01 Reign of Servant Kings

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Reviewer’s Comments 

Rarely do I come across a book that I feel will have a major impact on how one may interpret God’s Word, particularly as it relates to eschatology (doctrine of end-time events) and the final significance of man.  But now I believe I have; let me explain.

I have always been a strong defender of the doctrine pertaining to the “eternal security of the believer.”  This is not changed!!  But I would be less than honest if I told you that there were no passages within the Bible that appear to conflict with this view and that I am completely satisfied with my understanding of these seemingly paradoxical segments of Holy Writ.  Nevertheless, I have lived with this discomfort knowing that there is ample scripture in support of “once saved always saved,” and that my finite mind is unable to fully understand God’s entire message (yeah, I know, somewhat of a “cop-out”).  And, after all, there are several commentaries penned by great theologians, who provide plausible solutions to these problematic passages; but never to my complete satisfaction.

Furthermore, I have always been aware that even though saved, one day we will all have to answer to our Lord at the Bema (judgment) seat of Christ, not to mention that we are disciplined as children of God in this life.  And so it was in preparation for a study regarding the “judgments of God” that led me into material by Zola Levitt (a Christian Jew whom many of you know about) and others that somehow led me to a book entitled The Reign of the Servant Kings—A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man by Joseph C. Dillow, which is published by the Schoettle Publishing Company of Hayesville, North Carolina.

What caught my attention was the “sub-title” of his book, “A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man.”  The book is 650 pages long with a total of 25 chapters.  From its very first pages, my interest was sparked with the capsulated explanation of the book’s message and how it totally supports what Chuck Missler often says about the Bible:  “The New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament.”  I was strongly intrigued as to how the book’s thesis appears to shed genuine light on God’s message to man and how it “brings together” in a consistent manner many of the problematic passages mentioned above and ties them into a comprehensible and logical whole with the eschatological applications in Scripture.  I must further add that the book deals in a most excellent fashion with the erroneous view of “lordship salvation,” which adds onto the gospel message of faith alone in Christ alone a second requirement of works.  And, it provides a clear understanding of how the Calvinistic doctrine of “the perseverance of the saints” is misleading in light of the various examples within God’s Word of true believers who have “fallen away” (which was the situation in my life for many years).

Because of this, I have decided to initiate a “review-summary-outline” of this work by Mr. Dillow.  I will produce and submit it chapter-by-chapter.  It will significantly reduce the book down to its germane contents (message).  Most of this review-summary-outline will be direct quotes, so that I will not mislead you.  I of course encourage you to purchase the book for yourself should you find the review enlightening, but the review will be complete enough so that you won’t miss the salient points.  I will have it posted “by chapter” on my website, just as I did the review of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life.  But this review will be much more detailed.

Charles of www.bibleone.net

Mr. Dillow has a science degree with a major in electrical Engineering and a Th.D degree from the Dallas Theological Seminary.  He has served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, Christian Family Life, and has been a visiting instructor in Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  For many years he and his wife Linda have lived in Vienna, Austria where he has served as the founder and director of Biblical Education by Extension International (BEE), a biblical training ministry for church leadership in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China. 

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline



The Arminians, in their exegetical approach to certain problem passages, viewed the loss of a believer’s salvation as a real possibility for those who fail in a consistent walk with Jesus Christ.  On the other hand, the Calvinist with a consistent biblical theology maintained that believers in Jesus Christ could never lose their eternal salvation.  It may very well be that in both systems, Calvinism and Arminianism, there has been a reductionistic error committed in understanding the meaning of salvation—by emphasizing one aspect of salvation at the expense of another.

The concept and meaning of salvation in the Scriptures is multi-dimensional.  There is a past aspect—justification, deliverance from the penalty of sin, and a present aspect—sanctification, deliverance from the power of sin, and a future aspect—glorification, deliverance from the presence of sin.  Although a believer can never lose his justification salvation, there are dimensions of glorification salvation that may be lost or gained if we take seriously passages such as Romans 14:10, 1 Corinthians 3:15, 2 Corinthians 5:10, and 2 John 7, 8.  The opportunity of reward, on the other hand, with its glories of ruling and reigning with Jesus Christ in His coming Kingdom, are presented in the Scriptures as a great motivation for holy living in the present.

Earl D. Radmacher, Th.D.

Western Seminary Phoenix

Scottsdale, Arizona

January 1992


What do we make of a man who claims to have placed his trust in Jesus Christ but whose present life-style is a complete contradiction of the faith he once acknowledged?  TheWestminsterdivines had the ready answer that he was never a Christian to begin with, because the ultimate test of the reality of faith is perseverance in the faith.  The Remonstrants, on the other hand, speaking from the Arminian tradition, viewed the matter differently.  To them . . . it was also possible that he was genuinely born again but, due to his falling into sin or unbelief, lost his justification.

Is there a view of these warnings and other in the New Testament which maintains, with the Calvinist tradition that justification can never be forfeited and at the same time, allows, with the Wesleyans, that justification and sanctification are not inextricably united and that there is indeed something conditional in the believer’s ultimate destiny?

The answer to that question is yes.  The danger is not loss of heaven but loss of our reward there and severe divine discipline in time.  The issue of whether or not the saints will necessarily persevere and whether or not true faith is indestructible is a complex interpretive issue involving numerous passages in the New Testament, indeed one’s whole system of theology as well.  An entire view of the Christian life is under consideration in the following chapters.

Throughout this book I refer to the merit which the believer can obtain by means of his good works.  That God chooses to reward us according to our works, but not because of them (it is not because of a strict legal relation whereby the believer by his works places God in his debt), is an act of pure grace, not of debt.

Joseph C. Dillow

Vienna, Austria

15 January 1992


A universal tragedy had occurred.  The Morning Star, known as Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-17), God’s perfect one, full of wisdom and beauty (Ezekiel 28:12), the angelic being whom God had appointed as ruler over the ancient cosmos (Ezekiel 28:14), . . . had fallen.  The prophet Ezekiel paints a picture of divine grief in his woeful description of this betrayal (Ezekiel 28:11-19).  Lucifer had been given everything.  Yet he became proud (Ezekiel 28:17; 1 Timothy 3:6).  He concluded that God’s gifts were more important than the giver, that dependence upon God and obedience to His revealed will were not necessary.  He became the Satan, God’s adversary.  He was cast to the earth, and the earth was judged (Ezekiel 28:17).  At that time the earth, from which he ruled and upon which he lived (Ezekiel 28:13), became without form and void (Genesis 1:1, 2).

But God had a plan on how to reestablish rule over the earth, which was completely foreign to His angelic hosts and Satan himself.

What is the significance of man?  Man was to rule!  He was the lesser creature who would be crowned with glory and honor.  The glory, honor, and sovereignty which the Satan had stolen by exercising his independence and unbelief would be regained by the inferior creature living in servanthood and faith!  “. . . he who is least among you all—he is the greatest”(Luke 9:48).

God intends to humble the proud and independent in a unique way.  He intends that the lower creature, man (created lower than the angels and hence lower than Satan), achieve the highest position (“. . . all things in subjection under his feet,” Hebrews 2:8).  “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels” (Hebrews 2:5).  Out of the least, God will bring the greatest.  It was as “man” that the Savior defeated the enemy.  It was as “man” that He silenced the principalities and powers.  It will be as “man” that He will reign over the futurekingdom ofGod upon this earth.

It is a glorious reign of servant kings which extends to “all the works of His hands” (Hebrews 2:7)–this may suggest that one day mankind will rule the galaxies!  The lion will lie down with the lamb, universal righteousness will reign, and there will be no war.  Disease will be abolished, and the world of Satan will be placed under the rule of the Servant King and His companions (Hebrews 1:9).

Consistent with His divine purpose, God chose to establish His kingdom through the elevation of an obscure and insignificant Semitic tribe,Israel.  That future glory falls to those followers of Christ both withinIsraeland within His Church, who, like their Master lived on earth, live in dependence and obedience.

The controlling principle of the biblical philosophy of history rests in the precept of “the second before the first.”  God often chooses the “nothings” of the world to confound the “somethings” (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27).  Only in this way is the self praise of man destroyed.  It is a pervading characteristic of the whole course of redemption that God chooses the younger before the elder, sets the smaller in priority to the greater, and chooses the second before the first (not Cain but Able and his substitute Seth; not Japheth but Shem; not Ishmael but Isaac; not Esau but Jacob; not Manasseh but Ephraim (Genesis 48:14); not Aaron but Moses (Exodus 7:1); not Eliab but David (1 Samuel 16:6-13); not the Old Covenant but the New (Hebrews 8:13); not the first Adam but the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45).  The first becomes last and the last becomes first (Matthew 19:30).  The great nations are set aside (Dan 2:7ff; Romans 1:24, 26, 28), and God elects to establish His purpose through two insignificant mediums, the Israel of God (the believing remnant of the last days) and the body of Christ (the invisible Church).

It is here that the beauty and symmetry of the divine plan became evident.  Not only did God purpose to elevate the role of a servant and the disposition of trust, but He gave His Son, the Second Man and the Last Adam, as a savior.  He who is of the essence of God became a servant (Philippians 2:7, 8).  And in this way, living by exactly the opposite set of principles from the Satan, He achieved higher glory (Philippians 2:9-11).

Those who would rule with Him must find their lives in the same way:  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).  The future rulers of God’s creation must, like their King, be servants now.  Unlike the Satan and his modern day followers, they will have no desire to be lord over their subjects.  Instead, like their Lord, they will desire only to serve those over whom they rule (Matthew 20:25-28).

Instead of disobedience there will be servanthood, to God and to others.  The second Adam put it this way, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth(Matthew 5:3-5).

We are to become the servant kings.  That is our destiny—the glorious privilege of reigning with Messiah is the final destiny of man.  In the eternal plan, only those who strive to be servants can now qualify for this great future privilege then.  In order to be “great” in the kingdom of heaven, to rule there, we must first become humble like a little child (Matthew 18:4).  “The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:11, 12).

If God’s eternal plan revolves around demonstrating the moral superiority of humility and servanthood, it is of the utmost importance that we learn this lesson now.  All Christians are not servants, and only those who are will be great in the kingdom.

Many who have begun lives of discipleship have not persevered.  They risk forfeiture of this great future.  But we are “partakers (Gk. metochoi) of Christ, [only] if we hold our confidence firmly to the end” (Hebrews 3:14).  All Christians will be in the kingdom, but tragically not all will be co-heirs there.

It is by losing our lives that we find our ultimate significance (Matthew 8:35).  Each act of service is not only an expression of God’s eternal purpose but it is preparation and training for our final destiny.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 1—Introduction

No doubt there are millions who have professed the name of Christ and continue to live in such a way that gives no evidence whatsoever that their profession was/is real.

In the clearest possible terms the New Testament writers presented the unconditional nature of the gospel offer:

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (without cost). (Revelation 22:17)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Could something as important as our eternal destiny really come to us only through believing and be “without cost”?

Grace under Fire

There are two powerful influences that have caused this hesitation to accept the unconditional freeness of saving grace.

The Abuse of Grace

The first is the deplorable state into which Western Christianity has fallen as we move into the twenty-first century.

One such reaction—it is due to the well-meaning but misinformed teaching that salvation is being offered without the necessity of accepting Christ as both Savior and Lord at the point of saving faith (Lordship Salvation).

The answer is to include the notion of submission to the lordship of Christ as the antidote to a defective view of faith.

The Theology of the Reformers

The second major influence that has caused many to question the doctrine of free grace is a persistent theological tradition going back to John Calvin.  He and the Reformers who followed him told their readers and parishioners that faith alone saves, but true faith is a faith that results in a life of works.  In fact, the final proof of the reality of faith is whether or not a man perseveres in good works to the end of life.  Known as the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints,” this teaching emerged in its mature form during the Protestant Reformation.

In order to make his argument “air tight,” Calvin went beyond the Scriptures and taught that the gospel will necessarily and inevitably guarantee a life of holiness.  When the Arminians pointed to a man who had professed Christ but was not showing evidence of a godly life, the Calvinists could simply reply that according to their doctrine he was not a Christ at all.

The debate about eternal security has gone on for several hundred years.  When a discussion endures that long, issues are more precisely defined, and positions harden.  When a person confronts a position differing from his own background, he is likely to “check it out” by opening up the standard theology texts that support his view and learning and using the ancient arguments against his opponents.

Thus, traditional arguments are passed on and there is rarely the opportunity for original study, which might challenge traditional interpretations.

The Answer to Carnality

Two widely (traditionally) held solutions are offered:  (1) that man needs more than initial salvation in Christ—a “fullness” beyond the salvation experience, a second work of grace to finish the incomplete beginning; and (2) the tendency to “front-load” and “back-load” the gospel—the one this book addresses.

Front-Loading the Gospel

Front loading the gospel means attaching various works of submission and obedience on the front end and including them in the conditions for salvation.  This is commonly done among those who maintain that submission to the lordship of Christ is a condition of salvation.  Faith is redefined to include submission, and a man becomes a Christian not by “hearing” and “believing” but by believing and promising God he will submit his life to Christ.  It is a view that requires that a man must resolve to turn from all known sin and follow Christ absolutely.

In this, works enter through the front door and another gospel is taught.  This submission to lordship is a work, and works do not save.

Back-Loading the Gospel

This is a more subtle change.  It means the attaching of various works of submission as the means for achieving the final aim of faith, final deliverance from hell and entrance into heaven.  These works, we are told, are different than the works that the unregenerate perform to obtain merit with God.  These works are the gifts of Christ and the fruits of regeneration.

Works are not a means, whether on the front end or on the back end.  The only means necessary for obtaining salvation is faith, and faith alone:

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

The means are one—faith.  Also, the loading of the gospel with additional means and conditions has not achieved any more notable moral results than by not adding any to it.  The problems of spiritual lethargy and spiritual abuse persist.  The various proposals for correcting them have been tried before, and there seems to be no useful purpose served in continuing with the old answers such as lordship salvation and perseverance in holiness.  It seems that these problems are rooted in fundamental biblical misunderstandings.

The Partaker

This book will discuss three basic theological approaches to the questions of security and perseverance:

  1. Arminian—refers to those followers of Jacobus Arminius who have held that it is possible for a true Christian to lose his salvation.  For them the warning passages (e.g., Hebrews 6) refer to regenerate people.
  1. Calvinist—refers to those who feel that one who is born again cannot lose his salvation and will necessarily and inevitably continue in good works until the end of life.  The warning passages to them are addressed to unregenerate people who have professed faith in Christ but who do not posses Christ in the heart.
  1. Partaker—refers to one who, like the Calvinist, holds to the eternal security of the Christian but, like the Arminian, believes the warning passages in the New Testament apply to true Christians.  The Partaker is the Christian who perseveres in good works to the end of life.  He is the faithful Christian who will reign with Christ in the coming messianic kingdom.  He will be one of the servant kings.  What is in danger, according to the Partaker, is not a loss of salvation but spiritual impoverishment, severe discipline in time, and a forfeiture of reward, viz., disinheritance in the future.

For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. (Hebrews 3:14) 

It is mankind’s destiny to “rule and have dominion,” and that destiny has yet to be fulfilled.  However, if the Partaker view of perseverance is right, only those Christians who persevere in a life of good works will have a share in this future glory.  For the unfaithful Christian there will be shame and profound regret when he stands before the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 2—Interpretation and Perseverance

It has become quite fashionable to speak of the power of paradigms.  Originally a Greek scientific term, today the word “paradigm” more commonly refers to a perception, a model, or a frame of reference.  It is the way we “see” the world.  They are lurking in the background of virtually every conclusion we make.  We seldom question their accuracy.  We commonly assume that the way we see things is the way they really are.

The way we see things unconsciously affects our conclusions.  This is why two theologians can look at the same data and come to radically opposite conclusions.  It is not that the facts are different, but the paradigms that they bring to the facts determine the interpretations.

In order for some readers of this book to share the author’s conclusions, they will need to undergo a paradigm shift.  All interpreters of Scripture bring certain paradigms to their reading of the Bible.  Perhaps our paradigm is wrong.  The reader is invited on a journey of discovery, a journey that will take him to familiar passages.  Yet as he travels, he will be asked to consider the data from a different point of view.

There are two exegetical issues that must first be cleared away if we are to correctly understand how the New Testament writers viewed the perseverance of the saints.  The paradigm shift begins.

Theological Exegesis

It is widely recognized that differing canons of interpretation play a determinative role in theological discussion.  This same hermeneutical difference underlies much of the dispute on the doctrine of perseverance.  What is the ultimate determinant of the meaning of a particular test:  the intent of the original author or a comparison of that text with other texts (selected by the interpreter)?

Should the single intent of the original author be the primary determinant in our theological constructs?  It seems that the answer to that question is obvious.  Yes!  If the intent of the original author does not determine meaning, then someone else’s intent (that of the interpreter) takes over and all controls are lost.

All of us approach the Bible with certain theological preunderstandings, certain paradigms.  Even when we are conscious of them, it is still difficult to negate their controlling influence.  These should not dictate our exegesis, substitute for exegesis, or simply be subsequent to exegesis.  Rather, they are part of valid exegetical procedure, but their use should be postponed until a very late stage.

Illegitimate Totality Transfer

Another exegetical error that has tended to obfuscate the clarity of vision of the disputants over the doctrine of perseverance is illegitimate totality transfer—the error that arises, when the “meaning” of a word (understood as the total series of relations in which it is used in the literature) is read into a particular case as its sense and implication there. [In other words, it is the ascription of a predetermined meaning to a word, either derived from or concocted by other uses of the word elsewhere, to the word in a particular context even though the context of the passage may indicate otherwise]

A perfect example of this by Experimental Predestinarians [the term the Mr. Dillow uses to represent Calvinists—holders of the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints”] is their interpretation of the word “repentance” (Gk. metanoeo) in support of their idea that submission to the lordship of Christ and perseverance in that submission to the final hour are the necessary evidences of the truly regenerate.

Most would agree that the basic meaning of metanoeo is simply to “change the mind.”  But often Reformed writers go beyond this meaning and read into it the notion of “turn from sin.”  [Even thou this meaning as it relates to conversion cannot be supported by Scripture], they have in mind a theological idea of repentance that involves turning from sin . . . and they read that theological idea into the various texts they quote.

Now it is clear that, in contexts where the meaning is “to change one’s mind about sin,” the word is not being used as condition of final deliverance from hell.  We know this must be true for two reasons: (1) in no passage where “repentance” is used in the sense of “to turn from sin” can it be demonstrated that it is a condition of salvation, and (2) it is impossible that it could be because the Bible everywhere attests that salvation is by faith alone, and without cost (Revelation 21:6; 22:17; Romans 4:5; Galatians 3:2).

One writer forcefully insists, “No evangelism that omits the message of repentance can properly be called the gospel, for sinner cannot come to Jesus Christ apart from a radical change of heart, mind, and will.”  Would it not follow then that the Gospel of John, which never mentions repentance, cannot properly be called the gospel?  Nowhere does the apostle present any other means except “believe” as a means for salvation.  If repentance and surrender to the lordship of Christ are necessary means of salvation, the Gospel of John would be incapable of achieving its intended aim (John 20:31).

When advocates of this position insist that faith includes the notion of repentance, they are again committing the error of the illegitimate totality transfer, this time in regard to faith.  Beginning as they do with the theological idea that salvation must involve submission to Christ’s lordship and realizing that “faith” does not mean that, they import into it the conclusions of their views on conversion, turning from sin, and repentance, and make faith a very pregnant concept indeed!

However, if we understand repentance in its basic sense as “a change of mind” or “change of perspective,” then it is easy to see why the word was not included in John’s gospel.  Anytime a man believes, a certain change of mind is involved.  In fact, the change of mind demanded in the New Testament is to trust in Christ instead of institutional Judaism.  That is why repentance can be used by itself, and when it is, it is virtually a synonym for faith.  The problem for Experimental Predestinarians is that, even though usage and the standard lexicons admit that the words are primarily mental acts and not volitional surrender, they must be made to mean volitional surrender in order to square them with the Reformed doctrine of perseverance and with the notion that discipleship is a condition for becoming a Christian.

Space cannot be taken here to adequately discuss the question of the meaning of repentance in the New Testament.  The point here is simply that the procedure used to settle the question is sometimes faulty.  Is it acceptable to combine words like “turn” (GK. eptistrepho; Heb. shub) and “conversion” and “repentance” into a theological concept of repentance?  Can we then invest the Greek word metanoeo with all these ideas and then read them into the usages of the word throughout the New Testament?  The answer . . . is no.  This pregnant meaning of “repentance” is far removed from its semantic value, “change of mind.”  This new sense, now “great with child,” has given birth to a theology of faith and salvation that is far removed from the simple gospel offer.

This practice of going through the concordance, noting usage in various contexts, adding all the usages up, reading them into the semantic value of the word, and carrying that freighted new meaning into other contexts is an illegitimate totality transfer.  A word does not have a meaning without a context; it only has possibilities of meaning.  Frequency of use only suggests a probable meaning that would be suggested to a reader in the absence of any contextual indicators as to what is meant.  The meanings of words are primarily determined by the usage in a particular context and that has more force than a hundred usages elsewhere.  The study of usages helps determine the range of known meanings but not the meaning in a particular context.

An error related to the so-called illegitimate totality transfer is . . . the illegitimate identity transfer.  This occurs when a meaning in one context is made to be the meaning in all contexts.  A biblical illustration will be helpful—one is in the attempt to define the meaning of the “overcomer” in Revelation 2-3.  In 1 John 5:4 it seems clear that the overcomer is a Christian and that all who are Christians are, in a particular sense, overcomers.  Those who know the Lord have, according to John, overcome by virtue of the fact that they have believed and for no other reason.  In Revelation, however, the overcomer is one who has “kept the word of My perseverance” (Revelation 3:10) and who “keeps My deeds until the end” (Revelation 2:26).  As a result of this faithful behavior, the overcomer receives various rewards.  All who are overcomers in 1 John, therefore, may or may not be walking in fellowship; all who are overcomers in Revelation are.  An overcomer in 1 John is simply a Christian; an overcomer in Revelation is a persevering Christian.

[Reviewer’s note:  This comparison deserves more study.  One must remember that the human author of both 1 John and Revelation is the apostle John; therefore, from a “human” point-of-view, the meaning may carry over.  Also, the so-called “reward” depicted in Revelation 3 appears to be exclusion from the Tribulation Period, which according to this reviewer’s “paradigm,” will apply to all Christians.]

In summary, meanings are to be derived from context.

Theological Science

It was Calvin who first formalized the science of theology.  He insisted that interpretations had to have a scientific justification.  By scientific justification we mean, first of all, that, in order for an interpretation to be true, it must be grounded in the objective data of history, lexicography, culture, grammar, and context.  But secondly, it must submit to a “falsifiability criterion.”  If contrary data invalidate it, it must be given up.  In order for a theory to have any scientific value, it must be capable of being proved wrong.  When dealing with an induction, we cannot always be sure that we have collected all the data, so the possibility of invalidation must always be part of the theory, or it is not a scientific theory.  Similarly, a theological “theory” that is incapable of falsification is questionable in terms of its explanatory value.

The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints certainly qualifies as a valid scientific theory.  It has been argued by capable men on the basis of a particular interpretation of many biblical passages.  It qualifies as a scientific theory because it is capable of falsification.  If there is one example in the Bible of a person who was born again, fell away from the Lord, and persisted in his disobedience up to the point of physical death, then the theory of the saints’ perseverance has been disproved and must, if we are honest, be abandoned.  Deny this, and all theology is as worthless as straw.

In about A.D. 1300 William of Ockham introduced the scientific principle that whatever explanation involves the fewest assumptions is to be preferred.  Called Ockham’s Razor, it posits that any theory that, when confronted with contrary evidence, must supply secondary explanations in order to justify its existence is a bad theory.  The continued introductions of secondary assumptions in order to explain the theory in the light of seemingly contradictory evidence results in a crumbling house of cards.

In theology, when a particular theological position must be maintained by secondary assumptions, it is worthless.  This is preeminently the case in the Experimental Predestinarians’ doctrine of the saints’ perseverance.  When confronted with apparently contradictory evidence that a true saint in the Bible has persisted in disobedience, they will often offer the secondary assumption, based on their system [paradigm], that he could not really be a true saint at all.  This addition of an ad hoc explanation, which is either not alluded to in the texts in question or is specifically refuted by it, renders the theory useless.  It becomes incapable of falsification because any data contrary to it is simply negated by additional assumptions.

Theology is a science; in fact, it was once known as the queen of the sciences.  Every science is composed of two things, facts and their interpretation.  The task of a theologian is to collect, authenticate, arrange, and explain the facts of revelation.  The natural scientist does the same with the facts of nature.  When he does this, however, he must not modify one experimental fact in order to accommodate it with another apparently contradictory one.  Instead, he searches for a higher synthesis, larger than each fact, which will explain both.

The theologian must show how facts in one part of Scripture correlate and explain facts in another part, but he must not modify the facts in order to do so.  False theories in science and false doctrines in theology are often due to errors of fact.  Furthermore, this collection must be comprehensive (for instance, an incomplete induction led men to believe that the sun moved around the earth).

Most important, as the student of nature must be honest, so must the theologian.  Who among us, as students of the Word, has not at one time or another been tempted to make the biblical facts fit into our theological theories?  If we come across biblical data that seem to contradict our system [paradigm], we must be honest and reassess our system and not reinterpret that fact in light of the system.  It is a life-long work.  Our goal is not to defend the viewpoint of the denomination but to know the mind of God.  This means that the doctrines of the Bible, like the principles and laws of natural science, are not imposed upon the facts but are derived from them.

The theologians, perhaps even more than the natural scientist, is susceptible to the temptation to be dishonest with the facts because his facts are much more important.  They concern eternal issues and not just the periodic table of the elements.  The motivation for this is pure, if unconscious.  It lies in the nagging fear that, if this doctrine is abandoned, then there is no answer to the Arminians with their denial of eternal security, and even more important, there is no answer to the charge of being antinomian [the concept that maintains that Christians are freed from the moral law by virtue of grace as set forth in the Gospel].  Indeed, to give up the doctrine of perseverance, according to Experimental Predestinarians, is to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness [inclined to wanton sex].

Now, of course, that does not necessarily follow, but there is no question that in some cases carnal believers will do just that.  This is why Paul was charged with antinomianism (Romans 6:1).  But the Partaker’s position satisfactorily answers the Arminian objections to eternal security by allowing the texts to speak plainly.  The charge of antinomianism is also easily answered in that there is no greater inducement to godliness than the love of Christ, the unconditional acceptance of the Father, the hope of hearing Him say “Well done!” and the fear of millennial disinheritance.

We must derive our doctrine from the Bible and not make the Bible teach what we think is necessary.  As natural science was a chaos until the principle of induction was admitted and faithfully carried out, so theology is a jumble of human speculations and not worth a straw when men refuse to apply the same principle to the study of the Word of God.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 3—The Inheritance:  Old Testament

The biblical writers everywhere counsel the Christian to begin with the end in mind, to see life from the perspective of our final accountability before God.  One day, at the judgment seat of Christ, we all hope to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant: enter into the joy of your Lord.”  The general term for the end in mind used in the Bible is the “inheritance.”  The more material aspects of it are gradually enriched as revelation progresses through the Old Testament toward the magnificent New Testament challenge to “inherit the kingdom.”

It may seem surprising that a discussion of the saints’ perseverance should begin with a study of the inheritance in the Old Testament.  It is therefore appropriate that at the outset of this discussion the writer set forth his understanding of the inheritance of the saints and its relevance to the doctrine of perseverance.  These conclusions may be set forth in the following propositions:

  1. There is a difference between inheriting thelandofCanaanand living there.  The former refers to ownership and the latter to mere residence.
  1. While Israelwas promised the inheritance as a nation, the condition for maintaining the inheritance right to the landof Canaanwas faith, obedience, and completion of one’s task.  The promise, while national, was only applied to the believing remnant within the nation.  Even though many within the nation were not born again, the New Testament writers use the nation as an example (1 Corinthians 10:6; Gk. typos) of the experience of the born-again people of God in the New Testament.
  1. The inheritance is not to be equated with heaven but with something additional to heaven, promised to those believers who faithfully obey the Lord.
  1. Just as Old Testament believers forfeited their earthly inheritance through disobedience, we can also forfeit our future reward (inheritance) by a similar failure.  Loss of inheritance, however, does not mean loss of salvation.
  1. Two kinds of inheritance were enjoyed in the Old Testament.  All Israelites who had believed and were therefore regenerate had God as their inheritance but not all inherited the land.  This paves the way for the notion that the New Testament may also teach two inheritances.  We are all heirs of God, but we are not all joint-heirs with Christ, unless we persevere to the end of life.  The former refers to our salvation and the latter to our reward.
  1. A child ofIsraelwas both an heir of God and an heir ofCanaanby value of belief in God and resulting regeneration.  Yet only those believers inIsraelwho were faithful would maintain their status as firstborn sons who would actually receive what had been promised to them as an inheritance.

The relevance of these conclusions to the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance is obvious.  First, if this is in fact the Old Testament view, it surely must have informed the thinking of the New Testament writers.  If that is so, then many passages, which have been considered as descriptions of the elect, are in fact conditions of obtaining a reward in heaven; for example, 1 Corinthians 6:9.  In this passage instead of Paul warning professing Christians that they may not be Christians at all, he is telling true Christians that, if they do not change their behavior, they may be in the kingdom, but they will not rule there.

This chapter is rather complex.  It may be that the reader would prefer to tentatively accept the propositions listed above and skip to the next chapter.

The Old Testament Concept of Inheritance

In numerous passages of the New Testament, believers are called heirs—“inherit the kingdom,” “inherit eternal life,” and that the Spirit is the “earnest of our inheritance.”  These commonly have been taken to refer to our final deliverance from hell.  But a problem develops when one carefully examines the usage of the term “inheritance” in the Old and New Testaments.  When it is used ofIsrael’s acquisition ofCanaan, almost without exception, it refers to something that is merited or worked for.

Calvin struggled with Colossians 3:23, 24.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

[From the position of Calvin’s paradigm, he appealed to Genesis 15:5; 17:1 and somehow construed the effort to which this passage appeals to be works from God that he bestows via His mercy]

The problem is that Genesis clearly says that there was a cause for the blessing—Abraham’s obedience.  Calvin has turned the text upside down.  There is a promise of rewards in Genesis 15:1.  An inheritance came to the firstborn son by virtue of his birth.  But whether or not he actually secured it depended upon his obedience and the father’s choice.

If we are obedient, then God promises to bless us.  The content of our obedience varies with the blessing to be received.  If the blessing is final deliverance from hell, then the only “obedience” or “work” is that of believing (John 6:29).  If, on the other hand, the blessing is a richer spiritual life or reward in the future, the work is faithful perseverance (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The New Testament writers frequently refer to the inheritance of the saints by quoting passages referring to thelandofCanaanin the Old Testament.  Certainly the view of the inheritance of the New Testament was directly informed by the Old Testament world of thought.

An Inheritance Was a “Possession

Nothing is more fundamental to the meaning of the Hebrew word [for “inheritance] nachala, than the idea of “possession.”  It is an error of illegitimate totality transfer to define it as a “permanent possession as a result of succession.”

Guaranteed filial [hereditary] succession of property is not part of the semantic value of the word.  (See also Genesis 15:7, 8; Deuteronomy 16:20; Leviticus 20:24; Isaiah 54:3; 57:13.  Jeremiah says, “Therefore I will give their wives to other men, and their fields to new owners—Heb. their fields to those who will inherit them—Jeremiah 8:10)  Even though the word properly denotes property received as a result of death, the Old Testament concept of inheritance has no implication of hereditary succession, as it does in classical Greek.  The term only refers to sanctioned and settled possession.  The fact that a son became an heir in no way guaranteed that he would obtain the inheritance.  The father had the right to insist that the son meet the conditions of the inheritance or he would give it to another.  The obvious illustration of this is that the exodus generation was promised an inheritance, theland ofCanaan.  However, they were also warned about the possibility of losing it and the need to obey God, fight the battle, and live by faith if they were to obtain the inheritance that they were promised.

An Inheritance Could Be Merited and Lost

Many within the Reformed faith hold that the believer’s inheritance is his reward in heaven and not heaven itself (William G. T. Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology, for example, writes:  “This is proved by the fact that the reward of the Christian is called an inheritance—Matthew 25:34; Acts 20:32; Galatians 3:18; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 1:12.  The believer’s reward is like a child’s portion under his father’s will.  This is not wages and recompense, in the strict sense; and yet it is relatively a reward for filial obedience.”).  In view of the New Testament doctrine of justification by faith alone, it seems curious that so many have therefore equated the inheritance with final deliverance from hell.  The New Testament itself, almost without exception, presents the believer’s inheritance as something merited or earned.

The idea of merit related to the inheritance is recorded in the Bible’s earliest references:

And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant. (Genesis 17:14)

But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. (Numbers 14:24)

So Moses swore on that day, saying, “Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.” (Joshua 14:9)

Caleb and Joshua, only two out of two million, inherited.  But surely that two million was composed mainly of those who were justified!  Yet only those who “had a different spirit” and who “followed the Lord wholeheartedly” inherited the land.  Numerous passages in the Old Testament demonstrate that the inheritance (the land of Canaan is equated with the inheritance in the Old Testament—Deuteronomy 15:4; 19:14; 25:19; 26:1) must be merited by obedience (Exodus 23:30; Deuteronomy 2:31; 11:11-24; 16:20; 19:8, 9; Joshua 1:6, 7; 11:23).

Furthermore, the Israelites are promised “rest” (victory after the conquest of the landof Canaan), but it will be theirs only as they fight and “take possession” (Joshua 1:13-15).  Not only is the inheritance ofCanaan merited by obedience, but David’s reign there is predicated on his obedience and character.

Because the landof Canaanand the inheritance are equivalent terms, this implies that the inheritance is obtained only by faith plus obedience.  Not only must the inheritance be merited by obedience, but is can be lost by disobedience.  Even Moses was excluded from the landof Canaan(i.e., the inheritance) because of his disobedience (Deuteronomy 4:21, 22).  Clearly, Moses was a type of the saved, but he forfeited his earthly inheritance (The New Testament uses the experience ofIsrael as a “type” and not an exact parallel.  Although the case of Moses could be urged as an argument against this thesis, it seems that Moses is a special case).  Not enteringCanaan does not necessarily mean one is not born again.

Even though Israelhad become God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22, 23), the entire wilderness generation with the exception of Caleb and Joshua forfeited the inheritance due the firstborn.  Another generation of Israelites similarly forfeited their inheritance rights and was sold as slaves into Babylon (Lamentations 5:2).

A classic example of the forfeiture of one’s inheritance right was the case of Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, who lost his inheritance rights (1 Chronicles 5:1, 2).  The possibility of the forfeiture of the land of Canaan is clearly presented in David’s challenge to the nation and to his son Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:8).

There is also a distinction drawn between inhabiting the land and inheriting it or, to put it in other words, between merely living in the land and possessing it.  Abraham, for example, inhabited the land, lived there, but he never inherited it (Hebrews 11:13).  He lived there, but he never owned it (Genesis 21:33; 35:27).

And give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit (Heb. yarash—“posses”) the land in which you are a stranger (Heb. ger—alien), which God gave to Abraham. (Genesis 28:4)

In the Old Testament the ger, the alien, was someone who “did not enjoy the rights usually possessed by a resident.”  The ger had, according to the lexicon, “no inherited rights.”  Moses named his son Gershom in memory of his stay in Midian (Exodus 18:3) where he lived as an alien without inheritance rights.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived as strangers in Canaan (Exodus 6:4), meaning that they had no property rights there.  The Levites, in particular, were told that they would have no inheritance rights in the land (Numbers 18:20).

It is therefore perfectly proper to think of living in a land where one has no inheritance or property.

Two Kinds of Inheritance Are Promised

The Old Testament presents two inheritance (possessions) for the people of God—all will have God as an inheritance (through faith), but only some will “possess the land” (through persevering obedience).

God is Our Inheritance

The priests, the Levites-all the tribe of Levi-shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and His portion.  Therefore they shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the LORD is their inheritance, as He said to them. (Deuteronomy 18:1, 2)

The prerogative of having God as their inheritance went not just to the/emem Levites but, like the Levites, to all who know the Lord.  The psalmist viewed God as his kleros (“lot, portion, inheritance,” LXX)

O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. (Psalm 16:5)  See also Psalm 73:26; 119:57; 142:5.

God is the people’s portion now, and He will be their inheritance in the future as well (Jeremiah 31:33).  Not only will God own His people but they will possess Him—only applies to those withinIsrael who are regenerate.

The Inheritance Is an Added Blessing to the Saved

All believers have God as their inheritance, but not all (e.g., the Levites, the alien, and the patriarchs, and those who died in the wilderness) have an inheritance in the land.  That inheritance is an added blessing to the saved.  The New Testament writers often refer to the believer’s inheritance.  In so doing, they embrace the imagery of Joshua possessing Canaanor the Hebrews inheriting the land (Hebrews 3 & 4).

Abraham illustrates this point.  He was a saved man when the Abrahamic Covenant was made.  Because he was justified through faith, he already was an heir of God (God was his inheritance).  Because of his obedience (circumcision and the offering of Isaac), he became an heir of the nations and specifically of thelandofCanaan.

In Genesis 15:1-6 Abraham is promised an heir and in Genesis 15:18 an inheritance, the land of Canaan.  Yet in 15:6 we are told, “Abraham believed the Lord, and He credited to him as righteousness.”  This verse refers to Abram’s conversion that occurred years earlier when he left Ur.  The form of the verb “believed” shows that his faith did not begin after the events recorded in Genesis 15:1-5:

Abraham’s faith is recorded here because it is foundational for making the covenant.  The Abrahamic Covenant did not give Abraham redemption; it was a covenant made with Abram, who had already believed and to whom righteousness had already been imputed. (Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in BKC, 1:55)

While Abraham received justification by faith alone, it is clear that he could only obtain the inheritance by means of obedience (Genesis 22:15-18).  For the Israelites, conqueringCanaan secured their “earthly” inheritance.  This parallels that aspect of the New Testament believer’s future that is similarly conditional—his reward in heaven, not heaven itself.

It is sometimes erroneously stated that inheriting the land is to be compared with the believer’s entrance into heaven—Canaanin the OT being analogous to heaven in the NT.  This is unacceptable because:  (1) Canaan in the OT was conditioned upon works and obedience, and (2) the inheritance of Canaan was offered to those who were already justified, who would receive something in addition to justification (heaven) if they would obey.  According to the writer to the Hebrews, the exodus generation as a whole was saved (Hebrews 11:29, 30).  Paul had the same view:

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.  But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

(1 Corinthians 10:4, 5)

The Israelites, as a nation, seemed to reveal their regenerate condition when they promised, “. . . All that the LORD has spoken we will do. . . .” (Exodus 19:8).  They had “bowed down and worshiped” and trusted in the blood of the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:27, 28), had by faith crossed the Red Sea, and had drunk (i.e., “trusted in,” John 4:13, 14; 6:53-56) that spiritual rock, which was Christ; yet they never obtainedCanaan, their inheritance, because of their unbelief and disobedience.

It would not be surprising then if the New Testament writers similarly viewed the inheritance of the saints from a two-fold perspective.  All regenerate men have God as their inheritance, or as Paul puts it, are “heirs of God” (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7).  That inheritance is received on the basis of faith alone.  But there is another inheritance in the New Testament, an inheritance which, like that of the Israelites, is merited.  They are also heirs of the kingdom and joint-heirs with the Messiah (2 Timothy 2:12; Romans 8:17).

The Inheritance and Heaven—New Testament Parallels?

Many outstanding commentaries and theological works have attempted to equate entrance into thelandofCanaanin the Old Testament with the believer’s arrival into heaven in the New.

A more singularly inappropriate parallel could hardly be found.  An inheritance that could be merited by obedience and forfeited through disobedience is hardly a good “type” of heaven.  Both aspects are, it would seem, an embarrassment to those of the Reformed persuasion.  On one hand, the forfeiture of the inheritance through disobedience contradicts the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer.  On the other hand, the works required to obtain the inheritance in the Old Testament contradict the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Only by allowing inheritance to mean “possession” and acknowledging that it can be merited can the parallel drawn out by the New Testament authors be explained.  The inheritance is not salvation in the sense of final deliverance from hell but the reward that came to the faithful inIsraelas a result of wholehearted obedience.  Similarly, in the New Testament the inheritance is a reward. Canaandoes not parallel heaven or the new earth but the rewards that the saints will enjoy there.  These are earned by faithful obedience and may, like the inheritance of the Old Testament, be forfeited through disobedience or a failure to persevere.

The Inheritance—Promises and Conditions

From the earliest reference the inheritance was promised to Abraham and his descendants upon the basis of a divine oath.  But a tension [apparent contradiction] is apparent.  They were told that, if they “do what is good and right in the Lord’s sight” (Deuteronomy 6:18), they would have victory over the Canaanites and possess the land (Deuteronomy 11:22-25).  Even though the inheritance has been promised on an oath, it will only come to them if they “carefully follow all these laws” (Deuteronomy 19:8-10).  How is this tension [apparent contradiction] to be explained?

The answer may be seen in the parallel with Abraham.  Abraham was already a saved man when he received the promise of the inheritance.  Therefore, it was not the act of saving faith that guaranteed Abraham an heir (Genesis 15:4, 5) or the inheritance of Canaan (Genesis 15:8).  Canaan is not parallel with heaven but with additional blessings that are given to believers on the condition of subsequent acts of faith.  Abraham began to look for the reward of possession of the land in the afterlife (Hebrews 11:8, 16).  One particular requirement in the Old Testament was circumcision.  If Abraham had not been circumcised, neither he nor the members of his household would have inherited the promise (Genesis 17:14).  That the appropriation of the blessings of the covenant was conditioned upon obedience is clearly stated:

Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.  In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

(Genesis 22:15-18)

The passage is instructive in that it clarifies that the inheritance that has been given unconditionally to the descendants by oath will only be obtained by each one personally when he obeys.  What is true for the “father of those who believe” is true for his descendants.  The unconditional nature of the Abrahamic blessing is available for each generation of Israelites.  But only that generation that appropriates it by faith will enter into those blessings.  God never promised anything to a generation of rebels.  It is to the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), the believing remnant of the last days, that the promises will finally be fulfilled (Romans 11:26ff).

This is also illustrated in the experience of the Israelites and their attempted initial entrance into Canaan.  In Numbers 14:14ff several things should be noted: (1) they were forgiven for their unbelief and grumbling (Numbers 14:20); (2) they disobeyed and tested the Lord ten times (Numbers 14:22); (3) those who disobeyed wand who were “men” (accountable), who saw the miracles, would never enter the land of Canaan (vv. 22, 23); (4) possessing Canaan is the same as inheriting the land (14:24); and (5) only those believers who have “a different spirit” and who follow the Lord “wholeheartedly” will obtain the inheritance (14:24; cf. Joshua 14:9).

Only tow of them inherited because only two out of two million met the conditions.  Thus, all the rest will go to heaven but forfeit their inheritance.  This thought is in the mind of the writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 3:7ff where obtaining the inheritance is equated with “entering rest.”


It has been seen that the Old Testament notion of inheritance does not always include the idea of a guarantee.  The Israelite became an heir by birth, but due to disobedience he could forfeit the firstborn privilege.  The inheritance was something in addition to salvation and was not equated with it.  It was obtained by victorious perseverance and obedient faith.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 4—The Inheritance:  New Testament

We must begin with the end in mind.  For the readers of the Old Testament the “end” was often called the “inheritance.”  It is more specific in the New Testament; it is referred to as “inheriting the kingdom” and “entering into rest.”  Old Testament usage and understanding necessarily informs the thinking of the New Testament writers, which establishes continuity of thought within the Bible.

Just as in the Old Testament there are two kinds of inheritance, so it is in the New—all believers have God as their inheritance but all will not inherit the kingdom.  Inheriting the kingdom is not the same as entering it but does mean to possess it and to rule there.

There are four words related to “inheritance” in the New Testament:  (1) the verb “to inherit”—kleronomeo, (2) the noun “inheritance”—kleronomia, (3) “heir”—kleronomos, and (4) “lot, portion”—kleros.

An Inheritance is a Possession

Like its Old Testament counterpart a kleronomia is fundamentally a possession (this seems to be the sense of “inheritance, property” in Matthew 21:38; Mark 12:7; Luke 12:13; 20:14; Acts 7:5; and Ephesians 1:18).  How it is acquired or passed on to one’s descendants is not intrinsic to the word.  The word does not always or even fundamentally mean an estate passed on to a son at the death of a parent, as it does in Galatians 4:7.  To include those contextually derived notions within the semantic value of the word is, again, to commit an illegitimate totality transfer.  Its essential meaning is “inheritance, possession, property.”  Rarely, if ever, does it mean “property transmitted by will.”

The Ineritance Is Meritorious Ownership of the Kingdom

In the New Testament becoming an heir (kleronomos) can occur through filial or descendant relationship (Matthew 21:38; Mark 12:7; Luke 20:14; Galatians 4:1, 7; Hebrews 1:2; Romans 4:13, 14), through faith (Galatians 3:29; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 11:7), or through some kind of works of obedience (James 2:5—the condition was “to love Him.”  For James it was possible that a true Christian could cease to love Him and instead become a friend of the world and an enemy of God—James 4:4, 5; the same is taught by the apostle John in Revelation 2:4).

The acquisition of the inheritance (kleronomia) is often related to merit (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:24).  In nearly every instance the verb “to inherit” (kleronomeo) includes, contextually, either the presence or absence of some work or character quality as a condition of obtaining or forfeiting the possession (Matthew 5:5; 19:29; 25:34-36; Mark 10:17; Hebrews 6:12; 1 Peter 3:9; Revelation 21:7).  In view of the fact that works are associated with the acquisition of the inheritance, it is prima facie doubtful that the inheritance could be equated with entrance into heaven as is so often done.  Yet in order to sustain the idea of perseverance in holiness, Experimental Predestinarians interpret the passages as descriptions of all true Christians.  Theological exegesis is thus brought in to make every one of these texts say something that they not only do not say but that is in fact contradictory to the rest of the New Testament.

The New Testament clearly teaches not only the existence of the carnal Christian (to be lengthily addressed in Chapter 14) but of true Christians who persist in carnality to the point of physical death (Acts 5:1-10; 1 Corinthians 3:15; 5:5; 11:30; Hebrews 10:29; 1 John 5:16, 17).  They will, having been justified, be in the kingdom; however, they will not inherit it.

The Case of the Rich Young Ruler

A rich young ruler once asked Jesus, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16).  Although the word “have” (echo) is used in this verse, it is the equivalent to “inherit” (kleronomeo), which is specifically seen in the parallel passages to this verse (Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18).  It appears that Jesus understands the question as “how to enter life,” i.e., how to go to heaven; and therefore it appears that Jesus is equating “inheriting eternal life” with “entering into heaven.”  But this conclusion would be too hasty in light of the following:

  1. Consistent with its usage throughout the Old Testament, the verb kleronomeo in this passage implies obtaining a possession by merit; and therefore cannot mean to obtain heaven by faith.
  1. The ruler is reflecting first-century Jewish theology and not the gospel of the New Testament, which was that works were necessary in order to inherit eternal life.  In part this was correct when eternal life was viewed as an enriched experience of that life given at regeneration.
  1. Jesus understood what the ruler was really asking—how to enter heaven.  In the rich young ruler’s mind entering heaven, inheriting heaven life, and having eternal life were all the same thing, and all meant “go to heaven when I die.”

So Jesus moves to the heart of the young man’s question, which is how good does one have to be to merit heaven.  The answer:  be perfect if one is to obtain eternal life.  It is true that, if man could keep the commandments, he would merit heaven.  The problem is, of course, that no one can.  This is what Jesus wants the young ruler to see.

When the ruler states he has kept all the commandments, then Jesus moves to the heart of the matter by pointing out one that he has not kept, instructing him to sell his wealth (thereby turning from his trust in materialism) and to follow Him (placing his trust alone in Christ).  But this was too difficult a decision for the young ruler, which led Christ to declare the following:

Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:23, 24)

The young ruler coveted his things because he found security in them; he trusted in them.  This was the real reason behind his unwillingness to part with them and be left trusting in Christ alone.

After informing the rich young ruler that he must sell all he has if he would obtain eternal life, the disciples ask; “We have left everything to follow You!  What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27).  Peter’s question deals with rewards.  That they saw a connection between leaving everything and obtaining some reward is obvious.  And in His answer Jesus confirms their theology:

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matthew 19:28-30)

Since eternal life is usually equated with regeneration, how can it be obtained by abandoning father, mother, home, children, etc?  The answer is that eternal life is presented in Scripture as something to be obtained by a “work;” it is always a future acquisition—synonymous in these contexts with a “richer experience” of that life that is given freely at regeneration.  There will be differences in heaven [kingdom], some first and some last, and those who are first are those who have inherited, who have left all for Christ.  Only the reference to eternal life could lead interpreters to forget that the subject matter is discipleship, which is based on works and not regeneration, which is based on faith alone.

Sermon on the Mount

A major theme of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is rewards.  The idea of rewards (misthos) is repeatedly emphasized in the Sermon, which is addressed to Christ’s disciples (5:1).  In it one’s inheritance of the “kingdom” (5:3; 10) and the “earth” (5:5) are products of one’s humility (5:3), one’s sacrifice (5:4), one’s meekness (5:5), one’s hunger and thirst for righteousness (5:6), one’s ability to demonstrate mercy (5:7), one’s pureness of heart (5:8), one’s peacemaking ability (5:9), one’s record of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake (5:10-12).

The word misthos (reward) means a “payment for work done.”  Jesus is speaking of the inheritance here as a reward for a humble, trusting life.  There is no indication that all Christians have this quality of life.  In fact, it is possible for a Christian to become “saltless” (5:13) and be “thrown out.”  True Christians can lose their saltiness, their testimony for the Lord.  When they do, they forfeit their reward in heaven [kingdom].  Furthermore, Christ specifically says that the disobedient believer who annuls “one of the least of these commandments” will be in the kingdom but will be “least” in contrast to “great” in that kingdom (5:19).

What is the content of our inheritance reward?  Christ says it involves inheriting the earth.  No doubt this goes back to the promises to David’s “greater” Son:

I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.  Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:7-9)

We can become joint rulers with Christ over the nations according to John:

And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father. (Revelation 2:26, 27)

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:21)

The apostle Paul echoed a similar theme when he said, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him [with Christ in the coming Millennial Kingdom] . . . .”  Another passage that refers to the inheritance as a reward is found in Colossians 3:23-25:

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

The inheritance is a reward that is received (Gk. apolambano, to receive, especially as wages.  The word often means to receive something back that is due, not as a gift—Luke 6:34; 18:30; 23:41; Romans 1:27) as “wages” for work done.  The context is clear; it speaks of the return a person receives because of work, as in an employer-employee relationship.  The inheritance is received as a result of work; it does not come as a gift.  The Greek word for reward (antapodosis) means repayment or reward.  The verb form antapodidomi never means to receive as a gift; it is always used in the New Testament of a repayment due to an obligation (Romans 11:35; 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6; Hebrews 10:30).

An Inheritance Can Be Forfeited

In several passages Paul speaks of the possibility of not “inheriting the kingdom”:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit [“kleronomeo”] the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

While entering the kingdom has often been equated with inheriting the kingdom, there is no semantic or exegetical basis for the equality.  The heirs of the kingdom are its owners and rulers and not just its residents.  In other words, salvation is unchangeable but our inheritance in thekingdomofGodis not unchangeable.  The loss of one’s inheritance is not the same as a loss of salvation.

It is possible for Christians to lose their inheritance.  The Epistle to the Hebrews illustrates this from the life of Esau:

Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit [“kleronomeo”] the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:16, 17)

Esau forfeited his inheritance, but he was still Isaac’s son.  He did not forfeit his relationship to his father.  Furthermore, at the end of his life Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau regarding their future (Hebrews 11:20).

A Christian can deny his inheritance rights.  This should not come as a surprise because the inheritance in the Old Testament could be forfeited through disobedience.  This fact surely informed the viewpoint of the New Testament writers!  While this is not the same as losing one’s justification, the consequences for eternity [the kingdom] are serious.  This is amplified in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 in which the apostle Paul reveals that at the judgment seat of Christ a Christian’s works will be revealed by “fire.”  Only those works done in obedience to the Lord (gold, silver, and precious stones) will survive the searing heat!  Other works outside of God’s will (wood, hay, and stubble) will be burned.  Some will survive with very little to carry with them into the kingdom.  As Paul put it:

If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15)

In light of this, the following passage becomes clear:

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(2 Peter 1:10, 11)

We are therefore not surprised to read in 1 Corinthians 6:10 that unrighteous Christians will lose their inheritance in the kingdom of God.  Such an interpretation of the passage is consistent with the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Old Testament concept of the forfeiture of inheritance rights by disobedience.

But does the passage refer to unrighteous Christians, or does it refer to non-Christians who may have been loosely associated with the church and whose lack of perseverance in holiness has demonstrated that they were not true Christians at all?

[Reviewer’s comment:  To shorten a lengthy discourse based on the usage of the Greek language in answer to this question by the author, a brief summation of his findings will follow.]

The apostle Paul is speaking to Christians because:

  1. The usage of the Greek language suggests it [two paragraphs in the book on this].
  1. It is highly unlikely that the wicked of vs. 9 could be non-Christians because Paul says, “Do not be deceived,” the wicked will not inherit the kingdom.  Why would Christians think that non-Christians would inherit God’s kingdom?  [Because this concept was a given, there would have been no reason to so state it]  Wherever inheriting is in question the relationship of a child to a parent is taken implicitly for granted.

Paul is not warning non-Christians that they will not inherit the kingdom; he is warning Christians, those who do wrong and do it to their brothers.  It is pointless to argue that true Christians could never be characterized by the things in this list when Paul connects the true Christians of vs. 8 with the individuals in vs. 9.  It is even more futile to argue this way when the entire context of 1 Corinthians describes activities of true Christians that parallel nearly every item in 6:9 & 10.  They were involved in sexual immorality (6:15); covetousness (probable motive in lawsuits, 6:1); drunkenness (1 Corinthians 11:21); dishonoring the Lord’s table (1 Corinthians 11:30—for this reason some of them experienced the sin unto death); adultery (5:1); and they were arrogant (4:18; 5:6).  Yet this group of people that acts unrighteously (Gk. adikeo) and that is guilty of all these things has been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11).  In fact, Paul had said they were “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” in 1 Corinthians 1:2, but that they were “carnal” (1 Corinthians 3:1, 3).

That is the terrible inconsistency that grieves the apostle through all sixteen chapters of this book.  His burden in 6:9 & 10 is not to call into question their salvation (he specifically says they are saved in vs. 11) but to warn them that, if they do not change their behavior, they will, like Esau, forfeit their inheritance.

This, of course, does not mean that a person who commits one of these sins will not enter heaven.  It does mean that, if he commits such a sin and persists in it without confessing and receiving cleansing (1 John 1:9), he will lose his right to rule with Christ.  Those believers who are walking in such a state, without their sin confessed; face eternal consequences if their Lord should suddenly appear and find them unprepared.  They will truly be ashamed “before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28).

The following parallel passages are to be interpreted the same way.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:5, 6)

In both passages we see the notion of merit and obedience connected with the inheritance.  In neither, however, is there any contextual justification for assuming that those in danger of losing their inheritance are non-Christians who have only professed faith in Christ.  That is a theological notion, derived from the doctrine of perseverance in holiness, which must be forced into the text.

In Matthew 25:34 we find once again that inheriting the kingdom is conditioned on obedience and service to the King, a condition far removed from the New Testament teaching of justification by faith alone for entrance into heaven.

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)

[Reviewer’s comment:  This passage is specifically speaking of the Gentiles saved during the Tribulation Period, whose service to the Jews is a sure indication of their regeneration, and who will be granted their inheritance in the Millennial Kingdom.]

Why are they being granted this blessing?  It is because they ministered to Christ’s brethren, the Jews, during the terrible holocaust of the great tribulation (25:35-40).  Here, inheriting should be given its full sense of reward for faithful service as the context requires.  Entering “eternal life” in Matthew 25:46 is the equivalent to “inheriting the kingdom” in 25:34.  It does not refer to the entrance into life at regeneration; these sheep are saints already.  Subsequent to becoming saints, they will enter into eternal life, as will be discussed in chapter 7—they are entering into an enriched experience of that life that they had already received at regeneration, available to the faithful believer.

Earlier in the context Christ tells us that there are unfaithful Christians:  the wicked hypocritical servant (24:48); the foolish virgins (25:2); and the wicked servant (25:26).  All of these unfaithful Christians are sheep, saved people, as will be argued elsewhere (Chapter 17).

[Reviewer’s comment:  The author provides three points as to why there is no mention of the unfaithful sheep (believers) at this judgment, of which the third point will be expressed after this comment.  The reviewer believes, although not dogmatically, that there may be very few if any unfaithful believers at this judgment; since to be a believer at all during the Tribulation Period will indicate that one’s relationship with Christ will of necessity need to be on a level of greater dedication than what is normally experienced during these days.]

But, third, the separation of the faithful from the unfaithful does not occur at this time but afterward.  After the kingdom has begun and all those who ae born again have entered it, the wedding feast occurs.  At that time the separation of the wise and foolish virgins occurs.  Because God does not deal with the unfaithful believer at this time, they are not mentioned.

Not mentioned in this brief passage regarding the sheep, which are nevertheless taught elsewhere in the Scripture, are the following:

  • They are distinguished into various classes according to differing degrees of reward.
  • Some receive five cities and some ten.
  • They will receive resurrection bodies with varying degrees of glory.
  • Some will sit on thrones and some will not.
  • Some will be great in the kingdom and some will be least.

The faithful sheep are now being rewarded with the inheritance.  These are those “who are persecuted because of righteousness” to whom belong “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:5).  These are the faithful Christians to whom the Lord Jesus said: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets that were before you” (Matthew 5:12).  These verses from the lips of our Lord in the same gospel make it clear that the sheep in Matthew 25:34 are the faithful sheep; otherwise they would not have inherited the kingdom.  The unfaithful are not mentioned because they are not relevant here, since they receive no reward.  And because inheriting the kingdom is “conditional” upon this faithful perseverance, it cannot be equated with justification and theologically interpreted as continuation in holiness because a perfect perseverance and obedience would be necessary for that (Matthew 5:48).

Inheriting the Kingdom

The phrase “inherit the kingdom” has occurred several times in the discussion above.  Because of its specific meaning, some additional comment is in order.  We find the phrase in Matthew 25:34; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21; and Ephesians 5:5.  Also, “inherit the land” is found in Matthew 5:5.  All are conditioned on some work done or character traits such as immorality to be absent from our lives.  The very use of the word “inherit” instead of “enter” in these passages suggests that more than just entrance is meant.

