Thursday, June 7, 2012

True or False? GOD’S GIFT OF “ETERNAL LIFE” IS GIVEN TO ALL WHO SIMPLY BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST!


 
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* GOD’S GIFT OF “ETERNAL LIFE” IS GIVEN TO ALL WHO SIMPLY BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST! TRUE OR FALSE? NEW - 2012 Edition
 
If 1 it is true, what exactly must one do to receive this gift of eternal life? In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, verse 647, the Apostle John recorded his eyewitness testimony of what Jesus Himself said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me2 has everlasting life.” NKJV (everlasting life and eternal life are synonymous terms in the Bible). Jesus clearly states in this verse that anyone who believes (trusts) in Him receives eternal life. But, what is it that we need to believe about Jesus? The Apostle John makes it clear in John 20:30-31: …that Jesus is the Christ (Christ means Messiah), the Son of God; and that believing you may have life (eternal life) in His Name. (italics added); in other words, to believe in Him is equivalent to believing that He is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Now, notice again what Jesus said in John 6:47: “he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” He did not say will have, He said has. Simply put, God’s gift of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8) is given to believers instantaneously at their moment of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; in other words, the very second a person is persuaded of the truth about what God’s Word says a person must do to receive eternal salvation (like when the Jailer asked the Apostle Paul and Silas in Acts 16:30-3130…“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…) and then simply believes in Jesus Christ, he/she instantaneously possesses everlasting life [John 6:47] (it’s really that simple—nothing more and nothing less). Therefore, the correct answer to the opening question is: True!

Furthermore, the mental act of believing in Jesus Christ is all that’s needed to be saved. The very second anyone crosses the line from unbelief to belief in Jesus Christ, they are saved (that is, saved from the great white throne judgment of all unbelievers at the end of time and from being cast into the lake of fire which would be eternal separation from God Revelation 20:11-15; John 5:24). In other words, the new believer now actually possesses God’s gift of eternal life; meaning he or she is guaranteed: 1) unending life (meaning, the believers eternal relationship with God will never end, not even at physical death); 2) resurrection to a new glorified physical body that will be immortal; and 3) eternal participation in the world to come 3(Titus 3:4-7; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Philippians 3:20-21; John 6:38-40), all this plus much, much, much more comes with simply believing in Jesus Christ. And, it is literally impossible to ever lose your eternal life or have it taken from you (John 10:28-29), not even if you later change your mind and stop believing (if that were to happen, the born-again believer will most likely experience serious discipline from God and lose some or all of any temporal and/or eternal rewards [1 Corinthians 3:11-15] that person may have accumulated from any good works he/she had accomplished while 7in the Spirit, but you can never change the fact that you once believed; therefore, eternal life can never be lost or taken from you, no matter what!). Another way to think of it would be, if you could lose eternal life, God would not have used the words “eternal” or “everlasting” life. How long is eternal life? Forever!

It is Jesus the Christ (Messiah), who is both true humanity and undiminished deity as the Son of God in one person who is the object in the eternal salvation of the unbeliever; for all who by simple faith alone believe in Him alone, the result to the one who believes will be the instant gift of eternal life 4(John 20:30-31). It’s important to understand that belief in Him is truly a mental act of believing that Jesus’ promise of everlasting life is true and then it’s entirely up to you to believe in Him, when you have believed mentally in Him, that is the actual point of saving faith. In other words, the point of saving faith, the mental act of believing actually occurs before you are able to formulate in your mind what to say to God in audible words (like when you learned something new in school, you believed in your mind first then you formulated the words, in thought only, “I get it”, believing always happens in the mind first, never audibly. Therefore, the magnificence of God’s infinite knowledge 7(Omniscience) hears the unbelievers thought of belief in Christ instantly as he or she thinks it and just as instantly that unbeliever is saved (given eternal life). Hallelujah!

