity of one faith, one baptism, one Lord Jesus and one Spirit (Ephesians 4) that guides our lives to love Him passionately and love others (Greatest Commandment- Matthew 22). As believers, we are told to examine ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. There is nothing now that you can do about your wife (I know Mormons and Catholics believe you can pray someone into heaven after they die, but that is unbiblical), so I would promise to God to work on growing closer to Him every day and seeing what His will and plans are for your life to lead others who don't know Him personally to a saving faith. How will they know, unless they have heard (the gospel)? (Romans 10:14) 2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. Philippians 2:12-13 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. This link: http://www.gotquestions.org/signs-saving-faith.html shows how the Bible in 1 John shows us how to ask the questions of ourselves for our own assurance. I am sure that you are grieving as I did when I had my husband desert the family after I got born again.It is a huge loss. I love him and miss him and still pray that he will be born again (he is in Baptist church every Sunday), but God has been faithful to put other born again family (my children were all born again before me) in my life that are not blood relatives. Just one other sign that I would say to look for since many say that they have checked the box that they are okay with God, the Bible tells us to look at the fruit of a person, not what they say. Also in the parable of the soils, we see that only one type of soil truly receives Christ. I don't ever take anyone's word for their faith (usually their religion), but witness to everyone about the transformative power of Christ as Lord. He must be Lord of your life-- not a life enhancement or compartment in your life. When the fruit of the Spirit becomes evident (Galatians 5:22-23), I know God has put another Spirit-filled believer in my path for us to encourage each other. God bless.
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