From: It Is Time for a Reformation of Christian Thinking

Copyright © 1996 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Is the Lord Jesus a ticket to Heaven or the Way to the Father? We would suggest that in our day salvation is being regarded as an experience that an individual has at some point in time, a ticket he can get so he will be admitted to Heaven when he dies. But salvation ought to be regarded rather as a way of life—the way of faith by which the righteous live.

There are several verses found in the New Testament that are employed as major premises. From these premises the conclusion is drawn that the Christian salvation is a ticket to Heaven. This article takes a look at two of these verses.

Table of Contents

Two Understandings of the Christian Salvation
The nature of the Christian salvation
The goal of salvation
John 5:24 5
Hebrews 10:14 9


Two Understandings of the Christian Salvation

The Christian salvation is being presented in our day as an experience that an individual has at some point in time rather than as a way of life. We are to raise our hand and “accept Christ.” What we are to do after that varies from group to group. The idea is, now “we are saved” and when we die we will not go to Hell but to Heaven.

It absolutely is true that we do not slide into salvation nor do we earn salvation by accumulating merit points by our good behavior. But neither is it true that salvation is a one-time experience, a ticket we get by making a profession of belief in the facts concerning the Lord Jesus, and after that we basically are waiting until we die and go to Heaven. The truth is, salvation is a lifelong fight of faith. We have been commanded to turn away from the world, to take up our cross, and to follow the Master. In so doing we have fellowship with God. If we do not turn away from the world, hating our own life, take up our personal cross and follow the Lord, we are not in the program of salvation.

Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” (II Corinthians 6:17)

It is vain to point back at some period and claim we were saved at that time if we are not abiding in Christ today. It is today that is the day of salvation. Let us go on to explain.

There are several verses in the New Testament that are foundational in Christian thinking. From these verses the conclusion has been drawn that salvation is an experience we have at some point in time, and after that we are “saved” and waiting to go to Heaven when we die.

Two of the verses are as follow:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)

These two verses are sometimes employed as major premises from which a number of conclusions are drawn. The conclusions affect our interpretation of several passages of the New Testament—in fact, our general interpretation of the entire New Testament as regarding the salvation that is in Christ.

One of the principal reasons why the two verses are misunderstood is that they are interpreted according to an unscriptural understanding of the Christian salvation, an understanding which arose in part from the two verses themselves. When the two verses are used as major premises we have error reinforcing error.

Therefore we first shall examine our understanding of the Christian salvation and then take a closer look at the two verses in question.

The nature of the Christian salvation. We Christians speak of making a decision for Christ or accepting Christ. This terminology is not used in the Scriptures.

While it is always questionable to make unscriptural expressions a major part of our terminology, it is possible for unscriptural terminology to be used and yet scriptural truth be communicated. Is this the case with “making a decision for Christ” or “accepting Christ,” neither expression being found in the New Testament? Are these phrases conveying truth even though they are not scriptural?

We think the expressions are incomplete and misleading.

To make a decision for Christ or to accept Christ implies that salvation is something that takes place when we make a statement concerning Christ and His atoning work. Added to this is the thought that we now have been “born again.” Thirty years later we may look back at the time when we were “saved” and “born again.”

To look back in time to a point when we were “saved” reflects an ignorance of the nature of the Christian salvation. While it is true that there is a definite point at which an individual passes from death to life on the basis of believing in Christ, it is not true that this is the complete meaning of what it means to be saved or born again.

We are placing far too much emphasis on our initial admission to the work of salvation. We are not giving nearly enough emphasis to the daily program of salvation and the future salvation that will come with the appearing of Christ.

Salvation always is in the present tense. Today is always the day of salvation. Ten years ago was “today” at that time and we were saved in that “today.” Today is “today.” Are we saved today? The future will be “today” when it comes. Will we be saved in the “today” of the future?

A few months ago the Lord spoke to me and said: “All there is, is now.” I thought I was going to die immediately. After a month passed I realized that God was giving me an antidote for my stressful, anxious personality. He was saying, “Slow down. Live in the now. I am the I Am.” There is only grace for today. Take no thought for tomorrow. This word came just before a heart attack.

The goal of salvation. Living in the “now,” and the concept of salvation being something we are experiencing now rather than a profession of faith made several years ago, may be clearer to us if we understand the goal of salvation.

Traditionally, being saved means getting our ticket so we will not go to Hell but to Heaven when we die. This is the “ticket” concept of salvation. But it is not the scriptural concept of salvation. Escape from Hell and admission to Paradise are the results of salvation, not salvation itself. The wicked always are in Hell. Believing in Christ does not change this fact unless the wicked, through faith in Christ, turn from their ways and begin to live in a righteous, holy manner. It is the living in a righteous, holy manner that is salvation and eternal life.

