Summary: Can you be a “believer” in God the Father and in Jesus and still go to hell? Yes indeed, if it’s not belief as the Bible defines it. Satan’s demons know that lesson well, and they tremble and shudder in fear at the prospect of their eternal damnation. Please! — Don’t let this day end without reading on to see if your belief is biblical, saving faith or just intellectual consent to truth. Your eternity depends on it.
Millions of Americans profess to be Christian believers. As a fellow believer in Jesus Christ, I’m blessed to hear that. But the Scriptures above make the important point that just generically “believing” doesn’t necessarily make you a born-again Christian. Satan’s hordes of demons believe in God and His Son Jesus, yet they tremble in fear over their eternal destiny in hell fire (Matthew 25:41, et al.).
Yes, the demons, wrote James, believe in the fact that God is very real. And the evil spirit admitted to those false Jewish exorcists, “Jesus I know.” You see, Satan and his devils are fully aware that there is a true God. And they do admit to the fact of knowing Jesus His Son. But their kind of “believing” still leaves them on the pathway to hell! Let’s take a closer look at what it means biblically to believe in Jesus Christ in a way that brings salvation and eternal life.
John 1:12 (Amplified Bible) helps us understand what believing in Jesus Christ unto eternal salvation is: “But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name.” Here and in many more Bible verses the Amplified Bible gives us the sense of the biblical word “believe” — that is, to adhere to, to trust in, to rely on Jesus Christ. Also in the same context that believer is said to receive and welcome Jesus. It is such believers who “become children of God,” not those who, like the demons, just consent intellectually to the existence of God the Father and His Son.
Do demons receive and welcome Jesus? No. Do they believe in Him in the Scriptural sense of adhering to, trusting in, and relying on Him? Certainly not. That is why they do not receive the Lord’s gracious salvation unto joyous eternal life. Let’s take a further look at what biblical believing is, that is, the type of belief that leads to salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Philippian jailer may not have understood all the theological nuances of his question. But Paul’s brief reply rings true for all eternity: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” In contrast to the demons’ non-saving belief, Paul was speaking of the biblical type of believing, not just intellectual consent to truth. Some further Scriptures will make this very clear.
Embracing and holding onto the truths of “this gospel” is what brought them salvation and kept them (and us!) from “believing in vain” (vs. 2). What is this saving gospel? — that Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead (“for our justification,” Romans 4:25 adds). Through the crucified, resurrected Son of God, and only through Him, lost sinners can be forgiven, be born again into God’s family as “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and receive the promise that “we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Two short sentences, but packed with saving truth! Should we confess with our mouth Jesus as Savior? Of course. Jesus said that He had come to earth “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). But Paul’s verse also links salvation to confessing, “Jesus is Lord.” I’ve heard people say non-scriptural things like: “I accepted Jesus as my Savior, then months (or years) later made Him my Lord.” There is absolutely nothing in Scripture that suggests doing this. When we come to God for salvation by the Savior’s death and resurrection, we are coming to submit to Jesus as Lord, not just to be our fire escape from the pains of hell!
And notice further that the apostle defines this type of saving faith as heart-level belief: “believe in your heart…” For my first 25 years, while still not born again, I readily consented intellectually to the existence of Jesus and His death on the cross. But then, in a profound conversion at age 25, the truth of the Scriptures awakened my heart, and I willingly received Jesus in sincere faith as both Lord and Savior, repented of my sins, and became a child of God. Now, over 50 years later, I am eternally grateful that the Holy Spirit reached into the depths of my being (my heart, my spirit, my will) and led me to a lifelong, heartfelt commitment to the Savior-and-Lord Jesus Christ.
Two all-important words: repentance and faith. We’ve looked in some detail at what biblical faith is. Notice that the apostolic preaching links
We are told elsewhere that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Jesus said that “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3,5). Christ’s first biblically recorded public sermon included “…repent and believe…” (Mark 1:15). Both Jesus and the later apostolic preaching definitely spoke of both repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as part of being saved.
Salvation must not be thought of as just an easy “fire escape.” To be saved, the Scriptures declare, we must repent of our sins (Luke 13:3,5, et al.) and have sincere faith in Jesus (Acts 20:31, et al.), confessing Him as Lord (Romans 10:9). And to such believers God’s gracious promise is, as John 1:12 (Amplified) declares: “To as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name.”
That is the saving type of “believing” that the Bible teaches — coming in faith to the Lord and Savior Jesus … repenting of our sins … adhering to and trusting and relying on Him as the “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).
Devils don’t have that kind of faith. But you can! If God has touched your heart today, and you feel that you want the eternal salvation that comes from turning to God through Jesus Christ, there’s good news. I invite you to allow the late, respected evangelist Billy Graham lead you in a prayer of faith and repentance. You’ll become a son or daughter of God, privileged to serve Him in your remaining days on earth, then to spend a joy-filled eternity with Him after this life is over. Please let Billy Graham help you into the family of God HERE. You’ll be eternally glad that you did.
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©2020, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.