[Reviewer’s comment:  The author here provides a chart of the above scripture passages listing the phrase used and the conditions required.]

But what does it mean to inherit the kingdom?  The Lord’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount provides a start in understanding this theme:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

The Lord is equating the terms “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” with “inherit the earth.”  He places these “parallel terms” side-by-side.”  The term “inherit the kingdom” is equivalent to the promise to Abraham that his descendants will “inherit the land.”  “To inherit thekingdomofGod” is a Jewish thought, an allusion to the promise given to Abraham.  The verb, to inherit, is an allusion to the inheritance of Canaan given toIsrael.

But he who take refuge in Me, shall inherit the land, and shall possess My holy mountain” (Isaiah 57:13).   The prophet exults that in the coming kingdom “. . . your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever . . . .” (Isaiah 60:21).  Throughout the Old Testament the possession of the earth by the righteous is a common theme and refers to the rule of the saints in the future kingdom (Proverbs 10:30; 11:31; Psalm 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34; 115:16; 136:21, 22.  In Psalm 37 the inheriting of the land follows the removal of evildoers in the kingdom).

If the functional equivalence of the terms “inherit the kingdom” and “inherit the land” is accurate, then the understanding of inheriting the land in the Old Testament becomes very relevant to the understanding of the term “inherit the kingdom” in the New.  In particular, thelandofCanaanwas inherited byIsraelon the basis of faith-obedience and this inheritance was an additional blessing to those who were already saved (e.g., Joshua and Caleb).  They obtained the land by being victorious in battle, following the Lord wholeheartedly, and being obedient to all He said in His law.  Similarly, in the New Testament, inheriting the kingdom is conditioned upon spiritual obedience and not faith alone.  Furthermore, in the Old Testament we saw that entering the land was not the same as inheriting it.  There is therefore justification in pressing the obvious point that inheriting the kingdom is not the same as entering the kingdom.

The New Testament uses the phrase “enter the kingdom of heaven” eight times.  In contrast to the phrase “inherit the kingdom,” the conditions for entering are:

  • Faith alone through rebirth, which comes through believing on Christ (John 1:12, 3: 3, 5, 16; Acts 16:30, 31).
  • By having the humble, simple trust of a child (Matthew 18:3).
  • By exercising the “work” of believing (Matthew 7:21; John 6:29, 40).
  • By having a perfect righteousness, which comes by faith alone (Matthew 5:20; 6:48; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:3).

And it is difficult for the rich to enter because they trust in riches rather than in Christ (Matthew 19:24).  All must go through many hardships on their path of life as they journey toward the kingdom (Acts 14:22).

That inheriting the kingdom is different from entering (in the sense of inhabiting) the kingdom seems to be reinforced in the New Testament by Paul’s use of the phrase in his first letter to the Corinthian church:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (1 Corinthians 15:50)

It is quite clear to the apostle Paul that men and women in mortal bodies will be in the kingdom.  There will be physical procreation and physical death (Isaiah 65:20; Ezekiel 36:11).  Furthermore, a multitude of unregenerate men in mortal bodies will rebel at the end of the 1,000-year kingdom and will be “devoured,” hardly an experience of resurrected and immortal saints (Revelation 20:7-10).

Paul’s statement, in order to be made consistent with the rest of the Bible, requires that there is a difference between being a resident of the kingdom and inheriting it.  Clearly, human beings in mortal bodies do live in the kingdom, but they are not heirs of that kingdom, a privilege that only those in resurrection bodies can share (Paul is not saying here that “all” transformed saints inherit the kingdom, only that “only” transformed saints inherit the kingdom).

When the apostle declares that men in mortal bodies will not inherit the kingdom (only resurrected Israel united with a resurrected and transformed church will rule in the kingdom), this obviously requires that the resurrection and transformation of the sheep occurs prior to their “receiving the kingdom” and must be simultaneous with the judgment of the sheep and the goats.  If this is the case, then a problem develops in that there appears to be no saints left in mortal bodies to populate the millennium in contradiction to the Old Testament passages previously discussed.

It is appropriate to invoke the analogy of faith and allow other scriptural examples or teachings to explain what is left unsaid regarding this judgment.  To this end the experiences of the Israelites as they journeyed from Egyptto Canaanwere to be examples for us (1 Corinthians 10:6, 15).  The New Testament writers appeal to their journey to teach spiritual truth to the New Testament church (Hebrews 3:7-14; 1 Corinthians 10:1-15).  The writer to the Hebrews in particular parallels their conquest of Canaan; their rest, with our entrance into rest, the completion of our work and subsequent reward inCanaan in the coming kingdom.

A suggested answer—the entire first generation was judged in unbelief and died in the wilderness, with the exception of those under twenty years of age:

The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.  Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. (Numbers 14:29, 30)

The passage is instructive in several ways.  Even though God “swore with uplifted hand” that He would give them the land, they will not receive the land because of their disobedience and unbelief.  But equally important it shows that those who had not reached an age of accountability were exempt from the judgment that prohibited their elders from entering the land (entering the land does not parallel the believer’s entrance to heaven; it signifies his willingness to “cross theJordan” and engage the enemy.

In other words, it is a decision by a regenerate saint to submit to the lordship of Christ and trust God for victory in the spiritual battle).  In a similar way, perhaps the believing children of the sheep who have escaped the judgments of the great tribulation will constitute a kind of “second exodus” and will be the mortal believers who enter into the coming kingdom and who are its subjects, if not its owners.

Assuming the functional equivalent between inheriting the “kingdom” and the “land” in Jewish theology, it appears that the basic meaning of “to inherit” (Gk. kleronomeo) is “to possess, to own.”  An inheritance (Gk. kleronomia) is a “possession, property.”  Therefore, when Jesus invites the sheep to inherit the kingdom, He is inviting them to possess the kingdom, to receive it as their own, to acquire it.

Because many times, when the word “possess” is used with concrete nouns, it includes the notion of “to have authority over;” there is justification in saying that inheriting land will result in a degree of authority or sovereignty over that land after it has been received (possessed) as an inheritance.

However, when one begins to consider the theological concept involved in inheriting the land, and not just the semantic value of the word “inherit,” a justification begins to emerge for investing the phrase “inherit the kingdom” with more than just ownership.  The notion of having authority becomes more prominent, which is implied in the messianic psalm that Jesus quotes in Matthew 5:5, the context referring to the coming fulfillment of the Old Testament hope in the messianic kingdom.

Old Testament passages attest that God’s final goal for man during that era is not simply to live there and be happy.  It is much more than this.  His goal is that one day we will rule and have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:16-18):

What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?  For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.  You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet. (Psalms 8:4-6)

Man’s destiny is not just to reside in blessedness in the millennial landof Canaan; it is to be “ruler over the works of [God’s] hands.”  It is rulership that comes to the forefront.  This seems to receive explicit confirmation when Jesus tells the sheep in Matthew 25:34 to “inherit the kingdom.”  It appears that Jesus is lifting a phrase right out of Daniel 7:

I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. (Daniel 7:21, 22)

The contexts are similar:  both refer to the coming of a Son of Man (Daniel 7:13; Matthew 25:31) and both are in the tribulation period just prior to the second coming where the saints are persecuted.  Jesus evidently had the book of Daniel in mind in the Olivet Discourse because He quotes from it in Matthew 24:15 where He mentions the “abomination of desolation” of Daniel 9:27.  The phrase “possess the kingdom” seems therefore to precisely parallel the phrase “inherit the kingdom” and is the source of this New Testament concept.

The Aramaic word (chasan) in Daniel 7:22 translated “possess,” means to “take possession”—“to be strong, overcome; take possession of.”  It conveys more than a mere passive receiving; it conveys a degree of authority in the kingdom, which is confirmed when, in Daniel 7:27, Daniel clarifies what it will mean “to possess the kingdom”:

Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. . . . (Daniel 7:27)

Possessing the kingdom is therefore the receipt of sovereignty over the nations.  One day the saints will rule the world!  The direct borrowing of the phrase by Jesus seems to justify the conclusion that “to inherit the kingdom” means far more than mere residence there; it is to have authority and rulership there, which then fits in with the following:

If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. . . . (2 Timothy 2:12)

And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power [authority] over the nations—he shall rule them with a rod of iron . . . . (Revelation 2:26, 27)

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? . . . . (1 Corinthians 6:2)

There are several phrases that seem to be equivalent to “inherit the kingdom”—such as “enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21).  This appears to be more than simply an invitation to enter the kingdom; rather, it is entrance into the “Master’s happiness,” the messianic partnership.  Similarly, as will be explained in the next chapter, the phrase used by the writer to the Hebrews, “enter into rest,” is not to be equated with entrance into the kingdom but with obtaining the inheritance, an honor won on the field of battle.

In conclusion, “to inherit the kingdom” is a virtual synonym for rulership in the kingdom and not entrance into it, denoting the reception of kingly authority or rulership in it.  All saints will enter the kingdom through faith alone (John 3:3), but only obedient saints who endure, who overcome, and who perform works of righteousness will inherit it, i.e., rule there.

The Inheritance in Hebrews

The Inheritance

The word for the verb “to inherit” (Gk. kleronomeo) occurs four times in the book of Hebrews.  Its usage there is not inconsistent with its usage elsewhere, a reward for a life of faithfulness:

  1. Jesus has inherited a superior name to that of the angels (1:4).
  2. Likewise, His companions (Hebrews 1:9—Gk. metochoi) will inherit salvation (1:14).
  3. The promise is inherited through faith and patience (6:12).
  4. Esau forfeited his inheritance due to disobedience (12:17).

We (Christians) share in that future-glory, the inheritance-salvation, only if we remain faithful to the end:

For we have become partakers (“metochoi”) of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. (Hebrews 3:14)


Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:35, 36)

Perseverance to the end, faithfulness, and doing the will of God are the conditions of obtaining the inheritance-salvation in this epistle, conditions that are absent from the Pauline teaching of obtaining salvation (in the sense of final deliverance from hell) on the basis of faith alone.  Here in Hebrews a different salvation is in view:  co-rulership with Christ in the coming kingdom.

To equate the inheritance with heaven results in a glaring inconsistency.  It would mean that believers, by entering the Church [through faith alone], are already heirs of the kingdom.  Why then are they uniformly exhorted to become heirs by faithful labor when they are already heirs?

The word for the noun “inheritance” (Gk. kleronomia) is found in two places in Hebrews (11:8; 9:15).  In 11:8 it refers to Abraham’s acquisition of theland ofCanaan.  While that land was guaranteed on oath, it was obtained by spiritual obedience.  What is stressed here is that Abraham “obeyed and went.”  Had he not obeyed, he would not have inherited.  The final use of the noun is in the ninth chapter:

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)

How they obtain this inheritance is not affirmed here, but it is affirmed elsewhere.  It is by “faith and patience” (Hebrews 6:12) and “holding firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:14) that we “inherit what has been promised.”  Sometimes in Hebrews the promise seems to refer to justification by faith.  But in this passage, the conclusion of the warning, we are justified in looking back to 4:1 where the promise of the remaining rest is in view.  This refers to the completion of our task and subsequent entrance into our reward, which is the meaning elsewhere in Hebrews—ownership of the millennial land of Canaan, the future reign of the servant kings, joint rulership with Messiah in the heavenly country, the millennial land of Palestine.

The Rights of the Firstborn

One of the sternest warnings of the New Testament is found in Hebrews 12:12-29.  The writer of the epistle challenges the readers to pursue sanctification and/strong cautions that without it no one will “see the Lord.”  In view of the other references in Scripture to “seeing the Lord,” it is best to understand the phrase as referring to a “deeper Christian experience.”  (In Matthew 5:8 the peacemakers will “see God,” i.e., they will really know Him and walk with Him.  In Job 42:5 Job came to “see” God as a result of his trial.  The meaning is that he came to know Him more deeply and intimately.)  Then the writer warns them regarding the loss of their inheritance rights:

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:15-17)

Esau was the firstborn son and therefore by birth had the rights and privileges described as belonging to the firstborn.  The law of the firstborn sheds light on the biblical conditions for obtaining the inheritance:

  • The firstborn enjoyed special privileges.
  • When the father died, he received a double share of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17).
  • During his life he was preeminent among his brothers (Genesis 43:33).

God had originally intended to make the firstborn of the sons of IsraelHis priests.  However, due to the disobedience in the wilderness He took that blessing from the firstborn and gave it to the Levites instead (Numbers 8:14-18).  To the end of his life it was a father’s prerogative to determine the disposal of his property (1 Chronicles 26:10:  Shimri the first, for though he was not the firstborn, his father made him the first).  If the eldest son was not qualified, then the father could give it to the son who was.

The rights and privileges of the firstborn were provisionally given at birth.  The right to the inheritance was his, but he could lose it.  All the sons are heirs, but only those who met the conditions of the firstborn achieved the elevated status and authority and retain their inheritance.  The many New Testament references to something conditional in the future life of the believer may reflect this Old Testament distinction between the firstborn son who retained his privilege and those like Esau who did not.  Those Christians who suffer with Him (Romans 8:17), who endure (2 Timothy 2:15), and who are the overcomers of the book of Revelation are the firstborn sons.

Whether or not Esau was saved is not relevant to this discussion.  The writer uses him as an illustration of the fact that the saved can lose their firstborn inheritance rights.  His example is applied to those who have come to the church of the “firstborn ones” (Hebrews 12:23)—the Greek word translated “firstborn” is plural, and therefore the “firstborn ones” are referred to and not Christ as the firstborn.  To come to the “church of the firstborn ones” means to be called to the privilege of being a firstborn son.  All Christians are called to be part of that assembly and by birth have a right to be there.  However, they may forfeit that right and never achieve their calling.  That is the thrust of all the warnings of the book of Hebrews.

True Christians fully parallel the description of Esau.  We are children of God and we are firstborn sons.  Because of that we possess the rights of the firstborn.  We do not have to earn these rights.  They are given to us through the grace of God.  However, we must value and keep these rights and are warned by Esau’s example regarding the possibility of not doing so.  But even though we cannot forfeit eternal life, we can forfeit out firstborn rights.

Two Kinds of Inheritance

Consistent with the Old Testament usage, believers in the New Testament are presented with two different inheritances:

  1. An unconditional inheritance of God through faith alone (Galatians 3:29; 4:6, 7; Titus 3:7; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
  1. A conditional inheritance of the land within the MillennialKingdom(Romans 8:16, 17).

Romans 8:16, 17 records two inheritances:  (1) one in agreement with Galatians 4:7, which says we are heirs of God by virtue of the fact that we are His children, and (2) a second one in which we are co-heirs with Christ “if indeed we share in His sufferings.”  Being an heir of God is unconditional, but being a joint-heir of the kingdom is conditioned upon our spiritual perseverance.

This is a faithful saying: for if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him [unconditional inheritance of salvation through faith alone]

If we endure, we shall also reign with Him [conditional co-inheritance of the land through spiritual endurance].

If we deny Him, He also will deny us [of our co-inheritance of the land].  

If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself [we will still be saved, but so as by fire]. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

In Romans 8:17 reigning with Christ is conditioned upon endurance  The converse, to deny Him, will result in the His denying us when He rewards His Church according to the things done in the body, “good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  The possibility of being “denied” does not refer to loss of salvation, but it does mean we may be “disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:27) and stand ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28) and be denied a place of being a co-heir in the final destiny of man.

The Inheritance and Canaan in Galatians

In Galatians the apostle refers to the inheritance and to the heirs:

For if the inheritance [“kleronomia”] is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. . . .  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs [“kleronomos”] according to the promise. (Galatians 3:18, 29)

The promise referred to in 3:18 is found in 3:8 and 16 and recalls the promise to Abraham that all the nations will be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14).  It is significant that the inheritance here is connected not with the land promise but with that aspect of the Abrahamic promise that referred to the gift of justification to the Gentiles.  The heirs of 3:29 become heirs by virtue of being sons, and for no other reason; they are heirs of God, i.e., possessors of eternal life.  Paul does not have the land promise aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant in view.  He is referring to the universal promise to the Gentiles.

Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir [“kleronomos”] of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:7)

All Christians are heirs of God by faith alone.  But like the Old Testament there are two kinds of inheritance:  (1) an inheritance that is merited and (2) an inheritance that belongs to all Christians because they are sons, and for no other reason.  The fulfillment of the land promise, while ultimately certain for the nation, was conditioned for each generation on the basis of obedience.

Paul’s use of kleronomia in 4:30 is similarly explained:

Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.”

It should be noted that this usage is found in an illustration from the Old Testament (4:24-31).  He is using the illustration of Hagar and Sarah to refute the notion that law and grace can be mixed.  He says he speaks “figuratively.”  He is using the term “heir” in the general sense of “possessor” to figuratively illustrate that inheritance in general is never appropriated by a mixture of Sinai and the Jerusalem above, Ishmael and Isaac, law and grace; neither is the inheritance of heaven.

There is no conflict with the use of the terms and the conclusions pertaining to Galatians 5:21, since the same word can have different meanings in the same book, the same chapter, or even the same verse.  [It is the context that determines the exact meaning of the words, hence the meaning of the passage under consideration]  Take for example the following:

  • The word “save” (Gk. sozo) in 1 Timothy 1:15 and 1 Timothy 2:15.
  • The Greek word presbyteros, as “older man” in 1 Timothy 5:1 and as “elder” (an official of the church) in 1 Timothy 5:17.

As pointed out earlier in Galatians 5:21 conditions of merit are contextually associated with the obtaining of the inheritance.  In Galatians 4:7 there are no such conditions.  One becomes an heir by faith alone.  But one inherits the kingdom by works.  Since differing conditions are present in the differing contexts, differing meanings of the word are meant.

Another reference to the inheritance is found in Ephesians:

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13, 14)

The inheritance here is unmistakably heaven.  It is an inheritance that goes to those who have believed.  As in the Old Testament there are two kinds of inheritance in the New.  All Christians are heirs of God, but not all are heirs of the kingdom and joint-heirs with Christ.


As is always the case in interpretation, the context of each usage must determine meaning in that context.  While Experimental Predestinarians are willing to grant that the inheritance is heaven, and even that the inheritance in many contexts seems to be a reward, they have failed to integrate these two meanings into a comprehensive system of biblical thought.

The following factors lead one to conclude that it is proper in most contexts of the New Testament to understand the inheritance of the saints as their ownership of the coming kingdom rather than their mere residence there:

  1. As argued from the Old Testament,Israel’s conquest of the land was achieved by spiritual obedience.  After the victory they inherited.  The inheritance ofCanaanwas a merited, earned reward for faithful obedience.
  1. In every usage of the verb “to inherit” except one (1 Corinthians 15:50), the action implies some work of obedience necessary to obtain the inheritance.
  1. Usage in the Old Testament, and the common meaning of the word “inherit” in English, Hebrew, or Greek, implies a distinction between merely being in thelandofCanaanand owning it.  In a similar way, by extension of thought, we are justified in drawing a distinction between being a resident of the future kingdom and being an owner (an heir) of that kingdom.
  1. We are explicitly told in Colossians 3:24 that the future inheritance comes to us as a reward for obedience.
  1. In every instance the phrase “inherit the kingdom” is consistent with its Old Testament analog, “inherit the land.”  The kingdom is always (except in the case of 1 Corinthians 15:50) inherited by means of works.  It is always associated with character qualities that come from acts of obedience.  In one context specific positive works of obedience (service to Christ’s brethren during the tribulation) are the reason for their “inheriting the kingdom” (Matthew 25:34, 35).
  1. The phrase “inherit the kingdom” is directly borrowed from Daniel’s term “possess the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22).  It refers to the rulership over the kingdom of the Son of Man given to the saints.  In Jewish rabbinical literature this future inheritance was obtained by works.  That aspect of Jewish theology was not corrected by the New Testament writers but seemingly accepted as the above arguments show.

These conclusions now must be developed more fully.  The writer of Hebrews does precisely this.  He explains that, when we have obtained the inheritance by means of a life of perseverance in good works, we will have finished our task and hence will “enter the rest.”

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 5—The Inheritance-Rest of Hebrews

It is the desire of God that every Christian should be able to say at the end of life, “I have finished my work.”  This accomplishment was termed “entering into rest” by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Perhaps no other writer of the New Testament reflected as deeply and profoundly upon the theme of the inheritance as did the author of Hebrews.  Addressing believers undergoing persecution who were considering a return to Judaism, he presses upon them the failure of the exodus generation and warns them of a similar fate.  With unusual insight he notes that their failure to enter into rest was a failure to finish their work, precisely the danger facing the Hebrews who were considering an abandonment of their confession.

The Rest of God

But what is the content of the inheritance in Hebrews?  Does it refer to heaven or our rewards there?  To answer that, we must consider the “rest” described in chapters 3 and 4:

So I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest.” (Hebrews 3:11)

The readers of this epistle were in danger of “falling away” (Hebrews 6:6) and “ignoring a great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3).  All five of the warning passages are directed against this peril.  To enforce their perseverance, he sets before them the example of the Israelites in the wilderness who fell away and did not enter into Canaan.  When the Old Testament passages describing the conquest as “entrance into rest” are studied, it seems that the Old Testament writers related the two ideas of “rest” and “Canaan” even if they did not precisely equate them.  In what way did they relate these words together?  They related them as to “place” and as to “experience.”  “To enter into rest” simply means “to complete the conquest ofCanaan.”  Instead of “rest” being only a place, it also is a condition, or state of being.

The Rest Is the Land of Canaan

First, the rest seems to be equated with the land that God swore they would not enter into (Psalm 95:11; Numbers 14:21-23; 32:10-12; Deuteronomy 1:34-36; 12:9).  Second, the terms “rest” and “Canaan” [the land,Israel’s inheritance] seem to be used interchangeably in several scriptures:

You shall not at all do as we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— for as yet you have not come to the rest [the resting place]and the inheritance which the LORD your God is giving you.  But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety.

(Deuteronomy 12:8-10)

Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, “The LORD your God is giving you rest and is giving you this land.” (Joshua 1:13)

For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:13, 14)

The Rest Is Our Finished Word

The concept of “rest” is not limited to the idea of entering the land.  In Joshua 1:13 God says He is giving them rest and the land.  This is also the message of Deuteronomy 12:10.  Rest has another meaning, different from “land.”  Its usage elsewhere suggests the experience one enters into when he finishes his work:

But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance.  Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: “How long will you neglect to go and possess [Heb. “yarash,” inherit] the land which the LORD God of your fathers has given you?” (Joshua 18:2, 3)

So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of [Heb. “yarash,” inherited] it and dwelt in it.  The LORD gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.  Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass. (Joshua 21:43-45) [See also Joshua 18:7; 22:4; 23:4, 5; 24:28]

The “rest” involved completion of the battle and victory over the enemies.  A similar theme is echoed elsewhere in Joshua when, after the battles of the conquest are won, the enemies defeated, and the inheritance divided, we are told that “then the land had rest from war” (Joshua 14:15).  Similarly, God announced to David that his son Solomon, whose name means “peace,” would enjoy a reign of peace and rest:

Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days.  He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever. (1 Chronicles 22:9, 10)

The rest from enemies is immediately connected with the opportunity for peace, for building God’s house, and for fellowship with Him there.  The suspicion that “rest” is a broader concept than mere land seems to be confirmed by the fact that the word for rest (Heb. nuah) is used interchangeably with the word for Sabbath (Heb. shabat):

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested [Heb. “shabat”] on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested [Heb. “shabat”] from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:2, 3)

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested [Heb. “nuah”] the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:11)

The Hebrew word shabat (to cease from labor) is used to describe God’s rest in Genesis 2:2, 3, but the Hebrew word nuah is used in the parallel passage concerning God’s rest on the Sabbath in Exodus 20:11.  Thus rest includes the notion of completing one’s work.

The particular work that Israelhad to complete was the conquest of their enemies and the secure and successful settlement of the landof Canaan.  It is an experience similar to that which God experienced when He completed His work!  God’s work was creation; theirs was conquest (Joshua 21:44, 45; Deuteronomy 12:10; 2 Samuel 7:1; 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Chronicles 22:9).  That “rest” included the notion “to defeat Israel’s enemies and give them rest (victory and security) in the land.”  A definite relationship between land and rest exists because “possession of [entering] the land brings ‘rest’ (Deuteronomy 12:9; 25:19; Joshua 1:13; 21:44), i.e., both freedom from foreign domination and the end of wandering.”  Rest is the inheritance, but it is also a condition or state of finished work and victory over enemies, which the Israelite entered into when he obtained [conquered] the inheritance.

This impression is reinforced by the Lord’s startling statement in Psalm 95:11, “So I declared on oath in My anger, they shall never enter into My rest.”  Here He calls the rest, into which the exodus generation should have entered, “My” rest.  The thought immediately casts us back to Genesis 2:2, 3, “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested.”  God’s rest is the experience of having “finished the work.”  That experience is what God desires for His people of all ages, including ours!

But when did the Israelites enter into rest?  They entered it only after the victory had been won and the inheritance was distributed (Joshua 12-22).  Between initial entry into the land and the final conquest there were victories to be wrought and battles to win, a task to complete.

There is a persistent notion that the landof Canaanis somehow typical of the future millennial kingdom.  Indeed, the numerous Old Testament promises that one day Israel will return to the land (Ezekiel 37:21, 22), be established as an independent state (Ezekiel 37:22), be in possession of the old city of Jerusalem, and become a focal point of global concern (Zechariah 12:1-4) indicate that such a parallel can be drawn.  (see also Jeremiah 3:11-20; 12:14-17; 16:10-18; 28:1-4; 29:1-14; 30:1-3, 10, 11; 31:2-14, 15-20; 32:1-44; 42:1-22; 50:17-20; Ezekiel 11:14-21; 20:39-44; 34:1-16; 35:1-36; 36:16-36; 39:21-29.  The sheer number of these promises by nearly every prophet of the Old Testament makes it highly unlikely that the meager return under Zerubbabel was the fulfillment.  Indeed, if that was the predicted fulfillment, then why did Zechariah in 518 B.C. continue to predict the future return as if it had not yet occurred?)

These land promises are all fulfilled in the future kingdom.  Does not entering the land equal entering the kingdom?  And, if it does, are not all who enter heirs of that kingdom?  The answer:  Obviously not!  The book of Joshua provides one example of an Israelite who in fact entered the land but never finished the task, and as a result, he never obtained the inheritance and entered into rest.  His name was Achan, and his account is in Joshua 7.  Precisely the same situation existed in the early church when Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit in Acts 5.  All three were subjected to capital punishment.

It is therefore evident that a person can enter into the land but not obtain the inheritance there, thereby never entering into rest.  The former was available to all Israelites on the basis of a promise, but the latter came only to those who obeyed and won the victory.

In the parallel to which the writer of Hebrews alludes, all Christians enter into the kingdom at the time of spiritual birth.  But not all Christians finish their work.  For the writer of Hebrews the predicted Old Testament kingdom has already begun.  He tells us that the New Covenant predicted by Jeremiah (31:31-34), which will be fulfilled for national Israel in the millennium, has already been inaugurated by the death of Christ (Hebrews 9:15-18).  Alluded to here is that the kingdom of heaven was inaugurated with the life and death of Christ and will be consummated in its literal Old Testament form at the second coming of Christ.

If this conclusion is valid, then all enter the kingdom at spiritual birth (John 3:3).  Our present struggle against the principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12) is the spiritual counterpart toIsrael’s struggle against her enemies after having entered the land.  Like Achan and the exodus generation before him, some Christians will not finish the battle.  They are out ofEgypt and in the kingdom (in its present form), but they never obtain an inheritance there and will never enter into rest.

Paul tells us that “these things occurred as examples” (1 Corinthians 10:6) so there is some justification for such speculations.  EnteringCanaan is not to be equated with entering the kingdom.  A Christian enters the kingdom when he is born again.  Rather, enteringCanaan pictures the decision by a person who already is a Christian to trust God for victory, submit to His lordship, and engage in the spiritual battle necessary to finish our course as victors and, as a result, enter into rest.  When the battle is won and when, unlike Achan, we persevere in obedient faith to the end, we receive the inheritance, our rewards in heaven.  We have completed our work, and we enter into rest.

To enter into rest was to possess thelandofCanaanby means of spiritual obedience and resultant victory over all who would oppose them.  So entering rest was more than just obtaining some real estate; it had a spiritual dimension as well.  It is impossible to enter into rest without entering into the land, but it was possible to enter the land and not enter rest.  To enter into rest is to obtain the inheritance ofCanaanby faithful obedience, to complete our task and persevere to the final hour.

From Egypt to Canaan










Exodus Generation

Second Generation


In the Wilderness

Across theJordan

Receiving the Inheritance

Ex. 1-11

Ex. 12 – Dt. 34

Josh. 1-11

Josh 12-22


Carnal Christian






In the world

In the Kingdom

At the table

1 Cor. 2:14

1 Cor.3:1-3

Rom. 12:1-2

2 Cor. 5:10

One day the city of Zion, the central city of Canaan in the kingdom, the capital of the entire globe (Isaiah 2:3), will be the “resting place” (Psalm 132:13, 14) of God when He pours out His blessings on that heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:10) that is located in the heavenly (an affirmation of its divine origin) country, the restored millennial land of Canaan (Hebrews 11:16), which is the subject of many Old Testament predictions (Amos 9:13-15; Joel 3:17-21; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Zechariah 14:8-21; Isaiah 2:2-5, 11: 1-16).

It may be concluded that the “rest” of Hebrews 3 is more than the land of Canaan, although it includes that.  The inheritance spoken of in the Old Testament was obtained by faithful obedience, connected to merit.  It included the experience of having completed one’s task, a spiritual dimension.  To enter “rest” was to be victorious over one’s enemies through spiritual obedience and to complete the task assigned to them by God, to take possession of the land.  This paves the way for the writer’s concept of receiving a reward for faithful perseverance (Hebrews 10:36).  He wants his readers to finish their work and thus avoid the loss of inheritance experienced by the exodus generation.

The Partakers

The concept of entering “into rest” was appropriate to apply to the readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews who were in danger, like the exodus generation, of a failure to complete their life work by doing the will of God to the end (Hebrews 10:36).  So he warns them:

For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. (Hebrews 3:14)

The phrase “for we have become partakers in Christ” uses the Greek word metochoi for “partakers,” which then more accurately translates to “we are Christ’s partners or companions”—the basic meaning of metochoi.  If the word metochoi means to be “in Christ” or be “part of Christ,” then the verse is suggesting that we are Christians if and only if we persevere to the end [Reviewer’s comment:  a position that is most certainly anti-scriptural].

Being Christ’s partner is not the same as being His son.  Only sons are partners, but not all sons are partners—only those who “hold firmly to the end the confidence” they had at first.  The word metochos was used in the papyri for partner or associate in a business enterprise.  The word is found in classical Greek for a wife, a member of a board of officials, a partner in business, or the joint-owner of a house.

The Hebrew word chaber is translated by metochos nine times in the Septuagint [the Greek translation of the Old Testament in the third century B.C.].  In each case it refers to a “companion” or one in partnership with another.  Its common meaning is “companion, associate, knit together.”  It describes a close bond between persons such as the close relationship between Daniel and his three friends because of their common faith and loyalty to God (Daniel 2:13-18).

It was perfectly normal for a king to surround himself with certain associates with whom he maintained a more intimate relationship than he did with all other citizens of his kingdom (2 Samuel 23:8-39; 1 Kings 12:8).  Such would qualify to be called chaber in the Hebrew or metochos in the Greek.

God’s King-Son in Hebrews has likewise surrounded Himself with companions (Hebrews 1:9, Gk. metochoi).  Jesus made it clear that only those Christians who “do the will of My Father in heaven” are His “friends” (Matthew 12:48-50).  He told them that friendship with Him was conditional:  “You are My friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14).  Yet these from whom He drew back had “believed in His name” and were therefore born again.

Many people saw the miraculous signs and episteusan eis to onoma autou (“believed on His name”).  Yet Jesus would not episteuen auton autois (“entrust Himself to them”) because he “knew all men.”  The phrase “believe on His name” is used throughout John for saving faith.  Note especially John 3:18 where the same phrase is used.

The phrase pisteuo eis is John’s standard expression for saving faith.  One believes “on Him” or “in His name,” 6:40; 7:39; 8:30; 10:42; 11:25, 26; 12:11.  Therefore, Calvin’s claim in the Institutes (3.2.12) that they did not have true faith but were only borne along “by some impulse of zeal, which prevented them from carefully examining their hearts” is fallacious.

The metochoi of King Jesus then are His co-heirs in the rulership of the messianic kingdom.  They are those friends, partners, and companions who have endured the trials of life, were faithful to the end, who will therefore obtain the inheritance-rest.  The danger in Hebrews 3:14 is not that they might lose their justification but that they might lose their inheritance by forfeiting their position as one of Christ’s metochoi in the coming kingdom.  It is to help them avoid this danger that the writer applies to them the lesson of the failure of the exodus generation to enter “rest.”  They too are in danger of not entering into “rest.”

Entering into Rest (Hebrews 4:1-11)

Having set before their eyes the failure of the exodus generation, he now warns them against the possibility of failure in their Christian lives as well.

The Warning (4:1, 2)

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)

There is no reason for assuming the “rest” (Gk. katapausis) in Hebrews 4 is any different from the inheritance of Canaan obtained by obedience as described in Hebrews 3.  The transition between the chapters is smooth, the application is precise and without any qualification, and the same word, katapausis, is used.  It involved a spiritual victory over all opposing enemies that was achieved by spiritual faith-obedience to the King.  It was an inheritance merited on the field of battle:

For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Hebrews 4:2)

What “gospel” was preached to them?  The word “gospel” means simply “good news.”  The good news they received was the promise of the inheritance of the landof Canaanand the possibility of entering into that inheritance by faithful perseverance and faith-obedience (e.g., Deuteronomy 12:10-12).  This gospel was not only preached to them, but it has been preached to us!  Where?  A major theme of the New Testament is that the Church has been grafted into Israel’s covenants and are now heirs of the same promises (Romans 11:17).  The “good news” in this context seems to be good news about entering God’s rest (4:10) and not the forgiveness of sins.

The Present Existence of the Rest (4:3-7)

For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,'” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 4:3)

Here he makes it explicit that only those who believe enter into rest.  His interest is not in those who have believed at a point in time but in those who continue to believe to the end of life (3:6, 14).  It is perseverance in faith, not a one-time exercise of it, which guarantees that we enter into rest.  He quotes Psalm 95:11 again, which is a Davidic commentary on the failure of the exodus generation.  The significance of the statement, “And yet His work has been finished since the creation of the world” probably means that God completed His work of creation and has offered the experience of completed work to every generation of man since then.  This completed work has yet to be entered into by man but will be when the kingdom of heaven is consummated in the millennium kingdom to come.

In the discussion above it was argued that the meaning of entering into “rest” included not only the obtaining of the inheritance ofCanaan[entering into the land] but also signified the completion of one’s labor.  This possible meaning of the term in the Old Testament is now made explicit by the writer to the Hebrews in the words to follow:

For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” (Hebrews 4:4, 5)

Since God has completed His work, the experience of completed work, rest, has been available to all since the creation of the world.  We enter into that experience the same way God did, by finishing the task.  Possession ofCanaanwas the task that they were to complete.  The concept of rest is thus enriched to mean “finished work.”

No Final Rest Under Joshua (4:6-9)

Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:6, 7)

The exodus generation failed to enter the land.  They never finished their task, and that task still remains to be completed!  Even under Joshua the task was not completed.  But, someone might argue, was not the entire promise of the landof Canaanfulfilled under Joshua?  Did not the Old Testament say that the conquest of the land was the fulfillment of the promised rest (Joshua 22:4; 23:1)?  This kind of eschatology is rebutted with the following words:

For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.  There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (Hebrews 4:8, 9)

If the experience of Sabbath rest had been fulfilled in Joshua’s conquest of the land, David, four hundred years later, would not still be offering the same promise in Psalm 95:11 and saying it is available “today.”  The writer is evidently setting before his Christian readers the hope of an inheritance in theland ofCanaan that was made toIsrael.  This future inheritance is still to be obtained, and the experience of “finished work” is still to be achieved!

How the Rest is Obtained (4:10-11)

For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.  Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 10, 11)

As Christian believers they will have an inheritance in the landof Canaanin the consummation of the present kingdom if they make every effort to finish their course.  We are to enter “rest” the same way the exodus generation should have, by finishing our work.  Entering “rest” is therefore more than obtaining the landof Canaan, although it is also that.  It is the fulfillment of man’s destiny to “rule and have dominion” (Genesis 1:26-28).  It is the finishing of our work—for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His (Hebrews 4:10); or, as the writer expressed it in the chapter 10:

For you have need of endurance [perseverance], so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:36)

In a similar way Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

The conclusion is that the content of the inheritance in Hebrews 3 and 4 is the millennial land of Canaan.  This inheritance-rest is the participation with Christ in that great messianic partnership, the final destiny of man.  It certainly involves ownership of the land of Canaan, but obtaining Canaan was more than just obtaining some land.  It was to live there in the heavenly country, ruling from the heavenly city with the King.  Only Christ’s metochoi will reign with Him in the kingdom.  To be invited to rule with Christ on earth in the coming kingdom is synonymous with hearing Him say:

Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. (Matthew 25:21)

There are many in the kingdom today, but only some will inherit the land in the consummation.  That is why the rest must be worked for (Hebrews 4:11).  Not all Christians will make that effort or will make equal effort, and those distinctions will be acknowledged by Christ in the coming reign of the metochoi during the millennial kingdom.


We enter into “rest” only when we persevere in faith to the end of life.  When we do this, we will obtain a share in the inheritance, the millennial landof Canaan, and will rule with Christ as one of His metochoi there.  God has not set aside His promises toIsrael.  The promise of the inheritance, the land, is eternally valid, and those Christians who remain faithful to their Lord to the end of life will share in that inheritance along with the Old Testament saints.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 6—So Great a Salvation

The tendency to assume that salvation always refers to final deliverance from hell has led many to interpret certain passages incorrectly.  When James, for example, says, “Can faith alone save a man,” the Experimental Predestinarians understandably are perplexed about the apparent conflict with Paul.  However, if salvation means something other than “go to heaven when you die,” the apparent conflict evaporates.

Usage Outside the New Testament

An adequate discussion of the Greek verb sozo (“to save,” “to deliver”), and the noun soteria (“salvation,” “deliverance”) could easily consume an entire book.  This analysis will summarize its meaning in secular Greek and in the Old Testament, and then it will discuss some of the references to these words in the New Testament (over 150 references).  In particular, the burden will be to illustrate those usages that establish meanings other than “final deliverance from hell.”

Usage in Secular Greek

The noun soteria is often found in the papyri in the sense of bodily health or well-being (happiness, health, and prosperity)—e.g., Acts 27:34.  Salvation could be from the misery of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 14:13; 15:2), from adversaries (Psalm 106:10), or from oppression (Judges 3:31).  It evidently includes divinely bestowed deliverance from every class of spiritual and temporal evil to which mortal man is subjected.

By far the most common usage in the Old Testament is of God’s deliverance of His people from their struggles (Exodus 14:30; Numbers 10:9; 1 Samuel 22:4; Psalm 18:3; Isaiah 30:15; 45:17; Jeremiah 30:17).  This meaning has been considerably enriched by the New Testament writers when they point out that the salvation of Christ also saves us from our enemies—the world, the flesh, and Satan.  Spiritual victory in life is salvation!

Often, however, the word simply means blessing, health, happiness (Psalm 7:10; 28:8, 9; 86:16; Jeremiah 17:14), restoration to fellowship (Psalm 6:3-6; 51:12; Ezekiel 37:23), or the future blessings of the messianic kingdom (Psalm 132:16; Isaiah 25:9; 43:3, 5, 8, 19; 44:3, 20; Jeremiah 31:7).

Certain passages in the prophets have an eschatological dimension.  In the last days Yahweh will bring full salvation for His people (e.g., Isaiah 43:5 ff.; Jeremiah 31:7; 46:27; Zechariah 8:7).  At that time, in the future earthly kingdom, Israel “will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3), and the entire world will participate in the messianic salvation (Isaiah 45:22; 49:6).  The enemies of Israel will be put to shame in that future day, “but Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation” (Isaiah 45:17).  The messianic salvation is called the “everlasting salvation” because the kingdom of the Messiah will last forever.  The phrase is strikingly similar to the phrase “eternal salvation” in Hebrews 5:9.  In Isaiah 52:10 we are told that “all the ends of the world will see the salvation of our God.”

Usage in the New Testament

It is in the New Testament that the full breadth of meaning of salvation comes to the forefront.  The verb sozo occurs 106 times and the noun soteria 46 times.  The meaning “deliver from hell,” while rare in the Old Testament, is quite common in the New.  Statistically, sozo is used 40 percent of the time in this way (Acts 4:12; 11:14; 16:30; Romans 8:24; 9:27; 1 Corinthians 5:5; Jude 23) and soteria 35 percent (Acts 4:12; 13:26; Romans 1:16; 10:1; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 1:13).  Like the Old Testament it sometimes simply means healing or recovery of health.  When this happens, the notion of “deliver” disappears altogether, and the word simply means “to heal.”  For example, in response to the faith and resultant healing of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, Jesus said:  “Your faith has healed (sozo) you” (Matthew 9:21, 22).  This sense is quite common—19 percent (Mark 3:4; 5:23, 28, 34; Luke 6:9; 8:36, 48, 50; John 11:12; James 5:15).  But there is no instance of soteria used in this sense.

Consistent with its most frequent usage in the Old Testament (LXX), sozo often means to deliver from some danger (19 percent).  For example, when Jesus prayed in the garden, he asked, “Save [sozo] me from this hour” (John 12:27)—see also Matthew 8:25; 14:30; 24:22; Luke 1:71; 23:35, 37, 39; John 12:27; Acts 7:52; 27:20, 31, 34; 1 Thessalonians 5:9.

Salvation of the Troubled

Similar to the idea of “deliverance from danger,” but with a distinctively positive emphasis, are the references in which salvation is viewed as victorious endurance and not just escape, e.g., 2 Corinthians 1:6, where salvation seems to be equated with patient endurance, an aspect of sanctification.

It is probable that the idea of victorious endurance is behind a use of soteria in Philippians that has often perplexed interpreters:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2: 12, 13)

This salvation must be worked for.  The phrase “work out” translates katergazomai, which simply means “to effect by labor, achieve, work out, bring about, etc.”—see also Romans 4:15; James 1:3.  A salvation that can be achieved by labor is hardly the justification-by-faith-alone kind of salvation offered elsewhere.  Neither is any notion of obedience being the evidence of true faith found in this passage; rather, obedience is the condition of salvation.

The salvation to which Paul refers here is related contextually back to his discussion in Philippians 1:19, 20, 27-30.

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance [soteria] through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:19, 20)

The thought of deliverance from danger is the obvious meaning of salvation here, but more than that, Paul wants to be delivered in such a way that Christ will be honored in his body.  A higher deliverance, a victorious endurance, is in view.  He desires that his readers similarly will be victorious in their trials as well, following his example:

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation [soteria], and that from God.  For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. (Philippians 1:27-30)

The apostle aspired to a victorious endurance in which his life or death would magnify Christ, and he exhorts them to aspire to the same goal.  Their lack of fear in the face of enemies and their united stand is clear evidence of the reality of their victorious endurance (salvation), which will be evident to all.

This salvation is one beyond their initial salvation in Christ.  The first salvation was received by simple faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9), but this one comes by faithful endurance.  It consists of Christ being magnified in one’s life.  This salvation must be “achieved by labor.”  This is the salvation that he wants them to “work out” in Philippians 2:12.  They are to continue to bring honor to Christ as they boldly respond to their trials.  He is exhorting them to victorious endurance.

Such an interpretation would not be unexpected by readers in the first century, saturated as they were with the idea of salvation found in their Greek Bible.  As mentioned above, the most common usage of the word was “deliverance from trials” (for example, Psalm 3:8, 18:3, 35, 46, 50; 35:3; 37:39; 38:22; 44:4—in all these references the LXX employs soteria).

Salvation of a Life

[Reviewer’s comment:  This section considers some theologically problematic passages that use the words “save” and “salvation,” which are often erroneously interpreted as being delivered from hell.]


The phrase “save a soul” (Gk. sozo psyche) seems to have a technical meaning of “preserve your physical life.”  Jesus used it in Matthew:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life [psyche] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [psyche] for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul [psyche]? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul [psyche]? (Matthew 16:24-26)

It remains for scholars of historical theology to discern how this phrase ever became connected with the idea of deliverance from hell.  It is never used that way in the Bible, and such an idea would have been foreign to any Jewish reader of the New Testament.  [If in fact this referred to eternal salvation] then the context requires that works, suffering, and taking up one’s cross are necessary conditions for one’s salvation [which is contrary to Scripture].  [In light of this] it is either necessary to redefine faith [for eternal salvation] as being equivalent to obedience [works], which a lexical study will not allow, or reconsider the traditional meaning of “save a soul.”

The phrase “save a soul” is found eleven times in the LXX (Septuagint—Greek translation of the Old Testament), and in each case it has the notion of preserving one’s physical life (e.g., Genesis 19:17; 32:30; 1 Kings 19:11; 1 Samuel 19:11; Judges 10:15; Job 33:28; Psalm 30:7; 71:13; 108:31; Jeremiah 31:6).  This meaning is reasonably carried over to the New Testament, unless the interests of the Reformed doctrine of perseverance preempts reason—in such a case then the traditional meaning, “deliver from hell,” is absolutely without parallel in biblical or extra-biblical literature, and yet it is accepted as the starting point for understanding the meaning of “save a soul” in the New Testament.

For the following reasons the references to “soul” in Christ’s comments in Matthew 16:26 above cannot have reference to “deliverance from hell”:

  • Christ is not speaking about eternal salvation to unbelievers; rather, He is speaking about discipleship to believers (vs. 24).
  • An examination of the four clauses in verses 25, as follows:

            Clause 1:          For whoever desires to save his psyche

            Clause 2:          will lose it.

            Clause 3:          But whoever loses his psyche for My sake

            Clause 4:          will find it.

If the saving of the psyche in clause 1 is physical, it must also be physical in clause 3, and if it is metaphorical in 2, then it must be metaphorical in 4.  It obviously cannot be physical in all four clauses because then a man would be preserving and losing his physical life at the same time (clause 1 and 2).  The psyche can be “saved” in two senses.  The first (clause 1) refers to physical preservation.  But the metaphorical sense (clause 2) refers to a common usage of psche, which is the inner self or that which experiences the joys and sorrows of life.  To “save the soul” (psyche) in this sense is to secure for it eternal pleasures by living a life of sacrifice now.  It is the development of an inner character that will have eternal consequences.  There is a connection between our life of sacrifice now with our future capability to enjoy and experience eternal fellowship with Christ in the future (millennial kingdom).

  • Verse 26 is somewhat of a Socratic question to summarize and drive home the points in verses 24 and 25.

So the danger is that, if a man does not become a disciple, he will lose his psyche.  That is, he will forfeit true (victorious) life now and reward in the coming age.  The fact that the context is referring to rewards, and not deliverance from hell, is stated in the next verse, which is an integral part of this passage and specifically an extension of verse 26:

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:27)

Clauses 2 and 4 therefore refer to the losing or gaining of rewards in the coming age, which loss or gain is relative to discipleship.  Saving one’s life (clause 1) means what it means every place else in the Bible, “to preserve one’s physical life.”  There was a temptation among Christ’s followers to avoid martyrdom and suffering to save their lives.  Paradoxically, when a man schemes to preserve his own life, he will lose the very thing he really wants, happiness and blessing (clause 2).  However, if he is willing to die for Christ (clause 3), he will find the very pleasures and blessings he really sought in addition to rewards in the coming age (clause 4).


Keeping this in mind helps to understand some passages that are fraught with theological difficulty, such as in the book of James:

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save [sozo] your souls [psyche]. (James 1:21)

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save [sozo] him? (James 2:14)

[Reviewer’s note:  The book of James is written to Christians (vss. 2, 16) regarding the various trials they were facing (vs. 2) to assure them that those who endure the trials will experience a “salvation”—spiritual benefits in the present life and rewards in the age to come (vss. 3, 4, 12, 21, 25).]

The form of the question in verse 14 requires a negative answer.  No, faith without works cannot save!  If salvation in James refers to final deliverance from hell, only with great [theological bending] difficulty can it be brought into harmony with Paul, a harmony at the expense of the plain meaning of the text.  Works clearly ARE a condition of “salvation” according to James.  But what is the content of that salvation?

James takes us back to the teaching of his Master in 1:21 when he refers to the saving of our lives (psyche).  The expression “save your lives” is the same one used by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 16:25 (parallel passages are Mark 8:25; Luke 9:24; 21:19: John 12:25).  That “salvation” does require work and self-denying service to Christ.  It does not constitute final deliverance from hell.  Rather, it involves the preservation of physical life now, a victorious perseverance through trials, and a glorious reward for our faithful service in the future.

Nowhere does James tell us that works are the inevitable result of the faith that delivers from hell.  But then, if it does, James is teaching eternal salvation by works—a severe contradiction with Scripture regarding this specific subject.

(1 Peter)

Receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls (psyche—“lives”). (1 Peter 1:9)

Peter’s is endeavoring to encourage his readers toward steadfastness in trials (1:6), which are both external and internal (2:11).  The warfare against them is severe, and they need victory in the battle; they need deliverance, or “salvation” (soteria).  Only by daily obedience to the truth can their “souls” be “purified” so that they can love fervently (1:22).

Peter reminds them that they have been “born again to a living hope” (1:3) “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for” them (1:4).  This inheritance is the “reward of the inheritance” (Colossians 3:24) of which Paul spoke.  All are appointed to this at spiritual birth but only those who persevere in faith will obtain the intended goal, which is “ready to be revealed in the last (end) time” (1:5).  The salvation to be revealed is the consummation of our salvation in the glories of the messianic era.  This is the future tense of salvation.  Only those Christians who maintain (persevere in) their faith will experience protection now and have a share in that great (millennial) future.

Even though they are distressed by various trials, they rejoice in the prospect that, if they remain steadfast, they will “obtain an inheritance.”  Indeed, Peter says, the intended result of these trials is that after the suffering they may receive “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:7).  First comes faithful perseverance under suffering, and then comes honor from Christ at His revelation.

As they gaze at this glorious future salvation, they obtain benefits of that great future in the present.  This is essentially the meaning in verse 1:9, both contextually and in line with the fact that most often psyche refers to one’s physical life (as easily seen in the use of the word in the LXX, e.g., Psalm 3:2; 35:3; 42:11; 1 Samuel 19:5;).  It does not mean “go to heaven when I die” or final deliverance from hell; rather, it means “deliverance from enemies.”  Unless there are contextual indications to the contrary, there is no reason to depart from this universal sense.

That this is the intended meaning in 1 Peter 1 seems to be confirmed by the fact that they are receiving this salvation now (present tense).  As they are steadfast and faithful, they experience the benefits of their future salvation in the present.  In other words, vs. 9 has sanctification and not justification in view.  It is not an act of faith that will give them victory but a life of faith that delivers them from present enemies and provides them “real time” spiritual victory.

Some have objected that this cannot be true because the next verse begins, “Of this salvation, the prophets . . . .” (1 Peter 1:10).  The salvation referred to in this verse is clearly the future salvation of the soul and not its present salvation.  Since the salvation in vs. 10 refers back to the salvation in vs. 9, it is argued that the salvation in vs. 9 must be future as well.  In this way some notion of “entrance into heaven” is read into the words.  However, in vs. 9 the salvation is an extension into the present of the benefits of the future salvation.  So both verses are speaking about the same thing.  When the future salvation is experienced in the present, it is a salvation from the present enemies of the people of God.  When experienced in the future, it is the final and permanent deliverance from all enemies.  However they are now able to earn this salvation in the future as a reward (Gk. komizo, “receive”) and to have the benefits extend to the present.

What is the present expression of future salvation that they are receiving?  In what way does steadfast faith bring salvation to their souls (lives) now?  What is the salvation of a life (soul) in the present?  It is not deliverance from hell or entrance into heaven!  The battle in which their souls (lives) were engaged and from which they needed deliverance was the battle against fleshly lusts (2:11), the battle for purity (1:22), and the battle for survival in the midst of trials (1:6).  These are the enemies these readers face.  As they trust God and set their gaze on the great future and remain faithful to Him now, they experience the salvation that consists of victorious perseverance in trials and triumph over the pollutions of the age.  They are by this means “protected” (a military term, 1:5) from their “enemies.”


A final illustration of a usage of the world “salvation” that seems to equate it with deliverance from the enemies of the people of God in the present is found in a passage that is most often used as the means to “eternal salvation” (deliverance from hell).  The passage is found in chapter 10:

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9, 10)

[Reviewer’s comment:  Of all the passages of scripture thus far explained by the author, this is the one most difficult for the reviewer to understand.  The author endeavors to explain the “salvation” of this passage as referring to a “deliverance from temporal devastation,” based on the context prior to and following the passage.  This may in fact be the case; although, the reader of this review is directed to the argument made by the author of the book within the book so that he may decide for himself.  Nevertheless, this review will include the following paragraphs verbatim by the author, which recaps his view of this passage.  It is significant though that all the Old Testament passages quoted by Paul in this context appear to deal with Israel’s deliverance from temporal enemies.]

This confession is unusual because it is the only place in the New Testament where a condition in addition to faith is added for salvation.  The Gospel of John, which was written expressly for the purpose that we might believe and as a result be saved (John 20:30, 31), never mentions confession of Christ as Lord as a condition.  If we must confess Jesus as Lord in order to be saved, then a man could not be saved by reading John’s gospel!

[Reviewer’s comment:  It is the reviewer’s position that this passage can be adequately explained should one see the salvation of this passage as indeed being “eternal salvation,” i.e., deliverance from hell.]

A very simple solution to this difficulty is to return to the definition of salvation in the immediate context.  This salvation is not deliverance from hell but is the same salvation mentioned in vs. 1, divine aid to the believer as he struggles against his temporal enemies.  This was the deliverance Israel failed to enjoy.  Only one thing is necessary, according to the book of Romans, for salvation from hell:  belief.  But two things are necessary for us to enjoy the full salvation spoken of in this context, which includes God’s blessing, His individual and spiritual salvation in this life:  (1) faith in Christ and (2) submission to His lordship.  Furthermore, it is not inevitable that a man who believes in Christ will also confess Him as Lord.  Paul makes this plain in the next verse:  “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation(Romans 10:10).

Salvation in this verse has the same meaning it did in vs. 1 and vs. 9, God’s divine aid to his people in time.  Believing with the heart results in final deliverance from hell, but confession of the lordship of Christ is necessary for the kind of salvation mentioned here, salvation from present enemies.  Instead of confession of Jesus as Lord being the inevitable result of salvation as the Experimental Predestinarians teach, Paul, to the contrary, says that salvation is the inevitable result of confessing Jesus as Lord!  But this is not a salvation from hell.  Just as a confession of Jesus as Lord results in salvation, so calling upon the name of the Lord has the same effect:  “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

The phrases “call upon the name of the Lord” and “confess Jesus as Lord are parallel and they compliment each other.  Both result in “salvation.”  But the salvation in view must be determined by the immediate context in Romans and the Old Testament citations.  This verse (10:13) is a quotation from Joel 2:32 and refers to the physical deliverance from the future day of wrath upon the earth and the restoration of the Jews to Palestine and not deliverance from hell.  Salvation in vs. 13 means exactly what it meant in vs. 1, vs. 9, and vs. 10:  practical aid in the struggle against the enemies of the people of God.  No doubt deliverance from hell is included in the concept in all four verses, but the focus is deliverance in time and victory.  This is made very clear in the following verses where Paul defines the salvation as the divine aid a believer receives when he calls upon the name of the Lord.

In the New Testament, “calling upon the name of the Lord” is something only those who are already justified can do.  A non-Christian cannot call upon the name of the Lord for assistance because he is not yet born again.  Paul says to the Corinthians:  “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

[Reviewer’s comment:  It is noteworthy that men first started to “call upon the name of the Lord in Genesis 4:26, and the phrase is also mentioned in 1Kings 18:24; Psalm 116:17; Joel 2:32; Zephaniah 3:9.]

Wherever Christians met in worship, they would appeal to their divine Lord for assistance by calling upon His name.  Christians were known by this title; they were simply those who called upon the Lord (Acts 9:14, 21).  Paul similarly urged Timothy to flee youthful lusts and to “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call upon the name of the Lord” (2 Timothy 2:22).  Stephen, as he was being stoned to death, “called upon the Lord” and asked Him to receive his spirit (Acts 7:59).

The point is that to call upon the name of the Lord was a distinctively Christian privilege.  Non-Christians cannot call upon Him and to call upon Him is not a condition of salvation from hell but of deliverance in time from the enemies of God’s people.  When a man believes, the result, Paul says, is righteousness.  He is delivered from hell.  When he confesses Jesus as Lord (calls upon His name), he is saved (delivered) from all enemies of the people of God in time.

Salvation of a Wife

Another passage that has exercised much exegetical ingenuity is found in 1 Timothy:

Nevertheless she will be saved [sozo] in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

Salvation in this verse is something like “spiritual health,” a full and meaningful life.  This fits the context.  Paul is indicating that women will find their primary destiny by fulfilling their role as a mother if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.

Salvation of a Christian Leader

There is salvation for Christian leaders:

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save [sozo] both yourself and those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16)

Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered [saved] your soul [life]. (Ezekiel 33:9)

Both Timothy and Ezekiel are regenerate and justified saints who are still in need of being saved, of finding spiritual wholeness, or possibly, as one writer suggested, of “continuous preservation from surrounding evil.”

Reigning with Christ in the Kingdom

Often in the Old Testament salvation has messianic overtones.  It refers to the future regathering of the nation of Israeland their establishment as rulers in a universal kingdom under the kingship of David’s greater Son.  It is not surprising then to find that both sozo and soteria often have similar connotations in the New Testament:  joint participation with Christ in the coming kingdom rule.

It is possible that this is the thought behind our Lord’s saying:  “But he who stands firm to the end will be saved [sozo]” (Matthew 24:13).  The context refers to the terrors of the future tribulation.  If the content of the salvation here is positive, then a great motive for endurance has been provided.  It may be preferable to view the salvation here as the receipt of the kingdom and the right to rule there.  The condition of salvation in this passage is steadfast endurance that does not yield under persecution but perseveres to the final hour, i.e., either the end of the tribulation or the end of life.

[Reviewer’s comment:  The author then ties the passage to that portion of Christ’s discourse from the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:3-25:46) that deals with the judgment of the Gentiles (nations) during the tribulation, which specifically mentions the coming millennial kingdom.]

