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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Can You Lose Your Salvation?


Through the centuries of the Christian era, there has been a huge debate about whether Christians can lose (forfeit) their salvation. In this article, we hope to show that once a person is born again of God’s holy spirit, his salvation is guaranteed, that is, he is not in danger of the “Second Death,” which is when everyone who is not allowed into God’s Eternal Kingdom will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and burned up (Rev. 20:12-15).

Before we can meaningfully examine verses that refer to our guaranteed salvation, it is imperative to understand that Scripture makes it clear that only in the Church Age, the Administration of Grace, is salvation guaranteed. One of the greatest truths of Scripture is that God has dealt with people differently at various times through history. For the accomplishment of His purposes and the benefit of His people, God has periodically changed the “rules” by which He wants people to live. Theologians call the time period governed by a specific set of rules an “administration” or “dispensation.” The systematic theology that recognizes these different administrations or dispensations is referred to as “Dispensationalism.”

Examples of God changing the rules from administration to administration are plentiful. In the Garden of Eden, He told Adam and Eve to eat plants only (Gen. 1:29), but after the Flood, God changed the rules and allowed man to eat meat also (Gen. 9:3), and He still allows us to eat meat today. Another example concerns the Sabbath. Before the Mosaic Law, there was no specific law concerning the Sabbath. When God gave the Law to Moses, He changed the rules, and commanded that anyone who worked on the Sabbath should be put to death (Ex. 31:14), and Moses did execute a man who was caught working on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36). Today, in the Administration of Grace, God has changed the rules again, and it is not a sin to work on the Sabbath (Rom. 14:5; Col. 2:16, 17), and thus anyone who arrested and executed someone working on the Sabbath would be a murderer. When Christians do not recognize or understand the administrations in the Bible, the Bible abounds with apparent contradictions.

We of Spirit & Truth Fellowship International recognize eight different administrations in the history of mankind: four of them are in the past; we live in the fifth Administration (the Administration of Grace, also referred to as the Administration of the Sacred Secret), and three of them are foretold in the Bible and will be fulfilled in the future.

Knowing the different administrations, when they begin and end, and the rules distinctly associated with each one, is indispensable if one is to explain many of the apparent contradictions in the Bible. It is also indispensable in understanding how we Christians must live in order to obey God. A person who does not understand the Administrations can become very confused if he thinks that all of God’s commands should be followed, because they are different in different administrations, and can even contradict one another. Almost 100 years ago, Bible scholar Martin Anstey wrote: “…the golden rule is, ‘Distinguish the dispensations and the difficulties will disappear.’” [1] Never is that more true than in regard to the permanence of our salvation. If one does not understand what parts of Scripture are written to whom, he will never grasp the truth of God’s Word about salvation, its most vital subject.

Throughout the years, the majority of scholars and commentators have believed that salvation is not guaranteed for Christians. Perhaps the most common reason for that is that they read the Old Testament, the Four Gospels, and the book of Revelation, see that salvation is not guaranteed during those administrations, and therefore think that salvation is not guaranteed for Christians.

We agree that salvation is not guaranteed during the Old Testament, Four Gospels, and the Tribulation period (which comes after Christians are taken to heaven at the Rapture). However, we disagree with them when it comes to Christian salvation. We assert that on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) God started a new administration, one so dominated by an outpouring of God’s grace that He refers to it as “the administration of God’s grace” (Eph. 3:2).

If we are correct that only in this new, and for us, current, administration is salvation guaranteed for the Christian, we can expect to find verses in the Old Testament, the Four Gospels, and Revelation, stating that one’s salvation was not guaranteed, and none stating that it was. That is exactly what we find, because those sections of Scripture are written to and about Israel (and Gentiles), not the Church of the Body of Christ. Furthermore, in the Epistles to the Christian Church, we can expect to find verses indicating that salvation is guaranteed, and we do.

Our study of guaranteed salvation will take us into a cascade of logic that in large part presents the process of salvation in the Age of Grace as akin to giving birth. This brings up a very important point: God expects us to believe what He says and use the reasoning He gave us to arrive at accurate conclusions. That is certainly the case in the study of guaranteed salvation.

When a person acts on Romans 10:9, and confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes that God raised him from the dead, God our Father puts a spiritual seed into that individual. That “seed,” like any seed contributed by a father, grows into a baby, which is then birthed. The epistle of 1 Peter tells us about both the seed and the birth.

1 Peter 1:23
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

God’s use of “birth” to communicate what happens in Christian salvation is amazingly clear. Of course, there are some differences between human birth and birth from God. For example, the seed from a human father takes nine months to develop in the mother before the birth, while divine birth is instantaneous. The very second God puts His imperishable, spiritual seed in a person, he is born again.

