Can We Enter the Heavenly Kingdom After Being Justified by Faith?
My spiritual colleague, Brother Lu:
Hello! I am Zhang Fentao. Since I accepted the work of Almighty God in the last days, we haven’t gotten time to sit down to seek and fellowship calmly because we have different understandings of some views. These years, I have been outside preaching the gospel, so there is no opportunity for us to reunite together and fellowship. Years have passed by since I left home. How is your recent state? I remember that once two sisters preached the gospel to you, yet you still believed, “Since we believe in Jesus, we have been called righteous by the Lord. He will forgive us even if we commit many sins, and when He comes, we surely will be taken to the kingdom of heaven. So there’s no need for God to do the work of judgment and purification.” Bound by this view, you even didn’t want to meet the brothers and sisters who preached the gospel of the kingdom of Almighty God and fellowship with them.
Brother, I understand your feeling, for I before had the same view as yours, thinking: I have been justified by faith, and I willdirectly when the Lord comes. So I was also unwilling to investigate the work of Almighty God in the last days. However, when my father-in-law preached the gospel of the kingdom of Almighty God to me, he answered all the questions I asked, which made me wake up from dreams. I had to examine anew the rightness of the view to which I had held firm for years. At that time, he asked me, “Do you know what means?” Hearing his question, I felt ridiculous. So, I opened the Bible and read to him, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23–24). “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord ” (Romans 5:1). Then I said, “Previously we were sinners that ought to die, but now through accomplishing redemption on the cross, the Lord Jesus has borne the sins of man. As long as we pray to the Lord and repent and confess sins to Him, He will forgive us, no longer treat us as sinners and directly call us righteous.” Hearing my reply, he said, “Your answered well, yet does being justified by faith mean that man will no longer sin? Does it mean that man is purified? Does it mean that man will surely enter the kingdom of heaven?” I replied quickly, “It is said in the Bible, ‘For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:14). From this verse, it is clear that by one offering of the Lord Jesus, all those who are redeemed like us have been sanctified completely. So, we will absolutely enter the kingdom of heaven.” At that time I thought: These famous chapters and verses will surely make my father-in-law unable to refute me.
However, I thought wrong, brother. After I answered his questions proudly, he continued his fellowship immediately. His reply and questions made me unable to refute him. Those verses I had remembered and the doctrines I had learned from the Bible appeared so hollow in front of the truth he fellowshiped.
He said, “Are these words you find man’s or God’s? Are the views you hold on to summed up from man’s letters or said personally by the Lord Jesus?”
I was speechless at these questions, for all the words I found are not personally spoken by the Lord Jesus but from the apostles’ letters. So I had to reply, “All of them are man’s words.”
Then my father-in-law continued to fellowship, “The Lord Jesus is the only Lord of the kingdom of heaven, the King of the kingdom of heaven. Only He can decide whether man can enter the kingdom of heaven or not. We mankind are all sinners corrupted by Satan, so there are unavoidably human imaginations and impurities in man’s words. Man’s words are from himself and cannot be compared to God’s words. We should know that being justified by faith in Christ means that we are called righteous since we accepted Christ the Savior, but doesn’t mean that we are made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. They are different. The reason why we are called righteous since we believe in Jesus is because He has forgiven our sins and doesn’t remember our sins, yet He didn’t forgive our sinful nature. We are still living in a cycle of sinning and repenting. We only hold on to the outward practices, such as not hitting and cursing others, and do not commit the sins against the laws, yet we can still tell lies and practice deceit for the sake of our interest; we can still follow worldly trends and pursue the enjoyment of flesh and fame and gain; we can still misunderstand God, complain against God, and even betray God when some natural or man-made disasters come upon our family or when we suffer persecution and tribulation. These facts of our sinning to oppose God prove that we haven’t yet become righteous. Revelation says, ‘Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints’ (Revelation 19:7–8). God said: ‘You shall be holy: for I Jehovah your God am holy’ (Leviticus 19:2). The Bible says, ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). Therefore, to be a real righteous man, we must perform righteous deeds, follow God’s way, practice His words, live out His words, be purified and changed, and no longer sin to resist God. Only thus can we be righteous. In the last days, Almighty God has done a stage of work of judgment built upon the Lord Jesus’ redemptive work to purify and change man, so that man can free from sin and be saved. God will make a group of overcomers—the first fruits—to enjoy, all of whom are those who follow His will and will enter the kingdom of heaven and inherit His promises. Just as the Lord: ‘Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). Therefore, not everyone who names the name of the Lord and has been justified by faith can enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who truly do the will of the heavenly Father can. Apparently, the view—as long as we have been justified by faith, there is no doubt that we can enter the kingdom of heaven—is not tenable. It truly is a vague belief.”
