I have always believed and taught that people can only “get saved” during this lifetime. After all, “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). But is it that simple? Well, not really.

Over the past few years, several questions have bugged me:

  • What happens to the souls of people who die before they can attempt to make it right with Jesus?
  • Do they have an opportunity to respond to Jesus Christ after they die but before the day of judgment?
  • What about people who die without ever hearing about Jesus?
  • What about those who had terrible experiences with Christians or the church and dismissed faith, God, and Jesus? Like the victims of child abuse, for example.
  • What about someone who would have got saved but died before they responded? For example, they died at age 18 but would come to Jesus if they’d lived to 22.
  • What about those who cannot understand and embrace the gospel through lack of maturity (kids) or mental capacity?
  • Does anyone have a second chance?
  • Can people respond to Jesus and be forgiven after they die?

The standard answer is NO. But, for those of us who are not satisfied with simple black and white answers, let’s dig deeper. Please note that I am discussing this because we need to talk about it. I’m not saying that there is categorically a second chance concerning salvation after death.

My Story

When I was 19, I was hitchhiking around Australia. I accepted a lift with a truckie in Northern NSW. A couple of hours into the trip, we were involved in a head-on collision with another truck. The two guys in the other truck died. I survived, as did the driver of the truck I was in. I was an atheist. Six weeks later, I accepted Jesus as my saviour. That was the start of my Christian Journey. You can watch the whole story here.

What if I had died in that accident. Many Christians would have suggested I’d have gone to hell. Forever! Was I just “lucky?” What about the guys who died? Unlucky?

The Alternative

As I dug deeper on this topic, I realised that my questions had a name ~ Post-mortem salvation. Believers in this doctrine credit Scripture as teaching that each person’s destiny is NOT fixed at death.

Consider section 847 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

Does God give second chances?

What does the Bible say?

Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

Matthew 12:32, “Whoever says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Can certain sins be forgiven in the age to come? Jesus certainly infers that there are.

Paul’s Perception

Ephesians 2:7, “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 2:10–11, “[In] the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

People in the ancient world believed the earth was a flat disc and the atmosphere was a dome. It certainly looks that way to the naked eye and, without the benefit of science, one could quickly come to that conclusion. The heavens were above, and the grave, the place of the departed, was “under the earth.” Paul teaches that IN the name of Jesus, every knee should bow ~ EVERY knee, on earth, above and below it. That is the reconciliation of ALL things (Col. 1:20).

Peter’s Perspective

1 Peter 3:18-20, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey.”

“Proclaimed” is almost always used as ‘preaching the good news.’ In the days between his death and resurrection, Jesus declared the gospel to ALL people. His descent into hell (as per the Apostles’ Creed) accounts for the problem of God’s justice by providing an opportunity for everyone to hear the message of redemption from Jesus Himself. In other words, people received a second chance.

In the following chapter, Peter states, “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does” (1 Peter 4:6). About this verse, Martin Luther wrote, “This is a strange text and certainly a more obscure passage than any other passage in the New Testament. I still do not know for sure what the apostle meant.” The inference is that Jesus, while dead, offered salvation to all who had died before his time.

Since the Resurrection?

  1. What about people today that have NEVER heard the gospel? Do THEY get a chance to listen to and respond?

In 1522, Martin Luther wrote a letter to Hans von Reichenberg about the possibility that people could turn to God after death: “It would be a completely different question to ask whether God could grant faith to a few at the moment of their death or after death and thereby save them through faith. Who would doubt that he could do this? But no one can prove that he does do this.”

Some final questions

Is God’s forgiveness limited? When Peter asked Jesus how much he should forgive someone who offended him, he suggested seven times would be a good number. Jesus disagreed and advocated for seventy times seven, a hyperbolic way of teaching unlimited forgiveness. Does Jesus practice what he teaches? How about “love your enemies?” Does Jesus do that too? Does God’s love fail even though “God is love” and “love never fails” (1 John 4:8; 1 Cor. 13:8).

What Revelation reveals

In Revelation 22, we discover a city whose gates never close, and the wicked are outside the gates. The following verse is a marvellous invitation: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the gift of the water of life.” The redeemed don’t need this invitation. They already “have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” Is not the invitation for the unredeemed, those outside the city gates, as a constant offer of forgiveness and life?

Theologian Bradley Jersak puts it this way, “It’s simply that he’ll always love you, with a love that even outlasts and overcomes death (Song of Solomon 8). The Bible at least hints (Rev. 21-22) that the prodigal Father will wait for you, invite you and keep the doors open for you until you’re ready to come home. He’ll wait for you forever.”


It’s a question that’s as old as the Christian faith itself: Can I lose my salvation?  It’s a good question and one which I believe is asked out of one of the most profound human needs, the need for security.

