All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Calvinism teaches that regeneration precedes faith.
No less an authority is R.C. Sproul, who says, “After a person is regenerated, that person cooperates by exercising faith and trust” (Excerpt from his book, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit) .
Also from R.C. Sproul, “The New Birth”, Ligonier Ministries:
“In the Augustinian and Reformation view, regeneration is seen first of all as a supernatural work of God. Regeneration is the divine work of God the Holy Spirit upon the minds and souls of fallen people, by which the Spirit quickens those who are spiritually dead and makes them spiritually alive. This supernatural work rescues that person from his bondage to sin and his moral inability to incline himself towards the things of God. Regeneration, by being a supernatural work, is obviously a work that cannot be accomplished by natural man on his own. If it were a natural work, it would not require the intervention of God the Holy Spirit………Thirdly, the monergistic work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit is an immediate work. It is immediate with respect to time, and it is immediate with respect to the principle of operating without intervening means. The Holy Spirit does not use something apart from His own power to bring a person from spiritual death to spiritual life, and when that work is accomplished, it is accomplished instantaneously. No one is partly regenerate, or almost regenerate. Here we have a classic either/or situation. A person is either born again, or he is not born again. There is no nine-month gestation period with respect to this birth. When the Spirit changes the disposition of the human soul, He does it instantly. A person may not be aware of this internal work accomplished by God for some time after it has actually occurred. But though our awareness of it may be gradual, the action of it is instantaneous.”
Notice all the terms and descriptions Sproul uses:
“from spiritual death to spiritual life”
“This supernatural work rescues that person from his bondage to sin”
“A person is either born again, or he is not born again”
“A person may not be aware of this internal work accomplished by God for some time after it has actually occurred”
From Sproul’s point of view, we go from spiritual death to spiritual life, we are rescued from the bondage of sin, and we may not even “be aware of this internal work accomplished by God for some time after it has actually occurred.” All of this apart from faith and apart from Christ. Biblically, the language Sproul uses are for those who have trusted in Christ, as Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn 5:24 – ESV).
Furthermore, Paul said:
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” ESV
So apparently, Sproul believes that we have passed from death to life and have been delivered from the bondage of sin before we come to faith in Christ – contrary to what Jesus and Paul said. The language Sproul uses is clearly reserved for those who have experienced salvation, for those who are in a right relationship with Christ.
If I understand Sproul correctly, a person can be in this new-birth state for quite awhile before he or she places their faith in Christ. How long is he talking about? One day? One month? One year? Even if it’s one minute, that is one minute as a born again person who has yet to place their faith in Christ. What happens if a person in this state dies before trusting in Christ? That’s an interval that is nowhere found in the Bible. As we take a closer look at regeneration, we will discover that such a position simply makes no sense.
Other Calvinists teach that there is no time gap between regeneration and faith, that it happens simultaneously. But they will add that even though they occur at the same time, in its logical order regeneration must still precede faith. This seems like theological double-talk to me. It’s not possible that there be no time gap, because if something occurs before something else, then quite obviously there must be some time gap involved, even if it’s only measurable by God.
As R.C. Sproul confirms, when talking about regeneration, we’re talking about the new birth. But that doesn’t tell us what regeneration is. To find out, we must carefully examine what God’s Word says about the new birth. A correct understanding of what the new birth is, will tell us where regeneration fits in the salvation experience.
As with any biblical issue, the starting point must always be with scriptures that are clearly understood. Once we have considered which verses are clearly understood, then we must use those as our foundation. Then we must evaluate and interpret the more difficult verses according to our foundational verses. If we do this the other way around, we will likely come to wrong conclusions, and ultimately, an incorrect doctrinal position:.
Our Starting Point
1. It’s Faith That Cleanses The Heart
8 And God, who knoweth the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us; 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.
This verse clearly teaches that faith comes before regeneration. Faith in Christ results in a cleansed heart (regeneration). Calvinists will agree that a purified heart only comes through regeneration. But here we see that regeneration is the result of faith.
