This is a long form response to a discussion I’m engaged in on Gab, initiated by this post by Lawrence Blair.
In response to me, he linked to an article on Got Questions entitled “Will there be a second chance for salvation after death?”
My first issue is with the interpretation of Hebrews 9:27; it reads in the NKJV “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…” The article in question seems to imply that death happens and judgment immediately follows, yet this contradicts the account in Revelations 20:11-15 (which is later quoted and discussed in the article, and a scripture I myself quoted to begin with).
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
The chronology from this scripture appears to be: dead appear before Him that sits upon the Throne to await judgment; the dead are judged according to their works, by the things written in the books; the sea gives up its dead and Death and Hades (that is, Sheol) delivers up the dead who were in them; these are all judged (that is, the dead from the sea, Death, and Hades, as well as the entities Death and Hades themselves); Death and Hades are cast into the Lake of Fire; anyone not found in the Book of Life is cast into the Lake of Fire.
It does not appear reasonable to assume that Great White Throne judgment is an ongoing event which everyone faces immediately upon death, since immediately following the judgment of the dead, Death itself (as well as Hades/Sheol) are judged and then thrown into the Lake of Fire; therefore, if Hebrews 9:27 is correct and men die once and then face one judgment, there appears to be a potentially huge time gap between any given person’s time of death and that judgment, which occurs at the Great White Throne.
I will admit that I am somewhat rusty in this area of scripture, so I cannot think of a definitive scripture to point to which delineates exactly what one must do in order to have one’s name written in the Book of Life. What I can point to is Romans 10:9 which states “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.” I cannot think of a scripture which would justify the idea that confession or belief cannot occur in the time lapse between death and judgment; moreover, it actually provides a mechanism for the oft answered question about “what happens to people who never hear the good news of the messiah in this life time?”
This article also fails to account for another scripture I quoted in the discussion, which is 1 Timothy 2:4, which reads “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Are we to argue that God cannot accomplish what God desires?
An entirely separate discussion would have to be had regarding the interpretation of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, but for that discussion I would direct people to this essay by Ernest L. Martin entitled “The Real Meaning of Lazarus and the Rich Man.”