EBible Fellowship Sunday Bible Study – 08-MAR-2009


by John McOwen


Many people when asked the question, “Will you go to Heaven when you die,” typically will answer in a few different ways.  Some will say, “Well I sure hope so.”  That is the most common response I think I hear whenever someone is asked that question.  Others might say, “Well I am not sure,” or “Yes, I think I am going to go to Heaven; I am a pretty good person.” That is a common response as well.  But for us, when we take a look at this real serious issue as we run down the corridors of time and are almost at the end of time, we realize that the most important issue is that of eternal life, salvation. 

We now know quite emphatically, concerning death, that there are two options as human beings created by God but not saved.  Either we are going to be annihilated on the last day and cease to exist, or if we die before the end of the world, which may not seem so bad to some people, we just cease to exist.  But these options are nothing; they pale in comparison to being given eternal life.  We were created by God to live forever.  God has given us the gift of eternal life.  That is what the Scriptures say, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  So the idea of going to Heaven or living in the New Heaven and the New Earth is what it is all about.  That is the bottom line of why you were created, and that should be the desire of everyone.  It should be a goal, a longing, for every human being created in the image of God. 

Most people do not give serious consideration to the issue of what happens after death.  What are we concerned with instead?  The cares of the world, and that is natural because we are in this world.  We are in a physical, material world where we have basic needs.  We have worries and concerns; the economy today is a big issue.  Perhaps some people are in school or maybe retired or in between.   Different people have different things that concern them. They could be financial issues, social things, or health issues.  There are a lot of things that draw our attention. 

But we have to remember that if this was the last week of the world’s existence, what would be the most imperative issue on our minds?  None of those things mentioned before would be the most important.  It would be, “Am I going to live in eternal life with God?  Am I going to be in the New Heaven and the New Earth with Him?  Or am I going to be left behind for that five months of judgment and finally be annihilated on October 21, 2011?” 

So let us again get back into the Scriptures to see exactly what salvation is.  Remember it is not as simple as it may have seemed before.  We learned just recently there are very serious issues with how we become saved and what we can do to be saved.   Even in the Scriptures these questions are asked.  If we were in a conservative Calvinist church in the past and now we are not in a church but instead in a Fellowship, or if we are just at home and we fellowship with the Lord through the Scriptures, we will recognize and understand that there is nothing we can do to be saved.  Salvation is the most important issue before us personally, whether we are not saved or we are saved today, or if we do not know if we are saved or not.  We should be asking, “Am I saved, yes or no?” 

If you are really certain that you are saved, you need to decide what you are going to be doing the last two years of this earth’s existence.  You should ask, “What is the most important thing I could share with anyone?”  The timeline of history?  That is important, that is a big deal, but even more important than that is salvation.  So let us get really well versed and schooled again on that most imperative of all issues:  What must we do to be saved?  Can we do anything to be saved?  What do we tell someone when they say, “I do not know if I am going to go to Heaven, I sure hope so.” What do we tell someone if we are asked, “Are you saved or are you a believer?” Will we answer, “I do not know,” or, “I think I am?” 

What is the salvation plan that God put in the Bible?  It all starts with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. What happened then?  God made man in His own image and in His likeness.  And what did He create man for?  Man was created to live perfectly and forever.  Man was created in God’s image and God is eternal Himself.  But what happened?  Man came under the wrath of God for one thing and what was that?  Sin, the bottom line was sin. Sin is what changed that whole course, sin.  We now look through the Scriptures and realize that every one of us is a sinner, not just Adam, not just Eve, both of whom were deceived in the very beginning, 13,000 years ago.  We are from the loins of Adam and Eve, and we would do the same thing as they did, and maybe even worse than what they did. 

The sin of Adam and Eve seems like a minor sin to us today.  We think that disobeying a command of not eating a certain fruit of a tree is so minor compared to the things that we could do today!  And yet the wrath of God was very severe.  He said:

… in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Well what does that mean?  For Adam and Eve it meant that they immediately became spiritually dead.  We used to think that a later horrific consequence would be that we would be punished in this eternal place called hell.  We now realize that this is not the case.  But what was the consequence?  In Romans 6:23 it says:

For the wages of sin is death;

And the word “death” means simply not to exist anymore.  The best way to understand is to look at an animal when it dies … it is no longer around and that is it.  For a human being we recognize that “the wages of sin is death” means not only do our souls die because of sin but our bodies eventually will die also, unless we are still alive on the last day. 

