Is every person who calls themselves a Christian going to inherit eternal life?
The age old argument of once saved always saved is something that needs to be addressed. It is a sensitive subject but also a very important area that every believer should study for themselves.
It must be stressed that no human being knows who will ascend into heaven or who will descend into the abyss. I have come to understand God’s longsuffering nature with all of creation and His desire that none perish.
We can glean something of His nature from the scripture below:
“Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”Luke 13:16 (NIV).
Here we have a women who was bound by Satan and made crippled for 18 long years and Jesus delivered her on the Sabbath which angered the Pharisees – the legalists of that time.
Today Satan is crippling many through various devises which keeps many bound and in a place of defeat.
Many who are bound by Satan do not receive the same longsuffering and understanding that Jesus Christ gives. Thankfully, He sees beyond the surface and He understands the strongholds over a person. This is His nature and an aspect of His character that must always flow through us by His Spirit in us.
God sees what keeps a person in a place of defeat or spiritual infancy but it is certainly not His desire for anyone to remain bound throughout their earthly life.
With this foundation of His nature let’s look at salvation and whether or not the once saved always saved teaching is truth…
Salvation begins when we believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we see in John 3:16 (NIV):
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
We see something similar spoken by the Lord Jesus here:
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day,”John 6:39-40 (NIV).
We see that it is the Father’s will that everyone who looks to and believes in the Lord Jesus will have eternal life. From this we can say that that settles it, but does it, really?
I mean, the Father’s Will is always done, right?
I wish this was so, but we need to remember that it is also God’s Will for each believer to know Him intimately but this is not the case. He did not fashion us as robots but gave us the freedom to choose.
From a scriptural point let’s read the following verse:
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality,”1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NIV)
Here we see that is also God’s will for us to be sanctified and to avoid sexual immorality and we know that this is not the case in the Body today. Again we read:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV).
We see again that it was God’s desire that husband and wife should never separate and again, we know this is not the case. We must thank Him for His grace and longsuffering and most of all for the blood of Jesus.
He desires to show mercy and it is this very nature of who He is which should move us to want to know Him.
Now, let’s go back to John 6 where Jesus says “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day”. If we continue reading that same chapter we see the following:
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day,”“John 6:53-54 (NIV).
We see that the act of believing is the first step into the door of Salvation and thereafter we have an additional requirement which is to feed of Christ:
“Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who FEEDS ON ME will live because of me,”John 6:57 (NIV).
When you eat something or feed on something you become one with whatever it is you are eating – it becomes a part of you and it also sustains you. This is another picture of intimacy with Christ. We see it here again:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand,”John 10:27-28 (NIV)
The Lord KNOWS His sheep and this aspect of knowing Him is directly related to eternal life as we see here:
“NOW THIS IS ETERNAL LIFE: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” John 17:3 (NIV).
It is clear that knowing God is a criteria to eternal life. The Lord has always taught me to look at scripture holistically before drawing any conclusions so let’s see what else scripture says:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV).
Here we have a picture of people who are believers doing certain works but the Lord rejects them at the end with these key words – I NEVER KNEW YOU!
It is hard to miss the fact that knowing God is far more important than good works. We also see the Lord starting this discourse by saying that only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of God which is something that is confirmed here:
“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever,”1 John 2:17 (NIV)
It is also clear that doing the will of God is another key part of eternal life. The preceding verses to this scripture actually point out an aspect of His will. Let’s read those verses:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world,” 1 John 2:15-16 (NIV).
Sanctification and moving to a place of Holiness is God’s will for each of His children who have believed and this amazingly occurs as we get to KNOW HIM and the process is actually very exciting once the idols in our heart are removed.
But note: we cannot have love for God and still love the world – this is part of the process of sanctification! Everyone is in a different place and there is grace throughout the journey.
Scripture says that every word should be established by two or three witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1, Matthew 18:16) which is important when studying the word and even when receiving a prophetic word. So let’s look for another witness:
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works….”Revelation 2:4-5 (NKJV).
Here we have the Lord who is not very happy with the Church in Ephesus because they left their first love.
This image of a first love can best be described from a human standpoint where our hearts were first captured by someone from the opposite sex. When this happens we float around on a cloud and only think of this person, we want to be with her/him all the time.
This same form of fiery passion for Jesus dwindled in the Church of Ephesus as other works took its place and what they had in the beginning was lost due to other distractions. The Lord describes this as a fall and even tells them to repent which means to turn away from these distractions and come back to Him.
This was VERY serious to the Lord and we see a similar picture as when he rejected believers who were casting out demons and prophesying and doing all sorts of miracles in His name. Intimacy is serious to God!
Jesus goes on to say this to the Churches (all believers) and not just the Church in Ephesus:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God,”Revelation 2:7 (NKJV).
The Lord has shown me that the “Tree of Life” represents Him but before we go there we must realize that there is something gained when one eats of this tree. We see it in the Garden of Eden:
“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and LIVE FOREVER”Genesis 3:22 (NKJV).
After Adam’s sin God cast both him and Eve out of the Garden for this reason: lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and LIVE FOREVER.
Eating from the “Tree of Life” would have given them eternal life, which means they did not have eternal life when they were created, which opens up a can worms and I am not going there as it is not relevant to this post.
What is important is that this tree provided eternal life and it represented Christ. Scripture gives us a few clues as to what this tree of life represents and here are a few key aspects of the tree:
Speaking about Wisdom: “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her,” Proverbs 3:18 (NKJV).
Scripture says Wisdom is a Tree of Life and this Wisdom can be found in the Father and Jesus Christ as we read here:
“…both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”Colossians 2:2-3 (NKJV).
So we see that Wisdom is found in Christ and the Father. And Paul goes onto say the following in this chapter which is important:
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving,”Colossians 2:6-7 (NKJV).
Teaching believers to be “rooted and built up in Him” was clearly PARAMOUNT to the Apostles because this is where eternal life dwells – IN CHRIST. I also love the word “rooted” here as it adds to the imagery of the Lord Jesus as the Tree of Life and this is what Jesus says in Revelation 22:16 – “I AM the Root”.
There is another scripture dealing with the tree which provides deeper revelation:
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life…”Proverbs 11:30 (NKJV)
It is impossible to bear good fruit in this life unless we are in Christ. The Lord expounds on this for us here:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned,”John 15:4-6 (NKJV).
Again, we have the picture of a tree of life in Christ that bears fruit. It is clear that our Lord represents the Tree of Life and in HIM we have eternal life and through Him we bear fruit.
In keeping with the message of eternal life in relation to fruit we see the answer to our question here:
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live,””Luke 10:25-28 (NKJV).
“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law,”Romans 13:10 (NIV).
“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city,”Revelation 22:14 (NKJV).
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”1 John 2:2-5 (NKJV).
True faith in Christ will empower you to overcome the world and in HIM the fruit of Love will manifest and this fruit of Love encapsulates all the other fruit.
Eternal life is found in Knowing HIM and it all begins with faith. It is impossible to grow in faith and mature in Christ and not grow in love because God is Love.
So, is salvation guaranteed to all, is once saved always saved a true doctrine? This is a question for each individual because we will all stand before the judgement seat as individuals.
Here is the truth:
“Now this is ETERNAL LIFE: that they KNOW YOU, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” John 17:3 (NIV).
Do you know God?
~ Ashley Hutheram
Ashley Hutheram – a son of God in Christ Jesus.