Salvation: Eternity in Heaven
Salvation, or being saved, according to the biblical perspective means eternity spent with God. Without going into any explicit detail, or description, this is a minimum- yet sufficient biblical description of Heaven. In contrast, not being saved, or hell refers to an eternity spent apart from God, the creator. For those who do not believe in a creator of heaven or earth, this is a moot point. For those who reject the idea of the existance of a supernatural creator, God, then why would such individuals care as to whether they are going to heavan to be with that very being whose existence they deny? Well, at least in this world they don't care anyway, so why do they care when others use their bible based critera, which they don't believe, to determine how one goes about attaining salvation or Heaven.
A basic definition of hell is simply this- being apart from God, the creator. Whether you acknowledge the existence of God or not, God gives each and every one of us free will to believe what we choose. We excercise this free will choice whenever we choose to accept or reject the idea of God. For explanation as to why some choose to believe or reject God, then read the beginning chapters of the book of Romans or refer to the archives of my blog for the summary on Romans.
The following debate about the particulars of salvation- opften referred to as an "in House" debate among Christians or bible readers may seem entirely irrelevant to those who dismiss the idea that God even exists. In sum, we can not merit salvation. It is a gift from God that we must accept. Our good works, or religious background, or man-made religious tradition can not save us. Only Jesus can save us. Our works simply are the "fruits" of our salvation based on faith by which we are saved. This is not a license to sin, nevertheless. We must put to death our former sinful ways. Those who are truly saved- who accepted the gift of salvation are like shining lamps. As with any lamp, you shine its light for all to see- you do not cover it up with a bucket.
Once a person is saved are they always saved? When people come to know Christ as their Savior, they are brought into a relationship with God that guarantees their salvation as eternally secure. Numerous passages of Scripture declare this fact. (a) Romans 8:30 declares, "And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified." This verse tells us that from the moment God chooses us, it is as if we are glorified in His presence in heaven. There is nothing that can prevent a believer from one day being glorified because God has already purposed it in heaven. Once a person is justified, his salvation is guaranteed - he is as secure as if he is already glorified in heaven.
(b) Paul asks two crucial questions in Romans 8:33-34 "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Who will bring a charge against God's elect? No one will, because Christ is our advocate. Who will condemn us? No one will, because Christ, the One who died for us, is the one who condemns. We have both the advocate and judge as our Savior.
(c) Believers are born again (regenerated) when they believe (John 3:3; Titus 3:5). For a Christian to lose his salvation, he would have to be un-regenerated. The Bible gives no evidence that the new birth can be taken away. (d) The Holy Spirit indwells all believers (John 14:17; Romans 8:9) and baptizes all believers into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). For a believer to become unsaved, he would have to be "un-indwelt" and detached from the Body of Christ.
(e) John 3:15 states that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will "have eternal life." If you believe in Christ today and have eternal life, but lose it tomorrow, then it was never "eternal" at all. Hence if you lose your salvation, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in error. (f) For the most conclusive argument, I think Scripture says it best itself, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). Remember the same God who saved you is the same God who will keep you. Once we are saved we are always saved. Our salvation is most definitely eternally secure!
True conversion is measured by visible fruit. When John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River, he warned those who thought they were righteous to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7). Jesus warned those who were listening to Him while He was giving the Sermon on the Mount that every tree can be known by its fruit (Matthew 7:16) and that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:19).
The purpose behind these warnings is to counter what some people would call “easy-believism.” In other words, following Jesus is more than saying you are a Christian. Anyone can claim Christ as Savior, but those who are truly saved will bear visible fruit. Now, one may ask the question, “What is meant by fruit?” The clearest example of Christian fruit can be found in Galatians 5:22-23 where Paul describes the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are other types of Christian fruit (such as praise, winning souls for Christ), but this list provides us with a good summary of Christian attitudes. True believers will manifest these attitudes in their lives to an increasing degree as they progress in their Christian walk (2 Peter 1:5-8).
