In this chapter initial salvation refers to the moment in time when a person extends a trusting-submitting faith in Jesus Christ for his personal salvation and thereby instantly receives the gift of salvation. At this same moment in time he also passes from spiritual death to life, from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to the power of God (Jn. 5:24; Acts 26:18; 1 Jn. 3:14). Such a person is also set free from the slavery of sin (Jn. 8:32-36; Rom. 6:22). As a recipient of eternal life he has also been declared righteous in God's sight and made a son of God because of his faith in Christ (Rom. 3:22; Gal. 3:26), who is now his Lord and Savior (Gal. 5:24; Eph. 5:24).
Final salvation simply refers to entering the kingdom of God, which only occurs for those who die physically in a righteous state or are in such a spiritual state when the Lord returns.
At this very moment, the Christian is somewhere between his past conversion experience and his future entrance into the kingdom, that is, assuming he endures to the end. In other words, though he now possesses eternal life, he is also on the road that leads to [eternal] life (Mt. 7:14 cf. Mt. 25:46) with the possibility of wandering off (1 Tim. 6:10,21; 2 Tim. 2:18; 2 Pet. 2:15), turning back (Jn. 6:66; 1 Tim. 5:15), falling away (Lk. 8:13; Mt. 11:6; 26:31), etc. In fact, turning away from the Lord is somewhat commonplace (Mt. 24:10; 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:4).
Dear reader, even if you are a true Christian this horrible thing could happen to you also, unless you do certain things to prevent it, according to Scripture!
If our perseverance in the faith was solely left up to God no Christian in the past would have ever shipwrecked his faith in Christ or apostatized for any reason, since God always does everything perfectly and does not desire for anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9)! Your free will and human responsibilities regarding the things of God after initial salvation are, therefore, the deciding factors that will determine much more than your rewards and position in the kingdom!
How does the Bible describe the Christian between initial and final salvation? Is the Christian's life now, because of grace, one in which he can sit back, relax, pursue the pleasures of this world and even start to live again according to his sinful nature as a carnal Christian with no possible hindrance to his personal entrance into the kingdom of God? Is it true that "all the way to heaven is heaven," and "the saints on earth are no less secure than those in heaven" as some say?
Descriptions Of Christians
According to the Bible, the Christian in this life is:
a soldier in a battle (Phil. 2:25; 2 Tim. 2:3,4; Philemon 2); a runner in a long distance race (Acts 20:24; 1 Cor. 9:24; Gal. 5:7; 2 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 12:1); a worker in the vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16); a fruit tree required to bear good fruit (Jn. 15: 5,6); a self-denying, cross carrying, Jesus follower (Lk. 9:23); a witness of Jesus (Acts 1:8,22; 2 Tim. 2:2; Rev. 2:13 cf. Acts 8:1- 4); a wrestler against the forces of darkness (Eph. 6:12); in a struggle against sin (Heb. 12:4); an alien-stranger in this world whose citizenship is in heaven (1 Pet. 1:1,17; 2:11; Phil. 3:20); a servant of God (Acts 4:29; 1 Thess 1:9)!
Beyond these descriptions, Christians are also likened unto salt that can possibly lose its saltiness (Mt. 5:13; Lk. 14:34,35); and virgins that can have their lamps run out of oil and stop burning (v. 12). In the end, such foolish virgins will hear Jesus say, I don't know you (Mt. 25:1-13).
We must also remember we are presently being tested (Jam. 1:12) and told to be faithful to the very end of our lives so that we won't be hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:10,11), another name for the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). From all of this, one can see why the Lord commanded us:
Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to (Lk. 13:24, NIV).The Greek reveals a continuous tense effort to enter the kingdom is to be exerted! Furthermore, the word effort (agonizomai) comes from the Greek word from which we get our word agony.
W. E. Vine comments on its usage in this passage:
To strive as in a contest for a prize, straining every nerve to attain to the object, Luke 13:24.
The Christian should never forget he is now in enemy territory. The devil, who is the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), and prince of this world (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) is our arch enemy. We are on his turf and he doesn't like us here! We disturb him.
The Christian Is Now In
Our value system is not only antithetical to his, but destructive to his slavish system. He is not in the lake of fire yet, but prowls around throughout the earth looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). We are told to resist him (1 Pet. 5:9). [Note: God is not going to resist him for us! We are told to resist him for ourselves, with the help of God.]
