Author: Ron Graham
Apostasy and its Consequences
—The doom of those who fall from grace
In our previous lesson we looked at seven scriptures which showed that if Christians sin willfully they will fall from grace. This lesson is about the same topic.
14th principle: The seal of God is conditional.
In this lesson we consider the doom of those who fall from grace
1 What is lost when one falls from grace?
It is said by some that one cannot lose salvation itself, but can lose rewards in addition to salvation. The idea is that salvation is a free gift of grace, and there is nothing that we can contribute toward our getting it, nor can we do anything to cause our loss of it.
But God has extra rewards which accompany salvation and these, we are told, are merited by our works. It is only these extra rewards that those who sin willfully lose. They don't lose their soul’s salvation.
The fallen, we are told, lose a higher place in heaven to take a lower place in heaven. They do not lose their place in heaven to take a place in hell —or so the claim goes.
But the Bible tells us of "a certain terrifying expectation of judgment and fiery indignation which will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27).
That passage makes it clear that "the preserving of the soul" is certainly not for those "who shrink back to destruction" (Hebrews 10:39).
So those who fall from grace lose nothing less than eternal life. They lose salvation from hell.
2 What is the Contrary Teaching?
We now look at three arguments used to distort the distinction between heaven and hell into a distinction between a higher and a lower estate in heaven.
A. Losing the Great Reward
We read, "Do not throw away your confidence which has great reward" (Hebrews 10:35). Should one infer that, by throwing away one’s confidence, one will lose one’s "great" reward but still hold on to the lesser reward of Heaven as a basic estate without the bonus or merit points?
No, that is not in the passage. To read into the passage any such thing is to distort its teaching. The contrast is not between high and low estates in heaven, but between heaven and hell.
B. Losing the Better Possession
Likewise, we read, "You have for yourselves a better possession" (Hebrews 10:34). Should one infer that if one loses the "better" possession, one still has a lesser possession?
No, the comparison is not between better and lesser estates in heaven, but between the heavenly inheritance and earthly possessions. Our earthly possessions might be confiscated or destroyed, but never mind, we have a heavenly inheritance which is "better" than earthly possessions —that is what the passage is about (Hebrews 10:34).
In making the same contrast, Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
C. The Burning Up of One’s Work
Some folk will quote 1Corinthians 3:11-15 where Paul says that a person’s work may be burned yet the person remains saved. They interpret this to mean that Christians who sin willfully lose their great rewards but don't lose their basic salvation and right to eternal life.
But in that passage, the person who suffers loss is not one who has fallen into sin, nor has the person lost any estate in heaven. Rather the person’s ministry turns out to be a bad disappointment and the converts it produced have not stood the test. One does not have the reward of joyfully taking many others to heaven because of one’s work.
3 What is the doom of those who fall?
Having seen that the unrepentant's doom is not merely the loss of extra rewards, but the loss of his soul's salvation, let's look finally and more closely at the doom of the fallen and impenitent Christian.
- In Matthew 25:31-46, those who fail to do works of righteousness are cast "into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels." There is no good reason for making the fire in Hebrews 10:27 (the fire that consumes fallen Christians), a different or less severe fire than this one prepared for the devil and his angels.
- The Christian can "sin unto death" (1John 5:16). This death is the very opposite of the free gift of God which is eternal life (Romans 6:23). Willful and unrepented sin is "sin unto death" which is ultimately eternal death, the opposite of eternal life.
- Some believe in a kind of temporary punishment, a "purgatory" that purges and expiates the sins committed, so that after a while the one punished may be released, so as to enter into eternal life at last. But Jesus speaks of eternal punishment and eternal life, and he says nothing of a temporary state between (Matthew 25:46). Besides, the only punishment that can expiate sins is that which Jesus suffered in our stead.
May you choose to remain in God’s hand so that you will preserve your soul for the heavenly inheritance intended and reserved for you. If you have not remained, then quickly return. But if you choose to draw back, don't think that you will escape that eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demonic hosts.