So far, we have reviewed what is required of the unsaved individual in order to receive eternal life. Since there is so much confusion and false teaching regarding the core of what is required of us to be saved, we need to also review what is not required. As has already been made clear, receiving God’s absolutely free gift of “eternal life” does not require anything other than to believe in Jesus Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Therefore, one does not need to repent of one’s sins before believing in Christ (now read carefully what I am going to say next; repentance is not prohibited—it is totally OK to be repentant of your sins before and/or after one believes but the point is, it is not a necessary condition or requirement to be eternally saved—fact is, the doctrine of repentance is never even mentioned in the Gospel of John which is the only book in the Bible written primarily to those who have not yet believed in Jesus Christ; this would include those who have been deceived or are totally confused by false teaching and today’s confusing Christian rhetoric often included in alleged gospel messages in tracts & from the pulpit). If you would like a much broader explanation regarding the subject of repentance not being a requirement or condition to be eternally saved, I urge you to read the following article by Zane Hodges: Repentance.

What about water baptism? Contrary to popular thought, it too is not a necessary condition or requirement to be eternally saved. It certainly is OK to be water baptized but failure to be water baptized after one has believed in Jesus Christ does not affect the gift of eternal life in any way. An example of a reason to be baptized after one is eternally saved would be to express one’s faith publicly to his/her circle of friends and relatives; or simply just as an expression of one’s faith publicly; or like when someone intends to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, (Matthew 28:19).

Robert N. Wilkin, Th.M., Ph.D. Dallas Theological Seminary - Founder and Executive Director of the Grace Evangelical Society explains it very well in his journal article titled: He Who Believes And Is Baptized Will Be Saved - Mark 16:16. Here’s a quote from that article: In verse 16b: “Jesus didn't say, ‘He who is not baptized will be condemned.’ Neither did He say, ‘He who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.’ Rather, He said, ‘He who does not believe will be condemned.’ By this our Lord made it clear that faith alone was necessary to avoid eternal condemnation. He said the same thing in John 3:18: ‘He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God;’ NKJV (see also John 5:24; John 6:47).” For further clarification, I urge you to read the entire article, to do so, just click the title link above. Also, I encourage you to review another excellent article with a little more detail titled: Is Water Baptism Necessary for Salvation? by G. Michael Cocoris 


Furthermore, receiving eternal salvation does not require feeling sorry for one’s sins or to change one’s behavior before or after believing, (again, these things are not prohibited—it is OK to do so, but again, the point is they are not a condition or requirement to be eternally saved); nor is it necessary to commit the rest of one’s life to Jesus before or after believing or even to ask Jesus to come into one’s heart before or after believing. These phrases and conditions are not in the bible; when false teachers and false evangelists add to or replace what the Word of God says, it ultimately confuses at best and even can persuade the unsaved to think they are necessary conditions or requirements that he or she must do in addition to faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to be eternally saved (that is, to receive the gift of eternal life).

By adding the above mentioned extra requirements and conditions (what the Bible calls “works”), that would make salvation the result of “faith” and “works” together which is false doctrine. Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:4-5 and Romans 11:6 are quite clear that salvation comes by “faith alone” and not “works.” Many false teachers (Galatians 1:7-9; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15) today, in their quest to be creative in their gospel presentation, in effect are actually adding to scripture (even well intentioned pastors have adopted the use of these catchy words and phrases rather than emphasizing what the Bible says), but in reality, they are elevating their words above the Words of God (To emphasize the seriousness of adding to or subtracting from the Book of Revelation, in its closing verses, the Apostle John gave a strong warning against doing such a thing. (Revelation 2:18-19)). It is tragically unfortunate for the unsaved responder that 100’s or even 1,000’s of pastors today have picked up on these popular gimmick phrases and use them, because it only adds confusion about God’s Word regarding their eternal salvation.

It is the inspired word “believe” that the Apostle John used nearly 100 times in the Gospel of John that we need to use (e.g., John 6:47— “…he who believes in Me, has everlasting life.” and, John 3:16—“…that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”); then the 7convincing ministry of God the Holy Spirit who causes the individual unbeliever to comprehend Gospel truths, will make the information clear to anyone who responds positively to the gospel.

