OceanSide church of Christ

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John 5:24 - Once Saved Always Saved

Victor M. Eskew


            There are several religious groups that have embraced the doctrine of “once-saved, always-saved.”  Other names of this doctrine are “the perseverance of the saints” and “the eternal security of the believer.”  This doctrine asserts that once one has been saved by the grace of God that it is impossible to lose salvation.  The saint will persevere until the end.  The soul of the believer is eternally secure in Jesus Christ.

            Those who embrace this doctrine go to several verses in the New Testament in an attempt to prove what they believe.  One of the verses they use is John 5:24.  In this verse, Jesus is speaking.  He says:  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”  It is said that Jesus asserts that the true believer has everlasting life.  Everlasting life, we are told, is eternal.  It life is eternal, it cannot be lost.  Thus, once one is saved, he is always saved.

            If this is the proper interpretation of John 5:24, then the Bible contradicts itself.  In Romans 8:24, Paul teaches that “hope that is seen is not hope.”  This verse is very important when it is connected to Titus 1:2.  In that passage, Paul refers to the hope of eternal life.  “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”  If eternal life is part of the Christian’s hope, it cannot be a present reality.  If a Christian has eternal life right now, then he does not hope for it.

            The answer to John 5:24 lies in what is known as “the futuristic present.”  Danta and Mantey say this “denotes an event which has not yet occurred but which is regarded as so certain that in thought it may be contemplated as already coming to pass” (A Manual Grammar of the Greet New Testament, p. 185).  Another scholar comments on the futuristic present as follows:  “It is used…when an action still future is said to be represented as being as good as already present, either because it is already firmly resolved on, or because it must ensue in virtue of some unalterable law” (Grammar of the New Testament, Winer, p. 331).  With these thoughts in mind, brother Guy N. Woods translates John 5:24 as follows:  “He that keeps on hearing my word and keeps on believing on him that sent me HATH eternal life so certainly in thought that it may be contemplated as already coming to pass, and it absolutely must ensue in virtue of the unalterable law of the immutability of God’s promises.”  He then continues with these words:  “The actual realization of it is at the end of the age when it becomes a present possession and no longer a precious prospect” (New Testament Commentaries, “John,” Guy N. Woods, p. 106). 

            These thoughts cause all passages in the New Testament that speak of eternal life to harmonize perfectly.  Eternal life is certain for the faithful.  The faithful will receive it at the judgment (Matt. 25:46).  However, those who forsake the Lord will be cast off forever (I Chron. 28:9).