2. We Become Children of God Through Faith
25 But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus.
36 While ye have the light, believe on the light, that ye may become sons of light.
We become children of God or sons of God when we believe or place our faith in Christ. As we’ll discuss later, being a child of God is the equivalent of the new birth. The new birth is produced by faith, and we are children of God through faith.
3. The Dead Will Hear
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself: 27 and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, 29 and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.
Jesus was referring to both the resurrection life and to spiritual life in these verses. He makes a clear distinction between the two. Those who hear spiritually and believe (“now is”), “pass from death to life.” We have to hear the voice of Christ spiritually (and believe) before we have the opportunity to hear His voice in the “resurrection of life.” Who is it that hears the voice of the Son of God? It’s the dead! In both cases! It’s the spiritually dead who hear the voice of Jesus. But Calvinism says that we must be regenerated first before we’re able to hear God’s voice.
When Jesus preached the gospel message, many believed. They could not have believed unless they heard His voice. Not simply His words, but His voice, in the form of spiritual awareness and understanding and conviction. So I think it’s clear that when Jesus spoke of the dead who heard His voice in the present (“now is”), He was referring to those who were given spiritual hearing that enabled them to trust Christ as their Savior, as their Messiah. But the point needs to be made, that it was the spiritually dead who heard.
The Arminian position does not conflict with Calvinism that teaches that the Holy Spirit must open the spiritual eyes of a person in order for them to understand the gospel message and believe. The difference is, the Arminianism teaches that the Holy Spirit can and does open one’s spiritual eyes to the truth apart from regeneration. Why should that be so difficult or unreasonable to believe? Is the Holy Spirit unable to do this?
4. Humility Before Grace
6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore the scripture saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.
1 Peter 5:5
5 Likewise, ye younger, be subject unto the elder. Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.
For some reason, there is not much said about humility as it relates to salvation – regeneration, in particular. The statement in these verses that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” apply not only to Christians, but to everyone. It’s a universal law of God that He opposes the prideful who refuse to humble themselves before Him.
The Old Testament has numerous examples. Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar (Dan 4:28-5:30), and Manasseh (2 Chr 33:10-19) come to mind. And Herod, in the New Testament, also comes to mind (Acts 12:20-23). All these men were pagans. In the case of Nebuchadnezzar and Manasseh, they humbled themselves, and God extended grace to them. Belshazzar refused to humble himself, even though he knew the story about Nebuchadnezzar, and he died in his pride. Herod died while glorying in self-exaltation.
What we need to understand about humility, is that it’s a requirement for salvation (Psalm 149:4). We must be willing to turn from our sins and our way of life in order to receive forgiveness of our sins. In regard to regeneration, Calvinists teach that regeneration must precede faith, but that idea violates God’s universal law regarding pride. One of the things we hear from Calvinists most is the subject of grace. They embrace and proclaim “the doctrines of grace.” It’s all about grace. But what they fail to understand about God’s grace is that it’s only given to those who humble themselves.
With James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 in mind, the following four points reveal why the Calvinist position of regeneration and irresistible grace is completely senseless and unbiblical, and why the Arminian position of prevenient grace is not only sensible, but responsible in their interpretation regarding this subject:
1 – James and Peter are quoting Proverbs 3:34, which reveals a universal truth about pride and humility, and clearly seen throughout Scripture. In context, James and Peter were instructing believers, but they were applying this truth to them and their situation. God, in general, deals with mankind according to this law. God hates pride and loves humility. However, this universal truth should not be viewed as all-encompassing, where He deals with every single human being according to this truth (God being God and people being so needy, God deals with mankind as He sees fit) – but should be viewed, in the general sense, of man’s status with God and how He works in people’s lives.
However, there is an application of this law or truth where it is all-encompassing, where God does adhere strictly to this law each and every time with each and every person, and that is as it pertains specifically to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to spiritual truth in general. Of course, Calvinists believe that for “the elect,” there can be no turning away in pride. I’ll deal with that later.
