Articles addressing Scriptural concepts that are misunderstood by many Believers today.
Every Christian denomination out there has a doctrine of salvation. Regardless of the varying doctrines between these denominations, the doctrine of salvation is almost universally the same. It goes something like, “Christ died to take away sin. If you accept Him, you get salvation, which is eternal life. If you do not accept Him, you do not get salvation and therefore you go to hell.” While most of us are familiar with this, how many of us can prove it? There are many often-quoted Scriptures used to “back it up,” but is it possible that it is wrong?
Of the many assumptions that goes along with “salvation,” I will address only a few. First is the issue of the word itself and how it is used. Second is the issue of “acceptance before death.” Third (and perhaps most importantly) is the doctrine of “once saved always saved.” After addressing these three, we’ll delve deeper into a study of salvation. Before we start, however, I feel the need to express a disclaimer. I am NOT teaching “salvation by works” as Scripture is VERY clear that “salvation” is by Faith in Yeshua our Messiah. What I will say, and show, is that “salvation” is a process that will only conclude upon the Resurrection. I will also show that though works do not precede Faith, they MUST follow Faith. So, without further ado, we will start the study.
Let’s begin with our first topic, the word “salvation.” After looking at the word, we will examine its usage in the Tanakh as well as the Gospels and Apostolic Writings. In the Hebrew, the primary word used is yasha, which means “to save, or deliver.” It is the root of the word Yeshua, which means “salvation” and is also the name of our Messiah. Yasha means to save, while Yeshua is actually salvation. Salvation is the process or final act of being saved. To save means “to keep safe or deliver from harm.” Salvation means “preservation or deliverance from harm.” We’ll come back to these meanings when we examine the second part of the study. In the Tanakh, we should be able to see what “salvation” looks like, since we know that Yahweh’s plan for it existed from the beginning.
Exodus 14:30, “30Thus Yahweh saved(yasha) Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”
Numbers 10:9, “9″When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before Yahweh your Elohim, and be saved(yasha) from your enemies.”
Deuteronomy 20:4, “4for Yahweh your Elohim is the One who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save(yasha) you.”
Judges 3:31, “31After him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved(yasha)Israel.”
1 Samuel 23:5, “5So David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines; and he led away their livestock and struck them with a great slaughter. Thus David delivered(yasha) the inhabitants of Keilah.”
Isaiah 30:15, “15For thus the Master Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved(yasha), in quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing.”
So these are just a few examples of the hundreds of times this word appears. The point being, however, that Israel was “saved” many different times. They were “delivered” many times by not just Yahweh but also the judges, David and others. In all of these instances, however, we see that it means to literally be “kept safe or delivered from harm.” In the case of the salvation offered by Yeshua, the believer is kept safe or delivered from the second death.
Revelation 20:6, “6Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of Elohim and of Messiah and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
What is the second death, specifically? Revelation 20:14, “14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
What is commonly known as “hell” is the lake of fire. Being cast into “hell” is the second death.
Notice, however, that this has not yet taken place. No one has been saved from the second death yet, so no one has been “saved” yet. It’s akin to saying you have been saved from a car wreck that won’t happen for another three years. You may know that you will be saved from it, so long as you obey traffic/safety laws (wearing seatbelt, not speeding, not texting and driving, etc.) but you have not yet been saved, because the harm has not yet come. In the day when the car wreck occurs, THEN you will be saved. So salvation is more of a process and not so much of an item that is currently attained and held. What one DOES currently have is what Scripture refers to as “the expectation.” But one is not yet saved because the harm has not yet come. When the harm comes, one will be “saved” and THEN one will have “salvation.” Notice in the examples above, in 1 Samuel, the inhabitants probably had the “expectation of deliverance” before David came to the rescue. However, they were not “saved” until AFTER the calamity took place and David came and saved them. Salvation means to be saved from “something,” and that “something” is the second death (hell).
The Greek word used for this is soter, which means savior or deliverer. The other form used is soteria or soterios, depending on usage, meaning salvation. Now to be sure, there are a number of Scriptures that would indicate salvation is already attained.
Luke 19:9, “9And Yeshua said to him, ‘Today salvation(soteria) has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.’”
2 Corinthians 6:2, “2for He says, ‘at the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation(soteria) I helped you.’ Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation(soteria).’”