Various opinions have been offered over the centuries in an answer.  The French Theologian and Pastor, John Calvin (1509-64) and subsequent generations of his followers taught a doctrine known as, “The perseverance of the saints.”  The Westminster Confession of Faith states it as follows: “They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace: but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”

Calvin died, but his teachings lived on, and in 1591 Jacobus Arminius (a Dutch theologian and pastor) began a long process by which he attempted to reform Calvinism – a process which was continued by his followers after his death in 1609.  Part of the attempted reformation of Calvin’s teachings included his views on unconditional eternal security.  Today, “Can I lose my salvation?” continues to be a question that Christians wrestle with and disagree over.  It’s a question people often ask me at Bayside Church.

I believe this question comes from a wrong understanding of salvation, where people see it as an event rather than a process.  If I join a gym and workout once am I, once fit always fit?  I wish :).  We understand that in any area of life we need to exercise discipline and effort not just to maintain but also to grow and develop; it’s the same with salvation.

The Bible speaks of salvation concerning the past, the present, and the future.  Consider these verses:

Ephesians 2:5, “it is by grace you have been saved.”

Philippians 2:12, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him.”

In His Great Commission, Jesus instructs his followers to make disciples, not just decisions.  I believe there is often too much emphasis on getting people “saved” by “making a decision” and “saying a prayer.”  While all of this is a good start, we are in danger of communicating to people that, once they’ve said the prayer, they are saved, all is good, and they can now go on living life as they always have.  Becoming a disciple or follower of Jesus, on the other hand, is a lifelong commitment.  Eugene Peterson refers to it as, “A long obedience in the same direction.” [1]

The word “disciple” comes from the Greek word “mathetes” from which the English word mathematics derives.  Mathetes refers to “mental effort needed to think something through.” [2] In other words, before you choose to become a follower of Jesus, it is vital that you count the cost, diligently thinking through the ramifications, and then making a decision that will affect the rest of your life.  When we make that kind of choice, the risen Jesus will continually intercede for us. “Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him.” [3] At Jesus’ Second Coming the salvation he started in us through his life, death and resurrection will finally be completed as he ushers us into eternity.

Can I lose my salvation?  It’s a good question and one which I believe is asked out of one of the most genuine human needs, the need for security.  I consider that we’re secure in Christ: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [4]

The lost son that Jesus spoke of in his parable in Luke 15 was wayward for a time but eventually returned to his father.  At no stage did he ever cease being his father’s son.  His straying broke their fellowship, but not their relationship.  While I believe a follower of Jesus should live a life that is worthy of, and pleasing to God, He also understands and makes provision for our wanderings and imperfections – that’s the beauty of grace!  Followers of Jesus should rest and relax in God’s love, mercy, and grace.

I decided to follow Jesus when I was 19 but, after a few months, I drifted away and, for the next two years, I didn’t live the life of a Jesus follower.  During that time, I regularly felt the tug of the Holy Spirit on my heart, calling me home.  I eventually came back and once again committed my life to following Jesus.  Since that time, I’ve engaged in “A long obedience in the same direction,” but that doesn’t mean my life has been without mistakes, failures, and straying. During these times I continue to sense that gentle tug, and the relentless love of God constantly drawing me back.  I rest in God’s eternal security because, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” [5]


[1] https://www.amazon.com.au/Long-Obedience-Direction-Eugene-Peterson/dp/0830822577

[2] https://bibliaparalela.com/greek/3101.htm

[3] Hebrews 7:25

[4] Romans 8:38-39

[5] 2 Timothy 1:12

“Born again!” It’s a familiar term that’s been done to death in recent times.  If you google it you come up with all sorts of things from movies to songs, albums to books, and of course the Abba tribute band Bjorn Again.  “Born again” is a hair product, a beauty mask, a motorbike restoration business and a fashion show.  It’s an American activist group and a comic book. Right here in Melbourne, you can even cover your concrete slab with “Born again floors.”  Born again is an Elvis impersonator in Sydney, and rapper Snoop Dog said he was born again after visiting a Rastafarian Temple in Jamaica earlier this year where a High Priest told him, ‘You are the light; you are the lion.’  He now refers to himself as “Snoop Lion”. I kid you not.

But when you mention “born again”, most people think of the Christian term – and it’s not always positive. In research that Bayside Church conducted last year, those that don’t attend church saw the term as fanatical, cultish, brainwashed, the vocal minority, a crutch or as referring to the American Bible belt.

Those that were in the church saw it as somewhat more positive:  renewed in Jesus,

Jesus as Saviour, saved, life-changing, forgiven/redeemed, freedom/new start and restored.  Some in the church viewed “born again” less positively as meaning: I’ve arrived, powerfully divisive, misunderstood, polarising, confusing, confronting, severing ties, isolating, segmenting, or a 70s and 80s term.

