Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.
The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.
Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake..But the one who endures to the end will be saved (Mark 13:5-13 ESV)
These words of Jesus, as well as other similar warning passages in scripture are used to assert that a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, one who has faced his sin, repented and turned to Christ for salvation, can wake up in Hell because he failed to endure to the end, persevere, overcome, et al.. In fact, the above passage was presented to me at a Christian blog venue recently as ironclad proof of same.
It makes no difference that there is no text to support the claim that a believer can be lost for all eternity, the fact that the warning is present is enough to make dogmatic assertion. If a believer could never wake up in Hell, there is no need for the warning. But do these passages really teach a believer could face eternity in Hell? Let’s take a closer look.
What’s the context of the highlighted passage?
In a word, tribulation! We could also further describe the tribulation as happening in the ‘end times’. The exact time of the tribulation spoken of is not important, but the fact of tribulation is very significant. It is tribulation that is being ‘endured’ and tribulation from which those who endure will be saved. We are not told if the ‘saving’ is only from the temporal, or if it also applies to eternal salvation. We can be sure however, no matter what the hidden details might be, that the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Although the obvious conclusion is that those who fail to endure will not be saved, all we are specifically told is that ‘the one who does endure will be saved. Therefore the conclusion that a genuine believer could wake up in Hell must read into the text (eisegesis). It’s a simple matter of words on a page – textual analysis. Even if a true believer could ultimately perish, it is not in this text, nor is it in the other warning passages often used to prove true believers in Christ might still perish. That leaves us with the question:
IS it possible for a person who trusts in Christ for salvation to be lost for any reason?
For the answer we don’t need to trot out a long list of passages that point to the assurance of our salvation, although we certainly could. We only need a few other words of Jesus – the same Jesus who issued the previous warning:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28 ESV)
The warning and the promise were spoken by the same Jesus. What do we do with that? We go to one of the most basic principles of interpreting the Bible. It two passages seem contradictory use that which is clear to interpret that which is less clear, or that could have alternate meanings. How does that apply here?
Well, there is no rocket science. The words spoken by Jesus that tell us that His sheep will never perish are abundantly clear. ‘Never’ means NEVER. ‘Perish’ has two possible meanings – perish physically or eternally. Since the death rate is still 100%, it can only mean eternally (face judgment, perish, wake up in Hell). Therefore, every other passage that might point to a believer ending up in Hell has a different meaning or purpose in scripture.
What DO the warning passages mean?
Thanks to technology it’s a simple exercise to do an Internet search and obtain various answers to our question. A good summary is provided by American theologian Loraine Boettner (1901-1990):
The primary purpose of these passages, however, is to induce men to co-operate willingly with God for the accomplishment of His purposes. They are inducements which produce constant humility, watchfulness, and diligence. In the same way a parent, in order to get the willing co-operation of a child, may tell it to stay out of the way of an approaching automobile, when all the time the parent has no intention of ever letting the child get into a position where it would be injured. When God plies a soul with fears of falling it is by no means a proof that God in His secret purpose intends to permit him to fall. These fears may be the very means which God has designed to keep him from falling.
Secondly, God’s exhortations to duty are perfectly consistent with His purpose to give sufficient grace for the performance of these duties. In one place we are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart; in another, God says, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.” Now either these must be consistent with each other, or the Holy Spirit must contradict Himself. Plainly it is not the latter.
Thirdly, these warnings are, even for believers, incitements to greater faith and prayer.
Fourthly, they are designed to show man his duty rather than his ability, and his weakness rather than his strength.
Fifthly, they convince men of their want of holiness and of their dependence upon God.
Sixthly, they serve as restraints on unbelievers, and leave them without excuse.
Dear friends, please know that this short article is in no way an expression of a humanly constructed doctrinal system (I get that a lot). If it can be termed ‘doctrinal’, it is simply Jesus’ doctrine, nothing more, nothing less. Jesus said:
“..the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
“I give them (my sheep) eternal life, and they will never perish”
The only thing I an take from those simple declarations is that His sheep WILL endure to the end.
My friends, be blessed as you walk with Christ today and everyday!