Forever Saved? The "Security" Risk
The "Security" Risk
Prefatory Notation: Please let me make it clear that at no time is this writing to be used (or understood) as ammunition against those who take a Calvinistic (once saved always saved) nor Arminian (lose your salvation) position in the Body of Christ. Additionally, this writing is not to be necessarily understood as a scholastic exposition on the matter. It is simply some of my personal journal entry notes that I have compiled for those who may have wondered about the eternal security issue.
These notes are first and foremost for me, and were submitted into my own diary during various times of my personal worship and fellowship with the Lord. Moreover, these "classified" notes are not my attempt to declare my formal theological stance on either side of the debate, as I see scriptural truths in both camps.
If you have even the slightest bit of curiosity in this subject, I invite you to "think" along with me. And, of course, feel free to comment with your own thoughts. I especially enjoy those thoughts that you may have that are not necessarily regurgitated material from some textbook, theological school professor or pastor. You can "think" too! Share away-and have fun at it. Theology doesn't have to be boring, pharisaical or exclusive.
Forever saved! If we've accepted Christ as our savior, that's what we are, right? At least that's what a good portion of the Church as a whole believes and teaches. And who the heebie am I to contest that? Have I found some new evidence? Am I teeming with scrupulous knowledge about the issue? Do I have a doctorate degree in theology and soteriology? Nope. Nope. And Nope. So why am I writing about this? Good question.
Let me tell you why this means so much to me. I am not a pastor. I am not some big-time evangelist. I am not a well-known author. I'm really a nobody. The extent of my "worldwide" ministry-as everyone claims to have these days-extends only to a place that's renowned for its awe-inspiring "security." Yes, I teach inmates in Texas prisons how to live victorious lives in Christ. This is a very glamorous position in the Body of Christ (you may now laugh).
One of the problems that I encounter on a regular basis is the demented theology that some of these men believe and promote. Most people would fall out of their chairs laughing at some of the stuff these inmates come up with (and they also have some deep revelations too). One of the tensions that I have regularly encountered is the Hyper-Calvinistic approach that some of the men take on the Scriptures-some even going as far as to say that God ordained and predetermined that they be in prison. One man that I briefly counseled that was locked up for a very heinous crime said, and I quote, "God knew what I was going to do when I planned and committed my crime. He planned it first from the beginning. He actually made me commit my crime. He has determined everything we do from the beginning." What the...? Yeah, that's gotta be about the dumbest and most irreverent thing I've ever heard. Talk about an ultimate cop out for sinful actions. And what's amazing is that these guys think they are "Saved" because some other minister that comes into prison told them they were-probably because that is what the minister heard from someone else and so forth.
Several of these inmates have personally told me that they genuinely gave their heart to the Lord (got saved) many years, and multiple stints, ago. Basically, these men say that they accepted Christ after coming to prison, got out, committed new crimes, came back to prison and they still think that they are saved-for all eternity-even though the very state that has them incarcerated labels them as hopeless incorrigibles. Some even repeated this process numerous times. And here lies the problem with this teaching, something I will cover later in the succeeding notes.
It would seem that if anyone was familiar with "security" it would be the few dozen inmates that come to hear me speak. After all, they know the intricate workings of keeping someone securely inside the system. Anyone who has had an intimate, close-up encounter with razor wire, armed guards in towers and triple-thick concrete buildings knows what I am talking about. These prisons are nearly inescapable-though a few crazies do try (and succeed) from time to time. But that has little to do with the security I am writing about in this whimsical article.
I am not talking about earthly securities. I'm not even talking about having a Brinks Home security system, a German shepherd and a 12-guage shotgun to help ease our fears and to help exude overconfidence. Or maybe I am. Is eternal security (i.e. once saved always saved, once in grace always in grace, Calvinism, etc.) something that is taught and believed for the same reasons we secure inmates behind 15-foot fences with armed patrols roving their caged perimeter every few minutes? Is it something that was conjured up in the minds of men to help us feel safer and more comfortable in this life? After all, there must be a slight degree more stress in believing the alternative-that we can lose our salvation. Is believing that we are forever saved a teaching that simply helps us on an emotional level, or is this concept a reality regardless of how it makes us feel?
That's a huge question. Is our salvation unconditionally, eternally secured? What do you think? What does your pastor think? What does the seminary think? What does the guy on the radio think? What do I think? That is the extent of what we have-a bunch of thinking opinions on the matter. The Bible is silent on this issue-and for good reason. There is no scripture that says we can lose our salvation. But before you go declaring the I-told-you-so evidence to all your theologically sound kin folk and church members, you should know that there is also no scripture that says that we are once saved, always saved.
