The permanence of personal salvation
Bible passages opposing permanent salvation
Bible passages on the impermanence of salvation:
The Bible contains some passages which appear to say clearly and unambiguously that once a person gains salvation, they can lose it. Examples are from
the King James Version of the Bible unless the language is so archaic that it is difficult to understand; more modern translations are then used.
||Matthew 10:22: "...he that endureth to the end shall be saved."
The implication is that someone who does not stands firm to the end will not be saved.
Some theologians dismiss this interpretation; they believe that a person who does not stand firm never was saved in the
first place; thus all that are truly saved will continue in that state.
||John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that that everyone who believes in him might not perish,
but may have eternal life." (NAB) The NIV translation of this verse (described above) implies that everyone who believes "shall" have
eternal life. The Amplified Bible agrees. But other translations use alternative words: "should," "may," or "might." These latter version of the
Christian Scriptures (New Testament) imply that saved persons may have eternal life or possibly may perish. Presumably they could lose their salvation by their actions.
This is superb example of how Bible translators can select words which match their own
theological belief systems. The NAB translation is used extensively by Roman Catholics who
believe that an individual can lose their salvation may times during their lifetime, and
frequently regain it by sincerely participating in church sacraments. Those conservative
Christians who believe that one cannot lose ones salvation frequently use the NIV
||John 15:6: "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a
branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up , thrown into the fire
and burned." (NIV) A person who "does not remain" in Jesus is
apparently a saved person whose behavior or thoughts have become unacceptable. Throwing
the formerly saved person into the fire and burning them is an obvious reference to Hell.
||1 Corinthians 15-2: "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold
firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." Paul apparently believes that a person is only saved if they continue to believe
in the gospel. If they lose faith in the gospel, presumably they lose their salvation.
Some conservative theologians believe that this verse also refers to those who were not
really initially saved.
||Galatians 6:8-9: "The one who sows to please his sinful
nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the
proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (NIV) This passage
appears to make salvation dependent on an individual continually working towards their
goal of attaining eternal life. If a person gives up prematurely, then they would lose their
||2 Timothy 2:12: "If we endure, we will also reign with him. If
we disown him, he will also disown us." Elsewhere in the Bible a
number of verses refer to
saved persons reigning with Jesus. So, the "we" in this passage apparently means
saved individuals. But if we "deny and disown and reject" (Amplified
Bible) Jesus, then he will do the same to us, and presumably terminate our salvation.
|Hebrews 6:4-6: "For it is impossible for those who were once
enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy
Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. If they
shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves
the son of God afresh and put him to an open shame." The first two verses define
precisely an individual who had being saved and was receiving the benefits of salvation.
The last verse states clearly that a person is quite capable of falling away from the
faith...and if they do so, that it is impossible for their salvation to be renewed.
who believe that a person can never lose their salvation may interpret this passage as
- That they were never true believers in the first place, and thus were never initially
- That Verse 6 says that a saved person who rejected Jesus and denied the Christian faith
would never be able to repent in the future. If they could never repent, then they could
never be saved again. However, it is not clear why they could not repent a second time. If
they repented once, there does not seem to be any obvious reason why they could not repeat
the process at a later time.
This passage has caused some theologians to doubt that Hebrews was written by an
apostle. Some church leaders have been convinced to "refuse the right of lapsed
believers to be reinstated in the church..." 1
|Hebrews 10:26: "For if we sin willfully after that we have
received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins."
The early Christians universally believed that this passage referred to persons who had
been saved, had continued to sin, and had thereby lost their salvation. Some present-day
theologians teach that this verse refers only to the unsaved.|
|2 Peter 2:20-21: "For if after they have escaped the
pollution's of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, they
are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the
beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,
than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered onto them."
The first verse appears to refer to persons who have turned away from the corruption of
the world, have been saved, and later returned entangled in the world. The implication is
that these people will be more viciously treated after death by God's wrath than those
people who were never saved.|
Losing one's salvation through forbidden behaviors:
Three verses from the Christian Scriptures seem to imply that certain behaviors will cancel a
person's salvation. Three passages declare absolutely that all persons who perform certain
behaviors will not "inherit the kingdom of God". These verses
seem to be absolute. That is, they apply
to everyone, even to those who have been previously saved:
|1 Corinthians 6:9-11: "Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not
inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous,
nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such
were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the
name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God."(ASV)
appears to state that some members of the church at Corinth were once following some of
the behaviors listed and would thus not inherit the kingdom of God. But after they were
saved, they changed their behavior. But the passage does seem to state unambiguously that all individuals who commit one of the forbidden sins after having been saved will go to
There are 11 activities listed here that can prevent an individual from going to
heaven. We have studied these verses as they appear in 24 English
versions of the Bible and found some curious results:
|There is little agreement on the first activity listed in Verse 9: 7 versions translated
it as unrighteous; 6 as wrongdoers or people who do wrong; 3 as wicked,
3 as unjust; 2 as evil-doers or evil people. Finally, two
translations seem to refer to the previous passage which discusses the evil of believers
going to judges outside the Christian community to settle problems. Since 100%
of the human race does wrong or some evil sometime during their life, many translations
would imply that we are all doomed.|
|All translations condemn: |
||adulterers [two persons engaging in sexual intercourse while one or both is
married] using terms like adultery, unfaithful in marriage
||criminal activity by robbers, extortioners, swindlers, cheaters, thieves
||idolaters [people who worship idols]
||thieves, using terms steal, thieves, and cheats
||greedy persons, described as covetous, greedy, avaricious, and selfish
||slanderers, described as revilers, slanderers, lie about others, abusive,
|The translators were divided on one activity: some implied fornication [sexual
intercourse outside of marriage] using such terms as: fornicators, sin sexually,
sexually immoral, and profligates. Others used more general terms such as immoral and impure which do not necessarily relate to sexual activity.|
|The remaining two activities in the body of Verse 9 have been variously translated
in different versions of the Bible as: |
||effeminate which covers a wide range of male behavior such as being unmanly,
lacking virility, decadent, excessively soft or gentle.
