Who said believers will not be judged? Heretic, hell-populating Bible Teachers will say that. Because their final court of appeal is not the Bible. But this: “Whatever sounds like music to people’s ears!”. Sad! Terrible! Deplorable! And what’s more the rise of such cultic false teachers is predicted in the Bible (see 2 Tim. 4:3 which goes this way: ‘For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables’).
The Bible says, like others believers will be judged. Romans 14:10 is clear: “We all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
I Cor. 3:13-15 does not teach believers living in sin will be excused on judgement day. If Paul meant that why would he write in SAME BOOK this: “Or do you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not men who practice homosexuality will inherit the Kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9). What I Cor. 3:13-15 is teaching is this: we will be rewarded as per the quality of ministry we do. This should concern the hyper-grace cult folks a lot. They have lowered and flouted Bible standards just as a fleshly way to attract crowds. They have made MBA Marketing Principles (‘always look to please the customer as your customer is god’) as their Bible.
However, for me the Bible is the final court of appeal, not MBA Marketing Techniques. I Cor. 3:13-15 does not teach that those stubborn-in-sin if they are believers will be somehow be saved. This is how I Cor. 3:13-15 reads (for those of us who are not familiar with those verses Apostle Paul penned): their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
David Pawson’s brilliance in explaining this verse – I Cor. 3:15 and what is above it – is simply unbeatable: “Once again, the whole verse needs to be quoted, including the first clause: ‘If it is burned up….’ If what is burned up? What a man has ‘built’ during his ministry to the body of Christ., whether ‘pioneer’ or ‘maintenance’ (here pictured as planting and watering). In other words, what is being judged here is a believer’s service, not his sins. There are great variations in quality of service. The fire of divine judgment will leave some intact (like gold, silver, and costly stones) but bring others to nothing (like wood, hay and stubble). But someone who at least sought to serve the Lord will survive, even though he is left with nothing to show for his labor or deserving a reward. That this is irrelevant to a believer’s sins, as distinct from his service, is immediately apparent from the very next verses: ‘Don’t you know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him’ (I Cor. 3:16-17). In this context, the sin is to divide the Church into jealous and quarreling groups who ‘follow’ different servants of Christ rather than Christ himself. Elsewhere he applies the same charge to sexual immorality (I Cor. 6:18-19). We may get away with poor service (but only just), but WE WILL NOT GET AWAY WITH SIN!” (David Pawson, Once Saved, Always Saved?, page 160-161).
If I Cor. 3:15 taught that the worst thing that can happen to a believer on the day of judgment was only a reward-in-heaven loss, but never a place-in-heaven loss, why would Paul write in the SAME BOOK, this: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified” (I Cor. 9:27). Paul had a healthy fear that he would be disqualified from heaven, if kept yielding to his body’s desires (in our context – he kept watching porn, he kept indulging in sexual immorality, etc). This view is further underlined by this fact: the next chapter – I Corinthians 10 – warns New Testament believers that they could be ‘destroyed’ (go to hell), if they indulged in sin with impunity (vs. 9,10,11). So Paul did not subscribe to the meaning and implication the hyper-grace cult teachers ascribe to I Corinthians 3:13-15. So, when Paul writes, “he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved”, he did mean this: God will not send anyone to hell, because of low ministry quality. But he clearly did not mean what the hyper-grace cultists teach: “God will not send any believer to hell, even if they live in stubborn sin!” If Paul believed this lie, he will not have penned I Cor. 6:9-11 (HELL FOR BELIEVERS STUBBORN IN SIN), I Cor. 9:27 (HELL FOR EVEN STUBBORN-IN-PREACHERS) and I COR. 10 (THE GOD WHO DESTROYED HIS STUBBORN-IN-SIN PEOPLE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT WONT HESITATE TO DO THE SAME FOR NEW TESTAMENT PEOPLE OF GOD DOING THE SAME THING).
Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission (G4 Mission – www.dukev.org). This is a listener/reader supported Indian ministry to presentday people functioning since 2006.
Uncle David Pawson, the most original Bible Teacher in the whole wide world according to me, is now with Jesus!
In the year 1992, Uncle R. Stanley invited him to preach in the Bible Lovers Camp of BYM in Danishpet, Salem, Tamil Nadu. I was 17 then (having just preached my first sermon in Ida Scudder School Vellore, a few months earlier).
In a talents competition in the camp I recited a Jimmy Swaggart message on hell. I also won the first prize in the daily tests conducted based on uncle Pawson’s messages in the same camp. My gift was this book – ‘The Road to Hell’ by uncle Pawson with uncle Stanley himself writing the congratulations message on the book. [Later, I would found an organisation with the word Hell (Gehenna) in its very name – in 2006]! Uncle Pawson was gutsy in writing this book, as he biblically and brilliantly opposed the mild annihilation view of hell which John Stott (the world’s leading evangelical then) had, inexplicably, promoted. I had the joy of receiving the prize from the book’s author itself.
I traveled with him by car to Vellore post the meeting. He told me: ‘Duke will preach like Duke and he will not copy anyone else!’ The original Duke Jeyaraj was born that day!
Later when I did what I could to warn the Google Generation about the hell-populating Hypergrace cult, I returned to uncle Pawson resources to find solid Cult-answering Bible Teaching. I bought his book ‘Once Saved, Always Saved?’ in this connection via Amazon. I never searched for a book with more ferocity like how I searched for this book and finally got it (it was couriered from overseas)!
I have used material from his book, Truth to Tell, to prepare evangelistic messages. It was his book on the Second Coming titled, When Jesus Returns, which made me realise this: “many top Bible Teachers believe in one Second coming of Jesus, one judgement, and heaven and hell post that!” His book, Word and Spirit Together, inspired me to chase both the Presence of God and Word of God with equal fervor.
I often referred to uncle Pawson’s book, The Normal Christian Birth, when I wrote a tract (my first tract of any sort) on the importance of immersion water baptism for adult believers as a student of Allahabad Agricultural Institute (1993-1997).
When I did a Bible Study for each of the 66 Bible Books in Hyderabad – a process that took seven years as we met only once a month as a small group of people from different churches and varied walks of life – I often would return to Uncle Pawson’s book, Unlocking the Bible, for wisdom.
