“For it is time for the judgment to begin from the house of God; and if first from us, what will be the end of those who disobey the gospel? And if the righteous man is saved only with difficulty, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? So then let those also who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing to a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:17-19
I hope these verses turn some heads and get people to think. You may have been told all your life that when you accepted Jesus into your heart, you are secure and you now have your golden ticket to heaven in your pocket, never to leave. Before I write anything about so weighty a topic as the judgment of believers, I implore you to pray that the Lord would give you a poor spirit and a willing heart to receive whatever He would give you.
“And I give to them eternal life, and they shall by no means perish forever, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:28
“For the gracious gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29 c.f. Rm. 6:23
It may seem strange to you that I would start with the eternal security of believers, but a solid foundation must be laid before we get into the more difficult topics. All who have confessed with their mouth Jesus as Lord and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead have received eternal life that can never be taken away.
No matter what you do, say, think, later believe, you name it, that life cannot be lost. For just as Nicodemus said, “He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Intuitively we know that birth was once and for all, never to be repeated or undone. The same applies for this who have been born of God, they cannot be unborn.
Not A Matter of Eternal Salvation
“According to the grace of God given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid a foundation, and another builds upon it. But let each man take heed how he builds upon it. For another foundation no one is able to lay besides that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds upon the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, stubble, the work of each will become manifest; for the day will declare it, because it is revealed by fire, and the fire itself will prove each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built upon the foundation remains, he will receive a reward; If anyone’s work is consumed, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Please go ahead and read the above verse one or two more times.
To a Calvinist, these verses don’t really have a place in their systematic theology, for they believe that if your work is proper and according to God’s will, then you were truly a believer, but if you wasted your life like the latter believer here, then you were false and the flames for you are eternal.
To an Arminian, these verses don’t make since because in the same way, the believer who was rewarded was one who remained faithful and remained in the grace of God, while the other believer should have fallen from grace due to his inadequate life and the flames for him should be eternal.
I hope to present an alternative view that takes into account all the difficult verses on both sides and one that allows the Lord to be the God of grace and righteousness.
Before I present this view (I hope you can see why I put the “(I)” on the title…this will take a minimum of two posts), I want to make sure we all have an adequate view of the dire need for explanation of the many confusing parables that challenge our traditional teaching on salvation:
“For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done through the body according to what he has practiced, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…So then each one of us will give an account concerning himself to God.” Romans 14:10-12
“Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but he who does the will of My Father who is in the heavens.” Matthew 7:21
“Establishing the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
“If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:12-13
“And he who overcomes and he who keeps My works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” Revelation 2:26
“But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness. In that place there will be the weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:12 c.f. 13:38
“And He said to them, Struggle to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to enter, yet will not be able.” Luke 13:24
I think I’m just going to stop here. I have many other verses to add to the confusion for those who are interested¹, but I think the above suffice to show that we don’t have an adequate interpretation and systematic understanding of the salvation, judgment, reward, and punishment of believers. I hope to present a more complete view in my next post, but please consider these verses seriously and pray that the Lord would open you to what He is willing to speak through me.
Never forget the first section on eternal security however, for without it you may struggle to sleep at night like I have in the past. If you confess and believe, this is adequate to receive His life, which can never leave you (Rm. 10:9-13; 6:23; 11:29).
¹Matt. 5:20; 7:21-23; 16:24-27; 19:23-30; 24:46-51; 25:11-13, 21, 23, 26-30; Luke 12:42-48; 19:17, 19, 22-27; Rom. 14:10, 12; 1 Cor. 3:8, 13-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; Heb. 2:3; 4:1, 9, 11; 6:4-8; 10:26-31, 35-39; 12:16-17, 28-29; and Rev. 2:7, 10-11, 17, 26-27; 3:4-5, 11-12, 20; 22:12