Calvinists may object that the truth presented in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 does not pertain to salvation, simply because they were dealing with an issue with Christians. But that’s nonsense. The general truth that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, demands – above all things – the necessity of its particular application to salvation. Does God grant the grace of salvation to those who humble themselves in faith? Of course He does. Does God oppose those who reject the gospel message in pride? Of course He does, whether James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 refer to salvation in their respective contexts or not — it’s still a universal application of this law of pride and humility. Everyone who hears the gospel of Jesus Christ must turn away from pride and respond in the humility of faith. Jesus said that “Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). Unless people humble themselves before God as little children, salvation is not possible. Jesus also said: “This is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil” (Jn 3:19). People don’t come to faith in Christ because of the fact that they “love darkness rather than the light.” People love their sin so much that they’re not willing to turn away from those things in humble faith. Paul, too, said that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” ESV (Ro 1:18). People suppress the truth of Christ because they would rather live a life of unrighteousness. In pride they cling to their sinful lifestyle and their own way, unwilling to humble themselves before God. God opposes those who reject the truth in pride. Unless they someday respond to the truth in the humility of faith, they will never experience God’s grace of salvation. Over and over throughout Scripture we see that one must believe in order to receive forgiveness of sins.
Faith and humility cannot be separated. One cannot believe apart from humility.
[By the way, it’s important to note that the above scriptures reveal that the reason people don’t come to faith in Christ is not because they’re not among “the elect,” but because they don’t humble themselves as little children – because they love darkness rather than light – because they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They also reveal that God’s grace is resistible].
With this universal truth in mind – and in the context of the gospel message and salvation through Christ – we need to see how it relates to both the Arminian view of grace and the Calvinist view of grace.
Prevenient grace reveals truth in order to provide the opportunity for humility unto salvation. Irresistible grace via regeneration not only reveals truth, but also eliminates all possibility of pride and rejection. In other words, Calvinism has God taking pride out of the picture and granting (causing) humility in its place. Without this grace of humility, how many would reject Christ in pride and die in their sins? Calvinists would answer, everyone — which just proves my point. God simply can’t ignore pride, because of the fact that He “opposes the proud.” The pride of rejection that God sees in sinners before regeneration, prevents Him from granting the grace of regeneration and humility and salvation. How many people humble themselves before God upon hearing the gospel the first time? I think it’s fair to say, not many. Again, from the Calvinist perspective, how many people would turn to Christ in the humility of faith if God didn’t regenerate them? No one, according to Calvinists. However, God cannot overlook the pride of rejection that He sees. From the Calvinist perspective, how many times does a person reject the gospel message before God regenerates them so they can respond in faith? I doubt if there would be very many Calvinists who would disagree that a person may hear the gospel of Jesus Christ many times before God regenerates them so they can believe unto salvation. The fact that many people reject Christ over and over and over before he or she finally receives Christ as Lord and Savior, shows that pride is at work. Thus granting them the grace of regeneration and the grace of humility, would require God to violate His own law.
Arminianism teaches that the gospel of Jesus Christ is accompanied by prevenient grace, that God is at work in a person to convict and reveal truth and enable faith — but not irresistibly so. Everyone hearing the gospel message has an opportunity to respond in humility of faith or reject in pride. However, in Calvinism, a person can hear the gospel message many times and reject it in willful pride for many years before God finally regenerates them. This reveals an inconsistency with what the Bible teaches about the offer and rejection of life through Christ, that God opposes the proud. Calvinism has God giving the grace of regeneration and the humility of faith to those who previously rejected Him in pride, perhaps for many years.
Those who hear the gospel message are accountable to respond in faith. If they refuse, it’s because of pride. Whatever the reason for one’s rejection, pride is always the root cause. To say otherwise would contradict such Scriptures as those I quoted earlier (Matt 18:3; Jn 3:19; Ro 1:18). As long as a person continues to reject Christ, God will continue to oppose. It’s only when a person humbles himself before God in faith, that He extends the grace of salvation. To grant the grace of regeneration would be a violation of His own law, because regeneration is tantamount to salvation. It’s rewarding pride with salvation. It has God ignoring pride, and granting humility in its place. Senseless.