Another verse to the young Timothy:

Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect so that they also may obtain the salvation [soteria] which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)

While many commentators understand the “elect” to refer to the unregenerate who have not yet believed (but certainly will), there is good reason to understand the term in this context as a virtual synonym for a regenerate saint.  First of all, in every usage of the term applied to men, in the New Testament it always refers to a justified saint.  Conversely, it never refers to someone who was elect in eternity past but who has not yet entered into the purpose of his election justification.  The word eklektos (Gk. for “elect”) is used 22 times in the New Testament.  Jesus says that for the sake of the “elect” the days of the tribulation will be shortened (Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:21).  Even the “elect,” He says, can be led astray (Mark 13:22).  Paul tells us the “elect” are the justified (Romans 8:33) and that they are Christians, “chosen of God” (Colossians 3:12).  The Christian lady to whom John writes is the “chosen lady” (2 John 1, 13) and the “chosen” of Revelation 17:14 are faithful Christians.

It is best to understand that the “elect” here refers to Timothy and the faithful men of vs. 2.  Timothy is being exhorted to suffer in his ministry to the “elect.”  The idea of Paul suffering for the sanctification and growth of the churches is a common New Testament theme, as in 2 Corinthians 1:5, 6; 4:12; Colossians 1:24.

Here then are saved people in need of salvation!  The salvation in view is sanctification or, perhaps, more precisely, victorious perseverance through trials (1:8; 2:3, 9).  Elsewhere in the Pastorals, “salvation” has referred to aspects of sanctification so there is no reason why it cannot have such a meaning here as well (e.g. 1 Timothy 2:15; 4:16).  The setting is the dismal situation of apostasy (in 1:15, shortly to be identified, 2:17, 18).  Paul reminds Timothy that loyalty to the profession of faith (vs. 11) does not go unrewarded (Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12).  If they persevere, they will not only obtain victory but eternal honor (vs. 10), reward at the judgment set of Christ.

Salvation in the Book of Hebrews

Moving as he does in Old Testament context, it is to be expected that the writer of Hebrews would use the word soteria in a sense more akin to its Hebrew background.  For him salvation is participation with Christ in the future kingdom rule.  He distinguishes his usage of the term from the meaning of final deliverance from hell when he says:

So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait [apekdechomai] for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin [Gk. choris, “apart from sin”], for salvation [soteria].

The verb apekdechomai commonly means to “wait eagerly” or “wait patiently” (see Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 3:20; 1 Corinthians 1:7).  This salvation does not deal with the removal of the negative (it is choris from sin, “apart” from sin).  Rather, it refers to a salvation that will come to those Christians who are waiting eagerly for the Lord’s return.  The verse seems to precisely parallel Paul’s anticipation of receiving the crown of righteousness, which goes to those who “have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).  The readers of the epistle would understand to what he was referring.  Indeed, the major theme of the book is to exhort them to continue to wait patiently, to endure faithfully in the midst of their trials:

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:35, 36)

Some of the readers were considering throwing away their confidence, returning to Judaism.  They would not be the ones found waiting eagerly, who have “labored to enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:11), and who have “done the will of God” (10:36), i.e., finished their work.  His meaning becomes transparent in Hebrews 1:14, 2:3 and 2:10:

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation [soteria]? (1:14)

The fact that he is thinking in Old Testament terms, quoting the Psalms, and anticipating this salvation as future (“will inherit”) suggests that he is thinking of the messianic salvation proclaimed by the prophets mentioned above (compare Hebrews 1:8, 9 with Psalms 45; Hebrews 1:13 with Psalms 110:1).

Surely, the immediate associations with the quotations from the Psalms would lead us to think of the future messianic kingdom and not redemption from hell.  Furthermore, as argued in the previous chapter, the verb “to inherit” always has the sense of “to obtain by works” in the New Testament; therefore, this salvation is obtained by works.  That there is a salvation that can be obtained by works is taught elsewhere in Hebrews 5:9.  Believers do not “inherit,” “obtain by obedience,” the salvation that is from hell.  But they do obtain by obedience an ownership in the future consummation.  To inherit salvation is simply to obtain ownership with the King of His future kingdom.

We are therefore justified in being skeptical of the interpretation that says that salvation here is deliverance from hell.  That is why F. F. Bruce says:

The salvation here spoken of lies in the future; it is yet to be inherited. . . . That is to say, it is that eschatological salvation which in Paul’s words is “nearer to us than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11), or in Peter’s words is “ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5). (The Epistle to the Hebrews, by F. F. Bruce)

It is commonly recognized that the warnings of Hebrews are parentheses in his argument.  From 1:4 to 2:18 he is presenting the superiority of Christ to the angels.  It is not to angels that the rulership over God’s works has been commissioned but to God’s King Son and His companions (1:9; 2:10).  In the middle of the argument he inserts a warning, Hebrews 2:1-4, in which he exhorts them not to neglect this great future, this great soteria (salvation).  Then in Hebrews 2:5 he picks up the argument he momentarily departed from at the end of Hebrews 1:14.  The “for” (gar) refers back to1:14:

For [gar] He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. (Hebrews 2:5)

The subjection of the world to come is the soteria “of which we are speaking.”  He then gives an exposition of Psalm 8:1-9, which is in turn David’s exposition of the final destiny of man as is set forth in Genesis 1:26-28.  To “inherit” that salvation is simply to have a share with Christ in ruling in that kingdom.  This contextually is the “great salvation” that they are not to neglect:

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation [soteria] . . . . (Hebrews 2:3)

The neglected salvation is not our final deliverance from hell; that is not the salvation “about which we are speaking.”  Rather, it is the opportunity to enter into the final destiny of man, to reign with Christ over the works of God’s hands (Hebrews 2:8, 9).  There is something conditional about entering into this salvation.  It is the salvation he has just mentioned in 1:14.  He tells us there is a danger from which we cannot escape if we neglect it.  For the writer of the epistle the danger to which he refers is not loss of justification, “because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14).  Our eternal destiny is secure.  What is contingent is whether or not we will be “richly rewarded” and “receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:36), which is achieved only “through faith and patience” (Hebrews 6:12).

While one could conclude that the Lord’s teaching to Nicodemus in John regards salvation from hell, the context of Hebrews 2:5-10 speaks of another salvation that was also mentioned by Christ, as in Matthew 19:28; Luke 12:31, 32; 22:29, 30).  The coming kingdom of heaven announced here by Jesus is none other than the predicted kingdom-salvation of the Old Testament.  It is the time of the restoration of the kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:6).  The miracles that confirmed it (Hebrews 2:4) are powers of the coming age (Hebrews 6:5).  Such a salvation, joint participation with Christ in the coming kingdom rule, is contingent upon our faithful perseverance and obedience, as is made clear in Hebrews 5:8, 9.


Salvation is a broad term.  However, only with difficulty can the common meaning of “deliver from hell” be made to fit into numerous passages.  It commonly means “to make whole,” “to sanctify,” “to endure victoriously,” or “to be delivered from some general trouble or difficulty.”  Without question, the common “knee-jerk” reaction that assumes that “salvation” always has eternal deliverance (fp class=”MsoNormal”rom hell) in view has seriously compromised the ability of many to objectively discern what the New Testament writers intended to teach.  As a result, Experimental Predestinarian views have gained wider acceptance than they should have.

A similar problem exists in regard to the definition of “eternal life.”  Once again a kind of instinctive response to this term sets in.  Without due consideration of contextual matters, it is often assumed, without discussion or proof, that the term invariably means “to be born again.”  As we shall see in the next chapter, this is not always the case.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 7—Inheriting Eternal Life

The positive side of our great salvation is eternal life.  By this, of course, our Lord did not mean merely eternal existence but a rich and meaningful life that begins now and extends into eternity.

Given Freely as a Gift

All readers of the New Testament are familiar with the tremendous gospel promise of the free gift of eternal life.  That this rich experience was obtained by faith alone was one of the key insights of the Reformation:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)

Eternal life can be ours, now, on the condition that we believe in Him, and for no other condition.  Yes, eternal life is ours on the basis of faith alone.

Earned as a Reward

The phrase “eternal life” (Gk. zoen alonion) occurs 42 times in the New Testament.  Its common meaning of the free gift of regeneration (entrance into heaven on the basis of faith alone) is well documented.  However, many are not aware that in 11 of those 42 usages (26%), eternal life is presented to the believer as something to be earned or worked for (Matthew 19:16; 19:29; Mark 10:17, 30; Luke 10:25; 18:18, 30; John 12:25, 26; Romans 2:7; 6:22; Galatians 6:8).  For example:

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life (zoen alonion). (Romans 2:7)

For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life (zoen alonion). (Galatians 6:8b)

He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (zoen alonion).  If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. (John 12:25, 26)

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life (zoen alonion). (Matthew 19:29)

Just as there are two kinds of inheritance, two dimensions to salvation, there seems to be two sides to eternal life.  Eternal life in the Bible is not a static entity, a mere gift of regeneration that does not continue to grow.  It is a dynamic relationship with Christ Himself.  Jesus taught us that when He said:

And this is eternal life (zoen alonion), that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3).

He explained elsewhere that this life was intended to grow and become abundant:  “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  But growth is not automatic; it is conditioned upon our responses.  Only by the exercise of spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, obedience, faith, study of the Scriptures, and proper responses to trials, does our intimacy with Christ increase.  Only by continuing in doing good does that spiritual life imparted at generation grow to maturity and earn rewards.

This is what the apostle Paul referred to when he challenged Timothy to “lay (take) hold on eternal life”:

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)

Possessing eternal life is one thing, but “taking hold” of it is another.  The former is static; the latter is dynamic.  The former depends upon God; the latter depends upon us.  The former comes through faith alone; “taking hold” requires faith plus obedience (6:14).  Those who are rich in this world and who give generously “will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).  Eternal life is not only the gift of regeneration but is also “true life,” which is cultivated by faith and acts of obedience.

This should not surprise us.  On page after page of the Bible the richness of spiritual life is conditioned upon spiritual obedience.  Israelwas instructed in this manner (see Deuteronomy 4:1; 4:40; 5:29, 33).  Spiritual obedience and the spirituality of the Old Testament religion lift life far beyond mere material prosperity in Canaan.  It is a rich fellowship with God.  The writer of Hebrews confirms this when he says:

Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:9-11)

He explains that the life that comes from responding to divine discipline is nothing less than a harvest of righteousness and peace and is sharing in God’s holiness.  In Deuteronomy 30:15-30 life and prosperity are associated and contrasted with “destruction.”  If they love the Lord their God and walk in His ways and keep His commands, they will “live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”  If they follow other gods, they will not live long but will be destroyed in the land they are entering.

Habakkuk 2:4 refers to the life of faith of the justified believer.

. . . But the just shall live by his faith.

The Hebrew word for faith is emunah, and it means “firmness, faithfulness, fidelity.”  Its basic sense is “to be steady” or “have firm hands, be dependable, stable, etc.”  This meaning fits the context of Habakkuk as well.  Faced with the inexplicable tardiness of God in dealing with the corrupt nation and the surprising revelation that He will bring an even more corrupt nation to judge them, the prophet is instructed to be faithful, steady, and to endure.  Thus, Blue comments:

A righteous Israelite who remained loyal to God’s moral precepts and was humble before the Lord enjoyed God’s abundant life.  To “live” meant to experience God’s blessing by enjoying a life of security, protection, and fullness. (Habakkuk, by J. Ronald Blue)

This meaning is uniquely appropriate to the readers of Hebrews who were similarly in need of patient endurance in the face of many trials.  For this reason the author quotes it in application to their situation in Hebrews 10:38, “But My righteous one will live by faith.”  The justified man must live by faith from beginning to end; he should endure.  But if he shrinks back and denounces his profession of faith, God’s judgment will be upon him.  The judgment here is apoleia and can refer to either eternal condemnation or, as this context requires, a temporal judgment (compare Hebrews 10:30 where the judgments mentioned are from Deuteronomy 32:36 and Psalm 135:14, which refer to God’s judgments on His people in time and not in eternity).

There is no reson that the reference in Romans 1:17 should be taken any differently.  He has just explained that the gospel is based upon faith “from first to last” (Romans 1:16).  It is therefore appropriate to quote a passage that refers to the continued endurance in faith of the sanctified man to demonstrate that “last” part of the life of the justified man.

[Reviewer’s comment:  The author then proceeds to show the same meaning for the phrase “the just shall live by faith” in Galatians 3:11.  In light of verses 3 and 10, the reviewer believes this to be a contextual given.]

The Old Testament doctrine of the afterlife and rewards is very vague.  But the idea that obedience could be related to the acquisition and growth of a rich spiritual (as well as material) life is clear.  We should not therefore be surprised to find such an equation in the New Testament.  And we do find that equation in the references to eternal life being conditioned upon obedience.  It is important to note that in every place where eternal life is presented as something that can be obtained by works, it is contextually always described as a future acquisition.  Conversely, whenever eternal life is described as something in the present, it is obtained by faith alone.

In Galatians 6:8, for example, eternal life is something earned by the sower.  If this passage is speaking of final salvation from hell, then salvation is based on works.  A man reaps what he sows.  If we sow to please the Spirit, we will reap (future tense) eternal life.  Paul calls it a harvest “if we do not give up.”  Eternal life is earned by sowing to the Spirit and persevering to the end.  It is what we get if we do good works.  There is nothing here about the inevitability of this reaping.  It depends upon us.  We will reap, Paul says, “if we do not give up.”  Eternal life is no static entity but a relationship with God.  It is dynamic and growing and has degrees.  Some Christians have a more intimate relationship with their Lord than others.  They have a richer experience of eternal life.

Bearing this in mind will help solve another interpretive difficulty:  the problem of Romans 2:5-13.  In this passage, like in Galatians 6:8, receiving eternal life is conditioned upon works.  The section is introduced by a general principle:  God will reward each man according to his works.  It is then applied to the regenerate in 2:7 and 2:10 and to the unregenerate in 2:8-9.  The literary structure of the passage make 2:8-9 parallel and 2:7 and 2:10 parallel.  The main problem in the passage, of course, is that vs. 7 and 10 promise eternal life on the basis of works, which is in complete contradiction to Paul in 3:19-22, a contradiction IF eternal life means “go to heaven.”

Once the consistent use of eternal life in the future as a reward to works is accepted, a much simpler solution is evident.  It is absolutely true in Pauline thought that no unjustified man can obtain eternal life on the basis of works.  But it is also true that the justified man can!

In this future time, the time of “the day of God’s wrath when His righteous judgment will be revealed” (2:5), God will judge all men, Christian and non-Christian, on the basis of their works.  The general principle in vs.6 is that each person, saved and unsaved, will be judged according to their works in this future day.  This principle is taught all over the New Testament; Christians and non-Christians will have their lives examined.

The Christian will stand before the judgment seat of Christ where he will be judged accord to his works (2 Corinthians 5:10).  The non-Christian will stand before the Great White Throne where he will be judged according to his works (Revelation 20:11, 12).  The outcome of the Christian’s judgment is either rewards or loss thereof.  The outcome of the non-Christian judgment is always the lake of fire because his works are not adequate to redeem.  The Christian who perseveres in doing good works can obtain the reward of eternal life, an enriched experience of that life given to him freely as justification through faith alone.  It is true that no unjustified man can obtain rewards in heaven by works, but the regenerate saint can.  The unjustified can never earn honor, glory, and peace, but the justified can if he shows “persistence in doing good” (2:7).


Experimental Predestinarians are sometimes perplexed by the fact that in the Partaker position “distinctions crop up everywhere.”  They are concerned that any view that has two kinds of heirs, two kinds of eternal life, two kinds of salvation, and two kinds of resurrection is intrinsically unlikely.  Surely, they think, a hidden agenda is working behind the scenes that introduce numerous distinctions that do not appear to be “natural” (a term they often use in reference to their interpretations).

No doubt they would also be mystified to note many other distinction as well, such as two kinds of:

  1. Heaven (ouranos)—the sky and the abode of God.
  2. Teacher (paideutes)—those who instruct and those who correct.
  3. Children (pais)—the boy, youth, or maiden, and the servant slave.
  4. People (demos)—a crowd or a business assembly.
  5. Righteousness (dikaiosune)—conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action (i.e., imparted righteousness) and justice or even forensic legal righteousness (imputed righteousness).
  6. Cleanliness (katharos)—physical and ceremonial.
  7. Time (kairos)—due measure, fitness, proportion or fixed and definite period.
  8. Heart (kardia)—the bodily organ and the focus of personal life.
  9. Fruit (karpos)—the fruit of the vine and the works and deeds of believers.
  10. Sword (machaira)—a large knife used for sacrificial purposes and a dagger.
  11. Wage (misthos)—a wage earned by a hired worker and divine reward.
  12. Mystery (mysterion)—that which is only known to the initiated and a secret of any kind.
  13. Law (nomos)—the Old Testament in general and a usage or custom.
  14. Way (hodos)—a path or road and a journey.
  15. House (oikos)—a physical dwelling and a group of people, i.e., household.
  16. Crowd (ochlos)—a multitude of people and the common people.
  17. Hope (elpis)—any hope in general and a specifically religious hope.
  18. Command (entole)—a charge, injunction, or order and a tradition.
  19. Message (epistole)—a simple message and a letter.
  20. Work (ergon)—employment and deed.

Words are constantly being used in different ways in different contexts.  To be baffled at “distinctions” betrays a wooden concept of language typical of many Experimental Predestinarians with their penchant for the illegitimate totality transfer.  Making all soteriological references to these words refer to our entrance into heaven requires, if we let the text speak plainly, that the entrance into heaven be based upon works.  But if these words often refer to something else, something conditional in the believer’s experience—his victorious perseverance and subsequent reward—no “theological exegesis” is necessary to make them consistent with the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 8—Justification and Sanctification 1

To the Experimental Predestinarians, a life of works is the necessary and inevitable result of genuine faith/conversion, that justification and sanctification are distinct but inseparable.  While it is God’s intent that a justified person experience sanctification, which is the spiritual process of being “set apart” by walking holy and blameless before God, this process depends upon a person’s responses to God’s love and grace.

While justification is instantaneous and is based on faith alone—a grace-gift of God that may only be accepted by man; the process of sanctification is uniformly presented in Scripture as a work of God and man (Philippians 2:12, 13), which is achieved by faith plus works.  The confusion and unreality that these two doctrines have produced are now legendary.

The Greater Righteousness

Consider the following from the Sermon on the Mount:

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

Although the Experimental Predestinarian attempts to use this verse to prove that a holy life (sanctification) is inevitable subsequent to justification, the truth is that the Lord is contrasting the righteousness necessary for entrance into the kingdom with (as opposed to) the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.

The point of the contrast is not to point out two levels of human righteousness, but to differentiate divine righteousness from human righteousness.  This is evident when the Lord specifies that the righteousness He requires is not just superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, but that it must be perfect:

 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Only a perfect righteousness is good enough.  Christ is providing a veiled reference to the justifying righteousness that is imputed to the believer on the basis of faith alone:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Only through justification can a person be “as perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect.”  Only through justification can a person have a righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and the Pharisees.  One must turn his back on human goodness altogether and receive instead [by faith alone] the freely offered goodness of God.

Reviewer’s comment:  This is true biblical repentance; although, it is more accurate to express it as follows:  “To turn by placing one’s faith only in Christ, which ‘turn’ encompasses turning from all other confidences—human goodness, traditions, organizations, persons, etc.—for one’s personal eternal salvation.  The reason this is more accurate is because “to turn from something to something” may be considered two different and distinct actions and thereby may be conceived, as to the first action, a work of man (which possibly could be terminated at that point); whereas, “to turn to something from something” is considered one action that must incorporate the other.  The point is that a person may make a conscious decision to turn from other means for salvation without actually placing genuine faith in Christ; but when he makes a genuine decision to trust in Christ alone, he is in fact withdrawing any confidence in any other means of salvation.  The expression of this more correct wording of biblical repentance is seen in 1 Thessalonians 1:9.

Both Doctrines Are Part of the New Covenant

It is argued that both justification and sanctification are included in the New Covenant.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . . . But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (Jeremiah 31:31, 33, 34)

It is obvious that vs. 34 is in no way fulfilled at the present time—that all know the Lord and there is now no more need for evangelism.  The New Covenant was certainly inaugurated at the cross and we enter in to some of its benefits at the time we believe.  But its final fulfillment has not yet taken place and indeed will not until the coming kingdom and the eternal state.  Similarly, the ultimate writing of His law upon our hearts and minds will be characteristic of the believer when he has achieved the goal of his justification, which is glorification.  Complete sanctification comes when we receive our resurrection body and not before.

A Disciple Does the Will of God

Experimental Predestinarians believes discipleship as an inevitable consequence of justification.  However, a concordance study of the word “disciple” (Gk. mathetes), shows that being a disciple and being a Christian are not necessarily synonymous terms:

As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.  Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:30-33)

The basic meaning of mathetes is one who is a “learner” or “student” (see Mark 9:31; Luke 10:23; John 12:42).  Included in the meaning of “disciple” was the notion of “physical adjacency,” the concept that the student would follow his teacher.  Therefore, to be Christ’s disciple, in a literal way, was to be His “follower”—which often described the relationship between the earthly Jesus and His men.  They literally had to leave their occupation (Mark 1:18, 19), their parents (Mark 10:29), and follow Him till death.  The disciple could not be above his master (Matthew 10:24), and as the mater traveled, the disciple followed. [Reviewer’s comment:  According to Vine, “disciple” literally means “to follow one’s teachings.”  It involves a total commitment.]

To say that “every Christian is a disciple” seems to contradict the teaching of the New Testament.  John describes men who were disciples prior to placing their faith in Christ for their personal justification (John 2:11).  Judas was called a disciple, but he was not justified (John 12:4).  Jesus did not always equate being a “disciple” with being a Christian.

Conversely, a person could be a Christian and not a disciple.  Exhortations to become disciples are often addressed to those who are already Christians or to mixed audiences.  When Jesus calls a man to become a disciple, He is not asking him to accept the free gift of eternal life.  Instead, He is asking those who have already believed to accept the requirements of discipleship and find true life (John 8:31, 32).

Joseph and Nicodemus were saved (justified), but they were secret disciples (John 19:38, 39).  Many disciples left Jesus (John 6:66).  If they were not really Christians, then Experimental Predestinarians must acknowledge that being a disciple is not the same thing as being a Christian (or else give up their doctrine of eternal security!); and if they were Christians, then being a Christian does not inevitably result in a life of following Christ.  When Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch, they encouraged the disciples to remain true to (continue in) the faith.  It must therefore be possible for disciples not to remain true or there would be no point in expressing this encouragement (Acts 14:22).  In fact, disciples can be drawn away from the truth (Acts 20:30).

Now, if being a disciple is not necessarily the same as being a Christian, then it is not logically or exegetically consistent to select passages that refer to discipleship and assume that they refer to the condition for becoming a Christian or to the characteristics of all who are truly born again.  But if the words “disciple” and “believer” are synonymous, then every disciple is a true Christian, and if they are not synonymous, then every Christian is not necessarily a disciple.  It is clear that they are not synonymous.  As will be discussed in chapter 10, it is theologically impossible to hold the view that they are synonymous because the Bible speaks in one place of the existence of the permanently carnal Christian who persists in his rebellion to the point of physical death.

Some feel that “there is no more definitive statement on discipleship” in the New Testament than our Lord’s comments in Matthew 10.

But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. . . . He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. . . . He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:33, 37, 39)

The exhortations are made to those who are already disciples (vs. 10:1) with the purpose of encouraging them to persevere in the midst of sufferings.  They are warned that some will be “put to death” (vs. 10:21).  Yet, physical death is not a condition of becoming a Christian.  The man who “finds his life” is not a man who finds regeneration.  The disciples to whom Christ was speaking were already regenerate!  The life he finds is both true meaning and significance (also referred to as “true life”) in the present and becoming a co-heir with the Messiah in the future reign upon earth (Mark 10:28-31).  Seen in this light, the passage says nothing about either the conditions for becoming a Christian or the necessary evidence of all who claim to be born again.

No doubt the warning to the unfaithful, “I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven,” has led some to the erroneous conclusion that our Lord is speaking of salvation.  Certainly, they feel, a true Christian would never be denied before the Father.  Unless, of course, Jesus is teaching precisely that in this passage!  The passage is, after all, addressed to “disciples,” and these regenerate men need to be warned.  If it is necessary and inevitable that all who are “born again” will persevere to endure martyrdom, why warn them?  There is no danger to such men.  A warning that everyone must obey to avoid a denial that no one experiences is superfluous!  There is real danger here, but not danger of finding out they are not saved or that they have lost their salvation.  The danger is the possibility of being denied a part in being a co-heir with the coming Messiah!

For parallel ideas on the danger of the true believer being “denied before the Father,” see 1 Corinthians 3:15, “saved through fire;” 2 Corinthians 5:10, “recompensed for deeds . . . whether good or bad;”1 John 2:28, “shrink away from Him in shame at His coming;” 2 Timothy 11:12, “If we deny Him, He will deny us,” the warning passage in Hebrews; Matthew 25:12, “I do not know [i.e., honor] you;” and Matthew 25:30, “and cast out the worthless slave [a true believer, he is a “servant of his master”] into the darkness outside; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The merger of these terms has often given birth to a theology of legalism, doubt, and harsh judgmental attitudes that have virtually eliminated the grace of God as a basis for personal fellowship with Christ.  Instead of the wonderful freedom of grace, a burdensome introspection has resulted that has made assurance of salvation impossible.  The terms of the gospel offer itself have been severely compromised.  Non-Christians are being asked to become holy as a condition of becoming Christians.  This preparatory “law work” was prominent in Puritan theology.

The conditions for becoming a disciple are different from those for becoming a Christian.  One becomes a Christian, according to Jesus, on the basis of faith alone (John 3:16).  We are justified “freely” (Romans 3:24) and receive regenerate life “without cost” (Revelation 22:17).  But to become a disciple something in addition to faith is needed, works.  A disciple is one who does the will of God (Matthew 12:49), who denies himself, leaves his family, and follows Jesus around Palestine (Mark 8:34).  A disciple must love Jesus more than his own wife, hardly a requirement ever stated anywhere for becoming a Christian (Luke 14:26)!  The condition for discipleship is to forsake all and follow Christ (Luke 14:33).  Consider Jesus’ words on the subject:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.   So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26, 27, 33)

Now if being a disciple and being a Christian are the same thing, as some Experimental Predestinarians maintain, then are they not introducing a serious heresy into the gospel?  In order to become a Christian, one must not only believe on Christ, but he must also (1) hate his father, mother, wife, children, and his own life; (2) carry his cross; (3) be willing to follow Jesus around Palestine; and (4) give up everything.  Can any amount of theological sophistry equate these four conditions with the simple offer of a free gift on the basis of believing?  Being a disciple and being a Christian cannot be the same thing!  If we are justified “freely,” how can the enormous costs of being a disciple be imposed as a condition of that justification?  This then would be more than a paradox; it would be an irreconcilable contradiction.

At this point the author discusses the “Great Commission” as recorded in Matthew 28:19, 20.  He presents the view that Jesus is instructing His disciples to “make disciples” of (within) all nations, which is presented as a 3-step process:  (1) going, that is to make Christians via the gospel presentation, (2) baptizing, as a means of identifying themselves publicly as Christians, and (3) teaching, instructing believers in the Christian life.  He then concludes that if being a Christian equals being a disciple, in this context, then becoming a Christian cannot be to simply believe in Christ; rather, it would involve all three aspects of the Great Commission.

Reviewer’s comment:  The word that the author translates “make disciple” in the Great Commission is the verb form of “mathetes,” and should be literally translated “disciple or teach” all nations.  It incorporates the full range of Christianity—justification and sanctification.

The Tests of 1 John

Interpreters of all theological backgrounds have resorted to bringing in their theological system to explain the passages within 1 John that have become known as the “tests of life” and have been the subject of vast controversy.  But in order to properly interpret these passages, three introductory considerations must first be settled:  (1) to whom was the epistle written (addresses), Christians or professing Christians; (2) the nature of the Gnostic heresy being confronted; and (3) the intended purpose of the epistle.

The Addresses

They are addressed as “little children” whose sins are forgiven for Christ’s name’s sake (1 John 2:12).  He calls them “fathers” who have known Christ from the beginning and have known the “Father;” he calls them “young men” who are strong and who have abiding in them the Word of God and have overcome the “evil one” (1 John 2:13, 14).  They are specifically contrasted with the non-Christian Gnostic antichrists who departed from them (1 John 2:18, 19).  Furthermore, these people have received an “anointing,” the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20).  This anointing, he says, “abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you,” because His anointing teaches them (1 John 2:27).  They are included with John as “children of God” (1 John 3:1, 2).  In fact he often uses the term “we” and includes himself in the same spiritual state and facing the same spiritual dangers as his readers (vss. 1:1, 3, 5-10; 2:1).  They are “of God . . . and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  They “believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

John is clearly writing to Christians.  If he wanted to assert that his readers were in fact born again in contrast to the world, how could he make it clearer?

The Gnostic Heresy

The readers were plagued by false teachers who had introduced an incipient form of Gnosticism into the church.  It is still impossible to draw final conclusions as to the nature of the heresy apart from specific references in the text of 1 John itself that strive to refute it.  One key aspect of it was that there was a mixture of good and evil in God (light and darkness), and therefore the new creation in Christ could similarly have a mixture and still be holy.  This justified the Gnostic notion that sin was permissible for Christians.  This is emphatically refuted in 1 John 1:5.

The author then discusses the Gnosticism in more detail, stating that it was an attempt to combine Christianity with various pagan and Jewish philosophies—apparently coming from two basic sources:  Alexandrian philosophy and Zoroastrianism.  He then discusses these two systems of philosophy.

These teachings led, paradoxically, to both:

  • Asceticism—that matter and spirit are completely separate and matter is evil; therefore sin and evil are inherent in the material substance of the body.  The only way a person can achieve perfection is to punish the body.  By the infliction of pain and the mortification of the flesh, the region of pure spirit may be reached, and the person may become like God.
  • Antinomianism—that matter (body) and spirit (soul) are completely distinct and separate; therefore, nothing that the body does can corrupt the soul, no matter how carnal and depraved.

In 1 John many of these tendencies are evident:

  1. Higher knowledge—they are referred to as claiming to be “in the light,” abiding in Christ, and knowing God, and yet they are without love and obedience.  Only by walking as Jesus did can we claim to be abiding (vs. 2:6).
  1. Its loveless nature—they had only intellectual head knowledge and no love for the brethren.
  1. Docetism—God cannot have contact with matter; therefore, the incarnation of the Supreme God is not possible (1 John 2:22, 23).  Jesus only appeared to have a human body.
  1. Antinomianism—Gnostics alleged that sin was thing indifferent in itself, that it made no difference to the spiritual man whether he sinned with his body or not.

It is not certain what the precise from of Gnosticism was that John countered.  However, from other references in his writings and those of Polycarp, we can be certain of some of its broad outlines, such as: (1) the creator of the world was an ignorant and imperfect being and that it was a meritorious act when the serpent persuaded Adam and Eve to disobey him; (2) that the god who created the world was an inferior power and that the incarnation was docetic (apparent, not real); (3) the origin and working of evil was ascribed to God; (4) god is without personality and is pure spirit; and (5) that emanations (or “aeons”) flow out from god, all of which are necessarily imperfect, and each of these emanations or aeons or angels are more spiritual than the grade of aeons immediately below it.  At the end of the chain is the world of man, and the nearer the aeons come to matter, with which, at length, they blend.  Such, according to Gnosticism, is the origin of evil.

It is against the background of the notion of an imperfect creator, a “demiurge” (a supernatural being who created or fashioned the world in subordination to the Supreme Being) with a mixture of good and evil, that John’s rebuke must be seen.  His rebuke was “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

The Purpose of the Epistle

The Experimental Predestinarian point to 1 John 5:13 as the expression of the purpose of the epistle, which states:

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)

They therefore conclude that what they call the “tests of life” contained within the epistle are tests, which if passed, are determinants of one’s sure eternal salvation, i.e., that he may be assured that he is “born again.”

But in fact the purpose of the book is found in the opening paragraph of the epistle:

That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:3, 4)

The purpose of the book (and it’s “life-tests”) is concerned with “abundant life,” not regenerate life.  The purpose as expressed in vs. 5:13 (above) has as its immediate antecedent (that to which it refers) only belief in the Son of God, which results in “having” the Son of God and the life within Him (vss. 10-12).  John’s purpose in writing to these “regenerate” people is so that they may walk in fellowship with God.  He is not writing to test their salvation; he is writing so that their may be complete.

Jesus used the term in the same way when He addressed His regenerate disciples:

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10, 11)

To have one’s joy “made full” is not to become a Christian but, being a Christian already, to act like it!

How can he know they are walking in the truth, and how can they know it in the face of the confusion introduced into their midst by the Gnostics?  The Gnostics were maintaining that a child of God could have sin in his life and still be in fellowship, abiding in Christ!  The remaining portions of the book present several tests of whether or not a Christian is walking in fellowship with God, tests by which the falsity of the Gnostic teaching could be discerned.  They are not test of whether or not these born-again children are really Christians.

The Tests of Fellowship with God

Obedience and love demonstrated.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:8)

It should be noted that to John, knowing God is to walk in fellowship with Him.   He does not refer to the entrance into eternal life at justification but to the continuing experience with Christ called fellowship.  What is in focus here is not whether or not they are regenerate but whether or not God’s love has been “perfected in them.”  God’s love cannot be brought to completion in one who does not have it at all!  In fact, in 2:4 and 2:6 John equates “knowing God” with “abiding in Him.”  He is not discussing their justification; he is discussing their “walk” (vs. 2:6).

John’s usage of “knowing” Him in this epistle is illustrated by his usage of the same in John 14.  There he quotes Jesus as saying to Philip:

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him (John 14:7).

To which Philip responded, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” (vs. 8)  But then Jesus counters by saying, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (vs. 9)

What did Jesus mean when He said that Philip did not know Him?  Of course Philip did know Jesus in a saving sense.  He had believed and followed Christ (vs. 1:43).  But he did not know Him in some other sense.  He did not seem to know how fully the Son had manifested the Father.  This knowledge comes only as the disciples obeyed Him (vs. 14:21).  In other words, we come to know Him in a deeper sense by means of obedience.

This is the same as John’s thought expressed as having “fellowship with Him” in the following verses:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another . . . .” (1 John 1:6, 7)

It is also called having His “joy in them” and that their “joy may be full” in John 15:11.  It is something that is experienced by those who are already regenerate, the disciples in this case.

A Christian who claims to know God but in whose life there is no evidence is a liar.  He may or may not be a Christian, but he definitely does not know (abide in) God.  In vss. 1:5 and 6, the “we” is referring to the apostles, which indicates that even the apostles could lie and not practice the truth.  The “truth” does not refer to the seed of life, but to active application of truth in daily experience.  Truth can either be in or not in a Christian, depending upon the Christian’s faith and submission (obedience).

Just as a wife may complain about her husband not “knowing” her, even though they have been married for many years; so a Christian can be related spiritually through the new birth with Christ and not “know” Him experientially (intimately).

Eternal salvation is an either-or affair:  you either have it or you do not.  Whoever believes in Christ has eternal life.  Belief occurs at a point in time; it is not a process.  Fellowship with Christ, however, is a process.  Knowing Him experientially is not all or nothing.  There are degrees.  Our fellowship with Christ is not something that happens (“in total”) at a point in time; it is a process that continues over a lifetime and varies in intensity proportional to our faith and submission (obedience).

The apostle Paul used the word “know” in a similar sense when he said,” I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).  Paul already knew Christ in the sense of possessing justification, but he wants know Him intimately, to have continued fellowship with Him.

The same concept is expressed in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, but in reverse.  Those who truly love God are “known by Him.”  And the individual who not only has “faith,” but continues on in “obedience, is the “friend of God” (James 2:23).

Continuation in fellowship with the apostolic circle.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. (1 John 2:19, 20)

Although there are those who attempt to identify the “us” in this verse with Christians, the context proves differently.  John distinguishes between “us,” i.e., the apostolic circle, and “you,” the believers to whom he is writing.  For example, in 1:1, 3 concerning the “Word of life,” he says “. . . which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled . . . which we have seen and heard . . . .”  And again in 1:5 he asserts, “This is the message which we have [personally] heard from Him and declare to you . . . .

When the words “we” or “us” are contrasted with the word “you,” it always distinguishes the apostolic circle from the larger body of Christians.  And this appears to be the situation in 2:19 where the “us” is placed in contrast once again to the larger body of Christians in vs. 20, “you.”

The antecedent to “they” in vs. 19 was the “antichrists” in vs. 18.  The fact that these antichrists departed from the apostolic circle is proof that they were never truly of the apostles even though they claimed to be true apostles.  If they were true apostles, they would have joined with John and “listened to him.”

There is no statement here that true believers will persevere to the end.  Nor is there the statement that, if a man departs from the faith, this proves he was never a Christian in the first place.  What is taught is that, if these so-called apostles were really apostles, they would have listened to the apostle John and would have continued in fellowship with the Twelve.

No sin at all in the new creation.

Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.   He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.  Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:6-9)

This passage in 1 John is a direct refutation to the Gnostic teaching that the “new man” or “new creation” in Christ is a “blend” or “mixture” of good and evil, thereby making sin of no great concern.  If there is this mixture in God, which the Gnostic believed; then it could be reasoned that there is also a mixture of evil and good in the creation that emanates from God, the “new man” in Christ, who is at the bottom end of the emanations from the Deity.

Reviewer’s comment:  The author does not give credence to the interpretation that plays on the “present” tense (habitual, a practice) used for sin in vss. 3:6, 8 and 9, as differentiated from the “aorist” tense (single act) used for sin in 1:10 and 2:1.  He ascribes this argument to those he continues to refer to as “Experimental Predestinarians,” and believes the argument does not in fact refute Gnosticism’s view of sin and man.  Even so, a case for this view can be adequately made and this reviewer believes it may in fact be able to be adequately argued against the Gnostics and their views.

It is better to take the statements as they stand, as absolutes.  Then it is saying “anyone born of God does not sin even one time, not at all.”  Yet since he has already said that a man who says he never sins is a liar (1:8), he must be viewing the sinning Christian from a particular point of view.  The “anyone” refers to the person as a whole and does not refer to a part of him.  But the Christian, viewed as a man born of God, and particularly as abiding in Christ, does not sin even once.

This means that sin cannot be a product of regenerate life, as the Gnostics maintained.  So when anyone sins, he is responsible for it; but the source of it cannot be the seed of God in him.  That seed cannot ever result in the Christian committing even one act of sin.  John is saying that the believer, from his capacity as one born of God and who is abiding in Christ, cannot sin.  If he sins, it is not an expression of the character as the new creation.  In other words John is saying, “No one born of God sins,” which is that the person, as a man born of God, does not sin.  If he sins, it is not an expression of who he is as a man who has been born of God.  It is not compatible with “abiding in Him” (1 John 3:6).

Similar notions are found in Pauline thought:

Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:20-25)

Paul in some sense understands that the true Paul, the real Paul, “I myself,” does not serve sin.  If when he sins, the true Paul, the “inner man,” the new creation in Christ, is not the one doing it, then who, we might ask, is doing it?  The answer is, of course, the whole person is doing the sin and is responsible for it.  However, the source of that sin is in the “flesh” and is not in the new creation in Christ, the regenerate new nature.  The first step toward victory over sin is to be absolutely convinced as Paul and John, that it is completely foreign to our true new identity in Christ.

The new creation, being the product of a sinless and perfect Parent, cannot sin even once.  The Gnostics, seeing a mixture of sin in God, allowed that the new creation (i.e., the “born again” Christian) inevitably sinned and this was not a matter of great significance.

The same phrase is repeated in the fifth chapter of 1 John with the qualifying thought, “the One who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one cannot harm him”:

We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the wicked one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18)

In 1 John when the Christian is viewed as “one born of God,” the reference is evidently to his true identity as a new man in Christ.  The new man is sinless (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10), and no sin in the life of the Christian ever comes from who he really is, a new creation.  In 3:9 the immediate reason for the absolute absence of sin from the new creation was “because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”  Now John explains the ultimate reason for the total absence of sin from the new man in Christ.  It is due to the protective activity of THE “one born of God.”

Who is the “One born of God”?  The Christian is described as “one born of God,” but the verb is in the perfect tense.  This second reference to one born of God employs the aorist tense and suggests that Christ is the One doing the keeping.  This would be consistent with John’s view that Jesus was God’s “only begotten Son” (John 1:14).  The keeping ministry of Jesus Christ absolutely prevents sin in the new creation.

John concludes his discussion by saying, “By (In) this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest (obvious)(1 John 3:10a).  The verse becomes a bridge between his discussion of righteousness and the expression of it in practical love in the following session.  The Greek text reads, “By this are children of God and children of the devil revealed (Gk. phanera).”  He is referring to the following statement “Anyone who does not do what is right is not of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”   Earlier he said, “He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous.  He who does what is sinful is of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

When a Christian is “of the devil,” John means that, when he commits even one sinful act, in the doing of that act, the source of it is Satan.  When a Christian sins (and John believes he can and will, 2:1), in that act he is behaving like a child of Satan.  His real character is not being made evident.  To use Paul’s phrase, he is walking in a “carnal” (of the flesh) state, like a “mere man” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

But note that John does not say what the Experimental Predestinarians say.  He does not say that the presence of sin in the life of a Christian proves that he is not a Christian at all.  He says only that, when a Christian does not do what is right, in that act he is not “of God,” (Gk. ek tou theou; 1 John 3:10b).  In other places in John’s epistle, when that phrase stands by itself, as it does here, it means that he is not of God in the sense that the source of his behavior is not of God, not that he is unregenerate.

John knew that Christians sin.  What he does say is that, when a Christian sins, there is no evidence, at least in that act, of his regenerate nature; it is, in effect, concealed.  The only way others can tell whether or not we are born again is if we reveal it by our actions.  If we do not reveal it by our actions, that does not mean we are not born again, but it does mean that our true identity is not evident.

Love for the brethren.

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.  Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14-15)

John states that true Christianity expresses itself in love for other Christians and that hatred of a fellow Christian is incompatible with the Christian faith.  He does not say that a Christian who hates his brother is not a Christian; but, rather, that he “abides in death” and that he does not have “eternal life abiding in him.”

It is probable that “passing from death into life,” as it is also stated in John 5:24, refers to the experience of regeneration.  John is saying that we “know” (Gk. oida, “recognize”) that we are regenerate by the fact that we have love for our brothers in Christ.  It is evidence of sonship!  But he does not say that an absence of love is proof that one is not a son, only that he is abiding in death, i.e., living in the sphere from which he had been delivered.

John’s favorite term for an intimate walk with Christ is “abide.”  This term is his word for something conditional in the believer’s relationship with Christ, fellowship within the family.  The conditional nature of the “abiding” relationship is brought out where Jesus says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love(John 15:10).  Christ’s foremost command, which must be obeyed if we are to abide in Him, is the command that John discusses in 1 John, the command to love one another (John 15:12).  Only if we love one another, do we remain in friendship (fellowship) with Christ!  “You are My friends, if you do what I command you (John 15:14).

Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24)

By this statement John signals clearly that the abiding relationship (intimate fellowship) is one conditioned on submission (obedience), and it is in contrast to the experience of being born again that comes through/by faith alone (1 John 5:10, 11).

The conclusion is that the abiding relationship is not the regeneration experience.  Rather, it refers to the degree of intimacy and fellowship with the Lord possible for those who continue to obey His commands.  For John, Jesus Christ is the “eternal life” that abides in us (1:2).  To have Christ abiding in us (1 John 3:15, i.e., “eternal life”) is not the same thing as being saved.  It is a conditional relationship referring to Christ’s being at home in the heart of the obedient Christian who loves his brother.

Of course, a Christian can hate his brother; but to do so, sacrifices intimate fellowship with his Savior.  When we harbor anger in our heart, John says, we are, in effect, murderers (1 Peter 4:15), and we abide in death, the very sphere from which we were delivered at the new birth.  We walk as “mere men” (1 Corinthians 3:3), i.e., as if we were still in an unregenerate state.  We are “carnal” Christians who are “walking in darkness” (1 John 2:11) and are in danger of losing our reward (1 Corinthians 3:14, 15; 2 John 8).  Jesus Christ is not at home in such a heart.  He does not abide there.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 9—Justification and Sanctification 2

There are other arguments offered for the teaching that the New Testament connects justification and sanctification as an inseparable unit.

The New Creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

While some have interpreted this to refer to subjective internal moral renewal, the fact that Paul connects the new creation with our being in Christ points to a positional status rather than an experiential one.

The new man in Ephesians 4:24 is the regenerate self (Colossians 3:3, 4).  He is in no sense the old self made over or improved (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 3:10).  The new self is Christ “formed” in the Christian (Galatians 2:20; 4:19; Colossians 1:27; 1 John 4:12).  He is the new nature united with the ego.

The new nature is a new metaphysical entity, created perfect by God at regeneration.  It is a “creation.”  In Ephesians 4:24 one learns that the new man was created kata theon, “according to the standard of God,” in righteousness, and in hosiotes, “holiness, piety” of truth.  It appears that this new self is as perfect (sinless) as is God.  The fact that it has been “created” means that it has no sin in it.  God would not create something with sin in it.  Does this mean that the person is perfect?  No.  The person, the “ego” either lives in his new capacity or his old.  The person always has both and is always sinful.  But when viewed from the single perspective of the person as united to the new creation, i.e., the new man, he is perfect (sinless).  That union, that identity is man as God intends man to be.  However, no person will ever live life as the perfect new creation until his old nature is experientially as well as forensically eliminated at the resurrection.

Finally, in Colossians 3:10 we are told to “put on the new man who is renewed.”  The “new self” is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the creator.  How can a perfect new man in Christ be “renewed”?  The renewal is “into” (eis) knowledge and “according to” (kata) the image of God.  The new man, while without sin, is not mature.  In the same way, Jesus, who was perfect, was “made perfect” (Hebrews 2:10) through suffering.  Like Jesus, the new man who really is in Christ, is renewed through suffering (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Paul refers to the perfect new creation in Christ when he says:

But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. . . . Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Romans 7:17, 20)

His meaning is transparent when seen in this light.  The sin in the believer’s life is not a product of the new creation!  The new creation is sinless and created according to righteousness.  Sin is no longer part of our true identity.  This helps explain John’s perplexing statement in 1 John 3:9, “No one born of God sins.”  The new man in Christ cannot sin; he is sinless.  John is speaking of the believer from the viewpoint of the new creation, and sin, he says, cannot come from that.

Therefore, when Paul says that we are now a new creation in Christ, he is not saying that we have been experientially transformed and will inevitably manifest a life of good works.  In fact, he repeatedly asks us to act like who we really are.  He tells us to “reckon ourselves dead to sin” and to present ourselves to God “as those alive from the dead” (Romans 6:13).  He commands us to “put on the new man” (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).  His meaning is that we are to be in experience what we already are in Christ.  If it is automatic and inevitable that this will happen, why command it?  More to the point, nowhere does the Bible assert that just because a man is a new creation, he will act like who he is in Christ to the final hour.

The Christian Cannot Live in Sin

Any discussion of the relationship between God’s free gift of the justifying righteousness of Christ and the life of works that should follow cannot ignore the central passage on the subject, Romans 6.  The context begins with Romans 5:20, “. . . But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,” where Paul then concludes that sin produces more grace to cover it up.  He marvels at the grace of God!  As might be expected, however, such a doctrine is open to the charge that it leads to a life of license.  Paul puts the words of the imaginary objector into his epistle and opens Romans 6 with this complaint:  “What shall we say, then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace might abound (increase)?” (6:1). He is not discussing whether or not it is possible for a believer to continue in sin but whether or not such a lifestyle is logically derived from the premise that grace abounds where sin increases.

His answer to the objector is one of horror, “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”  Whether or not true believers have this capacity to fall into sin is not Paul’s question.  He is refuting the notion that a life of sin is a logical outcome of the gospel of grace.  Paul’s response will be to insist that such a life-style is in no way a logical deduction from his doctrine.

There are three arguments that Experimental Predestinarians derive from this passage in Romans 6, which they use to justify their notion that sanctification necessarily follows justification:

  1. They are struck with the words “dead to sin,” believing that a “decisive breach” with sin has occurred.
  2. Paul assures his readers that “sin shall not have dominion over them.”
  3. The contrast between what they were prior to becoming Christians and what they are now in Christ (6:15-23) imply, it is thought, that Christians cannot be characterized by the things of the old man.

Dead to Sin

Central to the understanding of this important passage is the significance of the concept “dead to sin.”  The prevailing view is that it means a break with sin’s power and not sin’s penalty in the believer’s life.  We must ask, “Is this death to sin actual in our experience or actual in the reckoning of revelation?”  The fact that Paul says in 6:7 that the man who has died is “justified” from sin implies that for Paul this death to sin is legal, forensic, positional, and not automatically real in experience; it is absolute, not partial.  The Greek word dikaioo is his normal word for the legal justification of the sinner.  It is a forensic and not a “real in experience” term.

Death to sin is real in our position but not necessarily real in life.  Paul’s commands to present ourselves to righteousness and to reckon ourselves dead to sin certainly imply that we might not necessarily do this.  If the believer’s death with Christ described in Romans 6:1-10 is “actual,” then exactly what is meant by Romans 6:11?  If death means cessation of existence “actually,” then why does Paul urge believers in that verse to reckon (count, consider as true, realize, believe) themselves dead to sin?

No More Dominion by Sin

When Paul tells his readers that “sin will not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14), it is a victory conditioned on what he has just said.  It will not have dominion if the believer follows Paul’s advice to reckon and yield now.  If the believer does not reckon and yield, then sin can have dominion in his life.  This is a promise of success for the believer if he applies the God-appointed means, and not a statement of reality irrespective of those means.

The text does not say that sin does not have dominion.  It says sin will not have dominion (Gk. kyrieusei, future tense, in contrast to the aorist and perfect tenses of the context), IF a believer will reckon and yield.  If he does not reckon and yield, then sin can have dominion in the life of the believer.  The fact that the believer has died to sin does not automatically mean he will reckon and yield.  It means that, if he does, he’ll be successful over sin in his life.

If sin’s lack of dominion is automatic, regardless of a believer’s choices, then why does Paul continually, in this very context, set choices before him?  “For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness [sanctification].” (6:19)  It is true that a believer becomes obedient from the heart (6:17), but now he must continually make choices regarding which master he will serve, sin or Christ.  The victory is that he no longer has to obey sin, and if he chooses not to, he will not be successful over sin in his life.

Paul is refuting a logical argument against grace, that believers should continue to sin to make more grace abound.  But this is illogical because grace not only includes the forgiveness of sin but the removal of sin’s legal dominion and the impartation of life.  Because believers are united with Christ in His death, sin no longer has the legal right to rule them.  Since they are united with Him in resurrection, they have new life within them that gives them the power to overcome sin and the motivation to want to overcome it.  The fact that a believer can subsequently “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), become carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1-4), stop growing (Hebrews 5:11-14), or fall away (1 Corinthians 5:1-5) does not strengthen the objector’s case.

Slaves of Righteousness

The fact that a man may not reckon and yield is proven by the existence of the commands to do so.  If obedience is automatic and “real,” then there is no more need to command it than there is to say, “Be human.”

It is in this light that the contrasts in the latter half of the chapter must be seen.  They were “slaves of sin,” but now they have “become obedient from the heart to that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17).  They were “slaves to sin” and are now “slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18).  They have been “freed from sin” and “enslaved to God” (Romans 6:22).  Paul explains that we are only slaves of the person we obey:

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

Death for the non-Christian is, of course, eternal and final.  For the Christian, death is temporal judgment and spiritual impoverishment as in Romans 8:13—“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  The righteousness here comes as a result of obedience, and therefore we may conclude that moral, and not forensic, righteousness is in view.

These Roman Christians had not only received the righteousness of Christ through faith alone, but in addition, they had submitted themselves to the lordship of Christ subsequent to saving faith and had become obedient from the heart to the truth to which they were delivered, which submission and obedience produced moral righteousness:

But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17, 18)

In addition to committing themselves to the gospel message and through faith alone becoming positionally freed from sin, they had heeded Paul’s advice and had become experiential slaves of righteousness.  When they were non-Christians, they were slaves to impurity.  Now they are Christians, and Paul wants them to keep on presenting (Gk. present durative implied by context) their members to righteousness.  If they do, they will be sanctified.  This further substantiates the observation that the righteousness referred to in vs. 16 is moral righteousness and not forensic justification.  This righteousness is a product of sanctification.  It is not automatic that they will keep on presenting themselves as slaves.  They have made a good beginning, and Paul wants them to continue it:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (Romans 6:20, 21)

When they were non-Christians, they received no benefits from their profligate (immoral and dissolute) life-style.  The result of it was death, both eternally and in the sense of spiritual impoverishment and wasted life (e.g., 7:9).  He does not want them to return to that:

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness (sanctification), and the end, everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)

They were positionally freed from sin when they became Christians (vss. 1-14).  They became enslaved to God when they chose, after that, not to go on presenting the members of their bodies to sin (6:13).  They are freed by the act of Christ; they were enslaved as a result of their own act of “presenting.”  The former is positional and unconditional, and the latter is experiential and conditional.  Paul had already made it clear that this slavery to righteousness is a personal choice, and nowhere does he say it is the necessary and inevitable outcome of their regeneration.

It is a simple truth that Christians, freed from the slavery to sin, have entered into the slavery of another.  But their service as slaves to their new master is not automatic and inevitable.  They must be good and obedient slaves.  The possibility that they may not be is why Paul commands, “Present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification(Romans 6:19).  If they do not obey that command, they may be slaves, but they are not acting life it, and they will not be sanctified!

Faith Lacking Works is Dead

When James said that faith without works is dead and that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:20, 24), he was unaware of the volumes that would be written throughout history attempting to harmonize his words with those of the apostle Paul; and, further, how so many would misconstrue his use of the word “faith” as that of “saving faith,” and not, as intended, a “sanctifying faith.”

What is Dead Faith?

To understand “faith” in James, one must first consider what James meant when he used the term “dead faith.”  The dead faith was alive at one time, or it would not have died.  Even the non-Christian, born dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), was once alive in Adam; but when Adam sinned, all his progeny died with him federally (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22).

But furthermore, James seems to say that he precisely intends this idea by the analogy he uses, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).  The body dies, according to the Bible, when the spirit departs (John 19:30).  Just as the body dies when the spirit departs, even faith dies when works depart.  Just as the spirit is the animating principle that gives the body life, so work is the animating principle that gives life to faith.  There is no question that in the absence of works a believer’s faith becomes useless and dead.  His Christian experience deteriorates into a mere dead orthodoxy, which is evident in many Christian churches.

Salvation is Not by Faith Alone

With this in mind James’ comment about “the inability of faith alone to save” takes on a new meaning.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? (James 2:14)

The Greek construction of this question requires a negative answer:  “No, faith without works cannot save him,” which leads to an apparent and major conflict between this comment by James and the teachings of Paul regarding regenerate salvation.  Because of this Luther called James “an epistle of straw.”

Luther’s problem was caused by the fact that he always equated salvation with “salvation from hell.”  But death from sin could be physical death, for believers or unbelievers.  It could be spiritual death—separating a believer from fellowship with God.  In James, to be saved refers to salvation from physical death, the death-producing consequences of sin (as discussed in chapter 5, the phrase “save a soul” never means deliverance from hell and always refers to the preservation of one’s physical life).  In other words, salvation is the finding of a rich and meaningful Christian experience!  It is true that faith alone will save us from hell, but faith that is alone will not save us from a dead or carnal spiritual life.

It is evident that James is using the term “salvation” in this sense when the context in which his statement in placed is considered, in which James describes the deathly consequences of sin in the life of the believer:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (James 1:13-16)

It is the “beloved brethren” who are in danger of experiencing the deathly consequences of sin.  In view of the possibility of death in our Christian life, what shall a believer do to prevent this catastrophe?  James responds by saying:

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)

These are “beloved brethren” who have been “brought forth by the word of truth” in whom the Word has been “implanted.”  They are saved people in the sense of final deliverance from hell!  However, these saved people need “salvation.”  This salvation is the salvation contextually defined as a deliverance from the death-producing effects of sin and a lack of good works in their lives.  He goes on to say that to receive with meekness the engrafted Word is simply to apply the Word of God to one’s life by acts of obedience.

But be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. . . . But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22, 25)

Salvation here is the deliverance from the spiritually impoverishing consequences of sin and the experiential blessing of God now.  James makes it clear that this is what he means by salvation in his closing words:

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19, 20)

Just as it is possible to “save” one in whom the Word has been implanted (James 1:21), it is also sometimes necessary to “save” one who is of the “brethren” and is “among us.”  A man who is already saved in the sense of final deliverance from hell needs only to be saved from death.  The death here may be the “sin unto death” referred to in the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians (vs. 30)and 1 John 5:16.  Certainly this is the ultimate consequence of divine discipline brought upon the sinning Christian.  But short of that, the life of the sinning Christian can only be characterized as spiritually dead.

It is concluded that the word “saved” in James does not refer to final deliverance from hell.  It refers, instead, to deliverance from the terrible consequences of spiritual impoverishment and ultimately physical death, which can come upon the regenerate person if he fails to vitalize his faith with a life of works.  Divine discipline is certain, but loss of salvation is not under consideration.

Reviewer’s comment:  The author at this point goes into a discourse for the purpose of demonstrating that James 2:18, 19 reflects the comments (position) of an objector.  Since this presentation is somewhat complex, the reviewer will leave it up to the reader to obtain Mr. Dillow’s book and cover this argument.

When James says in 2:24 that we are justified by works, he is not disagreeing with Paul.  He is simply saying that justification by faith is not the only kind of justification there is.  Justification by faith secures our eternal standing, but justification by works secures our temporal fellowship.  Justification by faith secures our vindication before God, and justification by works secures our vindication before men.  It is by works that our justification by faith becomes evident to others and is of use to others, including orphans, and those who are hungry, cold, or thirsty.

James’ point then is not that works are the necessary and inevitable result of justification.  Rather, he is saying that if works do not follow the believer’s justification, his faith will shrivel up and die.  He is in danger of spiritual impoverishment, “death.” Nor does he say that the failure to work will result in the loss of regenerate-salvation.  This is not a passage to prove the inevitable connection between justification and sanctification at all!  Rather, it proves that the connection is desirable.

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them

Probably the most commonly recognized statement of Jesus thought to support the Reformed doctrine of perseverance is his famous warning, “By their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16).  The assumption is made that Christ means by this that one can discern whether or not another person is truly a Christian by examining the evidence of good works in his life, i.e., good works equals a regenerate person.  This impression is reinforced by Christ’s stinging rebuke to these false teachers to whom His remarks applied, “I never knew you,” and His explanation that only one “who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21, 23).  Such an interpretation obviously contradicts the clear teaching elsewhere that entrance into the kingdom of heaven is based upon faith alone.