Luke 19 can be easily explained because, as I stated earlier, salvation is a process. Though salvation has already been made available (to everyone), no one has yet been saved because the harm has not yet come. Not only that, but there are multiple types of “salvation.” One may be “saved” from a car wreck, but still face the second death, for example.
2 Corinthians, however, requires a deeper explanation. This explanation also leads us into the second point to address: what “day” is one saved in, and does everyone only have until their death?
To answer the second question first, there is no verse in the entirety of Scripture that says everyone must get saved right now. This is taken from the belief that “today is the [only] day of salvation,” but this is false. The quote above from 2 Corinthians is not translated correctly. If you get out multiple versions of Scripture, you’ll notice that some read, “today is the day” and some will read “today is a day” of salvation. The fact is that the Greek text has no definite article attached to the word hemera, which literally means “day.” The article for “the” was added to hemera by the translators, but in reality it is not there. The phrase COULD be read as “the day of salvation” but it could ALSO be read as “a day of salvation.” Consider, however, the writer’s intent. If Paul was choosing to convey that it was “the” day, why not add a definite article to this statement? Or, if he was trying to say “today is the only day for salvation,” then why did he not specify that it was the only day? Simply put, because it is not the only day. The “day of salvation” will be the day when we are “saved” from the second death. Though that’s not to say we aren’t “saved” every day, in one form or another. Remember, not every “salvation” is the same kind. Many people were “saved” in the Tanakh and many in the Gospels/Apostolic Writings; they were simply saved physically. David was the savior of the inhabitants of Keilah, yet he did not guarantee them eternal life.
Scripture never says that one must “get saved” before they die. Yahweh’s plan was not to call everyone at the same time. This is played out in a number of different Scriptures, which we will address a little later. For now, keep in mind the things that have been put forth already. Salvation is a process, with the final act of being saved occurring when it is time for the second death. Being saved means you are saved from harm, and that harm is the second death. Not everyone’s time is right now, and not all have heard the gospel preached.
Therefore, as Paul says in Romans 10:14, “14How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
What Paul is saying here is that people who have never heard the gospel CAN’T believe, because it has not been given to them. Would it be fair for Yahweh to condemn someone to hellfire for not believing the gospel, if He never spoke the gospel to them? Again, we’ll get to this. For now, keep these things in mind as we address the third question.
“Once saved, always saved” is the statement I have heard many times. Sometimes I have heard it put other ways, such as “eternal security,” but regardless the thought is the same. This is predicated on the thought that once someone is “saved and regenerated,” then it is impossible for them to lose their salvation. The most common verses for this are listed below. While there are others, I figured I would address the two that are most often used to support the position of “once saved always saved.”
Romans 8:38-39, “38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of Elohim, which is in Messiah Yeshua our Master.”
John 10:27-29, “27My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29My 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.”
Again, these verses are not the only ones, but they are the two primary verses used to support this idea. Romans 8 is usually taken out of context to mean that once we belong to Him, we’ll never be taken from Him. This, however, is not the case. As the context of the verse very clearly states, it only says that nothing can separate Yahweh’s love for us. That is the same as saying “For Elohim so loved the world…” (John 3:16). He loves everyone, and nothing can change that. But that does not have any bearing on whether or not a person is obedient and seeks eternal life.
Next, in John, yet again we have a context problem. What John is relaying is that Yeshua is saying no one can steal your salvation. No outside person can prevent you from being saved. You can, however, give it up. He says, “no one can snatch them from the Father’s Hand” but He never says they can’t jump from the Father’s Hand. No one can kill your salvation, but YOU can self-abort. YOU decide whether or not you get eternal life. It is a free gift (Romans 6:23) that is made available to everyone. You can accept it by believing in Yeshua and obeying Him, or you can reject it by ignoring Him.
Now for some proof that one CAN “lose their salvation.” The Apostle Paul used many metaphors and allegories in his teaching ministry. One of the most common ones he used was that of a race. In a race, you run (action, work) to win a prize. You try your hardest to be the best you can be. However, if you don’t run by the rules, you can become disqualified. Paul uses this type of terminology when speaking about the Kingdom of Elohim.
1 Corinthians 9:24-26, “24Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable prize. 26Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air.”
Paul is saying that you run towards the goal of incorruptible eternal life with all you’ve got. “In such a way that you may win,” he says, showing the importance of giving it your all. But what’s more, the very next verse Paul says something very important.
