When it comes to the topic of salvation, we all belong to one of these camps. In some cases, they might not even realize it because they haven’t given much thought about what comes after their mortal life.
Pascal once said that there are three basic camps of people in the world:
- Camp A, which consists of people who have found God
- Camp B, which is composed of people who are seeking God and will find Him
- Camp C, for people who aren’t seeking God
In his book, Can I Be Sure I’m Saved, R.C. Sproul breaks it down even further:
- People who are saved and know it
- People who are saved but do not know it
- People who are unsaved and know it
- People who are unsaved but do not know it
- Camp 1: Those who know they’re not saved
- Camp 2: Those who are sincerely searching for God and will find Him
- Camp 3: Those who think they’re saved but are not
- Camp 4: Those who are saved but lack assurance
- Camp 5: Those who are saved and know it
Camp 1: Those who know they’re not savedThis camp consists of people who believe God exists, believe there is a hell, and that they're going there. In short, they know they're not saved. All too often, they know God will judge them one day but rejected Him anyway because they don’t want to give up their sinful lifestyle. Sadly, many of them even encourage others to follow their deadly march straight into the depths of hell.
This was an issue in the early church, which inspired the Apostle Paul to write,
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.Some people have even tried to make hell sound like a great place to be. The Australian hard rock band AC/DC, for example, boasted with fearless bravado that they’re on the highway to hell and that their friends are all going to be there. Dear people, if your friends are in hell, let me assure you they don’t want you there because it’s not going to be a party like some people think. Jesus said it’s a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). Hell is a place of torment. You really don’t want to go there. There’s nothing in this world that’s worth even taking the risk that you could possibly go there. Sit and think about that for a while.
There are also people who don’t believe God will forgive them of their sins because their sins are so grievous. Friends, if this is you, let me assure you that the bible is full of stories of the most grievous sins that the Lord has forgiven when people turn to Him in repentance. The book of 2nd Samuel chapters 11 and 12, for example, tell the story of how King David committed one grievous sin after another. Saul of Tarsus, who Jesus renamed Paul claimed to be the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:16). God forgave these men and He can forgive you too. All it takes is a repentant heart and a decision to follow Jesus.
Camp 2: Those who are sincerely searching for God and will find HimWe all have an innate knowledge of God’s existence although some people try to depress or completely reject that knowledge. But then there are also those who search for God. Some halfheartedly and some earnestly. The Bible promises that if you seek the Lord with all your heart and soul, you will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). Once they find God, put their faith in him, and are born again, they move into either Camp 4 or Camp 5.
Camp 3: Those who think they’re saved but are notThis category consists of people who:
- Don’t know they’re not saved.
- Think they're saved but are not. These people have a false sense of assurance of salvation.
- Are in denial about their need for a savior
People who don’t know they’re not savedThese people either haven’t heard the gospel or they have muted their conscience to the point that they don’t hear the warnings that they need a Savior. Are these people given a pass to skip the day of judgment? Certainly not! The Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that everyone has all the evidence that they need to prove to them that God exists.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.In his book, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living, atheist French philosopher, Luc Ferry introduces philosophy to people who don’t know anything about philosophy. Luc states that our starting point to understanding philosophy is to deal with the fact that we’re all going to die and everyone you know is going to die too. I met someone years ago who was on the edge of despair and contemplating suicide after reading such books. Luc says that coming to terms with the reality that we’re all going to die causes people to turn to religions that promise salvation. Sadly, some people turn to science or human reasoning as their God, thinking that they can somehow fix the world and maybe even someday defeat death itself. Let me tell you that’s never going to work because that’s not God’s plan.
Romans 1:20-21 NKJV
If you’re an atheist or just on the fence about what you believe, then you need to take this advice to heart:
Even if one is not a believer, we don’t have the right to ignorance. If only to oppose it, we must be familiar with religion in its various form to understand what we’re opposing.If you’re not a believer in Jesus, have you at least investigated what or who you’re opposing? If not, pick up a bible and read it from cover to cover. Then read it again. Remember, if you search for God with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.
Think they’re saved but are notThese are the people who are in danger of standing in front of Jesus on the day of judgment with their long list of all the wonderful things they did in His name, and Jesus will say to them ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:23).
The list of things that delude people into thinking they’ll make it into heaven is probably endless. I wrote about some of them in Arguments that won’t get you into heaven.
