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Do You Go to Hell if You Don't Finish Well?

August 18, 2016



The two classical theological camps that people fall into are “Arminian” and “Calvinist.”


Arminians believe that if you are “saved” and then afterwards fall away from God, you lose your salvation and go to hell. Calvinists believe that you can’t “lose your salvation,” but they also believe that you can’t fall away and die in your sins because God will make you persevere.[1]




To summarize, neither Arminians nor Calvinists have a place in heaven for the Christian that doesn’t finish well.


These clean theological paradigms are not sufficient for addressing real-life situations like life-ending addiction, suicide by clinically depressed Christians, or Alzheimer’s/Dimentia.


Most importantly, they don’t square with the Scripture.


Consider King Solomon. We can all agree he was a true believer, right? He pleased God with his request for wisdom (1 Kings 3:6-15), and he wrote three books of Scripture. It was said of him that “my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul…” (2 Sam. 7:15). Yet tragically, he was led away by his many hundreds of wives and concubines. He died as an idol-worshiping sex-addict.


Did Solomon go to hell for not finishing well?


Or consider the man in 1 Cor. 3:

3:11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.


What Paul pictures here is the final judgment of believers, called the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). This is not the judgment to determine out eternal destination, but rather, our eternal reward (1 Cor. 3:14).


Now, notice the hypothetical believer in 3:15: even though he lacks the persevering,

God-honoring lifestyle to earn a reward, he is nevertheless “saved” because of his “foundation” of faith is Jesus Christ (cf. 3:11).


So apparently there are people who make it into the Pearly Gates, even when they don’t finish well. Sure, the Judgment Seat of Christ won’t be easy for them. They’ll have displeased their God and wasted their life.


But God’s grace is bigger than a wasted life.



That’s the good news, and I fear that too often we diminish it. When Jesus died on the Cross, He didn’t say, “It is finished, as long as you finish well.” He said, “It is finished.



The debt is released.


The ransom is paid.


The work is done.



We don’t avoid hell by finishing well; we avoid hell by trusting the One who did.



And that should make all of us want to finish well.









[1] Not every Arminian or Calvinist fits snugly into every facet of these theological camps. No “label” fits everyone perfectly. I’m generalizing about what is largely or mostly true of both. 

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