How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 2

“And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.” John 8:50

From Jesus’ interaction with His opponents in John 8:48-59, we are learning how to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus in our own lives. The second way we can do this is to AIM FOR THE FATHER’S APPROVAL (John 8:50). Jesus said, “And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.” (John 8:50). Jesus denies seeking glory for Himself and asserts that there is One who seeks His glory and judges His opponents. Jesus is not concerned about people giving Him the glory that He deserves because His Father in heaven is looking after that. The Father seeks to glorify His Son and judges those who reject Him. The Jews were continually “seeking” Jesus in their mistaken zeal for God’s glory, but their seeking actually resulted in Jesus’ death. Ironically, Christ’s death would turn out to be His ultimate glory (cf. John 12:23, 28; 17:1-5).

Christ was not concerned about pleasing people because His ultimate concern was the approval of His Father in heaven who “judges.” Even though Jesus lived a perfect life, He could not please everyone. So, it is foolish of us to try to do something that even God could not do!

If we are to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus, we must make it our aim to live for God’s approval and not peoples’. When people reject the truth about Jesus, we do not have to take it personally as though they are rejecting us. But even if they do reject us, we can rejoice because they are rejecting the truth about Jesus. Sometimes we may fear rejection because we are seeking the approval of others. But when we seek God’s approval, His Holy Spirit will enable us to overcome the fear of rejection (cf. Acts 4:29-31).

For example, I think back about my mission trip to an island in the southern Philippines in October 2015 with my pastor friend. On one morning after preaching the gospel at an elementary school, I asked one of the teachers if there were any other schools nearby. He hesitated and then said, “Yes there is another school about a 40-minute hike from here but you don’t want to go there.” “Really?” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Because it is all Muslim and it is not safe for Christians to go there.” For the next two hours, several Christians tried to persuade us not to go to this school, but I kept asking them if they had gone there and they had not. So, I said, “Who will go if we do not go to them?” They had no answer. At this juncture, we had a choice to make – do we seek to please these believers who do not want us to go or do we seek to please our Father in heaven who desires that all people be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4)?

Eventually my translator and a local Christian tribal leader made the 40-minute hike with me through the mountainous jungle toward the all-Muslim village. With each step, I anticipated what the Lord would do when we got there. What are You going to do when we arrive at this village, Lord? How are You going to protect us? How will these people respond? When we arrived at the Muslim village we were warmly welcomed by the teachers and Muslim principal. One of the teachers said they expected us. “Why?” I asked. She told me it was because she saw pictures of us on Facebook when we were on a nearby island at a school. God used Facebook to prepare this village for our arrival. As we shared the gospel with the students and teachers, they were very attentive to the message.All one-hundred twenty students and teachers indicated that they believed in Jesus alone for His gift of salvation at the end of the gospel presentation. 

Afterward we had a concert, with individual students praising our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. I got goose bumps listening to these newly saved children fill the jungle with songs of praise to their Savior! As these children sang, I thought to myself, “This is why we are in the Philippines. If we don’t go to these unreached villagers, who will go?” Had we sought to please people we would not have gone to that village. But because our aim was to seek the approval of our Father in heaven, we went to the village that God had already prepared to hear and believe the gospel.

How many times do we forfeit God’s blessings because we are trying to please someone else besides the Lord? How many people have not heard the good news of Jesus Christ because Christians listened to their peers instead of listening to the Lord? Yes, there is wisdom in listening to counselors, but if that counsel does not reflect God’s leading, we are in big trouble!

To be balanced, I do want to acknowledge that we could have have been killed going to that village, but God in His grace, permitted us to see a wonderful harvest. Even when we seek God’s approval, He does not guarantee there will be no suffering or death.

For example, in anticipation of the world’s hatred, Jesus warned His disciples that they would experience the same hostility from the world that He had experienced. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18). The phrase, “If the world hates you…” is a first class condition in the Greek language and means that the world does actually hate the disciples. Jesus did not promise a painless, effortless experience as a disciple. He says, “If the world hates you (and it does), then it should come as no surprise to you because it hated Me first.” From His birth when king Herod sought to kill Him, to His death on the cross, Jesus experienced opposition from the world. Therefore, a person cannot be intimately related to Christ without being hated by His enemies. The main issue here is not whether we will experience rejection and persecution as Christ followers, but how will we respond to it?

The world does not hate disciples of Christ because they are better; it hates disciples because they are servants of Christ whom the world has rejected. The world loves its own as long as you commend and follow its ways (John 15:19a), but when a believer decides to turn their back on the world to follow Jesus, the world will hate him or her.

In summary, will we seek God’s approval when the fury of the world is directed at us or will we seek the world’s approval and miss out on the many blessings God wants to bestow upon His disciples both now and in eternity? If you are like me, you may be quick to say you want God’s approval. But for us to live that way consistently, we must daily surrender everything to Him. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24). Submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ daily no matter what the cost, will reap eternal rewards.

Prayer: Precious Lord and Savior, I am tested every day regarding my loyalties. It is so easy for me to want the approval of people instead of Yours. But even then, it is impossible to please everyone. You know this much better than I do. Please forgive me for being so fickle. I want to live for the audience of One. I long to hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” For that to happen, I need Your grace  –  lots of grace to change me from the inside out. So often I want to be in control because I think that is when I will feel safe. But the truth is I am most safe when I seek Your approval and yield to Your control. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Look into the Future – Part 7 (Video)

This is the seventh in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the New Heaven and New Earth.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.  Other digital images are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing (www.FreeBibleimages.org) and GoodSalt (www.goodsalt.com). The music and video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

What you will and will not find in heaven

The last two chapters of the Bible reveal many details of what you will and will not find in heaven. Focusing on these things can dramatically impact our lives in the weeks and months ahead.

