Catholicism and Assurance of Salvation

Hello to all,
Is there an official Catholic position on having assurance of the salvation of one’s soul when he dies?

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume we are talking about a good Catholic man who was baptized in the Catholic Church, is in good standing with the Church, is a regular attendee at Mass and who by all accounts loves and follows God with his whole heart.

In my evangelical tradition, it is believed that if we believe in and accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, are baptized, and confess and turn away from our sins and live a God-fearing life with God’s help (although we all sin and fall short on our own), that we may have assurance that when we die, we will go to heaven if we put our hope and faith in Christ. (John 3:16, I John 5:13, etc).

Note: I am not speaking of OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved) doctrine, which I don’t ahere to. I am referring to a salvation experience that is like a person being thrown a lifesaver when Christ becomes his Savior and can exclaim “I am saved”, then can say “I am being saved” as he is being pulled in to the boat, and then can say “I am saved” when he gets into the boat.

To me, the lifesaver experience is what we get when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We are saved when we accept Him as Lord and Savior. We are then in the process of being saved here on earth as we live out our faith with God’s help until we die, at which time we are permanently saved upon arriving to be with God in heaven. The key is to hang on to the life preserver and not willingly let go, condemn it, or swim away from it. How is that view similar to of different from the Catholic position?

Thanks in advance,

If a person means that one is saved the moment one says, “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior” therefore from this moment I am saved regardless of anything else. then this does not conform with the bible.

I will give you other scriptures, but first, we need to look at Jesus who is judge of souls and what He describes as necessary for salvation.
When Jesus describes the judgement of souls, He does so on the basis of whether or not they have lived the command of love. He makes it clear that He will judge us by our acts of practical kindness to others, which He also takes as kindness/love, to Himself.

He does not say, that because you said to me that you accepted me as your Lord and Savior, you will go to heaven, He says because you lived acts of kindness:
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Those who did not live practical kindness to other merit hell.

" Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ "

This is all in Matthew 25 verses 31-46

Even in this scripture, Jesus is assuring us that a single act of accepting Him as Lord and Savior, and even repeating this, does not get us into heaven.
He requires that we live the commands of love in a practical, realistic way.

To accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior is only a beginning. Faith alone isn’t enough. Jesus demonstrates this.

You can understand the justification, the salvation, that St Paul speaks of as also being part of a process. Paul explains further in other texts, as does James.

Paul wrote, "Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; " Philippians 2:12

From Scripture supporting that good works as well as repentance and faith is required for our entry into heaven is the following. It is not sufficient to ‘claim’ salvation. We have to live in obedience to the command to love God above all, and others as ourselves. We need not just faith, but faith and good works.

"Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. (Galations 6:7-9)

We reap the results of our actions, and we must not give up living the commands of love.

“It is not those who call me ‘Lord, Lord’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my father in heaven.” [Matthew 7:21]

In very specific response to the question, James wrote:

"Take the case, my brothers of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that?: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.
This is the way to talk to people of that kind:'You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds–now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.

You believe in one God–that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Do realize, you senseless man, that faith without works is useless. You surely know that Abraham our Father was justified by his deed, because he offered Isaac on the altar? There you see it; faith and good deeds were working together; his faith became perfect by what he did. This is what scripture really means when it says: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was counted as making him justified; and that is why he was called the friend of God. You see now that it is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified." [James 2: 14-24]

Yes we must trust to the mercy of God, who alone gives value to good works
However good works are necessary. We will only be truly saved when Jesus at death Jesus welcomes us into His merciful love because to the best of our ability we have lived according to His command to genuinely love God and others, not just with words, not just with faith, but in practical kindness.

1949 Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him:

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.1
1 Phil 2:12-13. (Catechism)

Scripture in the Book of Ezekiel also provides a clear answer to your question regarding “losing salvation. [The concept of 'once saved, always saved,” is a Protestant one.]

Ezekiel 18:24

“But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.”

For understanding based on Scripture regarding Grace and Salvation
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

God bless you Tommy.
Kind wishes,


Kinda. A baptized baby who had just died is surely in Heaven. Other than that, no.


I think the main difference is that having Jesus save us is not as important as loving and trusting Him. Yes we do our best to work out our salvation, but that is all secondary to loving our Lord and Savior just simply because He is God. As our traditional Act of Contrition says:

Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.

As I had noted in another thread, it would seem that, in Catholicism, God seems to take away assurance of those things that previously made you peaceful and happy: meaning, security, purpose, safety, heck even salvation. Why? It is because He wants to be your sole source of joy and peace. Christian joy is happiness in God, and peace is the perfection of that joy.

