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Can Christians go to hell? Eternal Security: Refuted

Many well-known Christian preachers, such as Billy Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, John MacArthur, and John Piper, have taught varying degrees of the doctrine of Eternal Security, to millions of people. Eternal Security (“Once Saved — Always Saved”) is the belief that eternal life is guaranteed to anyone who has ever made a heart commitment to Jesus. Teachers of this popular doctrine predominantly believe that so long as someone has asked Jesus to be their Savior — that person is guaranteed to receive eternal life (even if they hit their spouse, disown Jesus, or, rape and murder every day for the rest of their lives, etc.). They believe “faith alone” (faith in Jesus) is the only requirement to receive eternal life. And, they don’t think faithfulness, obedience, or purity of heart is of any relevance to the topic of salvation. As you may have gathered from the article title, I don’t believe in the doctrine of Eternal Security. And, as a dedicated follower of Jesus, I’m concerned that many people, including many pastors, will end up eternally separated from God because of it. Can Christians go to hell? Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes. Here are 12 reasons why you should NOT believe in the doctrine of Eternal Security:

1. Jesus never taught the doctrine of Eternal Security

In all of the accounts of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible, there is not a single example of Jesus ever promoting the doctrine of Eternal Security. Yes, he preached about faith and grace, but he also preached repentance, the 10 Commandments, and the need to produce good fruit. He said: “Every tree [person] that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” Matthew 7:19. Another example of Jesus preaching against the concept of Eternal Security is his teaching regarding “The Narrow Road.” Jesus said anyone who desires to be his disciple must follow him on the Narrow Road (see Matthew 7:14, Matthew 16:24). The Narrow Road is a symbolic term that Jesus used to describe the pathway, on which he leads his sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd that leads his disciples on the Narrow Road. And Jesus is also the Narrow Gate (at the end of that Narrow Road) which leads to heaven (see John 10:7). Note: For those who believe in Jesus, Eternal Security offers an appealing shortcut. It is like a metaphorical catapult that offers to toss people to heaven without any need for the Narrow Road, repentance, faithfulness, or the Commands of Jesus.

2. John the Baptist never taught the doctrine of Eternal Security

John the Baptist was a prophet. He declared Jesus’ coming to earth, and he identified Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus, in response to him, said that John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets. And, it’s important to note that John the Baptist never taught Eternal Security. Instead, he, like Jesus, preached repentance, the 10 Commandments, and the need to produce good fruit. He said: “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree [person] that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” Matthew 3:10. Note: John the Baptist lived for the Gospel of Jesus and ultimately died (he was beheaded, in jail) for preaching one of the 10 Commandments to a non-believer (Herod). If Eternal Security existed, John would not have risked his life to preach holiness. Instead, he would have encouraged Herod just to believe in Jesus.

3. None of the 12 Apostles taught the doctrine of Eternal Security

When Jesus walked the earth approx. 2,000 years ago, he selected 12 of his disciples and designated them “Apostles” (Matthew, Mark, John, Peter, etc.). Jesus’ 12 Apostles were eyewitnesses of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And, from among these 12 men, came the first written testimonies of Jesus’ miraculous ministry. If Eternal Security were true, then the 12 Apostles would have preached it. The fact is there is no record of the 12 Apostles (that includes Matthias, who replaced Judas) preaching Eternal Security. In fact, they preached the opposite. Here is an example of the 12 Apostles (in this case, Peter) teaching that it is better to have never known The Gospel, than to know it— and turn from it: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them” 2 Peter 2:20–21. Note: If Eternal Security existed then Peter wouldn’t have given the above warning. He would have just told people to just believe in Jesus.

4. Jesus said, being an evildoer will result in eternal separation from God

In the following Bible scripture, Jesus said it isn’t enough to have met him, or dined with him: “Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He [Jesus] said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from’. “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets’. “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” Luke 13:23–27. Note: Teachers of Eternal Security often assume the “evildoers” mentioned in the above scripture are not “evildoers,” but instead, they are “non-believers.” But, I suspect the term “evildoers” means — evildoers. See also Matthew 5:20, Matthew 7:19; Matthew 13:40–43, Matthew 24:45–51, Matthew 25:31–46, Revelation 2:7, Revelation 22:14–15 for additional evidence that evil conduct can cause a person (including Christians) to be eternally separated from God; 2) The fact that Jesus spent so much time warning people, about all sorts of things (inc. evil conduct) proves that Eternal Security is untrue. If Eternal Security existed, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to warn people about anything, except unbelief.

5. Jesus said the desire for religious hierarchy would result in being shut out of heaven

Jesus rebuked his 12 Apostles, for thinking they could coast their way into heaven. In the following example, Jesus warned his 12 Apostles to change or else they would be eternally condemned: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:3. Note: I think Jesus gave the above warning because, according to Mark 9:33–34, the 12 Apostles were jockeying for position and they were attempting to establish a religious hierarchy among themselves. I think Jesus was pointing out that small children are not like that (small children have no knowledge of what a President, Boss, or Bishop is). Jesus told his disciples if they refused to change and give up their desire to spiritually rule over one another, then they would not enter heaven.

