Hell! The Lord Jesus used that terrible word again and again1 to describe the place of eternal punishment for the unsaved. The word He used (gehenna) spoke of the foul smelling, constantly burning garbage dump for Jerusalem. A Jew could not imagine a more awful place. Then Revelation 20:14-15 describes this place as “the lake of fire ... the second death,” the place of eternal separation from God (Rev. 19:20 NKJV).
Why begin a study of eternal security with such a description? Because many saved, born-again Christians believe it is possible for them to end up there? What a fearful way to live! According to them, one sin such as anger or an impure thought, and all their years of good Christian living go up in smoke! However, the Word of God does not support that thinking. Rather, God’s Word makes it abundantly clear, beyond any doubt, that once we are really converted, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. But first, let’s get some ground rules straight.
Profession vs. Reality
There is a vast difference between the most moral and religious “professor” of Christianity and the most feeble, failing and fleshly born-again Christian. One is an impostor while the other is a disobedient child in God’s family. Simon, of Acts 8:9-24, is an example of a mere professor who was never really saved. Yes, he believed in an intellectual way, was baptized to put on an outward show, and continued for a while with Philip. But those strong verses in Hebrews 6:4-6 describe Simon’s sad condition: “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance.”
Simon had been enlightened by Philip’s ministry and miracles. He had tasted the heavenly gift but hadn’t made it his own. He had even been a partaker of the Holy Spirit in the sense of going along with Him in spiritual things. But he was not saved. Even after Peter’s stern rebuke, Simon only wanted Peter to pray that he might escape judgment. There was no turning to Christ. His was the seed that fell on stony ground (Mt. 13:3-9, 18-23), showing some outward promise, but no inward reality.
Another sad example of mere profession is seen in Matthew 7:21-23. The people spoken of there were very religious, often saying, “Lord, Lord.” They even prophesied in the Lord’s name and cast out demons. They did many wonderful works, yet were never saved. The Lord said, “I never knew you.” They counted on religious experience and good works to save them, instead of faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus.
On the other hand, the truly converted are children of God by new birth2 – born into the family of God. They also are placed (the meaning of “adopted” in the Bible) in the position of the first-born son, the place of highest privilege.3 They may well need child training, or chastening, by the Father and maybe even His rebuke, but that’s God dealing with us as sons: “For what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” (Heb. 12:5-15).
Origin Of Our Salvation
A while ago, a man told me that since he willed to be saved and chose God, he could also will himself to be unsaved if he chose to sin and reject God. I told him his view wasn’t scriptural. The Bible says that God “chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4-5). John 15:16 adds, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” And Paul wrote, “God … saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Tim. 1:9).
I showed this man how far God went in choosing us. Even our faith to believe “is the gift from God, not of works, lest anyone should boast, for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:9-10). After we come to the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we then learn from the Bible that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). The real meaning of grace is undeserved favor. Grace goes all the way to bring us to God. Our salvation never was nor will be based on our degree of feebleness, failing or fleshly ways.
Now let’s look at some key New Testament promises concerning assurance of salvation. We will see that it is all based on the person and work of our blessed Savior and not on our feelings or failings.
Assurances Of Scripture
The Lord Jesus Himself said, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment4 but has passed from death into life” (Jn. 5:24). When we are saved we not only have everlasting life as a present possession, but we won’t even be judged for our sins, much less condemned. Every sin we ever did or will commit was perfectly paid for by the all-inclusive work of our Lord on the cross. Because that work was perfectly complete, God can tell us that we already have passed from the condition of spiritual death to that of spiritual, eternal life.
In John 6:37 the Lord again plainly says that “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” This verse combines the sovereign grace of God with the absolute assurance that once we truly come to the Lord, we will never be cast out or lost. We cannot add conditions where the Lord puts none. For a believer to doubt his eternal security is like calling the Lord a liar.
The Lord continues in John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” Combine these verses with Ephesians 4:30 which says that we are “sealed (owned by God) for the day of redemption” by the Holy Spirit, and we have trinity security! No one, and that includes ourselves, can pluck us out of the Son’s or the Father’s hands, and we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. What a wonderfully secure position we are in!
In Romans 8:35, Paul asks the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Is there any danger of a true Christian ever being lost? He answers his own question in Romans 8:38-39 saying, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s Word covers the entire spectrum. Not even Satan nor anything else can change God’s love toward us. Paul had just finished writing that “God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:8-9). Wonderful work of Christ! Wonderful love of God!
Philippians 1:6 says that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” God Himself will continue to keep us by divine power and love. Paul had that personal assurance, and at the end of his life wrote, “The Lord … will preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18). Why was he so sure? He knew the One whom he believed. He knew His love and power. Thus he was “persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). Our security depends only on Him.
Hebrews 7:25 gives us the same assurance, relating to us that the Lord “is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” He alone sustains us along the way and He can never fail in that sustaining power.
Hebrews 10:10-14 continues by telling us that we are sanctified (set apart for God) through Christ’s offering of Himself on the cross once for all, and that by that offering “He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” If I’m saved, I’m sanctified positionally before God and thus perfected forever. Note that there are other verses5 that tell us to practice daily our being set apart (sanctified). These two aspects of sanctification are often called positional and practical (or progressive) sanctification; mixing them up has caused much confusion as to eternal security.
Jude tells us that we are “preserved in Jesus Christ” and that He “is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1, 24). He alone has the ability, and He promises to use that ability on our behalf.
In conclusion, John tells us that Christ “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). The Lord fully satisfied God as to sin by His perfect work on the cross. Thus God could act righteously in proclaiming the good news of salvation to a lost world. When we believe, we can rightly say that we are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). To be justified means to be eternally made just, as if we’d never sinned. That’s how God sees us as a result of Christ’s great work. Each true Christian can say that the Lord “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). All our sins were then future, but in God’s perfect foreknowledge every sin was fully paid for.
Let’s believe God instead of our feelings6 in the important matter of eternal security: “These things I have written to you … that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). And let’s obey, serve and worship our blessed Lord who has done so much for us out of pure, sovereign love.
1. Mt. 5:29; 18:9; Mk. 9:43-47
2. Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:16-17; Phil. 2:15; 1 Jn. 3:1
3. Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:26; 4:5-7; Eph. 1:5
4. All revised readings change condemnation in KJV to judgment.
5. Jn. 17:17; Eph. 5:25-27; 1 Th. 4:3; 5:23-24; 2 Tim. 2:21. Compare to 1 Cor. 1:2, 30; 6:11; Phil. 1:1; Heb. 3:1 for positional sanctification, noting that the English words saint, holy, and sanctify in these verses are all translations of the same Greek word.
6. For a lengthier examination of eternal security, I recommend the booklet “Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment.” It is available from the publisher of this magazine.
By Roger Daniel
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.