"I give them eternal life and they will never perish to the age and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all and no one will snatch out of the hand of my Father." (John 10:28).
Here we have another favorite passage of the Calvinists. In this passage, they think that Jesus is teaching that once a person has been born again, then there is nothing between their new birth event and Jesus' second coming which will result in their apostasy. They see that Jesus is saying that once anyone is in his hand, then they are there to stay. This misinterpretation of John 10:28-29 comes from a misguided understanding of John 10. If we look back into the preceding context, we will find just what Jesus is talking about.
JIf we go back to verse 10:8, we see that Jesus taught us the Pharisees were but hirelings but He himself was the Good Shepherd. The hirelings did not really care for the sheep and when the wolf came (i.e. the devil) this thief, snatched and destroyed the sheep. On the other hand, Jesus teaches that he is the Shepherd of the sheep and nothing, such as the wolf, can come and snatch the sheep and destroy them.
The devil is understood to be that person who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14). He is the wolf in this passage. He comes to "snatch" the sheep. The Greek word used here, harpazo, is the same word used in verses 10:28,29. It simply means to "grab", "snatch", "seize", and in some contexts it means "to rob/steal." However Jesus says that no one can "snatch" or "seize" out of his hand as the devil was able to "snatch" out of the hand of the hirelings.
Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil (1 Jn 3:8). He does this by taking people out of the world over and giving them eternal life. In the world, there is death and the devil holds the power of death and no one is powerful enough in any way to stop the devil, the wolf, from seizing people for death. However, Jesus has the power of life and all those who are in him cannot be touched by death. He teaches, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one believing into me, though he die, shall live. And everyone living and believing in me shall not die to the age" (11:25-26).
Jesus taught his disciples not to fear those who can kill the body but not the soul but to rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in Gehenna (Matthew 10:28). This passage conveys a concept similar to what we find in John 10:28-29. The Pharisees were not faithful shepherds to the disciples nor did they have the power to prevent anyone from suffering death by the wolf, the devil, who comes and seizes the sheep to destroy them in death. But those who believe in Jesus share the eternal life which is in him and as such, bodily death can do them no harm.
We also need to take careful note of John 18:8 where Jesus demands that his disciples be let go from arrest and persecution. Then John adds in the next verse that this occurred so that the his word might be fulfilled which said, "I will lose none of those whom you gave to me." The word translated as "lose" is the Greek word "apollymi." This word means literally "to loose from" and is often translated as "to perish" or "to destroy." When it is translated as "lose" it means that the relationship between the thing which could be lost and the keeper of the thing is not "destroyed." The same word is used at John 3:15-16, 6:39, 12:25 and 17:12. In vers 18:9, John is indicating that the disciples were preserved from suffering death at the hands of the Romans.
The word "apollymi" is used both at John 10:28 and John 10:10. Here we are to see the contrast between the wolf destroying the sheep (death) and the Good Shepherd giving the sheep eternal life. The wolf comes and "snatches" the sheep away from the hirelings but the wolf cannot "snatch" the sheep away from Christ. In other words, those who believe in Jesus have eternal life by virtue of their faith union with Eternal Life, that is Jesus himself, and the the devil cannot snatch them and bring death to them because they are in Christ who is life.
Jesus emphasizes his teaching at verse 20. Here he says he and the Father are one. Also notice in verse 29 that Jesus says no one can snatch out of the Father's hand and now notice that he says in verse 28, "no one will snatch them out of my hand? Why will this not happen? It will not happen because the Father is greater than all and therefore no one can snatch out of his hand and since Jesus and the Father are one, therefore no one will snatch out of Jesus' hand.
So Jesus is teaching us that those who are in a faith union with him cannot be brought to death by the devil because they are indeed united with Life who is Christ (1 Jn 1:2). The Calvinist, however, does not understand that this assurance is true only by virtue of remaining in Christ, which he exhorts the disciples to do at John 15:1ff. Because the Calvinist perceives his assurance as a "condition" he runs himself into error. The Christian assurance is not a condition but Jesus Christ himself. He is our hope, our assurance of salvation and this is why we put our faith in him. The Calvinist, thinking his assurance to be a condition he is in, confuses it with the assurance of salvation which is Christ himself. Christ has not give us a condition of assured salvation; he has given us himself for our assurance and if we want this assurance to always be with us we must remain in Christ our Assurance. Hence, to be safe in this hand of the Good Shepherd is necessarily conditional upon our faith in Christ our hope and assurance. The condition of our faith relationship is not an assured condition. Rather, Christ is our Assurance of Salvation and it is only if we remain faithful to this Assurance that we can be sure that nothing can come and snatch us out of his hand.
For those who are believing in Christ it is true that the devil, nor anyone, can snatch them from Christ's hand unto death. However, as we are reminded by Paul at 2 Corinthians 13:5, we must constantly examine ourselves to see whether we are indeed in the faith. Our faith in Christ is not assured; we must endeavour ourselves to remain faithful to him. Indeed, this is why we have faith. We put our faith in Christ because he is our assurance. Our assurance is Christ, not a condition apart from Christ. If we faithfully remain in Christ our eternal life is indeed assured. But if we are found not to be in the faith, neither will we find ourselves in the hand of the Good Shepherd and thus we expose ourselves to the power of the devil for death. Our faith in Christ is not assured. Our assurance is Christ himself, not a condition. Christ himself is our assurance and we need to faithfully remain in him to have assurance of eternal life. And it is only if we remain faithful to him, that we are in the hands of the Good Shepherd.
"Remain in me and I in you." (John 15:3)