Most of these arguments boil down to the doctrine of Legalism which teaches a works-based salvation. This false doctrine states that if you do enough good things in your life, or if the good things you do outweigh the bad, then God will have to let you into heaven. Not only is this clearly not taught in scripture but it offers absolutely no assurance of salvation. How can you possibly know if you’ve managed to tip the scales in your favor? The short answer is you can’t. Then there’s the doctrine of Universalism which teaches that everyone goes to heaven. Pope Francis declared that everyone, including atheists, will go to heaven. I wonder which bible he’s reading. It’s certainly not the same bible I read because my bible clearly proves this to be a doctrine from the pit of hell.
If everyone goes to heaven then that means that no one goes to hell. If that’s the case, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Many churches today teach that Jesus paid the penalty for everyone but neglect to mention that we have to receive that pardon by repenting and putting our faith in the Lord Jesus.
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.Another thing that leads people into a false sense of salvation is that if they just repeat the sinner’s prayer, they’ll be saved. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fine prayer but just saying the words without meaning them in your heart doesn’t get you saved. There’s no magic in those words, no matter how many times you repeat them. Please hear me, friends, just praying the sinner’s prayer without believing in your heart that Jesus is who He claims to be and did what the Bible said He did will not get you into heaven. Jesus said you have to be born again. As the great theologian, R.C. Sproul said: “it’s possible to make a profession of faith without being regenerated”. In other words, you can pray the sinner's prayer or any similar prayer and not be born again.
Those who are in denial about their need for a saviorThese are the people who don’t believe they need to be saved because they don’t believe God exists. They reason that if God doesn’t exist, then neither does hell. And if hell and God don’t exist, they won’t go to hell when they die. They believe they’ll just drift into an eternal nothingness after they breathe their last breath.
Usually, people become atheists due to an intellectual or emotional issue in their life. Pastor Lee Strobel lists these reasons that some people refuse to believe in the existence of God:
- There’s the physician who says, “I can’t believe the Bible because it conflicts with modern science.”
- The mother of a sick child who says, “I can’t believe in a God who permits my son to suffer when so many evil people seem to be successful.”
- The lawyer who says, “I’m used to dealing with evidence and facts; I can’t believe in something that we’re asked to accept purely on faith.”
- The corporate executive who says, “I prayed that my business would get through its crisis, but it’s going down the tubes. I can’t believe in a God who ignores my call for help.”
Camp 4: Those who are saved but lack assuranceThis category consists of people who aren't sure if they're saved even though they really are. They lack assurance of salvation. Some people can name the day they were born again. I’ve heard the testimonies of people who give a vivid account of exactly what led up to their conversion. But, others, like myself, have no recollection of when that blessed event happened. As you might expect, people who had the Damascus-road type experience tend to have more assurance in their salvation than the rest of us. But the good news is that you can be born again (saved) without having a memorable conversion experience.
Actually, one of the most dangerous things we can do as Christians is to determine our theology by our experience, because no one’s experience is normative for the Christian life.Most religions, including Roman Catholics, don’t believe you can know for sure if you’re saved. How sad to go through life like that. One cause for this condition is a belief in a works-based salvation. Usually, this means that you have to do more good things than bad in your life to tip the scales in your favor. I chose to believe that the bible means what it says when the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostle Paul to write “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
R. C. Sproul, Can I Be Sure I’m Saved?
Camp 5: Those who are saved and know itThese are the people who have the assurance of their salvation. R.C. Sproul put it this way “These people have full assurance that they are in a state of grace. It is a settled matter for them.”
Even so, we can sometimes vacillate between having an ironclad assurance of our salvation and not being so sure. This is usually a result of our own sin that drives a wedge between us and God. This is why I believe it’s so important to ask for forgiveness as soon as you realize you’ve sinned. You need to realize that sin drives a wedge between you and God. Don’t wait for that wedge to get bigger or else you’ll feel more and more distant from God. If this condition persists, you could end up back in Camp 4. A sure way to get your assurance of salvation back is to repent, get back on the narrow path that leads to life, and be resolute in being a doer of God’s Word, and not a hearer only (James 1:22).
Assurance of salvationIt is for the people in camps 3 and 4 that I wrote the free eBook, Assurance of salvation. The purpose of the book is to point you to scripture in order to help you identify the things to look for in your life that either assures you that you really are saved or warns you that you might have a false sense of salvation. If you’ve been having doubts about your salvation, then, by all means, please spend the time to read the book. The cost of being wrong about your eternal destiny is just too high a price to pay.
Related ResourcesBlog post: Arguments that won’t get you into heaven
Free eBook: Assurance of salvation
Book: Can I be sure I am saved, by R.C. Sproul
Book: Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary, by Lee Strobel