Now what is unique about this New Birth? First, there is no mention of God’s spiritual seed outside the Epistles to the Christian Church. Spiritual “seed” cannot be found in the Old Testament, the Four Gospels, or Revelation. Only Christians have spiritual seed. This should immediately alert us that God is doing something for Christians that He never did before.

Second, God calls the seed He puts inside Christians “imperishable,” because it does not die or go away. It stays in us forever, so its effect, our salvation, is “imperishable” too. Third, there is no New Birth outside the Administration of Grace. It began on the Day of Pentecost, and will end with the Rapture of the Church. It is only for the Age of Grace. [2] Because the New Birth is the hallmark of this Administration of Grace and was previously known only to God, it makes sense that He would clearly tell us about it. He does exactly that by using three different words that refer to our new birth, and each of them appears only in epistles to the Church, and nowhere else in the Bible.

Anagennao (Strong’s number 313) from the Greek prefix ana, “again” or “up,” and gennao, “to give birth.” It means to be given birth to again, or to be born again, and it occurs in 1 Peter 1:3, 23, “in his great mercy he has given us new birth…” (1 Pet. 1:3).
Paliggenesia (pronounced pa-lin-ge-ne-sia; the gg is pronounced as an “n g;” Strong’s number 3824) from palin, “again” and genesis, “genesis” or “origin.” It means to have an origin again, a new genesis, and it occurs in Titus 3:5, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth….”
apokueo (Strong’s number 616) from the Greek prefix apo, “away from,” and kueo, “to be pregnant.” It means “to give birth to,” and it occurs in James 1:18, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth….”
As every parent knows, the predominant truth about a birth is the presence of a baby, who is “permanent.” The birth cannot be undone. Surely God would not use three different words for “birth” if there were not an actual birth, or if we could not apply the concepts of birth, such as permanence, to what happens when a Christian is “born again.” “Birth” is permanent, both in the flesh and in the spirit. [3]

In birth, the nature of the parent is passed down to the offspring, and so in the new birth the nature of God is passed to believers. The “seed” of God is His nature. God is “holy” and God is “spirit,” so we should expect to see something in the Church Epistles about His nature, also called “holy spirit,” being in, or part of, the Christian, and we do.

Ephesians 1:13
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

This verse contains a number of significant truths. First, we received holy spirit at the time we believed. Second, each believer is “sealed” with holy spirit. [4] This is new! No one in the Old Testament, Gospels, or Revelation is said to be “sealed.” Quite the opposite! God took His holy spirit from King Saul when he sinned (1 Sam. 16:14). Psalm 51:11 records that after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah killed, King David asked God not to take holy spirit from him.

Third, the word “sealed” indicates that we are permanently sealed with holy spirit. Someone might say, “Well, if you sin, God breaks the seal and takes holy spirit away.” If that were the case, why say we are “sealed” at all? Why not just continue the terminology of the Old Testament and Gospels and say that holy spirit is “upon” us? Logic demands that if God uses a totally different vocabulary that is unique to the Administration of Grace, He must be letting us know that something is new and different. Fourth, the holy spirit we receive is the “promised” holy spirit. It was promised in the Old Testament for the Millennial Kingdom, the 1000-year reign of Christ, but given to us now as a surprise by God’s grace. [5] The very fact that it was promised in the Old Testament and Gospels means that the people of those times did not yet have it.

If we have spiritual seed, holy spirit, are born again, and have been sealed by God, then our salvation is guaranteed. Scripture says exactly that.

2 Corinthians 1:22
[God via Christ] set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit [spirit] in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:5
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit [spirit] as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Ephesians 1:14
who [the holy spirit, which] is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Those three verses say that our future is guaranteed. There are none like them in the Old Testament, none in the Four Gospels, none in the book of Revelation. God has done something new and different for the Church. There are versions of the Bible that do not translate the Greek word arrhabon as “guarantee,” but instead use “earnest,” “pledge,” “deposit,” or something similar. The Greek word arrhabon means a deposit in advance that guarantees the full payment to come. For Christians, that means we are guaranteed being Raptured into heaven and given new, immortal, bodies.

