In my last post I brought up many verses that don’t line up with the typical doctrine of salvation among Protestants. If you haven’t read that post yet, please do so first, for what follows here is dependent upon the backdrop set there: The Reward and Punishment of Believers (I).
“Much More” Salvation
“For if we, being enemies, were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more we will be saved in His life, having been reconciled” Romans 5:10
“Hence also He is able to save to the uttermost” Hebrews 7:25a
“Not that I have already obtained or am already perfected, but I pursue, if even I may lay hold of that for which I also have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not account of myself to have laid hold; but one thing I do: Forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before, I pursue toward the goal for the prize to which God in Christ Jesus has called me upward.” Phil. 3:12-14
If we cling to the erroneous concept that salvation is a matter of receiving the golden ticket to dwell in the sky playing golf for eternity, then there is no need for the 21 epistles after the gospels. But the Apostles had a much higher view of salvation, namely one that takes a lifetime of coming to know Christ and even being fully united with Him (see The Deification of Man for more on this).
Redemption or salvation from eternal perdition is not what I have in mind here, for that occurs at regeneration and is secured with a seal. What I refer to is the Lord’s continual work of saving us from sin, Satan, the world, and the self, that we might reign in life and be filled unto all the fullness of God, living Christ as His full expression (Rm. 5:17; Eph. 3:19; Gal. 2:20).
The Kingdom Reward
“And he who overcomes and he who keeps My works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; And he will shepherd them with an iron rod, as vessels of pottery are broken in pieces, as I also have received from My Father” Revelation 2:26-27
The Bible is awfully confusing for those who lack a concept of reward and punishment of believers. We mustn’t contend for God’s mercy as a trump to His righteousness, for in His infinite wisdom He will display both at the second coming of Christ. You may have been asked whether Hitler would be treated the same as Billy Graham or Paul if he had confessed his sins and prayed to receive the Lord right at the end of his life. I have at least. Well there is no need to struggle with such questions, for the answer according to the Word is actually no!
There is no doubt in my mind or trouble in my conscience concerning whether Hitler could have been saved from eternal damnation, for I know that in my “B.C.-life” I was fully deserving of the unquenchable fires, but God is so merciful and gracious to save even the most wretched of sinners like me. Yet, in regard to my responsibilities after regeneration, my conscience bothers me if God would treat the backsliding, lukewarm the same as the fervent, consecrated, obedient slave of Christ.
The Bible speaks of a coming age, specifically the kingdom age, which will be a reward to those who diligently sought the Lord for their whole life (Rev. 20:4,6). It says that they will reign with Christ on earth for 1000 years! This reigning is the reward delegated to the faithful stewards of the Gift of God for their life of denying the self and living Christ.
Criteria for Entering the Kingdom-Reward
“At that time the kingdom of the heavens will be likened to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were foolish and five were prudent. For the foolish, when they took their lamps, did not take oil with them; But the prudent took oil in their vessels with their lamps. And while the bridegroom delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, Behold, the bridegroom! Go forth to meet him! Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their own lamps. And the foolish said to the prudent, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the prudent answered, saying, Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to those who sell, and but for yourselves. And as they were going away to buy, the bridegroom came; and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast. And the door was shut.” Matthew 25:1-10
The gospel according to Matthew is the gospel of the kingdom. If you are interested in knowing about the kingdom of the heavens, read Matthew, for the majority of the parables (though I once thought otherwise) are not about believers and unbelievers, but rather about prudent and foolish believers. (For more on the difference between the kingdom in manifestation as the reward and in reality of life today, see:Kingdom and Dominion)
Let us interpret this parable, but not according to my concepts, rather according to the Bible (verse references included). The kingdom of the heavens as the reward is also referred to as the “wedding feast” (vv. 1, 10). The virgins here must refer to believers for at least three reasons: Firstly, “virgin” refers to purity before God and Paul calls believers virgins (2 Cor. 11:2). Secondly, all ten have oil in their lamps which are all lit. Oil signifies the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:9; Isa. 61:1), lamps signify the spirit of man (Prov. 20:27), and the fact that it is lit and burning means the Spirit is burning in their spirit (2 Tim. 1:6; Rm. 8:16). Thirdly, they are all going forth to meet their bridegroom! Why would unbelievers go forth to meet Christ? Let alone as their bridegroom. Christ is only the bridegroom to His believers, and only His believers will go forth to Him as such (Jn. 3:29).
So all ten of these virgins must be believers, but the difference between them is the amount of oil they brought in their vessels. “Vessel” represents the soul of man (2 Cor. 4:7; Rm. 9:21, 23). We are essentially vessels, and God desires to saturate our entire being. The prudent virgins have oil in their vessels, meaning that they spent their life gaining more of the Spirit to sanctify their soul and be filled unto all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). They truly had Christ formed in them and their living was Christ (Gal. 4:19; Phil. 1:21).
More to Come
I’m sorry I can’t condense this into one post, but there are many more things that I need to say. Hopefully from the parable above (which is one of the many in Matthew that reveal this), you can see that there is something to be done after believers are redeemed, and that their entrance into the wedding feast or millennial (meaning 1000 years) kingdom is dependent on such.
I’ll talk more about the requirements and process for entering into this kingdom next time, and maybe I’ll be able to fit in what happens to those who are foolish. Please remember from the last post what I said: this is not a matter of eternal salvation. All who have believed into Christ are secure and will dwell with Him eternally. Yet, our life on earth and how we live it matters very much.
“Therefore, brothers, be the more diligent to make your calling and selection firm, for doing these things you shall by no means ever stumble. For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly and bountifully supplied to you.” 2 Peter 1:10-11