6. Jesus warned his disciples not to disown him

Jesus said accepting him, and then denying him later, would not suffice. He warned that if anyone did such a thing, they would not receive eternal life: “Whoever acknowledges me [Jesus] before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” Matthew 10:32–33. Note: 1) Jesus told his disciples to be faithful, to him, until death (see Revelation 2:10). If faithfulness were not important, then Jesus wouldn’t have mentioned it. He would have just told people to chill and believe; 2) Another example on this point, is John 15:6, where Jesus is quoted as saying: “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

7. Jesus said his sheep can wander away

Proponents of Eternal Security often claim the following scripture as proof that none of Jesus’ disciples can ever go to hell: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” John 10:27–28. I certainly believe this is true; no one can snatch a sheep (disciple) out of Jesus’ hand. However, Jesus said his sheep can leave and wander away at any time. Jesus’ sheep are not shackled, and they are not kept in cages; they are free to follow him, and they are free to wander away. There is a difference between the sheep in Jesus’ hand and the sheep that have wandered away: “Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” Luke 15:3–7. Note: 1) Jesus mentioned (above) that a disciple can wander away. And, it is important to notice that he referred to this prodigal as a “sinner.” He also mentioned the words “repent,” “lost sheep,” and “rejoicing in heaven.” According to Eternal Security, the sheep (noted in the scripture above) never wandered away, was never lost, never needed a Shepherd to look for it, never needed to repent, isn’t a sinner, and the celebration in heaven never happened; 2) If a disciple of Jesus leaves (wanders away), Jesus said he will, at some point, go and look for them. But one cannot assume Jesus will restore that disciple because Jesus does not compel people, above their will, back into discipleship. He goes to them, and he knocks at the door of their heart. Some of those former disciples hear him knocking at their heart’s door, and some do not. Some answer and some do not.

8. Jesus warned his disciples not to hide his Gospel (message)

Jesus told a very alarming parable called, “The Parable of the Bags of Gold.” Many Christians assume this parable relates to the importance of being faithful with money, wealth, and finances. But, I suspect this parable communicates the need for Jesus’ disciples to be faithful with his Gospel: “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” Matthew 25:14–18. Note: If you continue reading to verse thirty, you will find the man who hid the bag of gold was severely penalized. God expects the people who have his Gospel message, to be faithful with it.

9. Jesus said many of his disciples, at some point, stop following him

In his famous “Parable of the Sower,” Jesus talked about four soils which are symbolic of four specific conditions of the human heart (see Mark 4:1–20). In that parable, Jesus said many people receive his Gospel, and later, reject it. “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word [Gospel]; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word [Gospel], making it unfruitful” Mark 4:18–19. Note: When people “fall away” or “backslide” in the context of the above parable, it means they have stopped following Jesus on the Narrow Road. This parable is additional proof that not everyone who accepts Jesus is guaranteed to dwell with him forever.

10. Peter quit following Jesus and ceased being a disciple

On several occasions, Peter (one of the 12 Apostles), acknowledged Jesus publicly. Various people knew and recognized Peter as a disciple of Jesus. Unfortunately, on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter denied (renounced) Jesus three times (see Matthew 26:69–75). When Peter denied Jesus, he gave up his position as a disciple of Jesus, and he gave up his position as one of the 12 Apostles. Here is proof that Peter, during that period of betrayal, no longer belonged to God: “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee” Mark 16:4–7. Note: 1) The words “and Peter” prove that Peter, during that time, was not considered a disciple; 2) Thankfully, Peter repented and was restored (see John 21:17). When he did, he resumed being a disciple of Jesus, and he resumed being an Apostle. I believe Peter is in heaven today, and he will continue to be one of the 12 Apostles, forever.

11. Judas was replaced

In Matthew 26:23–25, Jesus predicted that Judas Iscariot (one of his original 12 Apostles) would betray and disown him. Later that night, Judas did exactly as was predicted. According to the doctrine of Eternal Security, Judas is in heaven, right now (despite his thefts, betrayal of Jesus, and murdering himself). Proof that Judas did not, and will not, inherit eternal life is: 1) Jesus said anyone who disowns him will be disowned by Jesus (see Matthew 10:32–33); 2) Jesus said, regarding his betrayer, it would be better for them if they had not been born (see Matthew 26:24); 3) After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven, Judas was replaced by Matthias. If Eternal Security existed, then Judas would have maintained his Apostle position forever, and Matthias would not have replaced him (Revelation 21:14 confirms there are only 12 Apostle positions total, and all 12 positions have been filled by the original 11 and Matthias); and 4) When Mathias was appointed to replace Judas, Peter mentioned something in his prayer worth noting. He said, “Judas left to go where he belongs” or “his own place” Acts 1:24–25. Note: Some proponents of Eternal Security teach that Judas is in hell, not because he betrayed Jesus, but because he was never a true disciple of Jesus. But, that seems impossible to me because — the fact that Judas was an Apostle proves that he believed in Jesus, followed Jesus, and made a heart commitment to Jesus. Besides that, Mark 6:12–13 says all of the original 12 Apostles preached repentance, healed the sick and cast demons out of demon possessed people.

