Is Eternal Life an Eternal Unconditional Possession Now?

One unconditional security writer says, “We base eternal security upon the fact that the sacrifice of Christ abides . . . upon the perseverance of the Holy Spirit … He will not begin a work in us that He does not finish…. upon the fact that the believer now possesses eternal life.”

This argument is really worthless in view of the many plain Scriptures teaching that men are going to be lost regardless of what Christ did on the cross (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-29; Mark 16:15; etc.), regardless of the persistent work of the Holy Spirit to save men (Matt. 12:31, 32; Acts 5:3, 32; 7:51; 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; Heb. 10:26-29), and regardless of the work God begins in all who believe, as we shall see.

Because the sacrifice of Christ is eternal and the Holy Spirit is tireless in His efforts to save men is no proof that the believer is saved eternally without meeting certain conditions. God has revealed in His plan that Christ’s sacrifice is eternal and that the work of the Spirit will be carried out, but He has also revealed that the saved man can be lost again and go to Hell if he goes back into sin and dies in sin, as proved in Points IV and V above. The sacrifice of Christ abides and the Holy Spirit works whether anyone is ever saved or not.

God will work only according to His plan, and that is based upon helping man according  to man’s will and cooperation. This is one of the clearest facts in the Bible. The cry of the false securityites is, “Is God’s plan a failure? Is not the power of God sufficient to keep one saved even while sinning? Is Christ insufficient to save a man eternally regardless of sin? Can God be a God of love and be Almighty and still allow a saved man to be lost?”

Raising these questions seems conclusive to some people who do not understand the first principles of life and of the plan of God. But when one recognizes that God created man to be a free moral agent, he can see that God cannot save man against his will, and that the only thing that stands between God and man is sin and failure to cooperate with God in His plan.

There is no room for argument about the fact that God has not kept man from sin. If God can keep man from sin against his will after he is saved, then He could and would have done it before the fall. We also know that God does not forcibly keep men saved should they choose to go back into sin. Therefore we have to conclude that God is not responsible should man sin and be lost.

No man could believe that it was God’s will for man to sin, and that He would have permitted it if man was a mere machine and not a free moral agent. But since man is a free agent and God cannot keep him from sin against his own will, then He cannot prevent him from being lost through sin against his will. This fact demands that God cannot save man without man’s free choice in cooperation with God. Therefore, salvation is conditional, and if it is conditional then the teaching of unconditional eternal security is false and the doctrine of conditional eternal security is true.

Unconditional security does not deal with sin in man, either in theory or in experience. Thus it ignores the greatest enemy of God, because sin is the whole reason for man’s fall and separation from God. The advocates of unconditional security teach that a man can still sin and keep saved, which, if true, would mean that the atonement does nothing to change either the condition of the person or his attitude toward God. This position would make the atonement accomplish nothing, for the sinner is just as sinful and as lost in sin after salvation as he was before the atonement was made for man to be saved. What good is redemption if it does not stop sin? If man can sin and still be in harmony with God, then sin does not cause him to be out of harmony with God to begin with. Such teaching makes salvation and the atonement pure nonsense. On the other hand, if sin separates from God the one sinning must stop by being saved from it before he can be in union with God.

We know that when a man is really born again a real change takes place in his life, a change which saves from all sin (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 1:7-9). He must give up sin and take a different attitude toward sin and God. Salvation deals with the sin question, or it is worthless. It deals with sin, not in theory but in experience, for we know that when a person backslides he goes back into sin and loses that change that the new birth wrought in his life. What made the change in his life? It certainly would have to be the life of God. If men lose this change in their lives when they backslide then they lose the life of God. It should be evident to any sound mind that will face facts of experience, as well as of plain Scripture, that saved men who sin do lose the life of God, which is eternal life.

