There are generally two camps on this issue within christianity—those who believe that salvation is permanent once it is received, and those who think that someone can be saved, and then lose that salvation by living a life of fleshly sin, or by simply renouncing his salvation.
There is a very simple explanation for why this rift exists, and it is because christianity mostly teaches error about what salvation is, how it is obtained, and how one knows he has received it.
Most in christianity believe that salvation is something that comes by way of man—by his decision, or by praying a certain prayer (and really, really, really meaning it), or by turning one’s life around (avoiding certain fleshly sins, and going to “church” at least a few times a month), or by obeying the Ten Commandments, or by showing that one has really gotten saved because he goes all the way back into the law of Moses and picks and chooses a few laws from the Torah to perform (usually just the ones that deal with foods they falsely claim are “unclean,” and then hypocritically claiming that they are “Torah-obedient”).
What christianity largely misses is that salvation is not something that man directs by his own will or decision. Salvation is not something a person chooses to possess. Salvation is the result of man’s belief, it is not man’s belief itself.
Was Abraham’s belief not tried when he was told to sacrifice Isaac? In fact, was Messiah not tested in the wilderness before He received the Holy Spirit? This is the endurance of belief that James teaches, for it is not merely assenting in mental agreement to something, but is a genuine belief that is so profound in a person that he will withstand every assault and attack on that belief, and still maintain it—it is unwavering faith.
Most christians believe that, at the moment they are sincere enough with their belief, that means they are saved. They completely distort the actual process of salvation, and make it nothing more than a work of man’s accomplishment (i.e., “I accepted Christ as my savior”), rather than what it is—a legal decree of eternal adoption by the Almighty. In essence, christianity teaches that man is the one who gets to write his own adoption decree, and then declare that he is a joint-heir with Messiah. That’s just blatant human arrogance!
We are given, in scripture, physical representations of the path to the salvation of Messiah’s bride, but christianity largely rejects them—mostly because they don’t understand them (and that is because they stripped away the Father’s traditions, and traded them for pagan counterfeits).
The children of Y’isra-el in the OT are a physical foreshadow of the bride. Their receiving the physical covenant (Ten Commandments) is a picture, or physical representation, of the bride receiving the spiritual covenant (seal of the Holy Spirit). Both covenants were given on the Feast of Weeks (seven Sabbaths plus one day after Passover). The first was physical foreshadow, the second (Acts 2) was the spiritual real substance.
Y’isra-el didn’t just make a decision to possess the covenant. No, they were led out of Egypt (the world) FIRST by the Passover—the “preparation.” They were then led through the Red Sea (baptism of cleansing—a symbol of spiritual cleansing by the Holy Spirit), and after that, they were led by the Holy Spirit to the mountain, where then, they awaited the giving of the covenant.
They didn’t “decide” to have the covenant—they waited to receive it. Some didn’t wait (endure), and chose to take matters into their own hands, crafting a golden calf and worshiping IT. Those who didn’t repent of that idolatry were killed. Those who repented were then given the covenant.
That is the picture of the salvation of Messiah’s bride by the “ketubah” (covenant of marriage). Belief in the sacrifice first, and then being led through the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to the mountain, and there awaiting the giving of the covenant, which will then be confirmed directly by the Holy Spirit.
This progression is also what is shown in the way of the tabernacle—the progression the priest made from the gate into the outer courtyard (brazen altar and laver—Passover and Red Sea), into the Holy Place (altar of incense, menorah, bread of the presence—pillar of cloud and fire, manna), and then into the Holy of Holies (Ark of the Covenant), which represents the bride’s receiving the spiritual covenant—her salvation.
So, the primary error made in the “once saved always saved” debate is in not understanding that there is a period of testing between man’s belief and when he actually receives the covenant. Christianity falsely teaches that man is saved at the moment he believes, but man’s belief is merely the outer courtyard, it is not the Holy of Holies. As Messiah Yahoshua said in Luke 8:13, some will believe with all joy for awhile, but will fall away during their time of testing (temptation) because they have no root (they never receive the source of life—the Holy Spirit).
That is exactly what Hebrews 10:36-39 teaches, as it points out the same patience that James did, which is to do the will of Yah (believe on His Son), and THEN, by enduring and not drawing back, receiving the promise (the covenant—the Holy Spirit). Salvation is the end result of belief (1 Peter 1:9), which is believing ALL THE WAY to the saving of one’s soul. Belief alone is NOT salvation. Man’s belief being perfected (completed) by the giving of the Holy Spirit IS salvation. Only then is man “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4).
Those who distort scripture to claim it teaches that one can lose his salvation do so by not understanding that those scriptures are speaking of the period between one’s belief (repenting of unbelief—the only sin that condemns) and receiving the covenant. Yes, there are many who will initially believe with all joy, but who will eventually fall away before they ever receive the covenant (and, sadly, most of those are lost in the false teachings of christianity that their decision saved them, and they don’t need to endure in their belief to be saved, or receive the personal confirmation of the Holy Spirit—1 Corinthians 1:6-8).
They were never actually saved, so they didn’t “lose their salvation” after receiving it. Those who actually receive the covenant are not ever able to commit the sin of unbelief (“hamartia”), which is the condition into which all humans are born, because of Adam’s sin.
But, those who are given the covenant are indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit, who resurrects the spirit in man to newness of life; and that seal on Messiah’s bride is eternal, so one who is sealed as a member of Messiah’s bride cannot ever commit the sin that condemns (unbelief), because the Spirit dwells within them, which is what actually makes them believers in the Father’s eyes (1 John 3:9, 5:10).
For more information: Once Saved Always Saved?