Monday, 9 June 2014


Is it true that once we’ve bought our ticket to heaven, we can afford to sit back and relax while we await the advent of eternal bliss?

A blog reader commented: “I had been following many of your postings and can agree with many things that you have said.  The one thing that continues to disturb me is your stand that salvation is dependent on our final spiritual state just before we expire. That to me is a dangerous theological stand to assume as it puts our works, whether conscious or unconscious as a pre-condition to salvation.”

He then went on to quote 1 Samuel 28: 19 that somewhat implies that King Saul, despite his disobedience, managed to find a place in heaven after he expired.

Let us examine this verse in its proper context. The passage is entitled, Samuel proclaims Saul’s fate:
“The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 28:17-19).

On the face of it, this passage above seems to reflect God’s justice tempered with mercy. Despite Saul’s disobedience for failing to completely destroy the Amalekites (and his sin of seeking the guidance of a witch), it seems that Saul made it finally to heaven. In short, as a result of his disobedience, King Saul lost his position and kingdom but his eternal destiny seems secure in heaven.

However, it is the voice of the ‘spirit of Samuel’, conjured up by the witch of Endor, which comes through in the above passage. We cannot be sure that this is indeed the voice of Samuel, the prophet.  Necromancy, the practice of trying to communicate with the spirits of the dead in order to predict or influence the future, is an abomination in God’s eyes (Deuteronomy 18: 9-12, Leviticus 19:31). So how can we trust the words coming from the ‘spirit of Samuel’? It may be a lying spirit. Therefore, we cannot be sure of the eternal destiny of Saul because the source of the message is questionable. *

Furthermore, if it’s an evil spirit impersonating Samuel, the promise that Saul and his sons “will be with me”, might mean that Saul and his sons are with this evil spirit in hell. Clarke adds a valuable point: "I believe that the woman of En-dor had no power over Samuel; and that no incantation can avail over any departed saint of God, nor indeed over any human disembodied spirit."

But, if anything, should we base our doctrine of eternal security on an incident such as this event in Saul’s life? Surely we cannot infer that no matter how grievous and serious the sins of Saul, his eternal destiny is safe and secure based on this incident.

In contrast, there are so many scriptural references—from which a doctrine can be adduced—which refute the premise that Once Saved, we are Always Saved (OSAS). 

Having bought a new car, don’t we regularly send it to the authorised service centre so that it will serve us well without a hitch? (another reason is this—we want to ensure the manufacturer’s warranty is not nullified).

What makes us think everything is plain sailing once we receive Christ? What makes us think we don’t need regular “servicing and maintenance”? By “servicing and maintenance”, I mean that if we sin—and I’m sure all of us do—we need to confess our sins, repent and get back on the right track again.

Why persevering faith is needed

Hebrews chapter 10 highlights the fact that persevering faith is needed to remain saved:
But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
(Hebrews 10:38-39).

Jude reinforces the truth that persevering faith is needed:
“I wish to remind you, as you all know, that God, when once he had brought the people out from Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:5). Instead of taking possession of the Promised Land after leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, God’s chosen people fell.

Paul outlines, in greater detail, the events leading to their fall from God’s favour:
“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

Peter exhorts believers to be all the more diligent to confirm our calling and election for if we practice ‘these qualities’ we will never fall (2 Peter 1:10).

And what are ‘these qualities’? They are spelled out in the preceding verses: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Peter issues a solemn warning to believers who willfully choose to live in sin:
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21). This passage on apostasy refutes the premise that those who indulge in wanton living were never really converted in the first place.

Going back to Saul, I don’t think we should emulate his example. He is not even mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a hero of faith.

If ever we think Saul made it to heaven, we could possibly compare him to an exam candidate—he merely scraped through by the skin of his teeth. Just barely passed.

Come to think of it, why would a level-headed believer want to scrape through the skin of his teeth to get to heaven? Why would he want to get there with hardly anything to show for it (1 Corinthians 3: 15)?

But we are not sure of Saul’s eternal destiny (see above). * God is the ultimate judge. However, if I’m forced to venture an opinion, I would think that there is very little evidence to support the fact that Saul finally gained a place in heaven. He was slipping deeper and deeper into spiritual darkness and finally, through his seeking of the witch for guidance, his tragic fate was sealed.

