Context of the second death

This question could get sticky because of its implications but I’m going to ask it anyways. It has some rooting in calvinism as well. So I am trying to understand the extent of what a wander is in James 5:20. My study Bible discribes one aspect as the not saved and the other as Christians who have wandered as their faith was not genuine. It further says these people will experience the second death described in revelations 21:8. Now this whole salvation thing can be tricky but some would argue that all you need to be saved is to follow a verse like Roman’s 10:9. If they have that right but have almost no fruit and don’t got to church they will acrue almost no treasures in heaven but will be saved. Therefore I ask who this wander is in this context. For you to experience the second death surely you would have to denounce the faith, not just not be a devout Christian. A backside to a point where you don’t believe that God is real anymore

This is a great question @Michael_Ryan. I am glad you asked it. As you said it is a tricky and sticky question but we all as Christian have to read the bible and make a decision to what we believe. There are many denominations with different views of this. I will outline some of them. I am in noway expert and thus, I hope others contribute as well.

  1. The older church denominations such as orthodox Christian and Catholic believe that you are saved by the grace of Christ, meaning Jesus made a way back to heaven that Adam broke. But in order to enter heaven after being born as a new creation, God expects you to walk in the ways of Christ. There are passages in the bible where it says faith without works is dead or where it says not all that call me Lord Lord and did many works under my name but those who are evildoers will be told “I never knew you.” So in other words, one can lose salvation if they reject God in their actions and the way they live and never repent. Catholic is slightly different and they believe in Purgatory unlike the orthodox Christians. Orthodox dont believe there is another way to make it to heaven once you are dead.

  2. After the reformation and many of the protestant denominations believe in faith alone. No amount of sin can take you away from God, meaning you wont lose salvation. They state that if a person is made into a new creature in Christ, then they automatically would do good works and thus never need to even have the discussion of losing salvation. The tricky part is that then, it raises the question that maybe the person who is announcing Christ as his Lord and savior, maybe never truly took Christ as his Lord and savior to begin with? else it is hard to explain why they would reject God in their works. So in other words, there were the goats to be separated from the sheep.

  3. Calvinism, I have not been exposed to it very well but in short, from what I understand, it is saying that there are elect individuals that God has already predestined from the start and those that are not. Those that are elect will get saved and the rest don’t. There is no way for us to know who is elect and who is not elect and thus we continue to evangelize.

My personal opinion, I dont believe in predestination. God is sovereign and all knowing but also gives us the free choice to choose him to be saved or not. If they dont want to be with him, he wont force them in heaven. Separation from the presence of God = Hell. Not by his choice but by each individuals choice. I also believe that if we dont walk in the ways of Christ and reject Christ in our works and never repent, that we can lose our salvation. At the same time though, I do agree that if we are truly changed to a new creation from the beginning, it definitely should be automatic that we would do good works. I am not saying we cant fail and repent. But I dont think we can fool God saying we love him in our words but have a non-resembling lifestyle.

I also believe God loves everyone equally as he commanded us to love our enemies and prayed for those crucifying him to be forgiven. God does not just love, but He is Love. I know there are bible verses in OT that says he hated Esua etc, but looking at the big picture and many other bible verses, it is clear that God is Love. Yes is also fair and just and thus which is why I think we can lose salvation.

Now God’s soverignity and his all knowing does not go against our free choice. There is a good video by William Craig below about Molinism. That might help. In short, God’s “psychic ability” to know does not mean he is making the choices for us. I was not predestined to write this phrase for you, I am choosing to do it, but God knew that I would write it.

You may also ask saying why would God then make a world where people by their free choice go to hell. That is because without a free choice, love is not possible. Plus, most likely, God being all knowing, he most likely have already thought about all the worlds that he can create and this world happened to be the world where the maximum amount of people with their own free choice, choose him and go to heaven. The rest he just cant force them.

Here are some helpful verses:

2 Peter 3:9 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

I hope this helps.
God Bless.

Good question @Michael_Ryan. Let’s back up and get some context.

James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. After the stoning of Stephen at the end of Acts 7, the Jerusalem believers (who were virtually all born Jews or proselytes to Judaism) began scattering abroad and carrying the gospel to distant cities - Acts 8:1, 4 and 11:19-21.

Naturally, they gravitated toward cities where the Jews of the dispersion were scattered to carry the gospel to them. James 1:1 reveals that this is the group to whom James is writing this letter (which, incidentally, is believed to be the earliest book of the New Testament to be written - about 45 AD).

The book of Hebrews shows that many Jews were interested in the growing movement of Jesus’ disciples, and they began frequenting their churches to find out what this controversial movement was all about. Many had heard the word of God, they had been convicted by the Holy Spirit, they had seen the lives of others transformed by faith in Jesus.

But to become a Christian was very costly in the Jewish community. Many Jews wavered over whether to commit to the gospel. Throughout this letter, James frequently calls them brethren because they are Jews, but they are not all brethren in Christ.

This brings us to your verses at the end of James’ letter. In this final warning, he tells those who are Christians that if they see one of these uncommitted Jews beginning to err from the truth, if they can convert him, they will save the sinner from the error of his way, save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins.

There are several clues here that this is not a genuine Christian who is backsliding, but an uncommitted seeker who is wavering dangerously close to walking away from the gospel.

First, there is only one place in the Bible where the word “convert” means changing someone who is already a Christian - in Luke 22:32 when Jesus tells Peter at the last supper that after he is converted, he should strengthen the brethren. But that is talking about after the Holy Spirit comes upon Peter at Pentecost and transforms him from a vascillating weakling into a pillar of power in the early church.

Ever since Pentecost, everyone who is converted to Christ is immediately indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so a second experience such as is implied for Peter never appears again.

So when James 5:19 encourages someone to convert the Jewish brother beginning to err away from Christ, that indicates that he is not a believer in Christ to begin with.

Second, verse 20 calls the one to be converted a sinner. Now, while Christians will commonly to refer to themselves as sinners saved by grace and other similar expressions, the Bible literally never refers to a Christian as a sinner. Not once. Nada. Zip.

Even when Paul calls himself the chief of sinners, it’s clear from the context (I Timothy 1:13-15) that he’s talking about what he was in his pre-Christian life.

So again, this is a lost person needing salvation.

Third, if one converts the sinner, he’ll save a soul from death. Every lost person faces the second death of the soul (Revelation 20:11-15). No Christian does.

I hope this will help you to get a fuller perspective on this passage.

1 Like

This helped so much. It’s very scriptural and context helped so much. The more I read into the predestination verses or let me rather say one’s which I think align with that way of thinking, aren’t really speaking about that. Thanks for the insight

1 Like