On the other hand, Arminianism makes perfect sense. The gospel message is presented, the Holy Spirit does the necessary work in bringing about conviction and revealing truth and freeing the will and enabling faith, and then extends the grace of salvation to those who humble themselves in faith. Likewise, God refuses those who refuse Him in pride. This is a very simple truth that Calvinism severely complicates.
2 – Not only does Calvinism have God ignoring pride, and then making prideful rejection impossible (after regeneration) by giving the humility of faith in its place (via irresistible grace), but I contend that in order for humility to be genuine, there must be the availability and possibility of pride. And again, I’m referring to what takes place after regeneration. If pride is not present or is not an option, how then, can there be humility? Humility must be measured by something else. There must be the possibility of the response of pride in order for the response of humility to be revealed as such. Yielding in humility, necessarily, requires a turning from that which counters. True humility is defined by that which would challenge one to respond in the other direction. Yet, in Calvinism, upon regeneration, pride is not even a possibility, which reveals a humility that is illegitimate. The Calvinist version of humility only works for God. Humility is an inherent attribute of God, and therefore, doesn’t need the possibility of pride to validate His humility. But we’re not God. As sinful beings, whether born-again or not, there must be the availability and possibility of pride in order for the response of humility to be seen as such. The Calvinist version of humility is false.
3 – There’s yet another reason why the Calvinist version of grace is invalid, and that has to do with their inconsistent view of regeneration as it applies to the response of obedience in a person’s life. As Christians, even though we’ve been regenerated, sin and pride and self-will have not been eradicated. Pride and self-will is still a present possibility in our lives. With that being true, it’s a total fallacy that regeneration always results in the obedience of faith unto salvation (Acts 6:7; Ro 1:5; Ro 16:26), as Calvinism teaches. While Calvinists may have an issue with the idea that sinners can resist the Holy Spirit as He’s drawing them to faith in Christ, what do we do as Christians? Does the fact that we’ve been born-again and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit guarantee that we will always obey the Word of God or the promptings of the Spirit? What Calvinist would answer in the affirmative? If that were the case, there wouldn’t be any sin among God’s people; we would all be living perfect lives before God. But the truth is, we walk in the influences of the Spirit, not in the irresistable control of the Spirit, as though we had no will of our own. While we as believers are drawn to obedience, it’s not in a manner that locks our will into submission. We’re given the freedom to choose which way we will go — and sometimes, if not often, we choose to go our own way. Again, what Calvinist could disagree with that?
Therefore, why would it be any different with the “regenerated” sinner who doesn’t even know Christ? Regeneration is the same at every point in one’s life, and it’s the same Holy Spirit who works within a regenerated life at every point. Nowhere does Scripture indicate that the composition or the operation of regeneration changes at any point in a person’s life.
So then, Calvinists would have us believe that a person is under the irresistible control of the Holy Spirit one moment, and then suddenly in a resistible state the very next — that the sinner is irresistibly drawn to the obedience of faith, but as a believer he or she is then put into the place where they’re free to choose to obey or not to obey.
We see again that the Calvinist version of God’s grace demonstrates a serious inconsistency. Moreover, I contend that Calvinist irresistible grace goes beyond the purview of grace. Rightly defined, grace is Divine favor. I don’t believe irresistible grace can be correctly defined as such. I think a more accurate term would be Divine exertion, or irresistible exertion. In the Calvinist scheme, God not only regenerates, but He overpowers a sinner’s will so that at the moment of conversion he or she has no will of their own, but God exerting conformity to His own will. At that moment in time, they lose their true identity, and in effect, it’s God doing the believing for them. Once the decision for Christ has been made, they then regain their true identity and once again are given the freedom to choose according to their own will. As discussed above, as born-again Christians, at no time throughout our lives does the Holy Spirit irresistibly “draw” us into obedience. He never overpowers our will so that we have no will of our own. But that is exactly what irresistible grace must do to “draw” a person to faith in Christ. But then if a person’s will is overpowered or overcome, then according to true definition, a person is not being drawn, but being subdued, being brought under subjection. Calvinism has God overlooking pride before regeneration and overpowering the will after regeneration (or upon regeneration) in order to prevent pride. This is not the biblical definition of God’s grace.