1 Corinthians 9:27, “27but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Here Paul warns that, without proper discipline, you can be disqualified from the race. No one can force you to be disqualified, but you can CHOOSE to not have discipline (that is, not obey The Father) and thereby BECOME disqualified. Paul speaks of this again in Philippians.
“8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Master, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Messiah, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Messiah, the righteousness which [comes] from Elohim on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained [it] or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Messiah Yeshua. 13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of [it] yet; but one thing [I do]: forgetting what’s behind and reaching forward to what’s ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of Elohim in Messiah Yeshua."
Resurrection from the dead. THAT is what we look forward to. The resurrection into our incorruptible forms (1 Corinthians 15), which happens at the return of Yeshua (1 Thessalonians 4). THAT is what salvation is, being saved from the second death. Those that are saved from the second death are those that inherit eternal life, which happens at the resurrection. “Know this; that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Elohim” (1 Corinthians 15).
Peter says, “15but sanctify Messiah as Master in your hearts, always ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15).
“The hope that is in you.” If we already “have” salvation, what “hope” is in us, and what are we looking forward to? Can salvation be different from resurrection? Resurrection unto eternal life means that we are “saved” from the second death. Paul also mentioned “looking ahead” in the passage we just read in Philippians. Salvation = eternal life. Eternal life is spent in the Kingdom of Elohim. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Elohim. Our bodies will be changed (or resurrected) into the form that Yeshua is. Therefore, by using what’s known as the “law of equivalents,” we see that salvation = eternal life, and we do not yet have eternal life, therefore we do not yet have salvation.
Romans 6:5, “5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.”
1 John 3:2, “2Beloved, now we are children of Elohim, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
Both Paul and John say we WILL be like Yeshua, which means we are not YET like Him. Why is this? Because our fleshly bodies do not have eternal life in themselves. Only the incorruptible body that we will be resurrected/changed into will have eternal life in it. So salvation, which is eternal life, only happens at the resurrection.
The next “proof text” as it’s called, is Matthew 10:22 (and the parallel verse is Mark 13:13).
Matthew 10:22, “22You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”
Salvation requires endurance.
2 Timothy 2:11-13, “11It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 12If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; 13If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
We must endure to “reign” with Him, though if we deny Him we will be denied. This also lends to the idea that we can be denied if we are not obedient. To endure means to continue in something difficult. If “salvation” cannot be lost, what is there to endure? Notice also in the verse above that Paul is saying if we are faithless, Messiah remains faithful. This does not mean that if we leave our faith that we are still “saved,” but rather that even if we lose our faith (in what Yahweh has done through His son, Yeshua) that He will never lose faith, for “He cannot deny Himself.”
Matthew 10:33, “33″But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
As I said earlier, there are multiple Scriptures that inform us that not everyone is called at the same time. To begin, we’ll examine an account from the Torah. Remember that the physical teaches the Spiritual, and this should always be remembered when reading Scripture (especially the Tanakh).
22But when you unknowingly fail and do not observe all these commandments, which Yahweh has spoken to Moses, 23even all that Yahweh has commanded you through Moses, from the day when Yahweh gave commandment and onward throughout your generations, 24then it shall be, if it is done unintentionally, without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one bull for a burnt offering, as a soothing aroma to Yahweh, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one male goat for a sin offering. 25Then the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and they will be forgiven; for it was an error, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to Yahweh, and their sin offering before Yahweh, for their error. 26So all the congregation of the sons of Israel will be forgiven, with the alien who sojourns among them, for it happened to all the people through error.
27Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering. 28The priest shall make atonement before Yahweh for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. 29You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming Yahweh; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31Because he has despised the Word of Yahweh and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.’”
So to sum this section up, it basically lists the requirements for someone that sins unintentionally. It is true that adultery is a sin, whether you know it is or not. It is true that idolatry is a sin, whether you know it is or not. It is true that eating unclean meat is a sin, whether you know it is or not. So on and so forth. The point of this section, however, is to show that there is a sacrifice and forgiveness for the sin committed unintentionally. In verse 30 we are told that anyone who openly defies the Word of Yahweh shall be “cut off.” If we continue in Numbers 15, we will see an example of this.
“32Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; 34and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 35Then Yahweh said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as Yahweh had commanded Moses.”