It is these true, fruit-bearing disciples who have the guarantee of eternal security, and they will persevere to the end. There are many Scriptures that bear this out. Romans 8:29-30 outlines the “Golden Chain” of salvation by pointing out that those who were foreknown by God were predestined, called, justified, and glorified—there is no loss along the way. Philippians 1:6 tells us that the work God began in us, He will also finish. Ephesians 1:13-14 teaches that God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance until we possess it. John 10:29 affirms that no one is able to take God’s sheep out of His hand. There are many other Scriptures that say the same thing—true believers are eternally secure in their salvation.
The passages warning against apostasy serve two primary purposes. First, they exhort true believers to make sure of their “calling and election.” Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. If true believers are fruit-bearing followers of Jesus Christ, then we should be able to see the evidence of salvation. Christians bear fruit in varying degrees based on their level of obedience and their spiritual gifts, but all Christians bear fruit; and we should see the evidence of that upon self-examination.
Now there will be periods in a Christian’s life where there is no visible fruit. These would be times of sin and disobedience. What happens during these times of prolonged disobedience is that God removes from us the assurance of our salvation. Note He doesn’t remove our salvation, but the assurance of it. That is why David prayed in Psalm 51 to restore to him the “joy of salvation” (Psalm 51:12). We lose the joy of our salvation when we live in sin. That is why we must examine ourselves. When a true Christian examines himself and sees no recent fruitfulness, it should lead to serious repentance and a returning to God.
The second primary reason for the passages on apostasy is to point out apostates. An apostate is someone who abandons his religious faith. It is clear from the Bible that apostates are people who made professions of faith in Jesus Christ, but never genuinely received Him as Savior. Matthew 13:1-9 (the Parable of the Sower) illustrates this point perfectly. In that parable, a sower sows seed onto four types of soil: hard soil, rocky soil, weed-choked soil, and freshly tilled soil. These soils represent four types of responses to the gospel. The first one is pure rejection, whereas the other three represent various levels of acceptance. The rocky soil and the weed-choked soil represent people who initially respond favorably to the gospel, but when persecution comes (rocky soil) or the cares of the world bear down (weed-choked soil), that person turns away. Jesus makes it clear with these two types of responses that though they initially accepted they never bore any fruit. Again, Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom” (Matthew 7:21).
It may seem unusual for the Bible to warn against apostasy, and at the same time to say that a true believer will never apostatize. However, this is what Scripture says. 1 John 2:19 specifically states that those who apostatize are demonstrating that they were not true believers. The Biblical warnings against apostasy, therefore, must be a warning to those who are “in the faith” without ever truly having received it. Scriptures such as Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26-29 are warnings to “pretend” believers, that they need to examine themselves and realize that if they are considering apostatizing, they are not truly saved. Matthew 7:22-23 indicates that those “pretend believers” whom God rejects are rejected not because of having lost faith, but because of the fact that God never knew them.
There are many people who are willing to identify with Jesus. Who doesn’t want eternal life and blessing? However, Jesus warns us to count the cost of discipleship (Luke 9:23-26, 14:25-33). True believers have counted those costs, whereas apostates have not. Apostates are people who, when they leave the faith, give evidence they were never saved in the first place (1 John 2:19). Apostasy is not a loss of salvation, but rather a demonstration that salvation was never truly possessed.
Revelation 22:19 says, “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” This verse is usually involved in the debate concerning eternal security. Does Revelation 22:19 mean that after a person’s name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, it can at some time in the future be erased? In other words, can a Christian lose his salvation?
First, Scripture is clear that a true believer is kept secure by the power of God, sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), and of all those whom the Father has given to the Son, He will lose none of them (John 6:39). The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28-29b). Salvation is God’s work, not ours (Titus 3:5), and it is His power that keeps us.
