My youth group recently began a study on “The End: Hard Questions About Eternity.” In preparation for that series, I sent a survey to students asking for their questions about heaven, hell, along with other issues. The overwhelmingly most common question was this:
What if I don’t go to heaven?
What if I go to hell?
This isn’t a fear that only teenagers struggle with. I’ve talked with many Christians who struggle with assurance of their salvation and eternal destiny. Assurance is simply confidence that something will happen… so the question is this: Is there eternal assurance for the Christian?
The Foundation of the Christian’s Assurance
Simply put, the foundation of Christian assurance is the gospel, which proclaims good news that God saves sinners. Sinners don’t save themselves (they can’t!). Instead, it is God who rescued and adopted Christians through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By our faith in Jesus, we are saved.
“For you are saved by grace through faith,
and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift
— not from works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 (CSB)
I’ve emphasized the verse above for a reason. No one’s salvation is earned… it’s always a gift of grace, purchased for us by Jesus Christ. Since we didn’t earn it, and since it’s a gift, we can be assured that nothing we do (or don’t do) will lose it for us.
Here’s the truth: Salvation isn’t about us, it’s a gift for us. So next time you feel like you’re not a “good enough” Christian, or like you’re not impressive enough or godly enough or whatever… remember that was never the reason for your salvation in the first place. Your salvation is purely the work of God, and he worked in you so that you would recognize the gift and receive it. You didn’t do anything except receive it… so why could you work your way out of it?
Living With Assurance
If you have confessed your sin, repented from sin, and professed faith in Jesus Christ as God and savior then you are a Christian. What, then, does a life of eternal assurance look like?
- Believe God (don’t just believe in him). God is not an idea, but a living Person (Trinity). Christianity is about more than a set of theological ideas… because those theological truths describe our real, personal, and holy God. Trust God, not merely ideas about him.
- Receive the Gift (don’t work for a paycheck). Our new life in Christ is the “effect” of salvation, not the “cause” of it. Receive the gift, then live out from the acceptance you’ve received because of Jesus’ finished-work.
- View today’s joys and struggles in light of God’s promise (don’t live with a worldly, here-and-now mindset). Because we believe God, and because we have received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, then we live with a different viewpoint on the world. We know that God uses both suffering and victories in order to make us more like him and to show the unbelieving world that God’s promise is greater than the worst and the best this world has to offer.
If you’re a Christian who has struggled with assurance of salvation, consider talking with a pastor or another mature Christian who can remind you of the gospel. If you’re not a Christian, but you’re fearful and worried about eternity, consider the weight of sin and the promise of God to forgive and redeem sinners who repent and trust in Jesus Christ. God is faithful.
May 2, 2017 at 8:45 am
Hi Mike! At the moment I’m very interested in the book of Hebrews and what it says about obedience and perseverence being prerequisites for salvation. I noticed you didn’t mention this in your article so I would love to get your thoughts in relation to the following scriptures:
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end (Hebrews 3:14)
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11)
And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9)
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Hebrews 10:26-38 (I won’t quote here because it’s quite long, but please look up).
Hebrews 12:14-17 (As above)
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven (Hebrews 12:25)
Thanks Mike, I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts.
May 2, 2017 at 9:36 pm
Hi Steven. Thanks for the comment and question.
My non-exegetically-detailed response is this: Hebrews was written to Jewish men and women in order to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah/Christ and fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. Therefore, I would expect that many of the above passages were written to fellow Jews to urge them to “fulfill” their Jewish heritage through receiving the messiah, otherwise they will be rejected and no longer true “children of Abraham.”
Again, please forgive me for not taking time to dig through and respond to each verse above, but this would be my initial gut response.
There are other verses people point to as evidence that you can fall away from Christ, though I am persuaded the overwhelming emphasis is on our security in Christ and there are other emphases those verses about “falling away” are trying to make that do not erode the doctrine of “perseverance of the saints.”
I hope this helps.
August 28, 2017 at 9:34 pm
You say //If you have confessed your sin, repented from sin, and professed faith in Jesus Christ as God and savior then you are a Christian. //
I’d like to say I don’t believe we see anywhere in Scripture that you must repent of sin in order to receive eternal life. It’s a good thing for believers to do, in fact even a righteous thing, but we are told over and over again what we must do in Scripture and the sole requirement is to believe upon Christ and Him Crucified.
Turning from sin is a work of righteousness, it’s a work of the law, please see Jonah 3:9-10 and also Numbers 5:6-7, where OT believers were asked to confess and repent of sins, so as a work of the law, neither can be added to salvation.
Dear Pastor, please consider again making the gospel clearer. We see the gospel in 1 Cor 15:3-4, and it is all His work, and none of ours.
If we have to turn from sins, how many, for how long, how sincere? We could never know. In Christ, Holly at redeemingmoments.com
August 28, 2017 at 9:38 pm
Obeying Him is seen and expressed in Romans 10:14-17 and remember also in Galatians that they had stopped obeying the truth, they’d be hindered.
Hebrews speaks of rest, obedience, not trampling the Son of God underfoot, or not respecting His blood as Holy, or insulting the Spirit of grace. These Jewish believers were considering going back under the law/the sacrifice in order to avoid persecution. The writer is telling them there is no longer a sacrifice for sins, and they can’t do this, Christ paid once, by one sacrifice, and He perfected them FOREVER by this one sacrifice (Heb 10:10,14).
I’d respectfully suggest expreacherman.com, look at ‘difficult passages’ link above, some of those passages are expounded upon. I hope this was o.k. to answer, I have not read you before, just saw you go by in my list.
August 28, 2017 at 10:22 pm
Hi Holly, this comment has funny timing. I usually post my new articles on Mondays, but because of summer vacation I was out with my family today and didn’t finish the newest post that was already half written… and it’s precisely on whether or not repentance is necessary for salvation.
I’ll let that post be my response to your comments here, but I will share that you and I will disagree on this matter. I firmly believe that both confession and repentance are essential to saving faith; and without repentance, confession isn’t genuine.
Disagreements aside, I do appreciate your comments above and I welcome voices in the comment section who disagree with me. There have certainly been times when people have brought to light places where I was unclear or incomplete in what I wrote… so please don’t be a stranger.