Can you imagine what would happen if there was a verse that said, "Once you're saved, you will always be saved." Golly, that'd be like saying to a criminal, "Now once you repent of your actions before the judge, any other crime you do for the rest of your life will be looked over." WOOHOO! Let's go rape and pillage and plunder because we have universal amnesty-because I am one of God's chosen few, the Elect! That's not too logical. That thinking might breed arrogant, comfortable, unrelenting, unrepentant sinners for life. Can you imagine the ramifications of this type of verse? What if they are not really saved and they think that they are? The result is quite unthinkable.
Salvation is not just some ultimate "green" card that we got at the altar when we were six years old so we could cross over heaven's border unchecked by God's law enforcement officers once we die. But then again, maybe I'm wrong in this. Maybe there is nothing we can do to lose our salvation once we have "genuinely" believed on the Lord. Or maybe it's the worst deception conceivable by man. Can you imagine living life as though you think you are saved when in actuality you are not? What a surprise that would be on Judgment Day (Heb. 9:12). This is too important to be wrong-for the consequences is eternal. Let me do what the Hebrews did and repeat that point for emphasis:
To be deceived into thinking that you're saved when you're actually not has to be the worst deception known to man.
So where do we go from here? The Bible has multiple verses backing both positions; therefore, no one can devise a dogmatic conclusion...unless, there is a third option; an option that lies decisively between the two radical, diametrically opposed, polarizing points. Maybe it's a combination of the two positions. Maybe it's a new point on the scale altogether. Maybe these notes that I will present will merely fall into the same ever-widening, ever-darkening abyss of nearly insane opinion on this divisive matter. I'll leave that up to you to decide. I'll let you come to your own conclusion on your salvation "with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12).
Below are some notes that I have considered in the past month on the subject. It is not my attempt to persuade anyone to think divergently to what they already believe. If you believe that you're forever saved, more power to you. If you believe that you can say a cuss word and lose your salvation, then hey, that's of your own choice. All I ask is that you read with unbiased eyes (that's easier said than done, right?) and above all come to love the Lord with all your heart! If this is accomplished what need is there for this question? If God has all your heart, there is no need to ask the question. But if you have the question, there is a great possibility that it is evidence to a conviction in your heart that you might need to deal with. As you begin, it would be helpful to ask God for wisdom.
Simple Table of Contents
Note#1-The Problem of Love
Note#2-Once a Son, Always a Son?
Note#3-You Have Not Been "Saved"
Note#4-How Easy is it to Lose Salvation?
Note#5-No One Can Pluck Them Out?
Note#6-God Has No Favorites
Note#8-Can We Be Separated From Christ?
Note#9-Satan Taught Unconditional Eternal Security?
Note#10-Why is Unconditional Eternal Security Taught?
Note#11-Not Believing in Unconditional Eternal Security Produces Fear
Note#12-Is This Only a Debate in the Church?
Note#14-Adultery and Eternal Security
Note#15-What is God's "Draw" Card?
Note#16-Is Salvation Based on Works?
Note#17-If We have No Control of Our Natural Birth, Then We have No Control of Our Spiritual Birth
Note#18-What About the Lamb's Book of Life?
Note#19-What Did the Early Church Believe?
Note#20-Not Many Will Make It
Note #1 The Problem of Love
I don't see how once saved, always saved lines up with God's truest attribute-love. If I am once saved, always saved then once I am saved (good and saved) I cannot get out no matter what I do. This is the basis of this teaching, correct? But how is that love?
God's nature and character is love. God is love. The nature of God (love) does not hold anyone captive. It does not impose it's will on anyone. Love always allows someone to leave. Now, will a person choose to leave? This is another situation altogether. The premise, though, is that love cannot and will not keep someone from walking away from the Lord. Love at its lowest point involves total and unhindered freedom. Bear with me on this example, but God is not some spiritual criminal hiding behind a cloud waiting to impose His will upon on His next human victim. That would be the ultimate absurdity. To be once saved, always saved would seem to be like throwing a person in God's salvation prison (prison is taking away some type of freedom) and throwing away the key. In my own estimation, this is not love and it is not God.
Note #2 Once a Son, Always a Son?
Some people use the familial illustration of a father and son in relation to eternal security. They will say that there is nothing a son can do to relieve himself of that title or position; that try as we may there is nothing a son can do to relinquish himself from whom he is and who his father is. This ideology would be logical if it were complete. It is true that once you're a son, you are always a son of whatever family you are in. The problem is that we are sons of many families. We are sons of Adam. We were (or are) sons of the darkness, disobedience and even sons of the devil. However, our salvation is not based in one of these titles though; it is based on a legal term called adoption. We can be sons in multiple ways through adoption (Rom. 8:15). For an adopted son is at least part of two families no matter what anyone says.
