Hi Michelle, I have a question. I am new to the community, so if this has been answered elsewhere please point me in the right direction.
My question is this: in most of the churches I have been to it has been common theology that the only way to God is through Jesus AND that you have to choose Jesus before you die. If you don’t choose Jesus before you die, then you have lost your chance and will go to Hell. I agree with the first part, that the only way to God and eternal life is through Jesus, but I am not sure there is a Biblical foundation for the AND you have to choose him before you die. Could someone explain to me what this belief is based on or where this tradition comes from? I do NOT mean this in a “love wins” sense where everyone will eventually go to Heaven, I think the bible is very clear that some people will choose against God and thus seal their own fate. However, if we are eternal beings, I am not sure that the only time to choose God is while here on Earth? That doesn’t quite seem logical to me?
In my own study I did a word study on “death” in the bible. It was interesting. If you toss out all the verses on “so and so died” which is the majority, there are a couple key verses that repeat over and really stand out to me
deut 24:16 each shall be put to death for thier OWN sin (this is quoted several more times throughout the Bible)
deut 32:39 (God saying) I put to death and I bring to life (this is interesting because throughout the rest of the Torah there are many verses on if so and so does this then stone them to death- so clearly this is a different type of death God is talking about if in the same book he is telling others to stone people to death (now that I think about it this might be a reasonable answer to the “God killing other nations in the OT” question but I’ll save that conversation for later)
ezk 18:23, 18:32 I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, repent and you will not die
gospels- over and over and over Jesus states that there are people here now (in his life) that will never taste death- like Deut 32:39 this clearly does not mean physical death as we know it because ALL of the people from Jesus time have physically died. so clearly this is a different death.
rev 2:11, 20:6 “second death”
rev 20:13 the dead were given up and each was judged according to what he has done (like deut 24:16)
rev 20:14 the lake of fire is the second death
It is not until revelation that I found the term “second death”. So,from this word study I might conclude that a person could still choose God before the “second death” when the entire world is judged, not the first physical death here on earth?
I would love thoughts.
I ended up wrtiting a longer response than I expected yesterday, because you had such great elements to you quesiton. I hope this answer finds you refreshed and read to face whatever God has for you today.
Welcome to the community! We are always happy to engage with all topics, regardless of whether or not they discussed before on RZIM. As you might have read below in my response to @Duke, we will try to add any helpful links for further reading when we can!
So here are a few RZIM Connect threads you might want to visit:
Does the Bible teach eternal separation from God?
Discussion facilitator @SeanO mentions the second death, in a different context but then links in lots of great further resources for reading up on hell and the final judgment.
Is the immortal soul a Biblical concept and if so, where is it found?
This is a very hot topic in the community right now. These discussions and questions are getting a lot of community attention, even within the last 2 days. It’s clear that you have done a lot of thinking and study on this subject, I encourage you to join the discussion as well. I know that the community will benefit from your input!
That being said, I want to pick up on the more specific questions you asked about whether people might get the opportunity to choose faith in Jesus Christ after their earthly death, and for clarity about the term “second death” in Revelation.
There are 2 scripture references which, interestingly, I have referenced in 2 different threads during this week on Ask RZIM. The funny thing is that they are often considered more obscure, or difficult passages in scripture, and they are certainly not among my favorite verses that quickly spring to mind. However, I find they both apply to the what the Bible explains as the human timeline for accepting Christ.
In my response to @Amf I mentioned the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Although, there are differences in option on how much doctrine we should gain from parables, a few things are clear. Jesus seems to imply that once someone dies and passes into eternity, they cannot cross over from death into life (v. 26). Jesus goes further to imply in verse 31 that if Moses and the prophets were not enough to stir faith in someone, then they wouldn’t even be convinced to repent if they saw someone rise from the dead. How do we apply this to our lives now? For all of us today, Moses and the prophets represent the Bible and Jesus is the new and better Lazarus who did actually rise from the dead, fulfilling the rich man’s request. This along with other passages in scripture, lead us to believe that the opportunity to accept Christ comes only during our human lifetime.
In my response to @Duke I mentioned Matthew 12:31-32, the cross-reference can also be found in Mark 3:28-29.
“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks 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.” Matthew 12:31-32
You can read in that response what I wrote regarding what is sometimes referred to as the “unforgivable sin”, so I won’t go into it again on this thread. However, the close of the passage in both Matthew and Mark clearly states that those who have committed this “eternal sin" (persistent, willful, rejection of Christ) "will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Both the classification of the rejection of Jesus Christ being an "eternal sin” in Mark and the phrase 'in this age or in the age to come” seem to imply that the human opportunity to accept Christ is open for as long as we live here on earth-our first death. Hebrews 9: 27 reminds us that every human being with face death first then judgment. What revelation refers to as the “second death” is the eternal judgment that unbelievers will face after they die.
This second death is contrasted with those who overcome in Revelation 2, who are given a crown of life and will never taste a “second death”. In other words, those who chose Jesus during their human lifetime receive eternal life and will never taste or have to face the second death mentioned in Revelation. Jesus explains this clearly in John 11:25-26 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
These are important and sensitive topics. I urge you to follow the links above to pursue further resources and to join the brilliant current community discussion.