I was speechless at his words. Indeed, I was living in the situation: sinning in the day and confessing in the evening. Though I had followed the Lord for many years, I still didn’t entirely abandon my greediness for the world; though I had worked for the Lord for many years, I always considered myself to be one with capital of work and revealed my arrogant disposition; though I ran around, expended, worked, and preached, and I seemed to love the Lord and be faithful to Him so much, I could still complain that the Lord did not protect my family when my family encountered some natural or man-made disasters. Besides, I always took my years’ working as a capital and longed for entering the kingdom of heaven to receive God’s blessings and rewards. It can be said that all those who believe in the Lord are living in this situation in varying degrees. At that time, although I was clear about the fact, I wasn’t willing to bow my head, so I obstinately justified myself by saying, “We have been preaching the gospel, building churches, visiting brothers and sisters, laboring and expending for the Lord, and denying ourselves. All of these are righteousness. When the Lord comes, we certainly will be raptured into the kingdom of heaven.”
He refuted me immediately, “If man can be righteous by laboring hard for the Lord, and thus he will enter the kingdom of heaven, then, why did the Lord Jesus say these words: ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Matthew 7:22–23)? The Pharisees served God in the temple for several decades and also traveled over land and sea to spread the gospel. They spent and expended more than us, yet did they have any righteousness? They regarded the years of work as their capital and stood high among people for their prominent standing. Yet they never sought the words of truth expressed by the Lord Jesus during His work, much less were they willing to accept the words of rebuke from the Lord Jesus. They didn’t put any God’s word into practice but just paid it lip service, and spoke it before people. And they lectured others with God’s words, instead of implementing God’s words in their actions. In their many years of working experiences, their arrogant and conceited satanic nature had not gotten the slightest real change. Instead, they considered their work experiences as capital or bargaining chips to compete with God and contend with God, which led to their irreverence, resistance and condemnation toward God. They even nailed God to the cross at last and provoked the disposition of God, and because of this they received their deserved punishment. Can their actions be righteous? Can they enter the kingdom of heaven? Thus, if we only focus on working and expending ourselves like the Pharisees, but don’t pay attention to putting God’s words into practice, not making God’s words become our life, not living out God’s words, and not standing witness for God, then our actions cannot be called righteousness but evildoing. Then we will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
My father-in-law quoted the Lord’s words to fellowship with me, which made it difficult for me to refute him. Later, he read me many words of Almighty God, which made me have some discernment of our former erroneous knowledge. Almighty God says: “You only know that Jesus shall descend during the last days, but how exactly will He descend? A sinner such as you, who has just been redeemed, and has not been changed, or been perfected by God, can you be after God’s heart? For you, you who are still of your old self, it is true that you were saved by Jesus, and that you are not counted as a sinner because of the salvation of God, but this does not prove that you are not sinful, and are not impure. How can you be saintly if you have not been changed? Within, you are beset by impurity, selfish and mean, yet you still wish to descend with Jesus—you should be so lucky! You have missed a step in your belief in God: You have merely been redeemed, but you have not been changed. For you to be after God’s heart, God must personally do the work of changing and cleansing you; if you are only redeemed, you will be incapable of attaining sanctity. In this way you will be unqualified to share in the good blessings of God, for you have missed out a step in God’s work of managing man, which is the key step of changing and perfecting. You, a sinner who has just been redeemed, are therefore incapable of directly inheriting God’s inheritance” (“Concerning Appellations and Identity” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Almighty God speaks it out clearly. The work of the Lord Jesus only achieved the effects of redemption of man. Actually, the work of purifying and changing man is the work done by God in the last days. Such a man, who has not experienced God’s work in the last days and has not been perfected, can neither