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PART 4 ETERNAL SECURITY
Could Someone Who Believed in Christ During His Incarnation Lose Their Salvation?
The Incarnation of Christ
Losing or not losing one’s salvation during Christ’s incarnation, the time when He lived on this earth, has similarities and differences as to the time before His arrival. In the Old Testament, salvation constituted believing in God as He was revealed. For the Jews this meant believing in Jehovah (Yahweh). However, during the time of Christ’s incarnation, salvation was determined by believing in Him as the Messiah/Savior. One question that comes to mind is the following.
Was the Spirit still on-resting for any person who believed in Christ?
The scriptures are clear in that the indwelling Spirit would not take place until Christ was glorified (ascended into heaven seated at the right hand of the Father). Take a look at this verse from the book of John.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7: 38-39)
There appears to be no mention of the words on-resting Spirit in any of the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. However, there does appear to be what could be an example of the Spirit coming upon (on-resting) his disciples.
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: (John 20: 19-22)
Following his resurrection, Jesus stayed on the earth in his glorified body for 40 days being a witness of such. On one occasion, when his disciples were gathered together in the upper room, He breathed on them and said, receive the Holy Spirit. Some would say that this represents the limited receiving of the influence, knowledge, understanding, and power that would come upon them later on at the day of Pentecost. Others say that this refers to the literal sending of the indwelling Spirit. Based on the scripture from the book of John the indwelling Spirit would be given later on. We could deduce that receiving the Holy Spirit might refer to the on-resting Spirit.
We are about to begin looking at various scripture sections that are used by church leaders either in support of the view that a believer can lose their salvation or whether it is believed that salvation is irrevocable because it is something that is not earned. By the way, we should be careful not to allow one verse or one word be used to support a view on any Biblical topic. This would be perceived as using Scripture to say whatever we want it to say.
There are many things that should be looked at when trying to formulate a perspective on any Biblical topic. One is context—who was saying what to whom and why? Another is what are the different meanings for a particular word or words according to the Koine Greek, the original language of which most of the New Testament was written? What are the different verses that should be looked at which relate to the same topic in order to shed more light on a subject? And we should not forget to pray to God the Father to provide wisdom and understanding by means of the Holy Spirit, our ultimate teacher Whom Jesus promised would testify of Him, as we attempt to formulate our own perspective.
What will be presented is a section of scripture, an explanation of it, the question “Can a believer lose their salvation?”, and the alleged response by those who might answer yes and those who might answer no. My hope is that when you have completed reading this study, you will be able to make up your mind in a more informed manner as to answer to the question presented. Enjoy.
The False Prophets: “I Never Knew You”Suggested Reading: Matthew 7: 15-23; 5:1Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7: 15, 21-23)
Jesus is teaching his disciples along with warning them that there will be false prophets, who will appear to be harmless, meek, or guileless (sincere, honest, straight forward), that will corrupt the purity of the faith by promoting false doctrines while claiming that their messages are from God. Inwardly though, they will be greedy for power, gain, or wealth.
Some say that one way to recognize such is from the tongue of their heart. "A man's works," says one, "are the tongue of his heart, and tell honestly whether he is inwardly corrupt or pure."43 In other words, if the Holy Spirit is truly directing their teaching, the effects in the lives of their listeners will be development and manifestation of the spiritual qualities (fruit) of the Holy Spirit. The false prophets will appear to be Godly in their actions; i.e., they will speak God’s word, cast out demons, and perform wonderful works, but they will be complete strangers to God because they will fail to operate in His agape love (sacrificial for the benefit of the one loved; loving others for their spiritual and physical well-being). If we follow these imposters, we will be easily carried off from the flock and the result will be that we will continue carrying our baggage of sin and worldliness, and not experience the changed life that produces fruit for God’s glory.
Based on we have learned about these false prophets would you conclude that they were believers or unbelievers? And if you believe they are saved, then how would you answer this question.
Can a Believer in Christ Lose Their Salvation?
• These false prophets are believers in Christ the Messiah, who have become teachers of incorrect doctrine. God evidenced His work in them by:
~ Speaking His message through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.~ Casting out demons and performing miracles.
• Because they continually broke God’s laws, God said to them “I never knew you” (in other words, you have lost your salvation).• They had to be believers because if they were demonically empowered, they wouldn’t be casting out demons in Jesus name. Otherwise, this would indicate that the kingdom of Satan would be divided against itself in purpose and goals.• And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. (Mark 3: 24)• According to Acts 19: 10-20, when the 7 sons of Sceva heard the apostle Paul use the name of Jesus in successfully casting out demons, they decided to do it too, but were unsuccessful, because only the power of God can cast out demons.• These false prophets are believers who lost their salvation, because they continually taught false doctrine which was directed by their sin nature.
