I have been studying lately in the book of Hebrews 1, and on its balance between promises like
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil 2Hebrews 6:19
Therefore He [Jesus] is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:25
and the warnings like
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.Hebrews 3:12
Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment.Hebrews 4:1
It’s not just Hebrews, either. Other Scripture passages have both the promises that Jesus saves completely and forever (John 3:16-17, John 10:27-29, Romans 8:1, 8:37-39, 10:9, 10:12-13), and the warnings to hold on to those promises without falling away from them (Romans 11:20-22, 2 Peter 2:20). Do these mean that my future with God depends on how tightly I hold onto Him vs. how tightly He is holding me?
Who is Holding on to Whom?
The answer to that question is pretty important, and has been a subject of debate within Christianity for centuries. As always on this site, I cannot presume to solve all long-standing questions about theology. All I can do is explore what others have said, and explain how I have answered for myself.
We have a couple of “givens” to start with:
- God is faithful.
- He NEVER changes.
- He ALWAYS keeps His promises.
- Jesus is the Savior.
- He is the perfect Savior.
- He is able to hold on forever to those who accept Him.
We also have a couple of common-sense points:
- Doing Christian “stuff” is not the same as accepting Jesus as my personal Savior.
- Saying “I accept Jesus” without letting it really impact my heart, soul, mind, and body is not much of an acceptance.
So, how are we to understand these balanced passages?
They are encouragement.
- Keep going, you can do it (with God’s help).
- Remember that you are His.
- Look forward to your future with Him.
- No matter how hard it is, He is with you.
They are entreaties.
- Don’t turn back.
- Don’t give up.
- Don’t go all this way and then fail to finish strong.
- Don’t let down the One who loves you so much and has done so much for you.
- Don’t let hardship drive you away from Him.
They are reminders.
- This new life you’ve been given can be robbed of its power.
- The peace, joy, and fulfillment come from the new relationship with God through Jesus.
- There’s no way to enjoy the benefits without cultivating the relationship.
They are also indeed warnings.
- If you believe about Jesus but not in Him…
- If you don’t choose to accept Him as Savior…
- If you persist in rejecting the personal application of what you know to be true…
- Then you can become so hardened that you will prevent yourself from being able to turn to Him.
That begs the question:
What happens if I do turn my back on my Savior and decide that I don’t want Him after all? Do I lose Him? Can I lose Him? Is that even possible to do? Once I truly accept Jesus, can I get rid of Him even if I try? If I have truly accepted Him, is it ever possible for me to want rid of Him?
My answer is “No”
The Bible teaches that the transaction with Jesus that redeemed me also gave me a gift: God’s Holy Spirit as a permanent living part of me. I think the answer to “Can I turn far enough away that I can’t turn back” is “No”. I can’t get away from myself, and from the Spirit in me. He can’t be evicted. He will always be there, nudging at me to turn back to the One who loves and holds me no matter what.
Footnotes and Scripture References
- See articles Entering God’s Rest, Falling Away, and A Terrifying God.
- The veil separated the Most Holy Place of the temple, where only the high priest could go…and only once a year, after elaborate cleansing. In this case, the veil and temple are not physical on earth, but are the real things in Heaven of which the earthly versions are only a copy.