Question on Perseverance & Revelation 22:19
Dear Mr. Hendryx,
I have read over some of the articles on your site would like to pose a question to you from the scriptures concerning the monergism/synergism debate. I have studied the cases of Calvinism, Arminianism, etc. for some time now, and soteriologically lean heavily towards Synergism. The question I ask is how do you reconcile your belief of perseverance of the saints with the warning given in Revelation 22:19? I have posed this question to quite a few Calvinist friends and authors, and the most intellectually sound answer I have gotten thus far is that God simply gives such warnings to keep His elect from falling away.The irony of that argument is that if God's purpose in issuing such a warning is that we 'take heed lest we fall,' then why am I in theological error for taking heed and believing that such a possibility could occur? In Christ,___________
The main issue is the fact that God gives many commands in Scripture, all of which we have the inability to carry out apart from Christ. But, thanks be to God, Christ does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. The purpose of the Law and warnings is not to show our natural ability but rather our inability (Rom 3:19, 20). "through the law we become conscious of sin", Which makes us flee to Christ. So when God commands us to persevere to the end, He is not telling us to look to our own resources to get there, but rather that we look to Christ, who alone is sufficient to fully save.
The error in question in Revelation 22:19 is to disbelieve the Scriptures by either adding to them or subtracting from them. That is, to disbelieve the very Christ who saves you. When we add or take away from the Scripture we are in effect saying that we do not like this particular God as He has revealed himself to me, so anyone who does this does not believe the Christ of Scripture to begin with. He believes in a false Christ. We should take heed for doing such a thing would reveal the true nature of our heart: unregenerate.
Rev 22:18-19 "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."
The passage warning is directed to "ANYONE". Jesus, in the previous text (v 17) says
"The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price."
..so the idea is that this command is open to anyone. But again, no one naturally submits to the humbling terms of the gospel. God's command to "come" does not mean we all have the ability to do so. John Owen once said: "To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect." And as we all know, the "book of life" idea is an anthropomorphism. God is not ignorant of who will be in that book whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian. He knows who will be redeemed even before He creates us. The emphasis is not, therefore, on something God changes His mind about, but a sober warning to anyone who would change or distort His revelation, which is idolatry, since it makes God into something He is not.
Remember, God gave the tree of life in the garden of Eden when man was unfallen. The fact that man has fallen and is unable to take of the tree does not change God's command. God commands us to be perfect and take of the tree of life, even though an angel is blocking the way to it. The problem, however, is not with the law, but with us. God's standard remains the same and He does not lower his standard of holiness simply because we are unable to fulfil it. But in mercy He does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves, that is, obey the law completely and perfectly. Jesus, in this way, fulfilled the law and grants eternal life to all who are trusting in Him. But the law and God's moral standard remains. So you will often see God command things that we are unable to do (such as the Ten commandments). Thus the need for Christ.
The Scripture indeed teaches that we MUST persevere to the end ... In this you and I fully agree (John 15:1-15). But that is only half the equation. It also clearly teaches that God will preserve us to the end (John 15:16). Look at John 15:16 carefully " You have not chosen me but I have chosen you AND APPOINTED YOU TO BEAR FRUIT, FRUIT THAT WILL LAST." I would also encourage you to take the time to read the following short piece by Greg Johnson on this very issue: Can a Christian Lose His or Her Salvation?. An interesting story related to this is that I was recently debating with a guy who believed Christians were sinless and could lose salvation if they sinned. In my email I copied and pasted some of the tables in the above essay but failed to mention that it was Greg Johnsons' table. I just quickly wanted to get my point across rather than rewriting it. But the guy found the table online and said I was taking credit for someone elses' work. I thought it ironic he would say this since those who believe they can lose their salvation if we do not maintain sinlessness, are, in effect, taking credit for someone elses work, Christ's.
Next, I think it is VERY important to consider something in light of perseverance of the saints. Consider that if a person can actually lose their salvation, as you seem to be claiming, then it is tantamount to asserting that what Jesus did for us in His life and death is NOT SUFFICIENT to save us. That his once for all sacrifice is not enough to save us completely. So, if we begin by the Spirit but you claim we must complete our journey to heaven by the flesh, then do we not commit the Galatian heresy? Consider, your position is that CHRISTIANS MUST MAINTAIN THEIR OWN JUSTIFICATION BEFORE GOD. If you think Jesus saves us but afterward it is entirely up to us ... That Christ kick starts us but we must be good enough to deserve heaven thereafter, the logical conclusion to this would be that Jesus, when he prayed that God would preserve his own, actually failed. That His prayer in John 17 was ineffectual for his people. Can the prayer of Jesus fail? Furthermore we would be basing our justification on our sanctification, rather than Christ?
Is not the idea that our good works contribute to the price of our redemption a Roman catholic error? Isn't that why we left the RCC at the Reformation because they believed that what Jesus did for us was not enough and that we must church out good works to maintain our just standing before God? How is your position any different than this?
Don't get me wrong, we also affirm that God's people must persevere in obedience and faith to the end. The question is, does this spring from God's grace as a child of the covenant or is it a matter of the natural will. If you say "both" then I must ask you, why does one man persevere to the end and not the other? What makes the two persons to differ? grace? No, not to you because both had grace. So it must have been something in the flesh that made one to differ. One either had more virtue, tenacity, moral fortitude etc. Your answer, in other words, is found outside of Jesus Christ. Christ either saves us completely or He does not save us at all. For if you were to trust in your own ability to persevere or continually love God with all your heart, soul, mind and your neighbor as yourself, then none would have hope. We would all perish. What kind of a Gospel is that? It is not the gospel but the same heresy that Paul warned against in Galatians. "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" Some warned Paul that if He preached salvation by grace alone in Christ alone it would be a licence for immorality. In Romans 6 it says shall we continue sin that grace might increase???
The essence of it is, either we are saved by grace alone in Christ alone, or the alternative is that we must pay PART OF the price of our redemption. Does Christ save us UNTO good works, or are we saved because we trust partly in Christ and partly in our good works?
It is very dangerous to believe that Christians can lose their salvation because this belief does not put Christ at the center of your faith. Is Christ sufficient to save you or not?
True believers are not condemned when they sin, but if they do not admit sin, God will discipline them so they will not be condemned with unbelievers:
31But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
- 1 Corinthians 11:31-33 (English Standard Version)