Scripturally speaking, to be saved is to be transformed into the moral image of Christ and to enter untroubled rest in the Father through Christ. This is eternal life. Christ came preaching eternal life, not escape from Hell or entrance into Paradise. Read the New Testament carefully and you will find few references to Hell (not even one reference in the writings of the Apostle Paul) and no reference to making our eternal residence in the spirit Paradise.

The Lord Jesus and His Apostles preached eternal life. To possess eternal life is to be transformed into the image of Christ (true righteousness and holiness always result in life) and especially to enter untroubled rest in the Father through Christ.

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)

Can you see now, given this obviously scriptural definition of salvation and eternal life, why making a “decision for Christ” thirty years ago is an incomplete, misleading expression of one’s salvation? We should be concerned with what is true of the individual now—at the present time. Is the eternal life that was born in us when we were “born again” still living and growing?

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)

Are we being made a new creation in Christ? Are we living in Christ as He lives in the Father? If so, we are abiding in Christ, abiding in salvation so to speak, and bearing the fruit of a righteous, holy personality. But if we are not being made a new righteous, holy creation, if we are not abiding in Christ, then it may be that such was true of us many years ago when we were “saved,” so to speak, but it is not true of us now. We are not walking in the light of God. The blood of Christ is not cleansing us from all iniquity. We are not living in eternal life. We are not in the state of abiding in Christ termed “salvation.”

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another [with God], and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:7)

What will be true of us in the future depends on whether at that time we are being made a new creation in Christ and are dwelling in untroubled rest in the Father through Christ.

There is no salvation apart from living in Christ. Salvation is not a ticket to Heaven but a state in which the believer lives, moves, and has his being.

The Lord Jesus is not a ticket to Heaven but the Way to the Father, the Way to eternal life as well as the Life itself. Is Jesus your ticket or your way?

John 5:24

Now that we have presented what we think is a scriptural understanding of salvation, and the goal of salvation, let us take a close look at John 5:24. John 5:24 often is employed to support the current teaching that making an initial profession of Christ qualifies one for a ticket. The ticket includes eternal life (understood to be eternal residence in the spirit Paradise) and eternal protection against Divine judgment, that is, an eternal amnesty that cannot be lifted no matter how the individual behaves.

We will show how the verse is sometimes interpreted and then how we think it should be interpreted. You can decide which of the two interpretations best fits the whole New Testament.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word.

The traditional understanding is that the person has heard that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, has died for our sins, and has rose again from the dead. Whoever will accept this salvation for himself or herself will escape Hell and go to Heaven when he or she dies.

We are presenting the meaning as the person who always is hearing the Word of the Lord, who is abiding in the Lord and living by every Word that proceeds from His mouth.

Do you remember the message to the churches of Asia—“He who has ears to hear, let him hear”? These words were addressed to the churches, to the believers. It was not enough that at one time they had heard the Word of the Lord. They must keep on hearing the Word of the Lord through the Spirit.

And believes on him that sent me.

Current understanding would be that the person believes there is a God, that God sent Jesus.

We would interpret the statement as someone who continually places his trust in God, who lives by reliance on God’s love, wisdom, and strength rather than on his own abilities.

Has everlasting life.

Currently, he will go to Heaven when he dies.

We would say, the individual now is living by the Presence of the Father and the Son who are dwelling in him. Instead of living merely by biologic life he continually is receiving wisdom and energy from Divine Life, from the body and blood of the Lord Jesus.

He is crucified with Christ. Nevertheless he is living. Yet it is not he who is living but Christ who is living in him.

And shall not come into condemnation.

Traditionally, he shall never experience the judgment of God.

We would claim that he indeed will be judged—and judged continually as the Lord Jesus rebukes and chastens him. But as long as he abides faithfully in the Lord Jesus, seeking His face at all times, the blood of the Lord will prevent his being under the condemnation of God.

There is a vast difference between these two ideas. The first, the traditional, appears to have removed the fear of God from the churches. Many—perhaps most—Christians are under the impression that no matter how they behave they will not suffer punishment at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This would be to invalidate the very Word of God!

The truth is, Christians always are judged more strictly than other people. Jerusalem always receives double for her sins.

Truly, one of the greatest problems in Christian thinking at the present time concerns the role that our conduct plays in our salvation. Recently David Wilkerson of New York City spoke out concerning this issue. Godly Christian leaders can see the moral decline of the churches. They are crying for repentance. But the people are confused because they have been taught that no matter how they behave they will be saved “by grace.”