This seems a bit harsh, right? The man was simply picking up sticks, why should he have to die for that? The point is, he was gathering wood (some translations read firewood) which was a lot of work. But the more important point here is that this is AFTER Sinai, AFTER the official giving of the entire Torah, where ALL the people agreed to it (Exodus 19:8). So the man KNEW that he was breaking the commands of Yahweh, yet CHOSE to break them anyways. This was not unintentional, this was outright defiance. We see this same type of picture in the Pharisees of Yeshua’s day. He constantly calls them hypocrites for knowing the Torah yet still not DOING the Torah. They were placing their own laws ABOVE that of the Laws of Yahweh. (Mark 7, Matthew 23, Luke 12, and many others).
Yeshua said in Matthew 5:19-20:
“19Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Verse 20 is usually missed when this is quoted, but it goes together perfectly. In Numbers 15, we saw two types of people, though a third is implied. I will address these three “classes” in a different article, but for now we’ll list them here, as Yeshua stated. 1) The greatest. 2) The least. 3) The Pharisees. Now to put these in line with Numbers 15, we’ll reword it. The great are implied in Numbers 15, but not officially mentioned. These are the ones that know the Torah and do it. The least are those that are primarily addressed in Numbers 15. Those that did not know what they were doing was wrong. Regardless of whether they knew it or not it was still a sin, but there is a sacrifice for that. The Pharisees are represented by the man gathering wood. They knew the Torah (indeed, it was their custom to have the entire Torah memorized by the age of 13) yet they did not follow it. They made it all about themselves and didn’t have their heart in it. They added to it in many ways, and in some took away from it (Deuteronomy 4:2).
So you may be wondering, what does this have to do with the “day of salvation”? Well consider the parable in Matthew 20.
“1For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2″When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3″And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; 4and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And [so] they went. 5″Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. 6″And about the eleventh [hour] he went out and found others standing [around]; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 7″They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’
8″When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last [group] to the first.’ 9″When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11″When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last men have worked [only] one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 13″But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16″So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
Notice the opening statement here: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner…” This shows that Yeshua is again addressing the Coming Kingdom with this parable, drawing a parallel between the situation He describes and the workings of The Kingdom. The parable means this: despite what time (year or age) a worker (believer) is hired, his wage is the same. Regardless if he was called in 30 CE or if he was called in 2013 CE, his final reward is the same: eternal life. But more than that, a man’s payment is the same whether he faithfully served Yahweh for 50 years or if he only began a walk of obedience a month before his death.
Now, today, is not the only day of salvation. The reason for this is because today is not the only day that people are called. Just because you may have been called 10 years ago does not mean that your brother or sister or best friend will be called at the same time. It IS Yahweh’s desire for all men to be saved.
1 Timothy 2:3-5, “3This is good and acceptable in the sight ofElohim our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one Elohim, and one mediator also between Elohim and men, the man Messiah Yeshua.”
This does not mean that He calls all men at the same time, but rather that He will call all men at some point in time.
John 14:6, “6Yeshua said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
John 6:44-45, “44″No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45″It is written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught of Yahweh (Isaiah 54:13)’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”
These two statements by Yeshua almost seem contradictory. No one comes to the Father except through Yeshua, and no one comes to Yeshua except through the Father? Not quite. True, no one comes to the Father except through Yeshua. But, before they can come to the Father through Yeshua, the Father must draw them to Yeshua. This is the fulfillment of the parable of Matthew 20. When the landowner called the laborers at different times, that represented the time when Yahweh (creator, sustainer, and possessor of all the earth so literally ‘The Landowner’) called them unto Himself. In order for that to happen, they must go through His son, Yeshua. Notice in verse 8 we see mention of the “foreman” who “pays the workers.” They go “through” the foreman, rather than the landowner directly. Yeshua is the foreman. The Greek word used is epitropos, meaning administrator or one having authority.
I feel the need to address the term “reward” for a moment, as this has caused confusion amongst MANY believers. Scriptures like Psalm 62:12, Proverbs 24:12, Jeremiah 32:19, Revelation 22:12 (and others) say that there is a reward based on works. These verses are difficult to most believers because most understand that “salvation” is equal to all people. This is true indeed. So what, then, is the reward and how can it vary based on works? This reward is not speaking specifically of salvation, but rather of a place in The Millennial Kingdom. Revelation 22:12 says that Yeshua brings this reward with Him when He comes to set up His Kingdom. We know that we will rule and reign with Him.
