The Promise of Eternal Life

June 28, 2014 | Brian Bill

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales.  The teacher told her it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human but the girl insisted that a whale had swallowed the prophet Jonah.  The teacher got a bit irritated and reiterated that it was impossible.

The little girl then had an idea and said, “Well, when I get to heaven I’ll ask Jonah.”

The teacher responded, “Well, what if Jonah went to Hell?”

To which the young student quickly replied, “Then you can ask him.”

This little girl knew she was going to heaven and she was pretty sure her teacher wasn’t.  There really are only two possible destinations – heaven or hell.  And so we better know with certainty, which way we’re headed.

Have you noticed that we live in a culture that disses anything that’s dogmatic?  In our politically correct climate, there is no tolerance for exclusive truth claims.  It seems that we have more and more knowledge but less and less certainty.  Many churches have caved as well, with some pastors saying that you can’t know anything with any certainty.  This religion of “certain uncertainty” is causing many to bail on their beliefs, leading some to become spiritual shipwrecks

That won’t happen here.  We have always been anchored to the Word of God and will always preach that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman for life and that the preborn matter to the Almighty and therefore must matter to us.

One of the action steps we mentioned last week was for each of us to go on a search for God’s promises during our daily Bible reading.  You are reading your Bible everyday, right?  We were encouraged to underline every promise we find.  I wonder if a few of you would be willing to share a favorite promise?

At a televised awards ceremony a couple years ago, the individual announcing the winner mistakenly gave the wrong name.  Things immediately became very awkward.  Apparently the electronic tablet she was reading from said something different from the teleprompter so she didn’t know what to do.  After a commercial break, things were straightened out and the award was given to the right person.

Friends, when it comes time for the Lamb’s Book of Life to be opened, there will be no confusion or uncertainty.  No wrong names will be called.  Those who know Jesus Christ can be certain that they are saved.  Here’s the sermon in a sentence: “If you’re saved by the Savior you’ll be safe with the Savior forever.”

This first promise in our “Summer of Promise” series has been referred to as “Eternal Security,” “Perseverance of the Saints,” or by the phrase, “Once Saved, Always Saved.”  The promise of eternal life means that those who are born again can never lose their salvation and are assured that they will go to heaven when they die.  

In an age of short attention spans, sound-bite sermons, superficial spirituality and doctrinal shallowness, let’s dig into God’s Word so that the promise of eternal life becomes very real and personal to you.  Eternity is a long time so you better figure out where you’re headed.  Time is short and Hell is forever.  On Thursday I had a chance to have a conversation with a neighbor while we were having coffee together about this topic and was so glad to hear that she has accepted Christ.

It’s my aim that you will be convinced by both the content and clarity of God’s Word.  My plan is to saturate us with Scripture so that we get this settled once and for all and that we pass this promise on to our children and grandchildren as well.

I know many seemingly saved people who have no assurance of their salvation.  When asked if they know for sure if they are going to heaven when they die, they answer with: “I hope so” or “I think so” or “If I’m good enough.” I’ve talked to others who are filled with fear about their future state.  

There are four possibilities related to this promise.

  • To be lost and know that you’re lost.  That’s tragic.
  • To be lost and think you are saved.  That’s dangerous.
  • To be saved and not know it for sure.  That’s unsettling.
  • To be saved and know that you’re secure.  That’s comforting.

I would love it if everyone would be in this final group by the time we’re finished because if you’re saved by the Savior you’ll be safe with the Savior forever.

We’re going to limit our focus to one of the human authors of the Bible and to two of the five books he wrote.  His name is John and we’ll first camp out in the Gospel that bears his name and then we’ll head over to the first letter that he wrote known as 1 John.  Here’s an interesting insight.  Of the 42 instances of the phrase “eternal life” in the Bible, 22 of them are found in these two books.

Gospel of John

John tells us why he wrote his gospel in John 20:31: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

John 3:16-18: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

John 3:36: He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

John 5:24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

John 6:40: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 10:27-30:  “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one.”  