||homosexuals, described as men who have sexual relations with other men,
abusers of themselves with men, sodomites and perverts. Lesbians do
not appear to be included in this condemnation, because the verse
refers only to males.
||male prostitutes, also described as men kept for unnatural purposes. It is
not clear whether the term "male prostitutes" is restricted to homosexual
hookers or may also include men who are heterosexual prostitutes.
||catamites, also described as boy prostitutes. This is a young male who is
kept as a sexual partner of an adult male. Often, he would be a slave with no
freedom to avoid sexual acts perpetrated by his owner.
The original Greek text describes the second of the two behaviors as malakoi
arsenokoitai. Malakoi means soft; the meaning of arsenokoitai has
been lost. The phrase was once used to refer to a male temple prostitute. Some
sources in the early Church interpreted the phrase as referring to people of soft
morals; i.e. unethical. That may well be the correct meaning, because presumably
people from that era would have still known the meaning of the word arsenokoitai.
At the time of Martin Luther, it was interpreted as referring to masturbation. More
recently, it has been translated as referring to homosexuals. Each translator seem
to take whatever activity that their faith group particularly disapproves of at the time
and uses it in this verse.
The correct translation for the first of the two behaviors is most
likely to be catamites, a boy or young male who engaged in sexual activities with men. A
footnote to the New American Bible reads:
"The Greek word translated as "boy prostitutes" [in 1 Cor. 6:9]
designated catamites, i.e. boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a
practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world....The term translated "practicing
homosexuals" refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such
It would appear that the best guess translation for these two behaviors might be: "male child abusers and the boys that they rape".
Unfortunately, such a phrase would be unacceptable to most denominations, because
||At 9 words, the resultant phrase would be too lengthy; translators prefer short descriptions.
||it would show that St. Paul believed that innocent young slaves and other children would be condemned to hell for activities which were
outside their control. This would be fundamentally unjust, and difficult for may Christians to accept today. Victimizing the victim is
unacceptable to most people.
||many conservative faith groups consider consensual sex between committed
same-sex adults to be almost as serious a personal sin as the
raping of children. By deviating from the Greek text and adopting the more inclusive English word "homosexual", they can
condemn these individuals.
We agree with the Roman Catholic translators that St. Paul is probably condemning that small minority of male adults who are child rapists and the
male children that they sexually abuse. This criminal behavior is not connected in any way with homosexual activity with a fellow adult within a loving,
Galatians 5:19-20: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are
(these): fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife,
jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revelings, and
such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practice
such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (ASV)
The first sin, fornication,
will cause most people to lose their salvation. The average age at which a youth in North
America becomes sexually active is 16, whereas the average age at first marriage is over
25. This provides an opportunity for fornication which typically lasts for about a decade.
Surveys show that in excess of 90% of young adults do not remain celibate
Add to this the 25 to 40% of married couples who engage in extra-marital sex, and just
about the entire population is doomed to hell after death. And this does not take into
account any of the other, very common sins of envy, jealousy, strife which are near
universally expressed sometimes during each person's life.
The Christian church has traditionally added suicide to these lists of
behaviors, although there appears to be little justification for this move.
|Ephesians 5:5-6: "For of this you can be sure: No immoral,
impure or greedy person...has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God...God's
wrath comes on those who are disobedient." (NIV)
This appears to be another blanket condemnation of people who will be denied access to
heaven because of their conduct. No exception appears to be made for saved persons. "No...person"
would seem to mean "no...person." God's wrath would imply permanent
residence in Hell.
Three passages in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke discusses a unique class of sin which God will not forgive.
Committing this sin would presumably prevent a person from being saved or would cancel the
salvation of a believer. Unfortunately, there is no consensus about what the
unforgivable sin is. More details.
D.W. Bercot, "Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's
Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity," Scroll Publishing,
Tyler, TX, (1989), Pages 72-73.
"If you can lose it," a Gospel tract at: http://www.lovejesus.org/salvndex.htm
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