I. WHAT YOU WILL FIND IN HEAVEN

“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” Revelation 21:5

According to Revelation 21-22, here are five things you will find in Heaven:

1. A REMARKABLE CITY. “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” (Rev. 21:10). Heaven will consist of a beautiful city that is illuminated by Christ Himself (Rev. 21:11). Jesus’ presence will make this city look like a gigantic, glistening diamond. Instead of there being one pearly gate, there will be twelve pearly gates – three gates per wall. Look at the shape and size of this city (Rev. 21:12-13, 21a). This will be a square-shaped city that is fifteen hundred miles long, fifteen hundred miles wide, and fifteen hundred miles high (Rev. 21:16). This goes well beyond Earth’s atmosphere and into space. If a building in the city is this high and has a generous twelve feet per story, the building would be over six hundred sixty-six thousand stories! The New Jerusalem will appear to shine as a mass of pure gold with streets of gold (Rev. 21:18, 21b). The foundation of this remarkable city consists of twelve layers of precious jewels, making up the colors of the rainbow (Rev. 21:19-20).

2. REUNION with Other BELIEVERS. “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:9-10a).  Note the connection between the New Jerusalem and the Church (bride of Christ). Jesus promised the apostles of the Church, “I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). This remarkable city is being carefully prepared by God’s Son for His bride, the Church (cf. I Cor. 11:2; Ephes. 5:22-24).

The New Jerusalem will have twelve gates. “Also, she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” (Rev. 21:12-13). Gates in ancient cities were often named with reference to where they led. For example, in ancient Jerusalem, the Benjamin gate led to the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. The names of the twelve apostles, whom Jesus promised would rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, are on the twelve foundations of the city (Rev. 21:14). What this suggests, is that King Jesus and the Church will rule Israel and the entire new earth from this city. So, every believer in Jesus during this Church age will live in the New Jerusalem and all other believers before and after the Church Age will live outside the City on the new earth. But these other believers will have access to the New Jerusalem: “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Rev. 21:27b). How do you get your name written in the Lamb’s book of life? By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

3. RESPONSIBILITIES.“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” (Rev. 22:3). The Bible says you will have the responsibility of serving the Lord in heaven. And there will be many different jobs. For example, Isaiah 65 tells us: “17 For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. [bad memories will be erased] … 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” (Isaiah 65:17, 21). There will be construction work in heaven and gardening. I believe the greatest inventions will be made in eternity. If people can put men on the moon and build skyscrapers in their fallen state, think of what they will be able to do in their perfect resurrection bodies!

Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992
www.revelationillustrated.com

4. REWARDS. There is so much teaching on this in the New Testament, but for now we’ll just look at one verse. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:14). Believers whose lives are characterized by obedience to God’s commands now will enjoy access to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem and the privilege of being able to enter the city through its twelve main gates. The tree of life was in the original Paradise, the Garden of Eden, and it will flourish in God’s eternal kingdom, providing a different fruit each month and enhancing the lives of those who eat it. In the Middle East today, some cities have special VIP entrances into the city. The New Jerusalem will have twelve such gates. While all believers will be able to enter the city, only faithful believers will enter by the twelve gates of pearl. In the Old Testament to be “in the gates” was an honor reserved for the elders of the city. To enter New Jerusalem through one of its twelve gates of pearl, will be a great honor reserved only for those Christians who overcame in this life.

5. REJOICING. What I mean by this is we are going to worship in heaven. We will honor the Lord Jesus Christ forever in Heaven. We will celebrate who He is and what He has done throughout eternity! “And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.” (Rev. 21:24). In heaven, there will be different nations perhaps much like today. The leaders of these nations (overcomers) will reenact what the wise men did almost two thousand years ago, when they brought their gifts to baby Jesus. In eternity, the kings of the earth are going to bring their glory (treasures) to King Jesus year after year in the New Jerusalem to worship and glorify Christ. This new earth is going to be a glorious place where everyone brings glory to God. All the curses that came as a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden are going to be removed. There will be no more pollution… no animals that we need to fear… no people we need to fear – no criminals because no one will sin on the new earth. It will be like the Garden of Eden revisited. It will be paradise on the new earth, not in heaven. So, contrary to what many people think – we are not going to spend eternity floating on some cloud playing a harp in a colorless place. Instead we will spend eternity on the Garden of Eden revisited – the new earth.

Knowing what heaven will be like can motivate Christians to prepare for this wonderful place. While all believers in Jesus Christ will enter or occupy the new earth (Kingdom of God) through childlike faith alone in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life (Matt. 18:3; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 18:16-17; John 3:5-16; Rev. 21:6), only those who faithfully trust and obey Christ until the end of their life on earth will inherit (Matt. 5:3; Rom. 8:17b; 2 Tim. 2:12; James 2:5; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4, 6; cf. Exodus 12:48-49; Numbers 18:20-24; 36:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; I Cor. 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephes. 5:5-6) or possess all that is promised to the overcomer in Revelation including wearing special white garments (Rev. 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; cf. 2 Tim. 2:12), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Rev. 2:7), eating hidden manna (Rev. 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Rev. 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:7a; cf. 22:14).  

II. WHAT YOU WILL NOT FIND IN HEAVEN

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Here are five things you will not find in heaven according to Revelation 21:

1. No SADNESS.  “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 21:4a). No more broken hearts … rejection… loneliness… grief. No more heartache. That is heaven. God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. You will not have sadness or grief again. Those of you who are grieving the loss of a loved one or maybe you’ve been going through a period of depression, one of the things that does in our lives is it just makes heaven seem a little bit closer. We want to go to heaven when we are in pain. Why? Because there is none there.

