The Assurance of Eternal Life
by Rev. Eric R Towse
SUPPOSE I told you that I knew of a way that you could get to heavenguaranteed. Would you be interested?
(I heard you say, Yes so I will continue.)
Getting to heaven means remaining in Gods presence for all eternity with Jesus, the angels, and the saints those believers that have gone on before us. I was once asked by an unbeliever, Just what would I do there? Theres no gambling. Theres no fun! (God had not yet prepared this persons heart. He did so at a later time.) The first question one must ask is, Do I really want to go there? To a great many whose hearts have not yet been touched by the Holy Spirit, the answer, unfortunately, is No! However, for those who have been drawn to Calvarys cross and decided that heaven is where they want to be, directions may be needed. So we will now consult Gods road map, The Bible to discover the sure way there.
Fortunately, God has provided a complete set of directions for us to follow. The first thing we notice is that the Bible is a BIG book consisting of two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The New Testament will lead you to salvation, but the Old Testament by itself will not. Its laws, commandments and history of the relationship between God and Israel revealed the need for a Savior and to enable its followers to recognize the coming Messiah. The New Testament, however, tells us that it is Jesus Christ of NazarethSon of God, son of David who is the Way the Truth and theLife, and that no one comes to the Father but by Him. (See: John 14:6) It would seem by this statement that Jesus serves as a sort of gatekeeper to the kingdom of heaven. In fact, Jesus referred to himself as the Gate: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. . . (John 10:7)
Knowing this, we must now search diligently to discover the criteria by which one may enter. In doing this we come face-to-face with the Gospel. The apostle Paul said, I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . (Romans 1:16) The word gospel means good news or, literally from the Greek, good message and it contains powerthe power to save. In a quest for heaven one must learn of this gospel. The apostle Paul tells us, so that there may be no misunderstanding, exactly what that message is: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel. (II Timothy 2:8)
Our first step to being assured of heaven is acknowledging who Jesus is. This acknowledgment cannot be superficial or intellectual. It must be heartfelt and expressed by word AND deed. It is written, 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 10:9-10)
Next is Baptism.
Taken from the old Jewish custom of ceremonial washing and done as an example to us by Jesus in the Jordan, the immersion of the believer in water follows the acceptance of Jesus as Lord by faith. Baptism is symbolic of being buried with Jesus into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4. See also Colossians 2:12) Water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. . .(See: I Peter 3:21). Jesus himself said, Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16) Matthew 28:19 delineates Jesus' own instructions concerning the mode of this sacrament.
The Holy Spirit
A third aspect of our heavenly quest actually occurs prior to baptism at the moment we place our faith in Christ. We receive the Holy Spirit. This event should not be confused with the baptism of the Holy Spiritthe empowering of the believer for service to the Kingdom which is accompanied by gifts. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit in the form of a seal of ownership that signifies that we now belong to God and are members of His eternal Kingdom and are saved. The King James Version states: Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (II Corinthians 1:22) The Greek noun earnest: "arrhabona" conveys the idea of a pledge perhaps expressed more accurately in the New International Version: Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (II Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV)
It is this seal and pledge of the Holy Spirit through which God transforms the heart of the believer as the potter to the clay. It is also by the Spirits presence that we may have the assurance of eternal life. The Christian life is a Life in the Spirit. The Word sewn on good soil (the humble, repentant heart) producing a crop one hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sewn. (Matthew 13:8) No one can read the heart except God, yet good soil will produce good fruit.
God guarantees this inheritance because of Christs sacrifice on Calvarys cross. The Christian life is also described by the Apostle Paul as a race or the good fight. We are instructed to fight and run. Some say this also implies the possibility of losing ones salvation. Salvation is a gift of God and cannot be lost accidentally as one might lose a wallet or set of keys. Gods commitment to Jesus is such that none might be lost. Nevertheless, Hebrews is replete with admonitions concerning falling away. Let us consider carefully: 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. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Salvation is serious business. The believer should approach the throne of grace boldy, but with fear and respect as in the days of the early church when it witnessed the consequences of Ananias and Saphiras sin. This is why the gospel must be presented fully. All too often, new believers are rushed to the altar for prayer and then onto the public commitment of baptism without a thorough understanding of what being a Christian really means. (Do all who profess Christ at a crusade return to church after the meetings are over?) Falling away does not imply unintentional disobedience or sin. I John 1:8-9 covers that: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. No, falling away implies that the Word fell on stony places (Matthew 13:5) where there was too little soil. We, the church, must provide the good soil where the seed may be watered and God causes growth. Remember, teachers are held to a higher degree of accountability. (See James 3:1) This falling away requires an informed decision rejecting the gospel, the redemptive work done in the life of the believer, and the living presence of the Holy Spirit. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
Finally, the path to heaven involves trials. The Apostle Peter said, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (I Peter 1:3-6) Nevertheless, when we suffer as Christians, we do not do so alone. God is with us. Faith ministries often erroneously cite trials, suffering, sickness and disease as a lack of faith. If this were true, perhaps Jesus would not have been accepted in some churches today because of His humbleness before His heavenly Father and His humility in His role as a servant to the disciples when He washed their feet? The assurance of our salvation may also be demonstrated in Jesus words as we consider this gem of the gospel message: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) And the good news doesnt stop there: For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (v.17)
Our journey to heaven is assured by Jesus work on the cross, the raising of Jesus from the dead, and the indwelling Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. Our decision to accept the lordship of Jesus over our lives, our obedience to His command to love one another, and our submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit further assures this wonderful salvation. It is truly, Good News!