The theory that God will not condemn one of His sons is entirely inaccurate and fallacious. Angels are called God's sons in the Bible (Job 38:4-7). They rebelled (in heaven by the way) and they were not "restrained" from falling or rebelling (Dan. 8:10). Hell was made for the devil and his angels (God's sons) that rebelled and followed their own will (Mat. 25:41). Furthermore, Jesus told the Pharisees that they were of their father (sons of) the devil (John 8:44). Were they incapable of being saved because they are sons of the devil? No. Paul was a Pharisee and so was Nicodemus (Phil. 3:5; John 3:1; 19:39). Both these men walked after the Lord and lived for Him. Christians are adopted sons from another house-that of the devil (Rom.8:15). God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, provided a legal transaction for us to be adopted as His sons...yet, this transaction can be amended (Rom. 8:7, 8, 12, & 13). For as many as are led by the Spirit, these are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14). There is a conditional prerequisite attached to this statement (this is not implying a works based salvation as you will read in a later note-Eph. 2:8).
Some have stated that because adoption cannot be rescinded in natural courts, that it cannot be rescinded in heaven. Well, that might make for a good argument but it is untrue. The law has specific provisions in place that allow what is called an annulment or vacation of the adoption. In these cases, the child's parents or the adoptee (the adopted child) may file a petition with the court for reversal. If reversal is granted, the adoptee's birth records will change to reflect the way it was originally read. (http://www.legalmatch.com/)
Note #3 You Have Not Been "Saved"
The issue of eternal security is not so much a theological issue as it is an ontological issue. Theology is man's pursuit of the study of God. Ontology is the study of God's being and essence. It is the essence and being of God that provided for our salvation-not theology. Although Christ's payment for sins began as a transaction on earth, it was fully redeemed (accomplished) in heaven when the mercy seat in heaven was sprinkled, not with the blood of bulls and goats (a temporary remedy), but by the sinless blood of God in human flesh-Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:12). What does this have to do with eternal security? I'm glad ya asked.
Ontology rightly asks some very important questions; questions like, "What is God?" or "How does He exist?" and "What is His being"? Well, we know God is eternal (not having beginning or ending). But that does not necessarily mean that man's individual salvation is secured eternally. Let me put it this way. Salvation is not a "time" issue like many make it out to be. For example, many would say that if I became born again at X (let's say 3/10/2000), then whatever I could do at Y (let's say today) would not matter; this is because X came before Y. For me to say "once saved, always saved," I am implying that the future is already wrapped up. However, the "future"(as we think of it) is not an eternal term; it is a temporal term. We humans live in linear time. If you draw a line on a piece of paper, our existence, each of us individually, started our journey where the line begins. The moments of our life are carried out along that line until we finally die. Then the line stops. Our spirit man, though, does not follow this same progression and rule. It does not follow the line pattern.
The spirit is that part of us with the ability to commune with God (once we are born again). The spirit is then circular. A circle has no beginning or end. It eternally exists as one continuous unit. In this circle there is no such thing as time. X and Y are irrelevant. It is only a continuous now. This is precisely why Paul says that we are being saved (I Cor. 1:18). Everyday we are being renewed-as the Bible says so accurately. Do you understand what I am trying to say? I am saying that our salvation, like God, is in the realm of eternity where "saved" as a past tense word or concept doesn't exist (with the exception of looking back on our faith from the present day and saying that we have been saved as some scriptures do rightly declare). But in the fullest extent and definition of the word, God has not "saved" us, but is "saving" us. Only a present tense word will capture the true essence of what is happening currently in eternity. Paul said, "I die daily." It is a present walk and a present salvation. Salvation is not a one-time event, but a journey!
We must rightly understand what eternity means to fully grasp this concept. Most would say that eternity is just something that never ceases. It is that, but much more also. Even though it does not end, it also does not start. If it started then it would be merely part of time. It is not just something that doesn't start or stop. It is a present tense, now-and it always has been now (that's confusing I know) and it always will be. Ok, let's move on. I'm starting to confuse myself. Let's read a couple scriptures:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I Cor. 1:18
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Cor. 2:15
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Romans 5:9-10). This verse shows the past. present and future of our salvation. Notice that everything Jesus has done for our salvation is in the past tense. But the finality of salvation is in the future tense.
Note #4 How Easy is it to Lose Salvation?
So am I saying that you can just say a cuss (or curse) word and be out of fellowship or lose your salvation with the Lord? Absolutely not. According to the Bible, our sins grow like a weed and eventually will choke out our relationship with the Lord if we let them (James 1:15). If you don't believe me then just read the first chapter of Romans. It says that although the people "knew" God (i.e. at some point they had relationship with Him), they didn't glorify Him (they took the relationship for granted) as God and turned to worldly lusts. These lusts led them further and further away from the Lord. In fact, the exact language here is that they became fools, darkened by their sin. Eventually, through this process, God gave them over to a reprobate mind. That means He rescinded their probationary time here on earth in which they were to live for Him. Re-probation. This is not something that just happens overnight. All of us sin (I John 1:8). It is that repetitive sin that we refuse to repent of that will cause us to enter a state of hard-heartedness-like Pharoah (the Scriptures say that Pharaoh hardened his heart and then God hardened his heart-Exo. 8:15, 32). The Bible says that God is so holy that He cannot even look at sin (Hab. 1). I guess the real question should be, are there any sins that we need to confess and be delivered from (I John 1:9)? That would be way more productive than trying to figure out all of this theology. Another question might be "when does this re-probation take place"? But that is like asking, "Ok, so how long do I have until God plunges the gavel to its resting place over my life"? The point is that the gavel is in His hand and it's in the air, ready to pound the wood.