I used material from one of his little books when I preached on Why God Allows Natural Disasters in a flat in Gachibowli, Hyderabad (a message for modern young working professionals).
I can safely say that his awesome use of alliteration in his writings and sermons have made his bible material even more memorable. For example, in his book, The Road To Hell, all the chapters begin with R (The Residue, The Retreat, The Reality, The Risk, The Rescue, The Reverse, The Relevance). Not just that – even the sub-points are arranged with coined words. For example in the chapter where David Pawson talks about Rescue From Hell he uses these carefully crafted words: Father’s affections, Son’s atonement, Spirit’s assistance, Believer’s adherence (notice the “a” rain in the sub-point?) But you know what – uncle Pawson, never would make a big deal of this pain-staking-efforts-in-preparation presentation style of his. He would say: “Even dogs speak in alliteration. They go ‘bow, wow’ – don’t they?!” How humble!
Praising God for uncle Pawson! Though I am no patch on him, we have some similarities! We both left the field of agriculture to do full-time ministry! We both are non-pastoral evangelists/Bible Teachers! We both try to use alliteration/rhyming words in our writings/sermons!
In a span of few days Christendom has lost its greatest apologist and its Bible Teacher! The baton is passed to our generation! Will we measure up?
A news report about American cyclist and cancer-survivor, Lance Armstrong set me thinking: “Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, who has already had his record seven Tour de France victories wiped from the record books, could now be stripped of the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour. Armstrong was awarded the title Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in 2005 in recognition of his seventh Tour win, but moves are now afoot to have the honour rescinded, according to a spokesman for the order. In January, Armstrong, 41, admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his record seven Tour de France championships from 1999-2005. He was stripped of all seven Tour titles last year after a devastating report by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which accused the cyclist of taking part in one of the biggest cheating operations in sports history.” (thestar.com.my, 2 March 2013 post). If a sports person could loose the titles he won, because he was a willfully committing fraud to win those titles, then are we correct in affirming that we will lose our salvation if we willfully live in sin?
‘Can a saved person ever be lost?’- this all-important head-splitting question has boggled and divided Christians world-wide down through the centuries. Differences over peripheral and circumferential doctrines can be over looked. But as this question involves a doctrine at the heart of the Christian faith – salvation – this question needs careful unpacking, so that believers can come to an agreement over it – an agreement based on truth. In this article (which I first wrote while I was still in Bible college during the years, 1998-2001), I attempt to face the above eternal-destiny affecting question squarely and come up with my conclusion.
THE DOCTRINE OF ‘ETERNAL SECURITY’ – THE VARIOUS VIEWS STATED
Let’s put the doctrine we are debating about in ‘black and white’ in the words of Dr.Robert Raymond, a leading Reformed Theologian:
“Every true child of God, that is, every person whom the father chose in Christ before the foundation of the world and for whom Christ died, whom the Father effectively called by his word and Spirit unto repentance toward God and Faith in Jesus Christ, and whom he consequently justified and adopted unto his family, and who is consequently justified and adopted unto his family, and who is consequently growing in grace, will never come into condemnation. That person can never be finally lost and is eternally secure. By virtue of God’s preserving grace he or she will certainly persevere in the state of salvation and be finally and eternally saved.”
Theologians like Howard Marshall, however, warn that believers can backslide from the faith and consequently be damned if they don’t persevere in their faith. Now the stage is set for thorough check to see which position is biblical and correct.
THE DOCTRINE’S HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT
Augustine was among the first to reach the doctrine of unconditional salvation. Calvin believed all saints could eventually persevere and their free will had no part to play. Arminius, a Dutch Pastor, challenged Methodist Church founder John Wesley saying that saints had no right to be certain of their salvation. Arminius strongly believed that a saved person could go to hell if he chose to rebel against God. John Wesley put it this way, in-effect: “God does give sufficient grace to persevere, but it is up to us to whether or not we receive this grace.” At any time, we can choose against God and be lost, he warned.
India’s President Pranab Mukherjee is setting a record of sorts by sending a record number of convicts to the gallows, like no Indian President has. The rate at which he is sending convicts to the gallows is akin to the rate Virender Sehwag scores runs or the speed with which Usian Bolt sprints! He rejected the mercy petition of Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of the team of 10 that attacked India on 26/11/2008, to have him hanged. He quashed the mercy plea of Afzal Guru accused of playing a role in the 2001 Parliament Terror attack, to have him hanged, shortly later. The Times of India reported that ‘President Pranab Mukherjee has cleared the road to the gallows for four associates of slain forest brigand Veerappan by rejecting their mercy petitions’ (on 13 Feb., 2013). Pranab by his actions is promoting this principle: no mercy will be shown for those who commit callous crimes! In the same way there are some Bible Scholars who have arisen over the years to promote this teaching: no heaven for believers who deliberately live in sin!
Some of the twentieth century’s outstanding Bible teachers and scholars like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Carl Henry and James Packer were hardened believers in the perseverance of saints – the doctrine of ‘eternal security’ that is. But in the last 40 years, a new crop of theologians like Clark H.Pinnock, Howard Marshall, and David Pawson have arisen to warn believers about the real danger falling away from the faith – if they would chose to do so. In defense of their opinion they give three lines of evidence – along logic, along philosophy and along Scripture. Let us take them up one by one.
SCRIPTURE EVIDENCE AGAINST ETERNAL SECURITY
(A) OLD TESTAMENT TEACHING
(1) Salvation was conditional from beginning
To the dejected Cain, who offered his second-best to him, God said, ‘it will be accepted if you respond the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out!’(Gen 4:7, NLT). Cain bunked the condition and was rejected. The New Testament writers warn us about his way. It is a way to cheat ourselves because it rejects God’s pre-condition for salvation. Cain refused ‘if condition’ and he left the presence (gen 4:16)
(2) Salvation was conditional in Abrahamic Covenant
The “As for you” of Abraham in Genesis 17:9 balances the “As for me” of God in Genesis 17:4. His faith must be accompanied by “obedience that comes from faith” (Rom 1:5).
(3) Salvation was conditional in the Sinaitic Covenant
Before God signs off the Sinaitic covenant it is punctuated by eternal ‘if’ clauses. In fact the list of curses for covenant disobedience is usually much longer than that of blessings for obedience (as in Vs 3-13 in Leviticus 26).