Experimental Predestinarians offer the seemingly plausible explanation that, since all true believers persevere in holiness to the end of life, it is certainly true that only those who do the Father’s will enter the kingdom.  All true believers will do this, and if a person fails to do this, this proves he was not a Christian at all.

But there is a more plausible interpretation of Christ’s remarks.  At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ directs his attention to the subject of false prophets.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.  Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:13-15)

The reference to entering by the gate, the sheep, and the wolves immediately suggest a common theme in Jesus’ teaching found elsewhere—entrance into the sheepfold.

Then Jesus said to them again, Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.   I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches (snatches) the sheep and scatters them.  The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.” (John 10:7-13)

The wide gate leads to destruction, and the narrow gate leads to life.  The wide gate represents the many rival religious claims.  The Hindus, the Moslems, and the Jews all enter through a different gate, a gate that leads not into the sheepfold but to destruction.  And there are false prophets who would lead the sheep to the wrong gate.  These men come in “sheep’s” clothing, but inwardly they are “ravenous wolves.”  The “hireling” in John did not protect the sheep from these false prophets or wolves.  So, who are the hirelings?  It is unlikely that the Lord had the Pharisees in mind, who better were representative of the “false prophets or wolves.”

Reviewer’s comment:  The author at this point attempts to compare the hireling to many of today’s television evangelist who prophesy, heal, cast out demons, etc., yet are later revealed as “ravenous wolves” who live in opulent excess.  In doing this the reviewer believes the author is confusing his analogy of the “hirelings” and the “wolves.”  The reviewer believes it is more consistent to view the hirelings as those ministers who place more emphasis on signs and emotions, rather than on sound doctrine, which alone will protect the sheep from the wolves (false prophets).  Many of these hirelings are connected to the charismatic movement of today, which movement promotes surface behavior (emotion, “physical healings,” demonstrations, etc.) instead of the inner strength of sound doctrine and a central focus on Christ and loving one anther.

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:16)

To what does the “fruit” refer?  In Matthew 7 the fruit is unspecified, but the parallel passage in chapter 12 suggests that the doctrine of the false teachers was in view, and not their life-style:

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.  Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.  Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.  But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:32-37)

In Matthew 7 their life-style outwardly seems to indicate they are Christians.  They are called sheep; they look like Christians; they perform miraculous works in Jesus’ name.  They do some of the works that Christians do.  Therefore, the reason that Jesus “never knew them” is not that their outward behavior is corrupt.  Rather, it is because they have not done the will of His Father who is in heaven.  Some of the most gentle and kindly mean are workers of many good works, and yet they are not regenerate.  It would be impossible to discern them by their works.  Only their teaching reveals who they are.

The “fruit” is the false teaching of these false prophets.  What is obvious is what they say.  Even though their character is clothed in sheep’s garments, and they are “gentle and meek in their outward appearance,” their incorrect teaching is evident to all.  Jesus is saying that the teaching of false prophet is the fruit by which they can be identified.

The idea that a false prophet can be discerned by comparing what he says with Scripture is widespread in the Bible (see Jeremiah 26; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 John 4.2ff).  Their “fruit” is their doctrine.  An examination of their works will lead to a wrong conclusion.  Jesus said that by their fruit you shall know them in Mathew 7:16, and the antecedent to “them” is the description in verse 15, “. . . false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”  It is not professing Christians in general who are the subject of discussion but men who openly announce themselves as prophets and who claim to do miraculous works in Jesus’ name.  The passage has nothing to do with the notion that we can test the reality of the faith of a professing Christian by examining his good works.

The Lord continues:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (false doctrine)!” (Matthew 7:21-23)

When these false prophets are confronted with Christ at the judgment, they then confess Him as Lord, but it is too late.  But only those who do “the will of My Father in heaven” will be known by the Lord.  And what is the “will of the Father”?

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)

For all their outward gentleness and show of Christian profession and miraculous works, this is the one thing these false teachers never did.  They never believed on Christ by trusting Him for their personal salvation.

Only Believers Go to Heaven

In support of their contention that justification and sanctification are inextricably related, there are those who point to the tense of the word “believe” in John 3:16, stating that because it is in the “present tense,” it essentially conveys a “durative” action, i.e., one who continues to believe.  Their argument is that one who believes, but then later stops believing, will no longer “have eternal life.”

As argued elsewhere, it is possible for a truly born-again person to fall away from the faith and cease believing.  He is called a carnal Christian and will be subject to severe divine discipline.  If this is not possible, then the warnings are empty of meaning, as will be discussed in chapter 10.  However, many are impressed with the fact that in many verses the present tense of the verb “to believe” is used or the participle is an articular present participle meaning “the one who believes.”  The fact that these verbs are in the present tense, they say, implies that Jesus meant that “whoever continues to believe” has everlasting life.

The argument from the articular present participle is simply wrong.  While it is true that the present tense can sometimes carry a durative force (“continue”), it is not intrinsic to the tense and must be established from the context.  The articular present participle, however, rarely, if ever, has durative force, it is merely a substantive (a pronoun or other word or phrase functioning or inflected like a noun).


The adherents of perseverance are reading into the term “believe” the meaning “believe at a point of time and continue to believe up to the point of physical death.”  This is not only foreign to normal Greek usage but to English usage as well.

Reviewer’s comment:  The author at this point goes into an involved discussion of the use of verbs in their present tense and as an articular present participle in order to demonstrate his position.  The reviewer accepts the position that the context must be considered in order to interpret any durative quality in the present tense of a verb.  After all, if a person who stops believing no longer “eternal life,” then he would have never had it when he first believed, which would then make John 3:16 erroneous.  Why, because “eternal life” is nothing, if not “eternal.”

While it is horrible to contemplate, possible apostasy and cessation of belief is a very real danger set before the readers of the New Testament, particularly in the book of Hebrews.  Though it is possible that a man who professes belief once and then rejects the faith is not a true Christian, it is also theoretically possible that he is genuinely born again.  Saving faith is “the act of a single moment whereby all the benefits of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection suddenly become the irrevocable possession of the individual, per se, despite any and all eventualities.”  It is certain, however, that if he is born again, what he forfeits when he “falls away” is not his eternal destiny but his opportunity to reign with Christ’s metochoi (partners/disciples) in the coming kingdom.  “And he who overcomes and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations(Revelation 2:26).

The Implied “All

There are number of passages that ascribe to the saints, in apparently inclusive terms, the benefits of the future kingdom.  For example:

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? . . . . (1 Corinthians 6:2) 

Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. . . . (Matthew 13:43)

And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10)

And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:8)

There are those who read these passages to mean that “all” the saints will judge the world, that “all” the righteous will shine forth, and that “all” members of the bride are arrayed with “righteous acts.”  But “all” must be read into each passage, since it is not there and there is nothing in the context that requires it to be there.

It is true that the saints will judge (reign), but Paul elsewhere clarifies that only those saints who are faithful will reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12).  Furthermore, it is clear that not all believers will function as priests (Exodus 19:5, 6).  Only those believers who obey and persevere will serve as priest, even though it is God’s intent that all should attain this privilege.  With this the writer in Hebrews agrees (3:6).

Regarding Matthew 13:43, it is true that the righteous will shine but nowhere does it say that “all” of them will.  Furthermore, to be “righteous” in Matthew does not always mean to be in possession of the forensic legal righteousness of Christ, as in Paul’s epistles, but to possess a righteous life (see for example, Matthew 1:19; 5:45; 9:13; 10:41; 13:17; 20:4; 23:28, 29, 35).

Only those saints who live righteous lives will shine in the kingdom.  The unfaithful will not; unless of course, the reference is only about the shinning glory of the resurrection body, which all saints will possess.

As to Revelation 19:8, the claim that the wedding garment is for “all” the saved, is a misreading of the text.  The text says only that the wedding garment, i.e., righteous acts, adorns the bride as a whole and not each individual saint of which she is composed.  Each saint makes various contributions (righteous acts) to the bride’s wedding garment, and some may not make any at all.

Another passage that is sometimes thought to be all inclusive is as follows:

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)

Paul’s statement in this verse has led some to the conclusion that all who are saved will be rewarded.  Yet Paul has just said that some will enter eternity with their works “burned up” (1 Corinthians 3:15).  He evidently does not intend to teach that all without exception will receive praise.  Instead, he is saying that each person who has earned praise will receive it.

Christians Have Crucified the Flesh

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

It is common to understand this passage as saying that all true Christians have crucified the flesh.  This is, of course, true.  However, the event referred to is not self-crucifixion of the believer but the co-crucifixion of the believer with Christ at the point of saving faith.  There is nothing here about a believer’s determination to subdue the flesh as a part of the saving transaction.  It simply refers to the positional crucifixion of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6:1-11.

Or, as an alternate view, it is possible to take the phrase “who are Christ’s” as a genitive of source and not of possession.  The Greek is “of Christ.”  This would mean that those who are “of Christ” in their behavior crucify the flesh.  Some Christians are, and some are not.  Paul does use the genitive “of Christ” in the sense of source elsewhere (1 Corinthians 1:1, 12; 11:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 3:3; 4:4; 5:14; 10:7 [see vs. 2]; 11:13; 12:9).  From this perspective then those who crucify the flesh are those Christians who are led by the Spirit.

He Who Began a Good Work

Reflecting with joy on the spiritual vitality of the church atPhilippi, Paul says of them:

[I thank you] for your fellowship in the gospel [Gk. koinonia] from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:5, 6)

Some have understood this to teach that God will continually work to sanctify all who are truly born again until the point of physical death or the return of Christ.  The lack of the continuing transformation of life is then proof that a man is/was born again.  Final failure is not possible according to this verse, they say.

However, as many commentators acknowledge, the “good work” to which Paul refers is not sanctification or regeneration but financial contributions or a more general assistance and partnership, including financial help, in the cause of Christ—their “fellowship in the gospel” (vs. 5) for which he thanks them now and also later in the letter (4:15-17).  The sense of “financial contributions” fits the context of the epistle well.

Elsewhere, Paul speaks of “fellowship” (Gk. koinonia) in terms of financial aid (e.g., Romans 12:13; 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:13; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 6:18: Hebrews 13:16), and he certainly refers to this in 4:15-17 where he uses the verb from of koinonia, “to share.”

Reviewer’s comment:  Although the author goes on with further argument for this point-of-view, the reviewer refers the reader to the author’s book for it.  The reviewer agrees that the “good work” mentioned in the subject scripture does indeed refer to the Philippians’ monetary contribution (fellowship-sharing) to Paul’s ministry, which “God will complete it—or continue it—until the day of Jesus Christ,” as is evident and verified in 4:17.


Reviewer’s comment:  The author here illustrates 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 as the definitive refutation of the position that justification and sanctification are inextricably connected from new birth to physical death.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 10—The Possibility of Failure

The Reformed doctrine of perseverance not only lacks scriptural support for its view of sanctification, it also flies in the face of the numerous warnings against falling away, which are repeated in nearly every book of the New Testament.  Unless it is possible for a true believer to fall away, it is difficult to see the relevance of these passages.  As will be argued elsewhere, the term “fall away” does not refer to falling away from eternal salvation.  It refers, rather, to a falling away from the path of growth, or forfeiture of eternal rewards.

Reviewer’s comment:  Although the reviewer agrees at this point with the premise and arguments within this book, it appears that the “rewards” that await a persevering saint will be applicable during the Millennial Reign of Christ upon the earth alone, which result in itself, is not an unsubstantial incentive for a holy life here and now.  The author though uses the term “eternal rewards,” which may be the case.

The New Testament Warnings

It will be helpful at this point to peruse a few of these so-called warning passages and sense their importance for this discussion.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:6)

[Reviewer:  See 1 John 2:24-28]

Jesus is referring to branches that are “in Me,” who do not bear fruit (15:2).  It seems to be possible for men “in Christ” to be unfruitful and be cast into the fire and burned.  Speaking to the Colossians, the apostle Paul warns:

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach before Him— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23)

There is a real danger here, a danger of not being presented before Him!  On the Reformed premises, there can be no real danger because all true Christians will continue in faith and will not be moved away from the hope of the Gospel.  He warns them further about the danger of “not holding fast to the head” (2:19) and of being taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception” (2:8).

The salvation of the Corinthians seems to be conditioned on their holding fast:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1, 2)

Young Timothy is challenged to guard against the danger of “straying from the faith”:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

(1 Timothy 6:10-12)

Paul apparently does not feel that perseverance is the necessary and inevitable result of saving faith.  Otherwise, why would he warn this regenerate man of the danger of straying from the faith and need to exhort him to “fight the good fight”?  According to James, it is possible for a true Christian to stray (wander) from the truth:

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19, 20)

The “sinner” to which James refers is evidently a Christian brother.  The conditional clause implies that it is by no means inevitable that he will always be turned back.  Likewise, the apostle Peter makes it clear that true Christians can “fall” (stumble):

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 (2 Peter 1:10-11)

The conditional participle, “if you do” (Gk. poiountes), holds forth a real danger to the readers of this epistle.  They might “fall” (stumble) and forfeit their rich welcome into the eternal kingdom.  Earlier, he suggested that they can become “barren and unfruitful” (ineffective and unproductive) in their knowledge of Jesus Christ (1:8).  In fact, he teaches the need to have certain character qualities manifested in “increasing measure” and then teaches that true Christians may not have this increasing measure of growth and are nearsighted, blind, and forgetful of their being cleansed from former sins (1:8-9).  The danger of falling away is repeated later in the same epistle:

As also in all his [Paul’s] epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.  You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:16-18)

Once again the danger of falling away is something real for true Christians.  Ignorant and unstable people have distorted the epistles of Paul, and this act resulted in their “destruction.”  That the same result can come upon these “beloved” (dear friends) seems to be stated when he warns them “not to be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your steadfast (secure) position.”  Why would this warning be addressed to these “beloved” (dear friends), if in fact it was not possible for them to experience this danger?  And consistent with the other passages presented, the apostle Jude affirms a similar danger:

These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.  But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 19-21)

In contrast to the nonbelievers, who do not have the Holy Spirit and who have caused division, these “beloved” are warned that they must keep themselves in God’s love.  If being kept in God’s love is the necessary and inevitable result of regeneration, why are they commanded to keep themselves?  Surely the command implies that they may not.  And if they may not, then the position of inevitable perseverance of the saints is fiction.

Then in 1 John the apostle John, with the danger of failing to abide in Christ in mind, has this to say:

Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. . . And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. (1 John 2:24, 28)

[Reviewer:  See John 15:6]

A believer continues to abide in Christ only if what he heard from the beginning abides in him.  Failure to continue to abide is very real, not hypothetical, and will result in being “ashamed before Christ” at His coming.  And according to the apostle Paul, there is danger that a Christian can “die”:

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12, 13)

It goes without saying that the possibility that a “brother” could live “according to the flesh” (sinful nature) is assumed.  Then later, the apostle issues another emphatic warning, a warning against the possibility of being “cut off”:

Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:20-22)

In no uncertain terms Paul affirms a real danger of being in some sense “cut off” if a believer fails to “continue in His goodness.”  And in another passage the apostle himself acknowledges the possibility of failure:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? . . . But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24, 27)

Paul warns the Corinthians against the danger of failure.  The following passage is instructive.  As demonstrated earlier, the majority of the Israelites were born again, and yet the majority did not persevere in holiness.  Consider:

 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:12, 13)

He tells them that the experience of the forefathers was intended as a warning for us (10:11).  It is clear that he has Christians in view, and not mere professors in Christ, because he promises them the assistance of God in standing up to temptation.  Also, few verses seem to have impacted popular consciousness as frequently as Paul’s warning about “falling from grace”:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.  You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen [away] from grace.

(Galatians 5:1-4)

Marshalling his full authority as an apostle, he tells these Galatians that it is possible for true believers to fall from grace, come under the yoke of slavery, and become alienated from Christ!  In fact, the possibility of failure to “continue” is stressed by Paul in the famous passage where he worries that he may have run or labored “in vain” (for nothing):

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; . . . so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Philippians 2:12, 16)

These are “beloved” (dear friends) who previously have “always obeyed.”  They are born again.  Yet these is a possibility of their failure to “continue to work out their salvation,” resulting in the apostle’s labor among them being “for nothing.”  Can a true Christian fail to persevere and thus forfeit the reward?

Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. (Colossians 2:18)

A true believer can, by his life, deny the faith and become worse than an unbeliever:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

This person who denies the faith is contrasted with the “unbeliever.”  Clearly, Paul is saying that a believer can be described in this way.  Also, the love of money can cause true Christians to stray from the faith:

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  (1 Timothy 6:9, 10)

The “those” to whom Paul refers include those who have strayed from the faith, i.e., those who have faith but are not in some way persevering in it.  The results of this are many sorrows.  In contrast to these Christians who stray, Timothy is told to “take hold of the eternal life to which he was called” (1 Timothy 6:12).

That there is something conditional in the believer’s future and that he faces a danger of not persevering necessarily and inevitably to the end of life could hardly be made clearer than it is in these verses:

This is a faithful [trustworthy] saying: if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny [disown] Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

The possibilities of failure to endure, of disowning Christ, and of being faithless are stark realities.  To say that true Christians do not face these dangers seems contradictory to passages such as this.  The center of the controversy in theological discussion has swirled around the warnings in Hebrews.  Confronted with the stark and drastic nature of these warnings, some of the most ingenious misunderstandings in the history of interpretation have been argued in order to avoid their force.  It is sometimes claimed that these verses apply only to those who have professed Christ, and not to those who have really believed.  This assertion will be responded to in a later chapter, but first, consider the warnings:

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation . . . . (Hebrews 2:1-3)

Notice that “we” are in danger.  The author includes himself as an object of this warning.  Unless there are some contextual indicators to suggest this is an “editorial” we, there is no obvious justification for concluding anything else but that truly born-again people are the subject of the warning.  It is possible for these Christians to drift away and as a result receive a punishment.

The apostle exhorts his believers against the danger of a failure to enter rest:

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)

It is possible that a true Christian will not enter rest.  There is real danger, not hypothetical danger, here.  The warning becomes more forceful in this well-known passage:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

These born-again people (see chapter 19) are in danger of “falling away.”  That they are born-again is evident from the descriptive phrases applied to them.  There is no warning in the New Testament that is more forceful and direct than this caution against sinning willfully:

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26, 27)

But are genuine Christians the object of this warning or mere professors in Christ who were never really born-again?  Several things characterize those being warned:

  1. They have “received the light” (Hebrews 10:32).  To be “enlightened” (Gk. photizomai) means to be born-again and to have truly and inwardly experienced the heavenly gift and the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit (see chapter 19).
  1. They “stood [their] ground in a great contest in the face of suffering” (10:32).  These people had not only responded to the Gospel, they had suffered for it and persevered in their suffering for Christ’s sake.
  1. They “were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; and at other times stood side-by-side with those who were so treated” (10:33).  The public nature of their confession of Christ resulted in public ridicule and persecution.  But far from backing away, they pressed on and joined with others who were similarly treated.
  1. They sympathized with those in prison (10:34).  Risking danger to their own lives, they visited persecuted brothers and sisters in prison, thereby publicly identifying themselves to hostile authorities as Christian sympathizers.
  1. They “joyfully accepted the confiscation of [their] property” (10:34).  Furthermore, they accepted this confiscation for the right motives, “because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.”  They were focused on the eternal inheritance that the faithful will acquire.
  1. The apostle specifically says they have been “sanctified”:

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29)

Sanctification in Hebrews looks at the imputation of the justifying righteousness of Christ from the vantage point of being qualified to enter the presence of God to worship and seek help in time of need (Hebrews 10:10, 14, 19).  It is possible for men who have been the recipients of this sanctification to trample under foot the Son of God and insult the Spirit of grace.  Does the writer of this epistle doubt their salvation?  No!  What he worries about is their loss of reward.  He says:

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. (Hebrews 10:35)

That he does not consider them mere professors in Christ is proven by the six things he says are true of them.  In addition, one does not warn professing Christians about the loss of reward but about their eternal destiny in hell.  One does not tell non-Christians to persevere in the faith so that they will receive a reward.  Instead, he tells them to believe the Gospel.

The exegetical and theological bankruptcy of those who believe in the inevitable-perseverance-of-the-saints’ position is clearly seen by the following act.  In their system of assurance a man can know he is a Christian by reflecting on the truth that (1) he has believed; (2) he has the evidences of works in his life; and (3) the internal witness of the Holy Spirit.  They consider these in Hebrews not real Christians, but all three criteria of their own introspective system apply to them.  These people have believed (10:35, their “confidence”); they have evidenced their belief by perseverance in trials and good works (10:32-34); and they have the inner testimony of the Spirit (“enlightened,” 10:32; 6:4).  If they are not Christians, then the Reformed view of assurance is false, and if they are Christians, the doctrine of the inevitable perseverance of saints is fiction.

Only a few of the many warnings of the New Testament have been considered (others are 2 Peter 3:16, 17; 2 John 6-9; Revelation 2:7, 11, 12, 17, 18-26; 3:4, 5, 8-12, 14-22: 12:11; 22:18, 19).  This lengthy presentation, however, has been necessary in order to force a consideration of the breadth of the inevitable-perseverance problem.  It cannot be dismissed by plausible exegesis of a few difficult passages.  It is contradicted by the entire New Testament.

The Reformed View of the Warnings

Reviewer’s comment:  At this point the author goes into a lengthy discourse, quoting several theologians and biblical commentators, as to futility of the arguments advanced by those who adhere to the Calvinistic position of the inevitable perseverance of the saints.  In this review only the highlighted conclusions within the discourse will be presented.  The reader is advised to read the full dialogue within the book for its intricacies.

In response to these passages that seem to imply that the true Christian is in some kind of danger, that there is something contingent about his future destiny, the Calvinist (referred to as “Experimental Predestinarian” by the author) replies that either (1) the passages are addressed to professing but not true Christians; or (2) they are addressed to true Christians but they are simply a means that God uses to guarantee that they will persevere.  In this system the evidence of the reality of the faith is perseverance in holiness to the end of life.  All who are saved will persevere, and those who persevere, and those alone, are the truly saved.  True apostasy is only possible for those who have never entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  In the discussion to follow, these two pillars of the Reformed response will be analyzed.

They Are a Means of Securing Perseverance

When faced with the many passages referred to above, Calvinists commonly say they are in many instances addressed to true believers, but they are not to be understood as saying that a true Christian can lose his salvation.  Rather, they are in the New Testament to secure the obedience of final perseverance that has already been decreed for those who are elect.

The advocates of perseverance argue that just because there is a cliff along the road that travelers are warned not to drive over, that does not mean they won’t.  God warns simply because humans require motivation.  He therefore appeals to their fears to keep them on the path.  But the warnings do not prove that believers can fall.  On the contrary, they are God’s means of ensuring that they shall not fall.

Several objections may be raised against this Calvinist view of the warnings:

  1. This view of the warnings lose their force.  This explanation of the warning passages, obviously directed to believers, is unsatisfactory.  The warning passages immediately lose the very purpose and value that they claim for themselves the moment one becomes persuaded the doctrine of unconditional security is correct.  If one becomes sufficiently enlightened to understand that perseverance is inevitable and does not depend upon himself in any manner or degree, how then is he to become alarmed by these admonitions and warnings?
  1. This view is logically contradictory.  Not only do the warnings lose their force in this system of Calvinistic thought, but this view of the warnings is logically contradictory.  On the one hand, one is told that his eternal destiny is secure and that he will persevere in holiness to the final hour; and, on the other hand, he is told that there is no guarantee he will persevere to the final hour.  Otherwise, the warning would lose its force!  If it is true that the readers are true Christians and that they are therefore eternally secure, it is ludicrous to think that the warnings would have any significant impact.

Our eternal security either depends solely upon God’s guarantees in Scripture, or it depends upon those guarantees plus our perseverance.  If both are necessary, this is contradiction.  If the latter is necessary, it is a salvation by works.  Only an eternal security based upon the promises of God and completely unrelated to the necessity of the believer’s perseverance in holiness can possibly be reconciled with the scores of passages that state the freeness of salvation in Christ.

  1. This view fails the test of human consciousness.  In contrast to the doctrine of election, with its doctrine of inevitable perseverance, Calvinism must emerge from the halls of academia and submit itself to the test of the consciousness of men.  If it is true that the warnings are to produce sincere alarm, then it must be conceded that it is impossible for one not to know whether he experiences sincere alarm.  And it is equally impossible to be convinced that apostasy is impossible, on the one hand, and yet to be sincerely alarmed by the warnings against apostasy, on the other.  Is it not ridiculous to say that men can be alarmed by warnings if they have already been consoled by the promise that they are secure?  How can they be alarmed about something that could never happen to them?  Calvinism fails the test of human experience.
  1. This view subtly redefines the basis of salvation.  Those within the Reformed tradition insist that works are the results of regeneration, evidence of life.  They are the “fruit,” and saving faith is the “root.”  They are the manifestation that arises out of the essence of the new man in Christ.  In this they seem to be correct.  If a man is truly born-again, he will necessarily and inevitably manifest initial evidence of such rebirth (what is being argued in this book is that this manifestation is inadequate to base assurance upon and will not necessarily continue to the final hour).  By this is meant a general openness to God and disposition of trust.  However, not all Calvinist have been content to leave the matter there.  Some seem to have made perseverance virtually a condition of salvation, and not just an evidence of it.

There is a real danger in presenting perseverance in this manner.  By this it in effect makes works a condition of salvation.  Perseverance is not part of the Gospel, and when added to it, the Gospel is changed.  In this, works have crept into the Gospel through the “back door.”  However, discipleship and regeneration are different, and the life of obedience, while obligatory for the Christian, is nowhere necessarily and inevitably united with regeneration as previously discussed.  This double-talk simply veils the other gospel that is being presented.  If, on the other hand, perseverance in works is not necessary for final entrance into heaven and is not included within the compass of the word “faith,” then the Gospel of pure and free grace has been maintained.

  1. This view makes God to be a liar.  If God has decreed that His elect will finally persevere in holiness and if warnings are a means He uses to secure that perseverance, then God is threatening His elect with a destiny He knows will never befall them.  He is telling them they might lose their salvation in order to motivate them by fear (read “healthy tension” or “wholesome fear”) to persevere.  How can a God of truth use lies to accomplish His purpose of holiness in His elect?  So God, on the one hand, knows the Christian will never go to hell, but, on the other hand, tells him he might go there if he does not respond to the warning!  Thus, God is lying to this Christian, telling him something God Himself knows to be false!

They Apply Only to Professing Christians

The second way in which Calvinist (Reformed, Experimental Predestinarians) respond to the problem of the warnings is by claiming they are addressed to professing and not possessing believers.  The warnings are given to warn us against the terrible danger of having a false profession.

Often Calvinists appeal to the wheat and the tares, the example of Judas, and the rejection of those who say “Lord, Lord” and yet He never knew them as proof that the writers of the New Testament viewed their readers as a group that was mixed, true Christians and only professors.  However, this approach to the warning passages is fraught with difficulties, such as:

  1. Differing contexts.  This view ignores the differing contexts intended by the Lord’s references to the wheat and tares and the New Testament home-fellowships that were in the mind of the writers of the New Testament.  In most cases, if not all, the writers of the New Testament address their readers as “saints,” “brothers,” “brethren,” and “little children” (“beloved”), speaking not to the unknown masses at large but to their intimate friends to whom they had ministered and often led to the Lord—individuals that were assumed and believed to be all born-again.
  1. Requires unusual discrimination.  If all the letters are viewed as addressed to professors and not possessors, then both wheat and tares will be required to be very discriminating in their reading of the epistle.  The wheat must come to all the warnings and realize that they apply only to the tares, and the tares must realize that all the commands are only addressed to believers and that the real issue for them is to believe.  Such a requirement almost guarantees that the epistles would be frequently misunderstood by their intended audiences.
  1. The writers assume regeneration.  The writers rarely draw the distinction between wheat and tares in the very epistles supposedly addressed by intent to those kinds of groups.  In nearly every case the distinction must be read into the text and read into the author’s mind.  Nowhere, for example, does the writer to the Hebrews say, “How can we who claim to be Christian (and may not really be) escape if we neglect so great a salvation.”  The writers never qualify the warnings and never introduce the distinction that the Calvinist view specifically requires.  Since the writers themselves never explicitly say that they feel their audience is a mixture and since they everywhere make statements to the effect that they are talking to genuine Christians, there is no warrant for reading into their otherwise clear statements qualification that they themselves never made.
  1. The warnings exhort believers not to surrender a faith they already possess.  The warnings are never presented as positive commands to begin to be a genuine believer.  They are meant to challenge believers to persevere and continue in their “possessed” faith.  They are never told to go back to the beginning and start over by becoming true Christians, but they are warned to hold fast to true faith to the end of life.
  1. The warnings are addressed to people under the New Covenant.  Individuals under the New Covenant are ALL regenerate:  “I will put my law in their minds and will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33).  This covenant differs in that God declares that “they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:7-12).

Conclusion:  Why are the Warnings Given?

Contrary to the Arminian, the warnings are not given to raise concerns about forfeiture of one’s eternal destiny.  Contrary to the Calvinist, they are not the means by which professing believers are to be motivated to examine the genuineness of their salvation.  Nor are they intended to motivate true Christians to persevere by causing them to wonder if they are really saved.  God has more sufficient means than fear of hell to motivate His children.  Rather, the warnings are real.  They are alarms about the possibility of the forfeiture of eternal rewards and of learning at the Judgment Seat of Christ that one’s life has been wasted.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 11—From Calvin to Westminster

Nowhere are we commanded to look to faith or to fruits to find out if we are born again.  We look only to Christ for that kind of assurance.  It is possible that for many within the Experimental Predestinarian position this will be the most important discussion in this book.  It would not be surprising if the previous and following chapters were skipped over in the search for the answer to the question, “What does the author say about assurance?”  For the Puritans and their modern followers assurance of salvation is their magnificent obsession, 2 Peter 1:10 is their life verse and the practical syllogism is their chief practice.  Their “practical syllogism” is as follows:

Major Premise:  All who have believed and who have the fruits of regeneration are saved.

Minor Premise:  I have believed and have some fruit.

Conclusion:        Therefore, I am saved.

When Peter wrote, “Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure,” he unwittingly gave them a basis for four hundred years of introspection.  Indeed, this verse could aptly be used to summarize the roughly one hundred years between the Reformation and the Westminster Confession (1649).

According to a Gallup Survey over fifty million people in the United States believe they are born-again.  One naturally asks, “Are they really saved?”  It would be a terrible tragedy to give assurance to someone who is not truly justified.  One of the great errors of the Experimental Predestinarian is that he seems to think he has either the responsibility or the right to pronounce upon another man’s eternal destiny.  Better is the attitude of the apostle Paul, “Therefore judge nothing before the time . . . .”

This is a book of exegetical, not historical, theology.  However, since many who share these views of assurance seem to feel they stand in the tradition of the early Reformers, and of John Calvin in particular, it will be of interest to note that those who bear Calvin’s name have widely departed from Calvin in this central fact.  For Calvin, assurance was not a reflex act of faith but part of the direct act of saving faith itself.  Our assurance, Calvin said, does not come from reflecting upon our faith but from reflecting upon Christ.

Reviewer’s comment:  The author proceeds to discuss John Calvin, Theodore Beza, William Perkins, and Jacobus Arminius, all theologians of the past; and the evolvement of theology from Calvin up to and including the Westminster Assembly—a rather lengthy section, of which this reviewer will list only selected passages.  For the full discussion the reader is directed to the book.

John Calvin (1509-1564)

Saving Faith

If Calvin were to be asked, “Where do we get faith?”  He would have answered that its source is the intercessory prayer of Christ.  We received the gift of faith because Christ prayed to the father and asked Him to give it to us.  Faith is thus located in the mind and is not an act of the will or an initiative that we take in order to become a Christian; it is passively received.

Reviewer’s comments:  This reviewer takes exception with this Calvinistic position.

A firm and sure knowledge that we are saved is thus of the essence of faith itself and is not the result of later reflection upon whether we have believed or whether or not there are fruits of regeneration in our lives.  Calvin devotes several sections in his Institutes to explain and clarify this definition.  For Calvin faith is knowledge.  It is not obedience.  It is a passive thing received as a result of the witness of the Holy Spirit.  It is “recognition” and “knowledge.”  It is illumination and knowledge as opposed to feeling; it is certainty, firm conviction, assurance, firm assurance, and full assurance.  In all these descriptions the idea that faith is an act of the will is absent.  Neither are works required to verify its existence in the heart.

The Basis of Assurance

What then is the basis of assurance according to Calvin?  Christ is the source of our assurance.  Unless we cling steadfastly to Christ, we will “vacillate continually.”  We ask not, “Am I trusting in Christ? but Am I trusting in Christ?”  In other words, for Calvin the object of self-examination is not to see if we are saved but to be sure that we are trusting in Christ and not our works for our assurance.

In other words, if we doubt our salvation, we are not to look to ourselves to find evidences of justification, but we should look to Christ who is a mirror reflecting back to us those persons who are elect.  As we look at Him, we see ourselves in the reflection and have assurance of our salvation.  If we are not to trust in our works for justification, why should we trust in them for our assurance?  As long as any works are necessary to establish that a man is of the elect, then works become the basis of his confidence instead of Christ.  Calvin’s central belief is that assurance is the essence of faith.

It seems that Calvin’s stress on the passive nature of faith is a valid biblical insight.  It does appear that faith is something that “happens” to us.  We are responsible to believe in the sense that we are responsible to look to Christ, not conjure up faith.  Clearly, faith is not located primarily in the will, as Calvin observed, for we often are forced to believe things against our will (the death of a loved one, for example).  Also, it seems that for some people they would give the world to believe, but for some reason they just can’t.  To tell them that they can is to violate their consciousness.

Reviewer’s comment:  Again, this reviewer objects to the position that man has no ability to exercise—by act of will—faith in Christ.  He believes that this is a component of the “image of God,” a part of his created being.

Calvin’s Doctrine of Temporary Faith

The origin of this odious doctrine is to be traced to Calvin himself.  He based it on (1) his misinterpretation of the parable of the sower (to be discussed elsewhere—each of the last three are regenerate as evidenced by the obvious fact that even the one with “temporary faith,” the stony ground, evidenced life and growth),  (2) the warnings in Hebrews (these warnings are addressed to true Christians and present the danger of millennial disinheritance—what they potentially may “fall away” from), and (3) the Lord’s warning, “By their fruits you shall know them.”

The central claim of this teaching is that God imparts supernatural influence to the reprobate that approximates, but does not equal, the influence of effectual calling.  He is illuminated, he tastes, he grows, and he has similar feelings as the elect.  However, it seems God can be more than just in condemning him when he finally falls away.  After all, the man had these “tastes.”

He does not think it absurd that the reprobate should have “a taste of the heavenly gift—and Christ” (Hebrews 6:4, 5), because this makes them convicted and more inexcusable.  This is a consequence of a “lower” working of the Spirit that he later seems to term an “ineffectual” calling.  There is nothing strange in God’s shedding of some rays of grace on the reprobate and afterwards allowing these to be extinguished.  This, according to Calvin, was “an inferior operation of the Spirit,” the whole purpose of which is “the better to convict them and leave them without excuse.”

Calvin has said that the reprobate cannot discern the difference between their experience and that of a born-again Christian.  They believe God to be propitious to them and to have given them the gift of reconciliation.  Since both the reprobate and the saved can have these feelings, how can one know if he is saved?  Calvin seems to be saying that the unsaved have these feelings, but they are more intense in the elect and enable them to say, “Abba, Father.”  He feels, however, that the differences between the reprobate and the elect are more important than the similarities.  The primary difference is that the faith of the reprobate is temporary.  Eventually it fails and they fall away.  The true believer is sustained.  A second difference is that the reprobate never enjoys a “living feeling” of firm assurance.

Part of Calvin’s problem goes back to his misinterpretation of the parable of the soils.  The last three are all true Christians and are not reprobate.  Therefore, there is no “temporary” faith taught here.  Similarly, Hebrews 6 refers to true Christians, not mere professors, and the doctrine of temporary faith is not found there either.  In the final analysis Calvin has thrown away the possibility of assurance, at least until the final hour.  When he grants that the only certain difference between the faith of the elect and the (temporary) faith of the reprobate is that the faith of the former perseveres to the end, he makes assurance now virtually impossible.  In other words, the only real evidence of election is perseverance, and only assurance of the certainty of persevering is—to persevere!  So on this ground there is no assurance at all!

Some Calvinists might reply, “This is not a contradiction, only a healthy tension.”  The word “healthy” is used to imply that there is value in wondering whether or not one is saved.  But the idea that God intends to motivate His children to godly living by desiring that they wonder if they have only temporary faith like the reprobate and that they must persevere to the end to find out is so far removed from the apostle’s statements of grace and love that one wonders how anyone could every find it in the New Testament.

For most, however, the certainty of their final salvation does not lead to license.  On the contrary, it leads to a wonderful security and sense of gratitude that promotes true godliness.  Is it not indisputable that our children are more likely to behave well in an atmosphere of unconditional parental acceptance than in an atmosphere of uncertainty?  Can it ever be “healthy” for a child to cherish doubts about his parents’ long-term acceptance?  If it is true that an earthly parent must strive to communicate unconditional and permanent acceptance regardless of failure, would it not be even truer of our heavenly Father?

Theodore Beza (1519-1605)

Calvin’s successor atGeneva, Theodora Beza, departed from Calvin by grounding assurance in evidences of fruit in one’s life.  Beza’s starting point was his doctrine of “limited atonement.”  Calvin held to unlimited atonement, but Beza argued that if Christ died for all then all would be saved.  Beza developed a system that became known as supralapsarianism.

Calvin said men are chosen from a corrupt mass, but Beza says men are chosen from a mass “yet unshapen.” By basing his system around predestination, Beza gave election and reprobation priority over creation and the fall.  Predestination refers to the destinies of men not yet created, much less fallen.

This doctrine led to the division between assurance and faith, which differed from Calvin.  For Calvin, Christ was the “mirror” in whom we contemplated our election.  By this he meant we look to Christ for assurance and not ourselves.  But for Beza we have no certainty that we are elected because we do not know for sure that we are one of those for whom Christ died.  If Christ died for all, then we could know that we are elect, but if He

died only for the elect, it is presumptuous for us to trust in Christ’s death, if not dangerous.

Beza, knowing this, suggests that we should look within ourselves for the evidence that Christ died for us.  Sanctification, or good works, is the infallible proof of saving faith.  Ultimately, Beza says that the only true evidence that Christ died for you is if you persevere in holiness.  He turns to 2 Peter 1:10 and argues that assurance of election is based on a good conscience.  We make our election sure by good works.  These works, he says, are a testimony to our conscience that Christ lives in us, and thus we cannot perish, being elected to salvation.

William Perkins (1558-1602)

William Perkins developed a system of assurance built around an interpretation 2 Peter 1:10, which says we must prove our election to ourselves by means of good works.  He was a supralapsarian.  According to Perkins, before one can become a Christian, the heart must be made malleable by four hammers:  the Law, knowledge of sin, sense of God’s wrath, and a holy desperation.  2 Peter 1:10 teaches us to prove to ourselves that we have faith by means of a good conscience.  Justifying faith is that by which a man is persuaded in his conscience.  The will to believe does not yield assurance, but the conscience, reflecting on the fruits of regeneration can yield assurance.

There are two works of grace necessary:  initial faith and perseverance.  Only the second ultimately proves that the first is valid.  If godliness is the means by which we make our calling and election sure, then the Experimental Predestinarians reasoned we had better give a list of what it means to be godly and how to become godly.  This led to the legalism for which Puritanism is noted and the heavy sobriety and lack of joy that is so proverbial in their churches.

Jacobs Arminius (1559-1609)

Jacobus Arminius studied under Beza atGenevain 1581.  His doctrine of predestination was simple:  God predestines believers.  If one believes, he is elected; if he does not believe, he is not elected.  This was a view of faith that was active.  Man chooses to believe; thus, faith is an act of the will.

Arminius believed salvation could be lost.  He affirmed dogmatically that it is impossible for believers to decline from salvation.  What he meant, however, is that they cannot decline as long as they remain believers.  He said that God elects believers whom He foresees will persevere.  He placed faith in the will and said that faith is obedience.  He said there are three parts to it:  repentance, faith in Christ, and observance of God’s commands.  His doctrine of assurance is also the same as that of his opponents.  Assurance comes from the fruit of faith.

The Westminister Assembly Theology

Those invited to the Westminster Assembly were completely unified from the beginning in their doctrine of saving faith.  No representative of the viewpoint of Calvin was there, and the breech between faith and assurance was now given creedal sanction.  The assembly also convened to answer the threat of antinomianism by which they meant a doctrine that did not place faith in the will and thus opened the door for apostasy (by this definition Calvin would have been antinomian).

Man’s will is not eliminated as it was in Calvin’s theology.  Saving faith is not only believing that God’s word is true, but it is “yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.”  For the assembly at Westminster, faith is man’s act.  Believers can lose their assurance because it is based upon their performance, how one’s conscience feels about one’s performance as he reflects upon his recent behavior.  Assurance is grounded in reflection upon one’s sincerity.  One’s good works do not need to be perfect, only sincere.


The road from Calvin toWestminsterwas to be expected.  It is now necessary to look more carefully at some of the biblical passages that have been discussed along this journey.  What does the Bible say about faith, assurance, and the need for a Christian to subject himself to self-examination?

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 12—Faith and Assurance

In the previous chapter the relationship between faith and assurance from Calvin toWestminsterwas described.  The complete departure from Calvin’s simple idea that faith is located in the mind and is basically “belief” and assurance was noted.  Now our attention will be turned to the biblical and theological issues.  While historical theology yields interesting perspective, the final issue is “what the Bible teaches, and not what others teach.”


It is somewhat perplexing how this simple, universally understood, and commonly used term has been so freighted with additional meanings.  Notions like obedience, yieldedness, repentance, and a myriad of other terms are continually read into this word in order to make it serve the purpose of some particular theological system.  It is perplexing because the lexical authorities are virtually unanimous in their assertion that faith (Gk. pistis) means belief, confidence, or persuasion.  The verbal forms all mean the same—to believe something, to give assent, to have confidence in, or to be persuaded of.

A study of various passages within the New Testament confirms that the deeper sense of the word is “that of firm, trustful reliance.  In regards to the doctrine of soteriology “to believe” is a technical term to express reliance upon Christ for one’s salvation.  It certainly does not include within its compass the very thing it is contrasted with—obedience!

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds (works) of the law. . . But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. (Romans 3:28; 4:5)

If faith is the opposite of works of obedience (law) and is the opposite of work, by what mental alchemy can men seriously argue that, while faith is apart from works of obedience, faith itself includes works of obedience?  If faith plus works does not save, then it is illegitimate to include obedience as a part of faith and then say faith alone saves when one means that faith plus works saves!

It is true that faith includes the idea of repentance, but repentance does not mean “turn from sin” but “to change one’s perspective.” [Reviewer’s comment:  This takes place when “by faith” a person turns from every other confidence to Jesus Christ alone for his personal salvation.  In other words, the “act of faith alone in Christ” is the execution of “biblical repentance.”]  When the writer of Hebrews says, “The just shall live by faith,” he means that the modus operandi of life of the regenerate man is faith.  He does not mean that we must believe (= obey) for the rest of our lives to become or prove that we already are Christians.  It is true that we are only partakers of Christ if we hold firm to the end, but being a partaker and being a Christian are different things (see the discussion in chapter 5 under Hebrews 3:14).  The work that God will complete in the lives of the Philippians is not sanctification but their participation in the gospel with Him, which will continue up to the Lord’s return.  Paul expected the Lord to return in his lifetime.

The Reformed faith has commonly held that the sanctification of the believer involves the work of God and of man.  With this the writer agrees.  But the only works of obedience that God performs related to our justification are imputed to us and not worked in us.  These works are known as the active obedience of Christ, his perfect obedience to the requirements of the law on our behalf.  These merits are reckoned to our account in the act of justification (Romans 10:4; 5:19; Colossians 2:10).  However, the conclusion of the Reformation was that justification is a forensic act of God in which He declares us righteous.

The Role of the Will in Faith

Actions of will arise from faith, but the will itself does not seem to be involved in the production of faith.  This may seem surprising to some, but a moment’s reflection will substantiate the commonly understood notion that faith is located in the mind and is persuasion or belief.  It is something that “happens” to us as a result of reflection upon sufficient evidence.  We can no more will faith than we can will feelings of love.  That faith is a passive thing, and not active, is evident when Paul says:  “. . . Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of (with) faith? (Galatians 3:2)

Reviewer’s comment:  The author then explains how the word “hearing,” in contrast to the word “obeying,” indicates that faith is a passive reception and is the equivalent of the Lord’s usage of “looking” (John 3:14, 15) and “tasting” (John 4:14; 7:37, 38), also, according to the author, terms that assign a passive, receptive function to faith.  This reviewer, while agreeing that faith involves mental acumen (understanding and enlightenment of the gospel message), which is a function of the Holy Spirit’s operation and which indeed cannot be generated by man, is not efficacious (effective) unless by the “free agency” of the person involved it is exercised by a decision of the will directed toward Jesus Christ.  To understand it otherwise is to consent to the Calvinistic concept that man is unable to resist (turn down) God in the matter of eternal salvation and in effect, at least in this issue, to deny man’s free agency (choice) by making him no more than a mindless robot.  This reviewer believes that the “exercise of faith” toward Christ is not a work but a non-meritorious act of receiving the free grace-gift of God, which is eternal salvation.  Although the author of this book appears to exclude the will in “saving faith,” he later within this chapter makes the following statement, “Since faith is located primarily in the mind and is received as a gift of God, there are no necessary actions of the will (other than the “act” of reliant-trust) or good works required to verify its presence,” which statement appears to confirm that the “will” is necessary in the apprehension of eternal salvation.

Saving faith is reliance upon God for salvation.  It does not include within its compass the determination of the will to obey, nor does it include a commitment to a life of works.  To believe is to be persuaded and be reliant and includes nothing else.

Reviewer’s comment:  In regards to this paragraph, and in harmony with the prior reviewer’s comment, the phrase, “to be persuaded” may be interpreted as “enlightenment and conviction by the Holy Spirit,” while the phase, “be reliant” may be understood as the exercise of this enlightened conviction with a decision of the will directed toward Christ in the non-meritorious reception of the free gift of eternal salvation.  It is possible that the reviewer and the author of this book are in agreement.  The first words in the paragraph following the subtitle “The Role of the Will in Faith,” state, “Actions of will arise from faith.”  Possibly the author means by this that when one becomes convinced of the gospel message, he then may exercise will either to apply the faith or to leave it dormant, i.e., leave it inactive.

If anything is clear in the New Testament, whatever belief is, it is the opposite of works:

Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of (with) faith? (Galatians 3:5)


And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. . . . He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:14-16, 18)

If, indeed, faith is a mental and not a volitional thing, then two problems immediately come to mind.  First, if the will is not involved in faith, then why is it that faith is everywhere presented in Scripture as something for which men are responsible?  Second, how can such a view of faith be distinguished from mere intellectual assent?  Certainly Satan assents mentally to the proposition that Jesus is God.  Does this mean that he has faith?

Something more is needed to produce faith.  Faith is not a mechanical result of the presentation of evidence.  Good evidence can be refused because of the subjective nature or condition of the mind to which it is addressed.  This is the ground of responsibility for belief or faith: “it is not merely a question of evidence but of subjectivity; and subjectivity is the other name for personality.”  [Reviewer’s comment:  Sounds like the will is involved.  Both intellect (mind) and will, which may also be a function contained in the mind, are part of the “soul” of man.]

The biblical solution, however, is to admit that for the natural man faith is impossible and to attribute it to the gift of God.  This gift is not communicated mechanically.  Rather, it is given through the creation of a capacity for faith on the basis of the evidence submitted.  It starts with illumination, softening of the heart, and a quickening of the will.  As a result, a man freely believes on the basis of the evidence submitted to him in the Gospels.  This creation of capacity precedes regeneration.  The biblical evidence that faith itself is a gift is impressive and has often been repeated.  It comes not of one’s own strength or virtue but only to those who are chosen of God for its reception (1 Thessalonians 2:13); hence, it is a gift (Ephesians 6:23; cf. 2:8, 9; Philippians 1:29).  It comes through Christ (Acts 3:16; 1 Peter 1:21), by means of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:13; Galatians 5:5), and by means of the preached Word (Romans 10:17; Galatians 3:2, 5).  Because it is thus obtained from God (2 Peter 1:1; Jude 3), thanks are to be returned to God for it (Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:3).

Therefore, it may be concluded that, when the Bible teaches that we are responsible for believing (e.g., Acts 16:31), the meaning is plain.  We are responsible for directing our sight to Christ and to an openness to consider the evidence.  [Reviewer’s comment:  Sounds like an exercise of the “will.”]  The evidence for faith is good—the revelation of God in the Bible—and to reject it is a moral, not an intellectual, problem.  The refusal of man to do this precludes the possibility that he will come to faith.  It is in this that the responsibility for faith lies.  In this way we can see that faith itself is not a volitional but a mental act, as it is everywhere described.

Faith and Knowledge

But if faith is merely a mental act, a persuasion based upon evidence, how is it distinguished from mere knowledge, which the demons possess?  Are we to say that saving faith is simply the acceptance of a set of propositions about the deity of Christ and the atonement?

There are two things that differentiate saving faith from mere knowledge (intellectual assent), as follows:

  1. Trust—it is one thing to intellectually accept certain propositions; it is another to be in a state of reliant-trust.  It is one thing to believe that Jesus is God and that He is the Savior, as the demons do; it is another to look to Him as one’s personal Savior from the penalty for sin.  [Reviewer’s comment:  The “look to Him” involves a decision of the “will.”]
  1. The differing evidence upon which it is based—the beauty, glory, and sweetness of divine things as revealed in Scripture and the gospel promise, and not on intellectual acceptance of logical conclusions based upon reasonable data drawn from cultural familiarity.  The object of biblical faith is the saving work of Christ and the gospel offer.  The evidence upon which it rests is the promises of Scripture.

Faith and Profession

Closely related to the question of faith and knowledge is the question, “How is a saved man to be distinguished from one who professes to be saved but in fact is not?”  Or, “How is a false profession of faith in Christ to be distinguished from a true one?  If the preceding train of thought is granted, then it is clear how we do not discern a false profession.  We do not discern this by an examination of fruits or an assessment of grief over sin or a measurement of desire to have fellowship with God.  Rather, the presence of a false profession is to be discerned by asking questions that will reveal whether or not a person understands the gospel and has Christ as the conscious object of faith.  We ask questions that will reveal whether or not a person is trusting in Christ for salvation and whether or not he or she has accepted the gospel offer.  While such an examination can never yield the certainty that the Experimental Predestinarian seems to desire, it should be realized that his examination of fruit yields no certainty at all.  Indeed, the whole quest for certainty is ill-founded.  Paul warned us to judge no man before the time.

Only the individual can know if he has believed.  We cannot externally know this for him.  Certainly the lack of fruit in a person’s life raises the question, “Does he possess the Spirit at all, or if he does, has he quenched Him?”  But just as the presence of fruit cannot prove a man is a Christian, neither can its absence deny it.

Faith and Assurance

Since faith is located primarily in the mind and is received as a gift of God, there are no necessary actions of the will (other than the “act” of reliant-trust) or good works required to verify its presence.

Reviewer’s comment:  See initial comment above.

A man knows he has faith in the same way he knows he loves his wife and children.  And if he has faith, then he has justification and assurance.  He does not have to wait until the will “kicks in” weeks or months later to produce a few evidences of regeneration.  Rather, he can accept the gospel promise that “whosoever believes in Him will not perish” and assume at the instant he believes that his eternal security is definite.  Yes, all that is necessary is to “believe at a point in time.”

Reviewer’s comment:  At this point in the chapter the author presents the views of several different notable individuals—biblical scholars and such—regarding the subject.  The reader is referred to the book for these discussions.

Assurance Is of the Essence of Faith

Finally, the Bible explicitly and implicitly affirms that assurance is part of saving faith.  The writer to the Hebrews unambiguously declares this to be true when he says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).

But in addition, the scores of passages that tell us that “whoever believes has eternal life” surely imply that a person who has believed has eternal life.  If he is not assured of that fact, how is it possible that he has believed the promise?  Belief and assurance are so obviously inseparable that only the interest of preserving the Experimental Predestinarian doctrine of perseverance can justify their division.

Reviewer’s comment:  The reviewer takes issue with the conclusion of this paragraph, particularly in the light, which this book has advanced so far, that a true believer can fall back into a carnal state.  The carnal state can rob an individual of such assurance, as well as other evidences of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

But if assurance is in fact part of true faith, why then does the Bible ask us to examine ourselves to see we are truly Christians.  Surely, if assurance is part of true faith, such examinations would be unnecessary.  This will be the subject of the next chapter.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 13—Self-examination and Assurance

There are only four passages of Scripture (other than the so-called “tests of life” in 1 John) that have been adduced in support of the contention that believers are to “examine themselves” in order to discern whether or not they are actually Christians.  In reality, they lend little support for this endeavor; but they will be discussed in this chapter.

The Scriptural Admonitions

Hebrews 6:11

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.

The text is often used to support the notion that Christians can prove their election to themselves by means of good works and thus, through examination of them, become assured of their salvation.

But there are several factors that make this interpretation unlikely:

  1. The word translated “full assurance” (Gk. plerophoria) is always used in a passive sense in the New Testament, i.e., it means “fullness” and not “fulfilling.”  If it meant “fulfilling,” the phrase might be translated, “show diligence for the fulfilling of hope”—meaning that the Christian should be diligent to obtain assurance.  But in the “passive,” the translation is: “Show diligence in the respect of the fullness of hope”—meaning that a Christian should be diligent regarding something already obtained.
  1. The preposition “to” (Gk. pros), based on its spatial sense of motion and direction, is often used in a psychological sense of “in view of,” “with a view to,” “in accordance with,” and “with reference to.”  The meaning in this verse is “as far as . . . is concerned, with regard to.”

Considering only the lexical meanings of pros and plerophoria together, the author of Hebrews appears to be exhorting the readers to “show diligence with regard to the assurance of hope that they now have to the end.”  (This use of pros is found in Hebrews 1:7; 5: 1; Romans 10:21; Luke 12:47)  Or more simply, “Be faithful to the end of life.”

But contextual and biblical factors are what ultimately decide an issue.  In favor of this rendering of pros is:

  1. The context of the warning passage is about holding one’s confidence, one’s confession of Christ firm to the end of life (3:6, 14; 6:6, 15; 10:35).
  1. The passage seems to be closely paralleled by Hebrews 10:32-36.  Verse 10 is expanded on in 10:32-34 (the eternal works) and vs. 11 is expanded on in 10:35, 36 (the internal maintenance of one’s confession).
  1. The other usage of plerophia in Hebrews refers to an assurance that comes as a result of trusting in the cross for forgiveness, not an assurance that is arrived at later in life through diligent attention to the fruits of regeneration (Hebrews 10:22).
  1. The word plerophia always has a passive, never an active, meaning in the New Testament and is not found in classical Greek.
  1. It appears from 1 Thessalonians 1:5 that this fullness of hope is not the result of a reflex act of faith later in the Christian’s life but comes with the gospel at its introduction.

The meaning by Hebrews’ author is that, just as they have shown diligence in regard to these external matters—loving others, vs. 10—they should show diligence in regards to this internal matter, maintaining their assurance of hope to the end.  He is not fearful that they will lose their salvation, but that they will lose their testimony, their faithfulness, and their perseverance.

Thus, the meaning of the passage is completely unrelated to finding out if one is a Christian by means of perseverance.  Rather, it is an exhortation for the readers to be diligent in regard to their sure hope of salvation as they have already been diligent to their love for the brothers.  In other words, it is an exhortation to persevere to the end.

2 Peter 1:10, 11

This is the central passage of the Experimental Predestinarian tradition, which reads:

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Arminians see this as an exhortation to guarantee that one does not fatally fall and lose one’s salvation.  Others understand it to apply to the conscience—by doing good works, by adding the various qualities of the preceding context (1:3-7), to prove to the conscience the reality of salvation.  Others, such as Calvin, do not connect this with conscience but simply with the need for some external evidence as proof one is saved.

This interpretation is unlikely because:

  1. It suffers from the fact that the immediate context seems to define the sureness as a bulwark against falling, and not a subjective confidence to the heart that one is saved.  Peter is saying that if one adds the virtues of 1:3-7, he will not stumble or fall, which results in a sureness that prevents stumbling, not a sensation of assurance or proof of salvation.
  1. The general thrust of the book, as is summed up in 3:17, is concerned with perseverance and not assurance.
  1. The Greek word for “sure” (Gk. bebaios) never has a subjective sense in biblical or extra-biblical Greek—often used elsewhere in the New Testament of an external confirmation (Hebrews 2:2) or of something legally guaranteed (Hebrews 6:19; 9:17).
  1. This interpretation must assume that Peter addresses his readers as professing Christians and not as true Christians—but this directly contradicts what Peter has just said in the preceding verse (1:9), the fact that if they lack these virtues, it means only that they have forgotten they have been cleansed from sin.

The word babaisos, in this context, is a verb that also may mean “to strengthen, to establish, to make firm, reliable, durable, and unshakeable.”  The context strongly favors this translation.

Of particular interest is the passage regarding the metochoi in Hebrews 3:14: “We are partakers (metochoi) of Christ if we hold firm (bebaios) the beginning of our assurance to the end.  The similar contexts seem to suggest that “to hold firm” may be a similar idea to “make your calling and election sure.”  In other words, to make our calling and election sure is simply another way of saying persevere to the end.  It has the simple sense of “remain firm,” or “strengthen.”  This is the meaning in Colossians 2:7, where Paul exhorts them to be rooted and built up in Him and “strengthened” (bebaioo) in the faith.

Christians are to make their calling and election “sure” as protection from stumbling in their Christian lives.  This thought is central to the epistle and is brought out again at the end:  You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on you guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17).

To “make [our] calling and election sure” means to guarantee by adding to our faith the character qualities of 1:5-7 that our calling and election will achieve their intended aim, which is:

  • Holiness in conduct (1 Peter 1:15).
  • Patient in doing good and suffering for it (1 Peter 2:20, 21).
  • Blessing others rather than returning evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9).

Similarly, we are elected so that we might be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4), that we might be obedient (1 Peter 1:1, 2), and that we might proclaim His name (1 Peter 2:9).  Because they already knew they were chosen of God, the Thessalonians lived consistently with the intended purpose of the election and became examples to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:4-7).

The aim of “calling and election” appears to be holiness in this life, perseverance in suffering, and inheriting a blessing in the life to come—the two words are united under the same article, which often signifies that they refer to the same thing.  A first-century reader would have seen the terms as signifying the totality of their Christian experience.