"The ruler of the kingdom of the air" (Eph. 2:2) never gives up in his relentless efforts to tempt us into sin or deceive us through one of his many clever schemes! There are traps, snares, stumbling blocks and many other hindrances that he lays before us on the road that is hard that leads to life (Mt. 7:14, NRSV). The Christian is consequently warned of real spiritual dangers that could prevent his entrance into the kingdom (Gal. 5:19-21; Heb. 3:12-14; 1 Jn. 2:24,25; Rev. 22:19), repeatedly commanded to be on his spiritual guard (Mt. 10:17-22; 16:6; cf. 2 Pet. 3:17), told not to be lukewarm so as to avoid possible discharge from the Body of Christ (Rev. 3:15,16), etc.
We are also advised to give absolutely no place at all to the devil (Eph. 4:27), to avoid every kind of evil (1 Thess. 5:22), to keep ourselves pure (1 Tim. 5:22), from idols (1 Jn. 5:21), from the pollutants of this world (Jam. 1:27) and informed that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33). Our thought life is to be centered on things beyond the grave, not on earthly things (Col. 3:1,2). Neither are we to think about how to gratify the desires of our sinful nature (Rom. 13:14).
Furthermore, it is vitally important to keep a clear conscience at all times, as Paul himself did (Acts 24:16). He also wrote about some who didn't and consequently shipwrecked their own faith in Christ (1 Tim. 1:19,20)!
We are also warned of the danger of false teachers who distort the truth of God and who teach to accommodate an audience with sinful desires (Acts 20:30; 2 Tim. 4:3,4). Yet these teachers can appear righteous (Mt. 7:15; 23:28; 2 Cor. 11:13,15; 2 Tim. 3:5). Remember even the devil can quote Scripture (Mt. 4:6) and masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14)! Rather than proclaiming the full counsel of God, such teachers stress only certain passages to the exclusion of others, because if they didn't, their sought-after and easy-to-receive message would be clearly contradicted! These are truly perilous times. All of these are facts, as disturbing as they may be to some!
Eternal life is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23). It is more precious than our bodily members (Mk. 9:43-48), our marriage (1 Cor. 7:15), great riches (Mk. 10:21,22), our physical life (Mt. 10:28), the whole world (Mk. 8:36), and our own personal goals and aspirations (Lk. 9:24).
A More Complete Picture Of
In Jn. 17:3, Jesus equated eternal life (zoe aionios) to knowing God. In other words, to truly know God in this sense is to have eternal life and to be known by God. Elsewhere we learn that eternal life is found only in Jesus (1 Jn. 5:12 cf. Jn. 14:6). But there is much more that needs to be known on the subject of eternal life.
Let's carefully consider an aspect of eternal life which is directly related to the believer's security. Many Christians are not aware of the passages to be cited on this subject because of present-day teachings. Please take the time to verify all Scriptures for yourself in your own Bible. Since we are dealing with eternity, the stakes are of infinite value. Therefore, carefully note them and prepare your heart to receive your findings. If necessary, adjust your theology accordingly.
What you are about to read is the result of looking up all the references in the Bible on eternal life and its synonym, everlasting life, to learn more about this all-important subject. It would be good for you also to do this. [Sometimes eternal life is simply stated as life (Mt. 7:14; Mk. 9:43; 1 Tim. 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1 Jn. 5:12; etc.), so this is another word that needs to be sought out.]
As I now look back over all this data related to eternal life (zoe aionios), I firmly believe it corporately could be the missing part of the puzzle for many regarding their personal misunderstanding of the believer's security.
To the OSAS proponent who believes in an absolute and guaranteed entrance into God's kingdom based upon a past moment of real faith in Christ, there will be some shocking Bible passages cited and examined. Shocking, not because they are taken out of context or misused in any way, but because they are hardly known. Moreover, the reason they are hardly known is that they are problem texts for the popular OSAS teachers!
Furthermore, many who embrace OSAS, unknowingly or unconsciously, skip over such Scriptures when teaching or while spending personal time in the Bible because such do not fit (or better yet, cannot fit) into their theology and, therefore, they simply do not know what to do with these awkward passages. They are thrown into a temporary state of confusion when confronted with them!
Such disharmony should immediately cause the sincere truth seeker to know that there must be something wrong with his present understanding of that subject, since there will always be complete harmony throughout the Bible on any given subject when properly understood. Please remember the following awkward passages are just as authoritative and inspired as any other Scripture dealing with eternal life.
Here are the most commonly known passages on eternal life:
Common Passages On Eternal Life
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes [continuous tense] in him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16, NIV).I tell you the truth, he who believes [continuous tense] has everlasting life (Jn. 6:47, NIV).He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe [continuous tense] in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 Jn. 5:12,13, NIV).These three passages, among others not cited here, clearly show we have eternal life the moment we believe on Christ and can know it at this time. Though this is basic truth, there is more you must consider -- the missing piece of the puzzle.
