How Long Does Salvation Last? Can You Lose It?

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salvation

The question whether you can lose your salvation or not is very controversial among Christian believers. Some say you can’t lose salvation because it is eternal, and some say you can indeed lose salvation if you willfully sin after being saved.

Let’s study what the Bible’s answer to the question is.

First we want to study the claim that you can lose salvation if you willfully sin after being saved. The believers of that claim refer to Hebrews 10:26 where it is written “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,”. They believe that this verse means that after you are saved and continue sinning willfully or deliberately, your sins can’t be forgiven anymore. This, however, is not the proper interpretation of this verse. First, we need to be aware that the book of Hebrews was written to a Hebrew-Christian community, which consisted of a mix of true believers in Jesus Christ and those that still leaned on the Old Testament sacrificial system.

To get a better understanding, we should look at the immediate context that Hebrews 10:26 refers to.

Hebrews 10:1-4: It is not sufficient anymore to cleanse sins with the sacrifice of animals.
Hebrews 10:5: This verse speaks about the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 10:6-9: God doesn’t delight in sacrifices and offerings because it isn’t sufficient. For this reason, He removed the old sacrificial system (the law) and replaced it with a once-for-all sacrifice—his Son—whose death and resurrection would be truly effective.
Hebrews 10:10-14: We are sanctified through the single sacrifice of Christ. Other sacrifices are not necessary anymore.
Hebrews 10:15-18: We have a new covenant that requires no offering for sin anymore.
Hebrews 10:19-22: We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus beyond the veil so we can draw near to God.
Hebrews 10:23-25: We should hold fast to this confession and lift one another up.
Hebrews 10:26: The verse in question.
Hebrews 10:27: God’s judgment
Hebrews 10:28: In the past, people had to die when they abandoned the law of Moses.
Hebrews 10:29-31: One who rejects the blood of Christ will have to undergo stricter judgment.
Hebrews 10:32: In former days, people had to survive hardship and persecution.
Now we can understand that Hebrews 10:26 is not addressed to an individual person but to a larger group of people who consisted of both believers and non-believers. We can’t claim that this verse is only written to those who were saved. Salvation is not mentioned in that verse. It speaks about “receiving the knowledge of the truth” and rejecting it – not about salvation and losing salvation. It means people had received the knowledge of the truth of who Jesus was and what He did as well as the truth that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4), and that God does not delight in “whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sins” (Hebrews 10:6). It doesn’t mean they were saved. On the contrary, some who had received the knowledge of the truth that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient to pay for our sins, had not fully believed that and wanted to return to the Old Testament sacrificial system.

So with this verse, the writer wants them to believe in the only sacrifice for sins, which is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and not return to the old sacrificial system. If they reject Jesus’ sacrifice and remain in the Old Testament sacrificial system, they go on willfully sinning. Then there will be no sacrifice for sins because Jesus’ sacrifice is the only one that can take sin away (Hebrews 10:4, 12-18) but they haven’t accepted Christ as their sacrifice.

There is even another verse in the book of Hebrews that has led to controversial interpretations about whether a true believer can lose salvation or not. It’s Hebrews 6:4-6.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Again this verse is addressed to a community where a lot of people hadn’t fully trusted in Christ as the only sufficient sacrifice for sins. They wanted to return to the Old Testament sacrificial system.

So this refers to people who haven’t been truly saved. They have been enlightened – they have received some level of instruction in Biblical truth. They might have understood God’s Word but it doesn’t mean they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

They have tasted the heavenly gift means they have only tasted Christ but never fully converted to Him. So it’s a temporary experience.

These people might even made a profession of faith outwardly but inwardly they have never had true saving faith. They just said they believed in Jesus but they never submitted their life to Him.

Furthermore, they have fallen away, which means they went back to their old Judaism faith before they have been saved. They have never really believed that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for paying our sins.

For these people there is no hope of repentance because they reject Him willfully and consciously because they know the truth but don’t want to accept it.

There are many other Scriptures that make people think it is possible to lose your salvation: 2 Peter 2:1; Galatians 5:4; Psalm 69:28.

Before we can conclude if it is possible to lose your salvation or not, we need to study the Scriptures that support the belief that you can’t lose your salvation once you received it.

  1. God loves us and wants to give eternal life. If you are a true believer, you can’t lose salvation because God promises eternal life to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Eternal life is the promise of spending forever in heaven with God.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31

If God promises eternal life for all who believe in Jesus Christ, and we could lose salvation and life, this would be contradictory and it would mean that God doesn’t fulfill what he had promised. God would never break His promises. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Psalm 89:34 

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began Titus 1:2

How can your life be eternal if it can be lost, especially when Jesus said that they will never perish? Does eternal not mean “forever”? Read the following Scriptures where eternal life is promised to those who believe in Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 1 John 5:11

If Jesus said that those who believe in Him and follow Him will never perish, then they can’t lose salvation.

