From Initial to Final Salvation

The Salvation of the SOUL

Dan Corner

From Initial to Final Salvation (pdf)

Initial Salvation vs Final Salvation For The Salvation of the Soul

The salvation of the soul is related to both initial and final salvation. Here 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!

What Is A Christian

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?

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.

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The Christian Is Now In
Enemy Territory

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.

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!

Questions on Salvation

A More Complete Picture Of
Eternal Life and The Salvation of the Soul

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).

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.

Common Passages On Eternal Life

Here are the most commonly known 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.

Awkward Passages On Eternal Life

The Bible goes on to state the following:
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."

Galatians 6:7-9

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 in touch 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.
Galatians 6:7-9
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.

Enter Life = Enter The Kingdom of God

Consider also what the Lord Jesus taught in Mk. 9:43-48:
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.

The Rich, Young Ruler

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:

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?" At different times, the Lord taught an initial and final salvation with his usage of the word saved. In the following verse he refers to initial salvation:

Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace" (Lk. 7:50, NKJV).
But in Mt. 10:22, Jesus told those who were already saved (vv. 1,2) that they would be hated for his name's sake and he mentioned their need to endure to the end of their lives for salvation's sake:

And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved (NKJV).
This last passage is one of the clearest in all of Scripture to prove a conditional security. In it, Jesus refers to final salvation, or an actual entrance into the kingdom of God. Here, just like with the rich, young ruler, the word saved is referring to an entrance into the kingdom (Lk. 18:25 cf. v. 26).

Similarly, Paul referred to final salvation as he wrote believers from two different church groups:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12, KJV).
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11, NKJV).
In the latter passage, Paul referred to a salvation that was nearer for the Christians than when they first believed. This is final salvation, and to reap eternal life he said we must continue to sow to please the Spirit, instead of our own sinful natures, and do not give up (Gal. 6:7-10). This is true grace teaching.

At yet a different time, Paul wrote:

Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved (1 Cor. 10:32,33, NKJV).
Let's take a close look at this passage. Paul said of himself that he was seeking the good of many that they may be saved. But to whom was he referring? Verse 32 surprisingly shows it was Jews, Greeks and the church of God! This means those who never came to the point of saving faith, as well as those who have, are the ones to whom he referred. Hence, he said all men in verse 33. The point is, Paul wanted those who belonged to the church of God to be saved in the sense of actually entering the kingdom of God. This statement from Paul is related to what he wrote in 1 Cor. 8:10-13:

For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall (NIV).
Clearly, Paul believed one who was in Christ could fall and be destroyed through an example of a Christian having knowledge who was eating in an idol's temple.

Two Times To Overcome

At the point of initial salvation, we are shown to be overcomers:

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 Jn. 4:4, NKJV).
See also 1 Jn. 2:13,14; 5:4,5.

Yet in a different sense, the Lord referred to final salvation when he addressed those already saved. He stated that we must be faithful to the point of death to overcome and not be hurt by the second death:

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death (Rev. 2:10,11, NIV).
See also Rev. 2:7,17,26; 3:5,12,21.

These verses were all addressed to those who already overcame in the sense of 1 Jn. 5:4,5 but have not overcome by being faithful to the point of death so they would not get hurt by the lake of fire.

Paul also used overcome in this same sense as he wrote to those who already overcame for initial salvation:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21, NIV).
Note: evil is ever trying to overtake the Christian. This reflects our continuous, spiritual warfare even after the point of initial salvation.

Son Used In Two Ways

We clearly become a son of God at the moment of our faith in Christ, that is, at initial salvation. Paul and John, respectively, wrote of this:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26, NKJV).
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2, NKJV).
Yet we must be an overcomer in the sense of entering the kingdom to be God's son in eternity and not have a place in the lake of fire:

He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Rev. 21:7,8, NKJV).
Rev. 21:8 describes the non-overcomers, that is, the ones who don't inherit the kingdom (vv. 1-7) or as Paul stated earlier those who reap destruction (Gal. 6:8).

Again, the book of Revelation was written to people who had already experienced initial salvation (Rev. 1:4,11). Yet, the same would have to overcome by being faithful to Jesus to the point of their physical death, so they would not be hurt by the second death, also known as the lake of fire (Rev. 2:10,11; 12:11 cf. 21:8).

Revealed Other Ways

The distinction between initial and final salvation also surfaces in certain individual verses like 1 Pet. 1:9:

For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (NIV).
Peter wrote this to people who already had been saved. This is apparent since they were redeemed with the precious blood of Jesus (1:18,19) and were born again (1:23). Yet, Peter mentions they are receiving ... the salvation of their souls! This is the final goal of their faith. This type of talk, again, reflects an aspect of salvation that even born again people have not received in its entirety.

Paul's Justification

Paul refers to an aspect of justification which is seldom mentioned:

So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7, NIV).
In contrast to this and other clear Scriptures, but yet in conformity with OSAS, MacArthur wrote:

It is a done deal, not a goal we work toward. Eternal life is a present possession, not a future hope.
Dear reader, which contrasting message will you believe?

