Does God Allow Returns
of Eternal Life?
by Bob Wilkin
My wife is a recovering bulimic shopper. One weekend she would buy five outfits. The next weekend she would return four of them and get her money back. Our MasterCard bill always had lots of credits on it.
Sharon rarely bought anything in a store with a no-return policy. She wanted the ability to return things when buyer's remorse set in.
Recently I received an email asking about God's return policy. It is an interesting twist on the idea of losing eternal life. The question was this:
In all of your travels/speaking, have you ever heard of the teaching that although we cannot “lose” our salvation, we can “give” it back to God? The view is that since we receive the free gift of salvation by God's grace through our faith, then if we ever decide that we don't want salvation anymore, God allows us to give it back to Him. In other words, just as He does not save people against their will, He will not keep people saved against their will either. Put more simply, will there be anyone in heaven who doesn't want to be there?
There are several people in my church who believe this, and have asked me to respond to it. This is not just a theoretical question. It has happened to the family members of two of the families in my church.
Yes, I've heard of this idea. It is actually a clever way of denying eternal security while seeming to affirm it.
Jesus promises everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him (John 6:47). The one who believes in Jesus “will never thirst” (John 4:13-14; 6:35). That is God’s no-return policy.
Jesus also said that the one who believes in Him “shall never die [spiritually]” (John 11:26). Even if a believer later decided he wanted to go to hell, he would be out of luck. Once a person believes in Jesus, it is impossible that he will ever die spiritually.
Jesus said that it is His Father's will that of all the Father gave Him He loses nothing (John 6:39-40). If someone gave everlasting life back, then Jesus lost them. That would be like a fish getting off the hook. The fisherman loses the fish he once had.
If anyone with eternal life ever gave it back, then Jesus would have failed to do the will of the Father. He would have lost one of His own.
Examples could be multiplied. The point is, once a person believes in Jesus, he is secure forever. That's the promise.
Until a person realizes and believes that is the promise, they don't yet believe in Jesus in the biblical sense. Note that after saying, “He who lives and believes in Me shall never die,” Jesus asks, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26).
The believer who believes that eternal life can be given back does not believe the gospel! They think you are the one who is confused. Hopefully the Lord will use you to help them see the light.
One of my seminary professors, Dr. Charles Ryrie, likes to say, “If everlasting life can be lost, then it has the wrong name.” Everlasting life is ever-lasting life. It lasts forever.
Everlasting life is obviously great. Only a crazy person would want to give it back. And thankfully, God doesn't go back on His promise simply because a person might be crazy enough he no longer finds everlasting life appealing. God must be faithful to His promise (2 Tim 2:13).
So go ahead and “warn” people when you witness to them that God has a no-return policy. Tell them that once they believe in Jesus they will be eternally secure and there will be no way to get rid of God’s life at that point.
God’s no-return policy is why the good news is good news.