Who will be saved?

edited December 1969 in Coptic Orthodox Church
Will only Christians will be saved? If so, then who is considered a Christian?

Is it someone who believes in the Lord Christ? Does that person have to be baptized? Do they have to believe in and practice the sacraments?

This topic might have already been discussed before. If it has please direct me to the appropriate link. Any literature on the topic is appreciated as well.


  • The Fathers advise us not to be concerned with this question, but to ask whether WE are being saved.

    God's will and God's mercy are not mechanical. He wills that all men be saved. The Word became incarnate because God so loved the world. Yet man is also involved in being reconciled with God. This is a mystery which is not transparent to our investigations.

    Only God knows.

    The Fathers teach - Concentrate on your own salvation
  • I understand your point father, but I think we can learn so much from inquiries such as this. Of course we must concentrate on our own salvation. Since this topic may of be of distraction to myself and others during the Great Lent, are there any writings on the matter that you can refer me to?

  • I agree with Fr. Peter insomuch as we can never have a concrete answer, and the matter is best left up to God, but I think its fairly what the answer ISN'T.

    We can be pretty sure that it will NOT be only those who were Christians by virtue of their membership to an actual Church who will be saved. The Bible tells of people from all nations and all tongues coming to Christ, presumably even those tongues that disappeared long before Christendom reached them. We also have the story of Jesus' accepting the people who 'visited Him in prison, fed Him when He was hungry, clothed Him when He was naked etc.' but who do not recall ever doing such things.

    Unless you suppose that real virtue simply doesn't exist outside the populations where Christianity is widely known, then saying that only Christians can be saved means that God will unfairly condemn millions (possibly billions) of upstanding people simply because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    That's my 2c
    Pray for me
  • dear unworthy1, i think father Peter is right when he suggests that we should first and foremost enquire if WE are being saved.
    on the other hand, i think you are right to raise the question as long as it does not have the intention of writing other people off.
    for unless we understand these things, how would we be able to advise others on how to get saved?..
    the assurance of salvation should not be a mystery, neither for ourselves nor for those whom we guide toward it. hence your question makes sense as long as it is well intended.
    however, i sense that father Peter's reply was well inspired in this case, so i totally agree with him. you better take notice... :)
  • If you insist on an answer then I will say that there are three persectives to the question. (In brief)

    [Moderator: I will not allow this thread to be derailed into criticism of Protestantism and will delete all such messages without notice].

    One the one hand there is God's entirely inscrutable will by which He will Himself judge the living and dead according to his own mercy when we all must stand before Him. Some of those who are notionally Orthodox will discover that they have never had faith or life. Others who have not heard the Orthodox Gospel will discover that God is generous to them in regard to the response they made to what they did see of the light. This is for God to judge. We are always able to have hope for those who pass without becoming formally Orthodox because God is merciful and will do what is right according to His perfect love and perfect righteousness. But we may not act as though we know God's will.

    On the other hand, as far as we are to believe and live, it is necessary for all men to be baptised into Christ and through the grace of this sacrament receive the new birth by the Holy Spirit, remission of sins and eternal life, as the Scriptures teach us. To be properly Christian is to live the fulness of the Orthodox life in the communion of the Orthodox Church. This is what it means to be Christian. This is why it is proper to ask - WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT THE SALVATION OF THOSE AROUND YOU! If they need to become Orthodox what are you doing about sharing the Orthodox Gospel.

    But we may also understand that those who are catechumens in the Church and have not yet been baptised are not to be considered the same as those who do not believe. There has always, it seems to me, been a sense that the mercy of God extends to those who have faith, even if they have not yet been united to Christ by grace. And if it is the case that catechumens are in this situation, then the Fathers have also extended this condition to embrace and include others who belong to Christian heterodoxies by birth, rather than by choice, and who have not actively rejected the life of Christ in the Church.

    But these folk are missing something. They are, we may believe with hope, saved by grace at the last moment rather than experiencing salvation in this present life as God intends. Nor is it clear that their state outside the communion of the Church and in a proper sacramental unity with Christ is safe. This is why the members of other Christian heterodoxies must be of great concern to us and the object of a great deal of education and evangelism. Not because we are better than them. We are not. But because we believe that to experience salvation properly requires membership of the Church, the Orthodox Church.

    As for those beyond any thought of faith in Christ. We must have a great concern for them. There are many with no faith at all even in our Western lands. England is a mission field. We may not rely on the mercy of God, as if we could say, 'There is no need to worry about others'. On the contrary if we have no concern for others then our own salvation should be in doubt.

    lightening mentions the assurance of salvation. I think that in my experience, and in regard to Orthodoxy, this is an experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. The Orthodox Christian does not insist that he is, or will be, saved. But the Orthodox Christian who is spiritual does have a warm sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit within and while this sense remains he is confident in the mercy of God even while being greatly aware of his sin and weakness. But when we sin we do lose the presence of the Holy Spirit in increasing measure, and the Holy Spirit IS our life and our salvation. Therefore we do not say that we ARE saved because we understand that we have been saved, and are still being saved and will be saved if God wills and if we run the race to the end.

    Father Peter
  • Thank you Fr. Peter.

    I never intended this to become a thread to criticize Protestantism.

    I was just confused after hearing a story from the biography of St. Pachomius in which he was weeping over a catechumen who was dying. Suddenly, his disciples saw him rejoice. He told them that the same angels that took this man's soul away baptized him first.

    What does this story mean?
  • Unworthy1, I was not addressing you with my Moderatorial comment, but I did not want others to derail the topic.

    I think that the account of St Pachomius illustrates what I tried to describe. Those who are catechumens are not beyond the hope of salvation, even if they have not yet been united with Christ in this life. But this should not be taken as a matter of course, as though there were no need to be baptised and become a participating member of the Church, the Body of Christ.

    Baptism and the sacraments with faith are necessary for us all to find salvation. But they are not necessary to God in His mercy.

    Father Peter
  • My reading of the story (correct me if I am wrong) leads me to believe that without  baptism one cannot be saved. St. Pachomius weeps because the catechumen dies without being baptized. I think we can infer from this that the catechumen believed in Christ and was going to be baptized, or else St. Pachomius might not have wept for him.

    The story goes out of its way to say explain that St. Pachomius began to rejoice because he saw the angels baptizing the catechumen. It could have just said that St. Pachomius rejoiced because the angels took the catechumen to heaven and he was saved.
  • I haven't got time to dig out my studies, but I have researched this subject quite a bit and the Fathers came to take an increasingly hopeful view of the state of various groups in God's mercy. Certainly the case of catechumens who died before baptism was one cause of their developing views.

    I think the example you give illustrates that often our spiritual insight is communicated in language we understand. For St Pachomius the concern was that the catechumen had died before being baptised and so he was shown that he received a baptism after death. This is itself symbolic because a spirit cannot be baptised in water, but it seems to me to communicate the truth that what is received in baptism was communicated to this soul after death.

    Father Peter
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