Does “Once Saved Always Saved” Mean We Can Enter the Heavenly Kingdom?
The Bible says, “For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:10). Many Christians, therefore, think that they have been saved by faith in the Lord and once saved always saved, so when the Lord comes He will certainly take them into the heavenly kingdom. But it is undeniable that many believers are often incapable of practicing the Lord’s word, living in a state of sinning and confessing, and unable to escape the bondage of sin. In the Bible it says, “Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). In that case, would a habitual sinner really be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven? The experience of the author will tell you the answer.
I have believed in the Lord for more than a decade. During this period, I always read the Bible carefully, spread the gospel, did my devotions, drove a car to pick up brothers and sisters and take them back, and supported brothers and sisters. I, however, did not see any true changes in myself. For example, once my husband and child did not listen to me, I could not help getting angry at them; when someone said something bad about me, I would hate him or her in my heart. The Lord Jesus asked us to love others as we love ourselves, but why was it that I simply could not do it? What’s worse, I would even complain about God when encountering adversities. Each time that I sinned, I felt especially regretful, but later I resumed sinning again. I was deeply troubled by this. Sins were like ropes that kept me tightly bound, making me unable to break free from them. I found it very difficult to sin no more. I often asked myself: “Can people like me who are living in sin be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven?”
Later, when I sought with the pastor about my confusion, he replied, “Don’t worry. The Bible records, ‘For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Romans 10:10). Because we believe in the Lord Jesus we are already saved and once saved always saved, so when the Lord returns we will be taken by Him to heaven.” After hearing what he said, I still harbored doubts: “Some believers commit major sins, such as committing adultery, conning others out of their money and forming factions, whereas some commit minor sins, such as quarreling with others and cursing others. If believers can enter the kingdom of heaven regardless of the crimes they’ve committed, then it is unfair.” So I expressed my confusion to the pastor again, but he said, “The wages are the same for those who come early and those who come late to the vineyard. The Lord shows kindness to whomever He wishes, even the dying patients. As long as they are baptized, then irrespective of how great evil they have performed, they will enter heaven after death.” His answer didn’t resolve my confusion, which still remained in my thoughts.
Through a chance encounter, I met Sister Liu from mainland China at a birthday party of one of my friends. We hit it off. She is a preacher and has a lot of experience of having faith in the Lord and a very pure understanding of the Bible. Her fellowship was very illuminating, which really drew me in. As a result, I told her about my confusion: “The Bible says only those who are holy can see God’s face. However, even though I’ve believed in the Lord for many years, I’m still in the cycle of sinning and repentance, unable to free myself from the bonds of sin. Therefore, I really suspect that I cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet my pastor told me, ‘To be saved once is to be saved forever. As long as we accept the Lord Jesus’ redemption, regardless of what sins we commit, when the Lord returns we will be raptured into heaven.’ Sister Liu, do you think he is right?”
Hearing my question, Sister Liu smiled and said, “Sister, your question is quite good and just what many believers are confused about. In regard to this aspect, let’s first examine a verse in the Bible. Ephesians 2:8 says, ‘For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.’ We can see in the scripture here that we gain salvation by the grace of God because of our faith. That is, we don’t need to pay any price, and as long as we have faith we will be saved and gratuitously called righteous. However, the Lord Jesus never said that our belief in Him would be enough to get us into the kingdom of heaven. I found a passage in one book before, which clearly elucidates what it means to be saved.”
