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Ezekiel 33:12-16 (ESV):

12 “And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. 13 Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. 14 Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.

What happens to the salvation status of a previously righteous person who then gets overconfident and falls into unrepentant sin, in light of Ezekiel 33:12-16? Does such a person go from being saved to being lost? Can a righteous person lose their salvation?

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    This is an interesting question, but Ecclesiastes 7:20 informs us that "there is not a righteous man on earth". Also, these verses were addressed to people living under the Mosaic Law, so were they saved, given that no person can perfectly keep the perfect law of God? Is it our own righteousness that saves - or is it the righteousness of God, I wonder? Hope you get some solid, bible-based answers to this!
    – Lesley
    Apr 3 at 15:49
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    As @Lesley points out, the question needs to define 'righteousness'. The answer will be found in the consideration of what righteousness really is and that God alone is righteous and whom he justifies (accounts righteous) them he also (invariably and inevitably) glorifies (without exception).
    – Nigel J
    Apr 3 at 18:41
  • @NigelJ - I'm just borrowing the word 'righteousness' from the text itself. Whatever the text means by righteousness is what I mean. Apr 3 at 19:30
  • You can't lose what you don't have. This question assumes that the Christian concept of "salvation" is something that existed in Ezekiel's time. The Hebrew word can mean deliverance, rescue, safety, welfare, or victory, and need not have anything to do with the later Christian use of the word. Apr 3 at 23:26
  • @RayButterworth - your point of view sounds interesting. Would you be willing to develop the idea into a complete answer to the question? Apr 4 at 1:51
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Since all men die, the "death" and "deliverance" that Ezekiel is discussing must refer to the man's eternal salvation. This passage in Eze 33 is one of many passages in the Scripture that show how one's eternal salvation can be rejected. Here is a sample:

  • King Saul who was a statesman and prophet called by God (1 Sam 10:11, 12, 19:24), yet was ultimately lost when he consulted demons for advice and then committed suicide.
  • Ps 69:28 contains a plea for David’s enemies to be blotted out of the book of life!
  • Eze 18:21-28 also teaches that the wicked can reform and be saved, and the righteous can apostatize and be lost. Both situations are incompatible with Calvinism’s view of salvation and humanity.
  • Rom 11:17-21 discusses the warning that people who had been grafted into the “olive tree” of the Christian community could be broken off if they were unfaithful.
  • 1 Cor 9:27 Paul says he disciplines his body to keep it under control so that after preaching to others he does not become a castaway/disqualified. That is, Paul believed that it was possible that he could lose his way and become lost.
  • 1 Cor 10:12 also contains a stern warning from Paul, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”
  • 1 Tim 6:10, For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
  • Heb 2:1-3, We must pay closer attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every transgression and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
  • Similarly, Heb 6:4-6 also teaches that some “who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit…” can fall away.
  • Heb 10:19-35 contains an extended passage on enduring. It contains some real gems about the possibility of losing one’s faith and confidence such as:
  • . V26: If we(!) deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left
  • . V29: How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them and who has insulted the Spirit of grace. This verse clearly shows that it is possible to be sanctified and subsequently lost.
  • . V35: Therefore, do not throw away your confidence which has a great reward.
  • . V36: You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what he has promised.
  • Heb 13:9, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace …”
  • 2 Peter 1:10, “make your calling and election sure”. This clearly allows for the possibility of losing one’s election.
  • 2 Peter 2:21, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”
  • 2 Peter 3:17 contains a very stern and sobering warning to be on guard that we do not fall from our secure position. Verse 14 contains a similar warning.
  • Gal 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
  • Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins contains two classes of people called “wise” and “foolish”. All were invited to the wedding; All were virgins symbolising purity, see Rev 14:5; All had lamps, ie, lights symbolising Christ as the light of the world, John 1:4, 9, 8:12, 9:5, Matt 5:14-16; All, at least initially had oil - but this is the crux of the parable - five virgins had enough oil and five did not have enough because they complained that their lamps were going out. In the NT oil represents the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38, 2 Cor 1:21, 22, 1 John 2:20). Thus, Jesus teaches that some who are called and have been given the Holy Spirit (see also Heb 6:4-6) can still be excluded from the Kingdom of God.
  • Jesus’ parable of the vine (John 15:1-8) says two interesting things: (a) that branches (connected to the vine of Jesus) that do not bear fruit are cut off (v2); and (b) the bearing of fruit is to prove that we are Jesus’ disciples.
  • Jesus’ parable of the sower, or perhaps the parable of the soils (Matt 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15) contains several classes of people (soils) who start out well in the Christian life but lose their way. The conclusion is also significant: “by their constancy bear fruit”. (Luke 8:15)
  • Jesus’ parable of the banquet (Luke 14:16-24) contains a very good example of people rejecting the call (or “election”) of God as well as God having to ask some people more than once and begging them to the wedding banquet. Jesus’ conclusion is, again, significant, “not one of those men who have been invited shall taste of my banquet.” In the parallel passage of Matt 22:1-14, Jesus concludes by saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