I wrote down seven observations from this passage:

  1. True sheep listen to, and follow the lead of the Shepherd.
  2. Jesus knows those who are His.  He will successfully keep secure those given to Him.  2 Timothy 1:12: “…and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
  3. Eternal life is a gift given by the Savior.  My salvation depends entirely on what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for me.  If you have this gift you have it eternally because God never starts a project that He does not finish.  
  4. Those who know Him will never perish.  This is a strong double negative in Greek: “They will indeed not ever perish.”  This is covenant or contract language.
  5. Our salvation can never be stolen.  The word “snatch” means “to pluck, pull or take by force.”  No person or problem or circumstance or situation or sin can grab you out of the grip of God (see Romans 8:31-39).
  6. The greatness of the Father is the ground of safety for the sheep“is greater than all.”  I love the language used by a great preacher of old named A.W. Pink: “The promises of God are unimpeachable…He will be punctilious in securing the eternal welfare of those whom He has appointed to Heavenly glory!  Though the world, the flesh and the Devil combine against Him, He cannot be frustrated.  He who triumphed over the grave cannot be thwarted by any feebleness or fickleness in His people.  Those whom He pardons He preserves.”
  7. We are doubly secure because we are gripped by the Father and the Son.  Who is able to snatch us from their hands?  Not even our own wills are up to such a task.

Do you remember the slogan, “You’re in good hands with Allstate?”  John tells us that our Lord’s sheep could not be in better hands—we’re held in the hand of the Son and the hand of the Father.  No one is more secure than one of His sheep. 

It says that the Father and the Son are holding tightly to us

I’ve heard some people say that a person may take himself out of God’s hand.  But would you notice that this verse says nothing about a believer holding on to the Father’s hand?  It says that the Father and the Son are holding tightly to us.  

As a dad I have fond memories of holding the hands of our daughters when we lived in Mexico City for three years.  I was on high alert at all times because of the dangers surrounding us.  It didn’t really matter if they let go of my hand because my hand was bigger and stronger and there was no way I was going to let go of theirs.  It’s not like I was holding a stick on one end and they were holding the other.  My grip was glued to their hand and there was no way I was releasing them.

If you’re saved by the Savior you’ll be safe with the Savior forever.

1 John

The gospel of John shows us how to be saved.  The letter of 1 John gives certainty to those who are saved.

Let’s start with 1 John 2:25: “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” 

In this letter John tells us that his purpose in writing is so that we might know that we have eternal life.  Turn to 1 John 5:11-13: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

I see six truths:

  1. The word “testimony” is the word for witness and was used in courtroom settings.  In this picture, God is on the witness stand declaring that eternal life is found in His Son.  
  2. Eternal life is the present possession of believers.  If you have the Son, you have eternal life right now.  We see this in verse 11“has given” and verse 12“has life” and verse 13“you have eternal life.”  
  3. Eternal life is also a future fact.  Because of the new birth, when you leave this world, you will live with Christ forever.  Eternal means without beginning and without end.  Actually, eternal life begins at conversion and continues forever.
  4. God wants us to know for certain“so that you may know…”  The word “know” appears 39 times in this short book.  It’s not a matter of feeling or thinking or hoping but of knowing with a settled intuitive knowledge and is often rendered, “to be sure” or “to be assured.”  Too many of us follow our feelings instead of focusing on the faithfulness of God.
  5. Believing in Jesus is the only way to have eternal life.  “To believe” means “to count on someone” or “to trust in them.”  This is a very exclusive statement: “He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”  Jesus said the same thing in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  6. Assurance comes from what has been written in the Word of God“I write these things to you…”  We can’t rely on our emotions or our experiences or even our spiritual progress.

Settled Assurance

What we’ve learned from the Scriptures is that you can be convinced that you are saved and certain that you will be with the Savior forever.  I appreciate how Ray Pritchard answers the question, “Can I lose my salvation?”  Here’s what he says: “It depends on who saved you.”  

  • If God saved you, you can’t lose your salvation because it depends on God.
  • If you saved yourself, you can lose it because it depends on you.

Your salvation is eternally secure if God did the saving.  But if you think that salvation is a cooperative venture between yourself and God, where you do a part and He does a part, then you’re in big trouble because what you start you could mess up along the way.  But if God started it, He’ll also finish it.  That reminds me of Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Pritchard points out that there is great danger in believing that you can lose your salvation because it:

  1. Leads to excessive introspection, frustration, fear and guilt. 
  2. Strips you of any certainty that your sins are forgiven. 
  3. Leads to fear at the moment of death. 
  4. Tends to produce legalistic faith. 
  5. Takes the focus off of Christ and places it on your own performance. 
  6. May lead to despair and abandoning the faith altogether. 
  7. Could make you hypercritical of others whose faith you doubt. 
  8. Keeps you from growing because you think you need to get saved over and over again. 
  9. Makes the Christian life an unstable roller coaster of up and down experiences. 
  10. Takes the “Good News” out of the gospel because you can’t be sure about anything.