The only way men try to get around these plain facts is to argue that it is the body that sins and not the soul and spirit, and this is the position that false securityites hold. But this position does not help them out of their dilemma. They still have the same principle to face. If it is only the body that sins, it is bound to be the body that sinned before salvation because the actions and results of sin are the same as before. If the body could sin after salvation and continue to be saved, then man could not have become unsaved to begin with, so redemption is worthless. The Bible teaches that it is the soul that sins, as proved in Point IV above. There can be no such thing as the soul being saved and living free from sin while the body continues to live in sin. The following Scriptures prove that one must be holy and sinless in body as well as in soul and spirit (Rom.6:6-23; 8:10-13; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:13-20; 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:17; 7:1; 10:4-7; Phil. 1:20; Col. 2:11-12; James 3:2-6). Note how holiness of “body” is emphasized in these passages. Note also how freedom from the works of “the flesh” is demanded of men in the following Scriptures if one is to be finally saved (Rom.8:1-13; 13:14; 2 Cor. 7:1; 10:2-7; Gal. 5:13-24; 6:7-8; Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 2:11-12; 3:5-17; 1 John 2:15-17; Jude 23).

Eternal life is not absolutely and eternally the possession of one until the next life, for one can make a failure before then and be lost just as Adam did in the beginning. That eternal life is not an eternal possession until the end of a life of holiness is clear from the following statements of both Christ and the apostles: “he shall receive an hundred-fold NOW IN THIS TIME . . . and IN THE WORLD TO COME eternal life” (Mark 10:29, 30); . . . he shall “receive manifold more IN THIS PRESENT TIME, and IN THE WORLD TO COME life everlasting” (Luke 18:29-30); he “shall receive an hundred-fold, and SHALL INHERIT everlasting life” (Matt. 19:28, 29); “who by patient CONTINUANCE in well doing SEEK FOR glory . . . and immortality, eternal life” (Rom.2:7); “the end of those things [sins committed] is death. But now being made FREE FROM SIN, and become the SERVANTS of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and THE END everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life” (Rom.6:21-23); “even so might grace reign through righteousness [not daily sin] UNTO eternal life” (Rom.5:21); “he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit REAP life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7, 8); “believe on him TO everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:16); “having the promise of the life THAT NOW IS, and of THAT WHICH IS TO COME” (1 Tim. 4:8); “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life . . . that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12, 19); “IN HOPE OF eternal life . . . according to THE HOPE OF eternal life” (Tit. 1:2; 3:7); “who are kept by the power of God through faith UNTO salvation ready to be revealed IN THE LAST TIME . . . Receiving THE END of your faith, even the salvation of your souls…. HOPE TO THE END for the grace that is to be brought to you AT THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST” (1 Pet. 1:5, 9, 13); “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7); “this is the promise that he hath given us, EVEN ETERNAL LIFE” (l John 2:25); “keep yourselves in the love of God, LOOKING FOR the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ UNTO eternal life” (Jude 20:24); “many of them that sleep . . . shall awake, some TO everlasting life, and some TO shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2); “all that are in the graves shall come forth; THEY THAT HAVE DONE GOOD, UNTO the resurrection of life; and THEY THAT HAVE DONE EVIL, UNTO the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28, 29); “these shall go into eternal punishment: but the righteous INTO eternal life” (Matt. 25:46); “narrow is the way, which LEADETH UNTO LIFE” (Matt. 7:13, 14); “enter into life” (Matt. 18:8, 9; 19:17); “and they shall inherit everlasting life” (Matt. 19:29; Mark 10:17; Luke 10:25; 18:18; Heb. 6:12; 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:4-9, 13).

Thus if eternal life is an inheritance for the next life; if it must be sought for; if it is a reward for a life of holiness; if it is “wages” to be received at the end of life as “death” is the “wages” of sinners at the end of life; if we “reap” it as the harvest of a life of sowing to the Spirit; if one must lay hold of it; if it is a hope; if it is the end of our faith; if we look for it; if we enter into it at the resurrection: if it takes doing good to attain to it; and if the narrow way leads to it, as in all the above passages, then the believer has it now and can keep it only on condition of remaining in Christ during his period of probation.