God’s Grace is a free gift…Can we lay claim to have an assurance of free gifts?
No, we are not entitled to them. We must trust in the love of God and humbly ask for His pardon and grace though we are entitled to worse than nothing.

To talk of assurance of one’s own salvation is to talk as a 3 year old screaming that they want more birthday presents among a pile of wrappings, boxes, and dozens of toys.

Yet, we trust that God is better than any earthly parent. “Though the mother forsake her child…”.

I think we get a hope of the assurance of salvation…so long as we persevere.

Some Biblical passages:

Romans 11:

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root[f] of the olive tree, 18 do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you.[g] 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

From Heb 10:

19 Therefore, my friends,[g] since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water

26 For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries…36 For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

If you look at v36…only enduring to the end “may we receive what was promised”…it is conditional, not a guarantee.

I think this journal explores the subject deeper…

Jesus said it better than anyone else:

1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
The Hatred of the World
18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master. ’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause. ’
26 "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

And John expounded on it:

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Chapter 2
Christ Our Advocate
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

This article from CA might help. Assurance of Salvation?

We have a sure hope of salvation, as God’s promises are true. He cannot violate Himself. But, to assume salvation is a sin against the theological virtue of hope. But that same assurance of salvation has a huge IF attached to it. We must believe, be baptized and keep Jesus’ commandments. Faith, hope and love striving within us. To this end, Jesus instituted the Sacraments through which God’s grace flows. Frequent reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist are crucial. Since nothing impure will enter heaven, these two Sacraments are our spiritual laundry.

Yes. By repenting of your past sins, accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and being baptized in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, you enter a condition of salvation or what Catholics call “a state of grace.” After that, the only way to lose your salvation or state of grace is by committing serious sin or what Catholics call “mortal sin.” Happily, even then, if you repent of your mortal sin and confess it to a Catholic priest, he can absolve you of it and return you to a state of grace. Anyone who dies in a state of grace goes to heaven.

We have free will. So, unless God has specially revealed to us that we are going to heaven, there will always be an amount of uncertainty regarding our salvation up the moment of death, not because God’s promises are untrustworthy (God’s promises are completely trustworthy) but because we don’t know what free-will choices we will make in the future. The worst of sinners can have a death-bed conversion and be saved; the best of saints can have a death-bed apostasy and be damned.

Thanks for the replies, especially p018guy, Todd977, and Pabolope. I think I have a better understanding of the Catholic viewpoint on the subject. I will promise to read the links the others shared, as well.

As some of you who have read my previous posts know, I am a non-Catholic who respects Catholicism and is inquiring more into the Catholic faith since I started listening to a Catholic radio station on my way home from work each day. I especially like the ‘Catholic Answers’ show.

I believe and take to heart James 2:24-26 where it talks about faith without works being dead. I think it complements Ephesians 2:8-9 and does not contradict it. A good Christian, in my view, should have both faith and works. For example, if I claim to be an apple tree and yet I produce nothing or something else that doesn’t even resemble an apple, I’m not an apple tree at all – no matter what I claim to be.

The purpose of my post was to ask if a good Catholic can have assurance that he will go to be with the Lord when he dies, or whether he can only hope that the Lord will accept him. Based on my interpretation of John 3:16 and I John 5:13, I would like to think that we can be assured of our salvation when we die, provided we put our faith and trust and faith in God, confess our sins, believe Christ died for our sins and for those of mankind, and if we live out our lives in the fear of the Lord and bear fruit that shows we are true followers of Christ.

I John 5;13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may **know **that you eternal life”. It doesn’t say “so that you can hope you have eternal life”. Do I misinterpret that verse?

I believe – with all my being – that I became a born-again Christian when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in high school while attending a Bill Graham crusade. I felt the tugging of the Holy Spirit and went down in front of thousands of people in that auditorium - even though I was scared - to admit I was a sinner and to ask Christ into my heart at that time. It changed my life forever and I remember it vividly. It was more than just emotion and feelings. I truly believe I became a new creation in Christ. I realize that was just beginning of my walk with God and I have grown since then and have a lot more spiritual maturing still to do, with God’s help. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t have an arrogant bone in my body. On occasion, I even defend Catholicism to my fellow protestants when they take it out of context or try to belittle it.

For someone like wmw to say, *“To talk of assurance of one’s own salvation is to talk as a 3 year old screaming that they want more birthday presents among a pile of wrappings, boxes, and dozens of toys” *-- I find that deeply offensive and hurtful.

If God doesn’t want us to be assured that we have salvation when we die, how can going to a Catholic funeral of even a good Catholic – let along a lapsed one – be a joyful event? It sounds like at best it would be an apprehensive event where assurance is replaced by doubt and worry because their final spiritual destination is “yet to be determined”. Forgive me if I have mischaracterized anything.

