One day when I was 12 or 13 years old, I came home from school, expecting my folks to be there, but they weren’t and didn’t arrive for some time. I recalled the preacher teaching about a thing called the “rapture” when believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air and are taken to heaven (taken from I Thes. 4:17 and the phrase “caught up”). I was quite sure that event must have happened and I was left behind. What a terrible, frightening feeling. Well, obviously, my folks did return and the rapture had not happened yet, but I struggled for a number of years wondering when it did, would I go to heaven.
When I was 11 years of age, I attended a Bible camp where I prayed with my counselor to ask Jesus to be my Savior, but for some time thought that when I sinned that Jesus left and I would need to invite Him in again. At the church we were attending at the time, the Sunday evening service was usually an evangelistic one where an invitation was given to receive Christ. I must have raised my hand at least a dozen times but continued to wonder from day to day whether I was really saved.
It was then that my folks, who had moved from Polson, Montana to Libby, heard about a really good Bible teacher at Faith Bible Church, so we went to visit and got hooked. Not only did we get some sound Bible teaching, but it was there I met my wife-to-be, the pastor’s daughter! I discovered that God’s Word teaches clearly that you can “know for sure” that you are saved and going to heaven, and that you don’t have to keep inviting Him into your life. To do that is like continuing to go to the door to invite someone in who is already sitting in your home! When we sin as a believer, we need to confess our sin to restore our fellowship with God, as we read in I Jn. 1:9, but Jesus doesn’t leave us. He promised to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
Being a hard-headed, stubborn Norwegian, it still took me several years for the truth of God’s Word to really resonate in my life. I remember distinctly when I finally gained the assurance of my salvation. It was November of 1970. I had attended a series of meetings called “Basic Youth Conflict.” (It wasn’t just for young people, but for youth and adults alike). The speaker, Bill Gothard, spoke one evening on the assurance of salvation, and emphasized for us a passage in the epistle of First John: “The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may KNOW that you have eternal life” ( I Jn. 5:10-13). John tells us that we can “know” we have eternal life, not just hope so (in the sense of wishful thinking). Ours is a “know-so faith” and that is what John’s first epistle is all about. And then the passage goes on to tell us how and why we can “know.” John writes: “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (vs. 14,15). We know that it is God’s will for us to repent and to trust Him for eternal life, for we read in II Pet. 3:9, “The Lord …is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” So, we know that if we ask Jesus to come into our life as our Savior and Lord, He comes in—and we don’t have to keep inviting Him. Well, to remove all doubt and confusion, that night in November of 1970, in Portland, Oregon, I prayed for a final time:
“Father, thank you for the free gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of your Son. I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I am sorry for my past sins, and I ask You to forgive me.
Jesus, I believe you died on the cross for my sins and arose from the dead. If I never fully understood that before, I do now, and if I never genuinely invited You to be my Savior, I do that right now.
I open the door of my heart and invite You to come into my life. I acknowledge that there is nothing I can do to earn my salvation, and I place my complete trust in You alone for eternal life.
I choose to follow You as my Lord. Please make me the person You want me to be.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Was I saved at the Bible camp when I was 11? I don’t know—probably, but it doesn’t really matter because I KNOW that in November of 1970, at age 24, I gained assurance of my salvation, and from that time on have known that I have “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for me,” and that I am “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Pet. 1:4,5). “In this ( I ) greatly rejoice” (v. 6). With the new assurance I had gained, I really began to grow spiritually and had the great privilege of introducing my boss and his brother and our secretary at Hyster in Portland to my Savior. I ended up starting a Bible study at work which eventually led to our coming back to Montana in 1974 to work with Rocky Mountain Bible Mission, which in turn led to becoming the pastor of Three Lakes Community Bible Church for 37 years! And God continues to grow me and provide opportunities of ministry. But it first took knowing for sure I was saved. You can’t grow until you know that you have been truly “born again” (Jn. 3:3).
So, I challenge all who may read this with this question: If the rapture were to take place today, or you should die today, do you know without a doubt that you will go to heaven? If you have any doubt, I encourage you to do what I did, and pray for a final time to admit your need of a Savior and to trust Jesus for eternal life. Let me know if you do that. I’d love to hear from you.