First, one would have to define ‘saved’. Jesus, in Mark 16, put them to shame for their unbelief and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen Him alive. Then He said to them, "So, wherever you go in the world, tell everyone the Good News [the good news of my resurrection]. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Would this imply that should someone be told concerning Jesus’ resurrection and disbelieves, that person is condemned? Consider the parable, Mat 21:28 "What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go to work in the vineyard today.' His son replied, 'I don't want to!' But later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the other son and told him the same thing. He replied, 'I will, sir,' but he didn't go. Which of the two sons did what the father wanted? ‘The first,’ they answered.”
Did not Thomas have a second chance? Joh 20:24-, “Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, who was called Didymus, wasn't with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, ‘We've seen the Lord.’ Thomas told them, ‘I refuse to believe this unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my fingers into them, and put my hand into his side.’ A week later Jesus' disciples were again in the house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’
‘“Then Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Take your hand, and put it into my side. Stop doubting, and believe.’ Thomas responded to Jesus, My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to Thomas, ‘You believe because you've seen Me. Blessed are those who haven't seen Me but believe.’" It is therefore obvious that should one not have ‘a change of mind’ or, ‘not believe’, at first, one is not necessarily condemned. Therefore, condemnation, and salvation, must be future events. A time will come when one will either be ‘saved’ or, God forbid, condemned.
If ‘saved’ then is a future event, from what is one saved, when and how? Unbelief, then, would be the cause of one’s condemnation.
Let’s start at the ‘when’. The Jews are the ‘chosen nation’. They rejected the ‘Saviour’. Paul explains, Rom 11:11-, “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But by their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy… For I do not desire you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer shall come out of Zion, and He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For, this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’ As regards to the gospel, they are enemies for your sake; but as regards to election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable…”
Concerning ‘the fullness of the Gentiles’ John writes, Rev 6:9-, “And when He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those having been slain for the Word of God, and for the witness which they had. And they cried with a great voice, saying, ‘Until when, holy and true Master, do You not judge and take vengeance for our blood, from those dwelling on the earth?’ And there was given to each one a white robe. And it was said to them that they should rest yet a little time, until might be fulfilled also the number of their fellow-slaves and their brothers, those being about to be killed, even as they.”
Why did Jesus have to die? I’m afraid that, that question, will soon not have an answer. Nobody, of ‘a sound mind’, still believes that God created the universe in six ‘days’ and rested on the seventh day. The Garden of Eden is a myth, so the ‘learned’ say. It is written, Gen 2:2-, “And on the seventh day God came to the end of all his work; and on the seventh day He took his rest from all the work which He had done. And the Lord God made man from the dust of the earth, breathing into him the breath of life: and man became a living soul…
“And the Lord God made a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had made… And out of the earth the Lord made every tree to come, delighting the eye and good for food; and in the middle of the garden, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… And the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to do work in it and take care of it…
“And the Lord God gave the man orders, saying, ‘You may freely take of the fruit of every tree of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you may not take; for on the day when you take of it, thou shalt die the death… And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.
“And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from the man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones [the same species], and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh… [a ‘species’ peculiar to the two, Eph 5:31-, “For this, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh, Gen 2:24. The mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ and as to the assembly,” Php 3:18-, “For many walk as hostile to the cross of Christ, of whom I often told you, and now even weeping I say it, whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and who glory in their shame, the ones thinking earthly things. For our citizenship is in Heaven, from where we also wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our body of humiliation, for it to be conformed to His body of glory, according to the working of Him to be able even to subject all things under Himself.” Being in Him, of his Body one is ‘of his Flesh’, too]. And they were both naked the man and his wife, and were not ashamed…
“The woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good its fruit would be to eat, and she thought how wonderful it would be to become wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it. As soon as they had eaten it, they were given understanding and realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and covered themselves.
“That evening they heard the LORD God walking in the garden, and they hid from Him among the trees. [2Co 5:1-, “For we are conscious that if this, our tent of flesh, is taken down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in heaven. If indeed having really put on a robe we shall not be found to be naked [Mat 22:11-, “When the king went in to meet the guests, he found that one of them wasn't wearing the right kind of clothes for the wedding. The king asked, ‘Friend, why didn't you wear proper clothes for the wedding?’ But the guest had no excuse. So the king gave orders for that person to be tied hand and foot and to be thrown outside into the dark. That's where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. Many are invited, but only a few are chosen]. For truly, we who are in this tent do give out cries of weariness, for the weight of care which is on us; not because we do desire to be free from the body, but so that we may have our new body and death may be overcome by life].
