Leatham, Jeremy, et. al. "Salvation vs Damnation." Faithology.com. Faithology, 3 March 2014. Web. 31 August 2014.

Leatham, J., et. al. (2014, Mar 3). Salvation vs Damnation. Faithology. Retrieved from http://faithology.com/beliefs/salvation-vs-damnation

Leatham, Jeremy, et. al"Salvation vs Damnation" Faithology, LLC. Last modified March 3, 2014. http://faithology.com/beliefs/salvation-vs-damnation

Leatham, Jeremy, et. alSalvation vs Damnation. Faithology, LLC, 2012. http://faithology.com/beliefs/salvation-vs-damnation (Accessed Aug 31, 2014).

  • The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version
  • Harent, Stéphane. "Original Sin." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 3 Feb. 2012 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11312a.htm.
  • Last Updated: March 3, 2014
  • Originally Published: July 18, 2012
  • Salvation vs Damnation


Christians believe in an afterlife, that a person's existence continues after death. According to Christians, the state of that existence is determined by an individual's choices during life. Christians disagree on the exact nature of the afterlife, but most accept a basic division between salvation and damnation. In the Christian view, salvation means living eternally with God in a state of perfect bliss, often referred to as heaven. Damnation, conversely, refers to an eternal separation from God, usually understood as unending torment or hell.

Salvation vs Damnation

The Ascension, by Dosso Dotti in the 16th century; this image depicts Jesus ascending into heaven

Christians also disagree on the qualifications or requirements for salvation, but the core tenet of mainstream Christianity is that salvation is possible only through Jesus Christ. Because all humans are sinful, meaning they do not keep God's commandments perfectly, they are unable by their own merits to live with God, who is perfect. However, Jesus Christ, who was the son of God and who lived a perfect life, made restitution for humanity's sins, becoming the savior of mankind and providing a way by which individuals could attain salvation. According to the New Testament, "everyone who believes in [Jesus Christ] may not perish but have eternal life."2 Most Christians, therefore, understand salvation as a gift from God made possible through the grace of Christ.

Although they view Jesus Christ as the savior of mankind, Christians hold differing views regarding humans' obligations during life to qualify for the gift of salvation. For some, salvation is a free gift that cannot be earned or rejected; it is given by God independent of individuals' choices or behaviors. More commonly, however, Christians believe that there are certain requirements that must be met by humans in order to qualify for the gift of salvation. These requirements can be as simple as accepting Jesus as the savior and exercising faith or as demanding as performing certain rituals and rites with exactness, living a life as free from sin as possible, and continually repenting throughout one's life.

Despite the differences in opinion regarding the qualifications for salvation, Christians agree that all people should strive to abandon sin and live in accordance with God's commandments and will. They believe that the Holy Spirit is sent to change the heart of the person to believe in Jesus Christ and to desire to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God.1Romans 12:1 Part of this life is a desire to obey these commandments, which Christians hold will ultimately lead to a full life. In this full life, one’s main goal is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."2Bible: Deuteronomy 6:5, Luke 10:27 Sin is an act in violation of God’s law, and the term "transgression" is generally used synonymously.

Original Sin

The Christian doctrine of original sin refers to the decision of Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Their eating of the forbidden fruit in direct violation of God's commandment, "You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die"3Bible: Genesis 3:3 became the first sin in Christian history. Because Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and God's presence and required to live in an imperfect world as a result of their decision, their original sin is known as the fall of humankind, or simply, "the Fall." Christians accept that through Adam and Eve's original sin, the world was negatively altered for all subsequent humans born into it. Some Christians believe that original sin led to a tendency in all humans to sin. Others believe that original sin only made the world a more difficult place to live in. Still others hold that all humans born into the world are inherently guilty of sin due to original sin. In all cases, Christians believe that the effects of original sin must be overcome in order for humans to gain salvation, and this is done through Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul wrote, "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous."4Bible: Romans 5:19, 1 Corinthians 15:22

Personal Sin

In addition to the doctrine of original sin, many Christians also emphasize personal sin, which is an individual's willful disobedience of God's commandments. Although the consequences of original sin affect all humans, some Christians argue that individuals can only be held responsible for the sins that they themselves commit, and therefore emphasize the dangers of personal sin over original sin.

Atonement, Repentance, Forgiveness

According to Christianity, Jesus Christ was chosen as the anointed savior and redeemer. He willingly suffered the punishment of all of humanity's sins and allowed himself to be killed, even though he lived a perfect life. His sacrifice paid the price for human sin, allowing individuals to be forgiven of sin and achieve salvation despite their imperfections. Most Christians believe that individuals who accept Jesus as their savior will be forgiven of their sins. For some Christians, accepting Jesus includes confessing one's sins and attempting to avoid future sins, a process called repentance.

Those individuals who ask for forgiveness of their sins are believed to be granted salvation and permitted to live in heaven with God. Ideas regarding the nature of heaven vary, but Christians believe that it will be a place of ultimate joy. The unrighteous, understood as those individuals who did not seek forgiveness for their sins, are damned. As with heaven, ideas regarding hell differ, but it is generally understood as a place of misery, often figured as a place of fire and brimstone.