(4) The IF Condition in the Davidic Covenant
The ‘If’ clause here can’t be missed. The Lord’s words to David about Solomon confirm this: ‘Your son Solomon will build my temple and its courtyards, for I have chosen him…And if he continues to obey my commands and regulations as he does now, I will make his kingdom last forever’(1 Chro 28:6,7 NLT).
(5) The IF condition in the prophets
The ‘If ‘clause here is crystal clear. Isaiah stressed this “if” factor in his message to Israel: ‘If you will only obey me and let me help you, then you will have plenty to eat. But if you keep turning away and refuse to listen, you will be destroyed by your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken’ (Isa 1:19, 20 NLT). Prophet Azariah’s words to king Asa is perhaps most famous “if” statement in the Bible – 2 Chronicles 7:14. Jeremiah famous ‘temple sermon’ has this again: “If you stop exploiting foreign orphans and widows; and if you stop your murdering, and if you stop worshiping idols as you now do to your harm. Then I will let you stay in the Land I gave to your ancestors to keep forever” (Jer 7:6,7). Prophet Ezekiel preached the same: ‘But if wicked people turn from their wickedness and do what is just and right they will live’. In the last book of the Old Testament this ‘if’ message appears again: ‘if you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honour my name.’ says the Lord Almighty, I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings!’(Mal 2:2).
British Nobel laureate Rudiyard Kipling wrote these famous lines in his poem, If, in the days of old (in 1895): “If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster; And treat those two impostors just the same… If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue; Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch…. Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it; And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” We would be wise to grasp that we can indeed lose our salvation if we not careful from the ‘if’ statements in the Old Testament which the above paragraphs have talked about.
Let’s invite Guy Duty to seal this argument from Old Testament for us: “There are 63 ‘if’ texts in the Old Testament to prove the Jewish Covenant are conditional. From God’s ‘if’ to Cain, to Malachi ‘if’ to his priests, the unified testimony of Scripture gives full approval to our doctrine of conditional salvation.”
Let us now turn our attention to New Testament:
(B) NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING
Three types of Scripture passages can be used to bust the doctrine ‘Eternal Security’.
(1) Exhortations to continue in the faith – an exploration
The following scriptures will seem ludicrous if there was no possibility of a believer falling away: ‘But all of you who endure to the end shall be saved’ (Math.10:22). ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples’ (John 8:31, RSV); “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is dead wood, gathered up and thrown on bonfire” (John 15:56); “Keep your eyes open for spiritual danger, stand true to the Lord”(1 Cor. 16:13); “For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end”(Heb. 3:14); “Don’t quit, even if it costs your life. Stay there believing. I have life-crown sized and ready for you”(Rev 2:10); “Keep tight grip on what you have ,so one distracts you and steal your crown” (Rev 3:11).
I would like to quote Renowned Charismatic Systematic Theologian, J. Rodman Williams (1918-2008) at this point. I picked up my first theology book much before I landed up in a Bible College. When I was a student in Allahabad Agricultural Institute (1993-97), my dad gifted me a ‘hurt’ copy of first book of Rodman Williams’ three-book systematic theology book series. I devoured it. I taught the precious Bible lessons I learnt from that book to small groups of interested fellow students in hostel rooms. This was how God trained me to lead Bible Studies. By now, it has been my privilege to lead Bible Book summaries of 54 Bible books. He says in-effect, “Although God’s grace is unconditional in the Bible, and there is nothing there in the Bible for us to believe in unconditional perseverance of saved people still living in sin.” Starting from 1 Corinthians 10:12 – ‘So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!’ – He lists the conditions for perseverance, arranging a gamete of Scripture verses under each condition. They are our abiding (1 John 2:24-25; Heb 2:1,3.Jn 15:3-4,6,7), our continuing (Col 1:21-23; Rom 11:11,22; 1 Tim 4:16), our enduring (2 Tim 2:10-12; Heb 10:34-39, Mt 24:12,13), our firmness (Heb 3:1-6, 2 Peter 1:10-11,5-7;2:1,20,21) and our faithfulness (Rev 2:10, 2:4-5, Heb 3:1-6, Heb 6:4-8).
Knowing such emphasis will attract an accusation “This is not salvation by good works,” he brilliantly quotes Peter. “We are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”, he teaches quoting Peter (1 Peter 1:5). We are saved by faith. And we guard our faith by faith. Yes, we are saved by faith and not works. But if that faith is alone and is not expressed through works, that faith is not real, saving faith (the message of the book of James is this very thing).
The second set of scripture passages which question unconditional perseverance of saints are found below:
(2) Warnings against apostasy/backsliding
2 Peter 3:17 says, “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall your secure position.” Peter couldn’t have stated this better. 2 Peter 3:18, in fact, expresses the same warnings in the positive terms: ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ If there was no real possibility of a believer permanently backsliding, that one has to admit Spirit-inspired writers of scripture were joking here or I dare say, lying (trying to deceive)! In a discussion like this, we cannot leave out the famous passage in Hebrews 6:4-8. Commenting on this key text, Grant R. Osborne says, ‘In conclusion we must say there is no more powerful or detailed description of the true Christian in the New Testament, yet one has to be stone-blinded not to note that they were in the real peril of falling away.’ Grant Osborne summarizes brilliantly the danger of apostasy so persuasively and passionately presented in the book of Hebrews this way: pay attention, lest you drift away, 2:1-4; do not harden your heart, lest you fail, 3:1-19; fear not, lest you fall short, 4:1-13; press on, lest you fall away, 5:11-6:12; hold fast, lest you die, 10:19-39; be careful, lest you fall short, 12:1-17.
Steve Jobs, the late Apple CEO said, “Apple has some tremendous assets, but I believe without some attention, the company could, could, could — I’m searching for the right word — could, could die.” When one reads the above paragraph we would agree that the Scripture clearly teaches, “A believer is given the tremendous gift of Salvation when he repents and trusts Christ, but without actively remaining in Christ, the believer could die in sin to go to hell and burn there forever and forever!”