• These false prophets are unbelievers, who have become teachers of incorrect doctrine. They may speak God’s word, but it has no abiding spiritual effect in those who hear it, because it is devoid of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, composed merely of historical facts.• They are able to cast out demons and perform miracles, because their essential character is Satanic, performing signs and wonders through evil supernatural force.• According to 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12, there will appear on the scene of human events a person known as the Wicked, who will perform the signs and wonders of Satan, their source of power being either Satan himself or demonic influence.• V.9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,• Some would say that such deliverance as casting out devils would indicate that Satan would be operating against his own kingdom, so it cannot be attributed to him because there would be divided purpose and goals, but in this context, the kingdom of darkness would appear to be casting out demons for the purpose of deception so that many would follow them.• The Lord will say to these false prophets that he was never acquainted with them; not that at one time He did know them.• And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6: 40)
What we will look at next is one of the primary scripture sections used by those who advocate that a believer can lose their salvation.
There Shall Be Great Tribulation: “Endure unto the End, the Same Shall Be Saved”Suggested Reading: Matthew 24:1-31But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24: 13)
As Jesus left the temple in Jerusalem with his disciples, He told them that it would be destroyed in the future (the Romans would destroy it in 70 AD). The disciples then asked Him what would indicate His return, and when would the world end? Jesus responded by telling them of the things that would occur, advising them to beware of those who will claim to be the Christ and deceive many. He spoke of international wars, civil wars, famine, pestilence, and earthquakes in different places. Believers will be afflicted (punished) and put to death; and many will stop believing in Him, even turning one another over to the authorities. Iniquity or wickedness will be everywhere and brotherly love will no longer be a characteristic of those who follow God. However, those who endure to the end will be saved.
Once the gospel of the kingdom was preached to the entire world, the end will come. A sign of the times would be the warning by Jesus of an abomination of desolation that would take place in the temple at Jerusalem, and when this occurred many of the Jews will flee to the mountains. There will be great suffering, the extent of which has never been known throughout human history, and unless the number of days was shortened, no one would remain alive.
Many believe that Jesus’ return to the earth (at His second coming) will take place at the end of the Tribulation Period, which was prophesied in the book of Daniel (Daniel 7: 25; 8: 23-25; 9: 20-27; 12:1-2, 7, 11). This is a prophecy of 70 weeks, each signifying 7 years and denoting a total of 490 years. It is believed that this prophecy began with a decree that allowed the Jews to return to their homeland following their captivity in Babylon. This prophecy included the fixed year for the Messiah's death and resurrection and revealed the sequence of events and dates for the His return, which will bring an end to human rule on earth and usher in the government of God that will rule over the entire earth during what will be called the 1000-year Millennial reign of Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, only 69 weeks, or 483 of the 490 years, were fulfilled, so there is one prophetic week remaining unfulfilled. Many suggest that this final week, or 7 years, refers to the last seven years of human rule that will take place at the end of this age (the Church Age) and will be referred to as the Tribulation Period. (Revelation 4-20:4).
During this seven-year period of time, the abomination of desolation mentioned by Jesus will occur as a world leader goes into the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and places an image there to be worshipped by all of the peoples of the earth. Anyone who chooses not to worship this image, but lives as a witness for Christ will be hunted down and killed. Eventually, Christ will return to the earth and intervene preventing the entire annihilation of those who believed in Him and provide retribution toward their enemies. He will proceed to set up His earthly kingdom on the earth, where he will reign for 1000 years (Millennial Reign) with Jerusalem as the capital city.
Some believe that just before this 7-year period begins, the church will be removed from the earth by means of an event known as the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17), with the focus of the Tribulation primarily being on those Jews who hadn’t believed in Christ, but decide to do so. There are some who believe that the Church will not be removed from the earth, and subsequently it will be Church Age believers that will be the ones persecuted during this time.
What we are essentially trying to determine is what is meant by the words, But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Who is referred to, and if saved could they lose their salvation?
Can a Believer in Christ Lose Their Salvation?
●Those believers (Christians or Jews) who do not endure (they grow cold and apostatize) to the end of the Tribulation Period will not be saved—in other words they will lose their salvation.
●Those believers (Christians or Jews) who do not receive the mark of the beast and are a witness for Christ will endure unto the end, bearing afflictions and persecutions to the close of their life; the same shall be saved. ● And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
Most of us have read about the parable of sowing the seed. Let’s see how this relates to this topic of losing one’s salvation.