    1. Salvation is a gift from God. It can’t be earned by our own works.

The Bible tells us that salvation is a gift from God which can’t be earned by our own works. If we could lose salvation, it would mean that salvation is based on our works but that is again contradictory to the Word of God. Furthermore, if God gives us a gift, He would never take it away.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29

  1. God’s love for us is so strong and gracious that He doesn’t want to lose any of His sheep. So nothing can separate us from God’s love and nothing can remove us from God’s hand.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:28-29

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:37-39

who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:8-9

  1. Christ paid the price for us and redeemed us. If we could lose our salvation, then Christ’s sacrifice was not enough to pay for our sins and redeem us, and this again is contradictory to what is written in Scripture.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

  1. By our faith in Jesus Christ, we are justified. Being justified, means being declared righteous. If we could lose our salvation, it would mean that God would have to un-declare what He had already declared. God never takes back something He has declared.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

  1. A believer is guaranteed glorification. We have already learned that we receive justification at the moment of faith according to Romans 5:1. With justification, we also receive glorification according to Romans 8:30. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

The promise of glorification will be fulfilled when believers receive their perfect resurrection bodies in heaven. If salvation could be lost, then the promise of glorification according to Romans 8:30 would be and error because then God couldn’t guarantee glorification to those whom He predestined, called, and justified.

  1. God regenerates us actively through the Holy Spirit. Since God gives us salvation, He actively works in us to change us and make us new creatures. As new Christians we are also marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit. If we could lose our salvation, then why would God give us the Holy Spirit to work in us and regenerate us? A true believer is indwelled by the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our heavenly inheritance. He will convict us and make us born again so we will not continue to sin even though we have a sinful nature. If we could lose our salvation, we would also lose the Holy Spirit but according to Scripture, “He will be with you forever”.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: John 16:8

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, John 14:16

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

  1. God is good and faithful. He wants to save us and live together with Him in eternity. Therefore, He gave us salvation as a gift. It’s the will of God Father that Jesus lose none and also raise all those to glory who had been given to him by the Father. If we could lose salvation, then God would not be good and faithful and Jesus would fail to do the will of the Father. This, however, cannot be true. Read the following Scriptures to learn how good and faithful God is and how Jesus always follows the will of His Father.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Ephesians 1:4

though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls. Romans 9:11-12

And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” John 8:29

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:39

And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Luke 15:5-6

Now it’s time to come to a conclusion and summarize whether you can lose your salvation or not once you are saved.

There are different positions on this issue that I want to discuss and then share with you my own belief regarding salvation.

  1. It is possible to lose your salvation but only if you want to. After being set free from sin, the person decides out of his or her own will to deny God and not to be a part of Him any longer.

I personally don’t belief this position because it is a belief from a human perspective and not a divine perspective. If you are a true born-again believer, the Holy Spirit indwells you and sanctifies you living in your human spirit. After the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, our human spirit is regenerated and renewed. Since the Holy Spirit works in our human spirit, in the deepest part of a man, we will not deny God. If we are truly saved, we will remain in faith. The claim that someone had been saved and then lost salvation can’t be true. It was because he or she was never truly saved in the first place.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:16

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3:6

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:19

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 1 John 2:4

  1. Some people think it is possible to lose your salvation if you sin too much. This is the belief that I was taught in the Catholic Church. If you sin too much, you need to go to a priest, confess your sins and get saved again. This is not biblical because it leads to a combination of works and God’s grace. The Bible, however, teaches us that we can’t be saved by our own works, only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

  1. It is not possible to lose salvation at all because Jesus has redeemed us and we are a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17). Since salvation is not depending on our own works, on anything we do, then keeping it is also not depending on anything we do. Therefore, we can’t lose it because of anything we do.

For me personally the question if I can lose salvation or not, is not the focus of my faith. My faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is the focus of my faith. If we have faith in Jesus Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior in our life, then we become born-again and the Holy Spirit indwells us. Our relationship with the triune God will grow and the Holy Spirit will work in us forever and teach us everything we need to know about God. He will also give us the fruits and gifts of the Spirit which confirm that we are regenerated, renewed, and sanctified. We will have a daily walk with God reading His Word, the Bible, praying, and worshipping Him. Then we don’t need to worry about whether we can lose salvation or not.

Here is some Scripture about the Holy Spirit and His work in the life of a believer.

The Holy Spirit is a helper who teaches and reminds.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: John 16:7-8

The Holy Spirit indwells believers and fills them.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

The Holy Spirit is a source of revelation, wisdom, and power.

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1:17-20

The Holy Spirit guides to all truth.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:13-15

The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to believers.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

The Holy Spirit is a seal in the lives of believers.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13

The Holy Spirit helps in a believer’s weakness and intercedes for them.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

The Holy Spirit renews the believer and gives them eternal life.

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:10-11

The Holy Spirit sanctifies and enables believers to bear good fruit in their lives.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:16-21

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the SpiritGalatians 5:22-25

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