Does a Christian who becomes an Atheist lose eternal life?


THE SHORT ANSWER: No. The bible teaches that eternal life is given the moment someone believes in Jesus. It can never be taken away. If someone has believed in Jesus, but then turns their back on God, they still retain eternal life. 


Keep Reading to learn more.



My daughter woke up crying at 6:30AM. After my wife got her back to sleep I laid in bed for another few minutes but I couldn't sleep. I had something running through my head. It was this question, "can a Christian become an atheist and still be saved." I felt like this would be a really good topic to write about today. So I came out to my writing office and checked to see what questions had been submitted over night.

This question came in anonymously this morning.
"If I once believed wholeheartedly, full commentment, baptized, truely believed and now don't. Am I still saved?"

How serendipitous... Ok. So. The answer is YES, and I'm going to tell you why. First we need to understand what happens when someone believes in Jesus.

Some of this is covered in a previous post. It's worth reading. I believed as a Child but now I don't.

At the moment you believe in Jesus something happens. It's described a few different ways in the New Testament. Each of these are talking about the same event.

The Moment you believed you:

Receive eternal life. (John 3:36, 5:24, 3:16, )
Crossed From Death To life. (John 5:24)
Received a promise that you will not come into judgment (John 5:24)
Were Born Again. (John 3:3)
Were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
Indwelled by the Holy Spirit who will never leave.  (John 14:16)
Became a child of God. (John 1:12)
Were placed in God's Hand and will never be snatched out. (John 10:28-29)
Received a promise to be resurrected on 'the last day.' (John 6:54, 11:24)


In the Moment you first believed in Jesus you received eternal life. (John 3.36)

Let's imagine that you are named the beneficiary of your rich millionaire uncle's will. You didn't even have to sign anything. It's your name on the will, and there's nothing you can do to change that. Regardless of how you live, the policy stands. You can pretend as if there is no will, but that doesn't change the circumstance. It's free, so it doesn't depend on you. When your uncle dies a few years later the money is automatically transferred to your account. Regardless of how you act the money is yours. Now let's look at the eternal life policy that Jesus put in place.

Jesus said this,
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life"

You received something as a free gift when you believed. This gift has a name. Eternal, or everlasting life. That's Life that lasts forever. So if you believed in Jesus at some point in the past you got it for free.

What If you stop believing? Does that eternal life get taken away?

It couldn't be called eternal life if it were taken away. It would have to be called temporary life. We already had temporary life. We got that when we were physically born. If it is eternal life, then it must last forever by definition. We got it the moment we believed, and it lasts into eternity. That's the terms of the policy.


In the Moment you first believed you Crossed From Death To life.  (John 5.24)

"whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life."
A few years ago I wrote a urban fantasy book that was sparked by this idea. (Did I mention I'm a sci-fi writer?) It's called Cloud Haven. Once Jesus healed someone of leprosy, they would never again have leprosy. Once Jesus gave sight to the blind man, he would never be blind again. So, what happens when Jesus raised someone from the dead? Would they never again die? It was a fun premise for a fictional book, where the descendants of those raised from the dead by Jesus were immortal. 

So what happens when Jesus brings you to life? You are given immortality.... wait what? 

That's right. If you've believed in Jesus you are immortal. 

That might seem strange, especially considering that Christians die all the time. This kind of immortality comes from the resurrection power of Christ. In John 11.25 He said this, 

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die."
This verse acknowledges that we will experience death. Our bodies die. The human body has a 100% fail rate. Given enough time you will be dead. 

However, he promises that whoever believes in him will resurrect, and once they do they will never die again. If you've believed in Jesus you are an immortal. This is not just some etherial spiritual resurrection. He promises that we will be physically resurrected. We will have bodies. 

We are endowed with immortality the moment we believe in Jesus. It comes with a promise, "you will never die." He wouldn't be much of a savior if he were always giving and then taking back eternal life. He's no Indian giver. Once you've received it, it's yours. 

The Moment you Believed you Were Born Again. (John 3.3)

"no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again"
Imagine I decided that I wanted to end it all. Maybe the stock market crashed, and I lost everything. I would have lots of options as far as suicide goes. I could do one of a hundred things to end my life... There is one thing that I can't do, though. I can't go back in time and stop my own birth. (I told you I am a sci-fi writer.) My birth into this world was an iron clad transaction. No matter what I do, I can't undo the day that I was born. Even if I was a time-traveler, I couldn't undo my birth. It creates a time-space paradox that I would need a multiverse cosmology to explain, and I'm just not going to go there. So no one can ever undo their birth.