So, what is being born again really all about?  It’s first found in the third chapter of the book of John in the Bible where Jesus is having a discussion with a senior Jewish leader, Nicodemus, who recognises Jesus as “a teacher who has come from God.”  Jesus ignores the flattery and tells Nicodemus, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus understands the term because it was well known in the Hebrew culture of his day, but he was confused by Jesus’ use of it because Nicodemus had already been born again four times.

There were six ways a person was considered born again in Jesus’ day:

1. When a gentile converted to Judaism

2. Being crowned king

3. At the Bar Mitzvah (coming of age ceremony) at age 13

4. Being married

5. Being ordained as a Rabbi (at age 30)

6. Becoming the head of a Rabbinic academy (at age 50)

“Born again” referred to all of these major life stages after which one would never be the same again.  The first two of these didn’t apply to Nicodemus but the last four did.  There was no other way, in his thinking, that he could be born again and so he asks Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time when his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4)(NIV).  In other words, the only way I could be born again was if I entered my mother’s womb and started the process all over.

It’s at this point that Jesus starts to help Nicodemus with his confusion: “Jesus answered, ” I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again” (John 3:5-7) (NIV).

Jesus refers here to the two births – natural birth and spiritual birth.  “Born of water” (referring to when a woman’s waters break) is the same as being “born of the flesh,” that is, natural birth that makes us a part of a natural family.  When your parents conceived you, you became part of their family. You became their son or daughter.  But Jesus goes one step further and says there’s a second birth, a spiritual birth where “Spirit gives birth to spirit.” At that time you are adopted into the family of God and become His son or daughter (see Ephesians 1:5).  God becomes your Father and Jesus is your older brother.  That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven” – He included us in the family of God.  What an honour. What a privilege.

The apostle Paul reflected on this amazing truth in his letter to the Galatian church, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son … that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Gal 4:6-7) (NIV).

When you accept God’s Son, Jesus, as your Saviour, you are born (again) into God’s family, you receive the full rights of a son or daughter, you call him father (“Abba” is an Aramaic word which denotes warmth and relaxed familiarity), and you also become an heir inheriting all that God has for you in this life as well as the life to come.

I hope by reading this you realise that Jesus’ use of the term “born again” was intensely positive. If you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour, then delight afresh in who you are as a child of your Father God. If you aren’t born again, what’s stopping you?



The danger with truth is that when you push a truth too far it slips into error.  That is true when it comes to the belief that Martin Luther reinforced through the Reformation – that faith alone, apart from the law, was necessary for salvation.

During Luther’s time there were those who pushed this truth too far by teaching that the law was unnecessary and all one had to do was believe in Jesus.  The way a person lived didn’t matter; it was unnecessary, they said, to hold to any moral law.  In response to this, Luther coined the term Antinomianism (taken from the Greek words meaning “against law”).

Now I most certainly believe in salvation by faith alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The apostle Paul makes it clear when he says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Even though I believe this truth it doesn’t mean that I hold to antinomianism.  I believe that God’s law is vitally important for four reasons:

Firstly, the law gives us knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20, “…through the law we become conscious of sin.”

If it weren’t for laws we wouldn’t know what was right and what was wrong.  If there was no speed limit, for example, we could drive at dangerous speeds that would harm others and us.  Having speed laws means that when someone exceeds the speed limit they can be justly punished and hopefully amend their behaviour.  Parents want to instil knowledge of right and wrong in their children so they become responsible citizens.  God’s law does the same for us.

The second purpose of the law is to declare the whole world guilty.

Romans 3:19, “all the world may become guilty before God.”

Just like the law of the land, the law of God shows us what is pleasing and displeasing to God.  If God hadn’t told us that lying, murder, adultery and the like are wrong, we wouldn’t have an understanding of them being wrong and so wouldn’t feel guilty for engaging in behaviour that is not only destructive to ourselves but also to others.

Thirdly, the law gives place to the justice of God.

Romans 4:15, “… law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.”

When we break a law justice says that it is right for the lawbreaker to be punished. When we break God’s laws He is just and righteous in punishing us.

Finally, God’s law is to lead us to Jesus Christ our Saviour

Galatians 3:24-25, “…the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

And so, through the law we realize that we are sinners, that we are guilty and that we deserve to be punished.  Then comes the good news – Jesus has taken our punishment for us so that we can be free from guilt and shame.  The law is like a tutor that brings us to Christ, but once we have been introduced to Jesus we are no longer under the tutor (the law) – it has served its purpose, we are forgiven and free.

The Old Testament has many complex laws; the New Testament simplifies them all into one statement: “The commandments are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14)

Once we have been forgiven by Jesus He calls us to live a life of love – a life that does no harm to its neighbour.  That is the purpose and fulfilment of the law.