My mother recently died, and to the best of my knowledge, she never accepted Christ. Does this mean that she was not among the elect, and what is her responsibility in terms of her eternal destiny?
Let me begin by expressing to you my deepest sympathy and condolences for the loss of your mother. I can honestly say that I empathize with you, because my father passed away nearly five years ago, also as a confirmed nonbeliever. It was not easy to accept the fact that he is lost forever, but the fact of the matter is that if the Bible is true, I must accept what it says.
In dealing with the issue of election, it should be noted that while it is true that those who come to believe have been elected by God, it is not true to say that others have been elected for damnation. The biblical picture is something like this: All humanity is dead in their trespasses and sins; therefore, left on their own, they are incapable of believing. So, God initiated His own actions and chose those whom He would save. However, the elect will not be saved in just “any way,” but through a certain way — and that is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To those whom God elects, He gives the grace to believe, but they must still exercise their faith to receive salvation. The point is that those who receive the grace of God to believe will then exercise their will to believe. But until that day comes, they are just as lost as the non-elect. While those who are saved are so because of God’s election and grace to believe, it is not correct to say that people are lost because they have not been elected. Rather, people are lost due to their own sin and failure to believe on Messiah. It is their own sin nature that keeps them from believing on Yeshua, and this failure is not due to God keeping them from believing. When Paul talks about the vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath in Romans nine, he switches between the middle and passive voices in the Greek. For the vessels of mercy (those who are saved), he uses the passive voice, which means, “God makes them fit for salvation.” For the vessels of wrath (those who are lost), he uses the middle voice, which means, “they fit themselves for destruction.” They do so because their own sin keeps them from believing. God, on the other hand, does not keep them from believing.
The individual is responsible to either believe or not believe, and the choice not to believe apparently made by my father and your mother was their own. God did not force them to make such a choice, nor did He prevent them from believing. If neither accepted the Lord at the last minute, I must say biblically that neither was elected to believe.
This is basically what the Scriptures teach on this matter. I don’t believe that it is totally satisfactory for any of us who have experienced this kind of loss, but I can only relate what the Bible teaches, and I can do no more than that. I do not understand every detail about the issue and do not expect to until I see the Lord face-to-face. Then, I know that all my questions will be answered to my total satisfaction. For now, our peace can only come when we understand that, indeed, “the judge of all the earth shall do right” (Genesis 18:25).