Peter’s meaning is that believers must make their Christian lives impregnable against falling into sin by adding the virtues in the preceding context to their foundation of faith.  They must strengthen their lives.  This will make them unshakable and firm in the midst of suffering.  To say it differently, to make their calling and election sure is to purpose that they will achieve their intended aim:  a holy life, perseverance in suffering, and inheriting a blessing.

Instead of this passage meaning that a believer should look at his works in order to verify his salvation, Peter is saying that to make one’s calling and election sure is to add virtues to one’s faith so that (1) he builds a firm foundation, impregnable against falling into sin, and (2) he will obtain a rich welcome when he enters the Millennial Kingdom.

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

Here the apostle tells his readers that self-examination can result in knowledge as to whether or not one is “in the faith.”  A failure of this test is proof that Christ Jesus is not “in you.”  If having Christ “in you” refers to salvation, then this passage would seem to lend credence to the idea that we should examine our lives to find out if there are sufficient evidences present to establish to our consciences that we are in fact among the elect.  However, it does not mean this.

“Yourselves” is first in the sentence; it is emphatic.  Paul is referring back to vs. 3.  The Corinthians wanted proof that Christ was speaking in Paul (“in me”).  Paul now turns it around on them.  “You, yourselves, should test yourselves to see if Christ is really speaking in you.”  The object of this examination is not to find out if they are Christians but to find out if they are “in the faith.”  Why do some assume that being “in the faith” is the same thing as being regenerate?  In other uses of this phrase it refers to living according to what one believes.

In 1 Corinthians 16:13 Paul says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”  Being “in the faith” here seems to mean something like “live consistently with what you believe.”  Paul spoke of fellow Christians who are “weak in the faith” (Romans 14:1).  Doesn’t this mean something like “weak in living according to what one believes”?  Paul wants believers to be “sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13), and Peter urges the Christians to be strong in resisting the devil, “steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8, 9).  In each case, being “in the faith” refers to consistency in the Christian life, not possession of it.

Christ “in me” in vs. 3 does not refer to salvation but to the demonstration of powerful speech and deeds.  The test is to determine whether or not Christ is manifesting Himself in their words and deeds.  Paul, of course, doubts that Christ is in them in this sense.  Salvation is not in view at all.

Christ is in them, unless they fail the test, i.e., unless they are disqualified (Gk. adokimos) or unapproved.  This word is used seven times in the New Testament.  It is found in the often quoted passage in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where the apostle himself fears he might become adokimos.  Its basic meaning is “not standing the test, rejected.”  It is a technical term for a runner not standing the test before the master of the games and therefore being excluded from the award’s ceremony.

The meaning of adokimos is simply “to fail the test.”  It is used of Christians four times (1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 13:5, 6; Hebrew 6:8).  The result of their failure is determined by the context.  In 1 Corinthians 9:27 the message is not the loss of salvation but the loss of rewards in the Isthmian games.  In Hebrews 6:8 it is used of the unfruitful believer.  He is a worthless field because he yields thorns and thistles and is close to being cursed.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “fail the test” is to fail the test that Christ is mighty in them in the sense of mighty words and deeds.  This was their charge against Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:3.  He turns it around on them in verse 5.

1 Corinthians 11:28-32

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.  For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

The passage raises two questions:

  1. What kind of self-examination is commanded?  It is about judging the body of Christ rightly relative to the “Lord’s Supper.”  It appears that to partake of it in a worthy manner is to partake with a consciousness of what it truly signifies:  His death for mankind’s sins.  It is not for the purpose of finding sin in the believer’s life, but to determine whether a believer’s mind is sufficiently centered on Christ and on the significance of the elements.
  1. What is the consequence of failure in the test?  Some of them were sick, and some had fallen asleep in the Lord (physical death, 1 Thessalonians 4:14).  It is definitely not final judgment of hell; in fact, the passage seems to say precisely the opposite—it is a temporal discipline (a discipline in time, 11:32).


The teaching that assurance of salvation is based upon evidences of works in one’s life is potentially most damaging to Christian growth.  A child’s greatest need when faced with doubt about his acceptance is to have the Father’s unconditional love reaffirmed.  No human father would treat his child any less.

Obtaining Assurance

How then is assurance of salvation to be obtained according to the Experimental Predestinarian?

Reviewer’s comment:  The author then expands on how the Experimental Predestinarian determines his salvation through a series of tests, which the author finds to be a path to contradiction.  The reader will need to obtain the book if interested in these tests and the author’s evaluation of them.

The secrets of a man’s heart are known only by the Spirit of God.  We do not know the hidden struggles.  Neither can we know of an underlying genuine faith that for a lengthy time does not manifest itself in righteous living.  It is not for us to judge.  In fact, the entire preoccupation with “giving assurance” is a presumption on our part.  The apostle Paul specifically refrained from giving or denying assurance:  “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motive of men’s hearts(1 Corinthians 4:5).  On the contrary, the apostle specifically left the provision of assurance to the Holy Spirit.

The Calvinist can offer no real assurance—a man has no assurance he is saved unless he is in a state of godly living at every moment.  He therefore does not derive his comfort from Jesus’ death; he derives his real comfort and assurance from his own works.  Jesus may have saved him, but he can have no real assurance unless there are good works to show that Christ has really saved him.

However, nothing more than looking to Christ is required, insofar as assurance of heaven is concerned.  If more were required, then we would have to say it is “by grace through faith plus works” or “by grace through faith on the condition of faithfulness.”  As long as assurance is grounded in an examination of our good works, submitted to our conscience, real assurance will not be possible for many.  Yet the gospel promises it to all.  A sensitive person will never be persuaded that he is holy enough.  Even a mature saint, sincerely agonizing over his sin, would in this context often doubt whether or not his faith is real.  How could it be, he will reason, since he falls so short of perfection?

How then is one who lacks assurance of salvation to be comforted?  The answer is by bringing to his attention the four questions and their answers in Romans 8:31-39:

  1. Who can be against us?—no one!
  1. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?—no one!
  1. Who is he that condemns?—no one!
  1. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?—no one or thing!

What is striking about all four of these answers is that Paul never asks the believer to look inwardly and test for evidences of regeneration, as some require.  Rather, in answer to all four questions he directs the reader to Christ.  A believer may lack subjective assurance due to doubt, trials, or even due to an inconsistent Christian life; but for the sincere Christian, the Bible does not ask him to examine his life but to look outwardly to Christ.  Attention must be focused on Christ and the answers to Paul’s four questions above.

The Bible says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.”  How else could a biblical writer make it plainer that assurance is the essence of faith?

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 14—The Carnal Christian

The Bible teaches the possible existence of the “carnal Christian.”  It accepts the fact of the feasibility of failure in the Christian life.  By “carnal Christian” the writer means a Christian who is knowingly disobedient to Christ for a period of time.  He is a Christian who walks as if he were a “mere man,” that is, an unregenerate person (1 Corinthians 3:4).  Occasional lapses of sin are not the subject of this chapter.  The focus is the apparent persistence in sin by regenerate people.  In remote cases it is even possible that such people will publicly renounce Christ and persist in either sin or unbelief to the point of physical death.  However, if they were truly born again in Christ, they will go to heaven when they die.

Such people, of course, may theoretically enjoy a “carnal assurance.”  But they cannot enjoy biblical assurance.  They may or may not be saved.  Since faith includes assurance, such people can have no biblical assurance of their final destiny.

Because Experimental Predestinarians ground assurance in observation of works in the life, their churches are prone to have people who have a false assurance.  The subjective nature of such a personal examination leads many in their assemblies to believe they are Christians when in fact they are not.  Since the precise amount of work necessary to verify the presence of saving faith is impossible to define, many who are not regenerate at all believe, on the basis of some imagined work in their life, that they are saved.  No doubt this is why Experimental Predestinarians are so exercised about the carnal Christian.  This danger, of course, is not present in those who, like the Partakers, ground their assurance in looking to the cross and to Christ.  Such a looking is incompatible with a life of sin and the resultant carnal security that Experimental Predestinarians seem to observe in their circles.

The argument for the Reformed doctrine of perseverance has been disputed in the previous chapters.  Their claim that a regenerate man will necessarily and inevitably persevere in a life of good works is refuted on all counts—by the following:

  1. They lack any convincing biblical evidence that the Bible teaches this.  The passages commonly cited to prove that justification and sanctification are united prove nothing (cf. chapters 8 and 9).
  1. The Bible specifically warns true Christians about the possibility of failure.  These warnings are a mockery unless the possibility exists, and only the most contorted theological exegesis can assign them to the unregenerate (cf. chapter 10).
  1. The Bible promises assurance now, included in faith itself.  Yet the Experimental Predestinarians cannot logically grant assurance before the final hour.  Thus, their doctrine contradicts Scripture (cf. chapters 11-13).
  1. The Bible cites numerous instances of people who have in fact been born again but who later fell into sin.  Some persisted in it to the end of life.

We are sinful.  There is a continuum of sin from the sin in the heart of the sincere saint to the sin in the heart of the Christian who lives inconsistently and persists in it.  Indeed, who of us does not “persist” to the final hour in mixed motives, in pride, in hypocrisy, in greed?!  The only difference between the most sincere saint and the most carnal one is a matter of degree.  To deny this is teach sinless perfection or the eradication of the sin nature.  But listen to the apostle Paul:

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (Romans 7:15-19)

The apostle is certainly not a carnal Christian, but he recognizes that in his life there is sin and a mixture of good and evil, and that this persists to the end of life.  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. . . If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10).

The evident impossibility of drawing a line across this continuum to divide those who are saved from those who only claim to be is, no doubt, what has caused the more consistent advocates of the Experimental Predestinarian tradition to push assurance of salvation to the final hour—a consistency that is invalidated by the fact that the bible offers assurance now.

The preoccupation with where to draw the line has historically resulted in the need for external objective standards.  This explains the legalism present in both Reformed and Arminian circles.  Whatever they disagree on, on this one point they are united:  a man who is not living the life is not a Christian.  This requires an objective definition of “the life” that must be lived.

Another common error is to confuse the idea of lordship as a condition of salvation with perseverance in holiness.  Some seem to think they will solve the problem of carnality in our churches by teaching (1) that obedience is part of saving faith; and (2) that, in order to be saved, we must turn from all known sin and submit ourselves to the lordship of Christ.

But it should be obvious, even if this is granted, which it is not, that the act of submitting to the lordship of Christ at the point of saving faith in no way guarantees that a person will continue to submit to the lordship of Christ throughout the rest of his life.  Thus, books that are written to eliminate the problem of dead Christianity by front loading the gospel with lordship salvation are not only wrong biblically, but logically they provide no answer at all.  It is perseverance in godliness that will solve the problem and not a decision at a point in time.  If their meaning is that, when a man is truly saved, he will necessarily persevere in holiness, then whatever saving faith is, even if it does not include lordship, it will guarantee the life of works.  Therefore, the issue of lordship salvation is logically irrelevant to the whole discussion.

The theory of the saints’ perseverance in holiness is, in principle, falsifiable.  If the Bible offers illustrations of individuals who have persisted in sin for a lengthy period of time, the theory is simply wrong.  No amount of special pleading that these are simply “descriptions of the failure of one man” rather than the “teaching” of Scripture will do.  If one man who is born again fails to persevere in holiness, then the Scriptures cannot teach that all who are born again will persevere in holiness.  They will be in error.

In fact, there are not just one or two passages that seem to describe such failing believers but scores of them covering the entire range of biblical revelation, Old Testament and New.  Only one such illustration would be sufficient to falsify the Reformed doctrine of perseverance, but the existence of many of them leaves the theory in shreds.

Spiritual Dullness

A central passage in the New Testament on the subject of the carnal Christian is Hebrews 5:11-14.  The writer has just referred to the Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus Christ when he realizes that the spiritual state of his hearers prevents him from explaining it in detail:

Of whom [Christ] we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (Hebrews 5:11)

They had “become” dull.  They were not always so.  They had fallen from a former state.  There are two Greek words for “dull.”  The first is bradus, which simply means “slow.”  It is a person who is not to blame for his dullness, and so he has no moral fault.  But the word used here is nothros, which means slowness of perception due to moral laxness or irresponsibility.  It goes much deeper and reflects a moral deficiency.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

(Hebrews 5:12-14)

Here one of the chief characteristics of the “carnal” (nothros) Christian is mentioned, persistence in sin for a period of time, the very thing that many Calvinists say cannot happen in the life of a true Christian.  The contrast in these verses is not between Christians and non-Christians but between the “babes” in Christ and the “mature” (5:13-14).  The focus is for them to move from infancy to maturity.

The problem with these Christians has apparently been a willful refusal to grow.  They have had time to mature but have chosen not to.  The carnal Christian is characterized by:

  • Refusal to grow for a period of time.
  • A lack of skill in the use of the “Word of righteousness.”
  • Ability to absorb only milk and not solid food.
  • Spiritual dullness due to a lack of “meat.”

These four things would aptly describe a person whose faith is “dead” (James 2:17).  The Bible abounds with illustrations of genuine believers who have become nothroi, dull of hearing, carnal Christians.

Biblical Illustrations Contradicting Perseverance

There appear to be numerous biblical illustrations of regenerate people who seem to have lived lives of “total and constant” carnality.  In some cases they lived this way to the “final hour.”  In others the Bible characterizes their behavior as over an extended period of time.  In the discussion below several examples will suffice.

Reviewer’s comment:  The author of the book brings out several examples of believers who have failed to persevere in holiness along with an extensive discussion on some of them.  For purpose of this review, several will only be listed in order and only brief excerpts will be listed on a few of them.  The reader is advised to acquire the author’s book for his complete treatment of these models.

Jacob’s Sons (Genesis 39-42)

The founders of the nation ofIsraelwere in a state of willful sin for over eleven years.

Saul (1 Samuel 10-22)

Saul was a regenerate man who became carnal, and his carnality persisted to the point of his physical death.

Solomon (1 Kings 1-12)

Here was a man of God who was a well-known spiritual leader for years, who manifested incredible divine wisdom, and who published numerous writings of a high spiritual caliber; yet, who later rejected the Lord and began to worship idols and adhered to witchcraft.

Lot (Genesis 13, 19)

According to 2 Peter 2:7,Lot was a “just” (righteous) person.  He willingly entered a corrupt city (Sodom) where the men were “wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.”  He offered his own daughters for the sexual pleasures of it inhabitants.  The last mention of him in the Bible is in old age, drunk with wine and permitting his decadent daughters to sleep with him.

Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25)

Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but he did not follow the Lord wholeheartedly.  He turned away from following the Lord and persisted in it unto (until his) death.

Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26)

King Uzziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but when he became powerful, because of his pride, he fell into sin and became unfaithful to the Lord.  He had leprosy until he died, lived in a separate house, and was excluded from the temple of the Lord.

Fall of a Righteous Man

But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. (Ezekiel 18:24)

It is stated here that it is possible for a “righteous man,” a justified man, to do “the same detestable things that a wicked man does.”  The death in view here is a temporal calamity; eternal destiny is not in question at all.

1 Corinthians 5

Here is an extreme case of the “consistently carnal Christian.”  A member of the church was involved in an incestuous relationship with his mother-in-law.  Paul hands this carnal Christian over to physical death, but he notes that he will be saved at the day of the Lord Jesus.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

(vss. 4, 5)

1 Corinthians 8

Here two categories of Christians are in focus, the weak and the carnal.


Here a true Christian can:

1.      Lose his joy (4:5).

2.      Count an apostle as his enemy (4:16).

3.      Place himself under the law (4:21).

4.      Use his freedom in Christ to “indulge the sinful nature” (5:13).

5.      Destroy other Christians by biting and devouring them (5:15).

John 2:23

Many people saw the miraculous signs and episteusan eis to onoma autou (“believed on His name”).  Yet Jesus would not episteuen auton autois (“entrust Himself to them”) because He “knew all men.”  This phrase, “believe on His name” is used throughout John for saving faith.  In fact, the first usages of the phrase (1:12, 13; 3:18) in the book contradicts the view that here it refers to a spurious faith.

John 12:42

Many of the leaders among the Pharisees episteusan eis auto, “believed on Him,” and yet they refused to confess their faith for fear of being put out of the synagogue (John 12:42).  They hardly had submitted to the lordship of Christ or persevered in a life of good works.  In fact, “they loved the praise of men more than praise from God” (12:43).  Yet this technical term for saving faith characterizes their state of mind; they believed on Him!  If one did not “know” before he came to the text that regenerate people could not be characterized by this, he would assume this applies to true Christians.  Only a theological system can negate the consistent usage of this phrase in John.  Could not those hypocritical Pharisees, these secret Christians, be called “carnal Christians”?  Similarly, it is written of Joseph of Arimathea at the time of Christ’s burial that he “was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (John 19:38-42).

Christians Who Have No Part with Christ

Two kinds of Christians are referred to by the Lord in John 13:8:

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” (John 13:10)

Jesus refers to Christians who are “bathed” (Gk. louo), who are “completely clean,” i.e., regenerate.  But a bathed, regenerate person sometimes needs washing (Gk. nipto).  In fact, if he does not go through this washing (nipto) he has no part with Christ.  To wash (nipto) means to wash in part, but to bathe (louo) means “to wash all over.”  The former refers to regeneration.  Christ teaches here that, if a person who has been bathed refuses daily washing, he will have no part with Him.  This is what is meant by a carnal Christian.

Simon Magus (Acts 8)

Christians Who Sleep

Paul rebukes the Corinthians because many of them were coming to the Lord’s Table drunk.  He says that because of this many were ill and some were asleep (1 Corinthians 11:29-32).  To “sleep” (Gk. koimao) was the Christian term for death.  The passage speaks of rebellious believers who were drunks, who apparently failed to respond to other forms of divine discipline (“illness”), and whom God eventually took to be with Him.  Here was a group of Christians who failed and persisted in their failure up to physical death.


It seems evident that something is amiss with a doctrine seemingly unable to account for what appear to be so many contradictions to its main tenet, the impossibility of perseverance in carnality.  But the problem becomes even more acute when one considers the numerous passages that describe not only persistent moral carnality by regenerate people but final apostasy and rejection of the faith altogether—a subject of the next chapter.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 15—Apostasy and Divine Discipline

The position of Experimental Predestinarians (Calvinists) is that a true Christian will not persist in carnality to the point of physical death and that no true Christian can ever commit the sin of public repudiation of his faith in Christ.  This chapter will examine biblical data that seems to suggest that a true Christian can not only be carnal, but he can actually commit apostasy as well.

New Testament Illustrations of Apostasy

Apostasy of Hymenaeus and Alexander

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)

These two men had “faith” and “a good conscience,” but they rejected both and have suffered shipwreck.  While some will maintain that these two were never true believers, their spiritual state must be determined from the context of the passage and not from a theological system.

Three things are said about these two men:  (1) they had believed; (2) they had given the evidence of regeneration in a good conscience; and (3) they needed to be taught not to blaspheme.  If it were not for the third point, one would conclude on the premises of the Experimental Predestinarian that they were saved people.  They had believed, and they had given some initial evidence of it.

However, even the third point paradoxically substantiates the thesis that they are regenerate.  When Paul says they must be handed over to Satan, he calls to mind the only other illustration in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:5) of a man being handed over to Satan.  In that passage a member of the congregation was involved in incest (5:1).  However, even though he was obviously carnal, he would be saved in the day of Jesus Christ.

Hymenaeus and Alexander needed to be “taught” (Gk. paideuo).  In the word’s other usages in the New Testament it is commonly used of divine chastening of discipline of the regenerate (1 Corinthians 11:32; Titus 2:12, 13; Hebrews 12:5, 6).  The exegetical evidence seems to present these men as genuine Christians who have fallen away from the faith.  It is possible that this Hymenaeus is the same individual referred to in Paul’s second epistle to Timothy.

And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.  Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:17-19)

Hymenaeus had such an impact on the faith of some believers that he actually overthrew the faith of some.  The Greek word for “overthrow” means to “cause to fall, overturn, destroy.”  In direct contradiction to our Lord’s words (John 6:39), they asserted that the resurrection had already occurred and thereby destroyed the faith of some.

When Paul says, “The Lord knows those who are His,” he is not saying that the Lord knows those who are truly regenerate in contrast to those who are not, implying that Hymenaeus was not regenerate.  Paul quotes from the LXX (Septuagint—Greek translation of the Old Testament).  The Hebrew translation of Numbers 16:5 reads: “Tomorrow morning the Lord will ‘show who is His’ and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him” (NKJV).  The incident is instructive.

The verse is within the context where Korah had led a rebellion against Moses, claiming that Moses had no special calling from God to lead Israel.  Moses replies that God will demonstrate who is appointed by God, Moses or the leaders of the rebellion.  The LXX translates the Hebrew as “know,” and Paul follows this in 2 Timothy 2:19.  So when he says that God “knows” those who are His, he is not saying something as banal as “God knows who is truly a Christian.”  He is saying that God has intimacy with His chosen and appointed leaders and will actively demonstrate that fact.  The Greek word for “know” often carries the sense of “appoint” or “know intimately.”  To be “known” by God is to enjoy his favor (1 Corinthians 8:3); to be honored/respected by Him (1 Thessalonians 5:12); to enjoy intimacy with Him (John 17:3); or to be cared for by Him (Nahum 1:7; John 10:14; Genesis 18:19).

It may be that the apostle is saying that just as in the days of Korah, God appoints those in authority and will demonstrate this.  If that is the case, then when Paul says that the Lord knows those “who are His,” he means “those whom He has appointed in authority.”  This is, perhaps, in contrast to the presumption of teaching authority seen in Hymenaeus and Philetus.  However, since the phrase is being quoted proverbially, and not precisely, we would not err if we said simply “the Lord cares for, knows intimately, and continues relationship with those who are His.”  Even though their faith has been overturned by false leaders, God still loves them, cares for them, and continues relationship with them.  They can never be removed from His family.

The conclusion is that Hymenaeus, Philetus, and those whom they damaged were true Christians who had embraced error and were catastrophically affected.  But the Lord “knows those who are His,” that is, the Lord remains committed to and loves all His children.  Paul is alluding to what he said in vs. 13:  “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (Romans 8:35-39).  It is a guarantee of the eternal security of those who have departed, not a statement of discrimination between the saved and the unsaved as Experimental Predestinarians imagine.

Apostasy in Hebrews

Apostasy is a real danger, just as the writer of Hebrews warned in chapter 10:

“For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.  Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [Gk. apoleia—destruction, either temporal or eternal], but of those who believe to the saving [Gk. peripoiesia—preservation] of the soul. (Hebrews 10:37-39)

The “preserving of the soul” is a common term for the maintaining of physical life (it never means “go to heaven when you die”).  Instead of experiencing “destruction,” they will live.  The word “destruction” (Gk. apoleia) is the common term for “loss” or “destruction” in secular Greek.  It is not a technical term for hell.  Sometimes it means “waste” (Mark 14:4) and sometimes “execution” (Acts 25:16).

The context (10:26-38) refers to the possible execution of judgment in time on the sinning Christian.  The judgment may include physical death or even worse (10:28).  In order to avoid the possibility of this sin to physical death, this discipline resulting in ruin of one’s physical life, we must persevere in faith.  The danger is that they will not.  And if that occurs, that is, if “he shrinks back,” then God will have no pleasure in him.

Apostasy here is not theoretical; it is a real possibility.  This is the apostasy of God’s “righteous one,” the regenerate son of God who has received the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Apostasy in Galatians

In Galatians 6:12 Paul seems to refer to those who are true believers who also have denied the faith:

As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.

Submission to circumcision indicated cessation of faith in Christ (Galatians 2:17-21).  In fact, it meant you counted Christ’s death as vain, had severed yourself from Christ (Galatians 5:2), had fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4), and were liable to judgment (5:10).  To be severed from Christ and to fall from grace logically required a former standing in grace and connection with Christ from which to fall and be severed!

It is possible for those who are regenerate to deny the faith and forfeit their share in the coming kingdom.  There is no need to assume that they lose salvation, as the Arminian maintains.

Apostasy in the Last Days

The apostle Paul specifically declares in Timothy that it is possible for believers to depart from the faith:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1, 2)

Now if the Spirit “explicitly says” that apostasy from the faith is possible, by what right does anyone deny this?  These people who fall away (depart from the faith) are believers and are contrasted with the liars who have a seared conscience (vs. 2).    It was by means of these non-Christians that these believers were led into apostasy.  The use of the Greek word aphistmi (“depart from”) implies a departure from a position once held and therefore refers to apostasy from the faith by those who once held it.

Denial of the Faith

When a man refuses to care for his household, he has in effect denied the faith:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

It is apparently possible for a true Christian to deny the faith and to be worse than a non-Christian.

Apostasy of Widows

Paul specifically says that some younger widows had departed from the faith and followed Satan:

Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.  For some have already turned aside after Satan. (1 Timothy 5:14, 15)

Apostasy Due to Gnostic Deception

False teachers are often the cause for the departure from the faith by those who are truly regenerate:

O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. (1Timothy 6:20, 21)

Some under Timothy’s care in the church had gone astray from the faith.  Timothy, a Christian, is being warned against this very possibility.

Apostasy of Demas and Others

Toward the end of his life, Paul found himself deserted by many of his fellow-laborers.  Among them were Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), Phygelus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1:15), and a number of unnamed people (2 Timothy 4:16).

In another Timothy passage Paul refers to those who are “in opposition:”

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Who are these who are “in opposition”?  While the phrase about repentance leading to a “knowledge of the truth” certainly could refer to the conversion of non-Christians, the parallel usage (Titus 1:1) refers to the knowledge necessary for those who already are Christians, so that they can live godly lives.  Furthermore, the parallel passage about being ensnared by the devil clearly refers to believers (1 Timothy 3:7).  It appears that the lapse of regenerate people is in view.  They have fallen from the faith and become opponents of the apostle Paul!


Attempts to evade the force of these and other passages that teach the existence of the carnal Christian seem to be unconvincing.  If one has one sin, he can apparently still be a Christian.  But to have many, or to remain in a state of “constant and total” carnality, he then is not a Christian according to the Calvinist.  How does one draw the line?  What is constant and what is total?  Apparently one sin is not total.  How about two or three?  In fact, the Corinthian believers were involved in “constant and total” sin.  Paul came to them in A.D. 52 and then, four years later, they were still carnal.  They had remained in constant divisiveness for at least four years.

The rest of the book documents other aspects of their carnality:  Jealousy, quarreling (3:3), toleration of incest (5:1), lawsuits against brothers (6:1), fornication (6:18), indifference to weaker brothers (chapters 8, 9), drunkenness (11:21), and egotistical use of spiritual gifts (14:4).

Certainly the description of these believers is one of “total and constant” carnality.  In at least two cases their carnality persisted unto physical death (5:5; 11:30), and their physical death was a divine judgment upon them for their refusal to respond to the exhortations of the apostle.

It cannot be successfully argued that Scripture guarantees that those who believe will be kept in a state of belief to the final hour.  What is guaranteed by Scripture is that God’s faithfulness is independent from our faith, “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful.”

Spiritual Consequences

Documenting the moral failures above is unpleasant but necessary.  Until the possibility of ultimate failure is clear, the warnings against it have little relevance.  Equally distasteful is the task of explaining the consequences of carnality for the believer, and they are severe indeed.  The Scriptures set forth three consequences of sin:  (1) divine discipline, (2) physical death, and (3) disinheritance.

Divine Discipline

The principle of judgment upon believers is found in many passages of the Old Testament—Solomon, Saul, David—that do not refer to loss of salvation but loss of the right to rule.  The principle is that discipline results in judgment in time or forfeiture in eternity [MillennialKingdom] but not loss of salvation.

Reviewer’s comment:  At this point the author covers several more examples in detail from the Old Testament.

The central passage in the Bible on the subject of divine discipline is Hebrews 12:3-11.  Here it recounts that God’s purpose in discipline (punishment) is to correct errant behavior.  He disciplines believers for their good that they may share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).  Every child of God will sooner or later experience this.  His purpose is always to correct, the definite aim of which is for the believer’s profit, that he might be partakers of God’s holiness.  Without this holiness “no man will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).  To see the Lord means to fellowship with Him.  Job, for example, said, “But now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).  The parallel is precise.  As a result of divine discipline Job came to “see” the Lord.  The writer to the Hebrews, steeped in the Old Testament as he was, apparently had this passage in mind.

The Sin unto Death

The second consequence of carnality in the life of a believer is physical death.  A number of passages already alluded to suggest that when a believer fails to respond to discipline, God may take him home.  For example:

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19, 20)

It is apparently possible for a “brother” to stray from the truth and be in danger of death.  Regenerate people are in view here.  The reference to covering a multitude of sins is used elsewhere of covering the sins of the regenerate (1 Peter 4:8).

To “save a soul from death” was a way of saying “save a life,” i.e., save a man from physical death.  No doubt James had a similar concern when he said, “And when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:15).  “Death” ultimately refers to physical death, the final consequence of protracted sin.  It is probable; however, that James includes all that is involved in the path to death:  misery, spiritual impoverishment, and severe divine discipline—all of these things and death as well.

Another passage that refers to the sin unto death is found in 1 John 5:16, 17:  “There is a sin leading unto death.”  It appears that physical death is in view.  This is suggested by the fact that it is contrasted with physical life.  Elsewhere in the epistle, when “eternal” life is meant, the adjective “eternal” is included.  Second, John instructs his readers to pray for their “brother” that they might not experience death but “life.”  How can a brother be prayed for that he might obtain “eternal life”?  A “brother” already has eternal life.  But if abundant life is meant, then the phrase not only makes sense but fits well with the thrust of the epistle:  fellowship and joy (1 John 1:3-4).  Also it makes good sense to pray that God will spare a sinning brother and restore him to fellowship.  It is nonsensical to believe that the “brother” is a “professing Christian.”  If John had meant a “professing brother,” he could have said so.

Paul explained that some of the Corinthians who had come intoxicated to the Lord’s Table were “weak and sick, and a number sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:30).  The brother in the Corinthian church who was caught in adultery with his stepmother was turned over to Satan “for the destruction of his flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).

Reviewer’s comment:  Here the author takes two paragraphs to illustrate that the Corinthians in chapter 10 faced the possibility of sin unto physical death just as the believing, regenerate nation of Israel did in the past.

When a Christian is judged by God and experiences the sin unto physical death, it is evident that he has not only sinned but that he has persisted in sin unto the final hour, precisely what the adherents of the reformed doctrine of perseverance say cannot happen!

Millennial Disinheritance

The final consequence of protracted carnality is forfeiture of reward and stinging rebuke when the King returns to establish His rule.  The loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ is often referred to but rarely specifically defined:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men . . . . (2 Corinthians 5:10)

. . . For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. . . . So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10, 12)

In the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, such disinheritance is in view.  At the marriage feast of the Lamb a great celebration will occur.  However, not all will participate in that joy.  The parable says nothing about those who are not truly Christians being at the wedding banquet.  Those who are unbelievers will never enter the kingdom at all, much less the wedding banquet.  The parable teaches that the unfaithful Christian will be excluded from the light and joy of the celebration.  It will become painfully evident that there are those who are regenerate slaves who do not persevere in their efforts to be properly attired at the marriage feast.

The parable describes a great banquet, and the Lord invites all of His servants to attend.  The invitation to attend is to be understood as an invitation to nationalIsraelto accept Christ as Messiah.  Yet, because some refused to come and even killed the Lord’s messengers, the invitation (of salvation) was extended to all, not just those who are descended from Abraham.  So both Jews and Gentiles—the good and bad—were invited, but the Lord found one who came who should not be there.  Why?  It was because he was not suitably attired with a proper “wedding garment.”

The wedding garment does not represent the imputed righteousness of Christ, but of the deeds suitable to qualify to participate in the King’s banquet.  The nature of the garment is made explicitly clear in Revelation 19:7, 8:

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

What the friend at the wedding banquet lacked was not justification but a life of righteous acts.  He was a “friend” of his Master, had responded to the invitation (vs. 10), and had believed in Him.  His failure to persevere in his life of works was terrible:

Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:13, 14)

Several questions are raised by this striking warning:

  • Is the improperly attired guest saved?  Yes, because:  (1) he responded to the invitation of salvation (22:10); (2) he was not only in the kingdom but actually at the wedding banquet itself, and according to Christ one cannot even “see” the kingdom unless one is born again (John 3:3); and (3) he is addressed as a “friend” by the Lord.
  • What is the “darkness outside”?  It is the darkness outside of the relative light of the banquet hall.  “Darkness” (Gk. skotos) can refer to simply physical darkness (Luke 23:44, 45).  The notion of “judgment” is not part of the semantic value of the word.  To necessarily read this idea into it is once again to commit the illegitimate totality transfer.  It certainly can and does refer to the judgment of hell elsewhere, but those meanings are due to context, not the intrinsic meaning of the word.

In the ancient Near East such festivity normally took place at night.  The banquet hall is brilliantly lit up but, by contrast, the gardens around them are in darkness.  All that is meant is “darkness that is without, outside the house.”  The parable, as a metaphor, refers to the darkness as exclusion from the light and joy of the metochoi.  The binding of the hands and feet is a metaphor for exclusion from the activity of reigning with Messiah, and the joy and light are metaphors for the joy of the faithful as they unite with their King and receive their rewards (cf. Hebrews 1:8, 9).

Reviewer’s comment:  The author continues to make his argument for several paragraphs utilizing several passages from Matthew and Luke; yet, to this reviewer, it appears that he may be subject to some confusion between designations for the Jews as opposed to Gentile believers.  Each reader will need to judge this matter for himself by acquiring the book and studying this portion of it.

  • What is the meaning of “wailing and gnashing of teeth”?  This phrase does not refer to the experience of the unsaved in hell in this passage, but to the grief experienced by Christians over a wasted life.  The expression is an Oriental symbol that evokes the idea of a severe rebuke followed by profound regret.  The point is simply that the Oriental was much more emotional and demonstrative regarding grief and regret.  Strong phrases like “wailing and gnashing of teeth” portray extreme pictures to the Western mind that cause the Westerner to freight them with meanings such as “hell,” when all that is meant is strong remorse.

Those Christians who fail to persevere to the end, who are carnal, will experience three negatives at the future judgment:  (1) a stinging rebuke (Matthew 24:45-51), (2) exclusion from the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13), and (3) millennial disinheritance (Matthew 25:14-30).


The recovery of the carnal Christian requires that he “repent” (2 Corinthians 7:10; Revelation 2:5), elsewhere defined as “confession.” (1 John 1:9).  There are two kinds of forgiveness in the New Testament.  One pertains to our eternal salvation (justification by faith), the other to our temporal fellowship with the Father.  The Lord referred to this second kind of forgiveness when He said to Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).  Peter told the Lord to wash him all over if that was the case.  To this Jesus replied, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean” (John 13:10).  The “washing of feet” refers to forgiveness pertaining to one’s walk, to the restoration of fellowship of a regenerate (“bathed”) person.  The believer is told in 1 Corinthians 11:31, “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”  The meaning is plain:  for the believer to deal with his sins in the present will preclude his being judged for them in the future at the judgment seat of Christ.


The danger of apostasy is real.  Many readers of this book have known people who once believed, who witnessed, who prayed, who read their Bibles and yet did not finish their course.  To say they were never saved to begin with begs the question and in many instances contradicts their personal knowledge of those people.

No!  The danger is real, and one must stay close to Christ, or he too can face the prospects of discipline and disinheritance.  The Christian life is not easy and believing God in the midst of trails and suffering is hardest of all.  Many have abandoned faith due to their disappointment with God.

Fortunately, God has not left the believer alone.  God has, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, provided all the resources needed for the believer to avoid this danger and to live the abundant life.  It is to this resource of the power of the Holy Spirit that must now be addressed in the following chapter.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 16—Life in the Spirit

In Romans, chapter 8, the apostle Paul turns from the struggle in chapter 7 and explains the source and method of living abundantly.  It is by the Spirit of God and the use of certain spiritual weapons that the Christian experience can be characterized by “life and peace.”  It is persistence in using the means of grace that will result not only in a vital Christian life, but will gain joint-heirship with the Messiah in the final destiny of man.

To obtain a proper view of the argument of the passage, it is necessary to begin in the middle:

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12, 13)

It seems obvious that it is possible for “brethren” to die.  In some sense a true Christian can experience spiritual death.  Earlier in the context he has defined death as the opposite of life and peace (Romans 8:6).  It is therefore not to be equated with loss of salvation or hell but with emptiness, depression, and spiritual impoverishment.

Freedom from Sin’s Power (8:1-7)

In justification of this interpretation a comment on the flow of the argument of Romans 8:1-11 is necessary.  In Romans 7:14-25 Paul has summarized his experience as a mature Christian—battling daily with the flesh.  The message is that the flesh is weak and unable to win.  How then can he be victorious in the daily struggle?  In 7:25 he gives praise that God provides a means for practical victory, which is the subject of chapter 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

The word “condemnation” (Gk. katakrima) is best rendered “penal servitude” (i.e., freedom from the enslaving power of sin).  It is quite unlikely that the reference is to justification, for that stage of the argument has already been reached in 3:21.  Rather, the “therefore” casts the reader back to the preceding verse, “Thank God.”  Paul thanks God that deliverance from the penal servitude to sin is available.  He then explains how.

This deliverance comes by means of a new and higher principle that Paul calls the “law of the Spirit of life” (i.e., the regulating and actuating power of the Holy Spirit).  This higher law has set him free from the lower one, the law of sin and death, which cannot refer to the law of Moses because that was holy (7:12) and spiritual (7:14), but to the “inward rule of the sin principle.”  The problem was not with the law but with the flesh.  It was too weak to obey.  So God solved this problem by releasing the flesh from its sin master.  This was the subject of Romans 6:1-11 and is now alluded to in chapter 8:

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, for those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:3, 4)

The condemnation of sin occurred while Christ was “in the flesh.”  The condemnation in view is the judgment on the old man (Romans 6:6) that resulted in man being “freed from sin.”  This freedom is a legal release from penal servitude to the “sin master” (i.e., the dominion of sin—the sin principle embodied in the flesh).

The Two Walks (Romans 8:1-4)

Christ condemned sin in the flesh so that the law might be fulfilled in man, but Paul clarifies who among Christians will experience the fulfillment of the law, i.e., those “who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  He therefore presents two possibilities for Christians:  (1) to walk according to the flesh (like non-Christians; elsewhere he uses the phrase “as mere men”—1 Corinthians 3:3), or (2) according to the Spirit.

The phrase “who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” has been taken in several ways, but it is best to understand it as a condition whereby the requirement of the law can be fulfilled in the Christian’s walk:

  1. The immediate context says that the true life is conditional upon “putting to death the deeds of the body” and that this is not automatic.  It is possible for true Christians to “die” (8:12).
  1. The inclusion of the phrase “who do not walk according to the flesh” seems to suggest that there are two possibilities, not one, for the regenerate man.  The condition of retaining this freedom from sin is a direct product of a cooperative effort of the regenerate will.
  1. It seems evident that Paul is referring here to what he has taught elsewhere.  “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).  There the walk is not automatic for all Christians but is conditional.  The contexts (Romans 8 and Galatians 5) appear similar.  Paul also says, “If we live by the Spirit let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).  He is obviously saying that, while all Christians live by means of the Spirit, not all necessarily walk that way.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)

The apostle Paul develops this contrast in verses up through vs. 7, and then resumes the contrast in vss. 12-17.  The following describes the two walks that a Christian may take:

            Spiritual Christian                                           Carnal Christian

8:4       walks according to the Spirit                          walks according to the flesh

8:5       sets mind on Spirit                                          sets mind on flesh

8:6       life and peace                                                  death

8:7                                                                               hostile to God

                                                                                    not subject to God

                                                                                    unable to obey God

8:12     puts to death the deeds of the body               lives according to the flesh

8:13     led by the Spirit of God                                  walk according to the flesh

8:17     joint-heirs of Christ                                         those who don’t suffer with Him

Paul summarizes the first twelve verses with the statement, “So then brethren we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” (8:12).  He saying it is possible for “brethren” to walk according to the flesh; but that it is also entirely possible (and preferable) to walk according to the Spirit—thus, abundant life is meant, and not regeneration.

That it is possible for these brethren not to put to death the deeds of the body is obvious because he says, “if.”  A failure to do this results in the opposite:  death, or walking according to the flesh.  Paul’s picture here is of a battle, a battle between the flesh and the Holy Spirit.  A Christian must choose life or death, fellowship with God or spiritual impoverishment.  He evidently has his own struggle in Romans 7:14-25 in mind.

The Two Minds (8:5-7)

Paul answers the question, “What does it mean to walk according to the flesh (Gk. kata sarka)?”  The answer is that it means to set your mind on the things of the flesh.  These two kinds ostrongf walks begin in the mind:

For to be carnally [according to the flesh] minded is death, but to be spiritually [according to the Spirit] minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

He explains the results of these differing “mind-sets.”  A mind set upon the flesh is death.  By death here he means the opposite of “life and peace.”  Peace in Romans means either peace with God as a result of reconciliation (Romans 1:7; 5:1) or peace in the sense of wholeness, harmonious relations, and mental health (2:17; 14:17, 19; 15:13, 33; 16:20).  The connection with “joy” and harmonious interpersonal relations (Romans 14:17, 19) fits well with the sanctification context of Romans 8 and is the meaning here.

“Life” (Gk. zoe) is often used of an abundant quality of life beyond regeneration, which is the possession of those who “persevere in doing good” (Romans 2:7).  Not just a counterbalance to death is meant, i.e., regeneration, but an abundant life, a vibrant experience with Christ.  It is “newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Death, being the opposite of life and peace, is not final commitment to hell.  It is the life of anxiety and emptiness that comes to any person who sets his mind on the wrong things.

Because the carnal mind [one that is set on the flesh] is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (Romans 8:7)

Here is the key to the seeming inability of many Christians to live consistent, powerful Christian lives.  When a Christian sets his mind on the flesh, he is hostile to God and is cut off from the Holy Spirit [the Holy Spirit is quenched—1 Thessalonians 5:19, and grieved—Ephesians 4:30] and therefore unable to obey and submit to God and thereby experience an abundantly spiritual life.

To say that these verses refer to a contrast between Christians and non-Christians rather than between two kinds of Christians not only contradicts the facts of Christian experience but the rest of the New Testament as well.  According to this view all Christians “walk according to the Spirit (8:4), have their minds “set upon . . . the things of the Spirit (8:5), and have their minds “set upon the Spirit” (8:6).  This contradicts Paul’s teaching elsewhere, which is that walking in the Spirit is not automatic and inevitable (Galatians 5:16).  In addition, it is refuted by the conditionality of this walk in the immediate context of Romans 8.  In vs. 13 the possibility of a rich spiritual experience (“life”) is conditioned upon putting to death the deeds of the body.  It is not the automatic possession of each Christian.  Furthermore, what Christian since Pentecost has ever unconditionally experienced this abundant life, peace, and the fulfillment of the requirements of the law?  To say these things are true of all Christians is a mockery of Christian experience.

Freedom from Sin’s Sphere (8:8-11)

In the Flesh (8:8)

So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:8)

The verse opens with the conjunction (Gk.) de, a flexible conjunction that is often used to express a contrast or a transition to a new subject.  Here it appears that both a contrast and a transition to a different but related subject are intended.  Having spoken of the inability of Christians to obey when their minds are set on the flesh, Paul now reminds them that, if they were unsaved (“in the flesh”), they would have no possibility of knowing the fulfillment of the law in them.  But they ARE saved and therefore not only have the possibility of this experience but the obligation (8:12) to live on this new plane.  The contrast of positions expressed in vss. 8-11 indicates that this passage is not a continuation and exposition of vs. 7; therefore, it seems contextually accurate to translate the introductory Greek conjunction de by “now,” or “now then” or “so then,” signifying a transition to a new thought or subject.

That a transition to a new subject is intended is further substantiated by Paul’s shift from “according to the flesh” (Gk. kata sarka) to “in the flesh” (Gk. en sarki) in vs. 8.  Being “in the flesh” is a different concept than walking “according to the flesh” of 8:1-7.  The New Testament avows that it is possible for true Christians to walk “as mere men” (Gk. kata anthropon)—1 Corinthians 3:3.  It is possible for true Christians to make plans according to the flesh (Gk. kata sarka)—2 Corinthians 1:17.  In an instructive non-ethical usage of “flesh” Paul draws a sharp distinction between being “in the flesh” (en sarki), i.e., in the sphere of bodily existence, and walking “according to the flesh” (kata sarka), i.e., walking according to a standard of weakness (2 Corinthians 10:2, 3).

The fact that Paul distinguishes between en sarki and kata sarka in this non-ethical passage lends support to the distinction that is drawn here.  It is one thing to be “in the flesh”—to be in that sphere of life with only those weak resources, to be unregenerate.  It is another thing to walk “according to the flesh.”  These terms are not synonymous in the New Testament.  Christians can walk “according to the flesh,” but they are never described in the New Testament as being “in the flesh” in an ethical sense.  They are “in the flesh” only in a physical sense.  In vs. 13 Paul says that it is possible for true Christians to “live according to the flesh.”  In that verse he returns to his use of the expression “according to the flesh” (kata sarka) after the parenthetical contrast between Christians and non-Christians in vss. 8-11.  Even if it is possible for true Christians to walk “according to the flesh,” it is emphatically asserted here that true Christians cannot ever be “in the flesh”—a phrase used by Paul in Romans 7:5 to indicate non-Christians.

In the Spirit (8:9-11)

In sharp contrast to their former life “in the flesh,” Paul asserts they are no longer in that sphere.  They are now in a new sphere and thus able to achieve victory due to the presence of the indwelling Spirit.

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11)

The apostle is here teaching that not only does the indwelling Spirit revive and revitalize our spirit (8:10), but indeed, it will one day result in our physical resurrection.

Freedom to Really Live (8:12-17)

To this point Paul has taught the Romans that God has released them from their penal servitude to sin and has made that freedom experientially available to those who walk according to the Spirit (8:1-7).  Then in a parenthetical aside he reminded them that they are no longer unsaved and living in the sphere of the flesh.  Indeed, they have the promise that one day they will be done with it altogether in the resurrection (8:8-11).

Returning to his original topic, Paul concludes that they have therefore no obligation to live in accordance with the flesh (kata sarka).  He introduces the kata sarka phrase again because he now returns to the subject of Christians walking “according to” either the flesh or the Spirit.  Instead, Christians are now free to be as God intended them to be—free to experience true life.

The Two Obligations (8:12, 13)

In order to live abundantly, they must realize that they have no obligation to the sin principle anymore.  Furthermore, they must accept their obligation to live according to the Spirit:

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12, 13)

If Christians (“brethren”) live kata sarka, they will experience death (from spiritual impoverishment to possibly even physical death).  The life of this verse comes as a result of “putting to death the misdeeds of the body” as Christians live kata pneuma.  Paul implies that true Christians are still subject to the “deeds, actions, and pursuits” of the sarx (flesh).  Hence, he exhorts them to make use of the indwelling Spirit, which will result in abundant (spiritual) life.

Those who refuse to believe that a Christian can resort to a carnal state have great difficulty with this passage.  In their system they have little choice but to conclude that “life” (understood only as “eternal life”) comes as a result of perseverance in works.  But the plain words of the passage confute this.  Nowhere in Romans does Paul suggest that heaven is obtained by means of putting to death the deeds of the body.  That would, in fact, be contrary to the entire thrust of the epistle where he is trying to separate works as far as possible from the means of obtaining eternal life, which is by faith alone (Romans 4:5).

Death here (vs. 6) is the spiritual destitution and impoverishment that comes as an ingredient of divine discipline upon the sinning Christian—the opposite of “life and peace.”  This is also the meaning for Paul’s pre-Christian experience of death and spiritual depression as a result of his attempts to find life by means of law (Romans 7:9-11).  “Life” here is abundant life, and not regeneration or heaven.

When Paul says Christians are to put to death the deeds of the body, he says they are to do it “by the Spirit.”  What does he mean?  He means that Christians, in the context of spiritual warfare, are to use spiritual weapons to fight against the death-principle of the flesh.  The emphasis in the New Testament is for the Christian to use the spiritual weapons with which God has equipped him.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The “strongholds” are “arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.”  In order to fight this battle, Paul says the Christian is to destroy speculations and to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” which is the same as setting the mind on the things of the Spirit instead of the things of the flesh.

The Weapons the Christian’s Warfare

Romans gives the Christian three weapons for spiritual warfare, as follow:

  1. By setting one’s mind as to the reality of being “in Christ,” and to battle from that viewpoint, i.e., to present one’s body as “dead to sin and alive in Christ and to refuse to present its members as instruments of unrighteousness but as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).  The Christian is a new person (creation) in Christ; the enemy is no longer a part of him and no longer has unchecked power over him.  The enemy will not have dominion over the Christian if he wars against him form that perspective (Romans 6:1-11b).
  1. By adopting the “spiritual mind,” the mind that fills itself with spiritual thoughts, i.e., to transform the mind by meditation on Scripture (Romans 12:1, 2).  “Out of the heart (mind),” says Solomon, “comes the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  The Christian must take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  1. By faith.  This is the central theme of the epistle:  “But the just (righteous person) shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).  Those that are justified will find abundant life only as they trust God (Proverbs 3:5, 6).  The life of faith is the subject of Ephesians 6 where it is called the Christian’s helmet.  Paul tells the Christian that the power of the Spirit, his indwelling presence, is his by faith.

That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . . (Ephesians 3:16, 17)

These, then, are the Christian’s weapons:  the new man, the new mind, and the new principle—the life of faith.  These are powerful weapons.  The use of them is what Paul means by putting to death the deeds of the flesh.

The Two Sons (8:14, 15)

Paul promises that if a Christian puts the deeds of the body to death, he will find true life.  Now he proceeds to explain what he means by true life.  He says it involves two things:  (1) allowing oneself to be led by the Spirit of God (8:14, 15); and (2) being a joint-heir with the Messiah in the final destiny of man (8:16, 17).

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

(Romans 8:14-16)

Three questions follow:

  1. Who are the sons of God?

Christians can be “sons of God” in two senses in the New Testament.  It is, of course, true that all Christians are sons of God by faith in Christ—all a part of the family of God.  But it is also true that the Greek word for son, huios, takes on a different emphasis depending on the context.  In Matthew 5:45 Christians are to do the work of loving their enemies in order to become sons.  In Matthew 5:9 they need to be peacemakers before they can be called sons of God.  In the book of Revelation it is “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son” (21:7).  It is obvious that these are not conditions for becoming sons of God in the sense of being saved.

Though one becomes a son by justification, he does not possess the filial state (“sons indeed”); he does not really enjoy adoption until he has become loyally submissive to the operation of the Spirit.  This meaning fits well with the context of Romans 8.  Some Christians allow themselves to be led by the Spirit of God, and some do not.  Those who do are “sons indeed” [Editor’s note:  a reference of similarity to “disciples indeed” in John 8:31].  They are the Christians who “put to death the things of the body” and as a result enjoy true (spiritually victorious) life.

That Paul has such a distinction in mind between being a son and behaving as a son is reinforced by the fact that he connects the sonship of vs. 15 with being an adopted son (Gk. huiothesia), which is different from being a son by birth.

The method of adoption intended by Paul may include one or both of the following:

    • Roman adoption:  Very severe and binding, with an emphasis on the father’s power.  The son was almost a slave.  It was like a sale.  All received an equal share of the inheritance.
    • Greek adoption:  A more warm and familial attitude prevailed.  A person would adopt a child if he desired to extend his possessions, due to the development of a deep affection, or even for religious reasons.  He could in his lifetime or by his will extend to a son of another family the privileges of his own family in perpetuity.  But there was the condition that the adopted person must accept the legal obligations and religious duties of the new father.

Paul uses the word “adoption” in both senses depending upon what he wanted to emphasize—the Roman idea when he was emphasizing man’s release from the slavery of sin, and the Greek idea when he was emphasizing the relationships and gifts of sonship.  In fact the argument for the Greek position is quite strong given the warm familial relationship with the words “Abba, Father” and the fact that the idea, like the word, is native Greek.  The Greek view is also favored by the context referring to obedience, i.e, putting to death the deeds of the body.

All Christians are adopted sons by virtue of spiritual birth and the paid-up legal ransom (by Christ), but not all adopted sons fulfill the requirements of adoption even though God does His part.  Adoption is of grace, and is a fact regardless of whether or not the requirements are fulfilled (Galatians 4:5), but only those who do fulfill them are worthy of the name “son” and will finally obtain the inheritance rights.

Only faithful Christians, those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit of God, are “sons indeed.”  They are the ones who are putting to death the deeds of the flesh and who as a result will truly live.

  1. Where are the sons of God led?

As to where this leading takes them, the preceding context makes it clear that it is to holiness.  It finds its object in the putting to death the deeds of the body.  Indeed, the verse is a kind of summary of deliverance from sin and to “life and peace” just described.  When this ministry of the Holy Spirit is viewed with reference to the end of the whole process it is called sanctification [Editor’s note:  Sanctification also refers to the process, not just the end.].

Verses 13 and 14 appear to be precisely parallel:

            Putting to death the deeds of the body = Led by the Spirit

            You will live = Being a Son of God

Galatians 5: 16, 18 provides a parallel to this passage in which the leading is into a holy life:

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. . . . But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:16, 18)

The phrases are parallel and explain each other.  The words “walk in” are the equivalent to “being led by.”

  1. How are the sons of God led?

An examination of the word translated “led” (Gk. ago) suggest the manner in which these sons of God are being led.  All the uses of the word in the New Testament involve the self-action of the object (person) being led.  A person may lead a horse to water, but the horse must comply in the trip using his own energy.  Had Paul wanted to teach that the leading of the Spirit involved only God’s work, he would have used the word “moved” (Gk. phero).  Peter uses this word to explain how the prophets received their message:  “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved (phero) by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (1 Peter 1:21).  The word “moved” suggests that the power and the work are done completely by the Mover, not the will of the prophet.  If Paul had wanted to imply that in the sanctification process Christians are taken up by God and carried to the goal of holiness with no effort or cooperation on our part, he would have used this word.  But he passed over it and used “led” (ago).  This suggests that the Holy Spirit determines the goal and the way of arriving there, but it is by the Christian’s willful cooperation (submission) that he will succeed.

It is for this reason that no prophet could be urged to work out his own message with fear and trembling.  It was not left for him to work out.  But the believer is commanded to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling because he knows that the Spirit is working in him both the willing and doing according to His own good pleasure (Philippians 2:12, 13).

We have then in these two verses (vss. 13, 14) God’s part and man’s part in the process of sanctification.  In vs. 13 it is man’s part to “put to death the things of the body” and enjoy true life.  In vs. 14 it is God’s part to lead Christians along the path of sanctification and that those who allow themselves to be so led are sons, or “sons indeed,” who enjoy true (abundantly spiritual) life.

Finally, Paul says that Christian’s “have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again” (8:15).  Here he means that the Holy Spirit is not a Spirit of bondage but of adoption.  An adopted [Editor’s note:  Wuest translates “adult”] son knows he is in the family.  He is secure forever.  The fear of exclusion from the family of God and the experience of bondage to sin are no longer necessary to those who are “in Christ” (i.e., “in the Spirit”).

The Two Heirships (8:16, 17)

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:16, 17)

Paul then introduces the theme of inheritance, which calls to mind a parallel passage in Galatians:

Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:7)

The passage in Romans, in agreement with Galatians 4:7, says Christians are all heirs of God by virtue of the fact that they are God’s children through faith in Christ.  But it states something else.  It says Christians are also joint-heirs if they share in His sufferings that they may be glorified together.  Placing the comma in a different place (an often arbitrary exercise by translators) brings this out clearly:  “then heirs—heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”   The second heirship mentioned in this verse is conditional upon joining with Christ in His sufferings.  Being an heir of God is unconditional, but being a joint-heir of the kingdom is conditioned upon spiritual perseverance.

The conditional Greek particle eiper regularly takes the meaning “if indeed,” which then emphasizes the conditional nature of joint-heirship.  In favor of this translation (“if indeed”) and the placement of the comma after the phrase, “heirs of God,” is the entire flow of the immediate context (Romans 8:12-14).

Verse 17 in fact introduces two types of inheritance.  If Christians are sons of God, i.e., children, they are heirs of God; and may also be joint-heirs with Christ, if they suffer with Him.  Certainly, being an heir in the sense of final deliverance from hell is not based upon sharing in His sufferings.  Otherwise salvation is earned and based on works.  Contextual considerations suggest that two kinds of Christians are in view, and thus two kinds of inheritances are implied.  The joint-heirship with Christ that results in a rich life now and an abundant life in the kingdom, a reward, is based upon a work:  putting to death by means of the Spirit the deeds of the body and succeeding in victorious perseverance in suffering with Christ.

That two contrasting heirships are being discussed seems to be suggested by Paul’s use of the Greek particles “men . . . de.”  Not readily translatable in English, the sense is something like this, “On the one hand (men . . .) heirs of God, and on the other hand (de) joint-heirs of Christ.”  These particles, when coupling two phrases together, are normally disjunctive and imply a contrast between the items compared, not an equality.  In fact, in every usage of these particles in this way in Romans, they are “always” contrastive and “never” conjunctive.  This suggests that the disjunction comes after the word “God” and not after the word “Christ.”  In other words, we are all heirs of God, and we will be joint-heirs with Christ if we suffer with Him.

In addition to the immediate context and the normal meaning of eiper, the broader context of the New Testament supports the dual heirship view of Romans 8:17.  The inheritance is usually conditioned upon obedience, and salvation from hell is always by faith alone.  In order to become a joint-heir with Christ, one of His metochoi, the Christian must faithfully endure to the end:

This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

As in Romans 8:17, reigning with Christ seems to be conditioned upon endurance.  The converse, those who “deny Him,” will result in His denying them when He rewards His church according to the things done in the body, “good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  The possibility of being “denied” does not refer to loss of salvation, because the apostle clarifies that, even when Christians are “faithless,” God will remain faithful to them.  But it does mean that they may be “disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:27) and will stand ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28).

The purpose for which Christians suffer is “in order that they may be glorified with Christ.”  What does it mean to be glorified with Christ?  Some have made the mistake of equating it to the glorification referred to in vs. 30, which is a glorification that happens to all Christians.  In vs. 17, however, it is the “glory of the Messiah” that is in view and the possibility that Christians might share in it.  In vs. 30, the “Christian’s glorification” is in view, which appears to refer to the perfect conformity to the image of Christ referred to in 8:29.  To be glorified with Christ is to be awarded a share in His glory.  The passage is speaking in messianic terms.  Paul has mentioned that Christians can “suffer with,” “inherit with,” and “be honored with” the Messiah.  “To glorify” is commonly understood as “to honor.”  It is the Messiah’s sufferings, inheritance, and honor in which Christians may possibly share.

