Are There Those Who CANNOT Be Saved?

Posted on October 26, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Revisiting a Verse
Throughout my 35 years as a Christian, I have believed that so long as people are breathing and cognizant, they can be saved. This includes the extreme elderly, and those on their deathbeds. I even wrote an article about a judge who came to faith in Christ very shortly before dying (“Judge Gives Life to Christ Weeks Before Death”).

So yes, people CAN be saved until the moment of death. But are there those who CAN’T be saved at all?

I base this 2 Corinthians 4:4: “in whose case the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they will not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (emphasis added).

How it Appears
That’s the NASB version, and the ESV is similar. Instead of “will not,” it uses “keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel.” The King James says “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ … should shine unto them.”

But then there’s the NIV and Holman Bibles, which say, “so that they cannot see the light of the gospel …”

Note the difference: the NIV and Holman use the strongest phrase – “cannot.” Based on this, it would appear that 2 Corinthians 4:4 teaches that when people get to a certain point of unbelief, Satan can step in and make it impossible for them to receive the Gospel. That’s what I was about to go with in this blog.

However, I checked the Greek, and that changed everything. The Greek word used here for “will not” or “cannot” is mē, pronounced “may.” Interestingly, is a “qualified negation” and NOT an absolute. This means that the NIV and Holman versions are wrong; “cannot” is not a good translation of .

There is a Greek word for the “absolute negative,” which is ou, pronounced “oo.” However, this is not the word used here. Therefore, the NASB (“will not”), ESV, and KJV get it right.

But what does this mean?

Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 4:4 again: “in whose case the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they will not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

This means there are those so against the Gospel that God allows Satan to aid them in their unbelief. Satan blinds their minds so greatly “that they will not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

However, Satan cannot cause them not to believe – that they do on their own. Satan does everything in his power to turn them away, but the ultimate responsibility falls on the unbelievers’ shoulders.

Therefore, 2 Corinthians 4:4 does not definitively teach that people get to a point where they can’t be saved; only that they choose not to be saved, and Satan strengthens their unbelief.

However …
Though Satan can’t bring people to this point, God can.

In referring to the perpetually sinful, we read in Romans 1:14: “Therefore God gave them up to vile impurity in the lusts of their hearts, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them” (emphasis added). The term “God gave them up” is also used in verses 26 and 28.

The Greek for “gave them up” is paradidōmi, which can be translated “to give into the hands of another”; “to deliver up”; “to deliver one up to: custody, judgment, condemnation, punishment, scourging, torment, or death.”

The purpose of paradidōmi is clear: God is completely abandoning the unrighteous.

So, though 2 Corinthians 4:4 does not definitively state that unbelievers can reach a point of no return, Romans 1:24, 26, and 28 certainly do. Therefore, I believe the Bible teaches that there are those who – though they breathe and are cognizant – can get to a point when they can no longer be saved. This point is when God “gives them over” to their sin, meaning they no longer have the option of salvation.

That’s my conclusion, at least. What do you think?

Do you think my assessment is correct, or am I missing something?

Does my conclusion gel with your view of a merciful God (especially in light of 2 Peter 3:9)?

Do you believe that so long as people breathe they can be saved, no matter what?

Fourth, do election and/or predestination play into this?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!