2.  No DEATH. “There shall be no more death.” (Rev. 21:4b). There will be no funerals in heaven… no more cemeteries. Why? Because in that heavenly city no one ever dies. You won’t ever have to be concerned about losing a loved one because death will be gone forever!

3. No SUFFERING. “There shall be no more pain” (Rev. 21:4c). No more bad hair days ladies and gentlemen. Everything about us will be perfect. This will be a glorious time. We will have glorified bodies. There will be no eyeglasses, no braces, no wheelchairs, no hearing aids, and no crutches. There will be no more hospitals, no ambulances, no CPR. COVID-19 will not exist, aspirin will be gone, accidents over, heart attacks banished, AIDS a distant memory, cancer done away with. No more chronic pain.

4. No SHADOWS. “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (Rev. 21:23). There will be no need for the sun, moon or stars in heaven because the glory of Jesus will be its light. This will be the heavenly version of “the city that never sleeps.” We will not need to sleep because we will have glorified bodies that never grow tired. No need for caffeinated coffee! No sadness, no death, no suffering, no shadows…

5. No SIN. “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Rev. 21:27). Nothing that is sinful or leads to sin will ever be a part of the New Jerusalem. Unbelieving people and their evil ways will be confined to the Lake of Fire (21:8). I’m looking forward to the moment that I no longer have any temptations or sin in my life. No more hang-ups. Think about it – no more fears. Can you imagine what it’ll be like to live with no fear, no guilt, no shame, no resentment, no worry, no bitterness, no envy, no jealousy, no loneliness. But you’re still going to be you. You will still have your personality only without any weaknesses.

Heaven is going to be an incredible place! God loves you so much that He wants you to live with Him there for eternity. To do so, you must receive His free gift of eternal life. Why? Because the Bible says we are born with sinful hearts – “Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5). From the moment of conception, we possess a sinful nature that causes us to break God’s rules. Because all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23), we deserve to be separated from God forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 6:23a; Rev. 20:15). But God’s love for those who don’t possess eternal life is so great that in the final two chapters of the Bible He offers eternal life (“the water of life”) as a free gift (Revelation 21:6; 22:17). “The water of life” is eternal life and Jesus offers it “freely” to those who believe in Him. You don’t work for eternal life because it has already been paid for when Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and rose from the dead.  Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

What is Jesus asking you to do that is hard for you to trust Him with? Is He asking you to trust Him for eternal life, but it’s hard for you to let go of your works and trust Him alone? It’s so simple that children get it and adults miss it. None of us are promised tomorrow. If you were to drop dead in the next minute are you absolutely certain you are going to heaven? If you are not, you can make sure right now. Why would anybody put it off? You need to settle this issue right now and you need to put your trust in Jesus for eternal life. When you trust Him, He gives you everlasting life (John 6:47), He forgives all your sins (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14), He places you in God’s family forever (John 1:12; 6:37), and He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:39a; Galatians 4:6). He guarantees that you will live with Him forever in Heaven when you die or are removed from the earth through the Rapture of the Church, whichever occurs first (John 3:16; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11; I John 5:13).

If you just believed or trusted in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell Jesus this through prayer. But praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only trusting in Christ alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

“Dear Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner who cannot save himself. I believe You died in my place on the cross for all of my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He forgave all of your sins (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14) and placed you in His family forever (John 1:12; 6:37). Christ’s Spirit now lives inside of you to comfort, guide, and teach you how to follow Jesus as you read and apply the Bible (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please visit www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com or www.evantell.org.

If you found this article to be helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven. Thank you and may Jesus reveal more of Himself to you as you learn to follow Him.

*Note: The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.

I have an inheritance in heaven

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” Ephesians 1:11

So far in Ephesians 1 we have discovered several spiritual blessings God has given to believers who are “in Christ.” Believers have been chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, and forgiven in Christ (1:4-7). Today we discover that believers “in Him” have been assigned by God to receive “an inheritance” which was decided beforehand (“predestined”) by God “according to the counsel of His will” (1:11). This verse is not saying that people are predestined by God to be saved or unsaved. It is saying that those who are “in” Christ by faith are predestined to obtain an inheritance from the Lord.

What does this “inheritance” include for all believers in Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:17a)? As children of God we will inherit our glorified resurrection bodies (I Cor. 15:35-58) that are like Jesus’ glorified resurrection body (cf. Philippians 3:21). All believers will also inherit a home on the New Earth (John 14:1-3; Rev. 21-22). This inheritance will make any earthly inheritance look like garbage compared to it.

But the Bible teaches that there is another inheritance that is only possible for those who “suffer with” Christ (Rom. 8:17b). They are referred to as  “joint heirs with Christ” (8:17b) which includes ruling with Him in His coming Kingdom (cf. Mark 10:27-30; 2 Timothy 2:12). The book of Hebrews tells us that the Son of God is the Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2) which includes ruling over all the nations (Hebrews 1:4-14; Psalm 2:6-9). Since mankind lost his dominion over all of creation at the Fall (Hebrews 2:6-8; cf. Genesis 3:1-6), Christ will fulfill mankind’s destiny when He returns to earth and brings all creation under His rule (1 Cor. 15:27-28; Hebrews 1:8-13). Christ had to suffer and die for mankind because He would bring “many sons to glory” and be the Captain “of their salvation …through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:9-10). Before Jesus could lead His “many sons” to glory, He had to be made “perfect” for this role “through sufferings.” Since His brethren would have to suffer, He would have to as well in order to give them the kind of help they would need (cf. Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16).

As a Firstborn (Ruling) Son (Romans 8:29), Jesus “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Since Christ’s pathway to rulership was through suffering, so our pathway to ruling with Him includes suffering.

The joint heirship mentioned in Romans 8:17b is not common to all Christians, but only to those who “suffer with Christ.” To suffer with Christ means you suffer for doing what honors Him, not for what dishonors Him. For example, suffering with Christ does not refer to the suffering one incurs for robbing a bank, lying, or living an immoral life. To suffer with Christ would be like a former Muslim whose faith in Christ and bold witness for Him leads to the loss of his life. It may also include being ostracized at your work because of your commitment to Christ.

You could avoid this type of suffering by being a secret believer or disciple (cf. John 9:22; 12:42; 19:38). For example, the former Muslim could keep his relationship with Christ a secret to avoid physical death. Or you could hide your faith in Christ from your co-workers to avoid their disapproval. You may think this option is better than the pain of suffering with Christ.

But the apostle Paul would disagree with that conclusion. He writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). No amount of suffering with Christ now can outweigh the glory which shall be revealed in us when we receive the reward of ruling with Him in His coming Kingdom. God assures us that our suffering with Christ will be worth the glorious rewards He will give when He returns for His own.  

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the incredible inheritance I will enjoy when I go to heaven and receive my new glorified resurrection body which will never get tired nor experience sin or death. Thank You that my home in heaven will be free of pain, sadness, shadows, suffering, and death. But what excites me the most about my inheritance is that I will be face to face with You, Lord Jesus. Forgive me for focusing more on what You will give me instead of focusing on You. You are more than enough for me. Please enable me to faithfully serve You now so I may bring more glory to You throughout eternity with the rewards You give to believers who remain faithful to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Suffering eternalizes our perspective

16 Therefore do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Because of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the unsaved whereby He opens and transforms their hearts  (4:1-6) and to Christians whom He sustains through the many sufferings they may have to endure for the sake of the gospel (4:7-15), the apostle Paul encourages us not “to lose heart” (4:16a). Even though our sufferings cause us to decline physically (“our outward man is perishing”), yet we are “renewed” spiritually “day by day” through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit (4:16b).

Notice the contrasts between our sufferings and our coming glory (4:17-18):

                                  Sufferings                                                             Glory

Light Weight
For a moment, temporary Eternal
Seen Not seen

Our sufferings are “light” compared to the “weight” of “glory” (honor/rewards) we will receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ (4:17; cf. 5:10). Because our coming “glory” is so heavy with importance and value, our present “affliction” is ever so slight and insignificant. The eternality (“eternal”) of our coming glory makes our current sufferings seem momentary (“for a moment”). Our present “affliction” is actually “working for us,” not against us, to produce a much greater (“exceeding”) experience of “glory” in the future. What Paul seems to be saying is we can increase our “glory” (rewards) by continuing to suffer as result of faithfully following Christ.

Our present sufferings cause us not to “look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (4:18a). God wants us to focus on the invisible things that await us because they are “eternal,” not “temporary” like the things which are seen (4:18b). God uses the difficulties we face now to eternalize our perspective. By keeping these unseen and eternal rewards in mind, we can avoid discouragement when we face hardships in life.

In the above diagram, the dot represents your life. The arrow represents eternity. God wants to use that dot to prepare you for eternity. He will often use difficulties in life to do this. As we grow older and experience more pain, God wants us to think more about heaven than earth so we will be less vulnerable to giving up. By focusing on what is eternal rather than on what is temporary, we will have more motivation to follow Jesus faithfully.

Prayer: Father God, as I face difficulties in my life, help me not to lose heart and give up, but to permit Your Spirit to daily renew me spiritually through Your Word so that I learn to focus more on that which is eternal rather than on that which is temporary. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Must I lose or hate my life to go to heaven?

“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25

After Jesus used a grain of wheat analogy to show that He must die to produce life in many others including both Jews and Gentiles (12:23-24), He then applies this to discipleship when He says, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (12:25). The issue here is rewards, not salvation from hell. The believer who “loves his life” by selfishly living for him or herself, “will lose” the fullness of that life both now and in eternity in terms of the loss of rewards. Christ goes on to say that “he who hates his life in the world” by making his or her love and loyalty to Christ a priority “will keep it for eternal life,” that is, they will enjoy a deeper and fuller experience of eternal life both now and in eternity. So, the issue is not salvation, but the quality of a believer’s life both now and in the world to come.

When Jesus mentions hating one’s life, He is not talking about self-abuse or mutilation. That would be contrary to His other teachings about loving others “as yourself” (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; cf. Ephesians 5:29). While self-denial is implied in the phrase, “he who hates his life” (cf. Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24), this does not mean we are to deny our humanity which includes our physical and emotional needs. 

For example, in a helpful article, entitled “Self-care and Self-Denial,” Amie Patrick talks about when we go through stressful seasons of life, we may have a greater need for sleep, nutrition, exercise, and emotional refreshment. Denying self does not mean we overlook these needs. She emphasizes that it is important to accept our God-given limits and receive the Lord’s gifts of rest, food, recreation, and solitude which are also acts of worship and obedience. While Jesus was fully human and fully God—He often set aside time in His ministry to be alone or to enjoy meals with friends (cf. Matthew 11:19; 14:13a; Mark 2:15; 6:31-32; Luke 5:15-16, 29; 7:36; 10:38-42; John 12:1-2). 

The expression “he who hates his life” refers to Jesus being a priority in your life over self and the material things “in this world.” Our devotion to the Lord Jesus makes our interests in the material affairs of this life appear by comparison as hatred. Those who are dedicated to Christ will “keep” or preserve that lifestyle for eternal rewards. Our earthly experience becomes a part of “eternal life” in that it contributes to the quality of our future life in eternity. But if we put our material things and selfish ambitions ahead of Christ, we will decrease the quality of our life in the world to come. 

The Bible teaches that eternal life as a future acquisition is always a reward  that is based upon works (cf. Matthew 19:29-30; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; 12:25; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:7-9; I Timothy 6:12, 19), but when eternal life is presented as a present possession it is always received as a free gift by faith alone in Christ alone (John 3:16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17). If we die to self and make Jesus a priority in our lives, we can also experience His quality of life now. So, the way to truly live is to die to self and live to Christ.

Jesus explains further what it means to “hate” one’s life when He says, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (12:26). He is referring to self-denying service to Christ. If you want to serve Christ, you must follow Him. He is to be the number one priority in your life. Just as Jesus denied Himself and died for the world (12:27-28a), His disciples are to deny themselves and serve Him. When Christ says, “and where I am, there My servant will be also” in glory and honor is the main idea here as confirmed in the next part of the verse. “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” The verb “will honor” refers to honoring faithful Christians with rewards. If you serve Jesus, you will receive “honor” or reward from His Father. If you want to be rewarded in the future, you must earn it by serving Christ now. Rewards are not a free gift. We must work for them to receive them in the future.

Jesus chose the way of the cross because of His desire to please His Father (cf. Philippians 2:5-11). Likewise, every follower of Christ must face a similar choice of taking the way of the cross. For example, a woman was told that the baby in her womb would be mentally impaired, but she refused the early abortion recommended by her doctors because she believed this would be wrong. An investment salesman lost his job because he insisted on being honest about the risks. And before the revolution in Romania, a lawyer lost his professional status and had to do menial labor because he openly confessed Christ as his Savior. These three Christians chose to take the way of the cross. They took seriously the words of Jesus, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me.” These two verbs, “serves” and “follow” are in the present tense and convey the idea of “keep on serving Me” and “keep on following Me.” Disciples of Christ who faithfully serve Him are promised His companionship (“where I am, there My servant will be also”) and those who faithfully serve Him are promised the Father’s “honor.”

We can often be busy “for” the Lord instead of being busy “with” the Lord. Jesus promises that when we serve Him, He will be there with us (John 12:26; cf. Matthew 28:20). When we serve the Lord, not others or ourselves, we are never alone. Christ guarantees “where I am, there My servant will be also” (12:26). 

The world says to put your material things or earthly life and self, first. It says, “There’s no need to take God seriously.” But if you don’t take God seriously, then there’s no need to take your marriage seriously, or the rearing of your children seriously, or such character traits as submission, faithfulness, sexual purity, humility, repentance, and honesty seriously either. If we don’t take God seriously, if we don’t make Jesus Christ our #1 priority now, it will cost us in the future. Oh, we will go to heaven, but the quality of our life there will be less than it could have been if we took Christ seriously. You see, the things we do now will prepare us for what we do in eternity. How I live on earth now will contribute to the quality of my life in heaven. If I live for Christ now by His grace, death will not interrupt that lifestyle. It will continue in eternity without interruption. 

First John 2:17says, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” John reminds us that the world is passing away and therefore, it is a totally unworthy object of our sinful lusts and longings. If I am a laborer on earth, an architect, a musician, a secretary, a farmer, a teacher, a scientist, a physician – however skilled I may be at any of these activities – none of these designations will survive the present age. The term “abides” (2:17) is a fellowship term. The believer who is doing God’s will possesses a lifestyle that will not be interrupted by the passing away of this world. He experiences uninterrupted fellowship with God. He will experience “boldness” at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I John 2:28; 4:17) where the eternal worth of his earthly Christian life will be evaluated (I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). But the believer who lives out of fellowship with the Lord does not “abide” forever in that his worldly lifestyle will be radically interrupted when he goes to heaven. His worldly lifestyle will not abide forever. It stops at heaven’s gates. But a dedicated lifestyle to Christ really has no ending.  

Conclusion: Must I lose or hate my life to go to heaven? Absolutely not! The only condition for going to heaven is believing in Christ alone for His free gift of everlasting life (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:1, 13; et al.). But to experience eternal life as a reward in a deeper and richer way both now and in the future, I must faithfully and sacrificially serve Christ as His disciple (John 12:24-26; cf. Matthew 19:29-30; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:7-9; I Timothy 6:12, 19). Such a Christ-centered lifestyle will be richly rewarded by Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Matthew 25:20-23; I Corinthians 3:12-14; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 2 Peter 1:5-11 ).

Will King David be in Heaven?

“So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” 1 Chronicles 10:13-14

The writer of Chronicles records detailed genealogies from Adam to the family of King Saul in the first ten chapters of I Chronicles to encourage his original readers to remain faithful to God following their Babylonian captivity. Instead of being like King Saul whose family dynasty experienced a tragic end due to his disobedience and unfaithfulness to God (10:13-14a), the Chronicler wants his readership to be the opposite of King Saul. He is admonishing his readers to be “committed” to the Lord and “keep the word of the Lord” more like King “David, the son of Jesse” (10:14b-29:30).

When some of us read that God wants us to be more like King David, we may ask, “Why would God want us to be more like a man who committed adultery and murder (cf. 2 Samuel 11:1-27)!?! The Chronicler presents David as a strong model of a king by recording the crowning of David as king which reveals God’s choice of David (I Chron. 11:1-3); David’s capture of Jerusalem (I Chron. 11:4-9) and his desire to build a temple there (even though his son, Solomon, would eventually do that – I Chron. 17:1-27) which shows his heart for God (I Chron. 13:1-14; 15:1-17:27; 22:1-29:30); David’s mighty men which revealed the impact of David’s character on others and the power he had (I Chron. 11:10-12:40; 14:8-17; 18:1-21:30); and the gathering of the multitudes behind his leadership which showed his influence on the nation (I Chron. 14:1-7, 17; 16:36; 18:14-17; 29:30).

Some Christians would go so far as to say that King David will not be in heaven because he committed adultery and murdered Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. They think that such sins are unforgiveable. But what does the Bible say about this?

Even though David had committed adultery and murder, the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. 5But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin’ ” (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Psalms 32:1-2). Paul quotes David (Romans 4:7-8) who wrote in Psalm 32:1-2 of the blessedness of forgiveness as he looked ahead to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which would pay the penalty for the sin of the world (John 1:29), including David’s adultery and murder (cf. Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-36; Colossians 2:13-14). 

Paul is saying that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to David and all who believed in His coming death and resurrection in the Old Testament (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Genesis 15:6; Isaiah 61:10; John 8:56; Hebrews 11:26). So when a person in the Old Testament or in the New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son ( Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:21-4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Henry Ironside shares a helpful illustration about what it means to be justified before God. One morning on his way to a sheep ranch, he noticed a very peculiar sight. He saw an old ewe loping across the road followed by the strangest looking lamb he had ever seen. It seemed to have six legs, and the last two were hanging helplessly as though paralyzed. When one of the sheep ranchers caught the lamb and brought it over to Ironside, the rancher explained that the lamb did not really belong to that ewe. She had a lamb that was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This lamb that Ironside saw was an orphan and needed a mother’s care. But at first the ewe refused to have anything to do with it. She sniffed at it when it was brought to her, then pushed it away, saying as plainly as a sheep could say it, “That is not my lamb!” So the ranchers skinned the lamb that had died and covered the living lamb with the dead lamb’s skin. When the covered lamb was brought again to the ewe, she smelled it once more and accepted the lamb as her own as if to say, “That is Mine!”

Like that orphan lamb, all people are born as outcasts, separated from God because of their sin. But God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-8), so that when we believe or trust in Him alone, we are clothed with His righteousness (Romans 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  God can accept us into His family now because He sees the righteousness of His Son instead of our sin. He can say, “That is Mine!” 

Knowing that King David was justified and forgiven because of his faith in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, not only assures us that he will be in heaven, but it can also assure us that we will be in heaven if we have believed in Jesus for everlasting life no matter what we have done in this life before or after our faith in Christ (cf. John 6:35, 37-40; 10:28-29; 2 Timothy 2:13). 

But the Bible also tells us that even though King David was an adulterer and a murderer, God still assessed his life “as a man after My own heart” because he did the will of God (Acts 13:22). God did not let David’s moral failure blemish his entire life. For example, God showed patience toward evil King Abijam because of David’s godly life. We read, “4 for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem; 5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (I Kings 15:4-5). God can say this about David because even though he did fail miserably, he confessed that sin and continued to do God’s will. He trusted and obeyed the Lord as he faced the severe consequences of his own sin. David was not defined by his failure. He was defined by God’s Word.

From God’s assessment of David we learn that if we do not give up, we cannot fail in God’s sight! David continued to trust and obey the Lord the remainder of his life after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. Was it easy? Not at all. But David did not give up on God. He was not perfect, but he was honest with God as seen in his writings in the Psalms. David is very honest about his sin (cf. Psalms 32; 51) and his feelings of abandonment (Psalm 6; 13; 22), anger (Psalms 4; 13; 38), anxiety (Psalm 37; 119), awe (Psalm 8), betrayal (Psalm 10), despair (Psalm 3; 9), dismay (Psalm 30), distress (Psalm 6), exaltation (Psalm 18), fear (Psalm 3; 55), guilt (Psalm 32), hate (Psalm 31),  heaviness (Psalm 32), hopelessness (Psalm 12),  joy (Psalm 4), peace (Psalm 37), sadness (Psalm 6), and thanksgiving (Psalm 26; 100). And as a result, God could say that David was a man after his own heart. 

From this study of Saul, David, and Solomon, we see three types of believers:

King Saul represents an immature or carnal believer (I Sam. 10:9; 28:19; cf. I Corinthians 1:10-16:17; James 1:21-5:20) whose persistent disobedience invites God’s severe discipline now (Hebrews 12:5-11) and the loss of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:15; Revelation 2:25-27). Since Saul committed suicide he will forfeit rewards that require faithfulness to God to the end of one’s life (cf. Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27), but it is possible that he will receive some rewards that cannot be lost once earned (Matthew 6:19-21). 

King Solomon represents a believer (I Chronicles 28:6; 2 Peter 1:21) who starts out well but finishes poorly (I Kings 11), and will experience God’s discipline on earth and forfeit rewards that require faithfulness to God until the end of one’s life on earth (cf. Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:25-27). It’s likely, however, that Solomon will have some rewards that cannot be lost once they are earned (cf. Matthew 6:19-21). 

King David represents a believer (Psalm 32; Romans 4:5-8) who imperfectly (2 Samuel 11) perseveres in a life of faithfulness to God to the end of his life, and therefore will be richly rewarded in heaven (cf. Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:25-27).

There is no guarantee that a believer will persevere in good works till the end of his life on earth. Otherwise, why would God warn believers of the consequences of failure (I Chron. 10:13-14; cf. John 15:6; I Cor. 10:1-12; Hebrews 4:11-13; 6:4-8; 10:26-39; 12:5-11) and the loss of rewards in the future (Matt. 10:32-42; 22:1-14; 25:24-30; I Cor. 3:14-15; 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:12; I John 2:28) if all “true” believers finished well for God? It makes no sense to conclude this. 