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. (Matthew 25:31)

They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” (Mark 10:37)

Eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality . . . but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 2:7, 10)

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

To which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:14)

It is not insignificant that Paul uses the contrasting Greek words of “children” (tekna—“born ones”) and “sons” (huioi—“adult or mature sons”).  Thus, all Christians are “born ones,” children of God.  The Spirit of God testifies to the hearts of all that they are His offspring.  But not all Christians are adult sons in the sense of those who go on to maturity, who maintain a close relationship with Christ, who suffer with Him, and as a result will one day share in His inheritance-kingdom, being honored with Him there.

The Christian’s Final Assurance (8:18-30)

Paul continues:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

The glories of the reign of the Messiah are still in view.  The “for” refers back to the salvation and glory of the messianic kingdom.  The verse explains why Christians should suffer with Christ in order to be glorified with Him.  It is because the blessings of the messianic era are beyond description.  What a tragedy it would be not to have a share in all of them!

These glories are to be revealed “to us” and not “in us” as some translations read.  The Greek is clear, eis hemas (a phrase that is used nine times in the New Testament:  Acts 3:4; Romans 5:8; 8:18; 2 Corinthians 1:5, 11; Ephesians 1:8, 9; Hebrews 2:3.  In each instance the meaning is “toward, to, or upon us.”  It never means “in” in the sense of “within.”).  The wonders of the great future will be revealed to all, but they will be shared in (inherited) only by those who persevere in suffering.  The Christian’s resurrection, while certainly included in this glory, is probably not yet specifically in view here.  The apostle would have used en hemin, “in us,” had he intended this.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)

The “sons of God” are properly those who have allowed themselves to be led by the Spirit, who have walked by means of the Spirit, and who have set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  They are the “sons indeed” referred to in vs. 14.  Not all Christians are sons of God (Gk. huioi) in this sense, but all are children of God (Gk. tekna).  The “revealing of the sons of God” is then the making known to all creation these faithful Christians.  It refers to their installation as the joint-heirs and joint-rulers with the Messiah in the final destiny of man.  The entire creation longs for the future reign of the servant kings.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:20, 21)

This verse explains why the creation longs for this future reign of Christ’s servant kings.  When that future reign dawns, it will include a physical transformation of the creation itself.  The creation has endured a subjection to futility for many ages.  This subjection creates within itself a sense of hope for something better.  That “something better” is a transformation similar to that which will occur to all Christians, “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”  This glorious liberty is part of, but not equal to, the “glory that is to be revealed to us” (vs. 18).  The former is a general term for the glories of the messianic era.  The latter is the glory of a transformed body that all Christians will share in the day of resurrection.

The creation does not share in all aspects of the future glory.  It will never be set free to rule with Christ, the revealing of the sons of God.  No inanimate thing can share in the reign of Christ’s servants.  But the creation will share in an aspect of the future glory common to all the children of God, physical transformation.  For this reason Paul changes from “sons” (vs. 19) to “children” of God in vs. 21.  All children of God will be transformed, but only the “son” will rule with Christ.

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:22, 23)

Verse 23 refers to the completion of the adoption, which consists of the reception of the resurrection body.

That two different aspects of the one future glorification are in view seems probable due to the contextual contrasts between them.  In vs. 17 the glorification is conditional and only for those who suffer with Christ, but in vs. 30 it is unconditional and is for all who are justified.  In vs. 17 it is a sharing in the glory of Messiah, but in vs. 30 it refers to the Christian’s own glorification.  In vs. 17 the verb is “be glorified with,” and vs. 30 the verb is “glorified.”  In vs. 17 it refers to the wonders of the messianic era, but in vs. 30 it refers to the Christian’s ultimate conformity into the image of Christ at the resurrection of the body.  In vs. 17 the verb is in a purpose clause implying intent and not necessarily certainty.  But in vs. 30 it is an indicative implying the certainty of a presently achieved fact.  Verse 17 is in a context that stresses exhortation.  It is a challenge to persevere in order that we might share in Christ’s glory.  But vs. 30 is a statement of fact that we have already, in a prolepic and anticipatory sense, entered into that glory.


Chapter 8 of Romans is a magnificent presentation of the life that is led by the Spirit and of the final outcome of such a life in sharing with the Messiah in the final destiny of man.  It is a challenge to true Christians to live that life by putting to death the deeds of the body by the use of their God-supplied spiritual weapons.  It contrasts two kinds of Christians; it does not contrast the Christian and the non-Christian.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 17—Conditional Security:  The Gospels

Arminians have held as one of their main tenets, distinguishing them from Calvinists, that it is possible for a true Christian to lose his justification—a point of view, while more plausible exegetically than that of the Calvinists, is at odds with not only the major passages on the subject but with the whole thrust of the Gospel itself.  The end result of the Arminian position is a salvation based on works that for its ultimate attainment depends on the Christian’s perseverance to the end of life.

Paradoxically, the Calvinists end up in the same situation.  It makes no difference whether Calvin or Arminius says it.  Those who do not persevere will not be saved.  The only difference is the theoretical explanation behind man’s failure to persevere.  The Calvinist says he was never born again to begin with, and the Arminian says he was saved but lost his salvation.

Numerous passages have been misconstrued to teach the conditional security of the believer.  An attempt will be made here to consider some of those passages in the Gospels that in the history of the church have been thought to support the Arminian position.

Reviewer’s comment:  This chapter covers a host of verses/passages within the Gospels that Arminians use to “prove” their position.  The chapter is rather long and involved, taking under consideration Matthew 5:13; 7:16-19; 18:21-35; 24:13, 45-51; 25:1-13; Luke 8:11-15; John 8:51; 13:8; 15:1-8; 17:12.  This review will share the treatment of John 15:1-8, the analogy of the vine and the branches.  For the others, the reviewer suggests that the reader acquire the book.

John 15:1-8

Few passages have been quoted so often and incorrectly as this one.  Calvinists have been particularly ingenious in their exegesis of this passage.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1, 2)

There is general agreement that the branches that bear fruit and are pruned represent true Christians.  Yet Calvinists say that the branch “in Me” that does not bear fruit is not a true Christian, but only a professing Christian.  Often justification for this interpretation is found by going outside John to the analogy of the vine in Isaiah.  Here there were branches [people] in the tree that were not saved.  Surely this is irrelevant to John 15.  Isaiah speaks of a covenant people.  All Jews (saved and unsaved) are inIsrael, but not all professing Christians are in Christ!  As will be demonstrated, it is extremely unlikely that “in Me” can refer to an “Israel withinIsrael” (i.e., the truly saved within the professing company).  To be “in Me” is not equal to being within professingIsrael.

There is the suggestion that the phrase “in Me” can either be taken adjectivally with the noun “branch” or adverbially with the verb “bearing.”  If it is rendered adverbially, then the translation is, “Every branch not bearing fruit in Me He takes away.”  The phrase “in Me” is then the sphere of enablement and fellowship in which fruit bearing can occur.  The view is exegetically possible.  This rendering seems intrinsically unlikely, however, because it would imply that there are branches not in Christ who bear fruit.  Furthermore, it is simply too awkward to be believable even if it is syntactically possible.  The majority of the commentators and all of the translations, as far as this writer is aware, translate the phrase as an adjective modifying “branch” so that it is a branch “in Me” that does not bear fruit.

The Meaning of “in Me

The phrase “in Me” is used 16 times in John’s gospel (John 6:56; 10:38; 14:10, 11, 20, 30; 15:2, 4, 5, 6, 7; 16:33; 17:21, 23).  In each case it refers to true fellowship with Christ.  It is not possible then to take it as “in the sphere of profession.”  A person “in Me” is always a true Christian.  The preposition “in” (Gk. en) is often used to designate a close personal relationship.  It refers to a sphere within which some action occurs.  So to “abide in Me” is simply to remain in close relationship to Me.  But what kind of relationship is meant?  A review of the sixteen usages in John seems to suggest, that when He used this phrase, the Lord referred to a life of fellowship, a unity of purpose rather than organic connection.  This usage is somewhat different from Paul’s use of it.  While Paul did use the phrase “in Christ” (not “in Me”) in this way, he often used it in a forensic (legal) sense referring to our position in Christ or to our organic membership in His body (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:13).  John never does this.  For him, to be “in Him” is to be in communion with Him and not organically connected in union with Him.

For example, in John 10:38 it speaks of the fellowship between Christ and the Father:

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him. (John 10:37, 38)

Christ evidently does not mean that the Father is inside of Him and He is inside of the Father.  The figure is of a relationship between them.  The works that He does enables them to understand the nature of the relationship.  Certainly, observation of miracles does not prove to the observer that the Lord is of the same essence as the Father, organically connected with Him.  If that were so, then whenever a disciple performed a miracle, it would show that the disciple was also of the same essence.  The miracles prove that God is with Him.  They prove that what God does, He does, and what He does, God does.  They prove that the Son and the Father are like-minded and speak the same things.  Therefore, we are to believe what the Son says because what He says is the same as what the Father says.  So the “in Me” relationship speaks not of organic connection or commonality of essence but of commonality of purpose and commitment.

This distinctive usage in John’s gospel must be carefully noted or his particular contribution to the Christian’s walk with Christ will be obscured.  John was first of all an apostle of love.  He emphasized mystical relationship and oneness with his King.  Paul, on the other hand, makes a different contribution for our understanding of the Christian life and walk.

Paul normally proceeds from a doctrinal base in which he sets forth the objective, legal, and positional basis of our relationship with Christ.  John, however, proceeds from a more mystical and experiential base and from that make his doctrinal conclusions.  While both Paul and John were Jews, no doubt Paul’s Hellenist background and higher education inclined him toward a more systematic and doctrinal method of presenting the Christian faith.  This difference in background probably contributed to John’s conceptualization of the “in Christ” relationship in terms of fellowship instead of Paul’s organic union.

This is borne out in 14:30 where the Lord insists that the ruler of this world has nothing “in Me,” that is, he has no relationship or part with Me, no communion of purpose.  He is not teaching that the ruler of this world has no part of His essence but that they are not like-minded.  “In Me” does not refer to common essence or organic connection here either.

Book footnote:  In 14:20 the Lord says that in “that day” they will know that He is in them and they are in Him.  The sense seems to be, due to the preceding verse, that when they see Him in resurrection, they will know again the fellowship they have with Him now.  This is confirmed by John 16:16 where He also speaks of the fact that in a little while they will no longer behold Him and then in a little while they will see Him, a reference to His appearance in resurrection.  The meaning then is that, when they see Christ in resurrection, they will understand fully some things they do not understand fully now.  At that time they will see clearly that Christ has been operating in complete unity of purpose with the Father and they are in complete unity of purpose with Him.  Apparently seeing Christ in resurrection brought a flood of understanding concerning the Old Testament predictions, Christ’s unity of purpose and obedience to the Father, and solidified their commitment to Him.  The resurrection forever removed doubts regarding His deity and resulted in a change that lasted the rest of their lives.  That is when they knew the experience of unity and fellowship, “you in Me and I in you,” with their resurrected Lord.

That “in Me” means oneness of purpose and not organic connection is further brought out in 17:21.  Here Christ prays for he same kind of oneness among the disciples that He enjoys with the Father, oneness of love and fellowship.  He prays this for all His followers.  If the “in Me” relationship referred to organic connection, He would not pray that organic connection be achieved; it already had been!

That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:21-23)

Again it is not a saving relationship that is portrayed by “in Me” but a life of communion, a oneness of purpose and not of organic union.  In John 3:21 Jesus refers to the fact that His works have been done “in God,” meaning that His works were done in communion or fellowship (unity) with the Father.

In conclusion, then, the use of the phrase “in Me” in John’s writings does not require the sense of organic connection often found in Paul’s writings.  To be “in Me” is simply to be in fellowship with Christ, living obediently.  Therefore, it is possible for a true Christian not to be “in Me” in the Johannine sense.  That this is true seems evident from the command to “abide in Christ.”  They are to remain in fellowship with their Lord.  If all Christians remain “in Me,” then why command them to remain in that relationship?  It must be possible for them not to remain.

The Meaning of “Abide

The lexicons seem to be unanimous in saying the Greek verb meno simply means “to remain.”  It is used often in John and in every instance is simply means to remain, to stay, to continue, or to endure.

Book footnote:  For example, Hauck says it means “to stay in a place.”  Figuratively, “to remain in a sphere,” to stand against opposition, to endure, to hold fast” . . . .  The word is used of the permanence of God in contrast to human mutability.  God’s counsel “endures” (Romans 9:11), His Word “endures” (1 Peter 1:23, 25), the New Covenant “endures” (2 Corinthians 3:11), and faith, hope, and love “endure” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  Paul uses meno of the perseverance of believers in the faith (1 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 2:13, 15).  If we “endure,” we will reign with Him.  If we are faithless, He “remains” faithful.

In another translation the word is translated “remain.”  Christ commands His disciples to remain in Him.  It must be possible not to remain or endure in Christ or he would not command them to remain in that relationship.  What does it mean to “abide” (remain) in Christ?”  In John 6:56 it means to eat His flesh and drink His blood [a reference this reviewer believes refers to the consumption of the Word who became flesh—initially by faith in regeneration and continuously by faith in the consumption of Bible doctrine (vs. 63), i.e., sanctification].

The relationship of “remaining in Him” or “continuing in Him” of which it speaks is not a static gift of justification but of life and life abundant (10:10).  When Jesus says that the man who believes in Christ remains in fellowship with Him, He is speaking a general maxim.  He knows that there are Christians who will not continue to maintain their fellowship.  The proof of this is that in John 15:4 He commands them to continue to abide and He puts the verb in the imperative mood instead of indicative present participle as found in John 6:56.  If it is not possible for believers to terminate their disposition of remaining in fellowship with Christ, why would Christ warn them about this possible failure?  It is nonsense to warn against a danger that no Christian will face or an action no Christian will commit.

So the first condition of abiding is to believe on Christ.  Other conditions for remaining in fellowship with Christ are:

  1. Walk as He walked—1 John 2:6; 3:15; 4:12.
  2. Love the brethren—1 John 2:10.
  3. Be strong in the faith—1 John 2:14.
  4. Do the will of God—1 John 2:17.
  5. Hold to the truth—1 John 2:24.
  6. Keep His commandments—1 John 3:24; John 15:10.
  7. Confess Christ as the Son of God—1 John 4:15.

The rewards for meeting all of these conditions are great, i.e., first, being truly His disciples (John 8:31), but most of all, to be able to stand before Him with confidence when He returns (1 John 2:28).

God remains in fellowship with His children only if they love one another (1 John 4:12).  A person becomes a Christian, however, by faith alone.  It is through the experience of the Holy Spirit that Christians enjoy the fellowship of the Father and He with them (4:13).  It is literally “out of” (Gk. ek) the Spirit that Christians enjoy this relationship.  This precise wording occurs in the following:

Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24)

The condition of remaining in fellowship with Christ is obedience.  The Christian knows of this fellowship “out of the Spirit” He has given.  The Holy Spirit is the energizing source behind this obedience.

Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.  Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 8, 9)

Because “abide” means “remain” or “continue,” it is evident that there are those who were once in the teaching of Christ who did not continue in that teaching.  John is following up on his warning in the preceding verse about the danger of losing their rewards at the judgment seat of Christ.  When he says such a believer does not “have God” when he falls into deviation from the teaching of Christ, he is not saying that he is not regenerate.  He means that God was not involved in this defection from pure doctrine.  There is no exegetical evidence of which this writer is aware that “having God” ever means “be saved” in Johannine literature.  It is roughly equivalent to saying, “He has (a walk with) God” or “He has God with him in this.”  It is functionally the same as having “eternal life remain in him,” which for John, means “having Jesus Christ remain in fellowship with him” (1 John 3:15).

It is simply not possible, therefore, to equate abiding with believing.  Abiding involves all these works such as obedience, avoiding hatred, having love, confession of Christ, remaining strong in the faith, holding on to truth, and continuing in His Word.  Whatever belief is, it is not conditioned upon works, nor does it consist of works (Galatians 3:5).

The Analogy of the Vine and the Branches

The analogy of the vine and the branches is therefore intended to signify some kind of relationship to Christ.  The analogy signifies not an organic connection, but a dynamic fellowship.  A branch “in Me” is not portraying an analogy of a branch organically connected to Christ as a literal branch is organically connected to a vine, rather it is portraying a branch deriving its sustenance from Christ and living in fellowship with Him (as a literal branch derives sustenance from a literal vine).  This is proven by the fact that “in Me” means “in fellowship with Me.”  The analogy is used to illustrate the “in Me” relationship.  The consequence of being “taken away” (vs. 2) has been understood in at least four different ways:

  1. Lifted up and encouraged.
  2. Lose salvation.
  3. Separation from superficial connection with Christ.
  4. Divine discipline in time and loss of rewards.

Reviewer’s comment:  The writer goes into detail on these four possibilities, but this review will cover only the first and the last.

1.  The Greek word airo, which is translated “takes away,” is best rendered “lifts up” as it is ten times in John’s gospel.  It was a common practice to lift fallen vines with meticulous care and allow them to heal.  If that is the meaning, then a fruitless branch in fellowship with Christ is lifted up to put it into a position of fruit bearing.  There is no contradiction with vs. 6.  There a branch that does not abide is “cast out” (Gk. ekballo, a different word).  This would suggest that the heavenly Vinedresser first encourages the branches and lifts them in the sense of loving care to enable them to bear fruit.  If after this encouragement, they do not remain in fellowship with Him and bear fruit, they are then cast out.  So vs. 6 and vs. 2 do not have to be parallel.  We have in vs. 2 a divine promise that every unfruitful Christian who is not bearing fruit and yet is walking in fellowship will receive divine encouragement.  It is possible for a Christian to be in fellowship with God and yet not be bearing fruit for an extended period of time.  The Puritans called it “the dark night of the soul,” and their practical treatises on sanctification are full of discussions of how to trust God during this time.

4.  The final possibility is that the destiny of these unfruitful branches is divine discipline in time, possible physical death, and loss of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ.  This was the view propounded by Lewis Sperry Chafer and fits the context well.  The consequences of the failure of a Christian to abide in Christ are now explicitly set forth:

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:6)

The Lord is saying that, if a Christian does not remain in fellowship with Him, he will be thrown away (Gk. ekballo, “cast out”).  The reference is to the severance of a branch from the vine.  As argued above, the point of the figure of the vine and the branches is not to portray organic connection but enablement and fellowship.  This casting out, then, is not from salvation but from fellowship.  The result is that these branches, the carnal Christians, are cast into the fire.

To what does the fire refer?  Fire is a common symbol in the Bible for the judgment of God’s people in time (e.g., Isaiah 26:11).  Only rarely and exceptionally is it associated with the fires of hell.  They are therefore cast out of the fellowship with Christ and into divine judgment in time.


John 15:1-8 tells us that when a believer is in fellowship with Christ but is not bearing fruit due to immaturity of injury, our Lord lovingly lifts him up so that he can bear fruit.  The believer who is in fellowship with Christ and who is bearing fruit is pruned so that he can bear more fruit.  The analogy of the vine and the branches signifies fellowship with Christ, not organic connection with Him.  The believer who does not remain in fellowship with Christ through disobedience is cast out in judgment, withers spiritually, and faces severe divine discipline in time and loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ.  There is nothing in this passage that demands that he loses his salvation.  Neither is there anything here to suggest that all believers will always bear fruit.  It is only the believer who remains in fellowship who will bear fruit.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 18—Conditional Security: The Letters of Paul

Romans 6:15-23

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  Certainly not!  Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?  But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.   I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.   But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:15-23)

Arminians are impressed with the commands to believers to continue to present their bodies as servants of righteousness (Romans 6:19).  They recognize that the consequence of failure to do so is death:  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).  Death here is contrasted with “eternal life.”  In chapter 7 the precise meaning of that term was considered at length and those results may now be applied here.  The term “eternal life” is used four times in Romans (2:7; 5:21; 6:22, 23).  In two cases eternal life is viewed from the standpoint of abundant life, an enriched experience of life that was begun at regeneration.  That rich experience of life is conditioned upon obedience:

Who “will render to each one according to his deeds”:  eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.

(Romans 2:6, 7)

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. (Romans 6:22).

The outcome of sanctification, a gradual process involving our faith and obedience, is eternal life.  The other reference to the term is in 5:21 where Paul says that “grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life.”  This may refer to the initial inception of eternal life at regeneration, not the enriched experience of it due to faith and obedience.  However, it could also refer to the reign of the believer, an experience beyond regeneration.

Throughout the book of Romans Paul uses the terms “life” and “death” in various ways.  Normally “life” refers to a rich present experience of and with Christ and not specifically regeneration.  Conversely, “death” is commonly its opposite, spiritual impoverishment, and not hell:

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

The reign of death is a reference to the fact that all men physically die, even those who have not disobeyed the law because they have not yet heard of it (Romans 5:14).  In contrast to the reign of death, something “much more” is available to the believer, a “reign in life.”  If all that was meant was regeneration or resurrection, then a mere balance with the reign of death would be referred to, and not something “much more.”  It is for this reason that many expositors interpret the reign in life not just with regenerate life but with the rulership in the future age, the “consummation of [our] redemption in the Messianic Kingdom in the world to come.”

This is parallel to Paul’s statement:

If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.

(2 Timothy 2:12)

It is likely that Paul refers to the same reign in life, similarly conditioned upon our perseverance in suffering with Him, as seen in the following:

And if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:17)

In Romans 6:4 (Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life) “life” is “newness of life.”  He refers not just to regeneration but to the full experience of a “walk” in newness of life.  And the life and death contrast is continued in Romans 7.  In his pre-Christian days Paul viewed himself as “alive” spiritually (Romans 7:9), but when the full implications of the law dawned upon him, he was defeated with guilt and “died” in the sense of depression and defeat in his spiritual struggle.  He certainly did not die in the sense of “go to hell” for all men are born dead in that regard.

“Life” refers to “abundant life,” and not just regeneration, is also indicated in 8:6 (For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace) where it is associated with “peace” in “life and peace.”

Consistent with his predominant usage of the terms in the epistle, Paul is also speaking of “life” and “death” in the sense of abundant life and spiritual impoverishment in Romans 8:13:  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

No doubt James had a similar idea in mind when he wrote to Christians in whom the Word had been “implanted”:

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:12-15)

That James is talking to Christians is obvious.  And it is equally obvious that these Christians can in some sense die.  The “death” they might potentially experience from a failure to be “doers of the Word” is the death of spiritual impoverishment.

It is in this way that, contextually, “eternal life” and “death” are to be understood in Romans 6:23.  The result of sin in the life of a Christian is spiritual impoverishment (7:15:25).  A non-Christian is already dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1).  The wages earned by sin secures the same result as that obtained by the man who lives according to the flesh (8:13), spiritual failure; but in no case is this to suggest that spiritual failure is to be equated with loss of justification.  Death cannot mean “go to hell.”  The apostle emphatically declares just the opposite:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39)

Eternal life is indeed a “free gift.”  But the growth and full enjoyment of that free gift is the product of faith and obedience (i.e., sanctification, 6:22) and “persevering in doing good” (2:7).

Romans 11:22

In Romans 11:11 Paul makes a perplexing statement:

I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. (Romans 11:11)

It is perplexing because of the widely held equation of salvation with final deliverance from hell.  Such a meaning of salvation here results in the absurd teaching that no Gentiles were delivered from hell untilIsraelhad first been offered such deliverance and then rejected it.  But salvation here does not mean deliverance from hell but rather, “riches for the world.”

Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! (Romans 11:12)

Paul is speaking here of the national promises toIsrael, and not of the individual redemption of particular Jews or Gentiles.  What is in view is the “greater riches” of joint participation with the Messiah in the final destiny of man!  The natural branches,Israel, were broken off of the tree of Abrahamic blessing.  This means they forfeited their participation in the promises to Abraham.  It does not refer to being broken off from heaven but from “riches.”

Unnatural branches, Gentiles, were grafted into the place of Abrahamic blessing, the Kingdom rule.  This is Paul’s teaching when he reveals that Gentiles have been made “fellow heirs” of the promises (Ephesians 3:6; cf. 2:11-22).

Paul, in the last chapter of Acts and after concluding that the Jews were not open to the kingdom of God (28:23), concludes that the kingdom of God has been taken from the Jews:  “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it! (28:28).  He evidently has Psalm 98 in mind:

The LORD has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.  He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. (Psalm 98:2, 3)

The psalm goes on to describe the rule of the coming Messiah:

For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98:9)

The “salvation” of the Lord is not, in this passage, deliverance from hell but the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom.

Jews and Gentiles, who were formerly enemies, have been reconciled in one body in Christ.  The enmity between them, due to the Gentile rejection of the law, has been removed by eliminating the law so that “He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations” (Ephesians 2:14-15).  Now those who were “aliens” and “far off” and “strangers to the covenants of promise” are brought near (2:12).

Paul refers to this same reconciliation between Jew and Gentile in Romans:

For if their being cast away [rejection] is the reconciling of the world [removal of enmity between Jew and Gentile], what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (11:15)

If, due to the Jewish national rejection of the Messiah, the Gentiles were grafted into the place of blessing, think what will happen when the Jews return to the Messiah.  It will be like “life from the dead,” magnificent universal righteousness in the coming 1,000 year Kingdom of God.

Now drawing a lesson from the national loss ofIsraeland national gain by the Gentiles, Paul applies this in personal terms to individual Gentiles.  He warns them that just as the Jewish nation was “cut off” nationally, so they too can be “cut off” individually:

Therefore consider the goodness [kindness] and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness [kindness], if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.  And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. (Romans 11:22, 23).

There is a real danger here.  An individual Gentile can be “cut off” just as nationalIsraelwas cut off.  But from what was nationalIsrael“cut”?  They were not “cut off” from heaven, because heaven was never offered on national grounds, only on individual grounds.  One did not go to heaven because he was born a Jew but because he believed.  Rather, nationalIsraelwas temporarily cut off from their rights to the covenants and promises.  Instead of fulfilling their destiny, they are nationally under discipline until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  Then allIsraelwill be “saved,” i.e., restored to her privileged place of rulership over the millennial earth.

The danger to which Paul then refers is that Gentile believers may individually, like Israel did nationally, forfeit their opportunity to share in that great future salvation, the Kingdom of God, joint rulership with the Messiah in the future reign of the servant kings.  The wild olive tree onto which the Gentiles have been grafted and from which could be “cut off” is not heaven.  It is the privilege of sharing in the Abrahamic promises made toIsraelregarding the great land and the great nation.  Forfeiture of personal salvation is not Paul’s concern here; rather, it is the loss of rewards.

“God’s kindness,” His inclusion of believers in this great future purpose, is contingent upon continuing in His kindness (Romans 11:22), i.e., upon their perseverance to the end of life.  Such “continuing” is not inevitable, for Paul warns them of the consequences of failure, i.e., being “cut off.”  Christ spoke of dead or useless branches being cut off from fruit bearing and communion in John 15 (cf. 2, 6).  In Hebrews the readers are warned that they are partakers, sharers in the final destiny of man, only if they hold fast the beginning of their assurance firm until the end (3:13).

Strict Calvinistic exegesis of this passage is severely deficient.  In their equation of the wild olive tree with heaven the Calvinists give the argument away to those of an Arminian perspective.  The proof, they say, that a man is truly born again is that he “continues in His kindness.”  The problem is, however, that, if he does not, he is cut off from the wild olive tree.  To be cut off from it obviously implies that one was once part of it.  In other words, he had salvation and lost it, which is precisely the view of many Arminian interpreters.

However, both Arminians and strict Calvinists have missed the point of the context, which has nothing to do with gaining and losing heaven.  It has to do with gaining and losing “salvation,” joint participation with the Messiah in the rulership of the coming Kingdom.

1 Corinthians 3:16, 17

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17)

Although some hold that these verses refer to some type of sin, e.g., suicide, which results in the loss of the believer’s salvation (justification; heaven); this is not the case.  Furthermore, even though Paul uses the word “temple” to refer to the believer’s physical body in 1 Corinthians 6:19, this too is not what Paul means by the word in this passage.

The “temple” in this passage is the local assembly of believers, not the individual Christian.  The context of the passage falls within Paul’s comments pertaining the building up of the local assembly by various ministers (1 Corinthians 3:5-8).  He is concerned about the divisions inCorinth and how the building up of this local assembly is progressing.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.

(1 Corinthians 3:8, 10)

The assembly (building or temple) was rife with carnality (3:3, 4).  There were fights and lawsuits among its members, which were disrupting their unity and threatening to destroy the assembly.  The view of the “temple” in this passage is widely accepted because it flows naturally out of the context.  Here the local church is viewed as a temple of God inhabited by the Spirit; in 1 Corinthians 6:19 the individual is atemple ofGod.

The destruction in this context does not refer to any particular sin such as suicide, but it refers to the destruction of the local body of believers.  And the consequences from God toward anyone who would destroy the local assembly is from a temporal perspective, their own physical destruction (1 Corinthians 5:5); and from an eternal perspective, a loss of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

In conclusion, there is no justification in this passage for the teaching that a believer can commit some sin, even suicide, which can in any way affect his eternal destiny.  That destiny is secure because it does not depend upon what the believer does but upon what Christ has done for the believer.  Jesus declared that He will lose “none” of those whom the Father has given to Him (John 6:39, 40; 10:27-29).

1 Corinthians 8:11

And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

(1 Corinthians 8:11)

The weak brother can “perish.”  The same word is used in John 3:16 for eternal damnation.  Yet it seems foolish to believe that Paul is teaching that a man can lose his position in Christ because he came under the influence of a carnal Christian.  The Greek word apollumi means “to come to naught or to lose.”  A man could lose heaven or a temporal place of usefulness or reward at the judgment seat of Christ.  In fact, Jesus uses it in connection with losing one’s reward in Matthew 10:42.  Paul’s meaning, expressed in contemporary language, would be something like “shattered, deeply hurt and crushed.”  The weaker brother is so shaken by observing his fellow Christian doing an “unthinkable” act that for a while at least, he is of no use to Christ.  It could even mean that he becomes so demoralized that in the end he forfeits any possibility of reward for himself (Romans 14:15).  It does not mean that he loses his salvation.

1 Corinthians 15:1, 2

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1, 2)

Arminians and strict Calvinists both find evidence for their doctrine pertaining to security of the believer, but other interpretations are more logical, such as:

  1. The phrase “hold fast” can also be rendered “to take into one’s possession,” or simply “to possess.”  If it means this, then the verse would mean that a person is saved if he posses the Word that Paul preached to him, i.e., if he took into his possession the gospel (referring to the original act of saving faith).
  1. Paul uses the first-class condition when he says “if.”  This condition assumes the truth of a proposition for the sake of argument.  In contexts where the proposition actually is true, it can be rendered “since;” therefore, Paul is saying, “By this gospel you are saved since you possess the Word,” which was preached to them.
  1. Salvation has three tenses in the New Testament.  The past tense refers to one’s salvation from sin’s penalty (2 Peter 3:15).  The present tense refers to one’s salvation from sin’s power, the process of sanctification by which God daily conforms us to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:6).  The future tense speaks of the believer’s deliverance from the presence of sin at the Rapture or death (Romans 13:11).  This passage refers to the present tense of salvation, the believer’s deliverance from sin’s power.  This deliverance is conditioned upon our continuing to hold fast to Christ.

Galatians 5:4

You have become estranged [severed] from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)

Although it is common for Christians who are of a certain Arminian persuasion to use the phrase, “fallen from grace,” they usually are unaware of where it came from and to what it originally referred.  To understand its original meaning and how it should always be used, it is necessary to understand how the Apostle Paul first used it in referring to those to whom he was addressing in the book of Galatians.

Paul was writing to Christians who were being influenced by a group of false teachers who taught that salvation is apprehended by faith in Christ plus works, i.e., keeping the law.  These false teachers had a particular fixture on the rite of circumcision (5:6).  The danger Paul’s readers faced was not loss of salvation (justification) or even a lapse into immorality.  Their danger was that they might return to the bondage of the law.

It is clear that falling from grace is not a reference to loss of salvation.  If it was, Paul would have mentioned something about hell or loss of heaven.  The only thing Paul stresses is that they are about to return to a “yoke of bondage.”

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)

In fact, the context of the entire epistle to the Galatians was a treatise on the danger of turning from “the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,” which was being proffered by some “who trouble you and want to pervert [distort] the gospel of Christ.”

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6, 7)

It is within this context that Paul uses the phrase, “fallen from grace.”  Nowhere in the context of the epistle or the immediate context of the passage in question does Paul say that loss of salvation is possible.  Rather, he is trying to prevent his readers from returning to a law-system as a way of life.

Paul’s warning in verse 2 of chapter 5 is strictly against being drawn back into the legalistic system of the Mosaic code from which his readers have been liberated.  To return to the law-system forfeits the freedom from law that Christ’s death accomplished.  It does not forfeit salvation.

Another phrase in Galatians 5:4 is likewise misinterpreted.  It is: “You have become estranged [severed] from Christ.” This phrase, literally from Greek, means something like “you have been made to receive no effect from Christ.”  But what “effect” is Paul speaking of, sanctification or justification?  The following verse presents a righteousness that is to be waited for and that comes through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Clearly, a moral, not a forensic, righteousness is anticipated.

Thus, sanctification is the effect that the readers will not receive in verse 4.  To return to the law way of life results in their receiving none of the sanctifying effects of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  It is in this sense that they are “estranged” or “severed” from Christ.

It is doubtful that the word “grace” (Gk. charis) is ever used in the New Testament of the “state” of salvation [Editor’s comment:  Although it is used for the basis of salvation, Ephesians 2:8].

Editor’s note:  The author states that Romans 5:2 may be a possible exception to this.  But in context with verse 1, the meaning becomes clear:

Therefore, having been justified by faith [salvation], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace [sanctification] in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

(Romans 5:1, 2)

There is no question that grace is the basis of all that God provide to and for the believer.

Two different ways of living the Christian life are being contrasted in Galatians 5, not two different eternal states.  To “fall from grace” and to be “estranged or severed from Christ” in this context is to fall into law, not into damnation.

Colossians 1:23

. . . yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Both Arminians and Calvinists appeal to this passage in support of their positions.  Both misinterpret it.  The focus (context) here is on being presented holy, blameless, and beyond reproach.  Paul is laboring to present the Colossians, truly regenerate people, with the charge to “continue in the faith.”  Nonbelievers do not have faith in which to continue.

Their goal is sanctification, not salvation (justification).  Throughout the New Testament there is portrayed the fact that eventually believers will be presented before their King, a time when some will be revealed as faithful and others as unfaithful servants (Luke 19:16-19).

Editor’s comment:  The author continues with various other arguments for sanctification and not salvation as the trust of this passage.  It is recommended to the readers of this review to acquire the author’s book for a full treatment.

2 Timothy 2:12

This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Here the promise of reigning with Christ, being rewarded in the coming MillennialKingdomis in the forefront.  Those who are victorious in suffering and who persevere to the end will enjoy a joint-participation with Christ in the future reign of the servant kings.  This theme is extensively presented in the New Testament (Matthew 16:24-27; 19:28, 29; Luke 22:28-30; Romans 8:17; Revelation 2:26, 27; 3:21).

That this is Paul’s meaning is clear from the opening word “for,” which points the reader back to verse 10:

Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

As discussed in Chapter 6, the word “salvation” does not necessarily mean “final deliverance from hell.”  Indeed, in this context such a meaning would be most inappropriate.  Paul has been discussing the rewards for perseverance (2 Timothy 2:5).  This “salvation” is an additional crown that comes to those who are already saved, the elect. It is not salvation from hell for which Paul labors on behalf of the elect but that they might also posses “eternal glory,” i.e., “receive honor.”  This is the same as receiving the crown mentioned earlier (2:5); therefore, to “reign with Him” is the reward, the salvation, the crown promised to those who persevere.

But in what sense can a believer “deny” Christ?  It is the opposite of “enduring” in the preceding phrase.  To deny Christ then is to fail to persevere in faith to the final hour.  The result is that then Christ will also deny the believer, not of heaven, but from the privilege (the reward) of reigning with Christ during theMillennialKingdom.

But even when the believer does “deny” his Lord, Christ remains faithful and will not deny Himself, in which all believers are permanently connected by the baptizing and sealing power of the Holy Spirit, the believer’s eternal security and promise of eternal life.


It is somewhat ironic that Paul, the apostle of grace, should be interpreted in such a way that salvation could be lost.  The great apostle of liberty provides the clearest possible exposition of the grace of God and the absolute security of the justified.  This topic will be explored in more detail in chapter 21.

Just as “death” does not always mean eternal death, neither does “salvation” always mean deliverance from hell.  When Paul refers to “salvation” coming to the Gentiles in Romans 11, it is clear that salvation from hell is not in view.  Rather, he refers to the future kingdom promised toIsrael in the Old Testament.  Gentiles can now have a share in this great future.  Just as nationalIsrael lost much, so individual Gentiles can also be cut off.  But they are not cut off from heaven, only from the privilege of sharing in the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise, the future reign of the servant kings.

The other passages referred to in this chapter are easily interpreted in ways that are perfectly consistent with the doctrine of eternal security.  The famous “if” clause of Colossians 1:23 does not cast doubt upon the believer’s ultimate arrival in heaven but upon his arriving there mature and pure.  When Christ says He will deny the believer who denies Him, He does not mean that the believer will be denied entrance into heaven.  He means he will be denied the opportunity of reigning with Christ in the Kingdom.

Arminians can find little support for their doctrine of conditional security in Paul’s writings.  In the General Epistles, however, they often feel their case is secure, particularly in the warning of Hebrews, chapter 6.  This passage is quoted more than any other by Arminians in defense of their doctrine of conditional security.  This passage will be covered in detail in the next chapter; in fact, due to the complexity of the passage and the frequency with which it is quoted in defense of the Arminian view, an entire chapter will be devoted to it.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 19—Conditional Security:  Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6:4-12

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;  but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.  But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.  For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.  And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:4-12)

Few passages have had greater impact on Arminian thinking than this fearful warning about falling away and entering into such a spiritual state that it is impossible to be renewed to repentance.  Strict Calvinists have exercised ingenuity in their attempts to maintain the doctrine of final perseverance in the face of the seemingly plain statements confuting it in this passage, their exegesis widely acknowledged as “theological” rather than “exegetical.”  Of these two positions the Arminian view is more defensible; however, there is another option.

The Exhortation (6:1-3)

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection [maturity], not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  And this we will do if God permits. (Hebrews 6:1-3)

The opening phrase “therefore” is best taken as referring to the preceding verses (5:11-14) as a whole.

Of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Because of the reader’s spiritual dullness, they need to commit themselves to learning and applying the truth and to press on to maturity.  They need to be able to distinguish “good and evil,” and the author of this epistle wants them to move from “milk” (receiving truth) to “solid food, (more in-depth truth and its application).

In the midst of his discussion regarding the Melchizedekian priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:1-10) the author pauses to rebuke the readers for their spiritual stupor (5:11-14), to exhort them to press on to maturity (6:1, 2), to warn them about the danger of falling away (6:4-6), to illustrate to them the danger with an analogy from nature (6:7, 8), and to encourage them regarding confidence in their spiritual status and their need to finish what they have begun (6:9-12).  He then returns to his main theme, the priesthood (Melchizedekian) of Christ in chapter 7.

The apostle’s focus in this passage is for these (true, not professing) Christians to grow to spiritual maturity.  They “ought to be teachers, “but they are “dull of hearing,” i.e., slow to learn.  They need “milk,” not “solid food.”  This is a frequent metaphor of Paul, who also contrasts “babes” (Gk. nepios) with those who are mature (Gk. teleioi), such as is found in 1 Corinthians 2:6; Galatians 4:3; and Ephesians 4:13, 14.  Like these other references in the New Testament, the “babes” here are not non-Christians but “infant” Christians who have refused to grow spiritually.  The spiritual “maturity” in view is the same as that described in the preceding verse—not just spiritual understanding, i.e., advanced mental perception, but it is experiential righteousness and spiritual discernment (5:14).

The author is addressing Christians, since non-Christians (professing Christians) cannot grow in their ability to experientially apply the Word (Bible doctrine) to daily life and have their spiritual senses trained in spiritual discernment.  They are to go beyond the foundation of repentance and the elementary teachings about Christ and faith in God.  He says, “And this we will do if God permits.”  What is it that we will do, “God permitting,”?  The antecedent of “this” cannot be “laying again the foundation” because then the author would be saying, “Let us go beyond the foundation, and we will lay the foundation, if God permits,” yielding nonsense.  The immediate antecedent of “this” is obviously “let us go on to perfection [maturity].”  And in phrasing it this way, he is preparing them for the warning to follow because God may not permit it (the advance in spiritual maturity) just as He did not permit the exodus generation to enter into their inheritance-rest, the land o fCanaan.

The Warning (6:4-6)

For it is impossible for those who were once [once for all] enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, and have fallen away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

The transitional word “for,” which is incorrectly omitted in some translations, establishes a causal link with what the author has just said about going forward to spiritual maturity, God permitting.  What is the precise nature of this link?  It appears to refer back to the phrase “this we will do,” i.e., “go on to perfection [spiritual maturity].”  Thus, the author explains by this warning why it is necessary to press on to spiritual maturity.  It is because if not there is the danger of “falling away,” a condition from which it is impossible to be renewed to repentance [specifically, a condition from which it is impossible to “change one’s mind” and return].

Because this warning suggests the possibility of final apostasy of the regenerate man, strict Calvinists have labored to demonstrate that only professing non-Christians are the subject of the warning.  Typically, their exegesis consists of an attempt to prove that the descriptive phrases (“enlightened,” tasted the heavenly gift,” “become partakers,” and “tasted the good Word of God”) do not necessarily refer to regenerate people.

Instead, they argue that they could only refer to those exposed externally to the influence of the Gospel through association with Christians and sitting under the preaching of the Word of God.  Yet, most commentators in the history of the Church have found little difficulty in understanding that the components of this warning in Hebrews are addressed to genuine Christians.

Several things are said of these people who are capable of “falling away.”  The central theme is enlightenment.  The last four phrases explain what characterizes those who have been enlightened.”  The five phrases that are all united under the word “who,” which describes these people (6:4, 5) are as follow:

  1. were once enlightened
  2. te . . . and have tasted the heavenly gift
  3. kai . . . and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit
  4. kai . . . and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come
  5. kai . . . and have fallen away

All statements are united under the same “who” and there is no reason for taking number 5 as conditional (i.e., “if they fall away”) even though some translations attempt to do so.  Furthermore, whenever the Greek word te is followed by kai . . . kai, they must all be taken the same way.  In other words, four of the five cannot be circumstantial participles but the fifth one conditional.  Therefore, it is not impossible for those characterized by 1-4 to fall away from the faith.


The Greek word for enlightened is photisthentas, a common word in the New Testament.  In John 1:9 it is used of Christ as the true light who enlightens every person that comes into the world—mostly likely a kind of general enlightenment short of actual conversion.  In Hebrews, however, this is not likely.  The addition of “once for all” or “conclusively” (Gk. hapax) and the defining phrases that follow indicate that the enlightenment of conversion is probably its true meaning.

In Ephesians 1:18 the apostle Paul applies it to Christians in his prayer for their enlightenment.  The author of Hebrews uses it of his readers’ initial reception of the gospel: “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated (enlightened), you endured a great struggle with sufferings” (10:32).  Those who received this light are those who have confessed Christ (10:35), who have proven their regeneration by a life of works and hope of heaven (10:32-34), who have been sanctified (10:29), and who possess the imputed righteousness of Christ (10:38).  In Hebrews it is used only of true conversion.

In 2 Corinthians 4:4-7 receiving the light is used for regeneration.  In 1 Peter 2:9 coming out of darkness into light is described as conversion.  Indeed, the movement from darkness to light is a popular theme in the apostle John’s writings for the movement from death to life, conversion (John 5:24).  Jesus called Himself the light of the world (John 8:12) and said “I have come into this world so that the blind will see” (John 9:39).

The readers of Hebrews have been hapax photisthentas (“once for all” enlightened).  The word hapax often has a sense of finality in it.  It is the opposite of “again” (Gk. palin) in verse 6.  It is used by the writer to describe the once-for-all entrance into the Holy of Holies by the high priest on the Day of Atonement, in contrast to the regular and repeated entrances by the priests during the preceding year (Hebrews 9:7).  He uses it of Christ’s “once-for-all” appearance at the end of the age to do away with sin (Hebrews 9:26) and of the finality of death that comes upon all men (9:27).  It is applied to the “once-for-all” taking away of sin by Christ’s sacrifice (9:28).  And the apostle John uses it of the faith, which has been “once-for-all” delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

This “enlightenment’ is not merely a mental awareness, a mere first introduction, but a “final” enlightenment—hardly consistent with the thesis that these readers were not born again.  Furthermore, assuming that the structural arrangement of the passage outlined above is correct, the word is then defined in the immediate context as “tasting the heavenly gift” and as being a “partaker of the Holy Spirit.”

Tasted the Heavenly Gift

The enlightenment is first explained as involving a “tasting” of the heavenly gift (Gk. dorea).  The parallel with John 4:10 is noteworthy:

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift [Gk. dorea] of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

In every usage of dorea in the Bible it refers to the bestowal of some divine gift, spiritual and supernatural, given to man.  In each case, unless Hebrews 6 is an exception, the receiver of this gift is either regenerate already, or the gift itself is regeneration (John 4:10; Acts 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17; Romans 5:15, 17; 2 Corinthians 9:15; Ephesians 3:7; Hebrews 6:4).

Regeneration is, of course, not part of the semantic value of the word.  The precise nature of the gift must be determined from its sense in the context of Hebrews 6—in this case a “heavenly” gift, or a gift that comes from heaven.  The gift of God is the gift of regeneration (2 Corinthians 9:15) and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-46).  [Reviewer’s comment:  It is notable that the gift mentioned in Ephesians 1:8 is in the Greek, “doron,” from which is derived “dorea.”]

The Greek word for “taste” is geuomai, and it is not used by the author of Hebrews of an external association but of an internal taste.  It is not merely, as some would indicate, only to sample but not feasted upon.  On the contrary, it includes within its compass the sense of “to eat.”

Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat (“geuomai”) . . . . (Acts 10:10).

Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten (“geuomai”) . . . . (Acts 20:11).

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby, if [sense] indeed you have tasted (“geuomai”) that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2:3)

In both biblical and secular Greek it commonly means to eat or to “partake of” or to “join.”  Eating and tasting are synonymous terms and imply believing in Christ resulting in regeneration and eternal life.  In Hebrews 2:9 Christ tasted death in the sense that He experienced its bitter taste to the full.  The amount consumed is not the point, but the fact of experiencing what is eaten.  The experience of tasting is not that of those who do not know Christ but of those who have come to know Him.

Partakers of the Holy Spirit

The second qualifier of enlightenment is that it includes being “partakers” (Gk. metochoi) of the Holy Spirit.  This is the same word translated “partners” and used in Hebrews 3:14 of true Christians.

In each reference in Hebrews to metochoi truly regenerate people are in view, a few examples follow:

  • 1:9—they are regenerate companions (metochoi) of the King.
  • 3:1—they are regenerate “holy brothers” who are partners (metochoi) in the heavenly calling.
  • 3:14—they are partakers (metochoi) with Christ in the final destiny of man, ruling over the millennial earth.
  • 12:8—because they are true sons, regenerate; they are partners (metochoi) in discipline.

In view of the fact that they are partakers of the Holy Spirit and that in all other references to partakers true Christians are in view, there is no reason here not to assume that it means something like close partnership or true spiritual fellowship, which is possible only to the regenerate.

Tasted the Goodness of the Word of God

The third qualifier of the word “enlighten” is their “tasting the goodness of the Word of God.”  This may be described as a continual tasting of the Word (cf. 1 Peter 2:2, 3), not an external taste but a consumption of it.

Tasted the Powers of the Coming Age

And the last qualifier of “enlightenment” is the tasting of the powers of the coming age.  This refers to the miracles of the New Testament, which are a foretaste and preview of the miraculous nature of the future kingdomof God.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit in authenticating the gospel with “powers” is mentioned in Hebrews 2:4.  The taste, just as in the tastes above, is not superficial.  It was a full taste just as Jesus tasted death.  A personal experience with the Holy Spirit is implied, not just the observation of His performing miracles.  They had experienced personally and internally the power of God in their lives.

While some may suggest that the people here are contrasted with true believers later in verse 9, in actuality the contrast is not so much between two different groups of people as between two possibilities that may affect the same group (just as verses 7 and 8 describe two possibilities that may arise on the same earth).

Who Have Fallen Away

One cannot know if in fact any of the readers had “fallen away,” but nevertheless, the author of Hebrews warns them of this distinct danger.  The Greek word used is parapipto, which means to “fall by the wayside.”  It is used only here in the New Testament.  In the papyri manuscripts it is sometimes translated “to wander astray.”

In the LXX (Septuagint—Greek translation of the Old Testament) it appears to have the sense of religious apostasy.  In Ezekiel it often takes the sense of turning from God to idols (Ezekiel 14:13; 15:8; 18:24; 20:27; 22:4—LXX).  This meaning fits well with the theme of Hebrews.  These believers were considering a relapse into Judaism.  Indeed, the whole book was written to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity to Judaism and hence to prevent precisely such a relapse.  In addition, the central sin, the sin of willful unbelief, is what is warned about in 10:26.  Throughout the epistle the readers are urged to hold fast to their confession of faith (10:23).  It is the danger of final apostasy that is in view.

The author of the epistle seems to imply that some of his readers may already have taken this step.  He writes to warn others that they too are in danger of doing so (6:9).  He is aware, however, that the decisive act of apostasy has precursors.  It is the result of a period of hardening of heart that crystallizes at a particular moment.  It is preceded by “neglect” of one’s great salvation, by hardness of heart (3:7-13), and by refusal to grow (5:11-14).  It is likely that the particular reference to “going astray” in Hebrews 6 refers not to apostasy but to the preceding hardness of heart as well.

The context has been addressing the need of the readers to grow from infancy to maturity.  The meaning, “fall away,” must include the opposite of “going on to maturity.”  As they “go on,” as they press to that goal, there is a danger that some will “go astray, fall away,” that they will fail to persevere.  It is not falling away from salvation referenced here; it is about wandering from the path that leads to spiritual maturity (the progression in the Christian life that will result in ultimate entrance into “rest,” the achievement of the believer’s life’s work—Hebrews 4:11).  It is not about falling away from a “profession of faith.”  The readers possessed true saving faith.  They were regenerate.  The real concern of the epistle is that they were in danger of failing to press on to spiritual maturity and thereby eventually denying the faith altogether.

Later the readers are told:

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:35, 36)

The author of Hebrews has before his mind the failure of the regenerate exodus generation who failed to achieve their intended destiny, entrance into the inheritance-rest ofCanaan.

Reviewer’s comment:  The exodus generation as an analogy indicates that “salvation” was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, not the achievement of “rest” in Canaan.

A failure to go on to maturity typically results in spiritual lapse, a hardened heart, and unbelief (Hebrews 3:7, 12).  What is in danger is the forfeiture of their position as one of Christ’s metochoi, those who will partake with Him in the future reign of the servant kings.

How does one know when a believer has “gone astray”?  Some indicators follow:

  • Disinterest in one’s glorious future; a sense of “drift” in one’s Christian life (Hebrews 2:2, 3).
  • Gradual hardness of heart associated with unbelief resulting in turning from instead of toward the living God (Hebrews 3:12).
  • Spiritual dullness sets in and there is no evidence of spiritual growth (Hebrews 5:11).
  • Diminishing desire to fellowship with other Christians (Hebrews 4:1, 2).

(If indeed the exodus generation is the parallel, there may be the suggestion that an “age of accountability” is involved.  Only those who were twenty years and older were in danger of the certain severe divine judgment for this behavior pattern—Numbers 14:29).

These are only the initial symptoms.  The author of Hebrews has a deeper concern.  He worries that Christians who begin to fall away will eventually commit apostasy by finally rejecting the faith altogether.  This is his meaning when he warns them not to throw away their “confidence” (Hebrews 10:35) and not to “deliberately keep on sinning” (10:26).  He does not want them to take this final step and be among those who “shrink back and are destroyed” (10:39).  It seems evident from these warnings that it is possible for true Christians to commit apostasy, final rejection of Christ.  The consequence of such an apostasy, however, is not loss of salvation but loss of inheritance, as is shown in the example of Esau (Hebrews 12:17).  Likewise, the readers are warned extensively through the example of Israel’s failure to obtain “rest” in chapters 3 and 4.

The Impossibility of Renewal

For those who have “fallen away” (“gone astray”), i.e., committed apostasy (final rejection of Christ), it is “impossible” (Gk. adunatos) to renew them again to repentance.  The usage of adunatos (“impossible”) in other places in Hebrews excludes the idea that it could be rendered “very difficult”—it is impossible for God to lie (6:18), impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (10:4), and impossible to please God without faith (11:6).

Yet “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37) except to lie or otherwise contradict His own holiness (Hebrews 6:18).  Therefore the impossibility to renew such a Christian that has achieved a state of apostasy applies to man, i.e., the apostate himself or any other human.  When such a state is reached by a Christian he will, like the wilderness generation, die in the wilderness and never enter into “rest.”  It must be remembered that God “swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest” (Hebrews 3:11).  This is why the author of Hebrews says that progression to maturity (6:1) can only continue “God permitting” (6:3).  God may not permit it.  He may draw the line and disinherit them like He did the exodus generation.  But what is the precise object of “renew”?  It is “repentance.”

Reviewer’s comments:  The author of the book takes several paragraphs to express the fact that “repentance” in this context represents the redemptive experience of faith alone in Christ alone, which is not an uncommon usage in the New Testament.  The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia,” which strictly means a “turning around” (180 degrees) or a “change of mind.”  Salvation (redemption/justification) repentance does not embody the requirement of “sorrow for one’s sins;” although, this emotion may be involved with some individuals prior to their decision for Christ.  Salvation repentance is precisely a genuine decision within a person’s will when he turns solely to Christ and His work on Calvary instead of (away from) any other confidence (dead works) for his personal salvation (justification before God).

In Hebrews 6:1 the readers of the epistle had experienced the foundation of “repentance from dead works [any other confidence] and of faith toward God.”  In 10:23 it is said of them that they had professed hope (Gk. elpis) or “confident expectation (true faith) in Christ.  In 10:35 they are said to have “confidence” (Gk. parresia) or “unwavering and fearless confidence of faith in their public confession” of Christ.

In other words, these readers were truly saved and it was this salvation experience represented by the word “repentance” to which they would never be able to be renewed should they achieve an apostate’s state of mind (final rejection of Christ).  The first time these people repented they changed their mind about their sin-condition, the works-means for salvation, and trusted Christ (God) alone for their personal salvation.  Should they become apostates, it would be impossible to restore them once again to the state of mind where they would be willing to change their minds about their sin of hardness (lethargy and unbelief) while turning back in faith to Christ.

Crucifying Again the Son of God to His Public Shame

The reason given for the impossibility of renewal to repentance is that they crucify the Son of God and subject Him to public shame (Hebrews 6:6).  There were only two possible interpretations of the death of Christ.  He was either crucified justly as a common criminal (the Jewish view) [Reviewer’s comment:  This would constitute a denial of Christ’s deity], or He was crucified unjustly as the Son of God.  When a Christian denies Christ, he is in effect saying that the Jewish view is correct.  If He is not the Son of God dying for all sin, then the only other possible conclusion was that He is a blasphemous deceiver who received what He deserved.  It is in this sense that the apostate holds Christ up to public shame.  The apostate’s life and denial testifies that Christ was not God incarnate, was a criminal, and His shameful death was deserved.  To go this far, to finally deny Christ, is possible for a true Christian, but the loss of his salvation is never possible!

But why is crucifying the Son of God the reason for the impossibility of renewal to repentance?  It is possible that the habitual and continuous aspect, which the present tense sometimes carries, should be stressed here.  The tenses of the preceding verses were all aorist, so the unexpected switch to the present may be intentional.  They cannot be renewed to repentance because they continually crucify the Son of God.  In other words, because they have arrived at a state of continuous and habitual sin, they continuously and habitually shame the name of Christ by denying His deity.  The hardness associated with any continued state of sin makes repentance psychologically and spiritually impossible.  Because of their harness they are beyond persuasion by other Christians.

Reviewer’s comment:  Although the author of this book holds to the position that God could still bring the apostate Christian back to repentance, this may indeed be an impossible path for God.  God cannot go back on His Word, which in this passage reveals clearly that it is impossible for an apostate Christian to be renewed to repentance.

The Saved Condition of the Apostates

Before continuing the discussion of “falling away,” it is necessary that some summary points regarding the regenerate nature of these apostates be made, as follow:

  1. The focus in the author’s mind is the experience of the exodus generation in the wilderness.  Just as they failed to enter “rest,” so Christians are also in danger of not entering by following their example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:11).  The “rest” spoken of in Hebrews is not heaven but the reward of joint participation with Messiah in the final destiny of man.  Since the analogy of the regenerate exodus generation is in focus and since the their failure was not forfeiture of heaven but forfeiture of their reward, there is no reason to assume the lapsed of Hebrews 6:4-6 will forfeit more.
  1. It is impossible to view the believers of verses 4-6 as unregenerate because they are being urged to go on to spiritual maturity, as non-Christians (unregenerate people) cannot mature in Christ.  The maturity of 6:1 is not just advanced doctrine but is defined by the reference of 5:14 as exercising spiritual discernment between good and evil.  Even if it was “advanced doctrine,” unregenerate individuals lack spiritual ability to understand spiritual truth (1Corinthians 2:14)—being blind (2 Corinthians 4:4) and being dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  They can hardly be expected or exhorted to advance in Bible doctrine and spiritual discernment.
  1. The author of Hebrews assumes the readers to be born-again.  He never asks them to examine themselves to see if they are really Christians.  Instead he tells them that these “holy brothers” (3:1) are partners (metochoi) of Christ only if they persevere.  Being a partner and being a Christian are not synonymous.  All partners are Christians, but not all Christians are partners.  Only those who persevere to the final hour will be partners in the Millennial Kingdom (Hebrews 3:14).
  1. It is exegetically questionable to detach the descriptive references to believers in the warning context from the warnings themselves.  The immediate (and normal) impulse is to interpret this cluster of descriptive statements as describing regenerate persons.

The Thorn-Infested Ground (6:7, 8)

The only possible result for such behavior is divine discipline and judgment.  The author of Hebrews explains this by an analogy from nature, as follows:

For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

(Hebrews 6:7, 8)

The “earth” refers to the individual regenerate man, the true Christian.  Two types of earth are not in view, i.e., one that produces a good crop and one that produces thorns.  The view here is of two differing crops that can come from the same earth.  That the “earth” represents a regenerate person is demonstrated by the descriptive phrases applied to him in 6:1-3 (see also 6:10; 10:14, 32-34).

