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“Once saved, always saved.” Most of us have heard this expression at least once in our Christian lives. For some, it is an all-consuming controversy that divides the orthodox from the heretic. Those who see no danger in backsliding are branded Gracites and any who contradict the statement are accused of believing in a salvation through works. I propose a recouching of the question. When we come to salvation, how long does it last? I think it is even prudent to add some spice on top just for fun. When was it that were we redeemed?

Neither of these are light questions with easy answers. I think it is prudent—commendable, even—to logically think through the implications of the truths expressed in the Bible. God Himself invites us to do so.[1] But I think it unwise to carry forward the exercise absent a sense of wonder and a humbleness born from recognizing that our best perspectives are limited.

1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Without the Incarnation, redemption is impossible. The Incarnation is the mystery of godliness. God was manifest in the flesh. Jesus of Nazareth is the most dynamic and dramatic entrance of God Almighty into our space-time continuum. We are told much about it in the Scripture. It is the gospel, the good news of salvation. Even so, it is a “great mystery.” The Greek term is musterion, a sacred secret thing unapproachable to human reason outside the revelation of God. Consider Jesus’s words to Nicodemus.

John 3:12-13
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Just when we think we know “that old, old story,” Jesus reveals that there is more to the tale than meets the eye. “No man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven.” Let’s absorb that for a moment. Jesus is sitting down with Nicodemus having a chat under the stars of the Jerusalem sky. “No one has gone up there but the one that came down from there.” Who is that? Jesus! He is not restricted in space or time. He makes this clear with His next statement, “even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Seated with Nicodemus, Jesus proclaims that He is simultaneously present in heaven. This is the same existence He has called us to.

Ephesians 2:4-7
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Many live in the hope of going to heaven not understanding that they are already there. It is an aspect of our salvation that in the view of God is already complete. Knowing our place is vital to our faith. Like Jesus, the redeemed are people from heaven residing on earth. This is one of the dynamics that makes us ambassadors for Christ.[2]

We are earth-born children of Adam who recognized our sinfulness and ate the Bread from Heaven to be reborn. Christ is the man from heaven who came to join the earth-born to save them.

Hebrews 10:5-7
5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

We are finite and do not possess a pre-existent, conscious state.[3] The Son of God is eternal and ever-existent. Luke 1:26-38 records the conversation between Gabriel and Mary as they discussed the human side of the Incarnation equation. Mary finished this dialog with her faithful declaration of submitting to the Lord’s promise. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word,” she said. It was not a one-sided exchange. When she declared her submission to God’s promise, the Son said, “You have prepared a body for me. See, I have come to do thy will!” He did this in obedience to the covenant the Persons of the Godhead made with each other before time as we know it began.

Hebrews 13:20-21
20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Our salvation is the outcome of the unilateral covenant made in the communion of the Godhead, an everlasting covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ. God cannot break faith with Himself which is why our redemption in Christ is everlasting.

Hebrews 9:11-12
11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. [Emphasis added.]

Eternal redemption was impossible for man to achieve through his own works or sacrifice. It was unachievable before Christ and is no more possible today.

Psalm 49:7-9
7 Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life,
8 for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice,
9 that he should live on forever and never see the pit. ESV

No earth-born son of Adam has the spiritual capital to pay God enough to cause someone to live forever. This is why the Word had to become flesh, why the Son of God came down from heaven and forever welded Himself to a human frame. Talionic justice required that man pay for and rectify what man had spoiled.[4] But only God was wealthy enough to pay the fine for eternity.

Isaiah 59:16
And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.

This is the wonder of our faith, the mystery of godliness. God was manifest in the flesh, which He gave for the sins of the world that man might live eternally with Him. His was an epic journey from the highest high to the lowest low to rescue a hateful, earth-born breed bent on wrath, rebellion, and self-destruction with no love for God or truth. Even when we were sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. Somehow, once saved we are tempted to believe we have the power to make Him stop loving us now. Impossible.

[1] Isa. 1:18; 1 Sam 12:7-8.
[2] 2 Cor. 5:20.
[3] The Mormons refer to this as premortal life, a conscious spirit-body coexistence with God in heaven prior to birth. It is one of their heresies.
[4] Rom. 5:12-19.