Can Justification by Faith Bring Us Who Still Often Sin Into the Heavenly Kingdom?
Nowadays, earthquakes, fires, floods, plagues of insects, epidemics and other disasters are growing ever greater, and just in recent weeks the novel coronavirus has spread throughout the world. Faced with these disasters, many believers think that, having accepted the Lord Jesus’ salvation of the cross, as long as they acknowledge the Lord with their mouths and believe in Him in their hearts then they are saved. They believe that as long as they pray and read the Bible lots and have faith in the Lord, then the Lord will protect them from the disasters, and they will immediately be raised up into the kingdom of heaven when He returns, for as the Bible says: “For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:10). But is this belief really correct? Does it accord with the Lord’s will? Let’s explore this together.
Can We Be Raised Up Into the Heavenly Kingdom Through Justification By Faith?
We believe that we can be justified by our faith, that we can be saved by our faith, and that by frequently reading the Bible and praying, we will be raised up into the kingdom of heaven. But did the Lord Jesus ever say such a thing? If this belief accorded with the Lord’s will, why then did He say, “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. 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 7:21–23). We can see from the Lord’s words that some of those who acknowledge the Lord Jesus with their mouths and believe in Him in their hearts, who read the Bible, pray, and expend themselves and suffer for the Lord, are evil-doers, and because these people do evil and resist God, they will ultimately be abandoned and eliminated by God, and they will be unable to enter into God’s kingdom. The Lord Jesus told us clearly that those who must be those who do the will of the heavenly Father, meaning those who follow God’s way, who cast off sin, and who are able to submit to God, love God and revere God. We therefore have to ask ourselves: Though we may appear to do lots of good deeds, have we cast off sin and attained purification? Actually, we are still capable of involuntarily sinning and then confessing, and we are unable to follow God’s words, so could the Lord praise such people as us? It is therefore evident that the belief that we will be protected from the disasters and finally raised up into the kingdom of heaven because we acknowledge the Lord with our mouths, believe in Him in our hearts, and read the Bible and pray lots, is wrong.
There was a backstory to the Lord Jesus performing His work of redemption. In the Age of Law, Jehovah God laid down the laws and commandments for man and guided nascent humanity in their lives on earth. But man became increasingly unable to keep the laws and were in danger of being condemned to death by the laws. The people of that time prayed to God and beseeched Him, wishing for an eternal sin offering to come. To save mankind, therefore, God incarnated in the form of the Lord Jesus and was crucified to redeem us sinners. He made it so that, because of our faith in the Lord Jesus, we would no longer be condemned by the laws, and could pray directly to God and enjoy the abundant grace God bestows on us. This is what it means to be saved, to be justified by faith.
However, the work of redemption the Lord Jesus did back then was based on the needs of the people of that time, and what was forgiven were our sins of going against the laws and commandments; what was not forgiven were our sinful natures. That is to say, our satanic natures such as arrogance, selfishness and deceit remained deeply rooted within us. Under the control of our sinful natures, therefore, we are frequently unable to stop ourselves from sinning and resisting God. Take being honest, for example. In some small matters we are able to stop ourselves from telling lies, but the moment something infringes upon our vital interests, we are unable to put being an honest person into practice, and we may even distort facts in our speech; in our interactions with others, though we may appear humble and get along well with others, as soon as our interests are threatened, we can become jealous and reject others, and we can even hold grudges; when we expend ourselves for the Lord and are able to receive God’s blessings, we can expend ourselves vigorously, but as soon as we don’t feel blessed, we become negative and weak, we no longer expend ourselves for the Lord so vigorously and we may even blame God and argue with Him in our hearts. These are just a few examples of how we can sin and resist God under the control of our sinful natures. The Lord Jesus has said very clearly: “Truly, truly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant stays not in the house for ever: but the son stays ever” (John 8:34–35). It’s recorded in 1 Peter 1:15–16: “But as He which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy.” And God’s words say, “You must know what kind of people I desire; those who are impure are not permitted to enter into the kingdom, those who are impure are not permitted to besmirch the holy ground. Though you may have done much work, and worked for many years, in the end if you are still deplorably filthy, then it will be intolerable to the law of Heaven that you wish to enter My kingdom! From the foundation of the world until today, never have I offered easy access to My kingdom to those who curry favor with Me. This is a heavenly rule, and no one can break it!” “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.” We can see from these words that God is holy, and so we must first be purified before we can enter into the kingdom of heaven. Those who commit sins are the servants of sin, and no servant may ever enter the . That is to say, because those who only accept the Lord Jesus’ redemption, who are saved through being justified by their faith and who acknowledge the Lord with their mouths have not had their corrupt dispositions purified, they remain unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven; this is determined by the righteous disposition of God. If people who were still capable of sinning and resisting God were permitted to enter the kingdom of heaven, what would the consequences be? Would Satan not make accusations? Would such people in the kingdom of heaven not oppose God, just as the archangel did in the beginning? How could God possibly allow such things to happen? We therefore need the Lord to come again to perform a new work to cleanse us of our sins, as only then will we be fit to enter the kingdom of God.
