The boy convulsed with sobs, choking out his words.
“Don’t make me leave!”
It was one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read. The biological mother of this 4-year-old boy had won a bitter legal battle to reclaim her son from his adoptive family. When she arrived with her lawyer to take him from the only home he had ever known, the terrified, confused little boy pleaded with those he knew as Mommy and Daddy not to give him up to this complete stranger.
“Don’t make me go,” he begged. “Please. Please. Don’t send me away!”
With no understanding of courts, lawyers and legal codes, the boy was removed and left to wonder what he had done to be banished from those who had always said they loved him.
Some Christians live with the terrifying insecurity that in the shadows of God’s mind lurks a willingness to send them away if they fail or disappoint Him. Despite their love for God, they fear that God will withdraw His love from them and banish them from His heavenly home forever.
In the Bible, however, God repeatedly assures His people that once He sets His love on them, they are secure in that love forever.
Secure Forever Because God Keeps His Promises
The place to begin to understand a believer’s security with God is with God, for a believer’s security is not rooted in the believer, but in the believer’s God.
Though he had far more evidence in his life than almost anyone else to assure him of his salvation, the Apostle Paul looked not primarily to himself, but to the character of God for assurance that his soul was safe with Him. Paul’s testimony was, “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12). What was true for Paul is true for every other believer: God is able to securely guard the salvation He gives to believers, from the first moment of faith until the Day of Judgment and their entrance into heaven.
One of the most reassuring aspects of the character of God for fearful believers is the fact that God keeps His promises. God “never lies” (Titus 1:2). In fact, “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). As Scripture reminds us, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19).
Among His many promises are these: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), and “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21), and “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Along with these is the great promise of John 3:16. Try to read it as though you have never encountered it before: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
To believe in the Lord Jesus is not merely to agree that the information about Him in the Bible is historically accurate. Faith in Christ means trusting that the perfect life of God’s Son Jesus satisfies all the requirements for being acceptable to God forever, and that His death satisfies all the righteous wrath of God upon your sinful failure to keep those requirements. If any person–regardless of how sinful, weak or disappointing–trusts in these promises about who Jesus is and what He has done to make him or her right with God, but then is eventually rejected by God, God would be a liar.
In addition to these wonderful promises, God has also promised to love forever those who are united with Christ by faith. In Romans 8, He goes to great lengths to assure us that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). God so wants to convince His children of the eternality of His love for them that He devotes an entire chapter in His Word (Psalm 136) in which every one of the 26 verses repeats the promise, “His steadfast love endures forever.” And so, if He ever stopped loving a believer in Christ, He would be lying about His love being “steadfast” and “forever.” If God ever allowed anything to separate one believer from His love, He would be a liar.
I am sure you would not call God a liar. In fact, I’m confident that you have unquestioning trust in the truthfulness of many promises He has made. If you can believe His promise to return to this earth, and if you can believe His promise to prepare a place for those who love Him, you can also believe His promise to eternally save, love and secure all who come to Christ.
Secure Forever Because God Loves His Son
Another of the many reasons believers can feel eternally secure in their relationship with God has to do with the steadfast love of God for His Son, Jesus. Certainly you do not doubt that God is satisfied with Jesus. He has declared, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5). Furthermore, He raised Jesus from the dead as a declaration that He was pleased with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as a substitute for sinners. He then joyfully received Jesus back into heaven and seated Him at His right hand. God’s love for Jesus is perfect and irrevocable.
So how should the fact that Jesus is eternally secure in the love of God give assurance to the believer in Christ? Remember that those who biblically believe in Christ are united with Christ. Because of this unbreakable bond with Christ, those united with Him by faith are as eternally secure as Jesus Himself.
All who believe in Christ can rejoice in the truth of unity with Christ as expressed in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” As glorious as this is, the believer’s union with Christ is so inextricably intertwined so as to be described in Scripture not only as Christ in the believer, but also as the believer in Christ. Thus, all believers have been made “alive together with Christ,” and God has “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:4-6). Just as Christ lives within every believer here on earth, so it is equally and breathtakingly true that in one sense believers live in Christ at the right hand of God in heaven at this moment.
Because God does not, cannot and never will condemn Jesus, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). To reject a believer in Christ, God would have to cast Jesus Himself out of heaven.
Secure Forever, But Not Presumptuous
While the Bible teaches that believers can be assured that their salvation is eternally secure, it also warns about the counterfeit of false assurance. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus gave one of many such New Testament warnings for those who presume that their souls are secure: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” But Jesus is not taking away with one hand an assurance He gives with the other. What He condemns is claiming assurance where the Word of God does not support it.
Hell is filled with people who were sure they were heaven-bound because they relied solely upon a public response they made in a church service or some other Christian meeting, or upon their baptism, church attendance, contributions to the church, love for their family, community or military service, an extraordinary experience or some list of accomplishments. The fatal flaw in all these sources of assurance is that they are based upon what the individual has done rather than what Christ has done. To build your hopes for heaven on something–anything–in your life rather than upon the life and death of Jesus is to build on a rotten foundation.
The Bible does speak much of the evidence found in the life of a person who biblically believes in Jesus Christ. The little book of 1 John, for instance, specifically addresses this issue and points to as many as 10 indications that a person has truly come to know God through Christ. But the Bible is clear that while we should be encouraged by the signs of eternal life in our souls, we should rest our hopes in the root of our salvation (that is, Christ) and not the fruit.
To put it another way, suppose someone asked you, “Why do you think God accepts you and will let you into heaven?” Beware of any answer that would begin with, “Because I …” Don’t misunderstand. There are some things we must do to know God and go to heaven. We must repent, and we must believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15). But even things we’re commanded to do, such as repent and have faith, are effective only because of what Christ has done, so that the security of our salvation rests solely on Christ and not on us.
Secure Forever With Eternal Life
Unlike the sobbing, adoptive boy at the beginning of this article, no one God has adopted will ever be ripped from His arms or be sent tearfully away from Him. A heavenly promise for all God’s children is, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). And Jesus assures all who trust in Him, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
Finally, remember what God promises in John 3:16 to all who believe in Jesus? He says they will “not perish but have eternal life.” Note that: eternal life. If this life He gives to believers in Christ were not secure–if it could be lost, taken way, or was in any sense temporary–it could not be called eternal. And there is nothing more secure than that which is eternal.