A friend sent me a Jan 8, 2011, blog by Dr. Michael Heiser. You can see it here. It is entitled, “Election, Salvation, Unbelief, and Eternal Security.”
I’ve read several articles by Heiser and found most of them to be outstanding. I am part way into his book Angels and have found it helpful. I’ve heard great things about his book The Unseen Realm. So I came to this article expecting to find a very readable article and hopefully one promoting eternal security.
What I found instead surprised me. Heiser is not easy to follow in this blog. He goes out of his way to dodge and hedge.
He says, for example, “someone will surely ask [Heiser], ‘Do you believe someone can lose their salvation?’ or ‘Are believers eternally secure?’”
Heiser does not answer that directly. Instead, he gives four propositions and asks which of these the reader would deny. Here are his four propositions:
Everyone who believes the gospel will be saved, by grace and not by any merit of their own.
Everyone who believes the gospel will be eternally secure.
Everyone who does not believe the gospel (rejects it) will not be saved, regardless of works.
Everyone who does not believe the gospel will not be eternally secure.
I’d deny all four of his propositions.
First, all four propositions speak of believing the gospel, not of believing in Jesus for everlasting life. If he were advocating eternal security in this article, then maybe I’d assume that by gospel, he means not only Jesus’ substitutionary death and resurrection (1 Cor 15:3-11), but also the promise of life which is based on His death and resurrection. But he is not advocating eternal security. By believing the gospel he means believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again and following Jesus. He somehow imports the sense of following to the word believe. (See the second to last paragraph in this blog for a quotation.)
Second, the four propositions all speak of anyone who currently believes (or does not believe), when they should refer to anyone who has ever believed (or has never believed). Notice the underlined material above. A person’s eternal destiny does not depend on perseverance in faith, as Heiser’s four propositions suggest. If anyone has ever believed in Jesus for everlasting life, then he is eternally secure (John 3:16; 4:14; 6:35; 11:26).
Third, all four propositions use the future tense when speaking of salvation and eternal security. Notice the material in bold above. Salvation and eternal security are present possessions for the believer. They are not something we will gain in the future.
Here is how I’d rewrite the four propositions to make them Biblical:
Everyone who has believed in Jesus for everlasting life is saved (= has everlasting life), by grace and not by any merit of his or her own.
Everyone who has believed in Jesus for everlasting life is eternally secure.
Everyone who has never believed in Jesus for everlasting life is not saved, regardless of works.
Everyone who has not believed in Jesus for everlasting life is not eternally secure.
Heiser sees everlasting life as primarily future, not present. But the Lord repeatedly said that everlasting life is a present possession for all who believe (e.g., John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:26).
Everlasting life, according to Heiser, is something that one has in a probationary sense, but that can be lost. If you print the article, page numbers appear. See pages 4 (points 2 and 3), 5 (last full paragraph), 6 (whole page), 7 (four propositions), and 8 (where he indicates that while everlasting life can be lost, it can be regained). He wrote, for example,
Rather than seeing saving faith as only a one-time decision, I would suggest that Paul saw a decision to accept Christ as the messiah and savior as the beginning point of saving faith/belief. He would not have said that after such a decision one could choose to not believe and still have eternal life (p. 6).
Other problems with the article:
- In his view, the object of faith in the OT was believing in Yahweh (p. 3), that is, following Yahweh (pp. 4, 6).
- In his view, the object of faith in the NT is believing that Jesus died and rose (p. 8) and then following Him (pp. 4, twice, 6. He writes on p. 6, “Unbelief is a decision of the heart that one no longer believes the gospel, that one no longer wishes to follow Christ/Yahweh” (emphasis added).
I did find a few points that I thought were good in the blog. He says on pages 1, 2, and 4 that Jews are elect whether saved or not—they are all God’s chosen people—and Gentiles are not elect whether they are saved or not—they are not God’s chosen people. He also says in the last paragraph on page 5 that one can sin badly and still be believing, by which he means, one can sin badly and still be saved.