What happens if someone dies without being baptized?

This is a difficult question, and there are differing points of view not only at Zion Lutheran Church but among Lutherans and Christians throughout the world. What you read here is our pastor’s understanding, but you will hear other Lutherans who think differently.

We do believe that on the cross, Jesus conquered sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57) and by paying our ransom we have been made free from death (1 Peter 1:18-20).

The truth is, that we can’t know for certain what happens if someone dies without being baptized or without believing in Jesus. Lutherans believe that Jesus and belief in Jesus is the key to knowing God (John 14:6) but we are less certain about what happens if someone dies before they come to faith.

When someone dies who has not been baptized, we will commend their soul to Jesus. We can no longer share the Gospel message (the story of God’s love) with the person who died but we recognize that – believer or not – everyone is created in God’s image and beloved of God. Many of us have hope and belief that Jesus can welcome people into his fold even after their death, but the truth is that scripture doesn’t tell us if he does or will.

One thing to know is that Christian Baptism ought not to be a type of “Get Out Of Hell Free” pass. Baptism in the Lutheran Church is largely about living a spirit-filled life on earth than it is a type of “Afterlife Insurance.” That commitment to living a spirit-filled life is evident in our Baptismal Covenant:

live among God’s faithful people;

hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper;

proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed;

serve all people following the example of Jesus; and

strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”

(Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pg. 236)