Does the Bible teach “Once Saved, Always Saved”?
“Once Saved, Always Saved,” or as it’s more formally known in Calvinism as “Perseverance of the Saints,” is the idea that Christians could commit any sin from idolatry to murder and their souls would be fine (as said by Baptist preacher Sam Morris.)
The Bible says something different. The gospel saves us (Rom. 1:16)…but how does it do it? “…IF you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1-2). “If” (ei) is a conjunction, a primary particle of conditionality. Paul is basically saying that the gospel saves us on the condition that we hold fast to God’s Word. See similar conditional statements regarding our salvation and forgiveness in 1 John 1:7, 9 and 2 Peter 1:10.
The writer of Hebrews said that the saved (those who have “tasted the heavenly gift…have shared in the Holy Spirit…have tasted the goodness of the Word of God”) who “then have fallen away” are “crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” That’s why he also says that it is “impossible…to restore them again to repentance” (Heb. 6:4-6).
Paul also specifically said that Judaizing Christians who bound Old Covenant circumcision as a condition of New Covenant salvation “have fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4).
Consider also the numerous warnings given to the saved in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Cor. 3:17; 10:12). If salvation is always theirs no matter what, then why would the saved need to be warned about anything?
Are there degrees of punishment in hell and degrees of reward in heaven?
Yes. The Bible implies varying levels of punishment for the condemned. The “last state” of apostate Christians would be “worse” than it would have been should they had never been converted to begin with (2 Pet. 2:20-22; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17). Certain Galilean communities were told it would be “more tolerable” for Tyre, Sidon and Sodom than for them (Matt. 11:20-24; cf. 10:15). The knowingly disobedient would be punished more than those who had disobeyed out of ignorance (Lk. 12:47-48).
The Bible also implies varying levels of reward for the saved. Paul knew he would have both joy and glory over converting souls (1 Thess. 2:19-20); yet he still cautioned us to seek earnest converts over superficial ones because if one’s converts did not endure, the Christian himself would still be saved…yet would also suffer “loss” of the joy and glory of knowing his work of converting those souls would be fruitful for eternity (1 Cor. 3:10-15; cf. Gal. 4:11). This implies that the more of our converts who endure and finally arrive in heaven, the greater our joy and reward will be.
Likewise, the parable of the ten minas (Lk. 19:12ff), a parable about being prepared for eternity, implies varying levels of reward for the saved. The one who had multiplied his investment ten-fold received ten cities, the one who multiplied five-fold received five cities, etc. They were rewarded according to their respective results.
There’s no biblical evidence that our human spirit will be fundamentally and basically changed by death. Thus, it’s likely we will be capable of different levels of satisfaction and enjoyment in eternity, depending upon our capacity for such, since we are capable of different levels of satisfaction and enjoyment here in this life.
When Christ returns, he will “repay each person according to what he has done” (Mt. 16:27). “According to” (kata) implies a norm, a standard by which rewards or punishments are given, thus signifying a proportionately fair dispersal.
Is hell eternal?
Yes (John 5:28-29; Matt. 25:46; Mark 9:43-48). The Bible speaks of an eternal punishment…but also an eternal reward. Let’s strive to remain faithful so God’s grace saves us from the former and brings us to the latter.
What’s the purpose of Judgment Day if we already know where we are going?
“Judgment” (krima) in the New Testament not only means “judgment” (cf. Rom. 2:3). It also could refer to “the sentence of a judge.” The same word is translated “condemn” in some verses (cf. Matt. 23:14). Thus, one of the purposes of Judgment Day is to formally sentence or condemn the unsaved to an eternal hell.
Even though those who have already died and have spent Hades in either paradise or torment know their eternal fate already (Lk. 16:19ff) — as well as those still alive on Judgment Day who failed to rise to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18) — there’s still at least one more reason for a formal judgment to take place. On Judgment Day God “will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14). He “will render to each one according to his works” (Rom. 2:6).
Yet one’s works or deeds “follow them” after death (Rev. 14:13). In other words, one’s influence for good or ill on others still exists after death, in some cases for quite a while. On the day of judgment, the dead will find out just how “their deeds followed them,” what kind of influence they had on others after their death. The saved will hear about the influence for good the memory of their lives and teaching had on others, while the unsaved will find out that they continued to be a stumbling block for others after death due to what they had said and done, and will have to give an account for it (Matt. 18:6-7).