A salvation you could lose is not much of a salvation at all.  You can’t be sure you have it, and if you have it today, you can’t be certain you’ll have it tomorrow.  And if you lose it, you can’t be sure you’ll get it again.  And if you get it again, you can’t be sure you’ll keep it the next time. What kind of salvation is that?   It’s a man-centered salvation that makes heaven dependent on what you do. 

The fundamental problem with saying that a Christian can lose his or her salvation is that we would have to say that God does not fulfill His promises.  But here’s the truth: If you’re saved by the Savior you’ll be safe with the Savior forever.

Here are ten benefits of personalizing the promise of eternal life:

  1. Puts the focus of salvation where it ought to be – on God and not on us. 
  2. Provides a way to live with a new confidence. 
  3. Gives real hope at the moment of death. 
  4. Gives us proper motivation to pray for sinning believers. 
  5. Builds the Christian life upon love and gratitude – not doubt and fear. 
  6. Produces a life of love, faith and obedience to God. 
  7. Puts the “Good News” back in the gospel. 
  8. Helps us get back up when we fall because we don’t lose our salvation when we stumble.
  9. Points us toward heaven and to our eternal rewards.
  10. Helps us live on mission.  Illus.  Block Party…Backwater Gamblers…Going over to some friends of neighbors tonight…Remember to utilize Sunday nights for neighboring this summer.  Read off some ideas from Green Card…go on a walk…hang out in front of your house…have a neighbor over for ice cream…see a need, meet a need.

In his book, How to Begin the Christian Life, George Sweeting suggests that doubting our salvation is like a prisoner who has been pardoned by the Governor.  A guard brings him the document that is signed and sealed.  Supposed you ask the man, “Have you been pardoned?”  He will say, “Yes.”  If you were to ask, “Do you feel pardoned?” he may say, “No, I don’t.  It’s all so sudden.”  “But if you don’t feel pardoned how do you know you are pardoned?” “Oh,” the man replies, “it tells me so right here on this paper.”  

The promise of our pardon is spelled out in a document as well.  The Word of God contains all the promises of God.  When you don’t feel forgiven, put your faith in the Word.  When you doubt whether you’re going to make it, make it your practice to claim God’s promise of eternal life.  Memorize John 10:27-30 and 1 John 5:13.  If you’re having a hard time personalizing the promise of eternal life, read the entire Gospel of John and then read 1 John.

This past Thursday I ran the Bix@6 with around 15 other Edgewood runners.  I finished the race but was almost finished by what I ate for lunch.  I don’t know what I was thinking but I had a gyros sandwich!  Let’s just say that I don’t recommend this training regimen.  I made it up Brady fine but wasn’t sure if was going to make it to the end.  

And then I saw something that gave me renewed energy.  Sprinting in front of me was a Marine carrying the Marine flag.  I thanked him for his service and tried to keep my eyes on the flag as he weaved around other slow runners who might have also been regretting their gyros.  I eventually lost sight of him and slowed down again.  But then I saw a banner on a light post for the Bix.  Under the logo was a picture of a man with this caption, “I’ve done all 40!”  If this guy could run the Bix 40 times, then certainly I could finish.

That leads me to this question.  If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?  Are you sure?  I can’t think of anything more tragic than to have the sense that you’re saved only to find out that you’re not.  Check out Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [What’s the will of the Father?  To believe in His Son] Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’   Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’”

If you want to make sure about your salvation you can pray a prayer like this…

Lord Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner and I’m making a mess of my life.  I know I cannot save myself.  I believe that you are the Son of God and that you died on the cross as my substitute and that you rose from the dead on the third day.  I turn from the way I’ve been living by repenting and ask you to forgive me for all my sins.  I believe and now I receive the free gift of eternal life.  I trust you now as my Lord and Savior.  With all that I am, and all that I have, I give myself to you.  Make me into the kind of person you want me to be.  Thanks for the certainty of knowing that once you save me I will be safe with you forever.  In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen. 

This is so important that I don’t want you to leave without having an opportunity to identify yourself with Jesus Christ.  If you just committed yourself to Christ as expressed in the prayer we just prayed, I’m going to ask you to raise your hand in a minute.  Romans 10:9-10 says, “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.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

If you committed yourself to Christ, you now need to confess Christ.  If you’re saved, you’re secure and now its time to say so by raising your hand.  Would you do that right now?  Now, if you’re ready to do so, would you slip out while we stand to sing “In Christ Alone”?  Come up front and one of the pastors will pray for you and give you some information about baptism, which is your next step.


Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?