A commonly held belief is that people need to accept Jesus as Lord during their lifetime on Earth and failing to do so will result in the individual's damnation. Is there any support for this "last call" doctrine?

Since there is life after death, I have wondered if people will have an opportunity to make a decision for Jesus after their death. Is there any support for this "second chance" idea? I have tried to study it and have not able to find anything in the bible that would contradict this idea that we can still make a decision for Christ after this life.

  • I think I can answer your question from a Jehovah's Witness standpoint. Do you want a Jehovah's Witness answer? – Double U Jul 3 '13 at 4:03
  • Sure. All answers are welcome :) – Jeff Jul 3 '13 at 15:35
  • "Since there is life after death" -- citation needed – John Dvorak Oct 4 '13 at 11:48
  • In the New Testament, there is John 3:16, John 11:25 and Romans 6:5 to name a few. If you prefer the Old Testament, there is Daniel 12:2. – Jeff Oct 4 '13 at 14:13
  • Like you, I've wondered if God will give folks a second chance after they die. Just because judgment comes AFTER death does not necessarily mean IMMEDIATELY after death. In fact, in the eschatology of many mainstream Protestant denominations, there is a "gap" of unknown duration between someone's death and their judgment (which is something reserved for the "last days"). That leaves open the possibility for repentance, or so it seems to me. We're talking a possible slippery slope, however, since more movement toward "second-chance" theology gets pretty close to universalism (the belief that – rhetorician Dec 26 '16 at 16:47

The mainstream Christian answer is that there is no chance for repentance after death. The Scripture used to support this is Hebrews 9:27 which says

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment

The protestant answer goes further saying this: (From http://www.gotquestions.org/second-chance-salvation.html)

While the idea of a second chance for salvation is appealing, the Bible is clear that death is the end of all chances. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that we die, and then face judgment. So, as long as a person is alive, he has a second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. chance to accept Christ and be saved (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 16:31). Once a person dies, there are no more chances. The idea of purgatory, a place where people go after death to pay for their sins, has no biblical basis, but is rather a tradition of the Roman Catholic Church

Now in all fairness, the Cathollic Church doesn't teach that there is a chance for repentance after death. This is a misrepresentation.

From the Catholic Answers forum:

The teaching of the Church is very clear on this point: if we die in a State of Grace, we will attain salvation. Otherwise, we (probably) go to hell.

We are placed in a State of Grace through Christian Baptism. We remove ourselves through mortal sin. We are restored to a State of Grace by Sacramental Confession.

The Church recognizes the possibility that salvation might be attained by other means (which have not been revealed). Thus, we have hope for salvation for unbaptized infants (but nobody knows for sure what happens to them)

There's no telling what we can make of near-death experiences. If we accept them at face value, they could be interpreted as an experience of purgatory (not hell). Or they might represent some "other means" of salvation that has not been revealed to the Church.

LDS teaching is a bit more... Complex. Some LDS Scriptures seem to say Yes and some say no.

LDS Scripture teaching no repentance after death:

Mosiah 2:36-39

And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom's paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples. Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

Alma 34:32-35

32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. 33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. 34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. 35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

LDS teaching stating there can be repentance after death...

Doctrine and Covenants 128:5

5 You may think this order of things to be very particular; but let me tell you that it is only to answer the will of God, by conforming to the ordinance and preparation that the Lord ordained and prepared before the foundation of the world, for the salvation of the dead who should die without a knowledge of the gospel.

All that aside, getting back to a purely Biblical answer, we fall back to the standard Protestant "No. Once you die there is no further chance for repentance, according tothe teachings of Jesus". For this, we need look no further than Luke 16:19-31

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

This horrifying account tells of someone who has died in his sin, and has no way out. Verse 25 makes it pretty clear that there is no way across that chasm from Hell to Heaven after death.

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    Good answer. Thanks! Luke 16 does seem to be pretty conclusive. Maybe it is the years of boolean algebra and computer programming speaking, but I do not read Hebrews 9:27 speaking directly on the question. You die and after that you are judged. That doesn't necessarily preclude any intermediate steps in the process. "You die, haunt a house for a few weeks, then are judged" would still adhere to the original premise of judgement after death. – Jeff Jul 3 '13 at 15:47
  • Keeping that in mind, I don't think the author of the original protestant answer adequately addresses the question. S/He cites the biblical basis for salvation but then does not provide any support for the statement "Once a person dies, there are no more chances." – Jeff Jul 3 '13 at 15:53
  • Just letting everyone know that "The idea of purgatory, a place where people go after death to pay for their sins, has no biblical basis, but is rather a tradition of the Roman Catholic Church" is disinformation if an attempt to equate purgatory with a second chance at salvation, which it is not (purgatory applying only to the elect, the saved). – Sola Gratia May 30 '19 at 21:28

Catholics don't believe in a second chance doctrine, as you phrased it.