The third collection of Scriptures that shake the foundations of the ‘once saved, always saved doctrine’ –
(3) Cases of actual apostasy/backsliding
In the parable of the Sower, Jesus spoke of those ‘who believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away’ (Luke 8:13). Jesus clearly predicted, ‘At that time many will turn away from the faith. The love of most will grow cold’ (Math. 24:10, 12). Obviously it would be stupid of Jesus to talk of them ‘turning away from faith’ if they weren’t in the faith – they were genuine believers – in the first place – something Calvinists always rush to deny. 1 Timothy 4:19 is blunt: some have shipwrecked their faith! Demas – a fellow-preacher in Paul’s ministry team – deserted Paul and perhaps even the Christian faith for ‘he loved the world’ (2 Tim. 4:10). Peter described some teachers in the church who had known the way of righteousness yet turned their backs on the sacred commandment that was passed on to them (2 Peter 2:20-22). If they had turned their backs of the sacred commandments then without a shadow of doubt they had their faces set on the commandments – they were believers – once upon a time! But they became apostate. Finally, Revelation 22:19 shows that some can have their names removed from the book of life. Another example of actual apostasy could be Ananias and Sapphira. F.F.Bruce writes, “We cannot be sure that they were not believers, unless we are prepared to say that no one who is guilty of a deliberate deceit can be a true Christian. The thrust of the Simon Magus narrative in Acts leads us to conclude that there was a possibility of serious sin by the members of the church which could lead to their exclusion from eternal life, but at the same time there was a possibility of their repentance and restoration. In the Bible the root word for faith and faithfulness is the same. One can’t have one without the other.”
Prophets of eternal security will rush to quote their favourite proof texts in response to the above. Those texts deserves a second look.
THE ‘WHAT ABOUT……?’ PASSAGES: EXEGETICAL NOTES ON TEXTS USED BY THE ‘ONCE SAVED – ALWAYS SAVED’ GROUP
Calvanists (the ‘once saved, always saved’ group) quote Jesus prayer that the father would keep the disciples (John 17:11, 15, 24), even as He had kept them as proof of eternal security of believers. But the very fact, Jesus is praying for them is proof that Jesus understood the real danger of them being lost for otherwise they would not need to be guarded. According to Howard Mars, John 17 should not be seen in isolation from John 15:16 and John 16 which warn the disciples about ‘falling away.’ John 10:28,29 and John 5:24 is another favourite ‘proof text’ for the ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine believers. But this should not be divorced from John 10:2 which records Jesus’ words thus: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” It is to be noted that all the verbs in this verse – especially the verb ‘hear’ – is in present indicative sense in Greek original. Robert Shank notes, “The honest characteristic of the Greek present indicative is that it denotes the action is in progress.” There the incredible promise – “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them away from me” – is only of whom Jesus can say, “My sheep keep listening to my voice, and they keep following me!” Wuest’s translation of John 5:24, where-in he correctly retains the present tense (‘having eternal life’) argues powerfully against using it as a text for a eternal security: “Most assuredly, I am saying to you He who habitually hears my word and is believing the one whom he has sent me, has life eternal …..” David Pawson brilliantly flows along this thought line when he showed in his video lecture summarizing the message of the book of Hebrews (in his ‘Unlocking the Bible’ series), that “these people (the Old-Testament believers of Hebrews 11) was still living by faith when they died” (Heb 11:13). This clearly shows that faith should be a present possession for a believer to make the eternal security promises work for him.
Greg Chappell, India’s former coach wrote the following lines about Virender Sehwag, “Despite my frustrations with him during my tenure as Indian coach I could not help but love him. He is, after all, a loveable rogue. And he can bat better than most. In fact, he is the most gifted ball striker that I have seen…..To say that Viru was one of the great frustrations of my time with the team is an understatement. Sadly, he continues to disappoint and is in danger of squandering his God-given talent. The person who is least likely to be fazed by all of this is Virender himself. What I soon learned about him was that Viru did not want to dedicate himself to taking his talent to its zenith. He was happy to turn up and play and accept what came his way. No amount of cajoling from me could shift him from his insouciant way. This often happens to those with the greatest gift. Because he had never had to work hard at developing such a skill, Viru did not know how to dedicate himself to disciplined training. It was only during periods of relative poor form that he was prepared to spend time getting things back on track. As soon as he made some runs he slipped back into old habits and appeared content to practise in the same old profligate way; until his form evaporated again… He wants the prize, but has been unwilling to pay the price” (The Hindu, Sept. 27, 2012). What Chappell wrote about Sehwag here, I believe, is someway applicable to what the Bible teaches to believers who don’t take efforts with God’s help to guard their God-given free gift of salvation. Believers are in the real danger of squandering their God-given gift of salvation by refusing stubbornly to remain in Christ while at the same time being lazy and lethargic in their battle against sin.
There are those who point to Bible passages where it says the Holy Spirit has ‘sealed’ us ‘eternally’ for redemption to argue for eternal security of one’s salvation. In response I would like to quote a Bible Teacher who wrote the following on gospelway.com:Some people mistakenly use such passages to claim that, since we have the Holy Spirit as a “guarantee,” we cannot lose salvation – “once saved always saved.” However, the “earnest” shows good intention on God’s part; but that in no way guarantees the faithfulness of the humans in keeping our part of the agreement. It is not uncommon, in human transactions, for a party to back out of a purchase or violate a contract after earnest money has been paid. The point here is that God will not back out, if we keep our part of the agreement. But if we humans do not keep our part of the covenant, God is surely not required to provide us eternal life. He can and will then withdraw His earnest, and we lose our reward. That was correctly put. Even David acknowledged that the Holy Spirit could take the liberty of leaving him when he was living in open rebellion against God. That’s why he prayed this prayer post his repentance from the Bathsheba affair: “Do not take your Holy Spirit from me!” (Psa 51:11).
THEOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS AGAINST ETERNAL SECURITY
When shown outrageously clear proofs in scripture that once saved people were lost, Calvinists like J. Stanley Grenz of Regent College conveniently hide behind arguments articulated thus: “Those who forsake the faith may someday return to faith, because the indwelling Spirit will complete the saving mission. Or they may never repent of their apostasy, revealing thereby that they were genuinely converted.”
Howard Marshall takes on this view with tact. He says that if the Calvinists theory were true, the warnings in the Bible would necessary take such forums as: ‘Make sure that you are really converted, beware lest what you think is an experience of salvation by faith is really nothing of the kind.’ But the sorts of warnings are not there in Scripture. Put otherwise, the positive command is not to begin to be a genuine believer but to continue and persevere in the faith which one already has.
