In my interaction with fellow believers, when the topic touches on salvation and eternal security, some would cite the example of how the dying thief got saved through faith in Christ alone and how he was immediately ushered to paradise. You see, they tell me, it is “all by faith” and this incident is in agreement other references that we are saved by faith alone (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-9).
Faith and obedience are inextricably intertwined. If we say we believe in God but refuse to obey Him, we are deceiving ourselves for John 3:36 teaches those who disobey God will face His judgment and will not be saved. Also Hebrew 5:9 tells us Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
Many who believe in ‘faith is all that matters’ and ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ (OSAS) would have great difficulty swallowing the harsh truth that believers will finally be judged. The following passage in Hebrews 10 is one of the greatest bugbears to eternal security (OSAS) adherents. It will be like a thorn in the flesh, debunking their ‘feel good’ theology.
Peter quoted Moses’ teaching that God will raise up a prophet (Jesus) and every soul that does not obey Christ will be destroyed (Acts 3:22-23).
Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10).
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4: 17-18).
- Choose to live in sin
- deny God or
- commit apostasy (turn their backs on God)
- For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire”(2 Peter 2: 20-22).
- Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
- Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5: 19-21).
- For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5).
- But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).
- If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us (2 Timothy 2:12).
- “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 I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10: 32-33).
- For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it. (Hebrews 6:4-8).
- Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Notice that Christ repeatedly warned that there will be a separation of good and evil. He used farming and fishing metaphors, which were familiar to the listeners in that era, to get His point across:
- In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43), the tares will be gathered and burnt whereas the wheat will be preserved.
- In the Parable of Dragnet (Matthew 13:47-52), the kingdom of heaven is like a net full of fish. When the net is full, men will select the good fish and discard the bad ones.
- But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1).
- 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).
In conclusion, believers will be appraised according to our faithfulness, works and fruit-bearing and the appropriate rewards will be assigned to us. However, this is not the full story—some believers may lose their salvation, a view that will not go well with adherents of eternal security (OSAS) and Calvinism.
- Christians will never face condemnation when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). The purpose of this judgment is to assess the believers' works and assign the appropriate rewards. Our eternal destiny is secure and there is no retribution.
- Non-believers, on the contrary, will have to stand before God in the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) and face God’s wrath.
Notice that the book of Hebrews is primarily written to Jewish believers to encourage them in the faith and warn them against the dangerous eternal consequences of giving up on God (apostasy). Though some may argue that those who fall away are not genuine believers (not saved in the first place), and that genuine believers will definitely endure till the end, this weak argument does not dismiss the fact that the primary audience of this book was genuine Jewish believers.