Sowing Seed: “In the Time of Temptation Fall Away”Suggested Reading: Luke 8:1-15Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
One of Jesus’ parables was about the sowing of seed, and the conditions that affected its ability to bear fruit.
In the first instance, the birds of the air devoured the seed. Secondly, the seed fell upon a rock, and withered away because there was no moisture.Third, the seed fell among the weeds, which choked it out and prevented growth. Fourth, the seed fell upon good ground, sprang up and bore fruit.
Jesus’ disciples asked him to explain the parable to them, and he said the seed is the word of God and each instance refers to people’s responses, when they heard it.
Initially, the word momentarily influenced those who heard it, but the devil took it from their hearts and they did not make a decision to believe in Christ in order to be saved. Second, the word was heard and believed, but the person fell away when temptation or testing occurred. Third, the word was heard and believed, but was choked out by cares, riches, and pleasures. There was no repentance and, therefore, no growth to maturity. Fourth, there were those who heard the word, believed it, and retained it faithfully, seeking wisdom, holiness, and righteousness. Spiritual growth occurred because of the firmness of their heart.
In this instance, it appears that each of the four conditions concerning a person’s response to the Word will have to be looked at. Is there any of these occurrences where the person is believed to have lost their salvation?
Can a Believer in Christ Lose Their Salvation?
• In the first instance, the people did not believe in who Jesus is, so they were not saved.• In the second and third groups, they believed but either testing or the cares of this world caused them not to continue on in their spiritual walk. As a result, they fell away, or deserted, and the indwelling Spirit departed—so they lost their eternal life. • The last group heard the word and appropriated it for themselves, bearing spiritual fruit that was evidence of their spiritual walk.
• In the first instance, the people did not believe in who Jesus is, so they were not saved.• In the second and third groups, they believed but either testing or the cares of this world caused them to fall away from their spiritual walk. A person’s walk is different from a person’s standing with God.• The last group heard and appropriated the word for themselves, bearing spiritual fruit that was evidence of their spiritual walk.
Let’s go to the book of Revelation for the next scripture section to look at.
What does it mean in regard to losing one’s salvation that someone’s name is written in heaven?
Appointed 70 Others: “Your Names Are Written in Heaven”Suggested Reading: Luke 10:1-20And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:9, 17, 19-20)
Jesus had appointed 70 others besides the apostles to go into the villages and towns to prepare the way for his coming. They were sent out two at a time in order:
~To teach each of them the necessity of concord among the ministers of righteousness.~That in the mouths of two witnesses everything might be established. ~That they might comfort and support each other in their difficult labour44.
They were to: heal the sick; proclaim that the kingdom of God is come near to them; have authority over demons; not be harmed by poisonous snakes or harmful powers; rejoice, not because the demons were obedient to them, but because their names were written in the book of heaven. This idea of having someone’s name written in heaven seems to definitely equate with salvation. Let’s see how this ties in with the question at hand.
Can a Believer in Christ Lose Their Salvation?
• The disciples’ names are written in the book of life because they obeyed the commands of Christ, however, if they were to decide to stop obeying Him and go back to their former life of habitual sin, they would lose their salvation.
• Jesus said not to rejoice in their authority, but in the fact that their names were written in the book of life in heaven. He said nothing about their names being taken out of the book of life, if they went back to their former life and lived in habitual sin.• The words are written is described according to the Koine Greek as being in the perfect passive indicative; the tense being perfect, the meaning of which presents the action of the verb as having been completed in the past and has reached its termination and existing in its finished results.
~ The indicative is a mood that refers to the way in which the action is conceived with reference to reality. In this case, this is the mood of absolute certainty or facts. ~ The word passive refers to voice, which denotes that the subject receives the action of the verb.
• Not withstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:9, 17, 19-20)• In other words, the 70 disciples have received with absolute certainty that their names are and will be written in the book of heaven. This is seen as completed or on permanent record from the point of view of present time. We could also say that their names have been written, they stand written, and nothing can undo them.
There a lot more verses about eternal life (where someone will spend eternity) than I would have thought. And we haven’t even looked at any verses from the Epistles yet. So, sit back and enjoy the rest of them, and as you read what is presented ask God the Father to impress upon you a section of verses that support the idea of whether a believer can lose or not lose salvation.
The next verse we will look at is probably one of the most recognized verses in the Bible as relating to salvation. How could someone interpret it to mean that a believer could lose their salvation?
Whosever Believes in Him: “Should Not Perish”John 3: 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, who came to see him at night. In this dissertation, Jesus talked to him about salvation. Jesus said that his Father was so desirous of the world’s happiness that He gave freely and without merit His Son so that whosoever believes in Him (in who He is and what He has done) should not perish (final destiny in hell apart from God), but have everlasting (a new quality of) life. This seems straightforward. If you believe, you will not perish. Some would not agree with this assessment. Let’s see how this question would be answered by opposing perspectives.