“But the LORD God called out to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard You in the garden; I was afraid and hid from You, because I was naked.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ God asked. ‘Did you eat the fruit that I told you not to eat?’ The man answered, ‘The woman You put here with me gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’"
Inspired by a holy spirit Paul wrote concerning true wisdom, Col 2:1-, “Let me tell you how hard I have worked for you and for the people in Laodicea [Laodicea, the apostate church of this age, 2Th 2:1- “But with respect to the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to meet Him, we entreat you, brethren, not readily to become unsettled in mind or troubled–either by any pretended spiritual revelation or by any message or letter claiming to have been sent by us–through fancying that the day of the Lord is now here.
“Let no one in any way deceive you, for that day cannot come without the coming of the apostasy first, and the appearing of the man of sin, the son of perdition, who sets himself against, and exalts himself above, every so-called 'god' or object of worship, and goes the length of taking his seat in the very temple of God, giving it out that he himself is God”] and for all others who do not know me personally.
“I do this in order that they may be filled with courage and may be drawn together in love, and so have the full wealth of assurance which true understanding brings. In this way they will know God's secret, which is Christ Himself. He is the key that opens all the hidden treasures of God's wisdom and knowledge [Rev 10:7, “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to his servants the prophets].
“I tell you, then, do not let anyone deceive you with false arguments, no matter how good they seem to be. For even though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I am glad as I see the resolute firmness with which you stand together in your faith in Christ. Since you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, live in union with Him. Keep your roots deep in Him, build your lives on Him, and become stronger in your faith, as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving. See to it, then, that no one enslaves you by means of the worthless deceit of human wisdom, which comes from the teachings handed down by human beings and from the ruling spirits of the universe, and not from Christ.
“For the full content of divine nature lives in Christ, in his humanity, and you have been given full life in union with Him. He is supreme over every spiritual ruler and authority. In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self.
“For, when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised Jesus from death. And you then, being dead to the trespasses and to the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; He cancelled the unfavourable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. And on that cross Christ freed Himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities. He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Of this ‘public spectacle’, one reads in Rev 5. John was shown a ‘playback’ of the morning of Jesus’ resurrection, what happened after He spoke to Mary Magdalene. It was the morning of his glorification.
One must bear in mind Col 2:16-, “So don't let anyone make rules for you about eating and drinking or about Jewish customs (festivals, New Moon celebrations, or Sabbath days). In the past these things were like a shadow that showed what was coming. But the new things that were coming are found in Christ.”
Adam ate and because the Garden of Eden is for real, we all ate; we were all in the ‘loins if him’ when he ate. An animal died in Adam’s stead; its skin was used as a ‘covering’. That animal was a shadow of the Lam that would die for ‘the sin of the world’, Rom 8:1-, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh…”
It is written, Heb 9:11-, “But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation [Rev 5:4-, “And I began to weep much, because no one was found worthy to open the scroll, nor to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome, to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living beings, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. Then He came and took out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne…], nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption.
“For, if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who having an eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
However, there is a possibility of wilfully disobeying after receiving the knowledge of the truth, Heb 10:26-, “If we decide to continue sinning after we have learned the truth, then there is no other sacrifice that will take away sins. If we continue sinning, all that is left for us is a fearful time of waiting for the judgment and the angry fire that will destroy those who live against God.
“Whoever refused to obey the Law of Moses was found guilty from the testimony given by two or three witnesses. Such people were not forgiven. They were killed. So think how much more punishment people deserve who show their hate for the Son of God–people who show they have no respect for the blood sacrifice that began the new agreement and once made them holy or, who insult the Spirit of God's grace.”
The one who wilfully sins is continually conscious of the great fear of being judged, and of the fire of wrath which will be the destruction of the haters of God. However, such a person can still be bold enough to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. And a high priest over the house of God, Heb 10:19-, “…let us draw near with sincerity and unfaltering faith, having had our hearts sprinkled, once for all, from consciences oppressed with sin, and our bodies bathed in clean water [the Law required, Heb 9:19, “…having taken the blood of the calves and goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop…The New Covenant one is ‘bathed’/baptised just in ‘plain’ water”].