1 Peter 4:18

In Peter's first epistle, he wrote:

And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (1 Pet. 4:18, NIV).
Peter used the word saved in that passage the same way he heard the Lord use it in Mt. 10:22. Furthermore, he said it is hard for the righteous to be saved. Again, that was addressed to those who were already righteous (or saved)! Perhaps Peter had Lk. 13:24 in mind when he wrote that.

We are also told by Peter to add to our faith in Christ, of our own free will, various virtues to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:5-10). [Verse 10 does not refer to salvation assurance as some say, but rather to making our election sure. This passage is a real problem for the Augustine-Calvin double predestination theory.]

In addition to all of the aforementioned, it is also possible for the Christian, between initial and final salvation, to fall from grace to the point where Christ is no longer of any value (Gal. 5:2-4), to be disowned by Christ himself for disowning him (Mt. 10:33), to become an enemy of God again by choosing to be a friend of this world (Jam. 4:4b), etc. Unfortunately, spiritual disasters like these have happened to people who were once saved, as disturbing as it may be to ponder.

In clear contrast to Mt. 18:34,35 and especially Jam. 4:4, Hal Lindsey wrote:

We have been justified and now God is at peace with us and nothing will ever cause Him to stop being at peace with us (italics his).

Matthew 18:1-3

Besides all of these Scriptures, Jesus shockingly told those who were already saved they would not enter the kingdom of heaven unless they would change and become like little children (Mt. 18:1-3)! Of course, this is understandably denied by the OSAS crowd, but irrefutably supported by the immediate context.

J. Vernon McGee interprets verse 3:

He called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said: "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children ..." (v. 3). You have to be converted, of course, but you have to become as a little child if you are going to become great in the kingdom of heaven. He is speaking to them about a conversion and then about their conduct.
Dear reader, in the final analysis, you must decide for yourself how you will understand Mt. 18:3, but below is the entire verse, with the missing words bolded:

... and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18:3, KJV).
Clearly then, in the light of all the cited material, after initial salvation a Christian's entrance into the kingdom of God can be negated. This basic, but often denied, truth explains those awkward passages on eternal life, which declare it to be a hope yet to be reaped and received in the age to come, but only for those who persist in doing good and don't give up. This was the original grace teaching.

It is only when one embraces a conditional view for the believer in Christ that all of these passages on eternal life, the different ways saved is used, etc. can be reconciled to yield one harmonious picture of the believer's spiritual race now. That picture is given piece by piece throughout the Scriptures.

Those Who Actually Enter The Kingdom

We can learn much by pondering the various ways the overcomer of Rev. 21:7, who inherits the kingdom, is described elsewhere in Scripture. This is also the person who gets on the road to life and faithfully endures to the end to be saved.

Dear reader, as you reflect upon the following, ask yourself: Are these verses which refer to those who enter the kingdom describing me?

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven .... Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Mt. 7:21,24, NIV).
And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved (Mt. 10:22, NKJV).
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Mt. 25:34-40, NIV).
He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice" (Lk. 8:21, NIV).
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (Jn. 5:29, KJV).
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (Jn. 10:27, KJV).
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. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Gal. 6:8-10, NIV).
And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9, NKJV).
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (Jam. 2:5, KJV).
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death (Rev. 12:11, NIV).
They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings -- and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers (Rev. 17:14, NIV).
If you didn't readily know these important verses, perhaps you need to spend quality time pondering and even memorizing them.

Those Thrown Into Eternal Fire

Much to the surprise of many, Scripture does not say anywhere that the ones who will end up in eternal fire are people who never had a moment of true faith, as we are being taught in our hour:

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 13:41,42, NIV).
Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?" He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Mt. 25:41-46, NIV).
... those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (Jn. 5:29, NIV).
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned (Jn. 15:6, NIV).
But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Rom. 2:8,9, NIV).
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:7-10, NIV).
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21, 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 (Gal. 6:8, NIV).
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person -- such a man is an idolater -- has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them (Eph. 5:5-7, NIV).
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars -- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death (Rev. 21:8, NIV).
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 21:27, NIV).
But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie (Rev. 22:15, NKJV).

Run With Perseverance

In view of our spiritual race, which has been described in various ways, Heb. 12:1-4 appropriately says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (NIV).
Unlike some, Paul kept the faith to the very end of his life (2 Tim. 4:7). Dear saint of God, you can too, but you must faithfully follow the Scriptural directions cited in the Bible as to how this is done. (See the Safeguards chapter for various things to keep in remembrance.) Remember, the Christian in this life will reap eternal life, only if he doesn't give up sowing to please the Spirit (Gal. 6:8-10).

Acts 14:22 seems to be especially important to remember:

Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said (NIV).
Be encouraged, dear saint, it's easier to stay on the road that leads to life than to actually get on it in the first place, which is equated to passing from death to life and from darkness to light. Multitudes will, in the end, actually enter the kingdom (Heb. 11:12; Rev. 7:9-17), yet we are all incapable in our own strength! All of us must lean heavily on God, while we do our part, as Scripture teaches. Notice the synergism in Rom. 8:13:

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Rom. 8:13, NIV).
We are responsible to put to death the misdeeds of the body, but this can only be done by the Spirit!

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Eph. 6:10, NKJV).

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