What did God have to do to save some of us from the predicament of death?  We are going to look at the Scriptures again to see what God did in order to save people. We should not only know this for ourselves, but we should be able to explain it to other people.  It is important to recognize how we could outline salvation even in a short conversation with someone.  We probably were used to saying, “Well, read your Bible.” Yes we can say that, but we can get much more intelligent about how to answer the question about what salvation really is. 

There are three things that God did to save people. The very first is the election program.  The fact is that God chose people.  A saved person has to be chosen by God.  God has to have elected a person from before the foundation of the world.  A great chapter to prove this fact is Ephesians 1.  Let us go there.  This should be the first place you go when you are asked that question because to me it is the most obvious, it is the best one, Ephesians 1:3-5.  This is really the best way to start to explain what God had to do to save people from the predicament of death because of sin.  Ephesians 1:3-4 says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him …


… before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Now if you are not sure what that means look at verse 5:

Having predestinated us …

Predestinated is another word meaning the same as being chosen:

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, …


… according to the good pleasure of his will,

It is really clear here.  To be adopted as children of God means that you are in the family of Christ.  What are you called?  They were called what, first at Antioch?  Christians.  So to be an authentic Christian means you were predestinated, you were chosen in God.  When? 

… before the foundation of the world, …

It did not happen when you raised your hand and chose Christ.  It did not happen when you had a spiritual experience.  It happened “before the foundation of the world” when you were chosen in Him.  And what was the reason God chose you?  The answer is in verse 5.  According to His good pleasure.  Here it says:

… the good pleasure of his will,

Of his will.” We looked at that a few weeks ago, the will.  What is the will of God?  Certainly it is His choice, it is His desire and that is just the way it is.  And that is OK.  He is the potter and you are the clay.  I am the clay.  He can do with us whatever He wants.  Some vessels are fitted for destruction, and others are vessels of mercy that He has mercy upon.  So it is pretty clear here.  God knew that we would all need the same thing because Romans 3:10-12 says what? 

… There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  … there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

So there is not one person that is above the need to have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world.  God’s choice to save some people from death, the consequence of sin, had nothing at all to do with the actions of those people. Also God did not foresee how a man would act and choose that man because of his actions.  Let us look at another great proof text in Romans 9 which is probably the second one I would always go to in explaining salvation to someone, or if I am looking and seeking myself to understand it.  In Romans 9:15, Paul is speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and He says in verses 15-16:

For he saith to Moses, …

This is talking about God:

… I will have mercy on …


… on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

So you cannot will it yourself.  What is your will?  You may want certain things in life whatever they are.  You may want to do the will of God, and I hope that is a desire of yours, but your will cannot result in God showing mercy on you at all.  The Bible says here:

it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

God is the One who has to show mercy and He will do His own will, His own desire.  It is totally His call, His choice.  We have nothing to do with it.  But the good news here is what?  What salient factor can you take from this truth?  What if you are the most hardened criminal or sinner; what if you have just done the most egregious sin.  How do you feel after that?  I hope your conscience bothers you, you feel guilty and you feel horrible.  If you have anything at all to do with the Bible, you ask inside yourself if He could possibly forgive you for that sin. Is this possible, or are you beyond hope? Sometimes you could violate several of His commandments in a very serious way.  Yet if you are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, you know that you cannot be outside the possibility of forgiveness.  No matter who you are or what you are, what you have done in your past or what you will do tomorrow, if you are chosen of God you are always in Him.  He predestinated you and now it is irrelevant what sin you have or have not committed in your life.  This is good news for the elect! 

 The book of Proverbs says:

… a living dog is better than a dead lion.

There is still hope for anyone out there who still has the breath of life in them today.  But that hope is going to quickly dissipate as we get down the corridor of time and these last two years go by.  No one is outside the possibility of salvation and that is the good news! 

What is the second thing that God has to do to save people?  Not only did He have to choose you from “before the foundation of the world” but then He gave you to Christ who is the One who would be the Intermediary to bring you to God.  It is one thing to be chosen, it is another thing to be brought by God to be given to Christ.  In John 6 we have that nice chapter where Jesus says no man can come to Him except the Father first draw Him.  In verse 37 Jesus says:

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

This is a great truth!  When did the Father give people to Christ?  Go back to what we said earlier?  “Before the foundation of the world.”  So He says here in verse 37:

All that the Father [had preordained] …

I will interject that word myself.  Will do what?