Calvinists (the group that teaches Eternal Security for salvation) allege that Armenians who emphasize human faith in one’s salvation destroys its purely gracious character. This is simply not the truth. The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms faith is no work at all (Rom. 4:16). It is simply the surrender of the will to God, the stretching out of an empty hand to receive the gift of grace, argues Clark Pinnock. In an act of faith we pour scorn at our self-righteousness. Faith, as a means of salvation and security doesn’t encourage conceit and self-esteem – it actually excludes it.
PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENT AGAINST ETERNAL SECURITY
The doctrine of eternal security teaches that God over-rides human free of the believer to secure him forever. This creates serious philosophical problems for the Christians who believe in an absolutely good God. If God has to by-pass human free will to secure salvation for believers, he becomes guilty of the greatest sin! Apologist Norman Giesler argues along these lines: Love is the greatest good for all free creatures, but love is impossible without freedom. So only if freedom were destroyed, overridden, God can provide eternal security for believers. That would be evil itself because it would deprive free man of his greatest good – freedom. Hence if God bypasses human free will to secure believers eternally, he would be committing a sin. And that is a philosophical impossibility!
Let me illustrate the above paragraph in a practical way. Those who teach that there is ‘eternal’ security for believers invariably imply that God has made us all mere robots sans a free will. But the Bible consistently teaches us that God has indeed given us a free will. In the Old Testament we read Joshua’s classic words: “But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). In the New Testament we read Jesus’ shocking words to his chosen disciples: “Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67). Both these verses are among the many in the Bible that teach we have a free will. If we believed in the eternal security doctrine and that God secures our free will to serve him permanently, we, in-effect do not believe he has given us a free-will! God will make our free will permanent only on the day of judgment. On that day he might say to some of us, this: “You chose not to have fellowship with me while you were on this earth for these sixty-seventy years! Instead, you deliberately chose to rebel against me and play games with me. Now, I will make permanent, that choice your made using your free will. Today, I will freeze your free will choice to wallow in sin while turning your back on me. Depart then to eternal hell, a place in which humans cannot have fellowship with me, and live there forever and forever in everlasting torment!”
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF NOT BELIEVING ETERNAL SECURITY
It certainly challenges the believer to test ourselves to make sure, you are solid in the faith and we don’t drift along taking everything for granted [2 Cor 13:5]. David Pawson points out ‘There is a beautiful balance in the New Testament between our responsibility to keep ourselves in God’s love (Jude 21) and his ability to keep us from falling (Jude 24). We can be cocksure about the faith that God will not and cannot fail to do what he has promised. The bail is in our court. We will do well if this understand drives us to say with the great apostle Paul, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. I’m not going to get caught napping telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself’ (I Cor 9:24-27).
Billy Graham was once asked by the media, what his first reaction would be when he got to heaven. In an instant, he replied, “I would be relived!” He agreed what Puritan, John Bunyan wrote in his classic book, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” which went this way: “Then I saw that there way a way to Hell, even from the gates of Heaven.”
This doctrine which leaves the possibility of losing salvation open produces serious Christians who don’t play games with God. Though this study has not been exhaustive, one can say with confidence, in the light of the above study, that believers may lose their salvation if they chose to live in constant rebellion against God. The following scripture is a fitting conclusion to this absorbing theological debate of paramount importance to the Christian life:
If we endure hardship, we will reign with him If we deny him, he will deny us – 2 Timothy 2:12 NLT
In the Bible, we do have an example of a person who was once believed and was even baptised, only to be told by one of the Apostles that he could ‘perish’ with the money he dearly loved, if he did not repent (See Acts 8:13, 20-22). Perhaps, if you have gone away from God would you also repent, instead of hoping falsely that you will be saved on the final day, as you were once saved someday in the past?
(Written with the help of commentaries, study Bibles and personal reflection.)
Note – God bless Prathyusha Nakka, our ministry volunteer, for taking time to type this Hand-Written Term Paper which Duke wrote as a student of Masters in Divinity in Southern Asia Bible College, Bangalore, 1998-2001. To know more about Duke’s ministry visit http://www.dukev.org. WhatsApp him at 91-8886040605
Dr. Duke Jeyaraj examines this bizarre teaching put forth by a Chennai Hyper-Grace cult pastor in biblical light
During a seminar in Hyderabad, a Chennai based hyper-grace pastor used a combination of Revelation 21:25 (a verse that says heaven’s doors will not be shut) and Revelation 22:17 (a verse that says, ‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”’) to elucidate a point that there is a real possibility for those who have gone to hell (‘the lake of fire’) to make it to heaven. Here are the two verses in question printed in full: Revelation 21:25 – “In the daytime (for these will be no night there) it gates will never be closed”(NASB); Revelation 22:17 – ‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost’(NASB).
The question here before us is this: Can those in the lake of fire, when they positively respond to the “come” of the Spirit and the Bride (which can be taken to mean the church)(Rev. 22:17), move from hell to heaven? Is this ‘hell to heaven’ teaching (that is the phrase I will use in the rest of this article for this teaching), straight from heaven? Is it from God? Is it Biblical?