The truth is God is good to those who refuse to give up (Lamentations 3:25-26; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8). He will richly reward believers who remain faithful to Him till the end of their lives (Matthew 25:20-23; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 3:6, 12-14; 4:1-13; James 1:12; I Peter 1:3-12; 2 Peter 1:5-11; Revelation 2:10-11, 25-27; 3:5, 11-12, 21-22). 

Will King Solomon be in Heaven?

“For it was when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” I Kings 11:4

King Solomon “surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom” during his reign as king over Israel (I Kings 10: 23). Yet we are told that “when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David” (I Kings 11:4). Even though God had warned Solomon not to marry foreign wives because they would turn away his heart after their gods (11:2), Solomon disobeyed the Lord and “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart” (11:3). Solomon did not just worship their false gods, he also built worship centers for the people of Israel to worship the false gods of his foreign wives (11:7-8). As a result, God “became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after others gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded” (I Kings 11:9-11). 

As a result of Solomon’s idolatry, God would tear the kingdom away from his son except for one tribe for the sake of His servant David (11:11-13). Because of Solomon’s sin, God disciplined him through many adversaries, including Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam (11:14-40). So Solomon died as an idolater (11:41-43). 

Will King Solomon be in heaven even though he finished his life as an idolater? Was Solomon even saved? Some believe Solomon was not a believer because they think all true believers persevere in faith to the end of their lives. Others teach that Solomon was a believer, but he lost his salvation because he did not finish his life in fellowship with the Lord.  But what does the Bible teach about this?

First of all, the Bible tells us that Solomon was a child of God. God said to David, “It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father” (I Chronicles 28:6). God declared that Solomon would be His son and He will be Solomon’s Father. Hence, Solomon is a believer in the coming Messiah because he is a child of God (cf. John 1:12; I John 5:1). Also, God used Solomon to author three books of the Bible: Proverbs (Solomon was the principal author), Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. The Bible says that the human authors of the Bible were “holy men of God” who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Even though Solomon was an idolater, the Bible says he was a “holy” man of God. How can this be? He is “holy” in God’s eyes because he has been set apart from his sin and shame by virtue of his faith in the coming Messiah who would die for all of his sins -including the sin of idolatry (cf. Isaiah 53; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:10, 14). 

Since Solomon was a believer in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he had everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:15-16). If it could be lost, it would not be everlasting. He had passed from death into life and would not come into judgment for his sins because Christ was judged for his sins on the cross (John 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). And no one could snatch him out of God the Father’s and God the Son’s hands (John 10:28-29). He was secure forever. Therefore, king Solomon will be in heaven. 

What determines a person’s eternal destiny is their response to Jesus Christ, not their works. He or she either believes in Him or they do not believe in Him. The Bible says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and  he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). A person’s works determine their degree of rewards in heaven if they are a believer in Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:8-15; Revelation 22:12) or the degree of their punishment in the lake of fire if they do not believe in Jesus (Revelation 20:11-15). 

When God appeared to Solomon a second time, He told Solomon if he would walk before God as his father David walked in integrity of heart and in uprightness, then God would establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever. But then God warned the king if he or his son turned from following Him and did not keep His commandments, but would go and serve other gods and worship them, then God promised He “will cut off Israel from the land which” He “had given them” (I Kings 9: 1-7). God did not tell Solomon he would go to hell if he turned away from the Lord to serve other gods. But God did warn Solomon that the nation of Israel would lose the rights to their land which God had given them. When Solomon disobeyed the Lord and committed idolatry, God said He would “tear the kingdom away from” Solomon and give it to his servant (I Kings 11:11). So Solomon would lose authority and privileges as a king for misleading the nation to worship other gods, but there is no mention of him losing his position as a child of God and going to hell. 

This is consistent with the New Testament which distinguishes “entering” the kingdom from “inheriting” the kingdom. We “enter” the kingdom of God by faith alone in Christ alone (Matt. 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; John 3:5, 15), but we “inherit” the kingdom of God through faithful, sacrificial service and suffering for Christ (Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 9, 13-14; 6:12, 17; 9:15). 

For example, “entering” my house is different than “inheriting” my house. Entrance into my house is free. But if you want to inherit or possess my house, you must pay for it. When you pay for it, then you are entitled to certain privileges or authority. When you inherit my house, you can decide how to arrange the furniture and what colors to paint on the walls. But if you just enter my house, you don’t have those privileges. The same is true in the spiritual realm. You enter the kingdom of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But you will not have all the privileges or authority that come with inheriting the kingdom. You must earn those privileges through faithful service to Jesus.

When I Corinthians 6:9-10 warns that “idolaters…will not inherit the kingdom of God,” this means that believers who finish their lives as idolaters, like Solomon did, will forfeit the right to rule with Jesus Christ in His coming kingdom (Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 9, 13-14; 6:12, 17; 9:15). They will still be in the kingdom through believing in Christ alone for salvation (John 3:5, 16), but they will forfeit the privilege of ruling with Christ in His government administration.  

Like many Christians today, Solomon failed to see how living his life on earth would affect his eternal rewards in the future. Just because Christians have eternal life now which can never be lost (cf. John 3:16; 10:28-29), does not mean they can live however they want on earth without facing any consequences. God wants believers to live like the “saints” that they are (I Corinthians 1:2) by virtue of their position in Christ lest they experience grief and shame because of the loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. Matthew 25:24-30;  I Corinthians 3:8-15; 6:9-10; I John 2:28). 

Conclusion: Solomon will be in heaven by virtue of his faith in the coming Messiah, but he will not have the reward of ruling with Christ in His coming Kingdom because he did not remain faithful to the Lord to the end of his life. Christians can learn from Solomon’s life by focusing on the Judgment Seat of Christ so they can prepare to face Jesus  and receive eternal rewards from Him on the basis of how they lived for Him on earth (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12).