Before and during and after conversion, we retain the will to choose to go God’s way or to go our own way. At no point does God overpower our will and replace it with His own will. Regeneration places us in the influences of the Holy Spirit, but never under total control (as with a robot) to where we lose the freedom of will that gives us our very identity. We each have a personal identity that is linked directly to our individual wills. If we lose that even for a moment, we become someone we’re not. Conformity of our wills to the will of God is a growing process that continues throughout our lives, which still requires the personal yielding of of our wills to His.
4 – In answer to any Calvinist objections that prevenient grace makes a person spiritually neutral, that hardly describes the work of the Holy Spirit! The Spirit of God is powerfully moving to open spiritually blind eyes, to pierce the darkness with the light of Christ, to bring conviction of sin and of the need for forgiveness, to free the will and enable faith, calling and drawing and wooing the sinner to Christ. He graciously influences the will, but does not overpower it. This is the true, biblical description of Divine grace.
Conclusion – I believe the points made here reveal Calvinist regeneration and irresistible grace to be a totally flawed and confused representation of biblical doctrine. It disregards pride and overpowers one’s will, which results in a false humility — turning God’s grace into something that confutes the very definition of it. It’s easy to see that the Arminian view of God’s grace doesn’t have all the issues that the Calvinist version has. This type of inconsistency is common in Calvinist theology.
With our foundational verses in place, and with the above argument in mind, the following discussion continues to reveal the senselessness of the Calvinist view of regeneration:
Regeneration means to to be born again (Jn 3:3,6), to be born into God’s family. That means we become children of God at that point, as the following verses confirm:
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
1 John 3:9-10
9 Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
This is a literal birth, a spiritual birth that places us into the family of God as His children.
If regeneration precedes faith, then you would have to completely turn Galatians 3:26 around to read like this:
Galatians 3:26 – “For you must become sons of God to be in Christ Jesus through faith.”
If regeneration precedes faith, then the other two references must read like this:
John 1:12 – “But to all who were born of God (who are thus already children of God) received him, and by believing in his name, he has given them the right to become children of God.”
If regeneration precedes faith, then that means we must become children of God in order to receive and believe in order to become children of God.
John 12:36 –“While you have the light, become sons of light, that you may believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
That’s how the above verses must read if regeneration comes before faith. That’s what Calvinists must do in order to make these verses fit into their theology.
Now let’s consider this new relationship with God in a little more detail:
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
In the above verse Jesus compares the physical birth with the new birth. When we are born physically, we are born as children of our parents; nothing else needs to happen. We are children by birth.
Therefore, when we are born spiritually, we are born as children of God. A birth (whether it be a physical birth or a spiritual birth) is proof of having parents. Thus when we are born again, we become members of God’s family — we have a heavenly Father.
According to John 1:12, a person becomes a child of God upon placing faith in Christ.
According to Galatians 3:26, a person becomes a son of God through faith in Christ.
So whether we are talking about children of God or sons of God (adopted sons), we obtain this relationship with God through faith. The conclusion must be that we are regenerated through faith, because when we speak of regeneration, we are speaking of a birth, and we are children of God by birth. It’s a faulty interpretation to teach that we can be regenerated without being children of God. And if we are regenerated without becoming children of God, then what are we at that point? As I mentioned earlier, this is an interval that the Bible simply doesn’t say anything about.