Jesus uses this analogy for that very reason. He knew that it would simply illustrate how unchangeable the circumstances are, once someone becomes a believer. In the same way that I can't undo my physical birth, I can't undo my spiritual birth.

I could grow up to be a saint or a tyrant, but I can't undo my birth.

The Moment You Believed you became A Child Of God. (John 1.12)


I was standing in the yard with my dad one day when a neighbor, probably in his early 20s, walked by on the street. My dad greeted the young man by saying, "good morning!" The man replied with, "It's not a good morning when your dad beats the shit out of you with a golf club!" I noticed that the man had red eyes and was clearly distraught. He had been crying, and apparently had left his father's house after experiencing a terrible abuse.

There are some children who would love to no longer be the child of their parents. There are probably many parents who have considered disowning their children. However, it is impossible to no longer be your parent's child. It's in your DNA. No matter what you do, even if you change your name, dye your hair, and move to another country, you are still your parent's kid. 

The Apostle John uses this phrase for that exact reason,

"to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—"
Regardless of how you act, once you've believed in Jesus, you are a child of God. You can cuss God, you can pretend he doesn't exist, you can even work against him but you're still his child. Denying God's existence is similar to any other sin. It isn't kind, but it doesn't change who your father is.  

The Moment You Believed You Were Sealed For the Day of Redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

My wife and I recently signed our names to a deed for a house. My signature is my word. It represents that I understand the terms of the binding contract. In Roman times the seal was the equivalent of a signature. 

Let's imagine that you received a promise from the emperor of Rome, and the letter was marked with his unique wax seal. The emperor was the most powerful person in the world. His seal was his bond. It represented an unbreakable commitment to carry out what he had promised. 

Here's how Paul puts it, 

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

Paul was talking to a group of believers, who were capable of committing sin. We all are capable of sin, so this could be directed at us. First he says, "don't grieve the Holy Spirit of God."

Basically he's saying, "when you sin, it pains God." he then goes on to say, "you were sealed for the day of redemption." He's pointing out that when people who are eternally saved commit sin it gives God grief.

Even though it's possible to sin, the believer is still sealed for the day of redemption. Their case is closed. The judge has already made the ruling. There's nothing to do to change that.

However, it is possible to disappoint God. Sin disappoints God, especially when those who he's given immortality to, do it. To deny God's existence is a sin, and it grieves God.

The Moment You First Believed In Jesus You Were Placed in God's Hand and will never be snatched out. (John 10.28-29)

As kids, my brothers and I couldn't wait until daddy got home from work. He was so strong. We would meet him at the door with a tackle. We loved to wrestle. He would get down on the living room floor as all three of us tried out best to defeat his impossible power. One of my famous lines before attacking was, "Daddy, I'm ganna squeeze your hand too hard."

I remember, once, trying to force his hand open. He had done the trick where he pulled the coin from behind my ear. He then did the one where you try to guess which hand the coin was in. He would let us guess, but then not open his fist. We would have to try to wrestle the coin from his grasp manually... Impossible. Nothing we could do could pull that coin from his grip.

Jesus said this in the book of John,

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand."
Jesus is very clear here. NOTHING will snatch us out of his hand. Nor will anything snatch us from the hand of God. We can no more remove ourselves from his hand, then that coin could leap from my father's.

You know that the devil would love to see us removed from the hand of God. You know that Satan would do whatever he could to have us removed. However, Jesus promises that not even Lucifer can pull us out of his hand. If the Devil can't do it, how could I remove myself.

So,

What's the consequence of being an Atheist even though I have eternal life?

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul puts it this way,

"If any man's work... remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."

It's possible to believe in Jesus but then live in an unGodly way. Although our sin does not result in a loss of eternal life, it does result in, dissatisfaction in this life, and a loss of treasure in heaven (Matt 6). So there are definitely consequences for being an atheist. It's just that the consequences is not the loss of eternal life.

