One of the Biblical controversies has to do with the subject of “Faith” and “Works”. The controversy can be extended to the discussion of God’s “Grace”, versus His “Requirements.” This subject has been the fuel for debate for centuries.
I believe it is very important for those of us who make the claim to be being Christ-followers to understand both sides of this coin, especially in the day and age we find ourselves in. I am convinced that we are the generation of people that is going to witness the return of our KING. We, this very generation, are living in the end times, in fact, the very end of this age. I suppose you could say that we are at the end of the “end of days.” This bothers a lot of people but it is not my intent to prove the point at this time. What I would like to spur us to do, is some serious thinking about what we should be doing in preparation to meeting our KING.
Late this last July, 2013, my wife and I had the opportunity to attend a special conference in Colorado Springs where we were able to hear quite a number of speakers from all around the country, in fact from around the world. One of these speakers was Chuck Missler. Chuck has always been one of my favorite speakers because of the depth of research and study behind what he says publicly. I attended one of his teaching sessions where he brought something to our attention that few have thought much of. He said that because of the fact that we are soon going to stand in front of our Lord, we should be preparing for the upcoming moment. He went on to say that it was not like we were going to be meeting some famous person or dignitary, nor a great world leader. We were going to stand in front of God Himself, our very Creator, our Savior, who gave His life on that cruel cross two millennia ago, just to provide for our forgiveness, and if accepted, life eternally as He has prepared for those that love Him.
I believe that much of the Church is asleep and has no idea of the drastic changes which are already on the way in our direction. Our world is changing very fast. We are living in a time about which more Biblical Scripture has been recorded than at any other time in history, including the years Jesus walked on the face of the earth. This is why it is so very important for us to read and teach the entire canon of scripture, especially in our day. Most people will not read the book of the Revelation, saying it is too difficult to understand, besides raising up controversial issues within the church we don’t like to deal with. Yet, this is the one and only book in the Bible that has a special blessing promised to the reader by God Himself. The blessing God has promised is not dependent on a complete understanding of the book, just an honest reading thereof.
It is interesting to note that this seemingly difficult book is explained by many of the Old Testament prophets, which are also mostly ignored in our day. It is high time that we read, study, and begin to understand the things that God in His sovereignty has given us. We dare not ignore His words for any reason.
This same principle also applies to the many parables of Jesus in the Bible. We often find some of the details given in these parables as a bit uncomfortable, and so we either ignore them or explain them away as “just a parable.” That’s a big mistake because nothing that is found in the Word of God can be dismissed this way. If we do, it is to our great loss.
The details we find in some of these parables will likely be surprising to many. In fact, some of the conclusions you will find in this article may even seem controversial. I would just ask that you, as reader, pick your Bible up, do some serious study on your own, and see for yourself what God’s Word has to say. The details we find in Jesus’ parables are very specific and bring things to light that answer many questions some have had for years. Hopefully, some light can be shed in this searching of the scriptures.
We find this in Romans 8:29: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
This shows us that our salvation experience ensures our part in the family of God. This provides us entrance into God’s Kingdom. How we live our lives though, as blood-bought children of God will have eternal consequences. Becoming a “follower” or “imitator” of Christ, as said in Ephesians 5:1, takes much more than just being “saved.” Many don’t realize that our lives here on this earth are simply the training ground. We are literally being tested for our eternal life, ruling and reigning with Christ our KING.
We are designed to hold and carry out positions of authority, not only in the millennium, when Jesus Christ will reign as KING on this planet, but also throughout the eons of eternity. D.L. Moody said we are being polished for higher service. As will become quite clear with scriptures presented in this study, it is important that we have a good understanding of the consequence for how we live our lives in the “here and now.”
Some will quickly respond and say they really don’t care about rewards or positions of authority in the coming Kingdom, just being glad to have made it there at all. Yet, this reasoning is flawed. One would have to ignore many scriptural passages to look at their eternal future in such a way. We either read these scriptures, taking them to heart, and apply them to our lives, or we will experience tragic loss. God’s Word makes it clear that we should be striving for a “good report card”. There should be nothing that we would rather hear from Jesus is, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” This striving has nothing to do with “pride” that God’s Word warns us against, but rather taking the requirements of the Lord serious and applying them to our lives. This also has nothing whatsoever to do with “earning” our salvation, as will also become clear. Salvation is free, but we are commanded to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
We find fruit-bearing explained in detail in John 15. The key to fruit-bearing is faithfulness. Fruit-bearing is not an option as we might think, but rather a requirement of the Christian life. There can however not be true faithfulness until we pursue intimacy with the One we have determined to be faithful to. One thing that much of the Church is missing today is taking personal responsibility for how we live our lives. Kingdom rewards and positions in the future Kingdom will be either won or lost based on our “faithfulness” in this life.
We must see our earthly lives in the context of eternity. The Church has lost its “fear” of God. If we have a true “awe” of God, we will never live a life that exemplifies the “cheap grace” that has been exemplified in much of the modern church culture today. Real Christianity is much more than just a belief system. It is also more than knowing scriptures and going to church. “Living” faith comes from partaking of the Life of Christ. This is when we not only become followers but also overcomers.
The word “overcomer” means, “victory over hostile powers”. Real overcomers not only talk the talk, but they also walk the walk. Talk is cheap! Matthew 7:21 says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
In case anyone gets the wrong idea, overcomers are not perfect. Hardly! They do however know that their failures need to be faced by making it right with God and man. King David is a great example of this. This man fell in the worst ways, and yet we find that Acts 13:22 calls David a man after God’s own heart.