Respectfully in Christ,


Actually it is the opposite :slight_smile: The fact that we cannot assume to know who is in Heaven or Hell means that we can even be hopeful for those who seem to have completely forsaken God in this life.

I remember fondly the days following Christopher Hitchens’ death, when Catholics got in the news for praying for his soul. I did too.


Two Canons from the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent may help here:

CANON XV.-If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.

CANON XVI.-If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.

Interesting info but somewhat confusing to me in light of John 3:16 and I John 5:13. Can someone help clarify for me?

John 3:16 is not a general statement which applies even to those who believe in God, yet disobey and remain in sin, correct? As well, in 1 John 5, the apostle was writing to the converted, yet his writing does not negate or reverse anything that Christ said. And, Christ said that we must “keep” his commandments, not merely accepot them. Look at 1 John 5:2-3. John says twice that we must keep the commandments. It is not a one-time acceptance, but a life-long keeping of those commandments. Christ teaches that we must “persevere to the end.” Saint Paul writes that we must “run the race so as to win.” So, we keep those commandments by persevering and running the race. The ball is in our court - Christ opened the gates of heaven, but He does not carry us through them.

Think of your conversion: You “accepted” Christ as your savior, right? That was a willful act on your part, since our Lord did not simply pick you out of a crowd and possess you. You invited Him into your heart. You cooperated with God’s offer of salvation. We are saved by God’s grace, but we must do something to cooperate with that grace, such as you demonstrated by inviting and accepting Christ into your heart.

I agree 100% po18guy. Keeping God’s commandments is something that all Christians are supposed to do. If we do so and accept Christ as Lord and Savior, obey his commandments, and confess our sins and live a godly life with God’s help, I believe that I John 5:13 applies to all Christians in terms of assurance. By the way, I do not believe in OSAS doctrine that many Baptists adhere to because all Christians have free will to keep following God or willfully turn away from Him at any point in time.

However, if I understand correctly, it sounds like the Catholic position is that there is no assurance of salvation and the best one can do is to follow the Church’s teachings and sacraments, follow God’s commandments, keep confessing one’s sins and in the end “hope” that God accepts us into heaven when we die. Correct me if I am wrong on that.

Thanks to all who replied to this thread. I appreciate it. I am happy in my current AOG denomination but also see some attractive aspects in Catholicism that ring true to me, such as being able to confess to a human being (a priest) in addition to God. The hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church also appeals to my orderly nature and makes a lot of sense to me, as well as the feeling of reverence to God that exists in Catholicism.

I must admit that I struggle at times with why there are so many Protestant denominations that all claim to have the truth while the Catholic Church seems to remain constant and consistent in its teachings over the years. Please pray for me as I continue to grow in Christ if you don’t mind. I will do the same for all of you.


To assume or to presume salvation is a sin against hope. Hope is a theological virtue and, until we are in heaven, we must live by the virtues of faith, hope and love. Saint Paul says that we are saved by our hope (Romans 8:24). The bottom line is that God saves whomever He will, as He is not bound by our standards. All who die in a state of grace go to heaven. This has been revealed to the Church. We remain in a state of grace by repenting of sin, confessing and receiving absolution of our sins, partaking of the Divine Nature via the Holy Eucharist and by demonstrating our love of brother and sister - in short, persevering to the end. We have absolute assurance IF we remain in grace by keeping His commandments. God has revealed His promises, which we know to be true.

God does not make it impossible for us to enter heaven, as it would render Christ’s sacrifice null and void, leading to despair, which is a vice. The vice of despair (think Judas) is destroyed by the virtue of hope. At the same time, I believe that it is arrogance that proclaims that they are saved while they are still treading this earth and capable of sin. Sin is the only thing that can separate us from God. We are not saved until we are in heaven. Salvation is our final state and, until we arrive at that final state, we must live in hope. Until we are in heaven (saved), we run the race and persevere in keeping God’s commandments, as both Saint John and Saint Paul profess.

Think of this: In heaven, there is neither faith nor hope, and no need for either. For then, we have achieved the Beatiffic vision - gazing upon the Face of God. No faith or hope is needed, as we are then in the presence of Him in whom we had faith and hope. Faith and hope disappear once we are in God’s presence, because both virtues are anticipatory. On earth, we hope that a package will arrive on time, and once it arrives, we no longer hope, because the promise has been realized. And so it is with us and heaven.

No one can assure salvation. God Himself came down only to show all of us the Way, so that we may NOT be deceived by any such false assurances. We may get there ONLY by walking that Way and there is NO other way.

Heaven is a matter of firm choice made by a free-will that does not lose its freedom to sensuality or adversity but remains steadfast to the end against all odds.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit