WORTHY OF THE KINGDOM

by Thomas W. Finley


Chapter 7-4 (contd.)

CONFESSION AND DENIAL AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT

The Bible reveals a distinctive feature of the Judgment Seat of Christ in regard to the believer’s entry or non-entry into Christ’s coming Kingdom. It involves our name being confessed by Christ in approval, or us being denied by Christ in disapproval. Let’s look at several New Testament passages in order to develop this concept.

Matthew 10:32-33 and Luke 12:8-9 are sister passages concerning confession and denial. These verses occur in similar contexts. Matthew 10:16-39 and Luke 12:1-12 are displayed below as the contexts of these verses.

16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes.

24 "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become as his teacher, and the slave as his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! 26 Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it." (Matt. 10:16-39)

1 Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 3 Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. 4 And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows. 8 And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man shall confess him also before the angels of God; 9 but he who denies Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who will speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not become anxious about how or what you should speak in your defense, or what you should say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." (Lk. 12:1-12)

If you read the entire Matthew passage carefully, you will see that the context reveals several things. Please note that Jesus was talking to His disciples in preparation for sending them out for ministry (Matt. 10:5). However, Christ’s instructions eventually blend into a prophetic forecast for the end time (Matt. 10:17-23). That Matthew 10:17-23 is a prophecy of the end time given by Jesus is proven by the fact that the events of that passage did not take place at the time the twelve disciples went out. Also, most of the same forecast events are mentioned in Jesus’ prophecy of the end time in Mark 13:9-13. In this way, Christ in His office of prophet (Deut. 18:18) followed the pattern of the Old Testament prophets. They would often speak of one event and in the same speaking foretell another event that would occur centuries later. There would be no hint, however, in their prophesying of the huge time gap between the two events (example: Isaiah prophesied of events related to Christ’s first and second coming in one verse without a hint of a huge time gap: Is. 61:2).

Christ’s prophecy here concerns the end time trauma of the believers. (Believers will be here during the great tribulation and during the troublesome time of birth pangs preceding it. The "rapture" debate will not be engaged here. Please note, however, that even the pre-tribulation rapturists hold that many people will become believers after the rapture event and will live on the earth during the turbulent times just before Christ’s open appearing).

During the difficult end time days, believers will be delivered up to courts (Matt. 10:17), being betrayed even by their families (Matt. 10:21). At that time, they should not fear the officials of the tribunals that may kill them; rather, they should fear disobeying God (Matt. 10:28). These persecuted disciples (Matt. 10:24-25) should be faithful to take up the cross and follow Jesus (10:38), thus losing the soul (10:39). They may have to follow Christ all the way to physical death (Matt 10:21, 28), just as Christ obeyed the Father by going to the cross.

When these disciples are before the courts (Matt. 10:17, 19), they should not fear their inquisitors (10:28, 31), because God is watching over them, acknowledging their sacrifice, even as He watches a sparrow fall to its death (10:29). Before the court they should speak by the Spirit of God (Matt. 10:20) and not fear to confess Christ (10:32). To confess Christ then will probably mean death, but, as a result, Christ will confess the name of such a disciple before the Father (Matt. 10:32). The disciple who endures in following Christ in this way to the end shall be saved (Matt. 10: 22), which would be the salvation of his soul (10:39) in the Kingdom, granted at the Judgment Seat.

The confession of Christ here, which is the acknowledgment by the believer that he is a follower of Christ, is just the final test of the believer’s faithful endurance in obedience to Christ. The disciple will have followed Christ before that time. His testimony will eventually lead to his betrayal, and he will be brought before the court. As he stands there in that final climactic moment, he can decide to deny Christ and be spared the sentence of death, or to confess Christ and accept death.

We see, therefore, that this confession is just the final link in the chain of obedience that the disciple has forged through the days and years gone by. It signifies his utmost willingness to obey, and it testifies to his prior endurance in discipleship. If the disciple denies Christ then, however, Christ will deny him before the Father (Matt. 10:33).

The passage in Luke is generally the same. Please note, however, that the confession or denial by Christ in these verses is not "before the Father" (Matt. 10:32-33), but "before the angels of God" (Lk. 12:8-9). This change leads us to yet another passage, Revelation 3:5, where the resolution is presented, when Christ says of the overcomer in Sardis: "I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." Yet, in the portion concerning the church in Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6), there is no mention of the disciple confessing Christ. What do we make of this? I believe the answer is this: The cases in Matthew 10 and Luke 12 are specific cases where disciples will be tested concerning their costly confession of Christ. If a disciple does confess Christ before such a tribunal, he will be an "overcomer", a Christian that is faithful and obedient to the end, following Christ’s will for him. In Sardis, there is no specific confession by the overcoming disciple, but this Christian is one who is obedient, walking in a pure way with the Lord and thus judged worthy (Rev. 3:4). All such ones are those who heed the speaking of the Spirit (Rev. 3:6). So it seems that obedience is the real key to having Christ confess one’s name before the Father and His angels.

FAITHFULNESS NEEDED TO ENTER THE KINGDOM

With these two different cases (the singular case presented in the two Gospels and the case in Revelation) resulting in Christ’s confession, it seems that we are moving toward a general principle. Such a principle was apparently formulated into a saying in the early church as recorded in Second Timothy:

It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him; we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall 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 Tim. 2:11-13).

In introducing this statement in verse 10, Paul was indicating that he was enduring "all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory." I believe the salvation referred to here is the full scope of salvation available to the believer, including the salvation of the soul to be experienced by the overcoming believer during the millennium. This interpretation is confirmed by the trustworthy statement (vs. 11-13).

The glory here (v. 10) is modified by the adjective aionios. To always translate this word as "eternal" is a great mistake. The word is derived from aion (age). Thus, it can mean "belonging to the aion." [1] In some cases it can mean eternity (referring to the "age" of eternity), but in many cases it means "age lasting," in reference to the millennial age.[2] The glory in this verse is the glory of the coming 1,000 year Kingdom age. The "trustworthy statement" (v.11) contains conditional promises. Reigning with Christ is shown to be conditional. "If we endure (following Christ in obedience), we shall also reign with Him (in His 1,000 year Kingdom)" (v.12). However, "if we deny Him (deny His ruling in our lives or refuse to confess Him), He also will deny us" (that is, not acknowledge us before the Father and His angels) (v.12).

The scene with God the Father and His angels is the scene of the Judgment Seat (Dan. 7:9-10; Rev. 4:3-5; 5:11). The Son of Man is there (Dan 7:13; Rev. 5:6-7). We will appear before Christ to be judged according to our deeds (2 Cor. 5:10), and will have to give an account (Lk. 19:15; Rom. 14:10-12). At that time, it seems, Christ will either confess our name or deny us. If He confesses our name, that means He has accounted us worthy of the Kingdom and we may enter it (Matt. 25:21; Lk. 19:17; 2 Tim. 2:12a). On the other hand, if we have not been faithful, He will deny us. That is, He will not acknowledge us as being worthy of the Kingdom. We will be denied entry into the Kingdom.

This denial is seen in Christ’s reply to those who claimed they did many things in His name: "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’" (Matt. 7:23). In context, this scene concerns Kingdom entry (Matt. 7:21).

The denial is also seen in the case of the foolish virgins who did not gain the extra measure of oil.[3] "And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. And later the other virgins also came saying, ‘Lord, Lord open up for us.’ But he answered and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you’" (Matt. 25:10-12).

This denial is also manifested toward those who did not strive to enter by the narrow door (signifying diligent preparation for entry into the coming Kingdom): "He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers’" (Lk. 13:27). These rejected ones are "cast out" of the Kingdom (Lk. 13:28). These three instances give actual words of denial, but there are other cases in Scripture that show the fact of denial (i.e., Matt. 22:11-14; 25:30; Lk. 19:26).

The matter of the Judgment Seat is definitely implied in the story of the rich young ruler. Jesus’ call to the young ruler to forsake all and follow Him deals with the issue of entering the Kingdom. It is this entry into the coming Kingdom that is of the greatest importance at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Many may be curious to know more details. Will those believers who enter the Kingdom reign in heaven over the earth or upon the earth? Some teachers believe that the overcoming saints will reign over the earth from the New Jerusalem (termed the "Kingdom of the Heavens"), while the saved remnant of Israel and the approved surviving Gentiles (not actually "born again") will be on the earth (Matt. 25: 32-34)[4] . Other teachers see it differently.

I am not sure of these details and I will leave them for others to explore. My burden is simply to show that there is a participation in the coming glorious Kingdom that can be gained or lost by the believer. And, regardless of whether the overcoming saints are in an earthly or a heavenly part of the Kingdom, the primary aspect of this rewarding experience will be the same. The chief characteristic of the Kingdom reward for the overcomers will be the experience of the fullness of God’s life (see Chapter Four).

Therefore, this Kingdom holds immense value and purpose for every child of God. It is the prize for which Paul ran with self-control (1 Cor. 9:24-27). It is the prize toward which he pressed (Phil. 3:14). It is also the great Sabbath rest which we must enter through diligence (Heb. 4:9,11). The great prospect of entering the Kingdom, then, should capture the attention of every believer. Our eyes should be fixed on this goal. Our daily living and our service to God should all be directed and restricted by our view of the coming judgment and the coming Kingdom. Indeed, it was these very matters that governed Paul’s final charge to Timothy in the last chapter of his inspired writings (2 Tim. 4:1). May we take heed and watch ourselves, so that we may be counted "worthy of the kingdom" (2 Thess. 1:5).

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, p. 107.

[2] G. H. Pember was one of the giants of prophetic teaching in the nineteenth century. He translated Jude 7 as ". . . suffering the punishment of an age-long fire." He then commented on this translation as follows:

Now, it may be asked, Why change the usual translation, "eternal" or "everlasting", into "age-long"? And the answer is, We do so for three reasons:--First, because the Greek word aionios admits the latter rendering quite as readily as the former . . . For the word aionios is an adjective formed from aion, which last, being derived from the Greek for "always", signifies the whole time during which a person, thing, or state, exists. Hence, if it be used of a person, it expressed his whole life, or life-time; if of a succession of generations, of history, or of the state of a people or the world, an age; if of the universe, or of anything that lasts for ever, eternity. The adjective, of course, follows the meanings of its noun; and may, therefore, be rendered either by "age-long", or by "everlasting", according to the indication of the context.

[3] G. H. Pember, The Great Prophecies of the Centuries Concerning the Church, (Miami Springs: Conley and Schoettle Publishing Co., 1984), pp. 122-123.

[4] The parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) has been interpreted in a variety of ways. However, I believe the interpretation that is most in harmony with the rest of Scripture is generally as follows. The parable concerns watchfulness (v.13). Only believers are told to "watch" in Scripture; unbelievers do not have the spiritual awareness or capacity to do so. All ten were genuine virgins, which signifies believers in respect to their relationship to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). All of the virgins had their lamps lit (vs. 7-8), which means they were regenerated and indwelt in their spirits by the Holy Spirit (Pr. 20:27; Jn. 3:6; Rom. 8:16). In ancient times, vessels were separate containers for oil, apart from the lamp itself (v.4). The wise believers were pictured as prepared because they had the extra measure of oil in their vessels (vs. 3-4). This pictures the gaining of the Holy Spirit by the believer in his soul, his "vessel". This concept matches the saving of the soul at Christ’s return through the losing of our soul now (Matt. 16:24-27). By paying the price of self-denial and taking up the cross now, our soul is filled with the Holy Spirit (the oil in the vessel). Verse 9 indicates that this portion of the oil (the Holy Spirit) is not a gift, but must be "bought" by the believer. The foolish virgins are those believers who do not deny themselves now and take up the cross and follow Christ. These unprepared ones will not enter the Kingdom. This parable may indicate God’s dealing with dead believers, since these virgins slept (died) due to Christ’s delay in returning (v. 5). A thorough exposition of this parable can be found in the following work: Witness Lee, The Kingdom (Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1980), pp. 162-174.