Personally, I believe that because God loves that He gives us the option to walk away from Him. Jesus said, whoever confesses Him before men, He will confess before the Father in heaven. But He also said that whoever does not confess Him before men, He will deny before the Father. I kinda look at that like a marriage proposal. If you say yes (and keep on saying yes) then He will say yes on your behalf to the Father. But if you say no...well we all know where that leads. The bottom line is that if you want to walk away, God will let you.
Note #5 No One Can Pluck Them Out?
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. John 10:27-29.
This verse, along with one of the previous notes, centers on the present tense. In the Greek (original language of the New Testament), the word hear, know, follow and eternal life are all in the present tense. In other words, those that are hearing and following Christ are presently His sheep, with a present tense eternal life. If they are presently following Christ, then they are safe in the Father's hand. Also note that plucking is a reference to something that is growing. If you are growing in relationship with the Lord, nothing will be able to remove you-only yourself! There is a reference to plucking in the Old Testament. God said that if we forget His commandments then He would pluck us up by the roots (2 Chr. 7:19-20). Yet, in the New Testament it says that no person can be plucked from the Father's hand. Actually it says those who are hearing and following will not be plucked out.
Note #6 God Has No Favorites
Believers in Christ can know that they are forgiven, born again, justified, and sanctified (I John 1:9; John 3:1-16; I John 5:8; Acts 13:39; Rom. 5:1; I Cor. 6:11), but all of these are based on conditions. If they are unconditional, if it solely of God's choosing and man has no part to play, then God would be the worst tyrannical and cruel Creator that you could conjure up in your mind.
According to God's very character, man must be treated in fairness, equality and non-prejudice (Gal. 2:6; Acts 10:34; I Pet. 1:1vujn ). God has no favorites and would He not benefit in choosing (electing only a select few) in this manner. The elect are those who God did know would choose Him and are choosing Him. He doesn't just see a one-time choice, but our present, right now, choosing of Him. While it is true that the Bible teaches God's electing of the saints (those who presently are believing Him-and those He knew would believe), nowhere does it teach an election of damnation for those who reject Him. Everyone has equal opportunity to accept or reject the Lord.
Note #7 Predestination?
We are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. God preordains that we should "conform" to Christ's image. What does that have to do with unconditional eternal security? Nothing.
Note #8 Can We Be Separated From Christ?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:35)
Ummm...this does not say anything of salvation. It is a misconception to infer that love and salvation are synonymous terms.
If it is impossible to be separated from God's love, then why does the New Testament book of Jude (21) warn us to keep yourselves in the love of God? Read John 14:21. Jesus places a condition on God's love. "He that hath my commandments, and keeps them, is he that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself to him." What is it then? Is it impossible to be separated or not? Undoubtedly, there is a more generic concept of God loving all creation, regardless of their spiritual condition; however, these verses are referring to the intimate love of God specifically held for those who are "loving Him."
Note #9 Satan Taught Unconditional Eternal Security?
One author, Finis Dake, says that the devil was the first proponent of the eternal security doctrine when he influenced Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit, telling her that, "she would not surely die." We all know what happened as a result.
Note #10 Why is Unconditional Eternal Security Taught?
What is the real purpose of teaching unconditional eternal security? Some would say that this doctrine is only deceptiveness to give license to someone to sin. If this is untrue, then to what purpose does it serve to the Body of Christ? Does this doctrine aid a person in coming closer to the will of the Lord? O contraire, it is this doctrine that potentially leads people further from a close relationship with the Lord and into their own corrupt sense of secured faith.
The definition of security is very interesting. Most people understand what "security" means, but let's look at this concept a little closer. Security is freedom from danger, care, or fear; a feeling or condition of being safe. Another definition is that security is overconfidence or carelessness. What is the real reason people teach unconditional eternal security? I might be wrong here, but it seems as though people teach it (and/or believe it) so they can exhibit overconfidence and not need to fear the Lord and any possible consequences that naturally culminate from believing in a conditional salvation. I want to remind everyone that even though many people turn a blind eye to something that it does not mean that the something does not exist. You can not believe in gravity and take a jump from a hundred feet off the ground but that will not lessen gravity's consequences on our body. There is a story in Luke 12 that illustrates well the concept of security. In Luke 12, Jesus gave a parable about a guy who had so much earthly wealth and possessions that he would just build a bigger building to contain it all. Then he said to himself that he would just stop working and eat, drink and be merry. He had his "securities" (or so he thought) all wrapped up. He was ready to retire from work. He figured he had enough to "keep" him until he died. The problem is that he invested in the wrong area. His "security" was not secure at all. For that night, his soul was required of him and all his possessions and wealth was going to go to someone else.
I see many who hold to unconditional eternal security as having this same mindset. Many think that they are simply secure in the Lord; that they can just sit back, eat, drink and be merry and everything will be just fine. God has not called us to retire our faith just because we had a moment in our life when we met the Lord. I met my wife one day in September, 1999. Just because I met her doesn't mean that our relationship is secure! I have to maintain that relationship everyday. Do you understand what I am trying to say here? There is an old military saying that fits very well here and it's one we should all follow: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Sidebar: I fear that great pastors have been deceived into teaching this doctrine for the mere reason that it produces a "nicer" message. It is a more comfortable message. It is a message where people can show up to church and hear about all the wonderful things of Christianity, yet never have to experience the convicting truth of the necessity of repentance from sin and a more intimate walk with Christ. This temporarily produces a happier crowd. A happier crowd produces more attendees. More attendees produce more dead presidents. And more dead presidents produce a happier pastor. Emotionalism is at the root of this issue.
Note #11 Not Believing in Unconditional Eternal Security Produces Fear
Some say that believing that you can lose your salvation produces fear. Well I guess it certainly does if you are not living for the Lord. If you are living for Christ, then your love for Him and His love for you swallows up all fear. This is what that Scripture means; perfect love casts out all fear! Love isn't prefect unless both parties are exhibiting it, correct? For what is a one-sided love? Even in Christ's death and resurrection (the ultimate love), which paved the way for our salvation, would be less than ideal unless someone appropriated it to their lives! Remember, there is a healthy fear. The fear of the Lord produces wisdom (Prov. 9:10)!
He that hath my commandments, and keeps them, is he that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself to him. John 14:21
Note #12 Is This Only a Debate in the Church?
Some have insisted that this doctrinal issue is only a raging debate in the church and that it does not concern sinners. I don't believe this to be true. I believe it does touch sinners because there are probably hundreds of thousands of people living as sons of the devil instead of sons of God that THINK they are saved. If people think they are saved because they slipped up their hand at an altar call, this could be a huge problem. This brings me to an important point. I would never tell anyone that they are eternally saved once for all-or once in grace always in grace, or whatever else way there is to say it. Why? Because a person may not be saved and think that they are. The ramifications of promoting this dangerous doctrine are more far reaching and hazardous then we could ever imagine. As I said in the beginning of this article, the Bible is silent on this issue. Don't you think we should be too? Don't you think God knows what He is doing? Don't you think that if there was a scripture that said "hey, once you're saved, you're always saved no matter what," that people would live to their hearts content in sin? I think so. (Repeating for emphasis.) Conversely, don't you think that if there were a scripture that said, "You must work to earn your salvation" that people would be bound by some of the worst religious burdens on the planet? (Actually some are that think that you must "work" for salvation.) Let's remember not to speak on behalf of God just to uphold a pet theory; because at the end of the day that is all we have if we unyieldingly promote either position in our theology. The best option is to say that we should love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength! (Someone else very wise said that too!)
Note #13 Some Scriptures
Some scriptures I believe help solidify the view that teaching the doctrine of unconditional eternal security is unmerited:
Matt. 10:22 And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Luke 12:45-46 But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
John 6:66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
John 8:31Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
Gal. 1:6-7 I marvel that you are so soon REMOVED from Him (Christ) that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel. (Emphasis mine).
Gal. 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whoseoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace. (Finis Dake states that a person must first be in grace to fall from it. I tend to agree).
I Cor. 9:27 I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself be a castaway.
I Tim. 3:6 Do not choose a new convert as a deacon, "lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil," that is, fall by pride as Satan did (Eze. 28:11-17). Beyond doubt, if deacons are saved men, then saved men can fall as Satan did and be lost. (the preceding non-bold words are from Finis Dake, God's Plan for Man.)
I Tim. 4:1 Many shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
I Tim. 5:8 He has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.
2 Tim. 2:17-18 Who concerning the truth have erred...and overthrow the faith of some.
And there are countless other verses.
Note #14 Adultery and Eternal Security
All throughout the New Testament, we, Believers in Christ, are pictured as the Bride of Christ. In the Old Testament, Israel was seen as the Bride of God (Jer. 3). Unfortunately, however, Israel continually walked away from God and so He gave her (Israel) a bill of divorcement (But with promises for a new covenant of marriage that engrafted the gentiles as well-Israel had another chance to "choose" Him along with the Gentiles Rom. 11:16-24.) There are several ancient customs that should be read to gain a full knowledge of what this means for the Christian, but for space I will just give the main points.