Saying this, the sister took her tablet out of her bag, found the passage, and read, “‘Once we’re saved, we’re forever saved and can enter the kingdom of heaven,’ this is just man’s conception and imagining. This is not at all in accordance with God’s words. The Lord Jesus never said that people could enter the kingdom of heaven just by being saved through faith. The Lord Jesus said that only those who do the heavenly Father’s will can enter the kingdom of heaven. Only the Lord Jesus’ words have authority and are the truth. Men’s conceptions and imaginations are not the truth. They are not the standards by which one can enter the kingdom of heaven. Regarding the ‘salvation through faith’ that we talk about, this ‘salvation’ only refers to having one’s sins forgiven, not being convicted or condemned to death by the law. It doesn’t mean that the person who has been ‘saved’ can walk in God’s way, has been freed from sin, and has become holy. It definitely does not mean he can enter the kingdom of heaven. Although we’re forgiven of sin through faith, our sins still remain. We still can often sin and resist God. We live in a constant cycle of sinning and then confessing our sins. How can people like that enter the kingdom of heaven? The Bible says, ‘Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). If you say frequent sinners can enter the kingdom of heaven, that isn’t in line with the facts. You dare say that those impure and corrupt men, those frequent sinners, live in the kingdom of heaven? Have you ever seen an impure, evil person in the kingdom of heaven? The Lord is righteous and holy. Would the Lord allow frequent sinners to enter the kingdom of heaven? The Lord Jesus once said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant stays not in the house for ever: but the son stays ever’ (John 8:34–35). Therefore, we can see that those who have not broken free of their sin and attained holiness will not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. If what you say is true, and those who gain salvation through faith can enter the kingdom of heaven, then why did the Lord Jesus say this, ‘Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven’? Why did He say He would separate the goats from the sheep and the wheat from the tares? Therefore, ‘Those who are saved through faith will be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven’ cannot be true! That belief is directly contradicted by the Lord Jesus’ words!”
When she finished reading these words, I felt excited and said, “Thank the Lord! This fellowship has convinced me. Regarding the criterion for entering into the kingdom of heaven, the Lord’s words clearly said, ‘But he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ It begins to look as though the saying that ‘Those who have been saved by their faith may enter into the kingdom of heaven’ is indeed the notion and imagination of man, and it contradicts the Lord Jesus’ words. I was beginning to suspect that living under the situation of sinning and repenting, I couldn’t enter the heavenly kingdom, yet I couldn’t explain it properly before. Today, hearing this fellowship has made me understand. As it turns out, in our belief in the Lord, we gain only pardon of sins, but within us remains the sinful nature. It is clearly stated in the Bible, ‘Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). God is righteous and holy. Only if we get rid of our sinful nature and obey God’s will can we enter His kingdom.”
Sister Liu nodded her head, and continued to fellowship, smiling, “Yes. This passage of fellowship makes it very clear that not all believers of the Lord can enter the heavenly kingdom. We say that we are ‘saved by faith.’ But ‘being saved’ only means we won’t be condemned or put to death by the law. In the later stages of the Age of Law, people’s sins were becoming more and more serious and they were no longer observing the law, so much so that they didn’t have enough sin offerings to atone for their sins and made improper sacrifices to God. According to the laws at the time, they would be put to death. Yet God didn’t have the heart to have them sentenced to death by His laws, and so He assumed human form and was nailed to the cross as a sin offering for man. Thereafter, so long as we pray to the Lord Jesus, confess and repent, then our sins will be forgiven, and we will no longer be subject to the condemnation and punishment of the law. That is to say, God will no longer see us as sinners. This is being saved. However, our sinful nature still remains, and thus we still often involuntarily commit sins. For instance, we deceive and tell lies to protect our own interests; when someone infringes upon our interests, we are no longer tolerant or patient, but harbor hatred and exact retribution on them; when we see unbelievers pursue life’s pleasures, we’re unable to resist the temptation and begin to follow them; when we see someone who is better than us, we often compare ourselves to them, living in a state of vying for fame and gain; when natural disasters or man-made calamities befall us, we blame and betray God; and so on. If our satanic dispositions are not rid of, we can still resist and betray God. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant stays not in the house for ever: but the Son stays ever’ (John 8:34–35). So how can we, who commit sins so often, enter the kingdom of heaven? That’s why we have to seek the way to be truly cleansed. Let’s read another passage, and then we’ll understand.
“‘The sins of man could be forgiven through the sin offering, but as for just how man can be made to sin no more, and how his sinful nature may be extirpated completely and transformed, he has no way of solving this problem. The sins of man were forgiven, and this is because of the work of God’s crucifixion, but man continued to live within his corrupt satanic disposition of old. This being so, man must be completely saved from his corrupt satanic disposition, so that his sinful nature may be completely extirpated, never to develop again, thus enabling the disposition of man to be transformed. This would require man to grasp the path of growth in life, to grasp the way of life, and to grasp the way to change his disposition. Furthermore, it would require man to act in accordance with this path, so that his disposition may gradually be changed and he may live under the shining of the light, so that all that he does may be in accord with the will of God, so that he may cast away his corrupt satanic disposition, and so that he may break free from Satan’s influence of darkness, thereby emerging fully from sin. Only then will man receive complete salvation’” (“The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)”).
