When I was visiting people in Kansas last month, I decided not to take the interstate home to avoid tolls, so I set my GPS to take a different route. About 15 minutes later, the GPS had me on a small highway running parallel to the interstate when I noticed a sign reading, Derby 4 miles, next right turn. As I passed it, I felt compelled to go to Derby.
Traveling north along the main street in Derby, I kept an eye out for anything standing out. There were many small strip malls along both sides of the street, but after passing a few blocks I didn’t see anything compelling me to stop, so I pulled into a parking lot on the right and parked facing the other side of the street to get my bearings. That’s when I saw a shop on the other side displaying the Christian fish symbol and signage saying, “Keepsakes Treasures.”
I knew immediately that was where I was supposed to go, so I crossed the street and walked into the shop. It was a small antique gift store filled with shelves of knickknacks. There were only two older women in the shop. One was the checkout clerk and the other seemed to be a friend who was sitting in a stool next to the checkout counter. They were just chatting like neighbors would across a fence.
After a brief look around, I stopped next to the lady on the stool and faced the clerk, waiting for a pause in the conversation. The clerk turned her gaze toward me and asked if she could help me.
“Merry Christmas,” I said and gave them information about how to understand God better. They were delighted and I bid them a quick farewell. I knew because they were Christian, my purpose in Derby with these women was not to bring them to the faith of Christ, which was often why I’ve been cued to connect with people. Instead, this job was meant to transform their notions in the faith.
The transformation comes from understanding what God wants from us. But most importantly, it includes knowing the correct way to eternal salvation, which requires the confession of belief to another person. We must be transformed or “born again” as Jesus stated to have eternal salvation, for He said in John 3:3, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again… I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”
What does that mean? Being “born again” must be a definite state of being, either yes or no, if we are to enter in God’s kingdom (having eternal salvation in heaven) because how are we supposed to enter somewhere only halfway or partially? Logically, you can’t do that. It’s either you’re in or you’re out. People aren’t going to be standing halfway in the doorway to heaven for an eternity. It’s either heaven or hell, so there must be a definite point when we are transformed and “born of water and the Spirit.”
It isn’t about being baptized with water as some denominations think. A clue is in John 3:3 where “born again” in the original Greek means “born from above.” And with “born of water and the Spirit,” we know “water” is a metaphor for the “living water” or His Spirit within us, and the capital “Spirit” refers to God the Holy Spirit. So we see in this that being “born again” involves our spirit being remade, regenerated, or reborn with God’s Spirit “from above.” It is the point when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell within us – when our spirit is transformed by His.
But when is that? It can’t be about sanctification or ridding as much sin as we can from our lives because we can never be entirely rid of it. Sanctification is an ongoing lifelong process, not an on/off switch, which our ability to enter God’s kingdom is.
Then what about the point we decide Jesus is real? When we start to believe and talk to Him with our prayers? This is the most popular notion of being saved by the contemporary church and one I thought was correct because of Scripture like “ask and it will be given to you” (Luke 11:9), “the man who loves God is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:3), and “if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). The moment we decide to have faith in Christ is a definite on/off point, yes? But is it the point we are “born again” and given entry to heaven?
No, it isn’t. What about the Scriptures I just quoted? If you read them or anything similar without jumping to conclusions, they say nothing about having eternal salvation. Luke 11:9 and Revelation 3:20 are only references of how to have more of God in your life. If you want Him more in your life, He will move more in your life, but it doesn’t mean you are saved.
You can understand this when you consider people who are not saved but experience miracles of all kinds. I’ve experienced signs, wonders and miracles before I came to faith and I’ve heard the testimony of others too, so it’s obvious that God can be in your life without being saved into eternity. He is in everyone’s life whether they know it or not or whether they are saved or not.
What about 1 Corinthians, whoever loves God is known by Him? If we look again at context, we see Paul is talking to believers and telling them that we don’t need to worry about eating food sacrificed to idols. It doesn’t hurt our state of eternal salvation. This also assumes we are already saved. But for arguments sake, lets ponder, what if the person is not saved?
