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The permanence of personal salvation

Bible passages opposing permanent salvation

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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.

bullet 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.

bullet 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 translation.

bullet 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.
bullet 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.

bullet 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 salvation.

bullet 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.
bulletHebrews 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.

Christians who believe that a person can never lose their salvation may interpret this passage as meaning:

  1. That they were never true believers in the first place, and thus were never initially saved, or
  2. 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

bulletHebrews 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.

bullet2 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.

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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:

bullet1 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)

St. Paul 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 hell.

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:

bulletThere 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.

bulletAll translations condemn:
bullet adulterers [two persons engaging in sexual intercourse while one or both is married] using terms like adultery, unfaithful in marriage
bullet criminal activity by robbers, extortioners, swindlers, cheaters, thieves
bullet idolaters [people who worship idols]
bullet drunkards
bullet thieves, using terms steal, thieves, and cheats
bullet greedy persons, described as covetous, greedy, avaricious, and selfish
bullet slanderers, described as revilers, slanderers, lie about others, abusive, etc.
bulletThe 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.

bulletThe remaining two activities in the body of Verse 9 have been variously translated in different versions of the Bible as:
bullet effeminate which covers a wide range of male behavior such as being unmanly, lacking virility, decadent, excessively soft or gentle.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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 boys." 2

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
bullet At 9 words, the resultant phrase would be too lengthy; translators prefer short descriptions.

bullet 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.

bullet 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, committed relationship.

bullet 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 before marriage. 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.

bulletEphesians 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.

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Losing one's salvation by committing the unforgivable sin:

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.

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  1. 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.
  2. "If you can lose it," a Gospel tract at:

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