Why is overcoming so important? Revelation 21:7 says, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” Overcomers are the ones that will be given the various levels of responsibility in the Millennial Kingdom.
Here is what might surprise some, possibly even be upsetting. We learn in John 14:3 and John 3:16 that all true blood-bought Christians will enter the Kingdom, but only the faithful “overcomers”—those who have fulfilled the conditions set down by God in His Word for us–will inherit and possibly rule in the Millenial Kingdom. Matthew 24:45-47 says:
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods.”
Faithfulness to our KING does bring rewards, not in a competing way with others, but rather to complete His desire and will for our own lives. Each one of us has been strategically placed on this earth by the One who died for the entire human race. As we live a life of obedience to His eternal plan, the job that we were intended to complete will be done. There is great reward for this, and according to scripture, God was the One who authored the requirements in His Word, and He also was the author of the promise of rewards for our service. It is through our service that the saved are lost. If we refuse to take what has been given us, as was the case with the lazy servant who buried his talent and was consequently strongly remanded for it, we will fail to fulfill God’s desire for us and for those around us.
The deeper we get into this subject the more we realize that there is a great difference between entering the Kingdom and subsequently being a subject there (which all believers will do), and inheriting that Kingdom, along with the rewards which God sees we have coming to us for our faithfulness.
What we do here with our lives does affect our role there—likely more than we are presently aware of. This is why the believers in the Church of Philadelphia, found in Revelation 3:7-13, were exhorted to take care that their “crown” was not taken by anyone. Verse 12 says that the overcomer will be made a pillar in the temple of God, in the millennium. We must see our Christian lives with a recognition of our eternal future-including the coming Millennium. Very few in the modern day church do.
In the early church, these principles were front and center of their teachings. Here at the end of the age however, it has nearly been abandoned. There have been exceptions though, and I am indebted to Chuck Missler’s research for the listing below, which I found in his book, The Kingdom, Power, Glory.
- Charles Stanley, Baptist pastor, radio preacher, and author of forty five books), in his book, Eternal Security, wrote: “Does our behavior matter once we are assured of our salvation? You bet it does. Are there any eternal consequences when a believer sins? Absolutely. Will eternity be the same for those who follow Christ faithfully and those who live for themselves? Not a chance. Our God is a God of justice as well as grace. His offer of grace is continually extended to even the most vile sinner. But His justice moves Him to keep a careful record of those who remain faithful and those who do not. His grace moved Him to sacrifice His only Son to provide a way for our salvation. But His justice causes him to take special note of those believers who are willing to sacrifice for His Son.”
- Donald Grey Barnhouse, (Presbyterian pastor, pioneer of radio preaching, and author of many theological books) in his commentary on Romans said: “We can be sure that at the Judgment Seat of Christ there will be a marked difference between the Christian who has lived his life before the Lord, clearly discerning what was for the glory of God…and a nominal Christian…All will be in heaven, but the difference between them will be eternal. We may be sure that the consequences of our character will survive the grave and that we shall face those consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ.”
- Erwin Lutzer, (Pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, radio personality, and author of thirty books, including One Minute After You Die, in his book Your Eternal Reward wrote: “The assumption that ‘rewards’ are nothing more than the crowns themselves is false in my opinion. Rewards have more to do with levels of responsibility that will be given to us. When we become like Him, we will be qualified to share with Him in the inheritance, and to work with Him in important positions of high responsibility over the whole universe.”
- Tim LaHaye, (Pastor and author of the Left Behind Series and fifty other books) in his book The Popular Prophecy Workbook said, “Apparently Christians will be assigned to specific areas of service in the kingdom directly proportionate to the amount of “good works” performed while alive on earth.”
- Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, in his commentary The Complete Word Study New Testament (with parallel Greek) made the comment: “Entrance into heaven is gained by accepting Christ’s sacrifice for justification, but a person’s rewards in heaven will be determined by what he did for Christ here on earth.”
- Grant Jeffrey, said in his book called Heaven: “One of the reasons for the lack of holiness in Christianity today, is because we have lost sight of our inheritance in heaven.”
- John Walvoord, in his book The Millennial Kingdom, Kenneth Wuest in his Expanded Translation of the Greek New Testament, and Thayer in his Greek/English Lexicon all talk about this kingdom perspective.
- There is also an article found in the Layman’s Perspective that said, “The church today is basking in the illusion that ‘being born again’ is the ultimate goal of preaching the Gospel. But a thorough investigation of the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, clearly shows that regeneration (new birth) is simply the prelude to the intimate relationship God desires to have with each one of us. But, it’s a relationship that we each must seek…because ‘there are consequences to a careless Christian life—“
So, as we can see, it is most important that we understand how much this testing ground we are presently in affects our eternal position. We have been instructed by Christ Himself to be overcomers, but not all will heed this command, and as a result will suffer loss—not their eternal salvation, but rather rewards that all have been promised for their faithfulness. This is something to seriously ponder. This is a teaching that has sadly been neglected. There has been a strong emphasis on grace for decades, some of it quite unbalanced scripturally. Grace brings us to God, due to the blood-bought price paid on the cross at Calvary, but it does not remove our responsibility to live our lives as God directs. God is not only a God of grace, but also a God of justice.
If we take stock of what God’s Word teaches us, we will not only be hearers of the Word, but also doers of the Word, as is written in James chapter 1:22-25.
To Be Continued in part 2
Keep Looking Up!