Bible Answer

Will unbelievers get a “second chance?”

Will an unbeliever get a second chance to accept the Gospel and go to heaven after they die? 

Many false religions teach that after a person dies, he will still have opportunity to go to heaven. Some teach this can be accomplished through reincarnation; that is, coming back as a different person over many lifetimes to "make up" for past wrongs.

Some teach that the sin we have when we die must be punished or purged following death in a place called purgatory. After sufficient purging, we may then merit entry into heaven.

Some even teach there is no hell - only different levels of heaven that we will enjoy based on our merit.

Notice that all of these teachings are based upon some form of human works: something man must do, or undergo in order to attain heaven. Works-based religions may appeal to our fleshly nature, but what does the Bible teach about life after death?

The Bible teaches clearly that after death comes judgment; there is no "second chance."

For example, consider Hebrews 9:

Heb. 9:24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
Heb. 9:25 nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own.
Heb. 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Heb. 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
Heb. 9:28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

We should note verse 27 compares the death and judgment of men to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross: just as Christ's death on the cross was a "once for all time" event, every man's death is a one-time event...and then comes judgment.

The writer goes on to explain that Christ will appear a second time for salvation for the sake of Christians, and Jesus' second appearance will also mean judgment for all unbelievers. At that time, all unbelievers will be resurrected, and Christ will judge unbelievers justly for their sins. Then He will cast all into the Lake of Fire, where they will face eternal punishment (Revelation 20:11-15).

We can know for sure there is no second chance for an unbeliever, since scripture says that all unbelievers are brought before this judgment moment. Again, all are thrown into the lake of fire to experience what Scripture calls the "second death." (See also Luke 16:19-31.)

Those who trust in Jesus Christ will never experience the second death. Instead, we eagerly await the coming of Christ knowing our faith has saved us from this outcome (Luke 7:50).