Once You Are Saved, Are You Always Saved?
THE PROMISE OF ETERNAL LIFE
The first foundation we must consider is to clarify the very meaning of “Eternal Life”.
Eternal / Everlasting Life—a quality of life that is timeless, not subject to change—life that is all together different than the type of life we have now.
If it can change, it is not “Eternal,” but “temporal,” and therefore no different than the life we had before we were saved, or that which the “believers” of the Old Testament period experienced.
However, it is a life we have now, not just something that we will have at some future date if we remain faithful and “live right.” The Old Testament believer was only ”saved” as he continually offered the appropriate sacrifices—day after day, week after week, year after year. The animal sacrifice had no real power to save, it only pointed to a “once and for all” sacrifice that would be made by the promised Redeemer / Messiah—Jesus, The Christ.
Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are [being] sanctified." (more on this verse later)
Notice the promise and reality of Eternal life found in these verses:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
“Eternal” and “Everlasting” are from the same Greek word, meaning timeless. The distinction in using the two terms is that the idea of “Eternal” could assume that there was no beginning—so some translators choose to only use Eternal in references to God, himself. They use “Everlasting” to signify the life of those who are “born again”, in view of the fact that we have a beginning of this new life, and continue without end.
This verse says that the one who believes “has…” this new life. The importance of this phrase cannot be overlooked. It is a reality from the time of “believing”, and it continues without cessation—else it would not be “everlasting” in quality/reality.
John 3:36 He who believes on the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides upon him.
Again, the inclusion of this verb, “has…” indicates a present reality—what was initiated in the past, at the time of believing, continues un-interrupted, into the timeless future.
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, He who hears My Word and believes on Him who sent Me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death to life.
Here is another glorious truth concerning our “new life”. The one who believes has, from that very moment, “passed out from under (the judgment of) death, and into life”. The word translated “has passed…” indicates the entrance into a realized state or condition at some stated time in the past—the time of “believing in the one whom God has sent”.
Acts 13:46 But speaking boldly, Paul and Barnabas said, It was necessary for the Word of God to be spoken to you first. But since indeed you put it far from you and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the nations.
The promise of this “new Life” through believing in Jesus Christ is made to all mankind. Once we hear the message, we are the ones who decide we are worthy / unworthy of this eternal life—not God! He has offered it to all: for all the sin of mankind (past, present, and future) was laid upon Him. Those who do not accept “life” remain under death, by their own choice.
1 John 2:25 And this is the promise that He has promised us: everlasting life.
This verse tells us that eternal life is the ultimate fulfillment of his promise to us. Added to the truth revealed in the other passages, this verse declares that “everlasting life” is what God wants for us. In the context of this portion of 1 John 2, this promise is not obtained by gaining some “secret knowledge” (from the False Teachers), but is a reality for all who are “truly believers” (more on this later).
1 John 5:11–12 And this is the record, that God has given to us everlasting life, and this life is in His Son.
12. He who has the Son has (the) life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have (the) life.
What a great statement of absolute assurance! The form of these verbs indicates a continual possession once it has been received: God has given to us…we “have the life everlasting”.
The Power of God To Keep Us
The assurance / security of our salvation is not a matter of our ability to “stay saved”, but of His promise to create us in a new image and to complete what He began in us. He “has given” us eternal life, and He will bring us to the fullness of His desire—being conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29 / 1 John 3:1, 2). This is not something “we” do, but something “He” accomplishes in us.
Philippians 1:6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
The one who “started / began” the work of salvation in you is, of course, God. This indicates a completed action taken by his will on behalf of the object: you!! God is the One who saved us. Our “confession of faith” only opened our hearts to the work He would do in us.
Then, He is the One who will carry it on to its complete and final goal… That is a powerful statement of the ultimate intention. He didn’t save us from our past to let us keep ourselves saved in the present, and with little hope for the future. That would be no better than offering a lamb as a sacrifice—over, and over, and over…
There is nothing that can hinder this goal from being accomplished—it was begun by God, and He will finish it.
Jude 24 Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy…
God alone is the One “who is able…” This word comes from “dunamis” and indicates someone who enforces something from his own power and ability. God needs no one’s help—not even ours—to bring us to the fullness of our salvation.
He has the ability to “keep us from falling…” That is to protect / guard against the condition of stumbling in our walk (of faith). God, himself, will not allow us to stumble in such a way as to affect our salvation—He will protect us! In the Greek language this is a “prohibitive” form—it can’t happen!)