I know many teachers have said that your reward is based on your works, while still saying salvation is equal for everyone. This seems confusing, but remember that they are different. The narrative in Ezekiel 44 is a perfect example. The Levitical priests (representing the “least” in the Kingdom) were disobedient. They are still inside the House of Yahweh, but they do not get to come into the most inner court where He (in this case, Yeshua) dwells. The priests of Zadok (representing the “great” in the Kingdom) are the ones that continued to keep the charge of the House, continued to set themselves apart unto Yahweh. They are the ones that get to come into the inner room with Yeshua. They are the ones that are sent out into the towns to teach The Torah. Meanwhile, outside the House (and outside The City) are the rebellious ones.
One’s “position” or “rank” within the Millennial system is determined by one’s work. This work varies from person to person, so the reward will vary. THIS is the reward Yeshua speaks of in Revelation 22. One’s salvation, or eventual entrance into eternity, is determined solely by one’s faith.
One more thing to mention here before we end this rather lengthy study. Again, I will address the “three classes” in a different article, but here I would like to mention a couple of things. First, in correlation with what we read about endurance, we should take a look at Revelation. Revelation 13 and 14 make mention of what is phrased as “the perseverance of the Saints.” What is this perseverance, if not the patient endurance of the end times? Endurance even unto death. Recall Revelation 20:5, which states that those resurrected to rule and reign with Messiah are raised up in the “first resurrection.” We know for a fact there are at least two resurrections, for there is a later resurrection that happens AFTER the millennium is over. Think for a moment, if you will, about Revelation 20:11-15. This scene is called the “Great White Throne Judgment.” This is where the dead are ALL raised and judged. Here it is determined which ones go to life and which to death. If these were all condemned to the second death, why is there a judgment taking place? Why not just throw all of the dead into the lake of fire right then? Because not all are to be condemned to hellfire. These include the people that never heard the Gospel. Remember, Paul said they cannot believe because they have not heard. They are judged accordingly. Only the people who have openly disobeyed Yahweh get sent to the lake of fire, not those that never had a chance.
Now the one thing that remains to be seen is HOW these people are given a chance. But regardless, Scripture is clear that only those that openly defy the Father get condemned.
Lastly, to close, allow me to again reiterate my position on this topic. I believe (and assert) that “salvation” is a process resulting in eternal life. Salvation is being saved from the second death, which has not yet occurred. Salvation is not granted by works, but indeed can be forfeited if one does not continue to walk out salvation. The walking out of salvation must be done in accordance to the Word of Yahweh and it must include “work.”
James 2:17, “17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
James is not saying that salvation is “earned,” but rather that if your faith has no works, it is useless. These are all things done in accordance with the Word. The doing of the things that the Word says to do and the refraining from things the Word says NOT to do. The whole duty of man is to “Fear Elohim and keep His commandments.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13.
Works do not produce “salvation,” but rather salvation must produce works. We must all “walk out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Once a person is “saved” (or rather, once they begin the process of being saved) they can either continue in faith and good works, or they can deny their faith. If they deny their faith, they deny Yeshua, and therefore are denied BY Yeshua. The time for a person to begin “salvation” does not begin when you or I first tell them about the Gospel. Rather, this process begins when Yahweh chooses to draw them to His son, Yeshua. Once He draws them, they can either accept Yeshua (and then come unto the Father through Him) or they can reject Him.
But consider also what is perhaps the most compelling statement by Paul:
11Do this, knowing the time, that it is already time for you to awaken out of sleep, for salvation is now nearer to us than when we first believed. - Romans 13:11
If we already "had" salvation when we first began to believe, why would Paul say it is nearer NOW than when we first believed? It's the same as saying, "My birthday is closer now than it was yesterday."
Lastly, here's a quote by a friend of mine, Stephen Otto. I believe this sums it up fairly well:
[Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Elohim, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Many Believers interpret these Scriptures to mean that they are not required to keep Torah in order to achieve salvation! Other Believers interpret them the same way, except that they believe that they keep Torah as a result of our salvation! Neither one of these interpretations are correct!
Let’s address the first interpretation!
The Apostle Paul tells us that Believers are “saved through faith … not of works.” Yet, James tells us that “…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). While these Scriptures seem to contradict one another, as we will see, they are in complete harmony with one another!