There is still nothing in that Scripture saying we get eternal salvation for loving God. It only says, He knows who loves Him. But on the other end, there is Scripture stating that believers will be turned away from the doorway to heaven.
Someone asked [Jesus], “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the Owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But He will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with You, and You taught in our streets.’
“But He will reply, I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from Me, all you evildoers!’
“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out…
We see here Jesus is talking about eternal salvation and that many people will try to enter heaven but will not be let in. These people believe in Him, because they state, “You taught in our streets,” saying they knew the Gospel, and they also say, “we ate and drank with You,” referring to the act of communion. They had faith and acted as believers, yet they were turned away. Why?
In Luke 13:27, the NIV translates the original manuscripts as “evildoers,” which gives the verse an abstract meaning of simply committing sin. That makes the message fuzzy, because everybody commits sin. In other translations it is clearer when it is translated as “workers of iniquity.”
Iniquity means lawlessness or not conforming to the law, so there is a law these people are not conforming to that gives entry into heaven. It is linked to being “born again” as a prerequisite to gaining lawful entry into heaven. It is the narrow door spoken of in Luke 13:23, which is more narrow than the contemporary church understands but very easy to go through if you know how.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-10:33, “Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven.”
That’s it, put very plainly, the covenant terms of getting and losing eternal salvation in heaven through Jesus. Anyone who acknowledges Jesus before someone else will be acknowledged in heaven, so it’s a confession of belief in Jesus to someone else that does it. The moment the other person witnesses our confession, whether it is spoken, gestured or written, our spirit is reborn from above. That is the on/off state giving us lawful entry to heaven.
Still not sure about that? Then consider Apostle Paul said, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9). Faith is our justification or righteousness for being saved, but it is our confession that moves us into eternal salvation.
Apostle John also backs this up in 1 John 4:15, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” He says here that God (His Spirit) dwells in anyone who confesses their belief in Jesus, so this Scripture tells us more about when we are truly “born again” with the Holy Spirit and therefore allowed into heaven – it comes after confessing our belief that His Spirit comes to indwell within us.
Now we can see the confession is when we are truly saved. Faith is obviously not enough. It is necessary and the first step, though, which is why the New Testament often says we are saved by faith. Furthermore, if we do the opposite and disown Jesus before someone else (fulfill the terms of Matthew 10:33) then our saved state is revoked, even if we still believe, so it is very important to remember how the covenant promises of eternal salvation are stated.
Jesus said these terms were given to Him by the Father in John 12:48-12:50 where He talks about people who believe but hide or do not confess their faith, “There is a Judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept My Words; that very Word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of My own accord, but the Father Who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life…” The information given here is very important because “that very word” that condemns these people are the covenant terms for eternal salvation Jesus gave in Matthew 10:32-10:33. These terms are also repeated in 1 John 2:23, Luke 12:9, and 2 Timothy 2:12.
Now we see plainly how we get eternal salvation and lose it. Not confessing faith in Jesus or denying Him in front of others leads to condemnation from eternal life with God.
We naturally want to believe that faith is all we need to be saved. It’s a natural assumption, but that’s not how God declared it. The evidence above is solid, but the church lost sight of these mechanics as they’ve fallen to the errors of interpretation and not seeing the entire view of Scripture.
You saw here when I presented Scripture from different translations how the process of translation affects our understanding of God’s Word. Men simply cannot translate without putting their own interpretation into the result, so it’s impossible to get a “pure” translation from our own reasoning.
This means we cannot hold any Biblical translation as “The Standard.” We can’t even hold the original language versions of Scripture over God’s live guidance. We must know what God meant behind the recorded words, and that is not always obvious, even in the original manuscripts because what God originally meant may have been lost because the complete context is not recorded in the Words.
Remember how the Jews also held fast to Scripture but missed Jesus. I’m not saying throw away the Bible. It is an important foundation, but the translations and understanding of men are errant and fallible. Major themes in Scripture come through well enough for us to understand Jesus is the key to eternal salvation, but some very important details about how that works were not so obviously recorded in Scripture.
Understanding salvation wasn’t the only thing affected by translation and misinterpretation.
To learn more about th full truth see Marching From Behind The Veil.