Jesus did not say that He would give eternal life to those who did not follow or who ceased to follow Him. Neither did He offer eternal life to those who followed Him just through one act of faith, or for a while, but it was to be a “daily” cross bearing to the end (Luke 9:23-26). A believer has eternal life now and can keep it forever if he will follow Jesus “daily” until he enters the next life and into the eternal state and receives life as an eternal possession, as explained in the above passages.

While the life itself is eternal, one does not have it eternally until he inherits it as an eternal possession when his period of probation is over and he has proved himself worthy of it. Any eternal thing can be lost even though it is in itself eternal. A diamond is an eternal piece of material, yet it can be lost. One might as well argue that a diamond is not eternal if it can be lost, or that one did not have a diamond if he ever lost it, as to argue that eternal life could not be eternal if one ever lost it.

Even unconditional securityites should be able to understand the difference between an eternal thing and the eternal possession by a man of an eternal thing. Anything that is eternal is eternal at all times, whether a man possesses it or not. Thus possession of something eternal is not the factor that makes it eternal, nor does his losing possession cause it to cease being eternal. There is no Scripture anywhere in the Bible that says that man possesses the eternal life of God unconditionally and can never lose it, or that if he did lose it the life would cease to be eternal. This kind of argument is too childish to have any weight at all as proof of a doctrine.

Paul said, “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom.8:24, 25). If eternal life is a hope as stated in Titus 1:2;3:7, then we do not see it or have it as an eternal possession until it is inherited eternally at the end of a life, faithful to God and His word. All such passages as John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47, 54; 10:28, 29 used to teach that eternal life is now an eternal possession must be understood in harmony with it being a hope that is not yet seen. It is now a possession, but on the condition that one will continue to be faithful to the end as we shall see in many passages in Point VII below. There is no question but what eternal life is really ours now, but there is also no question but what it can be lost by sin at any time before the end of life if one chooses to go back into sin (Rom.12:13; Ezek. 18:4; Gal. 6:7-8; etc.). If one had unconditional eternal life he could not inherit it as an eternal possession in the next life. He would not have to seek it, he could not receive it as a gift at the end of a life of holiness, he could not reap it at the same time others reap corruption, he could not have it as a promise in the world to come, he would not have to lay hold of it or fight the fight of faith for it, he could not receive it at the end of a life of faith, he could not look for it, he could not awaken to it in the next life, and he would not have to walk the narrow road leading to it, as plainly stated in all the above Scriptures.

The sinner gets eternal death as wages at the end of life. He has death now on condition of remaining dead by rejecting Christ unto the end of life. He can escape death any day he accepts life in Christ. So it is with the Christian, he has life now on condition of remaining in Christ and he will get eternal life as a gift at the end of life. He can die again any day he rejects Christ.

Suppose a man gave another the largest eternal diamond in the world and plainly stated that it would become his forever at a certain time when certain conditions were met. Suppose these conditions were plainly stated many times in different parts of a contract. Then in another part of the same contract it says, “My friend will hear me, for I know him, and he will follow me: and I give unto him this eternal diamond: and he shall never lose it, neither shall any man be able to take it from him.” One would be foolish to claim that this man did not have any conditions to meet in order to keep the diamond. All conditions as in the different parts of the contract must be met in order to get the diamond as an eternal possession. One would thus fail to get eternal life if he took the promise of it and ignored the conditions and failed to qualify for it.

The Scriptures stating that man does get eternal life now do not say that there are no conditions to meet in order to “inherit” it as an eternal possession later. The illustration given above showed that certain conditions would naturally have to be met if a man wanted to keep the diamond. The diamond is under no obligation to be kept, and the giver is under no obligation to keep it for the one who received it. Any failure on the part of the one who received it would not be the fault of the diamond or the giver. Then, too, it does not cease to be eternal if the man should lose it. In the same way, neither is God responsible or at fault if man fails to keep eternal life by the means of the gospel and by co-operation with God, as we will make clear in the next point.