As the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:25-27) we are in what is called the Betrothal Period (2 Cor. 11:2). The easiest way to explain this is to think of a modern engagement period between two fiancés. However, one vital difference is that the betrothal period is much stronger in its commitment. For one, a legal transaction took place between the fathers's of the fiancés. A price was paid for the woman to the Bride's father by the son who was to marry her. After the agreed price was paid, the husband-to-be left the woman in her father's house so he could "go and prepare a place suitable for her"-a house or room connected to his father's house (John 14:3). While he left, the bride-to-be had several specific responsibilities. She had to wash in the Mikveh (symbolic of a Christian's baptism), had to prepare for the wedding by making sure she was always adorned (clean, white, pressed dress -Rev. 19:7-9) for THE DAY-for as the customs tell it, the husband-to-be would show up unannounced around midnight (I Thess. 5:4) of his father's choosing (matt. 24:36) and abduct her away to the predetermined location where they would consummate their marriage (Rev. 19). This made the marriage final under God.
Beyond the Mikveh cleansing, the bride-to-be also had to keep a lamp lit in her window at night at all times (Matt. 25). This was the equivalent of an engagement ring. Any "seeking men" passing by would see this lamp in the window and know that she was spoken for. If the husband-to-be ever walked by her house and saw that the lamp was out it was an agreement breaking sign. He had every right to call off the marriage because if she could not keep up with this small token then she would not keep herself for him in the marriage. Finally, the woman had to keep herself from other men. She was surrounded by her bridesmaids during the betrothal, was given gifts by her husband-to-be to remind her that he was coming and he expected her to remain pure and chaste for him. If, when the husband-to-be came to her and abducted her to the marriage bed, finding that she was not a virgin (by evidence of blood on the sheets) then he had two options. He could divorce her by paper and save her life, or he could drag her outside the gate of the city and stone her to death. Fortunately, for Israel (God's Bride) He had mercy upon her and wrote her a certificate of divorce. Israel "played the harlot" before the Lord, but He was not done with her. She still has the option to this day to become betrothed once again just as Christians are who believe (present tense word) in Christ.
The Bible consistently says that we must choose life and not death, that we cannot live for God and mammon (Greek word meaning, worldliness), that we cannot live for both Christ and the devil; and that we cannot be in two houses at the same time. We cannot have two lovers either. We will only love one and despise the other. Assuredly, if we play the harlot, we can expect the same outcome as Israel. But just remember, there will be no more covenants. If you live throughout this life trusting in your own way and rejecting the Savior-Jesus Christ-you will meet the second death outside the city gates; indeed, you will come face to face with hell-God's final divorcement for those who whored around with the world. God's adorned bride or the devil's slut, you decide! Strong language but very necessary in the days in which we live. Remember, in order for a woman to become a bride, she must say "Yes" to the man's choosing. That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? Our simple understanding in this regard points both to God's choosing and man's in our salvation.
You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? Romans 11:19-24 NKJV
One final note on the marriage customs: in the book of Ephesians (1:!3) it says that we have been "sealed" by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for sealed (sphragizo) implies a seal as with a signet ring. It is the process whereby a young man "seals" a woman as his with a ring until the consummation of the marriage. The very next verse (v.14) in Ephesians brings further clarity to this process. It says that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise "who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." The Greek word for guarantee (earnest-KJV) is arrhabon and is derived from the Hebrew language. It means a braided pledge or down-payment, like a ring given to a woman for engagement or betrothal. This is not a permanent seal as some have made it out to be. Remember, too, the devil was once called the "seal of perfection" (Eze. 28:12b).
Note #15 What is God's "Draw" Card?
God's "drawing" us in not an individual, "I am going to draw such and such to me..." type of drawing. It is a collective draw. God has been drawing us from the beginning. It has been a forceful drawing too. The Bible says that the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it (the kingdom) by force. God is drawing us to Himself by providing the ultimate love that is contrasted to the mess in the world.
It might be understood like this. Would you say that Walt Disney World is drawing people to its pleasurable kingdom? I would. Is it an individual draw? Is a member of Walt Disney's family knocking on your door or did they provide something that quite naturally draws us to want to enter this kingdom and leave behind our life of normalcy, stress and abundant pains for a week of mind-numbing fun? Is Walt taking forceful measures to get us there? I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who has not heard of Walt Disney World. There are TV shows, infomercials and billboards all designed to "forcefully" persuade us to take our vacation at Disney's miniature paradise on earth. If nothing else, our mind is invaded by countless images and stories from people who have experienced Disney or commercials enticing us to do so. It is entirely true that we would not be able to "come to Disney" unless the "magic" drew us. If no one ever shared, if there were no billboards, if no open sign announced this magical world, no one could have ever made the choice to experience Disney world. That is especially true if Mr. Walt Disney never built this magical kingdom in the first place. If it didn't exist we would not have the ability to attend. This is why some verses in the Bible say that God has granted us repentance or given us repentance to eternal life (Acts 11:18). Like that old movie saying, "If He builds it they will come."