I want to use the acronym H-E-L-L to give an answer that is not only scriptural but also, hopefully, is memorable:
H-IS TEACHING (JESUS’ TEACHING) ON “HELL TO HEAVEN” TEACHING:
I am referring to Jesus’ teaching here. From Jesus’ teaching, we know without a shadow of doubt that those in hell, cannot come to heaven. Once a person goes to hell, he cannot come to heaven. Jesus’ understanding about this is reflected in His narration of the conversation between the Rich Man who went to Hades and a beggar named Lazarus who went to Abraham’s side. Hades is just one of the many phrases Jesus used to refer Hell and Abraham’s side for Heaven [I say this based on Revelation 20:14 which says, ‘Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire(another name for Hell)]. The Rich Man was in torment – thanks to the flames in Hades that behaved like any flame we know would, causing intolerable heat (Luke 16:23). He did not request for a fire-engine be sent from heaven to extinguish the flames in hell. All that the rich man wanted was a few drops of water from the fingers of Lazarus who once eat what fell from the rich man’s fingers when he was on earth (Compare Luke 16:21 and 24). What a reversal – previously, when they were on earth, Lazarus eat whatever fell down from the Rich Man’s table. Now, on the other side of eternity, with Lazarus in heaven and the Rich Man in hell, the Rich Man is willing to lap up anything that fell from Lazarus’ table in heaven – including a drop of water!!!! But this ‘water-drop’ request was cropped by Father Abraham – cut off, refused. Abraham makes a key observation in this Jesus-narrated incident. Abraham told the rich man in Hades, “You ARE in agony!”(Luke 16:25). He did not say, “You WERE in agony!” The message of this passage is clear: the punishment for those who reject Christ is an on-going process in their after-life period – it will never end! And to quench and quell the hopes the hell-dwelling Rich Man had about crossing over from hell into heaven, Abraham told him: “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from HERE TO YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE, AND THAT NONE MAY CROSS OVER FROM THERE TO US.”’ (Luke 16:26). This Jesus-narrated event teaches us that once a person goes to eternity without repenting and trusting in Jesus, he can never enter heaven after his death. The same person cannot escape from hell and get into heaven. Jesus, at this point, could have easily chosen to mention about any such opportunity. He could have said, “The Holy Spirit in heaven, along with other believers (‘Spirit and the Bride’) keeps on saying, ‘Come!’ Do you hear their voice, rich man? Repent from your sin of loving money more than me! Confess your sin. Put your faith in me. Then you too can come to heaven, even though, at this point, you are in hell!” No, Jesus did NOT say that! Why? Jesus knew that NO CHANCES or OPPORTUNITIES would be given to anyone who dies and goes into a Christ-less eternity to come back to heaven/God’s very presence, afterwards!
This is not the only time when Jesus taught that hell punishment is forever and that there is no escape from it. In Matthew 25:41 He used the phrase “eternal fire” when He talked about hell punishment for the Devil and his angels. Jesus also taught that there is no escape from this hell punishment is recorded in Mark’s Gospel also. In this Gospel He taught us to be ruthless in our dealing with temptations to sin, if we want to avoid ending up in hell, “where fire never goes out” (Mark 9:43 NIV) and where “worms that eat (body parts of humans who died stubbornly in the sin of lust like the eye) do not die” (Mark 9:47-48 NIV). In other words, Jesus was teaching that there is NO WAY anyone could worm their way out of hell, ever!!! Robert Peterson after noting that Jesus used the word ‘Gehenna’ three times in Mark 9:43-48 summarized this passage thus: “hell is a place where fire goes on and on. So it is worthwhile depriving yourself of a hand, a foot or an eye if by doing so you can go to heaven, because those are temporary deprivations, whereas the torment of hell is eternal.”
Jesus repeatedly used one phrase to describe life in hell. This phrase: “a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.” He uses that phrase a stunning four times in Matthew’s Gospel itself. Check that out in Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30. If Jesus believed in the ‘hell to heaven’ teaching put forth by this Chennai Hyper-Grace cult pastor, he would have slightly modified this phrase. He would have said, “Hell is a place weeping and gnashing of teeth till you say, ‘I’m coming’ in response to the ‘come’ invitation of The Spirit and the Bride!” But He did not say that. The “ing” in the phrase that Jesus used for those who will dwell in hell – “weeping and gnashing of teeth” – implies ongoing, eternal torment. In other words, those in hell will forever regret for having rejected Jesus when they had so many opportunities to so on earth. And they will express their sadness through weeping and anger through gnashing of teeth! This would be non-stop!
Let’s move to the next Biblical argument to understand why how this bizarre “hell-to-heaven” teaching by this Chennai hyper-grace cult pastor is false.
E-PISTLES TEACHING ON “HELL TO HEAVEN” TEACHING:
Not just Jesus, but the epistle-writers of the New Testament too ensure that the word “eternal” prefixes the description of the fearful fate of those who reject Jesus after their death. Apostle Paul writes that “those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8) will pay “the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess 1:9, NASB). The above-mentioned hyper-grace cult pastor in Chennai struts, “Paul did not ever use the word, ‘Gehenna’ in all his 14 epistles. If Paul can present the Gospel without using the word ‘Gehenna’ why can’t we also do that?”
Well. Well. Well. For those of you, who do not know, ‘Gehenna’ is the Hebrew word Jesus used for hell. Chaim Milikowsky writes, ‘In the New Testament the Gehenna appears eleven times, seven times in Matthew, twice in Mark, and once each in Luke and James…it is a place of punishment in the last judgment’. Gehenna was actually a real place during Jesus time – a place outside the city of Jerusalem where the city’s waste was dumped and set to fire, burning continuously in order to consume the waste. Peter Kreeft writes, “Gehenna, the word Jesus used for hell, was the valley outside Jerusalem that the Jews used for perpetual burning of garbage because it had been desecrated by heathen tribes who used it for human sacrifice.” While Paul and the other apostles obeyed Jesus’ command, “teach them (those who become Jesus’ disciples through their ministry) to observe everything I taught you!” (Matt. 28:19), they were under no compulsion to do so using Jesus’ language or vocabulary. Jesus used the ‘Gehenna’ imagery to talk about hell, because he ministered mainly to the Jews. And Jews could immediately connect with the Gehenna imagery the way Chennai folks would have readily connected with the Kodungaiyur Dumpyard or Perungudi Dumpyard. A movie-reviewer called, Ilyaghilli, recalls a scene in the 2010 Tamil movie, Endhiran (released in several other languages), starring Rajinikanth, which featured a dumpyard in Chennai this way: “Scenes like dumping the dismantled robot in a corporation dustbin and showing that it is taken to a dumpyard of normal garbage look totally bizarre in today’s era of e-waste disposal campaigns and considering the fact that a robotic scientist cannot dispose his years of work just like that. Add to it that fact that the robot can reconstruct itself even at such a crippled stage!”