This is consistent with the idea that God want everyone to be saved and has called all people to repentance. Unfortunately, according to the above list, some reject that calling. God does NOT call some to repentance and salvation but calls all people to salvation.

  • John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave …”
  • John 12:32, “I [Jesus] … will draw all people to myself.”
  • John 12:47, “… for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”
  • Acts 17:30, “God … commands all people everywhere to repent.”
  • Rom 3:23, 24, “… for all have sinned … and all are freely forgiven...”
  • Rom 5:8, 10, “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … if, while were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him by the death of His Son, …”
  • Rom 5:15, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s [Adam’s] offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to the many.” [Note the same word, “many” applies to all people.]
  • Rom 5:18, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all people, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all people, resulting in justification of life.”
  • Rom 11:32, “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”
  • 2 Cor 5:14, “…we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”
  • 2 Cor 5:18, 19, “…God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ …”
  • 1 Tim 2:3, 4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  • 1 Tim 2:6, “[Jesus Christ] gave Himself as a ransom for all people.”
  • Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to all people.”
  • Heb 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
  • 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
  • 1 John 2:2, “He Himself [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours [Christians to whom John writes] only but also for the whole world.”
  • Isa 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray … and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
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Abraham believed God and there was evaluated to him unto righteousness.

This statement is repeated five times in the Greek scriptures. (I include LXX as one of the times.) 'Accounted' says the KJV and others but the verb is deponent and has no subject and no direct object and relates to the word logion whose meaning Paul demonstrates in regard to coinage.

Saul of Tarsus was 'blameless' according to the law, that is to say none could blame Saul for his outward conduct. But, within, Paul confesses he was slaughtered by the commandment 'thou shalt not covet'. Within, worked the law and within, he discovered that 'in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing'.

But he was not far from the kingdom of heaven. For Paul believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul, as a result of being justified (by God himself, in view of that faith) received the Holy Spirit whose influence - within - sanctified him.

And as a result Paul says he kept his body under lest he, himself, despite preaching to others, should be a castaway.

The influence of the Holy Spirit within him, caused Paul to deny the sin which is in the flesh and to (as Peter enjoins) 'abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul'.

This is to be saved indeed. Not only that men should see no outward blameworthy conduct but that, within, there should be 'holiness unto the Lord'.

But had Paul, in later life, fallen into (and never been recovered from) sin, that is to say sin which can be witnessed by others, then he, himself, admits that he would be a castaway.

It would be proved that he had never, rightly, believed in God at all. It would be outwardly demonstrated, by his falling into evil and never coming out of it, that his faith was counterfeit, it was just intellectual, it did not come from the heart, it was not of an 'Abraham kind' of faith which emanated from the depths of the inner man. It was just words on paper, words repeated, doctrines memorised.

He would be as one in the parable of Jesus, caught up in the widespread net of the gospel and gathered into the boat, but, when examined, found to be 'bad' not 'good' and not fit to be a vessel (in the figure, put in a vessel) and worthy only to be cast back into the sea.

Such a one never had any righteousness. They had not truly believed and therefore there was not that faith within them which, God seeing, he can see within it his own (God's) righteousness and therefore he can 'account' or evaluate it to the believer, unto righteousness.