If the “anyone” referred to in Revelation 22:19 are not believers, who are they? In other words, who might want to either add to or take away from the words of the Bible? Most likely, this tampering with God’s Word would be done not by true believers but by those who only profess to be Christians and who suppose that their names are in the Book of Life. Generally speaking, the two main groups who have traditionally tampered with the Revelation are pseudo-Christian cults and those who hold to very liberal theological beliefs. Many cults and theological liberals claim the name of Christ as their own, but they are not "born again"—the definitive biblical term for a Christian.
The Bible cites several examples of those who thought they were believers, but whose profession was proven to be false. In John 15, Jesus refers to them as branches that did not remain in Him, the true Vine, and therefore did not produce any fruit. We know they are false because “by their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16, 20); true disciples will exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit who resides within them (Galatians 5:22). In 2 Peter 2:22, false professors are dogs returning to their own vomit and a sow who “after washing herself returns to wallow in the mire” (ESV). The barren branch, the dog, and the pig are all symbols of those who profess to have salvation, but who have nothing more than their own righteousness to rely upon, not the righteousness of Christ which truly saves.
It is doubtful that those who have repented of their sin and been born again would willingly tamper with God's Word in this way—adding to it or taking from it. Of course, we recognize that good people have sincerely held differences in the area of textual criticism! But it can be demonstrated how cultists and liberals have repeatedly done both "adding to" and "taking away from." Thus, we can understand God's warning in Revelation 22:19 in this manner: Anyone who tampers with this crucial message will find that God did not place his name in the Book of Life, will be denied access to the Holy City, and will forfeit any expectation of all the good things He promises to His saints in this book.
From a purely logical standpoint, why would the sovereign and omniscient God—He who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10)—write a name in the Book of Life when He knows He will only have to erase it when that person eventually apostatizes and denies the faith? Additionally, if you read this warning within the context of the paragraph in which it appears—Revelation 22:6-19—you can clearly see God remains consistent in His theology: only those who have taken heed of His warnings, repented and been born again will have any good to look forward to in eternity. All others, sadly, have a terrible and terrifying future awaiting them.
Revelation 3:5 is another verse that impacts this issue. “He who overcomes . . . I will never blot out his name from the book of life.” The “overcomer” mentioned in this letter to Sardis is the Christian. Compare this with 1 John 5:4: “Everyone who is born of God overcomes the world.” And verse 5: “Who is he that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (See also 1 John 2:13.) All believers are “overcomers” in that they have been granted victory over the sin and unbelief of the world.
Some people see in Revelation 3:5 the picture of God’s pen poised, ready to strike out the name of any Christian who sins. They read into it something like this: “If you mess up and don’t win the victory, then you’re going to lose your salvation! In fact, I will erase your name from the Book of Life!” But this is NOT what the verse says. Jesus is giving a promise here, not a warning.
Never does Scripture say that God erases a believer’s name from the Book of Life—there is never even a warning that He is contemplating it! The wonderful promise of Revelation 3:5 is that Jesus will NOT erase one’s name. Speaking to the “overcomers”—all those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb—Jesus gives His word that He will not delete their names. He affirms that once a name is there, it is there forever. This is based on the faithfulness of God.
The promise of Revelation 3:5 is directed to believers, who are secure in their salvation. In contrast, the warning of Revelation 22:19 is directed to unbelievers, who, rather than change their hearts toward God, attempt to change God’s Word to suit themselves.
When people come to know Christ as their Savior, they are brought into a relationship with God that guarantees their eternal security. Jude 24 declares, "To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy." God's power is able to keep the believer from falling. It is up to Him, not us, to present us before His glorious presence. Our eternal security is a result of God keeping us, not us maintaining our own salvation.
The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28-29b). Both Jesus and the Father have us firmly grasped in their hand. Who could possibly separate us from the grip of both the Father and the Son?
Ephesians 4:30 tells us that believers are "sealed for the day of redemption." If believers did not have eternal security, the sealing could not truly be unto the day of redemption, but only to the day of sinning, apostasy, or disbelief. John 3:15-16 tells us that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will "have eternal life." If a person were to be promised eternal life, but then have it taken away, it was never "eternal" to begin with. If eternal security is not true, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in error.