The “earth” (Christian) can bring into being one of two differing types of “produce” once it receives the often coming rain, e.g., a life of perseverance in good works (herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated) or a wasted life of thorns and briars.  The rain refers to the influence by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God upon the believer.  In sum, the rain points back to the four blessings described in Hebrews 6:1-3.  Furthermore, the earth “drank” these blessings.  The difference is not in drinking or not drinking but in the kinds of produce that resulted from the drinking.  There is no picture of the rain simply falling on the surface and not sinking into it.  It would be difficult to find a clearer picture of saving faith.  These people not only were enlightened and were partakers of the Holy Spirit and recipients of the heavenly gift, but they drank and absorbed it.

The word “drink” (Gk. pino) is commonly used elsewhere of saving faith (John 4:13; 6:54; 7:37, 38).  These “holy brothers” who are in danger of apostasy have all drunk of the water of life (i.e., believed), and on the authority of Jesus will be raised on the last day.  The fact that drinking and receiving water elsewhere means regeneration further substantiates the interpretation above that “enlightenment” is not mere “mental perception” but “rebirth.”

The crop is useful to God, the “owner.”  However, the same earth may not produce this useful crop.  It may also produce “thorns.”  It is clear that the author of Hebrews does not believe that a life of perseverance is the necessary and inevitable result of regeneration.  The Lord taught the same thing in the parable of the soils.  The final three soils all represent regenerate people as proven by the fact that even the one with no root did grow and hence manifest regenerate life.  But two of the three did not produce fruit.

When the earth produces a good crop, it receives blessing from God.  This blessing is to be understood as divine approval, the believer’s entrance into “rest” (Hebrews 4:11), the receiving of eternal rewards and various unspecified temporal blessings as well.  The only other use in Hebrews is of Esau forfeiting his inheritance (Hebrews 12:17).  That seems to confirm the interpretation that the blessing from God is reward at the judgment seat of Christ.  As demonstrated elsewhere, the inheritance-rest of Hebrews, indeed the inheritance in the New Testament, is always, when conditioned on obedience, a reward in heaven and not heaven itself.

But strict Calvinists insist it is not possible for the same soil to bring forth both a good and a bad crop.  It can only bring forth one or the other.  But this contradicts statements in other parts of the epistle.  These regenerate people had produced a “crop” of patience in suffering and commendable good works (10:32-34).  But some had also produced the “crop” of dullness and spiritual lethargy (5:11-14), some of these “brothers” are in danger of hardness of heart (3:12), and many have stopped meeting together with other Christians (10:25).  The same earth that produced a crop of perseverance in patience also produces a crop of initial righteousness that then may fall into transgression.  That is the whole point of the book.

Reviewer’s comment:  The author then takes several paragraphs explaining how strict Calvinists, which he calls “Experimental Predestinarians,” attempt to go outside of Hebrews (Matthew 7:16, 18; James 3:11) to prove that the same regenerate heart cannot produce righteousness for awhile and then fall into unrighteousness.  His refutations of their arguments may be found in detail in his book.

If the heart of the regenerate man produces thorns, three phrases describe his uselessness to God.  He is “rejected,” “near to being cursed,” and “whose end is to be burned.”  Each phrase is considered in turn:

  • Rejected:  The Greek word is adokimos and it means “disqualified” or “useless.”  Strict Calvinists prefer the translation, “spurious,” which, while possible, supplies no opposite for the “useful” of verse 7.  The opposite of “useful” is not “false” or “spurious” but “useless” or “worthless.”  The point is that as thorny ground the earth and its produce are useless to the farmer.  That Christians can lead useless lives and fail to finish their work is the central warning of the epistle.  The exodus generation was not unregenerate but useless.  They never accomplished the task of conqueringCanaan in spite of the many blessings God poured upon them.

Paul used the word of himself in 1 Corinthians 9:27 when he said that his goal was that at the end of life he would not be found “disqualified (adokimos) for the prize.”  As discussed elsewhere (the discussion under 2 Corinthians 13:5), Paul does not doubt the security of his salvation.  He is burdened about finishing his course and receiving his reward.  Similarly, the believer who produces thorns in Hebrews 6 is not subject to damnation, but his disobedient life will disqualify him at the judgment seat and will make him useless for the purposes of God in the present.

  • Near to being cursed:  It is possible but unlikely that the curse refers back to Genesis 3.  There the thorns were a result of the curse, but here the curse is a result of thorns.  A safe interpretation is in line with the Jewish background of the readers where in Deuteronomy 28-30 Moses taught that obedience resulted in temporal blessing and disobedience resulted in temporal cursing (29:22-28; 30:15-30).  This reference directs the reader back once again to the temporal curse that fell upon the exodus generation’s hardships and physical death.  That God sometimes brings this judgment on His children is taught elsewhere in this epistle (Hebrews 12:5-11), and the sin unto physical death is taught throughout the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:5; 11:30; 1 John 5:16, 17, James 5:19, 20).

While the immediate reference is to divine discipline in time, the author of Hebrews probably has the future consequences of this cursing in mind as well.  He often speaks of the need to persevere and hence receive reward (10:36; 11:6, 10, 15, 16, 26) and has this thought in view in the immediate context when he says, “. . . but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).  Conversely, those who do not persevere in faith and patience will be cursed, i.e., be disinherited like Esau was (12:17).  The cursing does not refer to loss of salvation.

  • Whose end is to be burned:  The antecedent of “it” in verse 8 is the “earth” of verse 7.  It is the earth that is in danger of being burned.  This may refer to a purifying rather than a destroying fire, which would be consistent with a common agricultural practice of the day.  When a field was overgrown with weeds and thorns, it was customary to burn it in order to cleanse the field and restore its fertility.  If this is the meaning, then the result of the apostate’s denial is severe divine discipline with a corrective intent.  Justification for this might be found in Hebrews 12:5-11.

But the purifying intent is doubtful here.  The parallel of the exodus generation’s failure and their destruction in the wilderness is the controlling thought of the warnings.  It is impossible to renew them to repentance.  So the burning is, first of all, divine judgment in time.  This is the thought of 10:27 where the author speaks of the “raging fire that will consume the enemies of God”—this will be covered in the next chapter and proven that it refers to judgment in time and not the eternal judgment of hell.

Elsewhere is recorded the burning of the believer’s dead works at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-15), with negative as well as positive consequences that will accrue to believers at that time (2 Corinthians 5:10).  So it is not without scriptural parallel if the interpretation of this passage is from that perspective.  The burning of the believer then would be a metonymy for the burning of the believer’s works.

This would help explain the statement that in “whose end” the works of the unfaithful believer (the produce of the field) will be “burned.”  There is no reference to hell here but rather, to the burning up of the believer’s life-works at the judgment seat of Christ.  Even though the fire consumes his house of wood, hay, and stubble (= “earth,” metonymy for “thorns and thistles,” in Hebrews 6:8), yet this carnal Christian “will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Consolation and Encouragement (6:9-12)

Having warned them, the author’s pastor-heart now emerges, and he turns to consolation in Hebrews 6:9-12.  He is confident that their lives are characterized by the better things that accompany salvation.  Salvation in Hebrews, as discussed elsewhere (see chapter 4), refers not to final deliverance from hell, which is based upon faith alone, but to the future participation in the rule of man (Hebrews 1:14; 2:5) and which is conditioned upon obedience (cf. Hebrews 5:9).  The inheritance they will obtain refers not to heaven, which is theirs through faith alone, but to their reward in heaven, which only comes to those “who through [“by means of”] faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12).  Since the “promise” in Hebrews usually refers to the millennium (e.g., 4:1; 6:13, 15; 7:6; 11:9, 11, 13, 17; 12:26), to “inherit the promise” means to rule in the Millennial Kingdom and parallels the phrase “inherit the kingdom,” which does not mean merely entering the kingdom but to own it and rule there.


There is no reference in Hebrews 6 to either a falling away from salvation or perseverance in holiness.  Rather, this is a warning to true believers concerning the possible loss of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ and temporal discipline in time.  This passage is a dreadful warning to those with a hardened heart, but it is not a passage to apply to the persevering Christian who is “in the battle.”

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 20—Hebrews, Peter, and Revelation

Two other warning passages in the book of Hebrews, a passage in Peter, and several warnings in the book of Revelation must be considered.  Do any of these passages refer to the possibility of loss of salvation?

Reviewer’s comment:  Although this reviewer definitely does not believe that any passages within God’s Word support the Armenian claim that a Christian can lose his salvation or the strict Calvinistic position of the inevitable perseverance of saints, he has great difficulty in some of the author’s arguments in this chapter, particularly with those relating to the passages in 2 Peter and Revelation.  Such difficulties will be expressed in further “reviewer” comments throughout this review-summary.

Hebrews 3:1-6

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His housestrong. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.   For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.  And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:1-6)

Both the Arminian and staunchly Calvinistic camps view the “house,” which the writer of Hebrews described as the house over which “Christ as a son” resides, as the community of the saved.   Arminians, who focus on the word “if,” see this passage as confirmation that a Christian may lose his salvation; whereas strict Calvinists view it as confirmation of their doctrine of perseverance.

Yet the reference to the “house” relevant to Moses in verse 5, referring to Numbers 12:7, speaks not of the community of the saved but the place where the Jews worshipped, the sanctuary.  In fact, the term “house of God” (Gk. oikos theou) was a fixed term for the sanctuary in the Septuagint.  In Moses’ day it was the place where priestly activity occurred, where Moses, with the Levites, faithfully carried out the priestly functions of the old economy in the tabernacle in the wilderness.

In the Old Testament to be a member of the house of God was to be a member of the worshiping community in the tabernacle.  To be a member of the house of God in the New Testament is to be a member of the worshiping community in the New Testament counterpart to the tabernacle, the gathering of the believers in worship (i.e., the “assembly” or local church).  It is apparent that the readers of this epistle were departing from the house of God because he warns them about this:  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25).

As Moses was faithful in God’s house, Christ is faithful as the Lord over God’s house, the gathered community involved in New Testament worship.  To be a member of God’s house is not the same as being a member of the mystical body of Christ, the invisible church.  Rather, it is membership in the visible body of Christ, the gathered worshiping community.  To depart from God’s house in this sense then is not loss of salvation or proof that one never had it.  It simply refers to the “habit of some” of not meeting together in corporate worship for fear of persecution.

Hebrews 10:26-39

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.  Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.  Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

The warning against deliberate sin in Hebrews 10:26-39 has understandably given rise to doubt in the minds of some as to whether or not the doctrine of eternal security is found in the Bible.  Arminians accept the readers, to whom the warning is addressed, as saved individuals; whereas, strict Calvinists labor under the impossible exegetical burden of claiming that they may not be truly regenerate.

The Regenerate Nature of the Readers

It is evident from several considerations that the readers are regenerate:

  • They are the same group addressed in Hebrews 6.
  • They are called “sanctified” (vs. 29).
  • They have demonstrated their faith by remaining true to Christ in the midst of reproach and tribulation by showing sympathy to other Christians who had been imprisoned for their faith (vs. 33, 34).
  • They have joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property knowing that they have a better and an enduring possession in heaven (vs. 34).

Based upon strict Calvinistic premises these people must be saved.  They have confessed Christ, are declared to be sanctified, and have proven it by a life of good works.

The Consequences of Willful Sin (Hebrews 10:26, 27)

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26, 27)

This is a warning to Christians, those who know Christ and willfully sin after having received “full knowledge” (Gk. epignosis) of the truth—this word is used of the knowledge of salvation in 1 Timothy 2:4.  It is probable that the author of Hebrews has a particular sin in view, the sin of not holding fast the “confession of our hope,” which he has just warned against (10:23).  The warning is against the sin of deliberate apostasy, rejection of one’s confession of faith in Christ—a distinct possibility for the Christian.

When a Christian takes this step, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”  The sacrifice of Christ no longer avails to protect him from God’s judgment.  But what kind of judgment is in view?  To understand this in context, the Old Testament passage to which this willful sin is referring must be considered.

In the Old Testament, sacrifices were provided for unintentional sin (Numbers 15:27, 29).  However, if an Old Testament believer sinned willfully, no sacrificial protection was provided.

But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the LORD, and he shall be cut off from among his people.  Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him. (Numbers 15:30, 31)

The Hebrew word translated “presumptuously” is a two-word phrase meaning “with a high hand,” used in this context of a person “acting in deliberate presumption, pride, and disdain.”  When the Hebrews left Egypt, they left with a “high hand,” i.e., they left boldly and defiantly (Numbers 33:3).  When a person sinned like this, there was no sacrificial protection from the judgment of God.  But what kind of judgment is in view?  What does it mean to be “cut off”?

To be cut off” was to undergo capital punishment:

You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. (Exodus 31:14; cf. Deuteronomy 17:12)

The phrase, “cut off,” is often used of capital punishment or severance from the covenant community but never of or from eternal hell.  The phrase as used in Hebrews regarding willful sin means there is no sacrificial protection from the temporal consequences of sin.  God’s judgment in time, not in eternity, is what is in view.  If the writer of Hebrews had intended here to teach final judgment, he would have quoted Jesus rather than Old Testament passages—passages that his readers would have understood as temporal.

The context of Hebrews 10 is about the application of Christ’s death to daily sins for temporal, not eternal, forgiveness.  He has already said (1) they have protection from the judgment of eternal hell (Hebrews 10:10), (2) that God will remember their sins and lawless deeds “no more” (Hebrews 10:17), and (3) that “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrew 10:14).  Would he now turn around and contradict himself in vs. 26-30?  The Christian’s eternal position before the Father is in view in Hebrews 10:17, while 10:26-30 refers to his temporal relationship to Him.  The believer who sins through ignorance and weakness is protected from temporal judgment in time by the blood of Christ.  The blood of Christ, however, will not protect the believer who sins willfully.  He is in danger of judgment after the Old Testament pattern, a judgment in time that may include physical death or worse.

This judgment is said to be a “fiery indignation that will devour the adversaries.”  This is a quote from Isaiah 26:11 that refers to the physical destruction ofIsrael’s enemies in time, not eternity.  The image of fire may refer both to judgment in time and afterwards.

The More Severe Punishment (Hebrews 10:28, 29)

Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrew 10:28, 29)

The “more severe punishment” is a punishment even worse than physical death.  An example of a more severe punishment is the mental anguish that Saul, a regenerate man, went through, i.e., mentally ill and tormented by evil spirits (1 Samuel 16:14, 15).  A more severe punishment could be a prolonged illness, being kept alive by artificial means, or insanity.  One thinks of David’s sin and the resultant consequence, the loss of his child.  No doubt the author of Hebrews views millennial disinheritance and a failure to enter rest as more sever than physical death as well.

The seriousness of this step is described in three ways:

  1. He has “trampled underfoot the Son of God,” which signifies a strong rejection and actual denial of one’s confession of faith in Christ either by life or actual verbal denial
  1. He has “counted the blood of covenant . . . a common thing.”  There were only two possible conclusion regarding Jesus Christ who shed His blood on Calvary’s cross—He was who He said He was, the holy Son of God; or, He was a common criminal.  To count the blood as a “common thing” by willfully denying Christ in word and/or deed was in effect testifying that Christ was not the Son of God, but that He was only a common criminal.
  1. He has “insulted the Spirit of grace.”  This is presuming on the grace of God.  It is taking the grace of God for granted. (Reviewer’s comment:  It is denying the grace of God.)

The Consequences of Willful Sin (Hebrews 10:30, 31)

For we know Him who said, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. And again, The LORD will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30, 31)

The first phrase “Vengeance is Mine” is from Deuteronomy 32:35, which refers to judgments on the people in time, not eternity.  The point the author of Hebrews is attempting to make is that the willfully sinning Christian is no different than the rebellious people of God in the Old Testament and can expect no less a similar fate than their judgment—judgment in time.

The second phrase “the LORD will judge His people” is taken from Deuteronomy 32:36.  The word translated “judge” may also be translated, as it is in some translations, as “vindicate.”  The meaning is that God will execute judgment on the behalf of His people, vindicating their cause against their enemies; but also that on the same principles of impartial righteousness He will execute judgment against them when they forsake His covenant.  Thus, “vindicate” or “judge” is a proper rendering of the Hebrew word, both being consistent with the context of Deuteronomy 32 and Hebrew 10.  This is how the writer of the epistle applies the passage, which has no application to eternal hell or the loss of one’s eternal salvation.

Exhortation to Persevere (Hebrews 10:32-39)

It is evident that the writer believes that his readers are Christians.  They have confessed Christ and have demonstrated the reality of their faith by many good works:

But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. (Hebrews 10:32-34)

But there is a danger.  It is possible that this great beginning will not be completed:

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:35, 36)

Entrance into heaven is promised to no one on the basis of doing the will of God.  What is promised here refers to the “great reward” for perseverance to the final hour.  The danger is not that they will lose salvation but that they will lose their reward.  They will not be of the metochoi, the “partakers,” and will not share in the final destiny of man, to rule and have dominion.

In the New Testament a person either believes or does not believe.  Adjectives such as “fully,” “genuinely,” or “truly” are never found as modifiers of “faith” in the New Testament. (Reviewer’s comment:  This reviewer must admit to this truth, even though he has often used such modifiers pertaining to “faith;” and hence and hopefully, will not.)  Such modifiers are used by writers outside of the New Testament.  Therefore, if language has not lost its meaning, these readers of the epistle were regenerate.

The focus is upon the readers “enduring” in order to do the “will of God,” not the genuineness of their saving faith.  The author of the epistle then cites a warning from Habakkuk 2:3, 4:

For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.  Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:37, 38)

It is possible for God’s “just” [one], the regenerate Christian, to “draw back.”  But the writer encourages them to avoid that option.

But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [destruction], but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)

The “saving of the soul” is a common term for the maintaining of physical life.  It never means to “go to heaven when you die.”  The context of the entire passage refers to the possible execution of judgment in time on the willfully sinning Christian.


It is best to interpret Hebrews 10 as a warning against the failure to persevere to the end.  The consequences of this failure are, according to the Old Testament references quoted, not loss of salvation but severe divine discipline in time—a judgment by God on willfully sinning Christians that can be more severe than death.

The most severe punishment, however, is that God will have “no pleasure in him.”  When the carnal Christian stands before His Lord in the last day, he will not hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

2 Peter 2:18-22

For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.  For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.  But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

(2 Peter 2:18-22)

Reviewer’s comment:  Although the reviewer agrees with most of Mr. Dillow’s interpretative presentations within this book, he finds disagreement with him regarding this passage within 2 Peter.  An explanation of the disagreement will be presented in another “reviewer’s comment” at the end of this section.

The author believes Peter is speaking of believers in these verses because (1) they have escaped (Gk. apopheugontas) the corruption of the world through the “knowledge” (Gk. epiginosko) of Christ, and (2) they knew the way of righteousness.  He argues that the word “know” often suggests a full saving knowledge (“but not always or necessarily”).

He admits that “throughout the context Peter has been talking about false teachers who deny the Lord (vs. 2:1) and who are unbelievably corrupt.”  But he also believes that the “they” at the beginning of verse 20 refers not to these false teachers but to the new Christians who have been corrupted and led astray by the false teachers in vs. 18b—the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.   He argues: “It is not possible to find an explicit example of a person having “knowledge” (Gk. epignosis, “a full and accurate knowledge”) who is unregenerate in the New Testament.”  He declares that “this suggests the new Christians of vs. 18 are in view, and then states the following:

Peter says “the last state has become worse for them than the former” (2:20).  If “last” and “former” are to be taken absolutely, then the meaning is “their final condemnation to hell is worse than their former life of sin.”  This is banal.  It is better to take the terms as “latter” and “former.”  Then “latter” refers to their current condition, condition which is in some sense worse than the condition they were in before they were saved.

The new believers, who have been led back into the worldly life from which they had escaped, would have been better off as far as their experience “in this life” was concerned if they had never known Christ at all.  They will experience severe divine discipline such as that which came upon Saul.  That he refers to their misery in this life, and not eternal damnation, is clear form Peter’s quotation of Proverbs 26:11:

Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit” and, “ A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud” (2:22).

These newborn babes, who were washed by the bath of regeneration, have returned to the “mud.”  The most miserable people are sometimes Christians under severe divine discipline.  As far as their enjoyment of this life is concerned, they would be far better off never to have known Christ than to endure such correction. . . . The passage is a severe warning to those being enticed to return to their former ways of sin, but there is nothing here about loss of salvation.

Reviewer’s comment: This reviewer finds it difficult to agree with Mr. Dillow’s interpretation on this particular passage.  It appears that Mr. Dillow may be guilty to some extent of a form of “illegitimate totality transfer,” which he introduced in chapter 2.  His passion in developing the thesis in this book appears, at least to this reviewer, to have subjected him to contrivance apart from obvious contextual and linguistic considerations regarding this passage in order to prove his point.  Having said this, this reviewer finds Mr. Dillow’s overall book-thesis to be scripturally correct, not withstanding his view of 2 Peter 2:18-22 and a few other passages.

Upon review of the subject passage this reviewer believes:

  1. The passage primarily targets and is concerned with false teachers.  After speaking of the trustworthiness of God’s prophetic Word in 1:16-21, Peter turns his attention to “false prophets,” their doctrine, their doom, their depravity, their deception, and their end in 2:1-22.  It appears to be a “stretch” making a portion of this chapter refer to Christians.  Contextually it doesn’t appear to fit.
  1. The “they” at the beginning of verse 20 has as its antecedent the “they” in verse 19, those who “promise them liberty” and who “themselves are slaves of corruption”—the false prophets.
  1. While this reviewer may agree with Mr. Dillow that the description “the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error” are new believers, he does not agree that the context changes the focus from the false prophets to this class, i.e., Christians.  It only reveals the target of the false prophets’ false doctrine, only to return back to the false prophets’ condition with the words “they themselves” and continuing to the end of the chapter.
  1. Although the word Greek word translated “knowledge” may linguistically mean a “full saving knowledge,” it does not always indicate this.  And even if it does in this particular case, it only means that the false prophets “escaped the pollutions of the world” (meaning they came to a realization that salvation by works was a false doctrine) by understanding the truth.  Even though they may understand the truth, they still are responsible to receive it by faith.
  1. To this reviewer the phrase “they are again entangled in them and overcome,” can simply mean that they have rejected the truth and have chosen rather to believe in works as the means to appropriate salvation—a product of man’s extreme pride. 
  1. Having rejected the avenue of “faith” to purposely return to “works” for one’s salvation is then adequately compared to the two analogies of the dog and sow at the end of the chapter—animal descriptions which are far removed from “sheep,” the analogy that Christ used of believers.  An analysis of Proverbs 26, from which the dog analogy is drawn, does not appear to justify Mr. Dillow’s conclusion regarding temporal misery.  It only may only mean that one returns to his own disgusting vomit (false doctrine).
  1. Finally, it is inconceivable to this reviewer, even though a believer who returns to false doctrine and is therefore subjected to severe divine discipline for the remainder of his physical life, to believe that the believer’s “latter end” is worse than his “beginning.”  His beginning was eternal hopelessness; whereas, his end, even with the inability to reign with Christ during the Millennial Kingdom, is eventually to have all tears wiped away and to spend an eternity with Christ.

Revelation 3:5

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Revelation 3:5)

Reviewer’s comment:  Here again the reviewer has variance with Mr. Dillow’s interpretation of the “overcomer” in the book of Revelation.  See the reviewer’s comment at the end of this section.

In Revelation 2:26 a thrilling promise is held out to those Christians who remain faithful to Christ to the end of life:

And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. (Revelation 2:26)

In seven other places in this final book similar promises are made to this select company.  But who are they?

The Greek word translated “to overcome” is nikao.  It is found in a legal sense of “winning one’s case.”  It was commonly used of the victor in the games or of the Caesars, “of our all victorious masters the Augusti.”  The noun nike means “victory.”  Nike was the name of a Greek goddess who is often represented in art as a symbol of personal superiority.  To be an overcomer was to be victorious in both military and legal combat.

There are three views of the overcomer:

  1. Arminians view him as a Christian if he continues in the faith and perseveres under trail.  However, if he falls away, he forfeits salvation.
  1. Experimental Predestinarians (or strict Calvinists) view him as simply a true Christian and as such he will necessarily and inevitably overcome.
  1. The Partakers view him as a Christian who remains faithful, in contrast to one who does not remain faithful.

The Identity of the Overcomers

Reviewer’s comment:  Mr. Dillow then uses the next 18 pages in an effort to convince the reader of this book that the “Partakers” position regarding “overcomers” is the correct one.  Since this reviewer found the arguments presented somewhat unwieldy and difficult to follow—admittedly a problem with the reviewer and not Mr. Dillow—he refers the reader of this review to the book should he be interested in Mr. Dillow’s position.

After all was presented by Mr. Dillow, this reviewer continues to hold to the belief that an “overcomer” is one who has placed his faith in Jesus Christ for his personal salvation, that by doing so he will never lose his salvation, and who may or may not reign with Christ during the Millennial Kingdom (depending upon a life of faithfulness in which he becomes a “disciple” and “friend” of Christ—John 17).  The reviewer basis his interpretation on the following:

  • The Apostle John’s usage of the term “overcomer” in his first epistle, which describes the overcomer as a person who is “born of God” and “overcomes the world.”  He clearly stipulates in 1 John 5:1 that “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Whereas Mr. Dillow believes that this is importing the contextually derived sense of the word as used in 1 John into the word as used in Revelation and is therefore a “illegitimate identity transfer,” the reviewer believes in this case it is a “legitimate” identity transfer.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. . . . For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

(1 John 5:1, 4, 5)

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. (1 John 2p class=”MsoNormal”:13)

  • In Revelation 2:7 the one who overcomes will be granted the right to “eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God”—a reference this reviewer believes is analogous to being granted eternal life.  This would coincide with the statements in 1 John 5:1, 4, 5 (see above).  Whereas Mr. Dillow attempts to associate “the” tree of life in Revelation 2:7 with various listings of “a” tree of life as listed in Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4, it is this viewer’s opinion that the “rule of first mention” (Genesis 2:9; 3:22, 24) applies to the last mention of this tree, since both use the definite article to refer to the tree.  And according to Genesis 2:22 there is no doubt that to eat of this tree allows a person to “live forever.
  • Then there is the passage in which Mr. Dillow contrasts 3 classes of people:

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.  But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:6-8)

According to Mr. Dillow class 1 are those who thirst and receive the water of life freely—all saints; class 2 are those who overcome and inherit (merit ownership of) all things (specifically, the heavenly city—the New Jerusalem) and will have a “special” sonship to God; and class 3 are all unbelievers who will be in the lake of fire—the second death.  This reviewer sees only two classes: the “he who overcomes” of the third paragraph as a modifier of the “one who thirsts” mentioned in the second paragraph.

Whereas this reviewer agrees that there will be differing degrees of ownership and heirship (rewards) during the Millennial Kingdom, this passage takes place after that dispensation when God takes the following actions: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new. . . .’” (Revelation 21:4, 5)  It appears that after a thousand years of regret, pain, and tears for not living a life dedicated to God, the wayfaring child of God will then be restored to a position of full sonship within the arena of God’s grace and love.  God will wipe away all tears, i.e., He will make all equal, and He will “make all things new.”  Although admittedly this is only “belief” coupled with “conjecture” on this reviewer’s part, it appears to fit within the context of the chapter. 

It should also be noted that, unlike Mr. Dillow’s position that “inheritance” always speaks of reward for faithful service throughout the Bible, this may not always be the case.  In at least a few passages the word “inheritance” may indeed refer only to salvation, as in Ephesians 1:1-18; 5:5; Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:3, 4.  In other words, an “illegitimate totality transfer” can work both ways.

  • New Jerusalem will only be occupied by the “nations of the saved,”—“the kings of the earth,” which are those “who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 1:6; 21:24, 27).  It will be these who have the right to “the tree of life” (Revelation 22:14), i.e., to those who “overcome” (Revelation 2:7).  It is this reviewer’s position that from this time (the New Earth and the New Jerusalem) on, God will bring His family into a homogenous whole, with no distinctions and “all” will reign forever and forever (Revelation 22:5).
  • Mr. Dillow also uses the NASB translation of Revelation 22:14 that translates in place of “those who do His commandments” (KJV/NKJV) with the phrase contained in other autographs “those who wash their robes” as those who have the right to the tree of life.  This translation may indeed be more accurate.  If so, this reviewer believes this washing is the same that is referred to in Revelation 7:14, i.e., the washing that makes them white in the blood of the Lamb—a specific reference to salvation; not sanctification.
  • Mr. Dillow also attempts to justify his position by interpreting those in Revelation 3:4 who had not defiled their garments (with unconfessed sin) as the ones who would “walk with the Lord in white, for they are worthy.”  He does this to show that unless one keeps his garments, which have initially been washed white by the blood of the Lamb, continuously white by the confession of sin; he would not enjoy full fellowship with Christ.  This may be true during the Millennial Kingdom, but this reviewer believes it will not be the case subsequent to that dispensation.  It is furthermore this reviewer’s position that in verse 5, the Apostle John then addresses the “overcomer” who is clothed with white garments (which is only by the blood of the Lamb) and whose name will not be blotted out of the Book of Life and who Christ will confess before the Father and the angels.

Even though Mr. Dillow attempts to make this Book of Life a different book than “the” Book of Life and even though many believe there is a difference between the “Book of Life” and the “Lamb’s Book of Life,” this reviewer believes all reference (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 19:8; 20:12; 21:27) to the Book of Life refers to the same book.  The question is whether or not one’s name can be blotted out of it.  If this could not be so then it would be ridiculous to mention the possibility.  So if it is possible, then the question arises as to “when” this can and is done.  If one can conceive that all names are initially listed in it at physical birth and are blotted out only upon one’s physical death after a life where one has never accepted Christ by faith, then this is a distinct possibility.  But those who have “overcome,” i.e., placed their faith in Christ, will indeed be washed in the blood of the Lamb and will “not” have their names blotted out of the Book of Life.

Furthermore in verse 5, it is said that the Lord will confess the names of these overcomers before the Father and His angels, a reference again to salvation as described in Matthew 10:32 and Luke 12:8.

End of Chapter 20’s Review

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 21—Eternal Security

This chapter will present specific biblical evidence for the eternal security of the believer.  The Arminian denies that the child of God is eternally secure, and the strict Calvinist insists that, if he does not persevere in holiness, he was never saved (regenerated) in the first place.  The Partaker, however, teaches that, if he is a child of God, he is “obligated” to persevere (Paul’s word, Romans 8:12), but he many not.  If he does not, he does not forfeit salvation but faces divine discipline in time and loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ.

This doctrine is called eternal security, or the preservation of the saints.  While strict Calvinists prefer the term perseverance, Partakers favor “preservation.”  The former implies that ultimate arrival in heaven depends upon man’s faithfulness; the latter upon God.

Yet some points of clarification should be made regarding the doctrine of eternal security:

  • It does not teach that just because a person intellectually accepts the birth and death of Christ as historically accurate facts but has never personally trusted in Him for salvation, that he is saved.  There are many “church members” who have never been saved.
  • It does assert that, even though many who profess Christianity may not be saved, that among those who have outward Christianity are those who have it inwardly as well.  Those and only those who have this principle of life within them will be finally saved and will never lose it, i.e., preserved in a state of salvation to the final hour.
  • It does not condone the existence of carnal Christians.  On the contrary, it includes the highest motivation for godly service, i.e., the gift of unconditional acceptance, and the strong desire to hear the Master’s “Well done!”  Also, there is the matter of God’s discipline of His children as an incentive. The fact that some may take advantage of God’s grace does not nullify it.

The only way a person could ever lose his salvation is if it was dependent upon him, i.e., his self-efforts (good works) and perseverance therein.  But if this was the case, it would nullify the value of Christ’s sacrifice (His payment for sin).  The entire Bible presents salvation as a “work of God.”  God the Father purposes, calls, justifies, and glorifies those who believe in Christ.  God the Son became incarnate that He might be a Kinsman-Redeemer and die a substitutionary death to affect (provide the legal basis for) salvation.  God the Holy Spirit administers and executes the purpose of the Father and the redemptive process.  All three persons of the Godhead have their share in preserving to fruition that which God has determined.  Since salvation depends upon God, it cannot in any way depend upon man.

Eternal Security Depends Upon God the Father

From eternity past God’s firm purpose has been established.  Scripture establishes that before the foundation of the world God elected and predestined to glory those who accept Christ by faith.  Therefore the Christian’s eternal security depends, first of all:

Upon God’s Sovereign Purpose

  • God’s Predestination to Glory

God’s eternal purpose is declared in the following scriptures:

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:11, 12)

If Christians have been predestined to adoption as sons and to an inheritance, it is therefore not possible that they can lose it.  Otherwise God’s predestination will fail.  As His plan is unchangeable, so must be its execution.

  • Christians Have An Anchor Behind the Veil

Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20)

God wanted to show the unchangeable (immutable) nature of His eternal purpose to give us an anchor behind the veil and confirmed it by an oath.  Now if He purposed before the foundation of the world to save His elect, His elect will be saved.

Even if the election of God was based on the foreseen knowledge of the believer’s faith, the same argument applies.  If God knew that individuals would believe and be saved, then they cannot do otherwise than believe and be saved.  If they do believe and then for some reason unknown to God are not saved, then God did not know, and His foreseen knowledge was false.  If God does not certainly know that an event will take place, then He does not know it at all.  But if He knows certainly that an event will occur, then the occurrence of that event must be without failure.

  • The Golden Chain

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29, 30)

These verses describe an unbreakable chain consisting of five links:


The same group that was foreknown will also ultimately be glorified.  The call is the efficacious call to come to Him.  Jesus said, My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me(John 10:27).  All those who are foreknown are predestined.  All those who are predestined are called, and all of those who are called are justified.  This calling is an effectual calling.  And all those who are justified will be glorified.  This refers to the redemption of the believers’ bodies at the last day (Romans 8:23).  The two-verse chain with its five-fold unbreakable links is a clear statement of the eternal security of the saints.

  • God’s Solemn Promise

All that God has purposed, He unconditionally promises to His elect.  Their salvation depends upon His promise, and not their faithfulness:

Therefore it is of faith [nothing on man’s part] that it might be according to grace [everything on God’s part], so that the promise might be sure . . . . (Romans 4:16a)

If the intended end depended at any point on human ability to continue to believe, then the promise could not be sure.  The promise that those who believe will be saved is found all over the Bible (Genesis 15:6; John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 4:23, 24).

Upon God’s Infinite Power

  • God is Free to Save Mankind

If a believer can lose salvation, then it must be concluded that there is some sin that is sufficiently serious to cause him to forfeit it—perhaps adultery, drunkenness, or denial of Christ.

This assumes that he is less worthy of salvation after having committed this sin than before, and it reduces salvation down to human ability to merit it.  But eternal security does not depend upon one’s moral worthiness.  If it did, no one would be saved.  Rather, it depends upon the fact that Christ’s death has rendered God free to save mankind in spite of moral imperfection and that God’s power is capable of keeping believers saved.

Although Arminians claim that “normal” sins are insufficient to “unsave” a person, the impossibility of adequately answering which ones can leaves generations of Arminians turning in the wind regarding the final outcome of their lives.  Because Christ is the propitiation (satisfaction to God) for man’s sins (1 John 2:2), God is not only able to keep Christians saved, but He is free to do so in spite of the moral problem of the imperfection in each Christian.

All Christians have imperfections.  If salvation can be lost because of a high degree of imperfection, then arbitrary lines of difference between sins that can and cannot damn must be drawn.  And this is an impossibility.

  • God Has Purposed to Keep the Christian Saved

This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  (John 6:39, 40)

But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:26-30)

The phrase “shall never” is a double negative in Greek.  It is very emphatic!  Arminians who attempt to make the word “follow” in verse 27 as a condition of a “life of obedience,” miss the context of the passage.  The condition of “faith” is the sole means of receiving the gift of eternal life, as is illustrated in the first words of verse 26.  The act of “following” is the act of reliant-trust.  The use of “hear and believe” in John 5:24 confirms this interpretation:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)

“Hearing and believing” in John 5:24 result in eternal life.  “Hearing and following” in John 10:27 result in eternal life.  Therefore, they are equal in meaning and the conclusion is that “to follow” is another of John’s metaphors for “to believe;” just as he uses the metaphors “to look,” “to taste,” “to eat,” and “to drink”—all meaning “to believe.”

Peter affirms that Christians are kept by the power of God through faith:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Upon God’s Infinite Love

The preservation of the saved flows from the free and unchangeable love of the Father.  It was God’s love and not the Christian’s worthiness that was the reason for man’s salvation in the first place.  Scripture makes it clear that God saved no man because He observed some good, attractive, or meriting attribute in an individual.  Rather, He saved man for reasons independent of and outside of man.  God was motivated by His electing love, and not by observing any good in sinners.

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Romans 9:10-13)

Since the cause of the sinner’s salvation has nothing to do with any imagined merit or goodness in the sinner, neither does the Christian’s self-efforts have anything to do with the preservation of his salvation.  God knew when He saved man that he was totally depraved, and therefore any new manifestation of sin in a person after conversion cannot be any motivation for God to change His mind and withdraw salvation.  God knew about all of a person’s subsequent sinfulness before He saved him.


For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39)

That God’s intent to bring His elect to glory is grounded in His infinite love for them, which is clearly brought out in Romans 5:6-10:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:6-10)

If God did this for man when he was God’s enemies, God will surely do much more now when man is His friends.

Upon God’s Answer to the Prayer of His Son

The saved are called many things in Scripture:  saints, believers, sheep, Christians, partakers of the heavenly calling, etc.  But the title most dear to the heart of Christ is repeated seven times in His high priestly prayer as those—“You have given Me” (John 17:2, 6, 9, 11-12, 20, 24).  This designation, according to John 17:20, includes all who would believe in Him throughout the ages:

Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.  While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:11, 12)

Christ kept them from perishing, and He prays to the Father to continue to keep them.

Reviewer comment:  Although the author states that Judas was the exception because “he was never one whom the Father had given Him,” it is the reviewer’s contention that Judas was in fact “given” to Christ but not in the same manner as those of the elect.  Judas always a “son of perdition” and was given for the specific purpose of fulfilling Scripture.

Even if the Father had no personal interest in keeping them saved, which He does, He must respond to the prayer of His Son, whose prayers are always answered (John 11:42).  Jesus prays that Christians will be kept from hell (John 17:15) and that they will be with Him in heaven (John 17:20, 24).  It is thus the prayer of the Son of God to the Father that becomes one of the major factors in the believer’s security.  To deny the safekeeping of the believer is to imply that the prayer of the Son of God will not be answered.

Eternal Security Depends Upon God the Son

Paul in concluding his argument in Romans 8 states:  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (8:31-33)

Paul’s argument is that, if God has already justified the man who believes in Jesus (Romans 3:26; 8:30), how can He lay anything to the charge of His justified one?  God, of all persons, sees the Christian’s failures and imperfections.  He does not shut His eyes to these failures but disciplines His children because of them.  However, His justification comes from the imputed righteousness of Christ and is legally binding.  It is not a subject of merit, and its loss cannot be a subject of demerit.  Like a human father, God can and does correct His earthly children, but they always remain his children.

God, having justified the ungodly (Romans 4:5) will not and cannot contradict Himself by charging them with evil—to do so amounts to reversing their justification.  Christ has either died for man’s sins and has paid the penalty or He has not.  The Arminian cannot have it both ways.  God is the only one ultimately who could bring a charge against His elect, and as Paul says, God has already rendered His verdict—justified!

Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)

In Paul’s answer to the second question concerning “who condemns,” he gives four answers.  Each of the answers affirms the absolute security of the believer as unconditionally safe forever:  (1) Christ died, (2) He is risen, (3) He advocates, and (4) He intercedes.  Because of these, “nothing will be able to separate the Christian from the love of God” (Romans 8:39), that is, cause the Christian to forfeit his justification.  These four facet pertaining to Christ are taught elsewhere in Scripture, but all are gathered together in this one verse to support the unconditional security of the believer.

Upon Christ’s Substitutionary Death

Paul’s first answer is “Christ has died!”  Who can condemn the believer when the penalty for his sins has already been paid?  The greatest proof of eternal security is justification by faith, because God sees the believer as “justified” as the result of Christ’s penalty-payment on the cross.  Justification is a forensic action; it is entirely a legal matter.  Because of Christ’s death holy God was freed to pardon every sin that was or ever will be, with respect to its power to condemn.

In Colossians 2:14, Paul refers to the accumulation of sin as a “certificate of debt”:

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements [lit: certificate of debt] that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13, 14)

In the ancient world when a prisoner was incarcerated, a “certificate of debt” was nailed to the door of his prison.  Written on it was the crime he had committed and the duration and nature of his punishment.  When the prisoner had paid his debt, the prison guard would write on the certificate the Greek word tetelestai, meaning “It is paid in full.”  After Christ had suffered a 3-hour spiritual death (separation from the Father) on the cross and just before voluntarily relinquishing His physical life, He looked to heaven and cried out to the Father, “It is finished” (John 19:30)—the Greek word tetelestai, “It is paid in full.”

Either Christ’s (spiritual) death for sin actually paid sin’s penalty or it did not.  If it did, then the believer cannot be condemned for the very sins for which Christ died.  All sins of believers who lived subsequent to the cross were “future” to the cross.  If any of these sins are a ground of judgment against them, then Christ’s death was not propitious (satisfactory to God).  If it was propitious, then their sins no longer provide grounds for condemnation.  It is either one or the other, and the Bible is quite clear that Christ has paid the penalty.  Christ paid the penalty-price recorded by the certificate of debt for all sins—it was an eternal redemption.

Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God . . . For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.  (Hebrews 10:12, 14)

When Christ our Priest finished His sacrificial work, it is declared that He “sat down.”  The notion of a seated priest was foreign to the Jewish economy.  In fact, there were no chairs in the tabernacle because a priest’s work was never done.  But here is a Priest who has finished His work.  He sat down!  There is nothing more to do as far as paying the penalty for sin is concerned.  The believer has an eternal redemption.  His sins have been paid for all time, and he has been perfected forever!

Upon Christ’s Substitutionary Life

Paul does not bring in this aspect of Christ’s substitutionary work in Romans 8:31-34, but it is the subject of a large body of Scripture.  Christ was man’s Substitute by His death, His passive obedience; and He was also man’s Substitute by His life, His active obedience.

Reviewer’s comment:  Here the author diverges somewhat from his four-point outline, which at this juncture is “Christ is risen.”  Certainly the statement refers to a “living Christ” but the substitutionary life to which the author refers to here is Christ’s life of perfectly keeping God’s laws prior to His death on the cross.  Nevertheless, it is important that the reader understand that the resurrection of Christ was the validation of both His divinity (He was God incarnate) and His message (salvation only through Him).

The law required both a penalty for disobedience and a standard of perfect obedience.  This was necessary because to merely atone for sin would not be a complete salvation.  It would save a person from hell but not make him fit for heaven.  Man could not fulfill either of these requirements, but Christ fulfilled both of them.  Christ fulfilled the law for the believer with His sinless substitutionary life, as well as paying the penalty-price for his sins by His sacrificial substitutionary death.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:9, 10)

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 10:4)

Whereas man’s sin was imputed (placed to His account) to Christ; His righteousness was imputed (placed on their account) to man, which may only be appropriated by faith.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:10)

If only Christ’s passive obedience (substitutionary death, penalty-payment) is imputed to the believer, then the believer must produce sufficient works on his own in order to be finally saved.  But Christ’s active obedience (His righteousness established by His sinless life) was also imputed to the believer.  Because Christ has already obeyed for the believer, he has a right and guarantee to eternal life.  The believer’s own obedience secures only rewards in the after-life.

Upon Christ’s Priestly Ministry of Advocacy

The ministry of Christ encompasses both of the last two points, that of His advocacy and intercession on behalf of the believer (Romans 8:34).  Jesus continually pleads the believer’s case as his Advocate or Defense Attorney before God the Father.

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:1, 2)

Jesus the Righteous has satisfied (the meaning of propitiation) every claim against the sinning Christian in so far as eternal judgment is concerned.  His advocacy is presented under the picture of His entrance into the heavenly sanctuary in Hebrews 9:24-26:

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.  (Hebrews 9:24-26)

It is obvious that, while God will exercise parental discipline (Hebrews 12:3-15), His child will never be condemned because his Advocate has satisfied the claim of justice against him.  Satan can never again bring a case to the bar of justice that will win.  It is Christ who bore man’s sin and who appears in heaven on the believer’s behalf, and Christ is the very righteousness by which the Christian is accepted before God.  There is therefore no sin a believer can ever commit that will cause him to lose his salvation because of the advocacy and propitiation (satisfaction) made in his behalf by Jesus Christ the Righteous One:

Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.  But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25)

He is able to save forever, or to the “uttermost,” because He lives forever to pray for believers.  Their eternal security rests upon the advocacy and intercession of Christ, both of which are totally efficacious.  Through Christ’s offering for sin and His intercession in behalf of saints they are “perfected forever” (Hebrews 10:14).

Eternal Security Depends Upon God the Holy Spirit

The ministry of the Holy Spirit pertaining to the believer in Christ also insures that he will be saved forever.  Three specific works of the Holy Spirit are related to the issue of eternal security, as follow:

Upon the Holy Spirit’s Ministry of Regeneration

The ministry of the Holy Spirit in regeneration results in the birth of a new man and the gift of eternal life.  Both of these effects imply irreversible change and a permanent new condition.

  • Spiritual Birth

When Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, you must be born again, He taught that there are certain similarities between physical and spiritual birth.  In each a new entity is created.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)

When this happens, a new creation is formed:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

This new creation is the Holy Spirit’s workmanship, which unites the believer with the divine nature, i.e., with God Himself:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus . . . . (Ephesians 2:10)

Arminians point out correctly that there are important differences between spiritual birth and physical birth.  But as the subjects of spiritual birth, partakers of the nature of God share experience aspects of the spiritual birth that are indeed analogous to physical birth.  The fundamental idea of the creation of a new thing, a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) called a “son” (Galatians 4:6) and who is an heir of God (Romans 8:17), allows the believer, indeed requires the believer, to stress that a son cannot become a non-son and a created person cannot be uncreated.  New birth is clearly irreversible.

In the case of human generation a being comes into existence who did not exist before, and this being will go on living forever.  An earthly parent imparts a nature to a child, and that nature endures forever.  Thus, to a much higher degree, the divine parent similarly creates a new man in Christ who will live forever.  The earthly nature that is inherited from earthly parents never dies but endures forever.  Logic requires that the inherited divine nature from the heavenly parent will also endure forever.

Can a man be unborn?  Of course he can die, but this in no way reverses the fact of his sonship and his birth.  Both physical and spiritual births are one-time events with permanent consequences.  Even death does not reverse it.  A person’s conscious existence never ends, and one day all will be raised from the dead (John 5:28, 29).

The son of a human parent may rebel and disobey, but he is still of the nature of his parent.  That never changes.  God similarly has created a new man; He gave birth to the believer.  The believer may rebel, and God may disinherit him, as an earthly father can; but believers will never cease to be God’s children.

There is nothing then that can be done to reverse regeneration.  Even if a believer decided he no longer wanted to be God’s child, it would not change his union or relationship with God.  Spiritual and physical birth cannot be reversed.  Furthermore, the believer cannot give salvation back.  Is it not obvious that one cannot give his physical birth back to his human parent?  Neither can he give his spiritual birth back to his divine parent.  If that were possible, then the gospel promise would be contradicted.  Then a person who had believed in God’s Son would perish and not have everlasting life after all (John 3:16).  Then a person who possesses eternal life would come under judgment in direct contradiction to John 5:24.

  • Eternal Life

Not only is the believer born into God’s family, but through regeneration he receives the gift of eternal life—a life (not mere existence) that is owned permanently the moment it is given.  It is a characteristic of the new creation.  Jesus Himself argued that eternal life was first of all the promise that a believer will rise from the dead after he physically dies.  Christ also said that a Christian has eternal life now and this means he cannot cease to eternally live:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. . . .” (John 11:25, 26)

Christ says the believer has eternal life now and as a result (1) he will rise from the dead in the resurrection, and (2) he will never die.  For Jesus, at least, the gift of eternal life meant far more than sharing the life of God now.  It was a guarantee of endless existence with Him.  The believer will never die!  Over and over again the Savior stresses the permanent nature of the gift of eternal life.  He told the woman at the well that, after drinking the water He would give, she would never thirst (John 4:14).  He said I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst (John 6:25).  Eternal life is permanent.  All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out (John 6:37).  The Christian will “certainly not” be cast out!  How else could the Lord say it?  Eternal life is not only “without cost,” but it is permanent!

Upon the Holy Spirit’s Baptizing Ministry

Through the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit a person who accepts Christ by faith is brought into organic union with Christ, and Christ’s history becomes permanently the believer’s history:

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (Romans 6:3)

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.   Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:8-11)

Because of the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit, uniting the believer to Christ, what is true of Christ becomes true of the believer.  One thing that is true of Christ is that He died to sin once for all and that He dies no more.  Paul specifically reveals that this is true of believers as well, in verse 11.

Upon the Holy Spirit’s Sealing Ministry

There are three references to the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit, as follow:

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed [Gk. sphragizo] us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee [Gk. arrabon].

(2 Corinthians 1:21, 22)

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed [Gk. sphragizo] with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee [Gk. arrabon] of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13, 14)

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

Two things stand out in these verses:  (1) the Holy Spirit has sealed (sphragizo) the believer, and (2) the Holy Spirit is his pledge or guarantee (arrabon).  The ancient practice of using seals is behind the figurative use of the word here.  A seal was a mark of protection and ownership.  When the Holy Spirit seals the believer, He presses the signet ring of the heavenly Father on his heart and leaves the permanent mark of ownership.  The believer forever belongs to God.  God certifies this by His unchangeable purpose to protect and own the believer to the day of redemption.

In Ephesians 1:13, 14 it is stated that the Holy Spirit Himself is the seal.  He is impressed upon the believer, so to speak, and His presence in his life is thus a guarantee of God’s protection and that he is owned by God.  A broken seal was an indication that the person had not been protected.  The Holy Spirit cannot be broken.  He is the seal of ownership.  In Ephesians 4:30 it states that the believer is sealed for the day of redemption.  This sealing ministry of the Spirit is forever, which guarantees that the believer will arrive safely for the redemption of his body and his entrance into heaven (Romans 8:23).  The Holy Spirit is the seal that the believer is both owned and protected by God until the day of redemption.

Christians are forever protected from wrath.  They cannot lose their salvation any more than they can break the seal.  They would have to have greater power to lose salvation than the Holy Spirit has to keep them saved.  Of course there are various experiential ministries of the Holy Spirit that the believer can refuse to accept such as His filling (Ephesians 5:18), and the believer can in fact grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30); but, as stated, these are all experiential and have nothing to do with the Spirit’s non-experiential ministry of sealing and baptism.  Nowhere are believers asked to allow the Spirit to baptize them into the body of Christ, or to seal them and become their guarantee.  These actions happen to all believers at the point in time when they believe in Christ.

One other point regarding the Holy Spirit as the believer’s guarantee or pledge.  The Greek word arrabon is a legal term that obligates the contracting party to make further payments.  It is a legal concept from the language of business and trade.  In Romans 8:23 Paul speaks of the “first fruits” of the Spirit, a down payment to be followed by more.  The believer awaits the redemption of his body.  He is sealed unto that day.

God has legally bound Himself to the believer’s eternal security.  The choice of the legal term (arrabon, “earnest”) implies that God has legally and morally obligated Himself to bring His child to heaven.

If one person who was born again in Christ ever fails to enter into heaven when he dies, then God has broken His pledge—God’s word of honor has been voided.  No human conditions are mentioned.  This, like other aspects of security is a work of God and depends upon Him alone.


If the believer’s eternal security depends upon anything in or by him, then his eternal security is indeed uncertain and unsecured.  However, the Scriptures teach that his final entrance into heaven is guaranteed by the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Since it depends upon an infinite Person, who is faithful and true, it is inconceivable that the salvation of any child of God can ever be lost.

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 22—Tragedy or Triumph?

This chapter opens with an author-envisioned account of what possibly could transpire between Jesus Christ and two believers—one prepared and one unprepared—at the Judgment Seat (Gk. bema) of Christ, which “envisioned account” is five pages in length.

The Judgment Seat

At the archaeological excavation of the city ofCorinthone may view the judgment seat in the town square, which represented the forum in the Apostle Paul’s mind when he wrote the following.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

(2 Corinthians 5:10)

The judgment seat in Corinth was a large richly-decorated rostrum, centrally located in the market place, from which rewards were dispensed for victory at the isthmian games.  Also, punishments were administered from this location.  The apostle draws the parallel between this seat and its functions with the Judgment Seat of Christ.

At the Judgment Seat of Christ believers will be judged according to both the good and the bad things they have done while on earth in their physical bodies.  Although Christians, both layman and leaders, tend to gloss over this, Christ warned in Luke 12:2, 3:  “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.  Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (see also Luke 8:17; Matthew 10:26; Mark 4:22)  Paul spoke of God bringing to light the hidden things of darkness (1 Corinthians 4:3-5), and Peter spoke of the fact that judgment must begin with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17, 18).  Paul’s reaction to the Judgment Seat of Christ was, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord(2 Corinthians 5:11).

Paul refers to a believer’s life’s works as a building that will be subjected to a careful examination (1 Corinthians 3:14, 15).  He warns them that all of them will appear for this accounting (Romans 14:10-12).  Therefore, they should not judge others now, for the Lord will judge their hidden motives then (1 Corinthians 4:5).  He often compared the Christian life to that of the athlete who pursues the victor’s crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:5).

Jesus continually exhorted His followers to full discipleship by reminding them that one day they would face an accounting for their stewardship (Matthew 10:26-42; 16:27; 24:45-51; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:42-48).  He challenged them to pursue rewards (Matthew 5:11, 46; 6:1-6, 16-18) and treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21; 19:21; Mark 4:24, 25; Luke 12:13-21; 16:1-13).

Throughout the New Testament this theme repeatedly emerges:

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17)

The Criteria of Judgment

It is vitally important that believers understand precisely what Christ will look for in their lives when they come before His judgment seat.  There appears to be three criteria for passing this test:  (1) deeds, (2) faithfulness, and (3) words.


Otherwise known and labeled “works,” Scripture everywhere stresses their importance:

Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

(1 Corinthians 3:13)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

(2 Corinthians 5:10)


And I will give to each one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:23b)

How will it be determined that a “work” is either good or bad?  There appears to be two criteria for passing this test:  (1) Scripture alignment and (2) proper motivation.

  1. They must be in accordance with Scripture.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5)

Of course, in some instances there may be differing interpretations of Scripture.  When deeds are performed based upon a particular interpretation of Scripture, the Lord will look to the person’s motive in arriving at that interpretation.  Was the true motive to discern the single intent of the original author of Scripture?  Was the true motive to find out what the Bible truly said and do it no matter what the cost?  Or was the person making the Bible fit into a beforehand prescribed belief system?  These questions give rise to the second criterion.

  1. They must emerge from a motivation to bring honor to God.

A “deed” (“work”) has two aspects to it:  the deed itself and the motive behind it.  God will look deeper in His evaluation of the works themselves.  He will search “the minds and hearts” (Revelation 2:23)

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)

Jesus too emphasized that it was the inner motivation that determined the value of a deed:

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matthew 6:1-4)

In one of the most sobering passages of the book of Hebrews, it states that believers will one day give an accounting and at that time “the thoughts and intents of the heart” will be the crucial issue:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12, 13)

The Lord will primarily want to reveal whether or not what the believer did was motivated by a desire to bring honor to Christ, which comes from a sincere heart that fears (“honor”) God:

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. . . . Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.   But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:17, 22-25)

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

(1 Corinthians 10:31)


Faithfulness is the second criterion of the test that the believer will need to meet when he stands before the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? (Matthew 24:45)

His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 23)

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. (Luke 16:10)

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

A faithful man is of high value to God.  One cannot always be successful, but he can always be faithful.  There will be many reversals in heaven.  The first will be last, and those seemingly destined for high honor will be distant from the throne.  Those unknown to history, who were perhaps insignificant in this life but who were faithful servants, will reign with the servant kings in the coming kingdom.


The third major criterion that the Lord will employ to evaluate the worthiness of the believer’s life is the words he has spoken.  This is appropriate because words are often reflections of the motives and attitudes in the heart.

For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

(Luke 12:2, 3)

For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:2)

There is a third party present in every conversation involving a Christian, the Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures have much to say regarding the tongue and the impact of a person’s words.  Control of the tongue is presented as evidence of depth of character in the books of James and Proverbs.  But, as the apostle says, it is a fire and difficult to tame (James 3:1-8).  But God will reward greatly those who succeed in taming it.

Rewards and Merit

Perhaps no issue was of greater importance to the Reformers than the question of merit.  Having broken with the works-righteousness ofRome, they were very sensitive to any intrusion of merit into the system of theology they were fashioning.  Given this strong aversion to works-righteousness, it is easy to see how they may have been troubled with the many passages in the New Testament that offer rewards on the basis of merit.

Calvin was committed to proving that justification by works could not be inferred from the doctrine of rewards, and so the motivation of rewards was blunted in his system.  He therefore mixed Great White Throne passages with passages about rewards to believers.  He feared the use of the word “reward” because it harkened back to the system of works-righteousness that he and the other Reformers were attacking.  If he could have acknowledged that the reward of the believer’s works is in view in these passages, and not entrance into heaven, then he would have in no way surrendered justification by faith alone.

Calvin’s argument fails anyway, because even though God purposed that believers would do works, He purposed that these works would be done jointly by the believer and God.  On the other hand, God purposed that the gift of salvation would be His work alone.  In other words, God purposed that rewards would come as merit and salvation as a gift.

If the Bible teaches that the believer can merit a reward, so be it.  This implies no necessary contradiction to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  It simply ascribes more to the new man in Christ than the adherents of perseverance can allow.  But the Scriptures clearly allow this and in fact assert it in scores of places.

Faithful Work is the Believer’s Duty

Perseverance in holiness is not the necessary and inevitable result of justification.  It is necessary for rewards in heaven but not for entrance into heaven.  It is, however, the believer’s “obligation” (Romans 8:12) and his “duty”:

And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, “Come at once and sit down to ea”’? But will he not rather say to him, “Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink”?   Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.  So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:7-10)

When the believer has done all that he can do, when he has been faithful to the end, he has still only done what is required of all servants, that they be faithful.  “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).  So the reward the believer receives is still a matter of grace.  That God should reward believers for their work is not an obligation on His part, for they have only done what they should.  It is a further manifestation of God’s unmerited favor!

This, however, does not mean that believers obey God only because it is their duty.  That is the atheistic ethic, not the Christian one.  The atheist maintains that good should be done only for the sake of good and with no reward for the doing of it.  This is supposedly “higher” than the Christian view.  Yet the Scriptures repeatedly hold out eternal rewards as a central motivation in Christian living (Colossians 3:23, 24; Hebrews 6:10; 11:26).  When they are set in the context of gratitude for forgiveness of sins and the desire to say “Thank you, Lord, for dying for me,” it is difficult to see how this is “selfishness.”