Can a Believer in Christ Lose Their Salvation?
• The words should perish with the negative can also mean might or may perish. • What this is saying is that a person who believes in the Son might or may lose their salvation.
• The words should perish with the negative are according to the Koine Greek in what is called the aorist middle subjunctive. • The middle voice tells us how the subject is related to the verb should perish. In other words, they will either perish themselves or not. • The aorist tense tells us what kind of action is being expressed by the verb. This tells us that this idea of perishing will be determined at a point in time. • The subjunctive mood tells us that the way in which the action of the verb is conceived with reference to reality is possible. In other words, whether a person perishes is based on their decision to believe in the Son.
We have one final section of scripture from the book of Mark to look at, which is taken from the four Gospels.
What is the unpardonable sin?
Blaspheme against the Holy Spirit “In Danger of Eternal Damnation”Suggested Reading: Mark 3: 19-30But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: (Mark 3: 29)
Jesus was residing in a house with his disciples eating bread. While there, they became aware of the multitudes of people trying to enter the house, so they tried to restrain them. In the crowd were teachers of the Mosaic Law called scribes, who having come down from Jerusalem began to accuse Him verbally by saying that He was only able to cast out devils, because He himself was aligned with the devil. He responded to this argument by saying, how is it possible that Satan would the power behind this and drive out those demons, who were serving his purpose and goals? However, if this were not the case, then the casting out of these demons must be from a different kingdom.
He goes on to tell them that what they had inferred was a very serious matter. It’s one thing to speak derogatory things against God as these are open to forgiveness, but when you attribute the miracles which were performed by Christ through the power of the Spirit as actually being performed by the devil, then this sin cannot be pardoned (forgiven) and as such anyone who believes this to be the case will be charged with everlasting judgment.
Some call this the unpardonable sin. So, here is the question pertaining to such.
Could someone who repented to God the Father and believed in Christ, thus becoming a child of God, lose their salvation if they attributed the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit by a fellow believer to the devil’s power?
• If a believer in Christ the Messiah attributed the casting out of devils as having its power source from the devil, they would lose their salvation.• Likewise, if a born-again Christian claims that the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is from the devil, they will have lost their salvation.
• The unpardonable sin was a sin that only could have been committed against the incarnate Christ. Since He is no longer walking the earth, but is in heaven seated at the right hand of God the Father this sin cannot be committed during the Church Age, the age during which we currently live in.• For the born-again Christian, having repented and believed in Christ, Scriptures state that they are sealed with the Spirit, which signifies a finished transaction, ownership, and security. Therefore, if at some point in their walk with God, they decide to go their own way by attributing the gifts or ministry of the Holy Spirit to the devil, they will be chastised (disciplined) by God with the hope that eventually, they will be restored to fellowship with Him.
In the preceding sections of Scripture, we looked at topics involving: false prophets; the seven-year tribulation period; the parable of sowing seed; the 70 disciples sent to harvest; John 3: 16; and the unpardonable sin as to whether salvation could be lost. In some cases, this determination was made based on whether the people believed in Christ as their Messiah. In other cases, the determination was made if people engaged in habitual sin following their belief in Him. And still in another case, the context of the Scripture regarding the referenced dispensation (e.g., the 7-year tribulation period) helped us to understand the meaning of certain words and whether they referred to losing one’s salvation or being delivered from God’s wrath by making a certain decision. Finally, the mood of the action with reference to reality, the voice of the subject as the agent of the action, and the tense of a verb as to the kind of action being presented could help determine whether one’s salvation was permanent or conditional. It is quite apparent there are a lot of things to consider.
The responses as to the reasons for answering yes or no to the question, “Can a believer lose their salvation” were taken from a culmination of information gathered from: on-line articles, books, Bible commentaries, Biblical dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, discussions with those in leadership and those who were not, etc. Not every pastor or person who teaches on this subject will provide the exact same responses as presented in this paper. However, I do believe that many of their responses would be similar.
After reading all of the Scripture sections, your view on salvation might be murky. You might not know what to believe anymore. There was a lot to consider. As you can see, there are many scriptures that are used by different churches to support their view on this topic. In the books of the Bible that follow, the book of John, the book of Acts, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation, there are probably ten times as many Scripture sections that could be used in this regard. In order to address this, we will only look at those Scriptural sections pertaining to Eternal Security that are considered paramount to this topic. So, if you are ready to begin, then please turn to the next chapter.
Endnotes43Adam Clarke.44Adam Clarke.
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