12. The Bible suggests that names can be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life

The Bible says God has a special book, called “The Lamb’s Book of Life” (in John 1:29, Jesus is called the Lamb of God, hence the name of the book). Whoever has their name in that book, on Judgement Day, will receive eternal life. Proponents of Eternal Security generally believe that once your name is written in that book — then it’s a one-way ticket, and you’re in. They generally don’t think anyone’s name can ever be erased from the Lamb’s Book of Life, for any reason. But, I think there is evidence to show that names can be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life. Here is one major example: “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I [Jesus] will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life but will acknowledge their name before my Father and his angels” Revelation 3:3–5. Note: 1) See Exodus 32:33–34, Deuteronomy 9:14, Psalm 69:28 as additional evidence that names can be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Summary

Can Christians go to hell? I think the answer is yes. Christians who lie, cheat, steal, punch people in the face, yell at their spouses, etc. are in danger of hell. Likewise, preachers who are money hungry and live for their own fame, and ego, etc. are likewise in danger. There is no such thing as Eternal Security. Christians must turn from evil and obey the Commands of Jesus (including the 10 Commandments) or risk being eternally separated from God.

Clarification

I believe faith (trust) in Jesus is the way to obtain salvation (which includes eternal life), from God. The part of Eternal Security I dispute is the part that guarantee’s eternal life, without penalty or judgment. I believe followers of Jesus if they choose to, can wander away from Jesus and therefore be separated from him — forfeit their salvation — and go to hell. I also believe that following Jesus (which mainly involves following Jesus’ commands) is an integral part of the Gospel, and it is often missed by proponents of Eternal Security.

Many Christians will be tempted to think I’m a preacher of works-based salvation i.e. teaching people they need to earn their way into heaven. But, that is not my stance. I don’t think faithfulness earns salvation — I think faithfulness preserves salvation. The best comparison I can offer is that of a husband and wife. Both are required to be loyal to preserve the sanctity of their marital union. Loyalty does not earn marriage — it preserves it.

Where did the doctrine of Eternal Security come from?

Eternal Security is a very popular doctrine in modern Christianity. And, various Evangelists, Pastors, Bible Teachers, and Authors, from a wide variety of Christian denominations, embrace and promote it. So, where did it originate? Well, that’s not for me to speculate. However, I do know this:

1. Teachers of Eternal Security, sometimes justify their doctrine by quoting the words of a 1st Century writer named, Saul of Tarsus (also known as Paul). A few examples of Paul’s words being used to support the doctrine of Eternal Security are Paul’s quotes found in Romans 8:1, Romans 8:29–30, Romans 8:38–39, and Philippians 1:6. Many Christians follow the teachings of Paul, instead of the teachings of Jesus. That’s a problem because Paul taught several things which were contradictory to the commands of Jesus. One example is: Jesus commanded people to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). While, Paul advocated for certain people to be “handed over to Satan (1Cor 5:5, 1Tim 1:20). Those two commands (“Loving your enemies” and “Handing them over to Satan”) are contradictory and you cannot follow both, at the same time. I have love for Paul, and I think he said and did some good things. But, Paul was not infallible, and he was not God.

2. Teachers of the doctrine of Eternal Security, sometimes justify their doctrine by quoting the words of Martin Luther (1483–1546) as he is reported to have said: “No sin can separate us from Him [God], even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.” Luther, like Paul, said and did many good things. But, he was not infallible, and he made many errors, including his wrong, hateful rhetoric towards Jewish people.

3. Teachers of the doctrine of Eternal Security, sometimes, justify their doctrine by quoting the words of John Calvin (1509–1564). Calvin is reported to have taught that a true Christian cannot go to hell. And, anyone who falls away and/or betrays Jesus (such as Judas Iscariot) never belonged to God and was never truly Born Again, to begin with. Calvin said and did many good things. But, he was not infallible, and in his zeal, history reports several of his errors. Most notably, his condemning of Michael Servetus.

Note: My point here isn’t to malign anyone. My point is to display proof that Christians are in danger when they follow mere men, as their Shepherd. If someone desires to be a disciple of Jesus, then must follow Jesus directly. That means they obey the direct teachings and commands of Jesus. And, when someone is a follower of Jesus, it means Jesus/God is their highest authority — not Martin Luther, John Calvin, Paul, or anyone else.

What about non-believers who read this?

I’m preaching a very high moral and ethical code. And, in my opinion, non-believers should appreciate this because I’m preaching against hypocrisy. I say this because, as far as I’m aware, hypocrisy is offensive to most (perhaps all) non-believing people. So, my effort to call people (including Christians) to live pure, holy lives will hopefully be viewed as a positive.

On that note, I’d like to clarify that God gives each of us a free will, and each one of us gets to choose whom we follow. I have love for all people, and I’m not judging anyone who rejects the Gospel of Jesus. In fact, I’m not even judging proponents of Eternal Security. I’m only trying to keep it real. And, be faithful to the God whom I serve. And, share his Gospel. And, speak truth.

Do you agree or disagree? Did I get anything wrong? Do you have a question? Please leave a comment below. Thanks & God bless, R. 

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