“John wrote to believers called spiritual ‘children’ (see v.1) saying: ‘Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.’ This verse is not speaking of the loss of salvation but loss of rewards, as the italicized words indicate…salvation is not a result of our works (Rom. 4:5; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-6)” (Norman Geisler, “Four Views on Eternal Security” by J. Matthew Pinson, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002, page 101.
This is what the Holman Christian Standard Bible says:
“Watch yourselves so that you don’t lose what we have worked for, but you may receive a full reward.”
The word for “reward” here in the Greek is “misthon,” which means “reward” or “wages.”
Geisler misses something in his own statement. He says “this verse is not speaking of the loss of salvation but loss of REWARDS…” But here’s the problem: the verse he points to, 2 John 1:8, talks about a “REWARD” (singular), not “rewards” (plural).
In addition, John is warning the believers to remain firm in the faith. In verse 7 he writes, “many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. THIS IS THE DECEIVER AND THE ANTICHRIST.” He tells them that the antichrist is in the world already, and that the antichrist’s purpose is to “deceive.” Then comes verse 8, where he tells them not to “lose” their reward.
However, notice verse 9: “ANYONE WHO DOES NOT REMAIN IN THE TEACHING ABOUT CHRIST, but goes beyond it, DOES NOT HAVE GOD. THE ONE WHO REMAINS IN THAT TEACHING, this one has both the Father and the Son.” John’s next verse then, is not about “rewards,” about losing crowns and jewels in Heaven; instead, his next verse is about “remaining” or abiding in the teaching the church has been given, which is “about Christ.” In verse 9, John says that there is a possibility for some to “go beyond it,” the teaching about Christ—but if someone does, then he or she “does not have God.” The idea of not having God does not refer to “a loss of rewards,” like the crowns and jewels Geisler believes exists. Rather, John is talking about “salvation,” for salvation means to “have God.” As John writes in his first epistle,
“Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Messiah? He is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son can HAVE THE FATHER; he who confesses the Son HAS THE FATHER as well” (1 John 2:22-23, HCSB).
This letter, then, seems to be about remaining in the faith, not reneging on one’s confession of Jesus as Lord. Those who renege on their confession are apostates, and those who put their hand to the plow and turn back, as Jesus says, are not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).