Let us be certain that there is nothing humans can do to merit salvation. This act is entirely on the shoulders of God. And this is also true of repentance-another gift from God. For without salvation, there can be no repentance. This is not to say that humans are not involved in the process of repentance. God has equipped us with the proper faculties to have the free choice to walk repentantly in His will, or in that of our own way. He wills, like the operators of Disney World, that we attend and experience the fullness of His kingdom; but neither of them can nor will make us. For what is the magical kingdom if I am made to attend-not magical at all. This would be nothing more than a manipulative kingdom.
God provided salvation when He placed our condemnation on His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. This provided the way into God's (much more than magical) kingdom! This is the ultimate draw card away from a life of death and destruction that persists if we don't choose to live in God's kingdom. God is taking us by force by the mere reality that there is nothing comparable to complete salvation in His Son. He has given us abundant messages in the Bible, through great preachers and those who witness their faith. This is forceful. Not quite as forceful as the Jehovah's Witnesses (those guys are relentless) but forceful nonetheless. We could not come to the Lord aside from the drawing tactics of those who attend to the message of the hope in Christ. Jesus said in John 12:32, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me."
One other possible illustration in understanding the "drawing" of God and man's "choosing" is to think of human relationships-specifically, that of a boy and girlfriend. Can a boy or girl establish or build upon a solid relationship without some type of "draw?" Aboslutely not. Using the illustration of my own relationship with my wife, there is no way I would be with her today if there wasn't an initial draw card that brought me to her. Some people are drawn to the physical features, others by personality or some other quality. Nevertheless, no relationship can begin without something drawing us to the person. Of course, in regards to the Lord, it is His love for us that brought us to Him. And just as a man chooses who he will date, marry or continue in relationship, so too will we decide whether to stay in relationship with the Lord. It's not that difficult to figure out really. As a side note, please also remember that we can be "drawn away" by other lusts, just as if a married person can be drawn away from their spouse to do fulfill their own lusts (James 1:14).
Note #16 Is Salvation Based on Works?
It is true that salvation is a gift and is not based on works-that is, there is nothing that we do to "earn" salvation. Many have suggested that because salvation is a gift (Rom. 5:15) that we did not earn it and that there is nothing we can do to lose it. But let's look at this logically. Since salvation is a gift that means that we have to "accept" it. Accepting is not working. If I give my child a gift on Christmas they are not working for it; yet, they also do under obligation to "accept" it from me. If I have a haughty little brat and he doesn't like what I got him on Christmas day, he can give that gift right back to me-essentially rejecting it and me.
One important factor of John 3:16 is that it says, "Whosoever believes upon Him (Jesus) will have eternal life." There is absolutely no work in the initial "believing" in something. I can believe that my wife will be at the house with our kids when I come home from work at the end of the day; there is no work involved in that type of belief. Now the belief may create a type of work for us-and it's true if we follow the Lord. For example, if we believe in Christ and what He did for us we will quite naturally want to speak about this to others. This "believing" has created a type of work, yet the onset of belief (i.e. trust) is something that takes place in the mind and then creeps into the heart with no work involved. Additionally, this word for believes in Greek is an on-going verb. It is implied that those who constantly believe (trust in, cling to, rely on, etc.) are presently saved.
As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! Eze. 33:11 NKJV
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. I John 1:7
Note #17 If We Have No Control of Our Natural Birth, Then We Have No Control of Our Spiritual Birth
That seems like a rational argument-until some simple deductive thought is put into it. First, it is true that we cannot control when, where, or how we are born. The same is true of Salvation. No one knew when, where or how they would be born again (John 3)-what I call being introduced to Christ. The question is, however, not based on one's spiritual birth. No one is debating that we can't control the aspects of natural or spiritual birth. The issue should be centered not on birth but on death. We cannot control our birth, but we can control-to some extent-how we should die. We can sign do not resuscitate orders; and we can take our own life in multiple ways. If we really wanted to, we could take our own life and never walk this planet again. The same is true of our spiritual life. God is not going to "keep" anyone who does not want to live with Him. What, then, would be the point?
This debate position is flawed because it concentrates on the beginning, not the ending. We are not scrutinizing the beginning (the introduction of our salvation), but the end (the final consummation).
Note #18 What About the Lamb's Book of Life?