But some do believe that Jesus can come to you at the very last second of your life. St. Faustina continually was visited by Jesus in dreams wherein she came to learn that God's greatest attribute it His Divine Mercy.

One thing alone is necessary: that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God's merciful grace, and then God will do the rest. But poor is the soul who has shut the door on God's mercy, even at the last hour.

St. Faustina's Diary 1507

Actually, Catholics don't believe in a first chance doctrine either. We leave nothing up to chance, you have the Life of Christ within you, and die, are judged and go to heaven. Or you go to hell or to purgatory.* If you make it to purgatory, you'll get to heaven eventually!

*Interesting synopsis of the Last Things by Bl. John Paul II

  • Nice. Succinct, accurate, good answer. – David Stratton Jul 3 '13 at 4:54

Generally, Bible literalists might believe in a second chance. It is just that none given the second chance will take it.

In Revelation 20 we are given a particular sequence of events after the glorious second coming of Christ. In the presence of everyone living, the dead in Christ are raised, then Christ returns in glorious fire. All the wicked perish in it. 1000 years later, all the wicked are resurrected too. However, it is a resurrection unto destruction; they are quickly destroyed again in the second death.

This is their second chance. They have witnessed the great power of God, however, refuse to worship His majesty. They are truly wicked in their hearts and perish a second time because of it. They were not raised in the first resurrection because they were wicked in their hearts; they would not have chosen Christ ever.

So as a matter of semantics, you may say there is this second chance, but for all practical purposes, because none given this 2nd chance will take it, there might as well not be one at all. Which leads to the purpose of the 2nd resurrection, but that would be another question, which has been asked from the traditional perspective.

This is a literalist interpretation of Revelation 20 which is mostly taken by the 7th Day Adventists and other Annihilationist groups.

  • I find it impossible to make sense of this answer. In the sequence of events that you describe I see no opportunity for the wicked to either repent or persist in sin, no actual 2nd chance: "All the wicked perish in it. 1000 years later, all the wicked are resurrected too. However, it is a resurrection unto destruction; they are quickly destroyed again in the second death." Plus, if the 2nd chance is known to be useless, why offer it? – justbelieve Jul 4 '13 at 6:27
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    @justbelieve Anytime you see the living God is an opportunity to worship Him; an opportunity to show that in your heart you love Him. Why is there a second resurrection? Idk. I know what Adventists think but I can't give you the Truth answer. – fгedsbend Jul 4 '13 at 8:32
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    Nevermind the Truth answer -- this community has long ago established that Christianity is about doctrine, not about actual truth. Your answer seems self-contradictory on the surface inasmuch as it states that there is a 2nd chance (an opportunity to repent, presumably), but presents a chronology that doesn't leave room for that 2nd chance. I'm sure that you had something logical in mind and that by rewriting the answer it will be easier to understand. – justbelieve Jul 4 '13 at 8:36

Adding to David Stratton's very good answer, consider also that there is no instance recorded in the Scriptures of a person being saved after death. Ananias and Sapphira would be good candidates for this, if it were available, but we read of no such thing.

This leads to one of two conclusions: Either there simply will be no opportunity after death for salvation, or we are to not place our hopes in such.

This makes the hardest sense. Let us imagine for a moment that we were going to receive another chance after we have died. Would anybody repent prior to this time? I doubt even one in a million would; we would indulge our passions to whatever degree pleased us, allowing only the consequences in this life to rein in our impulses, and defer all thought of God, kidding ourselves with the notion that we can fix it all later.

The lure of this teaching is clear. Instead of having to make the choice between God and the world now—when we can see what we have to give up, but can only hope for what we are to gain—it tells us that the choice can be put off until a time when we can see what there is to be gained by choosing God, and what will be lost by choosing Him will already have been lost.

In short, we would live as if there were no God.

After a time we would become so corrupt that we would not want to make the choices required for salvation, and we would be lost, even with the judgment staring us in the face.

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