Imagine a child is born and accepts Christ at a young age. He displays signs of being a Christian, but then grows up to live a life of complete decadence before they die. Imagine a second child born and growing up, having always given in to his fleshly desires and sought the ways of the world. But at the last moment on his death bed he accepts Christ. Who goes to Heaven? I have been told by two pastors the second child for sure, probably not the first.
Regardless of any hypothetical scenario we might imagine, the Bible’s standard for salvation remains unchanged:
Rom. 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” — that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
Rom. 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
Rom. 10:10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
A person who believes the Gospel truly is born again spiritually, Jesus says. The person is forever spiritually new, adopted as a child of God, and nothing that comes before or after this moment will change the person’s eternal destiny, as Paul says:
Rom. 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
Rom. 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Therefore, if a person truly places their faith in Christ regardless of their age, then that person has been born again and adopted into the family of God, and he or she will be raised up on the last day:
John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
John 6:39 “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
John 6:40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
The Bible is abundantly clear that salvation is by faith alone as Paul says:
Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Eph. 2:9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Therefore, a believer’s salvation is never in jeopardy regardless of what sin he or she may commit in the future or how bad their sins have been in the past. No Christian is saved by “good” works, and neither can a Christian be lost by “bad” works.
Remember, even one sin is enough to bar us from Heaven apart from the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, so no one is more worthy of heaven than another. We all need grace and we all have sin that must be forgiven by the blood of Christ. Apart from Christ, everyone stands equally guilty before God regardless of how long someone has lived or how much sin he or she has committed:
Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Neither is the timing of our salvation important. The Lord saves each person when He chooses:
Matt. 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
Matt. 20:2 “When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.
Matt. 20:3 “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place;
Matt. 20:4 and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went.
Matt. 20:5 “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.
Matt. 20:6 “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’
Matt. 20:7 “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’
Matt. 20:8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’
Matt. 20:9 “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.
Matt. 20:10 “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.
Matt. 20:11 “When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner,
Matt. 20:12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’
Matt. 20:13 “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?
Matt. 20:14 ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
Matt. 20:15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’
Matt. 20:16 “So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
We recommend you read the following articles for more information on this important topic:
Determining the Salvation of Others