For it is 'God that justifieth' (who is he that condemneth ?) not a man that justifies himself. God sees his own rightness within a man's faith and God accounts of it (values it) and God justifies that man for within him is (God's) righteousness.

And such a man will be granted the gift of the Holy Spirit and such a man will be one of the sons of God who are led of the Spirit and are chastened (and scourged) of the Father. And such shall never be lost. Such shall never fall away.

Such, shall endure to the end and such shall be saved.

Whom he called, that is to say whom the Father called, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified.

But many are called (by an outwardly preached gospel, gone forth into all the world) that are not chosen. They may be caught up in the net, and gathered into the boat.

But the storms will come and the floods will attack and they, being not founded in rock, shall be swept away.

But he that endureth to the end, continuing in good works as led of the Spirit and purged of the Father, shall be saved.

For their righteousness (saith the Lord) is of me.

For the one who justifies is Jehovah Tsidkenu - the Lord, our righteousness.

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You can't lose what you don't have.

This question assumes that the Christian concept of "salvation" is something that existed in Ezekiel's time.

The Hebrew words usually translated as "salvation" can mean deliverance, rescue, safety, welfare, or victory, and do not have anything to do with the later Christian (or modern Jewish) use of the word.

The following is excerpted from the "Salvation" article in the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901–1906).
(I've omitted the discussion of individual words and translations, because the Hebrew words are there represented by images rather than as individual characters.)

SALVATION:

By: Joseph Jacobs, Emil G. Hirsch

Hosanna.

The underlying idea of all these words [usually translated as "salvation], is help extended and made effective in times of need and danger, and protection from evil. "Padah" means "to free by paying ransom." "Ga'al" denotes the assumption of an obligation incumbent originally on another or in favor of another. "Yasha'" primitively means "to be or make wide." Evil and danger are always regarded as narrowing conditions or effects. From the "narrow" place the sufferer cries out. When help has come he is in a "wide" place (Ps. cxviii. 5). In battle enemies beset, surround, hem in (ib. verses 10, 11). Success in the combat relieves and removes the pressure. Hence "yasha'" and its derivatives express "victory."

From this idea of "victory," those of help in trouble and rescue from evil are logical derivatives; but it is not impossible that even in this secondary usage of the term "salvation" the primary notion of a successful combat is operative. Evils are caused by demons: victory over them results in escape, a grateful help. Thus man is saved from trouble (Ps. xxxiv. 7, Hebr.; Isa. xxxiii. 2; Jer. xiv. 8, xxx. 7), from enemies (I Sam. iv. 3, vii. 8), from violence ("lion," Ps. xxii. 22; "men of blood,"ib. lix. 3, Hebr.), from reproach (ib. lvii. 4 [A. V. 3]), from death (ib. vi. 5, 6), from a great calamity (Jer. xxx. 7), from sin, by paying the ransom ("yifdeh"; Ps. cxxx. 8), and from uncleanness (Ezek. xxxvi. 29).

Relation to Messiah.

"Salvation" and "redemption" ("ge'ulah"), as applied in the Messianic conception, are identical.

The Exile was a period of captivity. By bringing home the dispersed, God was their redeemer; and in consequence Israel was saved. In ancient Israel the go'el was one upon whom had fallen the obligation to pay the honors due to a deceased kinsman; for with no son born to him a man was deprived of the filial tribute, and his name was in danger of obliteration; therefore it was the duty of the go'el, the next of kin, to raise up his name

The Jewish Messianic doctrine of salvation does not center in personal immortality, nor in the theologized application of the solidarity of the clan. The Jewish savior was not a go'el in the sense that he took upon himself the blood-guiltiness of sin incurred by another. Moreover, the avenger requited murder by killing another and not himself: he did not die for others, but he caused death in behalf of others. The go'el never was the vicarious victim. It was he who demanded blood, but never gave his own as a ransom. In this theology of salvation "go'el" is mistaken for "kofer" (see Atonement).

SALVATION - JewishEncyclopedia.com

Note in particular in the last paragraph: "The Jewish Messianic doctrine of salvation does not center in personal immortality".

The concepts of "going to heaven", "immortal souls", etc. are all later developments taken from the surrounding pagan nations.

Ezekiel and other prophets used "salvation" in only the physical or memorialized senses.

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