Sometimes we don’t realize the subtleties of our great enemy Satan (1 Peter 5:8) but we need to be constantly aware that he and his horde of demons 7(fallen angels) are extremely active in the world today. These demons are the ones whose responsibility it is to carry out Satan’s counterfeit deceptions; consequently, they target the very core of the gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ, because they want to blind the unsaved to the truth of the saving gospel message (2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15), and also, to distract born-again believers from fulfilling God’s plan of pursuing and reaching spiritual maturity. I cannot think of a better way to deceive the unsaved than by influencing well intending preachers and evangelists to alter what scripture says about what we must do and believe to be eternally saved. (1 Timothy 4:1)

Ask yourself this question: How often do I look up sermon support passages at home after church or from articles like this one? Many communicators of God’s Word quote scripture related to the gospel correctly from the pulpit but then turn right around and say in their “invitation” at the end of their sermon something like the following): “you can be saved right now, right where you sit, all you need do is, “ask Jesus to come into your heart,” or they might say: “first repent of your sins and then invite Jesus into your heart;” or even “invite Jesus to become the Lord of your life—to rule and reign in your heart from this day forward.” Many times, the responder is so emotionally charged by this kind of alter call, he/she just does what the preacher says to do and when they do it, they then get even more emotionally charged and joyfully think they are now born-again. To the responder’s misfortune, if a person is led to believe that they need to do three things or even two things rather than simply believing in Christ for everlasting life, they have been given false information. In other words, the added conditions and requirements may persuade the unbeliever to actually believe the false doctrine they’ve just been told about how to be saved, therefore, the person is still unsaved. Sadly, the responder does not realize it, they think, based on the conditions the preacher or evangelist said they must do is the complete truth, but in fact, it is not; it is counterfeit doctrine, like what “1 Timothy 4:1” is referring to; adding to scripture by means of demon influence is what makes the doctrine false. We are born-again (saved) when we simply “believe” by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, the result will be the gift of eternal life (salvation); again, what did Jesus say in John 6:47? “…he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” [NKJV—New King James Version]. Hopefully, if the above scenarios were to happen to somebody in real life, that is, those who were originally told a counterfeit gospel, the true gospel message was presented to them accurately sometime soon after, and believed it, if they did, they would now be born-again (saved). With many people, the actual moment of faith in Christ can be a long time in coming, months or even years, before that little light (so-to-speak) in their head clicks on—like when you completely understand something you had not fully comprehended before and you think to yourself—Wow! I get it! I was one of those, I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ right away but I did what the preacher told me to do and walked the aisle at his altar call and I was very emotionally charged. I think it was around two years after I had responded to the counterfeit gospel alter call (I don’t even know the actual date I was saved), during that time period, I thought I was saved at the altar call but it wasn’t until I understood, I needed to simply believe by faith alone in Christ alone to receive His promised “eternal life” and did so and was saved.

Some unbelievers might ask: Why would a good understanding of John 6:47 be of any importance to an unbeliever (e.g., agnostics, atheists, those who are totally confused, or even those of other religions)? A reasonable answer would be, because when he or she passes into the eternal future (i.e., the afterlife, the hereafter), the unbeliever will reside wherever he or she lands “forever”—that’s right “forever.” (I think even an agnostic or atheist might agree that “forever” is a long time). The Word of God tells us the human race has free-will (God will never interfere or coerce mans free will) and all can choose to be with God forever in His 7heaven, or they can choose to remain separated from Him forever (Revelation 20:11-15)—spending eternity in the 7lake of fire, which is the final destination of all unbelievers and the fallen angels. Odd as it may sound to some, the choice is real and ours to make. However, if we don’t cognitively make the choice to believe in Jesus Christ and receive His promised eternal life during our physical lifetime, the automatic default is separation from Him and God (John 3:18), forever.