The key to understanding these Scriptures is to understand that, not only does the Bible teach that when we accept Yeshua as Messiah, that we are saved from our past sins (Rom 3:25; Isa 44:22), but they also teach that we must also overcome to the end to be saved (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13; Rev. 2:26). Thus, achieving salvation is a life-long process.
In referring to the ancient Israelites, 1 Corinthians 10:11 states, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” So, with this in mind, let’s consider the examples of the Israelites as they relate to this topic!
When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt Elohim worked great miracles on their behalf, including: saving Israel from the death angel; sending 10 plagues on Egypt; parting the Red Sea to provide Israel with a means of escape; and killing Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. The Israelites did absolutely nothing militarily on their own behalf to defeat their enemy. The only thing they did was apply the Passover lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their homes! Elohim did the rest!
Likewise, Yeshua works great miracles on our behalf: including saving us from the penalty of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23); and defeating our spiritual enemy, Satan and his demons. And just as the Israelites did absolutely nothing on their own behalf militarily to defeat their enemy, we also do absolutely nothing on our own behalf to defeat ours! The only thing we do is apply Yeshua’s blood, spiritually speaking, to the doorposts of our homes. Elohim does the rest!
Most professing Believers stop here doctrinally with regard to the examples of the Israelites; however, as relevant as the accounts are regarding the deliverance of the ancient Israelites from Egypt and our deliverance from sin, they are only half of the story! Just as the ancient Israelites still had to fight in order to conquer the Promise Land, with the help of Elohim, we still have to fight in order to enter into the Kingdom of Elohim, with Yeshua’s help.
Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13; Gal. 2:1-10) and it was in this capacity that he was addressing the recent Ephesian converts to the faith. James was the leader of the Jewish congregation in Jerusalem and it was in this capacity that he was addressing “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1), who were established Believers in the faith. Thus, the reason why Paul tells the newly converted Ephesians that they are, “saved through faith … not of works” and James tells the Israelites that “…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” is because they are speaking to their respective groups, groups who are collectively at different stages of their spiritual walk! Since the Ephesians were newly converted Believers, Paul tells them that they “saved through faith … not of works,” focusing on the first stage of salvation, being saved from past sins! In contrast, since the Israelites were established Believers, James tells them “…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:20), focusing on the second stage of salvation, overcoming till the end when we will enter into the Kingdom of Elohim.
This group of Believers, like the first group, believes that they have already achieved salvation in the sense that they are guaranteed to enter into the Kingdom of Elohim. However, as we have established earlier, salvation is achieved through two separate stages. Unlike the first group of Believers, though, this group believes that they keep Torah as a result of being saved. However, if this were true, the Israelites would not have been required to fight on their own behalf in order to enter into the Promised Land! Elohim would have done all their fighting for them until they settled in the Promised Land! Thus, those who say that they keep Torah as a result of salvation are, in effect, saying that they are willing to fight after Elohim wins the fight for them, after the fight is over!
While Believers do not achieve salvation until the “end,” we can certainly live our lives in hope of it! 1 Thessalonians 5:8 states, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” Romans 8:24 adds, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? Ephesians 1:13 adds, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” Ephesians 4:30 adds, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of Elohim, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 adds, “Now He who establishes us with you in Messiah and has anointed us is Elohim, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” The word “guarantee” is more accurately translated as “earnest,” as it is translated in the King James Version!
Now let’s go back and read James’ statement in context. James 2:14-26 states, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one Elohim. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed Elohim, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of Elohim. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Thus, both doctrinal positions stated above are false! The Scriptures teach that Believers are initially saved from our past sins “by faith, through grace,” and that we ultimately achieve salvation through a combination of faith and works!
A young man asked Yeshua, “…Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16). Yeshua replied, “…But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (vs. 17). “When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” Yeshua said, “…With men this is impossible, but with Elohim all things are possible” (vv.25-26). In other words, Elohim makes it possible for His people to keep His commandments. How? Through the power of the Holy Spirit. What happens when we sin? 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Notice the word “if,” which makes our salvation conditional, based on future repentance!]
I pray this study has blessed you. I will (soon) be uploading another article that I have referenced a couple of times in this one. The topic of it will be more information on the “three classes” that I mentioned.
I also ask that you check out my articles “The Millennial Kingdom,” “The True Rapture” and “Is ‘Hell’ Really Eternal?” for a lot more information on many of the subjects addressed in this article. Thank you. Be Berean. Shalom!
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J. A. Brown