Jesus said it this way,

"store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,"
Jesus was talking to people who already had believed, and therefore possessed eternal life. He was teaching that those who live in a Godly way, and obey his word would have treasure in Heaven. Those believers who did not obey Christ, would enter Heaven but have a lack of treasure there.

So a believer who becomes an Atheist is going to be in The Kingdom of Heaven, but will suffer a lack of rewards once they get there.

Jesus said this as well,

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. "But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

Jesus is talking to a crowd that includes believers. (Notice the second half) Even though they are believers he says, "whoever is ashamed of me and my words." This shows us that even believers can be "ashamed of Christ."

What happens to believers who are ashamed of Jesus and his word? They will be publicly shamed. Jesus says, "The Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."

This is possibly the worst consequence a believer can suffer. Jesus will arrive, and be ashamed of those who have been ashamed of him.

I would say that Atheism by definition is, "being ashamed of Jesus." So for believers who have become atheists, Jesus will be ashamed of them. That hurts.


Here's a related post, that would be a good next read. It covers some of the same info, but has some other really great things in it.

How do I get back to belief?

Comments

  1. Maybe, maybe not... I'm an eternal security Christian. But the issue is Spiritual Life, not "salvation" per se (which is a process). Col 2 and Eph 2 make clear that we once were spiritually dead, then God makes us alive, then we believe. We must and are delighted to do so. Jesus gives life, 1 John 5:11-13, that you make know that you have eternal LIFE." So, spiritually alive people cannot deny their Lord. They may and do sin in the process of sanctification, but not deny Him. If they do, they may have an outward confession with no inner regeneration. So no, they are in the group asked to depart for HE never knew THEM.

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  2. Also, re your above BOLD statements, better ones would be "The moment God made you alive..." which is logically prior to belief. So, the moment you were born again, you believed.

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  3. He who believes in Me. That is present tense. It does not say 'he who believed in Me'

    1 Cor. 5:5 - so that his spirit maybe saved on the day of the Lord.

    This believer who was in church even during those times of persecution was in danger of being lost.

    Mat. 7:21-23 Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name.......I never knew you.

    They did miracles in Jesus Name but Jesus tells them to depart from Him.

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  4. Yes you can lose your eternal life. Eternal life is granted upon translation or resurrection. If someone who is a christian becomes an atheist then that is a like a person who has an inheritance but never claims it. This would be an unclaimed inheritance. If I win a million dollars or a lottery but never go to claim it then no matter how much I was excited or believed I won if I don't go down to claim it then I lose out if I die with out claiming it. This is why faith without works is dead. My Faith is demonstrated by the work of traveling to the location to claim my inheritance or lottery ticket. An atheist is like someone who believed they won but totally changed their mind about winning and threw away the lottery ticket.

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  5. Yes you can lose your eternal life. Eternal life is granted upon translation or resurrection. If someone who is a christian becomes an atheist then that is a like a person who has an inheritance but never claims it. This would be an unclaimed inheritance. If I win a million dollars or a lottery but never go to claim it then no matter how much I was excited or believed I won if I don't go down to claim it then I lose out if I die with out claiming it. This is why faith without works is dead. My Faith is demonstrated by the work of traveling to the location to claim my inheritance or lottery ticket. An atheist is like someone who believed they won but totally changed their mind about winning and threw away the lottery ticket.

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  6. Yes you can lose eternal life. Christ said "If you deny me before men I will deny you before my father which is in heaven" that's not to say you can not return to Christ, we have a loving GOD who forgives and truly forgets. The world is full of misconceptions that has the possibility of deceiving even the best of Christians if we aren't careful. I pray he leads you back on his path. Amen

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    1. Perhaps "forsake" is a better word than lose, but the essence is the same. You can't misplace it, but you can certainly stop believing.

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  7. If someone who leaves the faith could never lose their salvation, then why did God bother to inspire the writer of the Book of Hebrews to warn believers about drifting away, or departing from the faith, or about disobedience and apostasy? (Heb 2:1-4; 3:12-14; 4:11; 5:11-6:6). Why does Jesus imply that NAMES ARE BLOTTED from the Book of Life? (Rev 3:5). How can those who "depart from the faith" and embraces "doctrines of devils" still be saved (1 Tim 4:1)?