Coming back from the Endhiran movie dumpyard to the dumpyard our Master talked about – Gehenna… James, the half-brother of Jesus who ministered to Jews primarily (‘the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” – James 1:1) used the very same word (‘Gehenna’) when talking about hell in his epistle (see James 3:6). But Paul’s ministry was among Gentiles primarily (Acts 9:15). Gentiles, that is, non-Jews, may not have grasped the usage of the word ‘gehenna’ to depict hell, the same way, even someone from Hyderabad may not grasp well the usage of the imagery of Kodungaiyur/Perungudi dumpyard to depict hell. So, Paul was under no compulsion to use the word, “Gehenna” like Jesus did or James did! But did he teach about eternal conscious punishment like Jesus did? Absolutely, as we just saw in 2 Thessalonians 1:9! Peter’s name for hell was ‘Tartarus’ (2 Peter 2:4). While the names which different Spirit-inspired Bible authors gave for hell was different (one Bible Scholar notes that there are twenty-six total references to hell in the Bible), the reality of it and the gruesome gravity of the on-going suffering of those who go there, can never be in doubt!
Not just Apostle Paul but the other epistle writers also spoke about ‘eternalness’ of hell-punishment thereby totally negating the wrong teaching on ‘hell to heaven’ this Chennai Hyper-grace pastor was teaching then. The epistle-writer to Hebrews (it could have been Apollos or Barnabas or Priscilla or someone we do not know) stitches together the word “eternal” with “judgement” in Hebrews 6:3. So, in his view, once a person is judged, he goes to a place and STAYS in that place “eternally”! There can never be escapism from the place of his stay, which we know is hell from other portions of Scripture, to heaven!
Not just the Hebrews-writer, the epistle-writer Jude also teaches that ‘his hell-to-heaven’ teaching is wrong. He talks about “eternal” punishment for the stubborn-till-death, homosexuals of Sodom and Gomorrah in his letter (verse 7). So the hell-dwellers from Sodom won’t hear a ‘come’ from heaven! Sodom is doomed forever! So the hell-dwellers from Gomorrah won’t hear a ‘come’ from heaven which will make them go, “hip, hip, hurray” in anticipation of switching their dwelling-place from hell to heaven!
Moving onto the next Biblical argument against the crazy ‘Hell to Heaven’ hell-taking wrong teaching put forth by this particular Chennai hyper-grace cult pastor. We are using the acronym H-E-L-L to outline these points. H-is-teaching. E-pistles teaching. The next letter in this acronym is “L”.
L-ONG LOOK AT REVELATION ON “HELL TO HEAVEN” TEACHING:
A long look at the Book of Revelation will reveal that this ‘hell to Heaven’ teaching is wrong. If it can be convincingly shown that in the view of John, the Apostle, who wrote the Book of Revelation, that there was a route to escape from hell, then this ‘hell to Heaven’ teaching can be accepted. But if one were to read the book of Revelation in full-LENGTH (all the 22 chapters, and not just chapter 21 and chapter 22), he or she will understand that it never entered John’s mind that there would be any escape route out of hell or a supposed invitation from heaven-dwellers to hell-dwellers to migrate their location from hell to heaven.
Read Revelation 14:10-11. This is the punishment for those who worship the Anti-Christ and follow him: “the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshipped the beast (the Anti-Christ that is) and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name!”(NLT). The smoke from hell will forever keep rising as this Scripture in Revelation teaches, because despite the fire constantly burning the bodies of the hell-dwellers, their bodies don’t get burnt as they keep writhing away in unspeakable discomfort! John Walvoord writes, “The ultimate convincing argument for eternal punishment is found is Revelation 20:11-15…. In this passage…the beast and the false prophet, cast into the lake of fire at the beginning of the millennium (Rev. 19:20), are still there a thousand years later and are declared to join Satan in the torment which will continue “day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). After describing that all pain would forever end when people reach heaven’s shores in Revelation 21:3-4, Apostle John, writes that the ‘cowardly, the faithless, the murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, liars,’ will end in the ‘lake that burns with fire and sulfur’ (Rev. 21:8 ESV). Based on Revelation 20:10 where John writes that in the lake of fire that will be ‘torment for day and night forever’ we can confidently be sure that even in the lake of fire mentioned in Revelation 21:8 after folks have entered heaven, there will continuous torment in hell for its inhabitants, after all there is only ONE lake of fire! There will not be a way of escape from hell as this Chennai Hyper-Grace cult leader/pastor suggests at that point – after people have reached heaven!
So when there is a clear teaching by the Spirit-inspired writer of the book of Revelation that hell punishment is forever (as seen above), there is no way he would have meant that there will be an ongoing opportunity for people to keep entering heaven all thro’ eternity when he wrote, “on no day will its gates be shut, for there will be no night there” (Rev. 21:25 NIV). The key phrase in that verse is the word “for” – “for there will be no night there”. The meaning can be this: ‘only on earth, you lock your doors at night; this is heaven – there is no night here, so there is no need to lock doors here; evil has been once-for-all eliminated!’ Also read two verses below –Revelation 21:27. It goes this way: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, not will anyone who does what is shameful and deceitful, but only those who names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” This verse is talking about the qualification to get to heaven. It is this: repentance from sin while on earth (‘nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful and deceitful’) and placing one’s faith in Jesus who died on the Cross when still on earth (‘only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life). I included the words, ‘when still on earth’ for this reason – the Scripture says there, ‘only those who names ARE WRITTEN in the Lamb’s book of life,’ and not, ‘those who names WILL BE WRITTEN in the Lamb’s book of Life!
Does John the Revelation writer mean that those in heaven – the Holy Spirit and church believers (‘the Spirit and the Bride’ – will invite those in hell with the words, “Come!” POST the Second Coming of Jesus (Rev. 22:17)? No. Read this verse above. Read Revelation 22:7. That verse records Jesus’ statement, “Look, I am coming soon!” (also repeated in Rev. 22:12) Notice the tense here: I AM COMING SOON! The portions below Revelation 22:7 is talking about the time BEFORE the Second Coming of Jesus! Rewind back to Revelation 22:6, this already evident truth will be even more evident. That verse says, “And he said to me: “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” Revelation 22:16, which is just one verse before Revelation 22:17 – the verse under our microscope – is also strikingly similar. So, all the verses from Revelation 22:6 and below are talking us back to the situation that is described in Revelation chapter 1 where John is in an island seeing visions, hearing from Angels, hearing Jesus speak about “what you have seen, what is now, and what will soon take place later” (Rev. 1:19). In other words, John is addressing the material from Revelation 22:8 and below to present-day believers – believers who are still on earth awaiting the return of Jesus Christ! So when we read, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” in Revelation 22:17, that is applicable to us, present-day believing living before the Second Coming. We (the Bride of Christ) are called to join the Holy Spirit in the ministry calling people to Christ (see 2 Cor. 11:2)! Our message today, empowered by the Spirit is this: Come to the one who said, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-leaden!’ That is how we live out Revelation 22:17. Revelation 22:17 cannot be lived out AFTER the Second Coming, after people have gone into heaven/hell as this Chennai hyper-grace pastor wrongly suggests.