 …shall come to me; …

Come to Christ, they will come to Christ and those that come will not be cast out.  Here is a paradox: if the penalty of sin is exactly the same for everyone and that penalty again is what?  Death.  If the penalty is the same for all, how is it then that He will save some people and not other people, if we all deserve exactly the same thing?  That is paradoxical, is it not?  He will save some but not others.  What does that have to do with?  The will of God; It is His own will and good pleasure to do what pleases Him. 

God is merciful and loving enough to save anyone.  That is key to understanding salvation.  In essence, no one deserves salvation. Adam and Eve could have been annihilated right there on the spot!  God could have started some other creation if He wanted to.  Instead He allowed 13,000 years of history to go by and we are living at the very, very tip end of it.  We have the privilege of looking back on all of history now.  We should be wiser and smarter than anyone because we have seen what other people have gone through, the consequences and the blessings of obedience, and the consequences of disobedience.   Yet we are just like our great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents are we not?  We do the same things as they did.  God chooses some people and not others because He is simply so loving and so merciful that He decided to pick out a people for Himself.  It is His own desire to do that.  Look at John 17.  Before Christ went to the Cross in that great tableau of “substitutionary Atonement,” He was praying.  John 17:1 reads:

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

Christ is preparing to go to the Cross.  This is Thursday evening in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Then in verse 9, Jesus says as He is praying:

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

That goes back to what we read earlier in John 6.  So you see what happens here?   Before He went to the Cross in that great tableau, Jesus shows us He was praying just for those whom God the Father had given Him.  He didn’t pray for anyone else, not the rest of the world.  He says:

…for they are thine.

In other words, God made them, God made us all.  And He gave certain people to Jesus Christ.  That is amazing love!  If you are saved today, it is absolutely very difficult to use our English language and find a superlative adjective that even comes close to describing the beauty of salvation.  Instead of simply being annihilated, or dying, or ceasing to exist or being no more, you will live forever in perfection.  Now that is amazing! Just think, no pain, no sorrow, no suffering, no tears, but ultimate perfection every day forever.  That is amazing love! What a gift that is, and a generous one at that!  So when you think about salvation, you should be filled up with gratitude!  If you are saved today you should be filled up with gratitude every day.  The day of perfection is coming soon and what a wonderful day it will be!  What a great day!  We have an opportunity to talk to people about what awaits those whom God has saved and whom He has chosen.  How did Jesus Christ do what He had to do?  We said that God had to choose you and then you were given to Christ by God the Father according to His will. Christ is the One who is the Intermediary.  He is the One who paid the penalty for you.  Look at John 19:30. We read:

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, …

This is when He was on the Cross:

… It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Because of this great tableau of the Cross, the Crucifixion in 33AD, we know what Jesus did “before the foundation of the world” and that He finished what He was given to do.  He paid your penalty. If you are saved today, He successfully garnered for you eternal life and He appeased God the Father’s wrath.  Remember:

… the wages of sin is death; …

This sentence of yours, being the great sinner you are, was completely fulfilled by Jesus Christ.  How terribly Christ suffered is manifested in the great tableau of 33 AD.

God has to do a third thing in order to administer salvation to people. This third thing is giving a new soul to every person who is chosen at some point in their earthly life.  The reason He must do this is explained in Genesis 2:17:

… for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Adam and Eve did not die physically that day they sinned.  They lived another 900 years!  God did not make a mistake by missing their earned death by 900 years.  God said:

… in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

God said they would die and on that day Adam and Eve died spiritually.  What is our heart like?  No matter how good we are, how generous we might be, Jeremiah 17:9 is another great verse:

The heart …

Of man:

is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: …

Is it not?  So we all have that same heart, all of us.  That is why God had to give us a new one.  And if we are saved today we have a new soul also called a heart.  A “heart of flesh” instead of “the stony heart;” these are metaphors God uses.  We still have that same physical heart (I am pointing to my heart here.)  Whatever the substance inside that organ really is, it remains the same.  But, we have a new soul, we have a brand new soul and God had to give us that new soul.  What did Jesus tell Nicodemus about being “born again” a second time?  Let us take a look at John 3.   Jesus told Nicodemus in verse 3:

… Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, …

To “be born again” means you have been given a new soul, that “heart of flesh.”

… Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Well what happens if you are not born again?  You do not see the Kingdom of God.  You are nothing, you are annihilated, or you die and you cease to exist.  But in verse 8 Jesus says:

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

God gives us His own Spirit, the Spirit of Christ.  When I grew up I was erroneously instructed that there was a certain day I was going to be confirmed and on that day was when I was going to receive the Holy Spirit.  A Bishop tapped me on the shoulder with a big scepter and Wha-La!  I am confirmed, I have a new Spirit, the Holy Spirit no less.  This is not how salvation works!  John 3:8 says the wind comes and you do not know the circuits of the wind, where it is going next, if it is going to blow from the west to the east, or how it is all twirling about, so is the Spirit of God.  It comes as God decides.  God wills it and the Spirit goes to the person God chooses.  God chooses when He will send the Spirit to us, giving Himself to us.  This is the Spirit of God and He will give us a new soul. 

