The school newspaper at Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah University) ran a fascinating article when I was teaching there (1986-1987). It was about an interview with a Multnomah grad who had become an atheist.
The interviewer asked if, when he was at Multnomah, he had believed that Jesus was God, that He died on the cross for his sins, that He rose from the dead, and that he was going to heaven when he died because Jesus was his Savior. He said he had believed those things, but that he now realized those are myths. There is no God. There is no life after death. There is no heaven and no coming kingdom.
I don’t recall how the interview ended. But the author wondered how such a thing could happen.
Many years later a pastor friend told me an amazing story that went a step further. His eldest son, whom we’ll call Dave, had come to faith as a child and had been discipled in AWANA, at home, and at church. He had been a strong believer until college. Then Dave lost his faith and became an atheist. My pastor friend said his son is definitely born again, even though he has fallen away (John 3:16; 11:26). He told me that his son loves to read my articles and watch my videos. In fact, his son even witnessed to someone!
Dave was talking with an Eastern Orthodox friend. His friend was saying that he hoped to make it to heaven one day. Dave scolded the guy for not believing the Bible. He said that though he no longer believed in God, he knows the Bible teaches that whoever believes in Jesus will never perish. He even quoted some verses. Dave told his friend that he knew without a doubt that if Christianity is true, then he will be in heaven. Dave expressed concerns about the eternal destiny of his friend if Christianity is, indeed, true.
Most people think that if a person is an atheist, his only hope of being saved is to repent, believe, and then persevere in faith and good works until death. But why do they think that? Because of Scripture? No. The Scripture is clear that apostasy is possible (Luke 8:13; 2 Tim 2:13; Heb 6:4-8; 2 Pet 2:18-22), but that loss of salvation is not (John 3:16; 6:35, 37, 39; 11:26). Their belief that apostates can’t be saved stems from a tradition that says one must persevere in faith and good works in order to gain what they call final salvation.
Did you know that there are also born-again people who embrace the teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism? I do not mean people who currently believe in the promise of everlasting life but have yet to leave their false religion. I mean people who have stopped believing the Christian message and have bought into the false teachings of other religions. (Modern Judaism is inconsistent with Scripture because it rejects Jesus as Messiah. Of course, within Christianity today there are many, many believing Jews.)
Once a person is saved, he will always be saved—even if he departs from the Christian faith. No one can pluck him out of the hand of Jesus or the Father (John 10:28-29). Whoever believes in Him is eternally secure. There are no strings attached.