The Bible goes on to state the following:
Awkward Passages On Eternal Life
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2, NIV).Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Mt. 25:46, NIV).Will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life (Mk. 10:30, NIV).To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Rom. 2:7, NIV).The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:8,9, NIV).A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time (Titus 1:2, NIV).So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7, NIV).Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (Jude 21, NIV).See also Jn. 6:27; 12:25; Rom. 6:22; 1 Tim. 6:12; 1 Jn. 2:24,25; 3:15.
Though many know eternal life is given at the point of initial salvation, these additional truths reveal an aspect of eternal life that few seem aware of or even care to ponder.
According to true grace teaching, eternal life (zoe aionios) is also a hope (Titus 3:7) yet to be reaped (Gal. 6:8,9) in the age to come (Mk. 10:30) for only the ones who persist in doing good (Rom. 2:7) and don't grow weary and give up (Gal. 6:9)!
This is clearly what the Bible teaches, yet it is highly contradictory to both positions on OSAS, even the moderate form which declares:
They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace: but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.Furthermore, OSAS proponents who embrace the Westminster Confession say that such does not depend upon our own free will but "upon the immutability of the decree of election."
In contrast, Scripture declares that the reaping of eternal life is dependent upon us not giving up as we sow to please the Spirit, instead of our sinful natures (Gal. 6:8,9). Paul, who gave us Eph. 2:8,9, also gave us this passage!
Before we move on, a very common OSAS misinterpretation of Gal. 6:7-9 is that those verses are related to the judgment and rewards of believers. Charles Stanley teaches this interpretation:
Every moment counts. No deed goes unnoticed. All of us must give an account. No one gets by with anything. If you are a believer living for Christ, this news should be encouraging. If, however, you are one of those believers who has been content just to know you are on your way to heaven, this information should be disturbing. It is my prayer that you will renew your commitment to Christ and begin living for Him. Heed Paul's words:Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap .... And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.Gal. 6:7-9 powerfully refutes OSAS, as it states we will reap eternal life or destruction by the way we live. This passage is not talking about reaping rewards, but reaping either eternal life or destruction, as the context proves. This truth, however, is not apparent from Stanley's quote of Gal. 6:7-9, since he omitted verse 8 with an ellipsis! The missing words will help clarify this:
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (NIV).Please note the contrast between reaping eternal life and reaping destruction, which is based on us sowing to please the Spirit or our own sinful natures.
Consider also what the Lord Jesus taught in Mk. 9:43-48:
Enter Life = Enter The Kingdom of God
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched; where Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched; where Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire; where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched' (NKJV).Notice how the Lord interchangeably used enter life with enter the kingdom of God. He could equate the two since they are describing the same concept, that is, final salvation. One will either enter life or he will be cast into the fire that shall never be quenched, according to Jesus.
Even more importantly, Jesus clearly taught in the same passage that sin in general can stop a person from entering the kingdom of God! The Lord did not limit sin, that would exclude one from the kingdom of God, only to the sin of unbelief. This point cannot be over-emphasized, since it is a deathblow to OSAS! Paul taught similarly after the cross (Gal. 5:19-21). Please note, his warning cited there was directed to Christians.
In contrast to Scripture, it is taught in our day:
... for the Christian sin is no longer the issue ....See the chapter, The Truth About Sin, for more information.
Furthermore, from Mk. 9:43-48 we learn sin will always be an issue for us in this age. The fact that sin can negate one's salvation will hold true all the way into the future while there will be people who have not yet entered the kingdom of God and others who have not yet been thrown into eternal fire.
Also in a clear way, the Lord referred to initial and final salvation during his conversation with the rich, young ruler who fell on his knees before Jesus and asked, What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mt. 19:16; Mk. 10:17; Lk. 18:18). Let's examine this from the Lk. 18:18-30 account:
The Rich, Young Ruler
Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery,' Do not murder,' Do not steal,' Do not bear false witness,' Honor your father and your mother.' And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And those who heard it said, "Who then can be saved?" But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." Then Peter said, "See, we have left all and followed You." So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life" (NKJV).Several important points need to be emphasized from this passage:
(1) Jesus answered a question about inheriting the kingdom of God by equating it to entering the kingdom of God.
(2) Jesus equated entering the kingdom of God to receiving eternal life which he said comes in the age to come. Note: the age to come is not this present time in which we are now living!
(3) The disciples understood entering the kingdom of God to be equated with salvation, for they asked the question, "Who then can be saved?"
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