Because the Christian is uniquely born again of God’s imperishable spiritual seed, sealed with holy spirit, and therefore guaranteed salvation, the very presence of holy spirit permanently born in us gives us a divine nature, as Scripture verifies:

2 Peter 1:4 (KJV) [6]
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,…”

At the risk of seeming repetitious, no one in the Old Testament, Gospels, or Revelation is ever said to receive, or “partake of,” a divine nature, not even the prophets, who had God’s gift of holy spirit upon them. By the way, because Christians have both a new, divine nature and an old, sin nature, these antithetical natures struggle against each other within us. Only in Scripture addressed to the Church does the Bible say that the sin nature (or “flesh”) and the divine nature (or “spirit”) “are in conflict with each other,” (Gal. 5:17).

Because we have a divine nature, the Bible refers to all Christians as “saints,” although a better translation would be “holy ones” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1). A quick study of the Greek and Hebrew words translated “saints” will show that “holy ones,” God’s holy people, are all through the Bible (cp. Ps. 16:3; Dan. 7:18; Rev. 13:7). However, from what God says about what makes one “holy,” believers in the Old Testament, Gospels, and Revelation were holy only if they obeyed God. In contrast, the Church Epistles make it clear that anyone who is a Christian is holy because of the divine nature within him.

God created His nature in us, so we are new creations in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

The phrase “new creations” is literal, and is 100% accurate because the new nature, our holy spirit, was created in us by God. Although some translations say “new creatures,” the Greek word is “creations.” Our first birth was not a creation, but our new birth is, because when we believed, God “created” new life within us. People in the Old Testament and Gospels believed God, but they were never “created” anew. When Abraham believed, God considered him righteous, but he was never “created” anew and given a divine nature, nor was anyone else before the Church began on the Day of Pentecost. Other verses, such as Colossians 3:10, also indicate we are new creations. [For further study read Righteousness - Every Christian’s Gift from God.]

Christians not only become new creations individually, but also collectively, as part of a spiritual body called, “the Body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27; cp. Rom. 12:4,5; 1 Cor. 10:16; 12:12-20; Eph. 1:23; 3:6; 4:4; Col. 1:18; 3:15). Like our physical body, this spiritual body is comprised of many members, and Jesus Christ is its head (Eph. 5:23).

There are some important things to consider about the Body of Christ. First, it is unique to the Grace Administration, not mentioned before or after it. Second, it is made up of all those who believe, no matter what their gender or nationality. Galatians 3:28 makes it clear that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female in Christ. This is a shift from the Old Testament, Gospels, and Revelation in which the people of God are distinctly counted as being either a Jew or a Gentile. Even after the Church is taken from the earth at the Rapture, God again separates the Jewish believer from the Gentile believer (Rev. 7:1-17).

The truth about the “Body of Christ” is important to the study of our guaranteed salvation because to lose our guarantee of salvation would be tantamount to being dismembered from the Body of Christ, and there is simply no evidence in Scripture that can happen.

Before we were born again and given a new, divine nature, we had only our old sin nature and were destined to the Second Death, so God referred to us as “dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1). When we got born again, we were given spiritual life, but along with that God also promised that He would raise us from physical death.

Our being raised from the dead (or changed from mortal to immortal at the Rapture) is so certain, so secure, that God refers to it with the idiom that linguists refer to as the “prophetic perfect.” The prophetic perfect is used to emphasize the certainty of a future event by speaking of it as if it has already happened. [To read an article on the Prophetic Perfect, click here. To watch a video teaching on it, click here.] Thus, even though dead Christians are still physically dead, God says they have already been raised to life (Eph. 2:6). This promise of resurrection to everlasting life is worded without the idiom in Romans 6:5 by using the future tense, will: “…we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”

If we are new people, newly born again and created, and partakers of the divine nature, we should have a new language, a language unique to the Administration of Grace. We do have such a language, and the Bible refers to it as “speaking in tongues.” Speaking in tongues first happened on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), and it will cease to exist after the Rapture of the Church (1 Cor. 13:8). In the meantime, speaking in tongues is prayer and praise, it edifies the one speaking, and what God says about it is very clear: “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues….” (1 Cor. 14:5).

If a person could lose his guarantee of salvation, he would therefore lose his holy spirit, like King Saul did in the Old Testament. That would mean he could no longer speak in tongues, because holy spirit is what enables him to do so. A good test, then, to see if salvation really is guaranteed, is to ask people who have greatly sinned if they can still speak in tongues. What do we find in Christendom? Some of the most flagrant sinners speak in tongues fluently. Fallen TV evangelists and former Christian “big shots,” Christians in prisons around the globe, Christian homosexuals, fornicators, and adulterers, and Christians who are idolaters, sharing the worship of God with superstition or the recognition of other gods, are known to speak in tongues. In fact, many Christians hide their sin very effectively, going to churches and speaking in tongues in the service, while secretly sinning flagrantly. The fact that these sinners, and the rest of us Christians who also sin, can speak in tongues is exactly what we would expect if, as Scripture declares, the holy spirit is sealed in us and the new birth is permanent.