However, there are limited exceptions to the automatic default; we discern from two of God’s attributes (“Justice and Love”) that each individual human being, beginning at their 7age of mental account-ability, is volitionally responsible and will be held accountable for what they have believed in time regarding Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation. However: babies (2 Samuel 12:23), young children and those born severely mentally handicapped (Jonah 4:11) are automatically saved and will go to heaven when they die since they lack the mental capacity to reach God-consciousness (recognizing the existence of a supreme being, and able to understand the Gospel), they cannot be held accountable for their decisions, all others are without excuse.

On other discussion boards, many have expressed their views and beliefs with sincerity and respect regarding the afterlife. Many question whether there is life after this one. Others firmly believe this is all there is and we just cease to exist at physical death. It is my contention that everyone has a faith belief in something, even the atheist and agnostic. Everyone who has expressed their beliefs in other forums that I have read say they believe in something; is not believing there is no God, a belief? Or believing we all cease to exist when we die, a belief? Or believe that mankind evolved from a single cell billions of years ago, also a belief? There are many, many beliefs. To that end, I think it is reasonable and makes good sense for an unbeliever to devote some serious time to checking out what the Word of God has to say about God’s gift of salvation and their eternal future and to do so before one’s time runs out. If one is not a believer in Jesus Christ, there is much to gain if one were to be persuaded by God the Holy Spirit’s 7convincing ministry that their long-held belief has been wrong, so there is really nothing an unbeliever can lose by seriously checking it out. According to God’s Word, when an unbeliever enters into the afterlife, it will be too late (Luke 16:22-31), belief in Jesus Christ must occur before physical death. The rich man who had died and was buried and now was in torments (5Hades—temporary hell) mentioned in the Luke verses was now very much aware of where he was now located but he could do nothing about it.

Would it not be entirely reasonable that a “just” and “fair” God would provide adequate, easily attainable, accurate and understandable information for unbelievers about Jesus’ promise of eternal life so they could make an informed decision, “for” or “against” Him? Of the 66 books of the Bible, the “Gospel of John” is the only book in the Word of God written primarily to those who have not yet believed in Christ (John 20:30-31); again, this includes those who are confused by false religious rhetoric, false religious doctrines, and/or have been persuaded to believe false information about how to receive eternal salvation. If someone has been given false salvation doctrine, believed it and is now relying on that belief for eternal life, that would make that person still not saved, would it not?

What someone chooses to believe about Christ is entirely between them and God the Father, that’s freedom of choice. However, a core purpose of this discussion group, if you decide to join, is to help provide people on the fence with accurate information (i.e., offer them key verses in scripture, provide links to articles, papers and/or audios & videos by recognized Christian scholars and through objective discussion). If those on the fence are truly open minded to God’s Word and are willing to seek the Truth and seriously consider the Word of God as that Truth, it will be God the Holy Spirit who will make it clear in the minds of the unbeliever as to whether or not the salvation information being presented to them is correct. Then, an individual will have the perfect right to decide “for” or “against” the promised salvation offer because it is their God given right to simply believe by faith alone in Christ Jesus alone and so doing, receive God’s gift of eternal life or reject Him and His promise.

Therefore, I encourage anyone who is not absolutely certain about their eternal future, not to take just my word for it, but go directly to the authoritative source, the Word of God, and read the Gospel of John, when the page opens, click on the word “more” to start at the beginning of the book; (it’s only a click away—if you’re a slow reader, consider reading a chapter a day), especially if you have never read it. It is an “eye witness” testimony of what the Apostle John actually witnessed himself about Jesus’ signs, miracles and teachings (John 20:30-31; John 21:24-25). You may not fully grasp some of the more technical words or phrases, but you should definitely get the big picture of what John’s testimony is clearly communicating. I personally favor the “New King James Version”; however, I think the New American Standard Bible is also excellent. As you read through the Gospel of John, you will read the recorded words of Jesus Christ (Messiah), the uniquely born Son of God who became both man and God at the same time, who was crucified and resurrected to guarantee eternal life to all believers, who paid the penalty for the sins of the entire world (past, present and future) so all mankind would have the opportunity to receive the “free gift” of eternal life. The message of eternal life is proclaimed throughout the Book of John, here are just a few more examples: John 3:14-16; John 3:36; John 5:20-24; John 6:47, 35, 40, 68-69; John 20:31.