Our prevailing spiritual state at the point of our expiry matters so much. Why? Because it determines where we find ourselves in eternity—in heaven or hell.

When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?” (Ezekiel 18:26-29).

Our final destination (whether we land up in heaven or hell) is based on our spiritual state just before we expire or when Christ comes again (whichever comes first).

man of God who performs great signs and wonders but commits adultery and apostasy at the last lap of life’s journey stands condemned (if he remains unrepentant) whereas a dying thief who has faith and commits himself to Christ during life’s final moments passes into heaven with rejoicing. Our fate is NOT decided merely at the point of entry (conversion) as ‘feel good’ teachers would have us believe.

How can a holy God welcome an unrepentant sinner through the pearly gates of heaven? Or how can a sinner stand in the presence of holy God who is a consuming fire, a blinding light?

If we think living the Christian life is difficult (or “stressful” as my blog commentator puts it), it is so because the Bible portrays it as such:

  • Didn’t Jesus warn that small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:14)?

  • Didn’t Jesus challenge all who profess to be His disciples to deny themselves (Luke 9:23)?

  • Didn’t Jesus warn that many will fall away, many false prophets will arise and lead many astray but he who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:10-13)?

Nevertheless, we should not find relief from stress in the comforting arms of “feel-good” teaching—FUTURE SINS AUTOMATICALLY FORGIVEN (FSAF) or ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED (OSAS)—for these are lies that may cause us to come under eternal regret and damnation.

“Feel good’ teaching emphasises the benefits and privileges of being saved. But the whole gospel underscores the duties and responsibilities on top of the benefits and privileges.

Salvation is at once the easiest and most difficult thing to embrace. It is easy because it’s ours by faith. But it’s also the most difficult—for it demands my soul, my life and my all.


After everything is done and our short sojourn on earth is over, one crucial question remains: “Where we will spend eternity?”

Some compare the Christian life to a walk in the park. They say everything is by faith. You just have to believe in what Jesus has done for you at the cross. Anything more than that smacks of self-effort, pride and legalism. Is it true?

Some believe that once they are saved, everything is on “autocruise”.

Are the future sins of Christians automatically forgiven (FSAF)?


Is there eternal security for believers if they deny God or continue living in sin?

What fate awaits those who sin repeatedly after they have believed?



Two men share about their supernatural experiences in heaven and hell.


Minimising the significance of harsh truths has its dangers



One of the best links to the perplexing issue of once saved, always saved (OSAS).


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Full text of comment by blog reader (unedited):
Poh Ann - I have been following many of your postings and can agree with many things that you have said. The one thing that continues to disturb me is your stand that salvation is dependent on our final state just before we expire. That to me is a dangerous theological stand to assume as it puts our works, whether conscious or unconscious as a pre-condition to salvation. Whether good works or enduring to the end in my mind proves the fact that we had been saved, not to save us. There are ample scripture verses to show that. Salvation is a free gift which we will never merit, no matter how "good" we are, or remain to be. A one point conversion leading to ultimate wanton living like the heathen makes one wonder whether the initial conversion was authentic. One other reference that has helped me is the account of Saul and his sons towards the end of his kingship. In desperation, Saul sought the services of the medium in Endor to call up the Spirit of Samuel for some insight. Complex as this account may be on its own, vs 19 in 1 Sam 28 is telling: "Moreover The Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me". For a wayward Saul and his sons (including Jonathan) to be with Samuel, surely God must have honored the initial salvation promise he gad to Saul through faith, even if he did not remained faithful till the end. I do not presume to know why God prefers to work this way, offering such a precious gift as eternal salvation to be totally free and not dependent on what we do or continue to do. Perhaps one simple answer is that otherwise no one will ever qualify for heaven. Because in the final analysis, whether we remain faithful or not to the end, despite the new regenerative birth that grants us entry into His presence, we will always be in this present life sinful creatures that cannot avoid sin for 1 day. Having to remain faithful till the end in order to "qualify" for salvation is indeed very stressful and likely unattainable for anyone of us.

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