We had visitors in our home recently who were traumatized by the suicide the day before of one of their closest friends and companions, because he could not handle a divorce and the loss of his son. Their passionate question was, "Will he go to heaven, since he sinned by taking his own life?"
Scripturally unprepared to answer the question
Wow! First time I had ever been asked that! I struggled to answer in as comforting and biblical way as I knew how, but I sure wished I had a Scripture verse on the tip of my tongue that would knock the ball out of the park and give me a home run in answering this very difficult question. I didn't then, but I do now.
I recognized that as Catholics, they believed in last rites, where any last minute sins would be atoned for and not be a barrier in the afterlife. I was sure I didn't believe in last rites. Somehow, I was confident that Christ's atonement on Calvary covered ALL my sins for all time - past, present and future - and I did communicate this belief to them.
I realized that since I had begun two-way journaling, I had experienced God's incomprehensible love. He loved me and celebrated me, even in the midst of my biggest mistakes. He affirmed to me these were just learning curve mistakes. All I needed to do was press on in Him with joyfulness in my heart. Wow! Really. No whipping?
The home run verse
Now, for the prize verse which puts this all in clear perspective. My thanks to Derek Prince for showing this to me in his book Blessing or Curse:
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14 NKJV).
And yes, the NKJV translation above fully and accurately translates the verse from the Greek.
The Greek behind the verse
To describe what Jesus accomplished, the writer uses the perfect tense: “By one offering He has perfected forever” (emphasis added). What Jesus has done is absolutely and eternally complete. Nothing need ever be added, and nothing can ever be taken away.
On the other hand, to describe the outworking of the sacrifice in those who accept it for themselves, the author uses the continuing present: “those who are being sanctified” (emphasis added). Our appropriation of the sacrifice is not immediately complete; it is progressive. The process by which we appropriate it is described as “being sanctified”— that is, being set apart to God in holiness. As we bring our lives progressively into line with God’s requirements of holiness, we are able to enter into His blessings more fully.
When confronted with this challenge, Christians sometimes respond, “But I thought I got everything when I was born again!” The answer to that is yes— and no. There are two sides to this issue: the legal and the experiential. The answer will differ according to which side we view it from. Legally, you did indeed “get everything” when you were born again. According to Romans 8:17, when you became a child of God, you were made an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. Legally, from that point on, you were entitled to share Christ’s whole inheritance with Him.
Experientially, however, you were only at the beginning of a process that takes a lifetime to complete. The Christian life could be described as a progression from the legal to the experiential.
(The above is taken from Blessing or Curse by my favorite author, Derek Prince.)
The divine exchange which happened at Calvary
In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul refers to Isaiah 53:10 and at the same time he also presents the positive aspect of the exchange: “For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Paul does not speak here about any kind of righteousness that we can achieve by our own efforts, but about God’s own righteousness— a righteousness that has never known sin. None of us can ever earn this. It is as high above our own righteousness as heaven is above earth. It can be received solely by faith. This third aspect of the exchange may be summed up as follows: Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might become righteous with His righteousness.
(Prince, Derek. Blessing or Curse: You Can Choose (pp. 195-196). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
Salvation includes all the following plus more
Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven. Jesus was wounded that we might be healed. Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might become righteous with His righteousness. Jesus died our death that we might share His life. Jesus became poor with our poverty that we might become rich with His riches. Jesus bore our shame that we might share His glory. Jesus endured our rejection that we might have His acceptance as children of God. Jesus became a curse that we might receive a blessing.
(Prince, Derek. Blessing or Curse: You Can Choose (p. 206). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)