The interpretation of John 5:24 to mean “once we profess belief in Christ we can never be judged” is largely responsible for the present theological confusion.

Judgment always begins in the house of God. The true saint always desires to be judged by the Lord. “Judge me, O God. Try me. See if there is any wicked way in me.” This is the heartfelt cry of every true saint.

The true saint lives in open confession of sin. This means he always remains intently aware of what the Holy Spirit is saying to him. The moment the Spirit reproves him of some thought, word, or action, the saint instantly brings the behavior into the Presence of God. He goes behind the veil and receives forgiveness and cleansing from the Mercy Seat. The power of God forgives him, cleanses him, and empowers him to avoid such conduct in the future. This is what salvation is! This is what eternal life is!

But is passed from death unto life.

The current interpretation would be, he no longer is a sinner on his way to Hell but a child of God on his way to Heaven.

We would maintain that the person’s physical body remains in the chains of sin and death, as Paul taught in Romans 8:10. But now the Spirit of Christ dwelling in the inward personality is life and righteousness. Because of this the believer no longer is obliged to live according to the appetites and lusts of the flesh, for if he does so he will slay the new Divine life that has been given to him (see Romans 8:13). If, however, he sows each day to the Spirit of God, the resurrection life that today is dwelling in him will make alive even his mortal body in the Day of Christ.

We see, then, the vast difference between viewing salvation as something that happened to us years ago, instead of what salvation actually is—a new life of continual interaction with the living Lord Jesus, a new experience of living termed the “way of righteousness.”

For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (II Peter 2:21)

With this new definition in mind we can see the danger of doctrines that teach “once saved always saved.” Such a concept invites destruction because it implies that an individual can live apart from an intense interaction with the Lord Jesus in every area of life and still receive the Divine blessing when he dies.

Asking if one can sin and still be saved, still have eternal life, is like asking if one can remain sick and still be considered healthy. In view of what salvation actually is, a living, daily fellowship with God and the Lord Jesus, such a question is inappropriate to say the least!

John 5:24 and other verses have given rise to the current idea of salvation as a one-time experience such that we can look back at our profession of belief and say we were saved because of that profession. This interpretation has fed back on the verse so that the verse continues to be regarded in this manner.

It is a major premise of Christian thinking. Therefore such verses as Matthew 10:22 and Hebrews 3:14 have become meaningless—certainly not applicable to Christians!

“And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, (Hebrews 3:14)

One destructive conclusion drawn from this premise is that the warnings of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles concerning the loss that will accrue to the sinning Christian can safely be ignored. We have heard and received the Gospel. We believe in God. We have passed from death to life. We cannot come under condemnation. Therefore the Lord Jesus must have been speaking to the Jews when He warned about being cut out of the vine. The Apostle Paul and the writer of Hebrews must have been addressing the unbelievers of Israel, Greece, and Italy when they claimed that if the readers lived in sin they would not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Hence the moral decline of today’s churches. How much more valid, how much more effective would be today’s cry for repentance if the believers understood that salvation is not a ticket to Heaven but a life lived in Christ in God?—if they realized that the expression “the just shall live by faith” is not speaking of our belief in doctrine but the manner in which the righteous live!

Hebrews 10:14

There is another verse that has served as a major premise from which conclusions are drawn. When the verse is interpreted incorrectly the conclusions are incorrect. If the conclusions are incorrect the Lord’s people are led astray.

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)

The theme of the writer to the Hebrew believers is that there is a rest, the rest of God, into which Christians are to press. The rest of God, the goal of salvation, as we have stated previously, is full conformity to the moral image of Christ and also untroubled rest in Christ in the Father. The Hebrew Christians were “saved” and had experienced the Holy Spirit but they were not pressing on to the fullness of salvation.

As part of his thesis the writer of Hebrews compares the sacrifice of Christ on the cross with the animal sacrifices described in the opening chapters of the Book of Leviticus.

One of the major differences between the two offerings is that the sacrifice of Christ was once for all time while the animal sacrifices were repeated from year to year. The Old Testament worshiper realized sin was still a problem in his life. He knew that by the time the next Day of Atonement came around he would have committed many sins that would have to be repented of and forgiven by the blood of the sacrificed animals.

Not so with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. God’s intention is that once we receive by faith the atonement made on the cross we should have no more consciousness of sin, should no longer be experiencing a sense of guilt or condemnation. The sin question has been settled completely and finally. We have been perfected forever as far as freedom from the guilt of sin is concerned.

For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. (Hebrews 10:2)

Can you see how the statement “by one offering he has perfected for ever those who are sanctified” would give support to the concept that salvation is an experience we have at some point in time that provides a ticket for us that will be used when we die?