Rewards Are Dispensed on the Basis of Grace

Part of the problem the Reformers had in regard to the place of merit in eternal rewards is that they construed “merit” in the Catholic and legal sense—a precise, legal obligation.  The believer would in this sense put God in his debt, and for every work done God would be legally obligated to measure out some degree of reward.  However, the Scriptures present the matter in a different light in the parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20:1-16.

In this parable concerning the kingdom of heaven the landowner pays the labors all the same amount, regardless of how long they are employed.  Therefore, there is not a precise correlation between length of work and reward as there may be in a labor contract.  The idea of legal merit is excluded; only mercy is emphasized.  It is possible for a young Christian in terms of his time of service to receive the same crown as the aged who has served the Lord for fifty years.  It is quality (faithfulness) and not duration that is the emphasis.  The crown of righteousness, according to Paul, is not for him only but for all those who love Christ’s appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).  Samson’s finest hour was his death (Judges 16:30), and despite his prior failing it earned him a place in the faith hall of fame (Hebrews 11:32).

The variety of gifts and rewards given in heaven is striking.  It is important to note that all of these rewards are given for faithfulness, even in the midst of trial and difficulty.  The rewards are given to the overcomer who perseveres in the midst of heresy, idolatry, immorality, pressures, and on-going stress.  Rewards are given for being in the world but not of it.

Temporal rewards are dangled before us like shiny new trinkets that gleam and glow with hypnotizing allurement.  Christians are taught by the world’s secularists and “success seminarists” to visualize their achievements and rewards.  Biblically, the Lord tells us this is vanity and “chasing after the wind.”  The Lord challenges the Christian to visualize the rewards of the future and to chase after Him alone.

The Duration of the Remorse

The Scriptures give no reason that unfaithful Christians will spend their eternity in remorse and regret.  At the end of the millennial reign of Christ upon earth “. . .God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.  Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:4, 5)

The exclusion from the banquet is a temporary act of divine discipline and cannot be an eternal exclusion from fellowship with the King.  Not even “things to come” can separate Christians from the love of Christ (Romans 8:33, 39).  Yet it is true that Christians will reap what they sow (Galatians 6:7).  There will be for some a time of profound sorrow, but it is not absolute.  How long will this period of remorse and regret last?  The Scriptures do not specify.  But Hoyt (Negative Aspects, pg. 131) is correct in saying, “To overdo the sorrow aspect of the judgment seat of Christ is to make heaven into hell.  To under do the sorrow aspect is to make faithfulness inconsequential.

The author makes these final statements in the closing of this chapter:  “Differences in authority and intimacy with Christ will, however, remain throughout eternity.  Nevertheless, everyone’s cup will be full, but the cups will be of different sizes.  This is GRACE!”

Reviewer’s Comment:  There appears to be no basis for these assertions in Scripture.  The issues of rulership, rewards, and sorrow seem to apply only to the 1,000 year reign of Christ upon earth.  Afterwards, all sorrow will be eliminated and all things will be made new and the former things will have passed away (Revelation 21:4, 5).

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 23—Negative Judgment and the Believer

How can carnal Christians whose sins have been paid for, whose trespasses are forgiven, ever experience a negative judgment from God again?  In the discussion to follow, it must be stressed that the sober warnings of the New Testament are addressed to the carnal and hardened Christians and not those who are persevering in their sanctification.  The Christian who persists in willful and unconfessed sin faces negative judgment both in time and at the Judgment Seat of Christ, in addition to exclusion from the inheritance in the kingdom.  However, these negative consequences will not last into eternity.  When Christians enter the eternal state, God will wipe away every tear and all will be made new (Revelation 21:4, 5).

First, the Bible makes it clear that God has judicially removed sin from the believer and has done it completely (Isaiah 44:22; Psalm 103:12; Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12).  With regard to sin, Scripture affirms that the child of God under grace shall not come under judgment (John 3:18: 5:24).  His sin, past, present, and future, has been born by a perfect Substitute, and he is therefore forever positioned beyond condemnation (Colossians 2:10), accepted as perfect in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 10:14), and loved as Christ is loved (John 17:23).

But what is perplexing is that the Scriptures affirm in other passages that God does judge the Christian when he submits to carnality, and God does remember a believer’s sin (John 13:8; 1 John 1:9).  If the Christian does not confess, he is not forgiven.  This certainly appears to be a penalty for willful sin.  If the Christian refuses to obey, he apparently will no longer remain in Christ’s love (John 15:10).  This is true even though Paul has declared elsewhere that “nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:39).

So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  (Revelation 3:16)

Who will render to each one according to his deeds.  (Romans 2:6)

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.  (Revelation 22:12)

Apparently, Christians, due to their sin, can “have no part” with Christ, are subject to their sins not forgiven, and can be outside of Christ’s love.  Other passages declare that believers will reap what they sow (Galatians 6:7).  They are warned that there is no sacrificial protection from judgment in time (Hebrews 10:26) for willful sin.  Paul tells them that at the Judgment Seat of Christ they will be rewarded for both the good and the bad things they have done (2 Corinthians 5:10).  For the persistently carnal Christian a dreadful experience awaits him at the last day.  He will suffer the loss of everything but will be saved as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15)

In addition, there is Christ’s stern warning to the wicked servant that he will be cast into the place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).  The foolish virgins are excluded from the wedding banquet (Matthew 25:1-13), and the man without the proper attire for the banquet will be cast into “outer darkness”—the darkness outside (Matthew 22:13).  The exegetical data in these passages argues well for the regenerate state of the individuals undergoing these punishments.

As mentioned in chapter 15, there are three negative consequences for the consistently carnal Christian at the Judgment Seat of Christ:

  1. For some there will be a stinging rebuke.  This is the meaning of the Lord’s warning that some will be “cut in pieces” (Matthew 24:51) and of His stern denunciation, “You wicked, lazy, servant” (Matthew 25:26).
  1. Such unfaithful Christians face millennial disinheritance.  When the Lord declares that He will “deny” those who are ashamed of Him (Matthew 10:33; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:9) and when Paul says, “If we deny Him, He will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12) disinheritance is in view.  A father may disinherit his son, but that son remains his son.  To be disinherited is simply to forfeit one’s share in the future reign of the servant kings.
  1. The carnal Christian faces exclusion from the joy of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:12).

These passages appear to teach that Christ does remember the Christian’s sins and does take them into account.  This raises a perplexing theological problem.  For many these conflicting bits of data cloud their view of the love and unconditional acceptance of God.  The Roman Catholic Church uses these two strains of biblical thought to support their doctrine of purgatory, i.e., that the death of Christ did not completely satisfy the justice of God and therefore the believer must assist in this satisfaction in purgatory.  But the Scriptures teach that the saint is made perfect at death and there is therefore no room for a “purgatorial cleansing’—that Christ’s death is complete in regard to providing eternal unconditional acceptance and immediate entrance to heaven at death.  Therefore, whatever befalls the glorified saint at the Judgment Seat cannot exclude him from immediate entrance into heaven.  Paul taught both the imputation of righteousness and that one day Christians will be judged according to their works; therefore, the ideas cannot be incompatible.

The Experimental Predestinarian (Strict Calvinistic) Solution

Because of the clear fact that believers have had the penalty for sin already paid, staunch Calvinists argue that any negatives accruing to the believer at the Judgment Seat of Christ are not judicially punitive in nature.  They maintain that a primary purpose in this judgment of the believer is disclosure—every careless word will be revealed (Matthew 12:36) and hidden motives will be brought to light (Romans 2:16).  And although they also maintain that the sins of believers will also be revealed on that day, they stress that these will be forgiven sins, whose guilt has been totally covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Yet 1 John 1:9indicates that there are sins in the believer’s life that are not forgiven until they are confessed.  And the problem with some of the above scriptures is that they seem to require a penal sense both in time and at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The Dispensational Solution

The above view is also common in dispensational circles, albeit in a more developed form in regard to the Judgment Seat of Christ.  For example, Lewis Sperry Chafer argued as follows:

At the Judgment Seat of Christ sin will not be the subject of consideration.  At that time believers will be perfect, with no sin nature, and will never sin again in thought, word, or deed.  Therefore any concept of discipline because of previous sins is unnecessary and would be unfruitful.  The question of righteousness before God was settled when they were justified by faith.  The Judgment Seat of Christ deals with works, not with sin.  Believers will be judged on whether their works were good (worth something) or whether they were bad (worthless), as stated in verse 10. (Systematic Theology)

John Walvoord similarly affirms that the child of God under grace shall not come into judgment because the penalty for all sins, past, present, and future, has been paid by his Substitute.  The believer is therefore beyond condemnation, perfect in Christ, and loved as Christ is loved.  Walvoord says that, when saints stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the only issue is rewards that will be reckoned on the basis of merit.  He maintains that this is not a matter of justification or sanctification, because the believer is already perfect in the presence of God.  He concludes that the only remaining issue, then, is the quality of the believer’s life and the works that God counts as “good” in contrast with works that are “worthless.”  Therefore any “loss” at the Judgment Seat of Christ is not about the satisfaction for sin or retribution, but about rebuke for failure and loss of reward.

The Partaker Solution

While there is much to commend in the above “solutions,” this writer prefers a slightly modified view.  But the reader should be reminded that the warnings of the Bible are addressed to those who refuse to repent, who refuse to confess.  This view is similar to that of the Dispensational view with a major difference—that while the Partaker does not see negative judgment coming upon the persevering Christian, he does see numerous passages speaking of such a judgment on those Christians who persist in willful, unconfessed sin.

In proof of the assertion the following points are presented:

  • The explicit scriptural statement of this point (Hebrews 10:26).
  • The numerous biblical illustrations where God does seem to punish justified saints.

As to the second point, consider the following:

  1. Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10).
  1. The sickness that came upon drunk believers at the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:29-31).
  1. The punishment David received for his adultery and murder, as well as several other similar examples throughout Scripture.

Peter said that judgment must begin with the family of God (1 Peter 4:17).  And the writer to the Hebrews says the Lord will judge His people (Hebrews 10:30).  When Adam sinned, the penalty was physical and spiritual death (Romans 5:12-14).  The Lord made it clear that His followers cannot be counted as His friends unless they obey Him (John 15:14).  Failure to respond to discipline can result in a believer being condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32, 33). 

These judgments can include sickness and death.  It is difficult to remove the notion of judgment and penalty from stern exhortation of the writer to the Hebrews, “And He punishes everyone He accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:6).  Hymenaeus and Alexander are punished and turned over to Satan (1 Timothy 1:20).  Throughout the Old Testament there are numerous judgments that come upon the people of God.  Moses warns of many curses that will come upon the disobedient (Deuteronomy 28:9-26).  Saul was punished by God by being rejected as king (1 Samuel 15:23).  God punished Solomon by taking the kingdom from him and raising up many adversaries (1 Kings 11:11).  King Uzziah was punished by God with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:20).  These inflictions are clearly penal in nature even though Christ is the propitiation for all sin and the justice of God has been satisfied!

If it can be shown from Scripture that any believer experiences a penal judgment either in time or eternity, it cannot be argued that the Bible teaches that no believer could ever experience a penal judgment.  And it seems that it can be shown that the Bible teaches this.  The judgment of physical death is a penal condemnation without exception, then why do all believers undergo the penal judgment of physical death (Romans 5:14-18)?  Nowhere in Scripture does it say that the penal element is removed from physical death.

If God can bring condemnation upon believers in time as these illustrations prove, there is no necessary reason to believe He cannot condemn believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Indeed, there seem to be numerous scriptures that indicate that this is the case.  The wicked servant was warned that he would be “cut in pieces.”  Elsewhere there is the warning that every person will be judged according to deeds.  It must also be remembered that the central passage on the Judgment Seat of Christ is set in a legal context.  The Judgment Seat referred to was a raised platform in the middle of the city where judgments were passed and penalties announced.  Paul states that all saints will stand before God’s Judgment Seat (Romans 14:10), where they must all give an account.  Even describing the negative judgment as “loss of reward” is only a circumlocution for penalty.  A loss of reward is one kind of penalty!  The man in the parable of the talents who buried his money will lose what he has and will be cast into the “darkness outside.”  The foolish virgins will hear the terrifying words,” I do not know you.”  The condemnation, however, has nothing to do with the believer’s eternal salvation.  The atonement has forever settled that issue 

The difficulty is obvious.  If Christ is truly the satisfaction for sin and has therefore satisfied the justice of God, why then do believers still have to satisfy that justice by undergoing more penalties?

The Intent of the Atonement

The atonement of Christ is either a satisfaction for the sins of some men (limited atonement) or a satisfaction for the sins of all men without exception.  It cannot be the former because the Scriptures say it was for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).  The atonement must therefore be a satisfaction for the sins of all without exception.  Then the question must be raised, “In what respect is it a satisfaction?”  It is either a satisfaction for sin in all respects or a satisfaction for sin in some (limited) respect.  It cannot be a satisfaction in all respects because then all then would be saved.    If the claims of justice have truly been satisfied in all respects, then surely no person should have to satisfy again those same claims himself by suffering the penalty of hell.  But individuals do go to hell.  Therefore, the atonement must be a satisfaction for sin in a special sense.

What then was the atonement intended to accomplish?  The intent of the atonement is not to completely satisfy the claims of justice in all respects or to save all men.  Rather, the intent of the atonement is to completely satisfy the justice of God in a limited and specific sense.  The atonement has freed God to unconditionally accept those who believe.  According to Zane Hodges, the atonement is to realize that its purpose was to remove all barriers to God’s acceptance of the sinner.  God’s justice is satisfied in the sense that He can now confer acceptance upon those sinners who believe.

Specific support for this view is surprisingly obvious.  When the Bible declares that God has reconciled the world to Himself and that He no longer counts men’s trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:18; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20-22), it also declares that not all men go to heaven.  The Bible declares that Christ’s death is a propitiation for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), and it also states that those who do not believe on Him are condemned (John 3:18). 

How can God’s justice be satisfied and the world be reconciled and men still go to hell?  Either the term “world” refers only to the “world of the elect” or the reconciliation, satisfaction, and redemption of Christ have a more limited intent.  To limit the term “world” to the “world of the elect” seems a bit contrived.  But a limitation on the atonement is clearly taught in the Bible.  It states, for example, that false teachers, who have denied the Lord, were nevertheless redeemed by Him (2 Peter 2:1).  It is therefore clear that the redemption of Christ does not automatically cover the sin of the unsaved.  What then is the atonement intended to do?  Its purpose, says Paul, is that God “might be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26).  In other words, the death of Christ freed God to confer justification upon those who believe.

If it is permissible to argue for a limitation on the atonement in regard to its extent, as the Reformed Theologians do, is it not permissible to argue for a limitation on the atonement in regard to its intent when it is explicitly taught by numerous scriptures?  The person who does not believe is condemned to hell because God apparently did not extend the atonement to be a satisfaction as far as condemnation to hell for that person.  Rather, it was designed to satisfy the justice of God in the sense of freeing Him to unconditionally accept those who believe.  When a person does believe, he is not only unconditionally accepted by the Father, but the benefits of the atonement are extended in his case to protect him from hell.  This extension occurs through the free gift of justification, acquittal at the divine bar of justice.

What kind of justice accepts a penalty for sin and then extends its benefits only far enough to grant acceptance before the judge to those who believe but not far enough to acquit the sin of those who do not?  Can the benefits of a pardon be variously applied and extended at the discretion of the judge? 

It is true in human courts of law.  Judges are free to take various circumstances into consideration that effect how far they will extend the penalties of the law.  But whereas human judges base their determinations (sentences) on works, the Bible reveals that the divine Judge bases His determination only on one “requirement,” that of believing on His Son.  At that point, He confers righteousness upon the sinner.  The one who believes will never face the penalty of hell again.  As Paul puts it, “His faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Romans 4:5).

Individuals are excluded from heaven because they are still in their sins.  The atonement of Christ actually satisfied the justice of God in the sense that it removed any restraints on His love and justice.  He is freed by the satisfaction of Christ to throw the bars of heaven open, but He is not obligated to extend the benefits of this atonement to all persons apart from faith.

It was, however, a provisional payment as well.  Not only was it directed Godward, in throwing the bars of heaven open; but, for those who believe, God extends the benefits of His Son’s atonement to cover all their sin—they are forever removed from eternal condemnation.  When a person does not believe, he is condemned for his sins.  However, he is not paying a penalty for sins for which Christ already paid.  Christ’s atonement was never intended to pay for the sins of those who do not believe.  It was intended to remove the bars of heaven and to provide a basis for God to be just when He extends forgiveness to the ungodly.

Therefore the atonement was both actual, as the adherents of limited atonement argue (but only in a limited sense), and provisional as the advocates of unlimited redemption maintain.

Two Kinds of Relationship with God

The understanding of the intent of the atonement explained above clarifies how God can punish believers for sins when Christ is the satisfaction for sin.  The answer is that Christ’s atonement was not intended to cover the sins of believers for sins within the family of God.  It only renders God free to accept unconditionally into His family those who believe.  Like all children we enjoy two kinds of relationships with our earthly father.  We are permanently secure in his family, but our fellowship with our father can vary depending upon our behavior.  With God our eternal relationship is secure and unchanging because it depends upon Him; it was secured by the atonement.  But our temporal fellowship is variable because it depends upon us.  We must confess our sins and walk daily in the light of His Word.

Children of God can pay penalties.  The intent of the atonement was obviously not to remove all penalties from the life of the Christian.  In regard to the believer’s eternal relationship he is without condemnation, but in regard to his temporal fellowship he can come under condemnation.  The fact that Christ has paid the penalty for the believer’s sin, forensically, forever, in no way implies that He automatically grants forgiveness for fellowship within the family irrespective of his behavior.

The Bible speaks of two kinds of forgiveness:  eternal and temporal.  The sacrifice of Christ gives sacrificial protection from the former on the basis of faith—the permanent gift of regeneration and justification.  But it does not give sacrificial protection to unconfessed temporal sin subsequent to this justification.  A believer’s eternal forgiveness depends upon God, but a believer’s temporal fellowship with God depends upon him.

Unconfessed sin relates not to forensic forgiveness but to familial forgiveness.  Any sin is a barrier to fellowship but does not endanger the eternal relationship.  Daily forgiveness of those who are within the family of God is distinguished from the judicial and positional forgiveness that was applied forensically to all of a person’s sins the moment he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Forensic forgiveness is the subject of Colossians 2:13, but familial forgiveness is in view in 1 John 1:9.

Thus, in John 5:24 when the believer is assured that he will not come into judgment and yet in 2 Corinthians 5:10 he is told he will, the resolution is that John is referring to judgment with respect to one’s eternal destiny and Paul is referring to the wages for work.  John speaks of forensic justification, and Paul refers to familial forgiveness.  John speaks of escape from retribution; Paul speaks of rewards and punishments within the family of God.  The satisfaction of Christ unconditionally and irrevocably covers the former but only provisionally covers the latter.  The believer must confess daily to obtain the benefits of having the atonement extended to forgive sin within the family of God.

In summary, sin has three powers over mankind:  (1) the power to bar a person from heaven and send him to hell and (2) the power to enslave him; and, upon becoming a Christian, (3) the power to exclude him from vital fellowship and friendship with Christ.  Through the atonement God dealt with all three powers.  Through propitiation the barrier to heaven was removed for all men.  God’s justice has been satisfied.  God is legally free to confer unconditional acceptance upon those who believe.  Through redemption God has purchased mankind out of slavery to sin.  Through reconciliation man is restored to friendship.  Yet even though God is now free to confer acceptance, man must appropriate it by faith.  Similarly, he appropriates the benefits of redemption from sin by reckoning [Reviewer:  by faith]  that he is truly free from sin (Romans 6:11).  He appropriates the benefits of reconciliation by walking in the light and confessing his sins so as to remain in constant fellowship (1 John 1:9).  The following chart details the various aspects of the atonement:



How Obtained


To free God to accept those who believe

Believe [Reviewer:  a synonym for faith]


To purchase man out of the slave market of sin

Reckon [Reviewer:  a synonym for faith]


To establish friendship between former enemies


Practical Concerns

Will God judge the Christian for sin he has confessed?  The answer is yes.  However, this judgment would only be loss of reward and not rebuke or disinheritance.  Scripture speaks of a threefold sense of judgment of believers.  They are judged as sinners, children, and servants:

1.      As sinners they were judged at the cross.  There the sentence of damnation was fully executed upon their Substitute (John 5:24).

2.      As children they are judged in the present.  It is a penalty (1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:5-9), but its purpose is to advance their sanctification (Hebrews 12:10, 11). 

3.      As servants they are judged in the future at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 2:6; 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:24, 25; Revelation 22:12).

A believer who sins over an extended period of time and then confesses cannot expect to receive the same reward as one who has always lived a godly life.  While his sins are forgiven, his rewards that could have been obtained are lost.  What about the person who lives a carnal life for years and then on his deathbed sincerely decides to confess his sin?  Will this man be punished?  The answer is yes.  Once he confesses, he is forgiven, but he will still be held accountable as a servant.  Indeed, when he arrives in heaven no restraint from sin will be felt.  He will instantly repent of any failure in the past, and he will enter into complete fellowship with the Savior.  However, he will suffer loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  There he is judged, not as a sinner or child but as a servant.  His reward will be minimal.  His loss will be great.


Four things may be said about the negative consequences that come upon the believer at the Judgment Seat of Christ:

  1. God’s love and acceptance of the sinning Christian is not affected in terms of the Christian’s eternal relationship to God and permanent membership in His family.  He is forever perfectly accepted in Christ and perfectly loved.  However, God does not approve of his sins, and he can lose his fellowship in time and his share in the great future in the coming kingdom if he persists in them.
  1. The negative consequences for believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ may be viewed as the final chastisement that the Lord has ordained for His people.  The fact that some of the punishments are experienced in eternity rather than in time enhances their value for sanctifying them now.  The anticipation of negative chastisements serves to keep them humble, to purse faithful lives, and to live spiritually in the present.  While they are a punishment for an unfaithful life, their main purpose is to effect sanctification now.
  1. This view of the Judgment Seat should not lead to introspection.  For the Christian who is walking in the light, even though he fails repeatedly, has no need for concern.  While even persevering disciples will have regrets and loss at the Judgment Seat, their predominant sense will be of joy and gratitude.
  1. God’s motive in these future chastisements is merciful and loving.  It is His desire that all His children enjoy the fullness of co-heirship with His Son in the final destiny of man.  He knows more than anyone how grieved Christians will be to miss out on the reign of Christ’s metochoi in the coming kingdom.  He, more than anyone, wants His children to have the richest possible experience of heaven.  He is not to be viewed as angrily, sternly, rejecting His child as He casts him to the “darkness outside.”  Furthermore, the duration of this chastisement is momentary and the subsequent remorse does not last into eternity.  At the completion of His kingdom reign, Christ will wipe away all tears and all will be made new (Revelation 21:4, 5).

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 24—The Final Significance of Man

What is the final significance of human life?  What are we living for?  Or, better, what should we be living for?  This chapter will discuss the biblical answer to this dilemma.

According to the Bible the universe is not hostile to man but was created to be ruled by him.  The original Edenic commission, “rule and have dominion,” has yet to be fulfilled.  Man’s purpose in life is not found by making the best of a bad situation but by striving mightily to obtain the high honor of ruling with Christ in the final destiny of man.  That destiny is called “the inheritance.”  This is the future reward the writers of Scripture everywhere exhort man to pursue:

Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:24)

 Many writers have attempted to discern various rewards that the believer can obtain:  crowns, co-rulership, participation in the heavenly priesthood, special honor, etc.  But the truth is that they are various facets of the single reward, the inheritance.

The idea of the believer’s future inheritance is a central theme of the Bible.  As demonstrated elsewhere, all Christians are heirs of God but not all are co-heirs with Christ.  All will have God as their inheritance but not all will “receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”  It is this latter inheritance that is the subject of this chapter.

While the Old Testament prefigured this inheritance, the New Testament writers enriched the concept immeasurably.  At least six separate facets of this great reward are described:

  1. Participation at the wedding banquet.
  1. The prize to the overcomers.
  1. A special class of resurrection.
  1. Co-reigning with Christ.
  1. Treasures in heaven.
  1. Praise and honor from Christ.

From Matthew to Revelation the prospect of an inheritance in the kingdom is set before the believer’s eye.  We are to strive mightily to obtain these heavenly benefits.  The way in which we live our lives now will apparently determine our degree of enjoyment of eternity [millennial kingdom].  Our closeness to Christ now will exactly parallel our closeness to Him then.  As we are now, so we will be then.

Reviewer’s comment:  This reviewer often injects in brackets the words “millennial kingdom” in the author’s text in order to convey the reviewer’s belief that the “inheritance” (co-heir with Christ) the author speaks of applies only to the 1000 year reign of Christ upon the earth; and, that subsequent to this dispensation, all tears will be extinguished and all things will be made new (Revelation 21:4, 5).

Participation at the Wedding Banquet

The first aspect of the inheritance is the joy of the final gathering, the wedding feast of the lamb.  This event occurs at the onset of the millennial kingdom.  The wedding feast and its joys and opportunities have been discussed elsewhere.  It will be a time of honor or dishonor.  Some will be excluded from the feast, but they will still be in the kingdom.

The Prize to the Overcomer

To those who are victorious the Lord promises special prizes.  Each of these prizes could properly be categorized under one of the six aspects of the inheritance.  However, due to the uniqueness of the theme it may be best to assemble all the passages regarding the overcomer under one heading.

The overcomer:

  • Will merit the right to eat from the tree of life (Revelation 2:7).
  • Will receives the crown of life—discussed later (Revelation 2:11).
  • Will receives some of the hidden manna and a white stone with a new name (Revelation 2:17).
  • Will be granted authority over the nations and will be given the morning star (Revelation 2:26).
  • Will be dressed in white and will have his name acknowledged before God the Father and His angels (Revelation 3:5).
  • Will be made a pillar in the temple of God upon which will be written the name of God and the name of the city of God (the new Jerusalem) in addition to receiving  the new name of Christ (Revelation 3:11-13).
  • Will be given the right to sit with Christ on His throne (Revelation 3:21).
  • Will be able to inherit “all things” and will have a special relationship with God (Revelation 21:7).

Reviewer’s comment:  It is suggested that the reader examine the arguments for each of the above from the book, pages 554-559.  In every case the author presents the position that the “overcomer” is one who perseveres; whereas other authors such as Tim LaHaye make the argument that the “overcomer” is one who takes the water of life which is offered freely, i.e., believes in Christ (Revelation 21:6,7; 1 John 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4, 5).  This reviewer sees merit in both positions.

In every reference to the overcomer in the Revelation, he is one who is a victor in battle (see Revelation 12:11; 13:7; 15:2; 17:14).  The central theme of the entire book is to exhort the saints to persevere and to be victorious.  If all saints persevere and are victorious, the exhortations and promises of rewards are pointless.  An exhortation to do something everyone does anyway to obtain a reward that all will receive anyway is absurd.

A Special Class of Resurrection

In one of the most personal and motivating passages in the New Testament, the great apostle to the Gentiles lays bare his heart:

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10, 11)

Paul’s supreme goal in life is to know Christ more intimately, to know the power of Christ in his life, and to share in Christ’s suffering that he might “attain” to the “resurrection.”  Here he uses the Greek word exanastasis, the only time this word for “resurrection” is used in the New Testament.  The normal word is anastasis.  Rather than being translated “resurrection,” this word could be literally rendered “out-resurrection.”  This might suggest a “resurrection out from among the resurrected ones” in contrast to a mere “resurrection from among the dead.”  In other words, a special category or class of resurrected saints is referred to in this verse.

Reviewer’s comment:  This reviewer finds the author’s observation regarding this special use of the Greek word conveying an “out-resurrection” especially cogent.  The normal word for resurrection (“anastasis”) connects to the appropriation of eternal life by faith alone in Christ alone described in verse 9, while the one-time use of “exanastasis” connects to the “fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” of verse 10.

It appears, that the phrase alludes to the words previously used by Christ, “But those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead(Luke 20:35).  The Lord contrasts two extremes, the sons of this age and the worthy.  This worthiness is consistently based upon works (cf. Luke 21:36; 2 Thessalonians 1:5), so legal worth or justification is not in view.  There was no point in mentioning the unfaithful in between; it would not serve His purpose.

All Christians will obtain the resurrection, but only some will be worthy of it.  To be worthy of the resurrection and to “attain to the out-resurrection” appear to be parallel concepts and explain one another.  This interpretation fits very well with the following verses and would explain why Paul selected this word instead of his usual word for resurrection, anastasis.  The following verse reads:

Not that I have already attained [Gk. “katalambano], or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)

Interestingly, Paul pictures this goal as a prize to be won.  The Greek word katalambano is found in 1 Corinthians 9:24 where it is used for the striving of the athlete to attain the prize in the Isthmian games; and in Philippians 3:14 the apostle Paul uses another word from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, which refers to the prize (Gk. brabeion) won in the games:

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize [Gk. “brabeion”] of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13, 14b)

What is the prize for which God has called him heavenward?  The use of the Greek word brabeion is significant.  It signifies a prize in an athletic contest, something earned.  The similarity of the two contexts suggests that they interpret each other.  If so, then the prize in Philippians 3:14 is the reward received by the faithful believer when he finishes his race.

What is the prize?  What is the goal?  Philippians 3 does not say precisely, but based on the rest of the New Testament, it is entrance into rest and, with that great company of the metochoi, inheritance of the kingdom.  This is what he means when he says he hopes to attain to the “out-resurrection.”  He hopes to earn a place among that special class of resurrected saints who have been faithful to their Master to the final hour and will hear Him say, “Well done!”

Reigning with Christ

The fourth aspect of the inheritance is the believer’s reign with Christ.  One day, the Scriptures everywhere affirm, the struggle of fallen man will finally come to an end.  This consummation will not be achieved by social engineering or by the successful implementation of any human ideology.  Rather, it will be accomplished by a supernatural intervention of God in history, the second coming of Christ.  Finally, history will achieve a worthy outcome—thekingdomofGod.  Page after page of Scripture speaks of this glorious future and the possibility that those who are Christ’s servants now can achieve positions of honor in that future glory then.  These positions of honor are an important aspect of the believer’s future inheritance.

The Extent of the Kingdom

It will be on earth that the final resolution of universal history will occur.  However, there are intimations in Scripture that the future reign of the servant kings will embrace the universe as well.  For example, it is stated that the saints will one day not only rule the world but will also rule over the angels (1 Corinthians 6:1-3).

Since the domain of the angels extends far beyond terrestrial boundaries, the believer may assume that the kingdom of those who rule over them does so as well.  David reflected upon the divine commission in Genesis to “rule and have dominion,”

What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?  For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.  You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet. (Psalms 8:4-6)

While David specifies that the “all things” refers to things on earth, the writer of Hebrews expands that concept when he says:

You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. . . . (Hebrews 2:8)

It is clear that the reign of the Messiah extends to heaven and earth.  Since the metochoi are co-heirs with Him (Romans 8:17), their reign by virtue of association with Him will therefore extend to the cosmos itself:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth. (Philippians 2:10

Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28)

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things . . . . (Hebrews 1:1, 2)

The Bible declares that the entire creation is waiting the future reign of God’s servant kings:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 16-21)

It is evident that this future kingdom embraces the entire created order.  One day mankind will conquer the galaxies!  While it is true that one purpose of the heavens was to “declare the glory of God,” it seems that they were also created to be placed in subjection to man.  Instead of merely being destined to rule a small planet, mankind has been chosen to subdue something far greater, the vast cosmos itself.  No challenge could be greater than to be placed over all the works of God’s hands!

Co-regency with the King

It is the kingdom of the Son of God of which this chapter is addressing.  He is the head over all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:10).  The believer’s future is closely linked with His.  Those Christians who are faithful to Him now will reign with Him then:

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”  So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

(Matthew 19:27, 28)

But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.  And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

(Luke 22:28-30)

Conditions for Greatness

The notion that the future kingdom is a kind of classless society where all are equal and rewarded equally has contributed in no small way to the laxness witnessed in the lives of many in the twentieth-century church.  Many have subconsciously reasoned that, since all are equal, my life has no particular eternal significance.  In the final analysis my life will be rewarded as much as those who labored more diligently.

But there will be distinctions in heaven [millennial kingdom] and God does show partiality.  He is, however, justly partial.  In the kingdom there will be those who are great and those who are least:

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19 

But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:30)

There will be authority granted over varying numbers of cities (Luke 19:17-24).  Some will have responsibility for many things, and others will have responsibility for nothing (Matthew 25:20-30).  As discussed above, only the overcomers will achieve a share in the reign of Christ and have authority over the nations.  Some will even have the high honor of sitting at Christ’s right hand during the kingdom (Mark 10:35-40).

Jesus specified three basic conditions for positions of high honor in the kingdom:

  1. The believer must be faithful to use the gifts he has been given.

In the parable of the minas or pounds (Luke 19:11-27), Jesus makes this an illustration of the final judgment on believers.  He describes a nobleman who gave his servants each a mina and then departed.  When he returned, the first servant had traded his mina and gained 10 minas in return.  The nobleman then gave him authority over 10 cities.  The second servant gained only five minas by trading his one mina, so the nobleman gave him authority over five cities.

But the last servant gained no additional minas; choosing rather to hide his mina in a handkerchief.  In his case the nobleman severely rebukes the servant and takes his one mina away from him and gives it to the servant who produced 10 minas.

The spiritual axiom is that the more opportunities, gifts, money, and training that a Christian receives will result in greater accountability at the judgment seat.

Reviewer’s comment:  The author sites the wrong parable for this “spiritual axiom.”  He should have used the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:13-40).  The parable of the minas illustrates all believers who are issued the same portion of the Holy Spirit (indwelling and sealing) and who do not hide this power in their “self-effort” (handkerchief) but allows the Holy Spirit “through” them to produce “divine good works,” will be awarded in accordance to the results—some more, some less.  The reader is invited to examine a commentary on these and other “kingdom” parables at the topical section of www.bibleone.net.

  1. The believer must become a servant now.

The second condition for high honor is that the believer must strive to be servant to all.  Jesus Himself modeled this when He took the form of a servant and became obedient to death.  As a result God highly exalted Him (Philippians 2:5-11).  Paul says, “Let this mind be in you.”

And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’  But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.  For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27)

Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.

(Mark 10:43, 44)

  1. The believer must be faithful when suffering.

New Testament writers invest human suffering associated with living for Christ with high dignity.  It is through suffering with Christ that believers are trained and equipped to join the great company of the metochoi.  Consider the following:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:16-18)

So that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer. (2 Thessalonians 1:4, 5)

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

(1 Peter 4:12, 13)

A major purpose of the incarnation was, according to Hebrews, the bringing of many sons to the place of honor—the final destiny of man.  This was achieved by the suffering of the Son and His many brothers.  God’s intention was to place man over the works of His hands.  This was called “salvation” by the Old Testament prophets:

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)

That this salvation to be inherited is not deliverance from hell is made clear when he says:

For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. (Hebrews 2:5)

The “salvation” to be inherited is not entrance into heaven but the subjection of the world to come.  God has not yet fulfilled His intention.

You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:8, 9)

We do not yet see all things put under him.”  That statement is an apt summary of human history.  How visibly true this is.  Man attempts to exercise dominion, but he cannot do it.  This desire was planted in man’s heart in the Garden, and the vestige of it remains today.  That is why men throughout history have dreamed of having dominion over the planet.  That is why man cannot keep off the highest mountain.  That is why he wants to go to the stars.  The history of man is one of continually precipitating a crisis by attempting to exercise dominion.

This applies not only on a universal scale but to individual men as well.  Who among men has achieved all his dreams?  This is simply part of the human condition and will be until the kingdom.  Man has only one hope today.  Only one man has forged the path.  This man, like all mankind, had His dreams shattered.  He suffered, and yet He presently exercises dominion.  Furthermore, through His incarnation man has become united with Him so that, if they are faithful to Him, they can share in His ultimate victory.  It is God’s purpose to bring many sons to glory:

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)

The “glory” to which the many sons will be brought is evidently subjection of the world to come (Hebrews 2:5).  They will be brought to this destiny, this high honor, by the “author” of their salvation.  In every respect Jesus is the one out front, the believer’s supreme leader and example in the life of faith.  He alone is qualified to achieve this for mankind.  His commitment to man is total.  He has died for man and He lives for and in believers.  His leadership includes suffering.  For Christ to become a sympathetic priest, He had to experience the suffering of those He has come to represent:

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:17, 18)

There are two truths that unite in the exaltation of God’s King-Son:

1.      He had been appointed by God to be the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:1).

2.      It was necessary that Christ vindicate His appointment by showing Himself worthy of it through victorious suffering.

And it is upon precisely this same double condition that Christ’s people will share with Him His honors.

But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.  And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

(Luke 22:28-30)

Authority in the kingdom and the honor of sitting at the table during the final gathering and enjoying the royal feast are plainly promised as superior rewards for superior devotion.  His way is to be our way.  The goal of obtaining glory (i.e., “honor”) in the future kingdom is a principal intent of the suffering we endure.  God purposes to equip the believer for rulership in the great future is by preparing through suffering a race of servant kings.  God does not grant this honor to anyone except those who have suffered with Him.  The believer must first learn obedience and service:

Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. (Hebrews 5:8, 9)

Treasures in Heaven

The fifth aspect of the inheritance was called “treasure in heaven” by Jesus.  Jesus taught about a different kind of wealth, a wealth that could not be seen in this life:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

If a believer’s heart is really focused on the future kingdom, then he will naturally want to make any sacrifice necessary to place as much wealth there as possible.  It is proper that God has some system for compensating those followers of His who are willing to make unusual sacrifices.  He promises them an enhanced inheritance in the kingdom, i.e., treasure in heaven.

Therefore, throughout the New Testament, Christians are exhorted to do things that will enlarge their eternal storehouse with what they send ahead:

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19 

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. (Luke 12:32, 33)

Investing for the future is as old as man himself.  It requires faithfulness, self-denial, and patience—all worthy qualities.  Furthermore, the man who lays up material treasures in this way is trusting that the money he is denying himself now will one day result in a large profit.  But what business man was ever promised an absolutely guaranteed 10,000% return on his investment?  Listen:

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)

Reviewer’s comment:  It should be noted that the investment that counts in the life of a believer are those works and sacrifices of “divine” and not “human” origin.  All persons, both saved and lost, are able through “self-effort” to produce “human good works,” which God will not recognize (Isaiah 64:6).  But the believer through “faithfull submission to God’s Spirit” is able to have “divine good works” manifest in his life, which God will always honor.

Christians will not receive their return until they arrive in the kingdom.  But the object of their trust is infinitely more reliable than the economy of their temporal existence; it is the promise of Jesus the Christ.  The ability to connect present decisions with future consequences is a major component of both secular and spiritual maturity.

The Content of the Treasure

When Jesus promised His followers treasure in heaven, there is no necessary reason for excluding actual material treasure from His words.  Indeed, believers are specifically told that they will have the wealth of five or ten cities and that in this age they will receive up to a hundredfold return on their efforts.  It is also possible that Jesus’ reference to treasures is to be understood as spiritual treasures such as enhanced relationship to Him.

Reviewer’s comment:  Since the author has introduced the possibility of material prosperity as reward for Christian living, this reviewer feels the necessity to state that the Bible does not support what is often proliferated from many pulpits of today and is known as “prosperity salvation,” i.e., that God promises material prosperity for proper living.  Ministers often misconstrue various scriptural passages that convey the promise of spiritual blessings to mean secular blessings.  In doing this they are simply wrong.  Such teaching cannot be supported by Scripture and the lives of early Christians, especially the Apostles.

Conditions for Obtaining Treasure

  1. Believers are to do deeds of charity in an appropriate manner.

Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matthew 6:2-4)

In order to be rewarded with wealth in heaven, believers must give to the needy now.  Furthermore, this giving should be in secret and not publicly announced.  The main point is probably that it should be given with the intent to help, for Christ’s sake, and not for the purpose of obtaining the praise of man.

  1. Believers are to make sacrifices to follow the Load as disciples.

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21)

Praise and Honor from Christ

The sixth and final aspect of the believer’s inheritance is praise and honor from Christ.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6, 7)

Here Peter is referring to the believer whose faith is unsullied and who steadfastly trust God in the midst of trials.  This honor and praise from God is what Peter refers to when he says:

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(2 Peter 1:10, 11)

The Christian who suffers faithfully and who adds virtues to his faith (Hebrews 1:5-9) will not just barely make it into the kingdom or be saved only as one escaping through the flames (1 Corinthians 3:15).  He will be welcomed “richly” (“abundantly”) into the kingdom.

The praise and honor that Christ will bestow upon His metochoi seem to be divided into two categories in the New Testament:

  • Verbal Praise

The Scripture everywhere testifies that God will affirm the faithful Christian in this way: Matthew 25:21; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Peter 1:7.

But such praise can be forfeited:  Mathew 6:1, 5, and 16— when a Christian seeks the approval or praise of men instead of God he forfeits praise from God.

  • Crowns
    1. Crown of Rejoicing—pertains to believers who lead the lost to Christ, i.e., “soul-winners” (1 Thessalonians 2:19; Philippians 4:1).
    1. Crown of Glory—pertains to believers who faithfully labor in caring and instructing other believers (1 Peter 5:1-4).
    1. Crown of Righteousness—pertains to believers who long for Christ’s return (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
    1. Crown of Life—pertains to believers who love Christ so much that they endure trails, temptations, and persecution even unto death (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).
    1. Crown of Mastery (Self-discipline)—pertains to believers who live a life of consistent spiritual self-discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

It should be noted, in conclusion, that there crowns can be lost (Revelation 3:11).  The believer must be faithful to the end of life if he is to obtain these tokens of special honor.

In the book of Revelation the twenty-four elders, perhaps signifying the church, are pictured as casting their crowns to the feet of the Lamb (Revelation 4:9, 10).  This reveals that a major purpose of the crowns is as tokens of worship.  Throughout eternity these tokens of honor will be laid at Christ’s feet in acts of worship.  Each time the rewarded believer approaches the throne, he will remove his crown, lay it at the feet of Jesus the Christ, and worship Him.  The central motivation for obtaining these crowns is to be found in the desire to worship Jesus the Christ.


Man’s life on this earth does have ultimate significance.  There can be no greater purpose than to live one’s life in such a way that the One before whom he will one day give an account will says, “Well done!”  History is moving toward the final destiny of man—the inheritance.  The faithful to Christ to the end of life will share in that great “salvation.”

The Reign of the Servant Kings

By Joseph C. Dillow

A Review-Summary-Outline


Chapter 25—The Partakers

The Company of the Metochoi

In this final chapter the writer wishes to speak to some of the practical considerations that such a magnificent vision of the future raises.  For sensitive readers there is likelihood that the possibilities of rebuke and exclusion from millennial joy are an occasion for unnecessary introspection and discouragement.  What Christian has been as obedient as he should?  What Christian has believed God as he should?  The answer is “no one.”  Who then are the objects of the Lord’s displeasure when He returns?  We must remember that the parables of the wise and foolish virgins, the good and the wicked servant, and the faithful and unfaithful believer are sharp contrasts.  The warnings and parables do not deal with the daily lapses and failures to which all who know the Lord are subject.  They deal with those who willfully persist in such unfaithfulness.  It is to those who refuse to grow, who sin willfully, who spurn exhortation, and who dismiss their need to repent and change that that these sober warnings are given.

All Christians bring a lot of emotional patterns into their Christian lives.  Their personal histories include genetic and environmental factors that, in part at least, determine what they are.  It is therefore easier for some to live victoriously than others.  It appears, however, that the issue is not success but faithfulness!

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of Moreover it is required in stewards that one is found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2)

Faithfulness means getting back up out of the mud, asking forgiveness, and persevering to the end of life.  God is not as concerned with a believer’s success as He is with a believer’s heart.  Just because a believer struggles with persistent failure now does not mean he forfeits his reward; in fact, it means just the opposite.  The fact that he stays in the struggle and returns to the battle is evident proof that he is one of the Partakers.  Remember that David committed adultery and murder, and yet at the end of his life God said of him that he was a “man after God’s own heart.”  Success is not the only issue; faithful perseverance, even after failure, is a primary issue!

What then is necessary to become one of Christ’s metochoi?  In its most general statement the requirement is “to hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end” (Hebrews 3:14).  It often seems more difficult to trust God then to obey Him.  The Hebrews were not troubled with problems of disobedience so much as trust.  It was the seemingly distance of God in the midst of their troubles and His lack of apparent involvement in their difficulties that caused them to doubt.  It is for this reason that the writer of Hebrews sets forth the great heroes of faith in chapter 11, who “died in faith, without receiving the promises” (Hebrews 11:13).  It is difficult to “trust God when it hurts.”  While ultimately the life of faith cannot be separated from the life of obedience, God seems to particularly exalt the man who persists in faith (Hebrews 11:6).

However, the life of discipleship and practical obedience to God’s commands is also necessary for those who would achieve the highest positions among the metochoi.  Here the stern challenges of Jesus to be willing to leave father and mother, to sell all that one has, to deny self, and to take up one’s cross and follow Him comes to the forefront.  They are not challenges to become Christians but to those who have become Christians to become “overcomers.”

All who have persevered to the final hour will be Partakers.  But even among the Partakers, Jesus taught there will be distinctions.  All three subject-persons in Luke 19:12-27 (parable of the minas or pounds) are servants.  All three looked for the coming of their master, but only two are rewarded.  The third will be in the kingdom, but he will not reign there.  And there is a distinction between the first two servants relative to the rewards they received.

In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 a different truth is emphasized.  In that parable the first two slaves did equal work; they doubled the Lord’s investment.  However, the Lord gave them differing amounts of money to begin with according to each one’s ability (vs. 15).  God never entrusts the believer with responsibilities that exceeds the abilities He has given him!  Yet in the final day, even though the servant with greater ability (i.e., more talents) returned more money to his master, both received exactly the same reward (for equal effort).  It is not how much a believer produces, but whether or not he has been faithful with the abilities God has given him.  This means that the faithful but uneducated Auca Indian could possibly receive greater rewards than a Billy Graham!

Spiritual Motivation

The Motivation of Joint-Rulership

When believers stand before the Lord in perfect resurrection bodies, their capacity to understand the significance of the Lord’s gracious death on their behalf will be heightened to a sublime degree.  They will feel many things then that their sin nature clouds today.  One thing they will feel strongly is gratitude!  They will see as they have never seen that the sinless Son of God loved them and died that they might live.  They will be overwhelmed with GRACE.

For those who have not persevered in faith, who have denied their King now, they too will have heightened feelings.  They will have feelings of deep shame and regret because they took Him for granted and wasted their lives.  The pain will be acute, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Furthermore, the notion of reigning with Christ, or ruling over cities, should not be trivialized as if it means various administrative positions in a kingdom.  Believers aspire to higher positions because they can then be more effective in the service of their King.  To have ten cities instead of five means that they will have greater opportunity to serve Him—to demonstrate their love and gratitude to Him and to extend the knowledge of His love and goodness throughout the cosmos.  To miss that is to miss much.

Also it should be stressed that the motivation behind their perseverance in holiness is not just the crowns they receive but why they want these crowns.  They do not want crowns so in carnal hubris they can compare theirs with others throughout eternity!  There will be no sin nature, no selfishness, no envy, and no pride then.  Rather, they want these crowns to have much to lay at Christ’s feet!  The crowns are theirs to use as tokens of worship and gratitude—for eternal salvation.

A Mercenary Motive?

Perhaps the greatest objection to the notion of joint-rulership is that it seems to be an unworthy motivation for spiritual living, i.e., to be motivated toward faithfulness by offering rewards is completely backward in the economy of grace.  This view of ethics is sometimes called “disinterested benevolence.”  This is the atheistic ethic in which good is done only for the sake of the good, with no consideration of reward for the doing of it.

Regardless how one may feel about the matter, it is evident that the New Testament writers did not hesitate to use the motivation of future rewards as a central motivator for godly living.  Certainly the motivation of thankfulness and grace was very important, but the vision of the future enhanced this stimulus.  Furthermore, they did not stagger to use the negative motivation of the loss of rewards and exclusion from the joy of co-rulership.

In Matthew 19:27-30 Peter forthrightly asked what the benefit would be in the kingdom for a life of sacrifice now.  Instead of rebuking him for striving for rewards, Jesus commends this motivating factor by telling him that he will rule with Him.  The morality of the Bible is an offense to the “purely moral.”  It constantly urges the reader to look to the future.  As Abraham wandered in Canaan, he “was looking forward to the city with foundations” (Hebrews 11:10).  Moses made his great decision to turn his back on the wealth of Egypt and endure suffering with the people of God “because he was looking ahead to his reward(Hebrews 11:26).  Being stimulated by the reward one will receive is viewed as a praiseworthy motivation.  Perhaps the Bible is a better judge of man’s nature and how to inspire one’s zeal than the moral philosophers.

It is not a striving so much for personal benefit but persevering in good works so that believers can achieve the goal of sharing in the future reign of the servant kings.  Because they love Christ, they want to earn the right to rule with Him.  So it is their love for Him and the joy set before them that motivates.  They are not saying that the desire for future reward is to replace altruism as a motivator, only that it enhances it.

It is impossible to separate the motivation of love and the motivation derived from reward.  They are, in the Bible at least, inextricably interrelated.  This is so because to strive for the biblical inheritance requires that one strive “according to the rules.”  This means that:

  • The believer must strive with a heart motive “for Christ’s sake” and in response to Christ’s love.
  • The believer must strive with a realization that, once he has done all he can do, he still has only done his duty (Luke 17:10).
  • The believer must strive with an understanding that there is no strict contractual correspondence between a certain amount of work resulting in a certain amount of reward (Matthew 20:1-16).

Performance and Unconditional Acceptance

Does this doctrine imply that God no longer accepts the believer unconditionally?  No.  When persons become Christians, the Scriptures affirm that they enter into two different relationships with Christ:

  1. “In Christ”—this relationship is eternal and unchanging.  It depends upon God alone and is received through faith on the basis of the justifying righteousness of Christ.  They are born into the family of God and are the eternal objects of His unconditional love.
  1. “Christ in the believer”—this refers not to their eternal relationship but to their temporal fellowship.  This relationship with Christ is changeable and depends upon their response in faith to His love and grace.  Within this relationship God requires performance in order to secure His approval and future inheritance.  As any earthly father would, He disciplines His children.  If they disobey, He will still love them and they will always be His children.  But their fellowship will be broken until they confess their sins (Isaiah 59:2; John 13:8; 1 John 1:9; 2:12, 15; 1 Peter 3:7).

To deny this is simply to deny that God holds His children accountable for their behavior.  If the Reformation placed too much emphasis on the fear of God, it is possible that this generation, inspired by the benevolent God of liberal theology and the narcissistic nature of this modern culture, has placed too much emphasis on God’s love.  Or at least it has defined love in a way that excludes accountability.

In his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders, the apostle Paul declared, “I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).  It is grace that builds and motivates.  Only when grace is the foundation can the doctrine of accountability be seen in its biblical context.

The Purpose of the Messianic Kingdom

It is vitally important that the purpose and nature of this rulership be understood.  Only then can this doctrine of glorious joint-heirship be properly defended from critics who degrade it as “carnal.”

The design of this glorious reign of the metochoi is to deliver the world from the results of sin and to fill it with blessing and glory!  These metochoi are not ruling for themselves but for others.  Part of the problem is that in the present world, rulership nearly always implies the appropriation of power due to selfish motives.  It has the connotation of “lording over” others.  But the King Himself has taught another kind of rulership, servant rulership.  The metochoi of King Jesus are not above their Master.  They too are servant rulers.

And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’  But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.  For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27)

Indeed the kingdom has been postponed for several thousand years precisely for this purpose, to raise up a body of rulers who will sustain it with dignity, purity, compassion, and selflessness worthy of the Messiah Jesus.  A period of time is necessary to prepare the future rulers.  God has predetermined the number of those who will share in the reign of David’s Greater Son, and until this number (known only to God) is completed, the kingdom itself will not be established.  The experience gained now prepares them to be wise, intelligent kings and sympathetic and loving priests.  Their goal is not to exert authority but to serve those over whom they have been placed.

The present world may be viewed as the training ground for the aristocracy of the future kingdom, the ruling class of the world to come.  A man may be in abject poverty now and completely ignored by the leaders of this world.  He may be despised and without means to adequately provide for his family.  Yet he is now a prince and will one day inherit his kingdom.  Then he will obtain a position far higher and with more grandeur than that of any human ruler who ever lived.  This truth is based upon numerous scriptural promises that God will fulfill!

Security and Significance

It is vitally important for the believer’s mental wholeness that he feels both secure and significant with God.  God does not threaten His children’s security as a means of motivating them.  But God does deal seriously with His children in terms of their final significance.

The Believer’s Need for Security—It is certainly arguable that the most fundamental of human needs is secure love.  And God for Christ’s sake has granted believers freely this thing they need and desire most from Him, primary security.  Salvation is unconditional.  The person who believes in Christ and has accepted His offer of forgiveness has:

  • No fear of loss of salvation (Romans 11:28; Ephesians 1:13).
  • No fear of eternal condemnation (John 5:24; Colossians 2:13, 14).
  • No fear of divine rejection as His child (John 10:27, 28; Romans 8:34).
  • Positive Assurance:  (1) God’s children forever; (2) God loves and accepts the believer, no matter what.

RESULST:  The believer’s security is established by God.

God’s acceptance and adoption gives the believer a basis for life.  As an earthly parent always loves his child, so the heavenly Father remains committed to His children.  Like an earthly parent, however, the heavenly Father does not always approve of His children’s actions, and He will hold them accountable for their waywardness.  In some cases He will deal severely with their willful failures.

The Believer’s Need for Significance—In order for believer’s to be motivated in what they do, they need to feel that their task and lives are significant and that there is a final accounting for what they do.  Without that feeling work is a burden, and their lives lack focus and meaning.

It is self-evident that believer’s motivation to accomplish a given task is directly related to how significant they feel the task.  When Paul said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward,” (Colossians 3:23, 24) he was appealing to this same motivational force.  This verse reveals a central aspect of what makes believers feel something is significant:  a task will be viewed as significant if the people who matter to them value it as so.  In this cases since it is God who determines the ultimate significance of the work, it will be perceived as highly important:  “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

There must be recognition and affirmation by someone else.  Someone other than themselves, someone who has expertise and authority to affirm that a particular task is valuable must give his affirmation.  God is the ultimate one who will evaluate the believer’s work and will pronounce the desired “Well done.”  Believer’s eternal security gives them freedom to pursue their significance.  They do not have to worry about rejection or about loss of salvation.  But even though they cannot lose their justification, the warnings in the Bible reveal that they can forfeit the inheritance, they can lose their eternal [millennial] significance.

Believer’s lives do matter.  They make a difference.  Through service to God they can attach eternal value to the life they live.  Some of them will pursue the goal more diligently than others.  Some Christians, to their great shame and eternal [millennial] loss, will not purse this worthy goal at all.  The differences will become evident when they stand before Christ at His Judgment Seat (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Differences in Eternity Future

Editor’s comment:  The author takes the position that the differences in positions between believers in the millennial kingdom will be carried on past the kingdom age.  This reviewer believes this will not be the case based on Revelation 21:4, 5.

Final Accountability

Why has the church, which is supposedly a bastion of absolutism in the surrounding sea of relativism, so easily accepted the values of the encircling culture?  This is a question that church and cultural historians will wrestle, but it is quite clear that a profound theological error is near the heart of the matter.  The doctrines of Westminster Calvinism, while designed to promote a high degree of moral purity, have virtually robbed the church of any sense of final accountability.  This is true for three reasons:

  1. An emphasis on evidences of regeneration as the true test of salvation has lead many who are not regenerate to look at some meager evidence that they are and conclude that they are saved when they are in truth on the highway to hell.
  1. The misguided emphasis upon the practical syllogism has all but eliminated the central scriptural motivation for moving carnal Christians back to the path of growth to maturity.  The Bible does not tell them they are not saved.  Rather, it tells them that, if they are, they are going to miss out on the final destiny of man.  Because these negative consequences of carnal life have rarely been defined, many Christians do not live with a healthy fear of God.  No doubt, many settle back into a life of being lukewarm under such teaching.
  1. Their system emasculates the numerous warnings of their force.  The warnings, they say, do not apply to true Christians but to professing Christians.  Since the lukewarm Christian in the pew is already assured of his saved status on the basis of looking at some evidence of works in his life, he concludes that the warnings do not apply to him.  There is no danger.  He is further told that he cannot lose salvation and will be rewarded anyway.

But the Scriptures do not point such men to examine the fruits of regeneration in their lives to ascertain whether they are Christians or not.  They point them to the great future.  Instead of threatening them with the fear of hell, the Scriptures warn them of profound regret and millennial disinheritance in the future.  The danger is missing the Master’s “Well done!”  This is a healthy and ennobling fear that inspires men to growth and discipleship.  The continual challenge to reconsider whether or not one is saved can hardly compare with this for spiritual incitement.  Indeed, it leads backward to introspection and legalism instead of forward to confidence and freedom in Christ.  Love and grace have always been higher and more powerful motivators than fear of hell, but the Experimental Predestinarian cannot offer these incentives because a carnal lifestyle suggests to him that the man in question has not experienced the love and grace of God at all.  All that is left in his bag of motivational influences is to warn the man that he may not be saved and is in danger of perishing.  Rarely do the Experimental Predestinarians attempt to motivate by means of appeal to the magnificent future.  In fact, they often disparage it as “some millennial crown.”

The great neglect of Western Christianity is not that its pulpits have failed to warn people who claim the name of Christ that they are perishing.  Its neglect is that it has not sufficiently explained the great future joy of sharing in the coming messianic partnership and the danger of forfeiting this inheritance.  If such a vision were consistently held before its congregations, the love and fear of God would be greatly increased.  Surely many of those fifty million reported by theGalluppoll who claim to be born again would begin to act like it.


The Lord promises to all who really know Him and see Him that they will enjoy unspeakable privilege in the finalkingdomofDavid’s Greater Son.  That great future must constantly be set before the vision of all who name the Lord Jesus as their King.  Believers should daily be evaluating their lives, their priorities, and their hearts in view of how they will feel about their decisions when before the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Only those who live like this and who finish their course with their flag at full mast will share in the future reign of the servant kings.

Let us “lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us(Hebrews 12:1).  After all, we “have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end” (Hebrews 3:14). 

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter,

Fear God and keep His commandments,

For this is the whole duty of man

For God will bring every work into judgment,

Including every secret thing,

Whether it is good or whether it is evil.

(Ecclesiastes 12:12-14)


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