Remember we used the metaphor of the new heart; does anyone know the book and chapter of the Bible where that new fleshly heart is talked about, it begins with an “E”?  Ezekiel 36, let us go there real quick.  Ezekiel 36 explains what will happen when we are  “born again.”  The third thing God has to do for us to be saved is we have to be given a new soul.  Jesus talks about being born again in John 3 and the Spirit comes like the wind, but here in Ezekiel 36 the metaphor used is the heart. Verses 25-26 say:

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

There is the metaphor.  Notice verse 25 says, “Then.” What is going on for a human being who becomes saved, when is “then”?  Is it when we repent that the Spirit gives us the new soul? The “water” in the above verses is the Gospel, the clean water of the Gospel being applied to our hearts.  When we are given that new Spirit, a new soul, the Holy Spirit is in us.   When the Holy Spirit is in us, that is the “then.”  He gives us the new heart in verse 26 and He puts “a new spirit” within us.  Do you see the transition here?  The dead soul now becomes alive and it is energized by the Holy Spirit, we have the Holy Spirit in us!  The metaphor says our hearts, instead of being stony and resisting and things bouncing off of them are now very soft and pliable and they happily receive God’s Word.  We have a new soul!  God has to put that new soul in us and this is called having a new heart.  Have you ever heard someone say that a person has a good heart or that he is good hearted?  What do they mean by that?  Does that mean he is a good person?  It means that he is very soft and he is compassionate.  He is willing to listen and reach out and care about people.  But God uses this term, a new heart, to show that we have to be given that “new spirit,” new soul in order to be saved. 

Let us also look at 2 Corinthians 5 and learn more about this new soul.  The New Testament talks about the new soul also. Not just in John 3, but also in 2 Corinthians 5. We read in verse 17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

What especially is in focus there?  What really is new, tangibly?  What were we just talking about?  The Spirit, the soul, the Holy Spirit is in us!  This is brand new.  This is absolutely new, “all things are become new,” you are “a new creature.”  Your body does not necessarily change, but you might be smiling more after this happens. I hope so. Inside your soul is brand new.  That is how you are a new creature; how does that manifest itself in your life?  If you are saved, if you have a new soul, what do you start doing differently?  Lots of things hopefully, lots of things.  You desire much more to be obedient to God.  Notice I said desiring to be obedient.  You are not necessarily obedient 100% because none of us can be perfect.  However, you have a desire to obey God and those who have the rule and authority over you, and your parents, if you are a child.  You really, really seek to do God’s will.  This is the new creature being manifested, the new soul manifesting itself in the body in the flesh. 

What is the environment where all this happens?  We said three things had to happen.  You had to be chosen of God, predestinated.  You had to be given to Christ who then paid the penalty for you. Third, God had to give you that new soul at some point in your human existence.  You became saved, instantaneously saved to do God’s will, and suddenly you are “a new creature.”  It is nice to know how salvation works, but what is the environment where it all happens?  Specifically, Romans 10:17 says:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

It is in the environment of the “Word of God,” the Bible, where God gives us our salvation! You must come under the hearing of the “word of God,” or the reading of the Bible if you are capable of reading.  This applies to all kinds of people; infants and mentally handicapped people can also come under the hearing of the Word of God.  If you have told someone in the past to keep reading the Bible, that is a good thing to say.  In the Bible is where all the stuff happens!  We just went through the steps of salvation as God outlines it the Scriptures, how it happened in the past, how it happens today, and how it will happen in the future as God continues to save people for the next two years of this earth’s existence.  Does it matter if you can understand the Bible, or understand the timeline of history?  No, it does not matter at all.  Let us take a look at probably the youngest person to be saved, John the Baptist.  He was saved while he was still in the womb and we know that from Luke 1:41.  According to the Bible’s record the youngest person ever saved was John the Baptist. He was still in the womb and we know this from Luke 1:41.  Did I just make that up?  No!  Luke 1:41 says:

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

This verse is saying that John the Baptist was saved and then he leaped in the womb.  The baby John was filled with the Holy Ghost and also his mother “Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.”  And this happened when he was in the womb?  What does the Bible say here? 

