DOES "EVERLASTING" MEAN "WITHOUT END"?
Is it true that the term “everlasting” means without end, eternal, forever, perpetual? Is it true that when a disciple has lived the spiritual life, that spiritual life is everlasting and will never cease, never withdrawn from him?
Dr. Eusebio A. Tanicala
Note: Recently, the following lines appeared in a blog: “How can one have everlasting life and still be lost? Or is it that the life Jesus gave us is not everlasting life?” The insinuation is that once a person has started his spiritual life, which is called everlasting life or eternal life, that Spirit injected life will never cease in the individual disciple? There is what is called “eternal security of the saints” or “once saved, always saved” among some religious groups, the belief that falling from grace is impossible.
No, the idea of everlasting life once started will never cease or stop in a person’s journey is a theory not consistent with Bible teaching.
We cite several passages to prove our negation of the teaching of “once saved, always saved.”
Habakkuk 3:6, “He stood and measured the earth; He looked and startled the nations. And the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills bowed. His ways are everlasting.” (NKJV)
The passage points to the mountains as “everlasting.” Will all these mountains remain forever and eternal without end to eternity? We have that answer in 2 Peter 3: 10-13. This earth, including the mountains and hills, will be burned with fervent heat. Even today, our technology with explosives, bulldozers and giant trucks, man, can level hills and mountains even carried off and make islands in the middle of the sea. We have mountains and hills that have been leveled off and in Zambales. They have bulldozed many hills to ground level by mechanized contractors of public highways. So the usage of the term “everlasting” in Habakkuk does not mean without end. It just means a long duration of time compared to man’s life on earth.
Exodus 40:15, “their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.”
Num. 25:13, “. . . a covenant of an everlasting priesthood. . .” which refers to the descendants of Phinehas who were zealous in eliminating the worshippers of the golden calf sculpted by Aaron in the wilderness. This priesthood of Phinehas’ descendants lasted many generations until the Messianic Covenant came into effect.
Hebrews 7:11-12 tells us that the priesthood has been changed, “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.” The term everlasting in this context is dispensation lasting. Until the end of the Mosaical Dispensation, which was abrogated by the Messianic Dispensation upon Christ’s death at the cross (Heb. 9:16-18).
Jeremiah 31:3, “. . . Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love. . .” referring to God’s choice of Israel over that of Esau. Later on, Israel went into idolatry, preferring Baal over Yahweh. So the love of Yahweh towards many idolatrous individuals turned into anger and fury, resulting in the invasion and destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 16:5, Yahweh declares, “. . . for I have taken away My peace from this people . . . loving-kindness and mercies.” There you are, love was taken away!
See the picture of desolation in Jeremiah 19:21-23, “. . . deliver up their children to the famine, pour out their blood by the force of the sword; let their wives become widows, . . . bereaved of their children. Let their men be put to death, their young men be slain by the sword in battle x x x Provide no atonement for their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from Your sight. But let them be overthrown before You. Deal thus with them in the time of Your anger.” God’s everlasting love may turn into anger and discipline to those who show no fear and respect for Yahweh and His covenant. In the end, Israel as a nation was rejected and cut off. Only a small remnant remained attached to the stump of the olive tree where the wild olive branches, the Gentiles, are grafted in. This picture we see in Romans 11.
Does the word everlasting mean without end among the individuals in the history of Israel? To those who fear and respect the true God, His love continues on unto eternity, but to those who disrespect and dishonor God, it is condemnation. Note the past tense verbs in Romans 11 which signify actual falling away from the grace and love of God: “they stumbled”- v. 11; “their fall”-12; “their being cast away”-v. 15; “some branches were broken off”-vs.17, 19, 20; “hardening in part has happened”-v.25. Conclusion: God’s love is everlasting, but it can be withdrawn from individuals who play the harlot.
“Everlasting life” is a description of the quality of that spiritual life injected by the Holy Spirit into the spiritually dead image of God in our humanity because of sin. Its everlastingness is in its quality but not in the duration of its residence in a person who grieves the Holy Spirit who gives that spiritual life. Stephen tells the Jewish leaders, “You always resist the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 7:51b). Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” With King Saul, the Holy Spirit departed from him which we read in 1 Samuel 16:14, “But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, . .” Clearly, the spiritual life which is initially given to a believing disciple if nurtured would last into eternity, but if not appreciated and nurtured, it would be removed from him and eternal condemnation takes its place.
Hebrew 9:14 mentions the blood of Christ as the propitiation for sins was offered to God “through the eternal Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is eternal and is given to indwell every believing and obedient disciple say Acts 2:38 and Acts 5:32. But the eternal Holy Spirit, when grieved, would depart from a profaning disciple. Likewise, the spiritual life whose quality is “everlasting life” would also depart and cease to exist in one’s life if a person continually profanes holiness of life.
Remember Hebrews 6:4-8, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessings from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.” (NKJV). This passage clearly shows that there is enlightenment, here started a taste of heavenly gift, the Holy Spirit has started its indwelling in a disciple, the disciple had appreciated the word of God. Bearing thorns and briars mean unholy life instead of the fruit of the Spirit described in Gal. 5:22. We showed apostasy in the above passage.
Conclusion: The idea of “everlasting life” once started in a disciple’s life that it will stick forever and eternally and everlastingly in a person is not true. Beware! Once saved, always saved as a theory in the application of redemption contradicts biblical teaching. The term “everlasting” is employed hyperbolically to emphasize the high value of spiritual life and its desirability. Everlasting used as an adjective describes the value and desirability of that spiritual life, not its permanent residency in a disciple’s life if that disciple grieves the eternal Holy Spirit.