We must now answer the following question: Is a regenerated person indwelt by the Holy Spirit? According to Galatians 3:14 we receive the Holy Spirit through faith:
14 that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
2 This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
We have already learned that we become children of God through faith, and now we learn that we receive the Holy Spirit through faith. In other words, at the moment we place our faith in Christ we not only become children of God, but we also receive the Holy Spirit. Thus the new birth and the indwelling of the Spirit occur at the same time – through faith. Furthermore, those who have the Holy Spirit indwelling them belong to God:
9 But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Obviously those who are the children of God, belong to God. It’s also obvious that those who have the Holy Spirit belong to God. It’s also obvious that those who belong to God are saved:
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house.
To be saved means that we are given eternal life:
36 He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Let’s summarize this:
Regeneration = the new birth = children of God = the indwelling of the Spirit = belonging to God = being saved.
All this occurs at the precise moment we place our faith in Christ in response to the gospel message.
If anyone is willing to take an unbiased look at this, and think through this carefully, I believe they will be able to see that everything we have discussed in this section makes absolute sense.
We now need to take a look at an important passage of scripture that Calvinists use to support their position on regeneration:
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
We need to answer the following question:
What did Jesus mean when He said, “except one is born anew (born from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God?”
Those who believe that regeneration precedes faith insist that this passage of Scripture refers to the need to be born again in order to “see” the Kingdom of God, equating this to seeing spiritual truth.
I believe it’s in error to equate the Kingdom of God with spiritual truth.
It’s spiritual truth that leads us to the Kingdom of God. Thus we cannot equate them to being the same thing. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the spiritual truth that is used to enable a person to “enter” the Kingdom of God. If a person rejects this truth, he doesn’t enter the Kingdom of God. If a person responds in faith, he does enter. The Gospel message is the vehicle, and the Kingdom of God is the destination.
It’s the understanding of the message that enables us to enter the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the spiritual realm of God that we enter when we are given new life. We are given new life in Christ as a result of hearing and responding to the message. New life in Christ comes in the form of the new birth or regeneration, thus what Jesus was teaching was that entrance into the Kingdom of God is via the new birth. Therefore, the moment we experience the new birth, we enter into the Kingdom of God.
Calvinists also misunderstand what Jesus meant when He referred to “seeing” the kingdom of God.
When Jesus talked about “seeing” the kingdom of God, He was speaking of experiencing the Kingdom of God, confirming that very thing in verse 5 where He mentioned “entering” the Kingdom of God.
We can see that this is the intended meaning in John 8:51:
51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my word, he shall never see death.
Here Jesus was obviously referring to the experience of death (the second death of Revelation) (20:6,14; 21:8), and not simply “seeing” it. Those who are thrown into the Lake of fire will not simply be seeing death, they will be experiencing it. In other words, they will “enter” the Lake of Fire.
This is no different than when a person says they want to “see” the world. When they say they want to see the world, they don’t mean they simply want to see it from a distance, they mean they want to go to many different places around the world and be right there in the midst of those places, experiencing all the different sites and attractions. It’s only as you “enter” a particular place can you truly “see” it. If you’re simply seeing a place from the outside, you’re not actually seeing it. It’s only as you actually go there and view all that it has to offer are you truly seeing it. So I think it’s completely reasonable that Jesus was using the terms “see” and “enter” interchangeably.
As you can see, the Calvinist position on regeneration is very much out of harmony with the overall teaching of this subject. They must make assumptions and force a biased meaning into clearly stated verses in order to get them to fit into their theology.
I think one of the most damaging testimonies of Scripture against the Calvinist version of regeneration, is the law of God regarding pride and humility, as stated by both Peter and James (1 Pet 5:5; Ja 4:6). When one thinks through this carefully and honestly, one can see that the Calvinist position doesn’t work. There’s no way harmonizing this law with the Calvinist version of regeneration.
I believe this whole idea of regeneration before faith, was perpetrated by Calvinists in order order to advance a theology that required it. It was the only way of explaining how “the elect” could be “irresistibly drawn” to Christ. If you have to force a particular teaching against numerous plainly stated verses to make your theology work, then that should serve as a red flag to anyone. I think only a love for a particular theology would cause one to ignore the obvious.