    Jesus explicitly taught against the false doctrine of “once saved always saved.” Let’s take a look at four separate groups of people that Jesus Himself described when it comes to faith and salvation. There are:

    1. Luke 8:12 — those who hear, but do not believe. “… the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”

    2. Luke 8:13 — those who believe ONLY FOR A WHILE. “… who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.”

    3. Luke 8:14 — those who love the world more than the Word. “… choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”

    4. Luke 8:15 — those who KEEP the Word in their heart. “… having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep [it] and bear fruit with patience.”

    In Luke 8:12 Jesus says that “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” According to Jesus, TO BELIEVE is to be saved. In Luke 8:13, however, Jesus describes those who believed FOR A WHILE — and by believing they are saved according to 8:12, if even only for a while. Notice the words in bold below:

    Luke 8:13, “But the ones on the rock [are those] who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.”

    They believe for awhile and, for as long as they believe, are saved. We know this because Romans 10:17 lays out the precise process whereby the Spirit draws one to faith and salvation, which is found in Luke 8:13. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

    Those whom Jesus describe in Luke 8:13 come to faith by hearing the word, and receiving the word with joy, if even it is only for awhile.

    Now consider the following question: With respect to those who believe for awhile according to Luke 8:13, if they were to die while they still believed would they go to heaven, even though they would have later fallen away in a “time of temptation” if they had lived? Yes. But if they fall away and no longer believe, then there is no salvation. As Hebrews plainly tells us, "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:26-29).

    Do not believe that once saved someone is always saved. That is a LIE. IF someone abides in Christ, THEN Christ will abide in them and NOTHING can snatch them out of Christ's hand. But if they do not abide in Christ, then "he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned" (John 15:6).

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    1. Yes, thank you for this response! I was excited to see a website dedicated to providing answers to atheists who were searching for truth, but very disheartened by this feel good answer! Indeed nothing can snatch a true believer from the hand of God, but they can certainly leave on their own.

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    2. When does someone receive eternal life? (John 5:24)
      How long does that eternal life last? (it's in the name)
      If that eternal life lasts less than an eternity is it eternal life?
      If someone is saved but then gets unsaved, what were they saved from? If they were to die while they were "saved" but didn't then they would only be saved from a hypothetical judgment. If Jesus is only a hypothetical savior, then we have a huge problem.

      1 Cor. 3:15 says, "If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved--even though only as one escaping through the flames." This is talking about the good works that a believer can do or not do during his life. "Burned up" here means "If a person has no good works" or in other words "if the believer wastes his life" he will be saved, but he will suffer loss. That means suffer loss in heaven. Read the whole chapter. Read it. Read it.

      I think the thing that you are wrestling with, is that you think I'm saying there are no consequences for those who fall away. That is incorrect. There are huge eternal consequences for those who fall away. They will lose eternal rewards, but if they believed in Jesus, they will not lose their general life.

      In the parable of the sower, I'd like you to point out the verse that says that the last three will go to Hell. It's not there. The first person is unsaved, but the last three are not. They believe and therefore have ETERNAL LIFE. I'll ask again, how long does that eternal life last.

      So then what's the consequence of falling away. 1 Corinthians 3 (see above) answers that. The believer who falls away, will be SAVED but as one escaping through the flames.

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  8. I love my Calvinist brothers at church but I'm not convinced that "they were never 'really' saved to begin with" is a valid argument. By the same token I can't reconcile the position of this OP with scripture, as already well documented in previous replies. The George Sodini argument makes it particularly difficult.

    On August 4th, 2009, 48 year old George Sodini shot 9 people in a Pittsburg Pennsylvania health club. George died by self-inflicted gunshot wound.

    George Sodini, mass murderer and professed Christian Eternal Securist wrote; “Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.”

    Perhaps this is why Paul wrote "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling".

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  9. Lucas, it's great you're trying to do good things but if you simply look at the first 16 centuries you will find that there is not one single person in the line of successors that taught this. This belief, 'once saved always saved' or also known as 'perseverance of the saints' is a mark of the reformation. You're literally teaching something that can verifiably be shown to have never been taught by Jesus, an apostle or any other person trained or taught by an apostalic person for 16 centuries. This is a historically verifiable objective fact of christian history.

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  10. So what you're saying is... God will force someone into Heaven against their own free will?

    If someone doesn't want to spend their earthly lives with Jesus, why would they want to spend eternity with him?

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  11. The prodigal son was dead and is alive
    James 5

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