The most powerful argument for eternal security is Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Our eternal security is based on God's love for those whom He has redeemed. Our eternal security is purchased by Christ, promised by the Father, and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
The most frequent objection to the doctrine of eternal security is that it supposedly promotes the idea that Christians can live any way that they want to and still be saved. While this is "technically" true, that is not the essence of eternal security. A person who has truly accepted Jesus Christ as his or her Savior can live a life characterized by continuous, willful sin, but he or she will not do so. We must draw a distinction between how a Christian should live and what a person must do in order to receive salvation.
The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 14:6). A person is saved by faith and faith alone. The moment a person truly believes in Jesus Christ, they are saved and secure in that salvation. Salvation is not gained by faith, but then maintained by works. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 3:3 when he asks "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" If we are saved by faith, our salvation is also maintained and secured by faith. We cannot earn our own salvation. Therefore, we cannot earn the maintenance of our salvation either. It is God who maintains our salvation (Jude verse 24). It is God's hand that holds us firmly in His grasp (John 10:28-29). It is God's love that nothing can separate us from (Romans 8:38-39).
Any denial of eternal security is, in its essence, a belief that we must maintain our own salvation by our own good works and efforts. This is completely antithetical to salvation by grace. We are saved because of Christ's merits, not our own (Romans 4:3-8). To claim that we must obey God's Word or live a godly life to maintain our salvation is saying that Jesus' death was not sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus' death was absolutely sufficient to pay for all of our sins—past, present, and future, pre-salvation and post-salvation (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Does this mean that a Christian can live any way they want to and still be saved? This is essentially a hypothetical question, because the Bible makes it clear that a true Christian will not live "any way they want to." Christians are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), not the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). First John 3:6-9 clearly states that a true Christian will not live in continual sin. In response to the accusation that grace promotes sin, the Apostle Paul declared, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2).
Eternal security is not a license to sin. Rather, it is the security of knowing that God's love is guaranteed for those who trust in Christ. Knowing and understanding God's tremendous gift of salvation accomplishes the opposite of giving a license to sin. How could anyone, knowing the price Jesus Christ paid for us, go on to live a life of sin (Romans 6:15-23)? How could anyone who understands God's unconditional and guaranteed love for those who believe, take that love and throw it back in God's face? Such a person is demonstrating not that eternal security has given them a license to sin, but rather that he or she has not truly experienced salvation through Jesus Christ. "No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him" (1 John 3:6).
Jesus declared to the educated Jewish teacher Nicodemus, that each man must be born again to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. And once we are born again we become a new creature, a child of Christ. We are no longer our old selves; rather we have died to our old, sinful natures and have been born again spiritually as children of God, our Father in heaven. The Holy Spirit dwells in all believers.
According to 1Corinthians3:12-14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss, he himself will be saved but only as one escaping through the flames.
This statement implies that those Christians, who are faithful and produce much fruit attain a crown in heaven that does not perish. It is these servants of Christ who will be told by Christ as they enter the Kingdom of Heaven, “well done my faithful servant”. In contrast, those Christians, if they truly are born again, but who nevertheless produce little or less fruit during their lifetime, and who do not seek to spread the gospel as God has commanded, will be saved, but only as one who barely escapes.
True conversion, as in being born again, is measured by visible fruit. When John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River, he warned those who thought they were righteous to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance”. Jesus also warned those who were listening to Him while He was giving the Sermon on the Mount that every tree can be known by its fruit and that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Christian fruit is described in Galatians 5:22-23 where Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, humility and winning souls for Christ. True believers will manifest these attitudes in their lives to an increasing degree as they progress in their growth as a Christian believer.
We are told to compete for a prize that does not perish but lasts for eternity, and not to disqualify ourselves. When we grow in Christ then what we have built up in our lifetimes will survive. We will be building out treasure in heaven and we will receive our reward, our treasure, our unperishable crown. If we do not heed the words of Christ, then what we have built in our lifetime will be burned up even though we will be saved.