God also is the One who will “present us faultless…” This is not something we can do—He is the one who will do the perfecting. Again the scriptures do not tell us that we must present ourselves, but that He will. Neither does it say that He will present the faultless ones, as though only those who have been found “faultless” will be there. No, the promise is that He will perfect us and that He will present us to himself, in that perfected condition.
They Cannot Perish
John 10:27–28 My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.
28. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish--ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.
Jesus was saying that the ones who “hear my voice…” are those who have made a response to the call to salvation. The “call” has been made to “whosoever will…”, but the ones responding are the ones who made a decision to respond to His voice. When they respond—He gives them “Everlasting Life”—nothing like the life they had before.
This “life” brings them into a relationship in which He “knows them”. This indicates a personal and intimate relationship—it is not casual, not temporal, and certainly not merely intellectual.
In contrast: Matt 7:22 – Depart from me…I never knew you… - (I never entered into the condition of relationship with you)
This is a message to all who “claim” to have lived, acted, worked in His Name. It does not say that He did know them, but does not now. It states, from the Greek language, “ I have never been in a relationship with you—at all!”
The result of this true “divine relationship” is, “they follow me”. The “truly saved” will be following His voice. When they err—they repent. They are convicted by the in-dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. They confess (acknowledge) their sin, and they are cleansed of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). The language used here states that this IS the case, not that maybe they will, maybe they will not. Those who have been saved may, and indeed do, “sin”. But, they do not continue in sin. The very presence of the HS will not allow them. If there is no “conviction of sin, no heart of repentance, no sorrow for their attitude toward unrighteousness, then they are NOT His sheep.
2 Timothy 2:19 - Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and Everyone who names the name of the Lord will be turning away from unrighteousness.
Hebrews 10:19 -…For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
The “perfection” was, “once for all—forever”. But the “sanctifying—being made Holy” is an ongoing process. As the believer, “walk(s) in the Spirit, (he does) not fulfill the lust of the flesh”.
The final statement made from verse 28 is this glorious affirmation:
And they shall never (no, not ever) perish… The phrase is very difficult to understand from most translations. But it includes a “double negative” which in the Greek language means something which is absolutely forbidden. The double negative is added to the word perish in a Greek structure that means: they will never at all be able to enter into the condition where they can cause themselves to perish—absolutely not! Although this is “complicated” to us, to the people of Jesus’ day, it was easily understood. The “Everlasting Life” they would receive was of such a “quality” that God would not allow them to come to a place where they could cause themselves to be destroyed.
Someone who “gives back” their salvation / stops believing was never “saved” to begin with. Just as there are those who never abandon their sin, and feel no remorse, these ones have never been in a true relationship with Him. They have said they believed, maybe even had “works” to show, but like those referred to in Matthew 7:22 they have never had a relationship.
Who Shall Separate Us From The Love of Christ?
This question, posed in Romans 8:35, is answered with a resounding “nothing” in the following verses and summarized in Romans 8:38–39.
38. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39. nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Once we are born again, once we know the Love of Christ, once we have been justified by faith, “Who is there, what power is there, that can possibly separate us from the Love of Christ by which we have been saved?” Remember, this specific section began in verse 28 where Paul asserts that “God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Notice the incredible list the Apostle Paul offers here:
Neither death, nor life – Nothing that can happen in the event of death or dying, nor anything that can take place in the time of our life can affect our salvation.
Nor Angels, nor powers, nor principalities – This is Paul’s classic list of the ranks of innumerable angelic powers, whether good or bad. In all of their “power”, there is nothing the “good angels” would do, nor that the “evil angels” can do that could have any affect at all on the relationship we have with Jesus Christ.
Neither things present, nor things to come – There is not one experience that we could have here in our life, nor anything that could happen to us in the future—that’s not just about everything, it is everything. Praise God!
Neither height nor depth – These terms are a reference to the realms of Heaven and Hell.
Nor any other created thing shall be able – Nothing that has been created can possibly have the “power / ability” to sever our relationship to Jesus Christ through the New Birth.
I am continually drawn to, with awesome assertion of God’s “saving power”. Our salvation is not in our own ability to stay saved, and it certainly is not subject to any of this world’s powers. Our salvation is the result of His great love and grace that redeemed us, and of His great power to keep us!
That is a very certain security.