After she had finished reading these words, the sister continued with her fellowship, “From this passage we can see that we’re forgiven for our sins because of the Lord Jesus’ salvation of the cross, but the sinful nature within us remains deeply rooted. If we only rely on our own will to strive to exercise self-restraint, we’ll be incapable of casting off the bonds of sin. We all have a deep realization that we live in and are unable to escape from the vicious cycle of committing sins and admitting to them every day. Our sins are just like chives. Today they are cut, but a few days later they will grow again. The only way to prevent the growth of the chives is to uproot them. Similarly, if we want to completely break free from the bondage of sin, we must rid ourselves of our sinful nature. This will require God to carry out a stage of work to eliminate our sins in the last days, so that we will reach a change in our corrupt dispositions, and our speech and behavior will be completely in accord with God’s will. That will be the time when we truly gain God’s salvation, and are qualified to be raised into the kingdom of heaven.”
As I listened, I pondered: “This passage explains everything very clearly. It turns out that if we want to cast off the bonds of sin, we still need God to come again and perform another stage of work. These years, although I have expended for the Lord, and have confessed my sins and repented, I still sin in spite of myself no matter how hard I try. It seems as if being cleansed and changed is not a simple thing. Only if God comes to do a stage of work of casting away sin can we break free of our corrupt dispositions and enter the kingdom of heaven. These words are truly full of light!” As soon as I thought of this, I asked the sister immediately, “This passage says that if we want to leave sin behind, we need to grasp the path of growth in life and the way of life. So, does it mean that only after we find the work done by the returned Lord in the last days can we know what the way of life is?”
The sister nodded and said, “Yes. When the Lord returns in the last days, He will speak and utter His words, tell us about the path of growth in life and the way of life, and do a step of the work of judgment and purification. Actually, there are many places in the Bible that prophesy that the Lord will return to express truth to perform judgment work. For instance, ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13). ‘And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:47–48). The Lord Jesus’ words clearly tell us that when He comes again, He will express the truth, reveal all the mysteries not understood by man, and perform a stage of work of judging and cleansing man, thereby thoroughly resolving man’s corrupt disposition, and making man cast off evil and be saved. In this way, we will be led by God into the kingdom of heaven in the end and gain His blessings and promise.”
Sister Liu’s fellowship surprised me. I thought in my heart: “The Bible very clearly states that God will come again to deliver the truth and to undertake the work of judging and cleansing man. I read the Bible every day, but how come I’ve been unable to be enlightened? And the pastor always interprets the Bible in meetings, but I’ve never heard him say that God still has one more stage of work in the last days. What Sister Liu communicated today indeed has light!” At that moment, I felt my heart brighten, and saw the hope of detaching from the binding of sin. I happily said, “The Bible really records the Lord’s return to do the work of judgment in the last days, yet the pastor has never preached about it. If I hadn’t heard this communion here today, I would still be waiting to be raptured by the Lord into the kingdom of heaven. Now I can see that it really is my own imaginings. But where can I seek the truth expressed by God in the last days?”
Sister Liu said, “As for this problem, actually, the Lord Jesus has already laid out a practical path for us. The Bible says, ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20). In these prophecies we can clearly see that we should be clever virgins and pay attention to hearing God’s voice. When we hear people bear witness that the Lord has returned and uttered words, we must have a heart that thirsts and seeks, and see whether the words contain the truth and whether they are God’s voice. If they are, we ought to quickly accept. This is welcoming the Lord’s appearance.”
I understood through the sister’s fellowship that as long as I carefully listen to God’s voice and thus welcome the appearance of the Lord, then I can gain the way of life that God bestows upon man, free myself from the bonds and constraints of sin, and attain God’s salvation. Thank the Lord! I really never imagined that the confusion I had had during all these years of faith was resolved at the birthday party. Meanwhile, I also understood the true meaning of being saved and found the way of getting rid of sin. Thank the Lord! All the glory be to the Lord!
From: Grow in Christ