The doctrine known as eternal security or the perseverance of the saints is one of the cornerstones of Reformed Theology. It can be defined as follows:
The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly (the operative word) born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again. *
For the Calvinist, it is the “P” in their TULIP acronym.
T – Total Depravity. Man is fallen in nature and, therefore, in total depravity. This means that (1) man cannot do anything or any work that is good, (2) man cannot, by his nature, comprehend what is good, and (3) man cannot have, by virtue of his fallen nature, any desire for good. He is totally depraved.
U – Unconditional Election. This can be defined, according to the Puritans, as such:
Unconditional Election is defined in this manner: God did, by His most wise and holy counsel, of His own, freely and unchangeably ordain some men to heaven and some men to hell by the nature of His good pleasure. In eternity, God has predetermined the course of everything and everyone. He had foreordained the eternal destiny of everyone whether to heaven or to hell for His glory. Men are unconditionally elected by God for His purposes without any prior works (good or evil) by which God would judge them good or evil. The election of men rests solely on the counsel and purposes of God. God has not decreed anything which he foresaw in the future, for that would place His decree upon foreseeing something in the creature.
L – Limited Atonement. In a nutshell, this means that Christ’s death actually paid for the sins of those whom He knew would ultimately be saved— for the elect. In essence, God imposed His wrath, and Christ paid the penalty for the sins of:
1. All the sins of all men— which would mean that all men are saved, which we know is not the case.
2. Some of the sins of all men— which would mean that men are still in their sins.
3. All of the sins of some men— the elect, the chosen, those He foreknew and predestined from the foundation of the world— which is the Biblical position. Hence, limited atonement.
I – Irresistible Grace. Which is a term that refers to the fact that when God calls a person He also gives them regeneration, both of which guarantee that we will respond in saving faith. In other words, when the Spirit of God moves in the heart to change a person, that person will be changed. Period.
P – Perseverance of the Saints. This is one area in which many evangelical Christians have differed over the years. Many within the Wesleyan/Arminian tradition have held that it is possible for someone who is truly (again, the operative word) born again to lose that salvation. Reformed Christians have held, and rightly so, that it is impossible for someone who is truly born again to lose their salvation.
But did you know the book of Revelation has something to say about the controversial “P” point in the TULIP acronym? Actually, it has much to say about election, the sovereignty of God and eternal security or the perseverance of the saints.
Take a look at the following two passages of Scripture:
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long , O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. – Revelation 6:9-11
Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” – Revelation 14:12-13
* Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, page 788.
Do you see what I see? Do you see what the Lord is teaching us about the perseverance of His saints?
The following is a podcast from April of 2009 that deals with those very issues. It is a study on Revelation 14:12-13.