… Elisabeth heard the salutation …

And the “babe leaped in her womb;” so it is vital to read the Bible even to the baby in the womb.

How about that scoundrel Saul of Tarsus, who as a young adult also became saved?  You can be the most hateful person, in this case Saul was a Christian murderer, and yet God saved him.  We know this from Acts 9 where you can read the story of Saul becoming saved.  Saul was later called St. Paul.

As we draw to a close today, what is left for me to do?  There is one thing that we have talked about so far that we can do to put ourselves in the correct environment to be saved. What is that one thing we can do?  We can read the Bible, or come under the hearing of the Word of God.  The Bible also says some other things we can be doing in the meantime. We should encourage other people to read the Bible.  Remember, reading the Bible is a work, and no work can save us.  The Bible says this in 1 Thessalonians 1:3:

Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, …

Your work of faith” is a work.  Your faith is a work!  It is a “fruit of the Spirit.”  Remember when you are saved you have “a new spirit” in you.  What does fruit mean?  Fruit means something edible that grows on a tree.  We are coming up on spring and we are going to see all the beautiful plants and things are going to grow out of the ground. Fruit will eventually be born on some of the branches.  If you bear fruit it means that you have been saved and you desire to work for the Lord.  You have a new soul and as a result of this soul things are going to happen.  Galatians 5 is the chapter that talks about what happens to those with a new soul, and guess what one of their fruits is?  Faith.  In Galatians 5:22 it talks about “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering” and it talks about faith.  Your faith is a fruit.  If God has saved you, you have faith and that “work of faith” is a good thing, but it is not the reason why you became saved.  It is the result of salvation, not the cause of salvation.  What does Ephesians 2:8-9 say?

For by grace are ye saved through faith; …

But remember your faith is “the work of faith”:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

It is not your faith that saves you; it is Christ’s faith that saves you! In Galatians 2:16 we read:

… that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, …

This phrase shows that the faith that justifies us belongs to Someone.  It is Christ’s faith that saves us!  There are two different faiths in the Bible, ours and Christ’s.  Our faith can be weak or strong.   We can work our faith, or we can let our faith just kind of linger there and not work too much, sadly.  But Christ’s faith is what saves us.  So here is something about faith.  We can have true faith, but this is the result of already being saved.  Faith is a “fruit of the Spirit.”  That is the important thing to remember.

Look at Acts 2:21, a beautiful verse actually:

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

That is a beautiful verse with a great promise. We can do this, “call on the name of the Lord,” because we do not know when the “Spirit of God” is going to be given us if we are members of the elect.   We do not know if this is going to happen the last day of our lives or when we are young, in the next two years, or if it has already happened, fabulous.  The Bible says:

… whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

This is important to do then.  Put yourself in that environment of calling on the name of the Lord everyday.  Also of course we are commanded by Jesus in Luke 13 to “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”  In Luke 13:24 He says:

Strive to enter in at the strait gate: …

The strait gate is the same thing as the narrow gate.

… for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

So Christ implores us to “Strive to enter in,” but that is not a guarantee we are going to get in, but we are to seek it.  And that narrow way is of course Jesus; He is the Way, the truth, and the life. 

We are also told to love working in obedience to God’s commandments.  What is love?  If we love God we will obey Him; in 1 John 4 and 5 we read this.  Hebrews 4:11 talks about our labor of love, so we are to be laboring to obey those commandments, this is a good thing.  Great blessings will come into your life because obeying God is an axiom of life in the universe.  When you are honest, all will work out; when you are dishonest you are going to get found out, whether you are saved or not.  These are just facts.  So you are laboring in  your labor of love in obedience to God.  You are attempting to obey what you read in the Scriptures, hoping that God will save you. A great verse is what we will close with, Lamentation 3:26:

It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

I will read it one more time:

It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

You cannot rush it, you cannot decide it, it is not your will that is done, it is His will that is done.  So hope and wait patiently, doing the things we have talked about today.  Before the world ends in a very short time, pray that you will be saved and the people you love will be saved.  May God bless each of us with that incredible gift of eternal life that none of us deserves.  Amen.

Q&A (paraphrased)

Q. “… faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  When we pray to God do we have to wait on Him to save us?

A. Yes that is what Lamentations 3:26 says:

It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

So you must wait and there is nothing else you can do.  You cannot rush it, you cannot force it, you have to wait. 

Q. Could not hear question

A. Jeremiah 17:9 that is where it says:

The heart …

Of man:

is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

This is why we need that new soul, the new heart, the heart of flesh instead of that “stony heart.”