3. DYING IN A SAVED CONDITION
The purpose of the gospel of Christ is to save sinners. Romans 1:16 states - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." The Bible has facts that must be believed, commands that must be obeyed, warnings that must be heeded, and promises that can then be obtained (e.g., forgiveness and everlasting life). Let's take some time to consider these points in greater detail:
"Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."
(2) Sinners must believe:
In God - "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
In Christ - "'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' So they said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household'" (Acts 16:30,31).
The Gospel - "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15,16).
(3) All men must repent of their sins.
Acts 17:30,31 teaches - "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."
(4) Sinners must confess their faith in the Christ.
Matthew 10:32,33 - "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." Paul added this thought in Romans 10:9,10 - "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
(5) All sinners who hear, believe, repent, and confess their faith must then be baptized.
Our Lord said in Mark 16:16 - "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved". Sinners are pronounced saved and are added to the church after--not before--their baptism into Christ (cf. Acts 2:47; Gal. 3:27; II Tim. 2:10).
Consider Romans 6:3,4,17,18 - "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life...But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."
Paul described the eternal destiny of those who die, having been saved and having served Christ faithfully - "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (I Thess. 4:16-18).
He later contrasted the eternal destinies of those who die in a saved condition with those who die in a sinful condition. Consider II Thessalonians 1:6-9:
"Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."
It is obvious that we need to be in either a sinless condition (as an innocent child) or in a saved condition (as a faithful Christian) at death if we desire to live with God in heaven.
4. DYING IN A SEVERED CONDITION
"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."
Calvinism teaches that those who have been saved simply cannot fall from the state of grace in an absolute sense. They believe that once a person is saved, he will always be saved. However, the Bible teaches that after obeying the gospel, the Galatian Christians removed themselves from Christ in that they attempted to be justified by law--they fell from God's grace. It is therefore possible for those who have obeyed the gospel to become severed from Christ. As Revelation 3:16 shows us, it is possible for a person to offend Christ to the extent that He will vomit them out of His mouth. Again, this implies a severed condition.
Those who die physically, severed from Christ spiritually, will receive a punishment worse than physical death. Consider Hebrews 10:26-29:
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?"
Peter also commented concerning this severed condition in II Peter 2:20-22 - "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: 'A dog returns to his own vomit,' and 'a sow having washed to her wallowing in the mire.'"
Those who have severed themselves from Christ must repent if they desire to be saved. Jesus said in Luke 13:3 - "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Severed Christians must confess their sins - "If we confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). They must also pray for forgiveness - "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). For example, when Simon the sorcerer sinned after being saved, Peter told him - "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."
Dear friends, at death every person will be in one of the four conditions we've studied in this series. God will reward those who die in a sinless or saved condition with an eternal home in heaven. He will sentence those who die in a sinful or severed state to everlasting punishment in hell. May God grant alien sinners the time and opportunity to obey the gospel, and may He grant His unfaithful, severed children time and opportunity to return to Him.
Every one of us has an appointment with death and the Judgment - "And it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). We don't know when that time will come (or if, perhaps, Jesus will return first).
Friends, in what condition will you be found come Judgment Day? If you are an adult and have all your mental faculties, you won't die in the sinless state of childhood, but it is my hope that you would die in the saved state as a faithful Christian!
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.