As new creations, we now belong, not to the earthly realm where our physical body resides, but to God’s heavenly kingdom, and Scripture makes this clear.

Philippians 3:20
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Once again we see the uniqueness of the Christian Church. Many people in the Old Testament and Gospels believed, but none were referred to as citizens of heaven. In contrast, because our salvation is guaranteed, we can legitimately be called citizens of heaven.

When we got saved, we were guaranteed to be in heaven with Christ from the time of the Rapture to the time of our return to earth with Christ, when he fights the Battle of Armageddon. That guarantee is so sure that God says we are seated in heaven.

Ephesians 2:6
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

We are not literally in heaven now. However, our place in heaven is so secure that God uses the idiom of the prophetic perfect to refer to it. As we have already seen, the prophetic perfect is speaking of something that will occur in the future as if it had already happened in order to give the strongest assurance that it will happen.

The bond that exists between parents and their birth children is universal. Parents usually love and support their own seed, no matter what. No matter how a child behaves, somehow the parent loves him. If each Christian is born of God, we should see a shift in how God expresses His love relationship with Christians, as opposed to what he said about Israel in the Old Testament. That shift is clearly recorded in Romans 8:35-39. Those verses express two facts: first, that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39), and second, that this is a change from the Old Testament (Rom. 8:36, 37).

Quite a few Old Testament verses refer to God’s having had enough of “His people,” even to the point of saying, “I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them” (Hos. 1:6), and “…you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hos. 1:9). Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:8 speak of God divorcing Israel and sending her away. There is no such threat to the Church. We are God’s birth children, and even when we behave despicably, He tells us He will always love us. Believers before Pentecost had no such promise, so if they rebelled against God and died in that condition, they were lost. In stark contrast, the Christian is guaranteed everlasting life.

The Grace Administration, with its guarantee of salvation, is glorious in the extreme. The Law was glorious in that it gave light and justice where there had been confusion and darkness, but consider the following verse from the Church Epistles regarding the glory of the Administration of Grace:

2 Corinthians 3:10
For what was glorious [the Law] has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.

What God has given the Church is so new and so glorious that in comparison to it, the Law of Moses had “no glory.” The Law of Moses was indescribably valuable—it was the very words and laws of God, so for God to say that the Law had “no glory” in comparison to what we now have, we Christians must have something incredibly valuable indeed. We do. After all, what is the worth of a soul? The fact that everyone who gets saved during the Grace Administration is guaranteed everlasting life makes our administration have “surpassing glory.”

Ever notice that Romans 10:9 is in one of the epistles to the Christian Church? It contains simple and straightforward instructions on how to be saved.

Romans 10:9
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

This verse agrees with the others in the Church Epistles, such as Romans 3:22, Galatians 2:15 and 16, and Ephesians 2:8, which specifically states that salvation is by grace through faith, “not by works.”Faith has always been the way to salvation, but before the Administration of Grace there was no guarantee of salvation, so a person’s works were important to demonstrate his faith, which had to continue throughout his life (Ezek. 33:11-20). That is why Moses said that righteousness came by being careful to obey the Law (Deut. 6:25).

Jesus and the Apostle Paul both taught the way of salvation, and both were asked the basic question, “What must I do to be saved? Jesus answered: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). During the Law of Moses, when Jesus answered the question, there was no guarantee of salvation available, so a person had to maintain his faith and righteousness throughout his life. Thus, Jesus told the man to obey the commandments.

In contrast, Paul answered: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31). Why such a difference? When Paul answered the question, which was after the Administration of Grace had begun, the moment a person believes, he is born again and has a guarantee of everlasting life.

The Administration of Grace began on the Day of Pentecost when Christ poured out the new gift of holy spirit (Acts 2:33) and people were born again. It will end with the Rapture, when dead Christians are raised, living Christians are changed, and both groups are taken to heaven in new bodies that are like Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-54). The Rapture is a new concept, occurring only in the Church Epistles. [7] In fact, because the Rapture occurs only in the Church Epistles, many scholars deny that it ever occurs, feeling certain that if it did, it would be spoken of in more than just Corinthians and Thessalonians. That, however, is exactly our point: only Christians are in the Rapture. It is unique to God’s children by birth.

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Anonymous said...

You might enjoy Googling "The Unoriginal John Darby," "Edward Irving is Unnerving," and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty." Walter