I used to live in a place on the edge of some woods in Tyler, TX. The rent was cheap, and it was owned by one of the secretaries of the church where I worked. When I moved in, I noticed some interesting things. First of all, it was nestled low at the bottom of a hill. You couldn't see it from the road as you drove by. I thought this was strange since when it rained, water would run down the hill and flow into the apartment. Why didn't they build it up on the top of the hill?
The second thing that was peculiar was the doors and locks. The place had these thick steel doors. They looked like you could blast them with a twelve gauge shot gun without effect. In addition to the thickness, they had multiple vault-like locks and deadbolts. The exterior of the building was made out of metal as well. It was clear that whoever had built that place was obsessed with security. Since I was living alone, I didn't mind the feeling of safety I got from the place, though I didn't like that the carpet smelled of rainwater.
At one point I was chatting with the landlord about the past history of the apartment. She revealed that it had not always been a living space. The metal doors, the locks, and the out of sight location were for a dubious purpose. The previous owners used the building for a nefarious income. They ran an illegal gambling operation out of that building in the woods. At one point there were all kinds of satellite dishes and phone lines for up-to-the-second betting. I could see why security was such a priority because they were breaking the law.
I guess you could say I’m obsessed with security, but not home security. In fact, I leave my home unlocked now. I rarely lock my cars, but don’t get your hopes up. There’s nothing much of value in them unless you have an affinity for old fast food cups. I’m obsessed with a different kind of security—the eternal kind. If our salvation is not eternally secure the moment we receive it, then it might as well not be secure at all. The way I see it, eternal security is represented by the vowels, a e i o u. Once you are saved your eternal security is Absolutely Everlasting, Immediately Obtained and Unconditional. If it's not those things, then it's not eternal security.
As Chafer put it, “Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to withdraw it in the presence of human failure and sin. Grace cannot be lessened because of demerit.”1 Jesus’ gift of grace that He seeks to bestow on the woman at the well and all who come to Him is not only a free gift, but it is irrevocably given to anyone who believes in Jesus.
A few years back as I was studying the Gospel of John I noticed an interesting word playing on repeat throughout the book. It’s the word never. The word never shows up a dozen times in John, but seven of them are incredibly powerful. Take a look at what I call the seven nevers in John.
These seven never statements in the Gospel of John provide an incredible sense of eternal security. All of these nevers (some metaphorical and some literal)are promised to anyone who believes in Jesus. If you believe in Jesus for salvation, a number of things will never happen to you. We’ll take a look at a few of these nevers. Let’s return to that well in Sychar Samaria where Jesus had that amazing conversation with an unknown woman:
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14)
In this verse ‘drinks’ is expressed in the form of a past tense Greek verb.2 That means that all it takes is one drink and a fountain of life springs up from inside. There is no need for multiple drinks. This spring of life continuously meets the need of one who has a single drink.3 A person does not need to continue drinking in order to have the gift Jesus is offering. A one-time drink will gain the person this everlasting gift. At that point, once one has the gift, they will afterward, ‘never thirst,' metaphorically speaking. The resultant life must, therefore, be irrevocable. It is a gift you can never earn and a gift you can never lose.4 It is received at a moment-in-time transaction.
As in John 4:14, Jesus often used precise wording to explain that the everlasting gift of life is irrevocable. Jesus explains more in-depth the irrevocability of eternal life in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel:
I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall neverthirst. (John 6:35)
Jesus often used the phrase, come to me, as a synonym for believe in me. The people who Jesus was talking to faced the threat of water born disease and starvation every day. In a poor society the offer of limitless food and clean drinking water was attractive. Never being thirsty or hungry would mean that they would never die or be in danger of dying from starvation or thirst. Now, Jesus is presenting this as a metaphor, so the analogy represents this simple idea. Once you’ve believed in Jesus, you’ll never be threatened with spiritual death again. You’ll be sustained by the living water and the bread of life that Jesus provides. Jesus not only gives eternal life at the moment of belief, but he sustains the believer through eternity. In this passage drinking and eating are metaphors for belief. One doesn’t have to continue to eat and drink, since once they have they will never be hungry or thirsty again. Only a few verses later Jesus says:
This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:39-40)
The eternal status of the one who believes in Jesus is irrevocable once it is put in place. The burden of perseverance or preservation is not placed on the believer, but on Jesus. Jesus accepts the responsibility to maintain the life of any who believe in Him at a moment in time. Once the transaction has taken place, once a person has believed, the believer has no other choice but to be resurrected by Christ at the end of the age. Even if the individual changes his mind and stops believing, it is impossible to negate the guarantee of Jesus in this verse. Having eternal life means that the believer has been marked down for an inescapable future appointment: the resurrection. Jesus leaves no provisos or stipulations that allows a believer to evade this absolute eventuality. Jesus expands the absolute irrevocability of eternal life later in chapter ten:
And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:28–29)
No one is able to snatch the believer away from God. No one will be able to make off with Jesus’s property by seizing, stealing, carrying off, or dragging it away.5By using the word snatch, Jesus is claiming ownership of the believer.The one who believes no longer is in possession of himself, nor is he the property of anyone but Jesus and His Father. No one is able to steal that which belongs to God. This means the believer himself does not have the ability to wrestle his way out of God's possession. Jesus has already promised not to drive the believer away (John 6:40) and now is explaining that He is securely locked in the possession of God. This status is irrevocable. It might help to visualize what Jesus said will happen to those who believe. Note the chart on the previous page.
Notice, once again, what Jesus says to Martha:
He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. (John 11:25-26)
In this fascinating conversation with Martha, Jesus explains what He means when He says that a person will never die. Believers can expect to die physically, as we all do. However, the life that they received at the moment of their belief offers a continuity. Though the body dies, the believer’s spirit lives on. Then on a later date Jesus will reunite your living spirit with your resurrected body. Through this process of transition, it can never be said of you that you were dead. Once you believe in Jesus, you’re an ever-living creature. Like a caterpillar transitioning to a butterfly, your form will morph, but you will be alive through the entire process. This is why the New Testament calls the death of believers sleep.6
The seven nevers, along with a host of other verses throughout the Gospel of John encourage us with this simple idea. Once you believe in Jesus, your destiny is set. It cannot be changed. On the day you die, your spirit will go to be with Jesus, and your body will await the resurrection. In these powerful promises Jesus is guaranteeing that he will sustain your life forever and raise you up on the day of the resurrection. Take heart, if you’ve believed in Jesus, you can never never never never never never never die. See what I did there: Seven Nevers. Your security is in eternity.
1 Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Grace (p. 7). Biblos Project. Kindle Edition.
2 The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, with Morphology. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), Jn 4:13–14.
3 Hodges, Zane. A Free Grace Primer . Grace Evangelical Society. (Kindle Location 211).
4 Chay, Fred. A Defense of Free Grace Theology: With Respect to Saving Faith, Perseverance, and Assurance . Grace Theology Press. (Kindle Location 170).
5 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 134.
6 1 Cor. 15:6, 18, 20, Matthew 27:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:13, John 11:11.