Revelation 22:14-15 goes this way: “Blessed are those who wash their ropes that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood”(NIV). Do these set of verse imply that the “Come” of verse 17, is for those in hell? No way! I like the way Eugene Peterson translates these verses to underline the finality of the fate of those who go to the City (heaven) and those outside it (hell). He writes, “How blessed are those who wash their robes! The Tree of Life is theirs FOR GOOD. But outside FOR GOOD are the filthy curs; sorcerers, fornicators, murderers, idolaters – all who love and live lies” (Rev. 22:14-15). Because, those outside the city are there “for good”, there is no logic in believing that the “come” of Revelation 22:17 was even directed to them as this hyper-grace, twisted Trinitarian Gospel preaching, taking-people-to-hell Chennai pastor suggests.
Revelation 22:16 goes this way: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star!” This verse needs a closer look to determine the timing and direction of the “come” invitation by the Spirit and Bride in Revelation 22:17 (just one verse below). Revelation 22:16 basically says this: the supernatural revelations given John in the book of Revelation about present and future are actually a “testimony for the churches”. John needs to share this with the churches or church believers. The next verse is also talking about the church, albeit figuratively. The word used in the next verse for the church is “Bride” (see Rev. 22:17).[Apostle Paul compared the church to a bride in 2 Corinthians 11:2 – “For I am jealous as to you with the jealousy of God. For I have betrothed you to one husband, to present a pure virgin to Christ’(NASB)”].
Here is the full verse: ‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost’ (Rev. 22:17 NASB). So, this is what this verse teaches: The church which is the bride of Christ, empowered by the Spirit should cry out to the lost people here and now, “Come!” That’s what every reader of this book (‘the one who hears’ as John put it in Rev. 22:17) should also do. In fact the phrase, “he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church” is mentioned several times in the Book of Revelation as a phrase to label any believer from any church who will chose to listen to the message of Revelation down through history up until his death or Return of Jesus (see Rev. 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22). If that person has not yet come to Jesus, here and now, before the Second Coming or before that person’s death, should come to the Living Water Jesus (see John 4:14) in repentance and faith.
Now, we come to final letter in the acronym chosen to drive home the point that Revelation 22:17 is talking about “call” to be given here to the unsaved on this earth and not in the next life, undergirded by the Holy Spirit. That letter is another L.
L-OCKING OF ONE’S CHOICE BY GOD & “HELL TO HEAVEN” TEACHING:
Throughout the Bible, we see examples of how God would give ample choices to a person (Only God determines how many chances are enough for a person). But if that person, continued to defy God and/or reject Jesus, God would sort of “lock” that choice (to borrow a term from Amitabh Bachchan when he runs the popular TV quiz-program, “Koun Banega Crorepathi”). After this ‘locking’ is done, there is no chance for the concerned person to be saved even on this side of eternity. There are several examples found in the Bible that underscore this understanding:
Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart. That’s when God chose to actually harden Pharaoh’s heart. In other words, God ‘locked’ or ‘froze’ or ‘made Pharoah’s free will permanent’ so that he would not be able to turn from sin and come to the Living God! Tina Miller points out that ‘the first time we read that God caused Pharoah’s heart to be hard was when the sixth plague hit – the boils in Exodus 9:12.’ God gave enough chances for Pharoah. He did not freeze his free will till after the fifth miracle. But when Pharoah continued his stubbornness (made his heart, hard, in other words – please check out – Exodus 8:32), God decided ‘enough was enough’. But after God hardened his heart, Pharaoh could not repent. When this is the case, what makes us think that even after a person dies and lands up in hell, that person will have an opportunity to hear of “come” by the Spirit and Bride, as suggested by this Chennai Pastor and cult leaders? This is not a one-off story in the Bible. Read the stories of King Manasseh. The story of Judas in the New Testament [Jesus froze his free will / locked his stubborn choice to reject Jesus after giving him many changes to repent – chances he blew up – when he told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly!”(John 13:27)]. The story of the Pharisees and Sadducees whose stiff-necked ways made Jesus lock their choice to reject Jesus when he promised hell for them (Matt. 23:33). The story of the Devil and his angels, whose free will were also frozen by God after he gave them enough chances (Matt 25:41). The story of the hyper-grace teachers of biblical times who got themselves ‘designated for condemnation’ by God because of they constantly turned God’s grace ‘as an excuse for sexual freedom’ (Jude 4, ESV/GW). A reading of Romans 1 where were read, “God gave them up” thrice (Rom. 1:24,26,28) also brings forth the conclusion God does choose to lock the freewill of those who stubbornly give up on him. The phrase in Genesis 6:3 – ‘the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever…’ (NASB) – also teaches the very same thing if one were to check the similar context there.
These stories remind us of the many times God froze free will of stubborn folks before death, before the Second Coming of Christ, after giving them enough chances. When this is the case, why will God give those in hell another chance to repent (which is what this Chennai Pastor’s strange interpretation of Revelation 22:17 entails). Jonathan Edwards explained why infinitely-long torment in hell is a reasonable punishment for those who will go to hell: they have sinned against an infinite God!
So, if we considered the Biblical and theological arguments weaved around the H-E-L-L acronym, we will understand this ‘hell to Heaven’ teaching purported by this Chennai Cult Pastor is a lie, straight from hell! Yes, the hell to heaven doctrine, he teaches, is not from heaven! And as D. A. Carson put it well, he (and others like him), “gag God by silencing the severity of his warnings and minimize the awfulness of the punishment that justly awaits those untouched by his redeeming grace.” If they will not repent, this lot will go to hell, and take people there! This article is an earnest attempt to somehow stem this rot!
(Dr. Duke Jeyaraj, is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. This is a reader-supported Indian ministry to presentday people. Find out more at www.dukev.org.)