“Let us hold firmly to an unflinching avowal of our hope, for He is faithful who gave us the promises. And let us bestow thought on one another with a view to arousing one another to brotherly love and right conduct; not neglecting–as some habitually do–to meet together [through the veil], but encouraging one another…”
In truth then, an unbeliever or, a disobedient Christian, is not condemned, ‘terms and conditions’ apply. The terms and conditions are: such a person must have a ‘change of mind’ in time. An ‘unbeliever’ is someone who has heard the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection and disbelieved. A Christian is a Gentile or a Jew, who has heard the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection, believed and then requested baptism, Mar 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.”
A Gentile is a non-Jew. On the other hand, an offspring of Isaac is considered a Jew, Gen 21:12-, “But God said, ‘Let it not be a grief to you because of the boy and Hagar his mother; give ear to whatever Sarah says to you, because it is from Isaac that your seed will take its name. And, I will make a nation of the son of your servant-woman, because he is your seed.”
A Gentile, who has never heard the Good News is not an unbeliever and therefore cannot be ‘condemned’ as is written, Rom 5:12-, “For this reason, as through one man sin came into the world, and death because of sin, and so death came to all men, because all have done evil: Because, till the law came, sin was in existence, but sin is not put to the account of anyone when there is no law to be broken. But from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, everyone had to die. Adam died because he sinned by not obeying God's command. But even those who did not sin that same way had to die. That one man, Adam, can be compared to Christ, the one who was coming in the future.” Jesus did what God expected Him to do. “It is finish”, was his words on the cross. That righteous act is, in the same way, ‘put to the account’ of those who are ‘clothed in Him’.
Therefore, from Adam to the present, Gentiles have had no law and therefore could not have transgressed and if they have never heard the Good News, they would not have had an opportunity to ‘believe, be baptized and being saved’. Their only hope is ‘life on the ‘new earth’, Rev 20:11, “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead who were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
However, concerning those Gentiles who have never heard the Good News, it is written, Rom 2:13-, “(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For, when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves. Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another). In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” By nature, Adam having eaten of the forbidden fruit, we know concerning ‘good and evil’.
Concerning Christians, partakers of the first resurrection, Rev 20:6, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
There is a serious difference between a ‘believer who believes that Jesus rose from death’ and a Christian, Act 11:25-, “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
Scripture has it that certain men, which came down from Judaea, taught the brethren, and said, ‘Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved’.” Paul’s teaching was based on, Mar 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Faith, without works is dead. Jas 2:14-, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? …Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, ‘Thou hast faith, and I have works.’ Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” The first ‘work of faith’ [Mark 16:16] is baptism.
In conclusion then: Only Christians ‘will be saved’; it being a future event, 1Th 5:8-, “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”
One must now determine concerning the ‘wrath’ from which Christians will ‘obtain salvation’, Rev 15:1-, “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
“And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for thy judgments are made manifest [Rev 6:11, “And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled]… And one of the four living creatures gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.”
The ‘rapture’, therefore, precedes the ‘wrath of God’ and happens immediately after the tribulation, as Jesus said, Mat 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come… Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
The sequence of events is as follows:
The ‘apostate church withholdeth’ the Antichrist. He, Antichrist, Rev 17:16-, will make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For, God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
With the help of his false prophet, Antichrist, Rev 13:16, causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads. And his number is Six hundred threescore and six. This will happen ‘midway’ of Antichrist’s reign; the commencement of the great tribulation.
Then the Gospel is preached ‘before the end’, Rev 14:9-, “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb…”
‘Immediately thereafter’, the rapture, Rev 14:14-, “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap. For, the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And He that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.”
The rapture brings an end to the great tribulation saving the Christians from the wrath of God which follows, fulfilling 1Th 5:9, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The wrath of God, Rev 15:1, “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.”
Now, to answer the question, “Once saved always saved?” Yes, once one is ‘on the clouds of heaven to a meeting with Jesus in the air’ one is saved forever. Christians’ sins are forgiven and, moreover, they have this ‘bonus’, 1Jn 3:1-, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” Rev 22:20, “He which testifieth these things saith, ‘Surely I come quickly’. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”