The point often is made that the sin question was settled once and for all when we “made a decision for Christ.” Therefore the Judgment Seat of Christ will be concerned only with awards for our service.

A thoughtful look at II Corinthians 5:10 will demonstrate that the beema of Christ is no awards banquet. It is a court where our conduct is judged.

For we [Christians and everyone else] must all appear [be revealed, manifest] before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)

Let us pretend we believe that no matter how we live while a Christian, the guilt of all of our sins was done away on the cross and at the Judgment Seat of Christ we will be faced only with awards for our conduct. How does one distinguish between sin and service (or lack of it)?

If we do not use our talents diligently and wisely we will be cast into outer darkness, according to the words of the Lord in the Gospels.

‘And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:30)

We were a wicked and lazy slave. Is the wicked and lazy slave guilty of sin or only of a lack of service. It seems to me it doesn’t make any difference because he was cast into the outer darkness in any case. How do you feel about this?

II Corinthians 5:10 (above) speaks of the “bad” some have done. Can we truly say this is only an awards ceremony and no believer can possibly hear anything negative at his or her court appearance?

Well then, what does the verse in question mean?

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)

Notice that it does not say those who are saved but those who are sanctified. The offering of Christ on the cross has perfected forever those who are sanctified.

We know this is not saying all believers have already been made perfect by virtue of their profession of Christ, because the Book of Hebrews includes very severe warnings to Christians who are not pressing into the rest of God.

What does it mean, “those who are sanctified”?

To be sanctified is to be set apart as holy to the Lord. It is the same as abiding in Christ.

The believer who, upon receiving Christ as his Lord and Savior, proceeds to take up his cross and follow the Master is sanctified. He and all that he does and possesses is set apart as holy to the Lord. The guilt of sin is no longer a problem. He is without condemnation. His conscience is clear. No further sacrifice is needed.

Will the Lord deal with him concerning the sins he commits? Of course He will.

But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:32)
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19)

But when the sanctified one sins and is made aware of his sin he immediately confesses his sin to the Lord. The Lord is faithful and righteous to forgive his sin and to cleanse him from all unrighteousness.

So on he goes, marching along in the light of God’s perfect will, washed in the blood of the Lamb, free from all condemnation.

The key to understanding Hebrews 10:14 is the expression “those who are sanctified.” Unfortunately those who in our day “make a decision for Christ” or “accept Christ” do not always choose to then abide in Him each day. They have been taught that they now are “saved,” and even though they should try to behave properly to show their appreciation to the Lord for saving them, if they should choose to lead a worldly, sinful life they will go to Paradise when they die anyway because they have been “saved” by grace.


We have seen, then, that these two verses, one in John and one in the Book of Hebrews, are being used as major premises. Conclusions drawn from them affect the manner in which we interpret the New Testament. We have defined salvation according to these and similar passages, such as Romans 10:9,10:

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9,10)

The above verse is not only an instantaneous experience, it is a way of living. We always are to be confessing with our mouth the Lord Jesus. We always are to be believing in our heart that God has raised him from the dead and are to be living by the power of that resurrection. We always are to be living in righteousness and salvation.

To view the above verses as a one-time, instantaneous experience of salvation, and after obeying them we remain “saved” even though we do not abide each day in Christ, will cause us to ignore most of the New Testament writings. Since the four Gospel accounts as well as the Epistles of the Apostles (and the Old Testament) have to do with the necessity for holy, righteous behavior on the part of Christian people, the teaching that salvation is only an instantaneous experience that takes place at some point in our life has caused a veil to cover the Scriptures. We cannot understand what is plainly stated. It is as though God has sent delusion upon us because we do not love the truth.

When Paul teaches that the believers in Galatia will not inherit the Kingdom if they persist in sinning, Satan is able to persuade us that “you shall not surely die!”

In the day in which we are living the Lord is lifting that veil. Now we can understand that God’s goal for mankind has never changed. The goal has remained the same throughout all covenants, although the demands on the worshiper have become increasingly comprehensive.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

The believer who lives in the “now” with Jesus, who continually is drawing on the body and blood of the Lord for his wisdom and strength, who prays without ceasing, who bears his cross after the Master, will find to his delight that he is beginning to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. The family likeness is revealing itself in him. Instead of walking in pride in his own abilities he is living by faith in the living God.

“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; but the just [righteous] shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)

Can you hear the Lord Jesus right now? Is your faith resting in the Father? Then right now you are living in eternal life and are without condemnation before God in Heaven.

(“Jesus—the Ticket or the Way?”, 3665-1)

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