Question [composite of several]: I am a new convert to the truth in God’s word of eternal security. I was once a “conditional securist,” but I no longer believe in this false doctrine. However, I have a question. In the book of John, in many places it is recorded that Jesus says that we have eternal life now in the present, but elsewhere in the Scriptures it seems to say that we have the hope of eternal life but don’t actually possess it. Does the Bible mean that we actually have eternal life now and will just enter into it when we die? Or does it teach that we don’t yet have eternal life, but we will obtain eternal life in the future?
Response: When a person honestly responds in faith to the gospel (see 1 Cor:15:1-4) recognizing that he is a lost sinner and that only Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross can pay the penalty for his sin, he is “eternally secure.” Acts:16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved….”
What else does God’s Word say? The Apostle John wrote in 1 John:5:13: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life….” That knowing is present knowledge and that having is present possession. When anyone puts his faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he receives the “gift of God,” which is “eternal life” (Rom:6:23--, our emphasis). The gift is received immediately and lasts forever.
We must also understand that “eternal life” refers to more than quantity of life (i.e., “never ending”). It also refers to the quality of that life. Salvation in Scripture is discussed in the following manner:
I. Positionally, we “are saved.” Consider the Savior’s declarations throughout John (for just one example). John:5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” [Our emphasis]
John:6:37: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
John:6:39: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
John:6:40: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John:6:51: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
The clearest statement of the Savior’s intent can be found in John:10:27-29. He makes eight declarative statements with absolutely no qualifications: 1) My sheep hear my voice. 2) I know them. 3) They follow me. 4) I give unto them eternal life. 5) They shall never perish. 6) Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 7) My Father…is greater than all. 8) No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
What this scripture doesn’t tell us is how closely they follow, how far they straggle, or how dim the voice of the Shepherd may seem to them during their straggling, which brings us to the next aspect of salvation:
II. We are “being saved.” That is, we come into this relationship with a lot of baggage, habits, behaviors, etc. We are “being saved” in that the Lord is daily working in us to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom:8:29). Also, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil:1:6). Consequently, we are being “saved” from our past lives. We are being changed.
III. We “will be saved”—that is, when we leave this world and stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will not be condemned with the world, who will stand before the Great White Throne (Rv 20:11-15). And yet, there will be an accounting of how our life is spent: “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor:3:14-15).
Regarding the time when we finally step into eternity with our King, the Bible tells us: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn:3:2). And 1 Corinthians:13:12 gives us a little more: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” What a day that will be!