get rid of his filthiness and corruption, nor have the qualification to inherit God’s inheritance and share in the good blessings of God in the kingdom of heaven. Carefully pondering the words of Almighty God and comparing them with myself, I felt ashamed after I reflected upon my behaviors. Although we are chosen by the Lord, our sins have been forgiven, and we also expend ourselves and labor hard for the Lord, it is undeniable that these behaviors are merely some abandonment of outward behavior. Indeed, there are still plenty of filthy and corrupt things belonging to Satan hidden within ourselves. Our disposition is still as arrogant and conceited as that of the archangel. Only God observes all of these facts. For example, it is clearly recorded in the Bible that God wants us to be wise virgins and to watch, prepare, and wait for His return with a pure heart, yet after we heard some news about the Lord’s return, when we met the brothers and sisters who preached the gospel of kingdom of Almighty God, not only did we not humbly seek and carefully investigate, but we also held firm to our own notions arrogantly. Before we read the words of Almighty God, we even took an attitude of resistance and rejection. Aren’t these sins within us? Thus, we haven’t been righteous truly and we are still far from sufficient to be after God’s will and meet the standard of entering the kingdom of heaven. So, the conception we held on before—we will enter the kingdom of heaven because we have been justified by faith—is merely our own wishful imagination. If we cannot put aside this view that does not correspond to the truth at all, then our wish of entering the kingdom of heaven would be nonsense forever!
Now, it is the crucial time of the changing of the ages. The failure of the Pharisees is a warning for us, the latter generations. The view we are holding firm to that we can surely enter the kingdom of heaven since we have been justified by faith is from our notions and imaginations. I advise you not to follow in the Pharisees’ track lest you forfeit yourself in your own conceptions and imaginations. The Lord Jesus only completed the work of redemption. Though we believe in Him and our sins have been forgiven, the things of our nature are resisting God after we humans have been corrupted by Satan for several thousand years. We humans have become Satan’s descendants. Although the Lord has forgiven man’s sins, the things of man’s nature haven’t been cleansed, so in the last days God will do a stage of work of judging and purifying man by words. Only through this stage of work can God free man from Satan’s domain completely. If we cannot keep pace with this stage of work, nor can we be changed and be made perfect into a righteous person by God in His chastisement and judgment, then we will mourn and grind our teeth in the disaster of the last days forever. Almighty God says: “Christ of the last days brings life, and brings the enduring and everlasting way of truth. This truth is the path by which man gains life, and it is the only path by which man shall know God and be approved by God. If you do not seek the way of life provided by Christ of the last days, then you shall never gain the approval of Jesus, and shall never be qualified to enter the gate of the kingdom of heaven, for you are both a puppet and prisoner of history. Those who are controlled by regulations, by letters, and shackled by history will never be able to gain life nor gain the perpetual way of life. This is because all they have is turbid water which has been clung to for thousands of years instead of the water of life that flows from the throne” (“Only Christ of the Last Days Can Give Man the Way of” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Now God has come into the world and revealed His will to us. “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:13). We shall not miss the chance once in a blue moon. God is now waiting for our choice and reply!
Brother, Almighty God’s work is coming to an end, and the day of God has been laid out before each of us. God’s work this time is not only the final stage of work in God’s six-thousand-year management plan, but also is the work of concluding the entire age. If we seek and investigate now, we still have the chance to be saved, yet if we refuse to seek and investigate and continue to hold on to our notions, it will be too late for us to repent when God openly appears to mankind and rewards the good and punishes the wicked formally, for Almighty God says: “The work of God never waits for any that cannot keep pace with Him, and the righteous disposition of God shows no mercy to any man” (“Christ Does the Work of Judgment With the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
That’s all of what I want to tell you. I believe you will make a wise choice!
Your dear brother, Zhang Fentao
August 28, 2016