The Scriptures speak of a book called the Lamb's Book of Life that has recorded in it all the names of those following the Lord. But certain verses speak of blotting out the names of those who do not overcome from this book. Take a look at this description of the Book of Life from Richard's Complete Bible Dictionary:
God's list of those who escape final judgment to enter his new heavens and earth; called the "Lamb's book of life" in Rev. 21:27, since faith in Jesus as the Lamb of God is the criterion for entry. This record, mentioned in the last book of the NT, is parallel to the "scroll of remembrance" mentioned in the last book of the OT, Malachi. There God says of those found written on its pages, "they will be mine...in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him" (3:16:17).
Now compare that to these scriptures:
He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will CONFESS his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Rev. 3:5-6 (Emphasis here and succeeding, mine).
...that if you CONFESS with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom. 10:9-10
Therefore whoever CONFESSES Me before men, him I will also CONFESS before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Matt. 10:32-33
Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, "Oh, these people have committed a great sin...yet now, if you will forgive their sin-but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written. And the Lord said to Moses, Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. Exo. 32:32-33
Let them (the sinners) be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. Ps. 69:28
And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me (Paul) in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Phil. 4:3
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20
But there shall no means enter it [the new heaven] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Rev. 21:27
Can you see the correlation in these verses? It talks about confession and belief and having righteous names recorded in God's book. No one will get into heaven without his name being recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life...and it is clear from these passages that God can and does "blot" out names from this book. It is not an eraser, for an eraser implies that someone else can take your spot. No one can take your place.
Note# 19 What Did the Early Church Believe?
Cyprian (Circa 200-260 AD) was a bishop of the church at Carthage in Northern Africa. This is what he says in his book regarding salvation:
"It is written 'He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved.' So whatever precedes the end is only a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation. It is not the final point wherein we have already gained the full result of the ascent."
Irenaeus (Circa 200 AD) said this in his book, Against Heresies Book V, XXVII, 2:
"And to as many as continue in their love towards God, does He grant communion with Him. But communion with God is life and light, and the enjoyment of all the benefits which He has in store. But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God. He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death, and separation from light is darkness; and separation from God consists in the loss of all the benefits which He has in store. Those, therefore, who cast away by apostasy these forementioned things, being in fact destitute of all good, do experience every kind of punishment..."
St. Augustine (500 AD), the great promoter of the doctrine of Predestination, said this in his treatise, On the Gift of Perseverance:
"I have now to consider the subject of perseverance with greater care; for in the former book also I said some things on this subject when I was discussing the beginning of faith. I assert, therefore, that the perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God; and I call that the end by which is finished that life wherein alone there is peril of falling. Therefore it is uncertain whether any one has received this gift so long as he is still alive. For if he fall before he dies, he is, of course, said not to have persevered..."
Even Martin Luther (1500 AD) did not consent entirely to a salvation that is unconditionally eternally secure. These are his own words from the Large Catechism XII, On the Lord's Prayer, 6th Petition:
"We have now heard enough what toil and labor is required to retain all that for which we pray, and to persevere therein, which, however, is not achieved without infirmities and stumbling. Besides, although we have received forgiveness and a good conscience and are entirely acquitted, yet is our life of such a nature that one stands to-day and to-morrow falls. Therefore, even though we be godly now and stand before God with a good conscience, we must pray again that He would not suffer us to relapse and yield to trials and temptations. ... Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God to tear us away from faith..."
A Quote from Donald Grey Barnhouse:
"People are all standing in a room with several doors. Above one door is a sign which reads "All who will may enter." Those who choose to enter the door find on the back side of the door a sign which reads, "Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world."
A Summary by Chuck Missler:
Election and predestination are Biblical doctrines. God knows everything and therefore He cannot be surprised by anything. He is beyond the constraints of mass, acceleration and gravity, therefore He is outside time. He knows, and has known from "eternity past," who will exercise their free will to accept Him and who will reject Him. The former are "the elect" and the latter are the "non-elect." Everyone who is not saved will have only himself to blame: God will not send anyone to hell, but many people will choose to go there by exercising their free will to reject Christ.
On the other hand, no one who is saved will be able to take any of the credit. Our salvation is entirely God's work, and is based completely on the finished work of the Cross. We were dead in trespasses and sins, destined for hell, when God in His grace drew us to Himself, convinced us of our sin and our need for a Savior, and gave us the authority to call Jesus Lord. Is this grace, this wooing, this courtship, irresistible? No, we have free will and we can (and do) resist, even to the damnation of our souls, but God does everything short of making us automata (preprogrammed puppets) to draw us into His forever family.
Note #20 Not Many Will Make It
Only eight people made it out of God's judgment during the days of Noah.
Only three people made it out of God's judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Only two named people of those released from the enslavement of Egypt (which is symbolic of Christ releasing us from sin in the New Testament) made it to the promised land (symbolic of heaven). There were approx. 2 million people released!
Jesus said," because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matt. 7:14
How's your walk with the Lord?
If you've fallen out of love with the Lord, return to your first love (Mal. 3:7; Hos. 1:1; Rev. 2:1-7)!