Another thought, if you are not an avid reader, is to watch the full-length feature movie: the Gospel of John (film) is a 2003 movie that is the story of Jesus' life as recounted by the Apostle John. It is a motion picture that has been adapted for the screen on a word-for-word basis from the American Bible Society's - Good News Bible [GNB]. This three-hour epic feature film follows John's Gospel precisely, without additions to the story from other Gospels, nor omission of complex passages. It’s really a fantastic movie. If you want to watch it, you can do it on YouTube for free (the playlist below will take you through it non-stop—it’s a three hour movie so try to pick a time to see it through in one sitting if possible), if you have a capable monitor you can view it in HD and Full Screen, just left click the box with the arrows in the bottom right corner of the YouTube player. Or, rent it at your favorite video store. After you’ve seen the movie, then do your best to actually read the entire Gospel of John, (here’s the web address of the bible used for the movie if you want to read it on the internet: GNB - John 1:1), you will be amazed how much clearer the reading will be with your frame-of-reference able to recall the scenes from the movie. Do you remember the movie “The Ten Commandments?” Whenever you read or hear about the parting of the Red Sea, what image pops into your mind? That is how your recall will be if you read John’s Gospel after you have seen the movie. Enjoy!

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If this article has sparked your interest and left you with a desire to learn more about what the Word of God says about eternal life or you wish to be a Christian contributor in our discussions, I invite you to join this group.  


End Notes and acknowledgements:
 

* This article is an overhaul of a previous one written in early 2008 titled: “God gives the gift of eternal life to all who believe in Jesus Christ for it. True or False?” Due to substantial additions and numerous other revisions, I felt it would be best to post it as if it were a new article.

1) The word “if” has four different uses, in this case it is a first-class conditional clause which assumes the reality of the premise: “If, and it is assumed to be true.”

2) NU-Text omits in Me: NU-Text = These variations from the traditional text generally represent the Alexandrian or Egyptian type of text; they are found in the Critical Text published in the twenty-sixth edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (N) and in the United Bible Societies’ third edition (U), hence the acronym, “NU-Text.” [From The Nelson Study Bible, copyright 1997 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.]

3) Zane C. Hodges; KERUGMA, INC., Mesquite, TX – in his book: “Did Paul Preach Eternal Life? – Should We?” – pages: 9; 18-21, 31.

4) John states the purpose of this book. His purpose was to convince his readers that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah who fulfilled God’s promises to Israel. Jesus is the Son of God in the flesh. By believing these things, a person obtains eternal life (John 1:12). [From The Nelson Study Bible, page 1808, notes 20:31, copyright 1997 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.]

5) Torments: the temporary subterranean holding cell which remains the place of abode for all dead unbelievers from all eras of human history, until the 7great white throne judgment; after their judgment, the unbelievers will be transferred to the 7lake of fire (or Gehenna) (Revelation 20:15). Chafer Theological Seminary—Glossary of Terms (use your Firefox browser only as other browsers do not work with the link pop-ups).

6) All Bible verse hover pop-up and hyperlinks are from BibleGateway.com and are all New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise noted at end of verse (only the first verse, John 6:47 is marked).

7) Word & phrase explanation hover pop-ups and hyperlinks are from Chafer Theological Seminary, Chafer Seminary’s Topical Notebook – http://www.chafer-cstn.org/home.html, December 2011.

8) The Gospel of John – Movie is from YouTube via a YouTube video player and may be subject to removal if the person who uploaded it makes changes, revisions or there are web address changes, etc. It is assumed that the up loaders of the movie have proper copyright permission to post it on YouTube.

The following link is an additional gospel message describing how one can receive God’s free gift of eternal life: Ticket to Heaven was written for anyone not absolutely certain about their eternal future.

© Mark W. Miller – 2008, 2010, 2012

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