Are good works for rewards or for salvation?

“And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’” Luke 19:17

As Jesus was drawing near to Jerusalem, He shared another parable with those who thought He would establish His Kingdom immediately when He arrived in Jerusalem. Christ’s parable here is intended to show them His kingdom arrival would be postponed (19:11). This parable was about a “nobleman” (Jesus Christ) who gave each of his ten servants (disciples) “ten minas” (mina = 3 months wages) to do business for their master while he goes away to a far country (19:12-13). “When he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading” (19:15).

The first servant reported that his “mina earned ten minas,” and he received praise and rulership “over ten cities” from his master (19:16-17). The second servant said his “mina earned five minas,” and his master said he would rule “over five cities” (19:18-19). The third servant reported that he had not earned anything with his master’s mina because his fear of his master kept him from doing so (19:20-21). His master rebuked him, calling him a “wicked servant,” and took away what had been given to this servant (19:22-24).

Zacchaeus, who was listening to this parable, would be encouraged to follow through with his promise to give half of his possessions to the poor and reimburse fourfold those he had defrauded (19:8). By telling this parable, Christ is promising Zacchaeus and all believers, a great reward in heaven if they remain faithful to Him now.

This parable clarifies that the coming of Jesus’ kingdom is postponed. Christ was going away, and He would return later to establish His kingdom (19:12-15). The New Testament informs us that believers who live between Pentecost and the Rapture will receive their rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:1-10; I Thess. 4:13-5:11; Rev. 4-5) during the Tribulation period on earth (Rev. 6-19). The judgment in view in this parable, involves Old Testament and Tribulation believers who will receive their rewards when Christ returns to earth with His church at the end of the Tribulation period to start His thousand-year reign on earth (Dan. 12:1-3; Rev. 19:7-20:6). During His absence, Christ’s disciples (“servants”) are to invest what He has given them to expand His interests (19:13). Christ will reward them in proportion to what they produce with what He has given them. The fact that all the servants received “ten minas” (19:13) shows that all believers have equal opportunity to earn rewards for the glory of Jesus Christ.

This parable also shows that entrance into the kingdom does not depend upon our works. Only faith alone in Christ alone and His finished work on the cross is necessary to enter Christ’s kingdom (18:16-17; cf. John 3:14-15). But rewards in Christ’s kingdom depend upon our works (19:16-24; cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; Rev. 22:12). This distinction between the gift of salvation and rewards earned is very important. Many believers confuse conditions for salvation with conditions for rewards which undermines their assurance of salvation and their motivation to live for Christ now. Keeping these two things separate and distinct will lead to greater joy and peace for believers regarding their salvation, and to a greater longing to earn rewards for their coming King.

Conditions for Discipleship

“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ ” Mark 8:34

After Christ taught His disciples about His upcoming sufferings, death, and resurrection (8:31-33), He then explains to them that suffering would also be part of their destiny as well as His (8:34-38). These are conditions for discipleship, not salvation from hell. Salvation from hell is free and cannot be lost and is based solely on faith alone in Christ alone (Acts 16:31 Ephes. 2:8-9). Discipleship is costly and can be lost (Luke 14:25-33; John 8:31-32; 13:34-35; 15:1-8). 

What does discipleship include? Jesus says, “Let him…”

  • “deny himself” (8:34b). A disciple must replace his or her own preferences and plans with Christ’s. This also includes denying the lies we believe that keep us from doing this. 
  • “take up his cross” (8:34c). A disciple must be willing to publicly identify with Christ even if it means shame, suffering, and physical death. Taking up one’s cross also means submission. We are to submit to Christ’s control in our lives. 
  • “follow Me” (8:34d).  A disciple faithfully follows Christ’s leading and obeys His instructions. Jesus wants to teach us how to live a life that glorifies Him and then live that life for Him.

Why are believers to live like this? Jesus gives us motivation in Mark 8:35-38: Because believers will gain eternal rewards that are much more valuable than what “the world” has to offer (8:35-37; cf. I Cor. 3:11-15). To “save his life” in this context (8:35a), is to live selfishly by denying Christ for fear of suffering and shame (cf. 8:31-33). When we live selfishly in our Christian lives, we will “lose” our lives in a deeper more enduring way in eternity. Like a rich man who “gains the whole world” living selfishly, but “loses his own soul” from gaining eternal rewards before God (8:36-37). 

Instead of finding our lives and losing the eternal value of life, we are to “lose” life now for Christ and His gospel to “save” or preserve a richer life in the life to come (8:35b). To “lose his life” refers to self-sacrificing service for Christ. Every moment that believers lose some aspect of their physical lives for the sake of Christ – when they suffer pain and shame because of their commitment to Christ – they are going to find a richer life for themselves in eternity. The more of this life that they lose, the more of that life they will gain.

Instead of being “ashamed” of Christ at His coming, believers will have confidence before the Judgment Seat of Christ as they give an account to Him of what they did for Him (8:38; cf. Rom. 14:10-12; I John 2:28). 

Imagine standing before Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ and He asks you what you did for Him during your Christian life on earth (Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10). If as a Christian, all you did was live for yourself and this world, think of the shame you will have as you stand there before the Lord with nothing to say (I John 2:28). Also, when you see other Christians receiving rewards from Christ and you receive nothing, imagine the regret you will have in terms of what could have been yours (Matt. 25:19-30; Luke 19:20-26; I Cor 3:15). 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not too late for you if you are reading this. Today you can begin this discipleship journey with Jesus Christ. Make this decision today to follow Jesus no matter what the cost. You will not regret it especially when you stand before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Jesus will make your commitment to Him eternally worthwhile!