The Path to Being Praised by God and Entering Into the Kingdom of Heaven
There are old prophecies in the Bible concerning the path to stop sinning and enter into God’s kingdom. Let’s take a look and see what the Bible says. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin to salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). “For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son. … And has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man” (John 5:22–27). “He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them through Your truth: Your word is truth.” We can see from these verses that when the Lord returns in the last days, He will become flesh again to express the truth and perform the work of judgment beginning with God’s house. With the truth, He will judge and purify all who come before Him once and for all, and He will purify these people of their sins and make them fit to enter the kingdom of God—this is the salvation in the last days God has prepared for us. Only by accepting God’s salvation in the last days and undergoing His judgment can we be forever saved and become purified by God.
In recent years, out of all the large online platforms, only The Church of Almighty God has consistently testified that the Lord Jesus has returned as the incarnate Almighty God. Almighty God has expressed all the truths that can enable us to attain salvation and enter the kingdom of heaven, and He is performing the work of judgment beginning with God’s house to purify and save us. This is the precise fulfillment of the prophecies quoted above which mention the Son of man coming to do the work of judgment and using the word of the last days to judge man. By reading Almighty God’s words, we learn how the Lord will perform the work of judgment that will enable us to attain salvation and enter the kingdom of heaven when He returns. Almighty God says, “In the last days, Christ uses a variety of truths to teach man, to expose the substance of man, and to dissect the words and deeds of man. These words comprise various truths, such as man’s duty, how man should obey God, how man should be loyal to God, how man ought to live out normal humanity, as well as the wisdom and the disposition of God, and so on. These words are all directed at the substance of man and his corrupt disposition. In particular, the words that expose how man spurns God are spoken in regard to how man is an embodiment of Satan, and an enemy force against God. In undertaking His work of judgment, God does not simply make clear the nature of man with a few words; He exposes, deals with, and prunes over the long term. These methods of exposure, dealing, and pruning cannot be substituted with ordinary words, but with the truth of which man is utterly bereft. Only methods such as these can be called judgment; only through judgment of this kind can man be subdued and thoroughly convinced into submission to God, and moreover gain true knowledge of God.” “By means of this work of judgment and chastisement, man will fully come to know the filthy and corrupt essence within his own self, and he will be able to change completely and become clean. Only in this way can man become worthy to return before the throne of God. All the work done this day is so that man can be made clean and be changed; through judgment and chastisement by the word, as well as through refinement, man can purge away his corruption and be made pure.”
We can see from these words that the work of judgment Almighty God does to purify and save man in the last days is primarily achieved through expressing various aspects of the truth. In the last days, God will express truths aimed at our corrupt states and the ways in which we behave while we live in sin. Cutting straight to the heart of the matter, He exposes our corrupt substance and our God-opposing satanic natures, natures such as arrogance, conceitedness, selfishness, ignobility, crookedness, deceitfulness, our being sick of the truth, and our betraying God. By doing so, He allows us to understand all the sinful behaviors we manifest while under the control of our satanic natures, and to see that we are still capable of involuntarily resisting God, and that we are living out no semblance of a human being. At the same time, God will arrange all manner of situations to try and refine us, to deal with us and prune us. For example, when we are arrogant and conceited, when we cling to our own opinions and refuse to listen to anyone else’s suggestions, and even lose our tempers when other people don’t do what we want, God will inspire brothers and sisters to deal with us and prune us and to use God’s words to reveal our corruptions, so that we can understand such things as what will happen if we carry on that way, and so that we can reflect on and come to know ourselves. If we still don’t mend our ways, God will arrange some situations to block our path and to cause our spirits to become dark. At times like these, we come before God to pray and seek, and are then able to understand that we are living by our arrogant and conceited nature, that we are taking what we ourselves think to be the truth, and that we are making others obey and submit to us. We come to understand that this is the nature of the archangel, and that if we don’t change, we will certainly be eliminated by God. When we reach this understanding, we feel as though we are being refined deep within and we profoundly perceive that God’s disposition tolerates no offense. We then begin to prostrate ourselves on the ground, praying and repenting to God, feeling unworthy to live before God, hating ourselves, and resolving to forsake our corrupt dispositions. When we want to practice the truth and go in search of the path of change, God enlightens and illuminates us, He guides us to understand from His words what He requires, and He shows us the path of practice. He also enables us to understand that He arranges situations for us in order to purify and change us, and behind all this is God’s good will. This allows us to feel His dearness and loveliness, and we have more confidence to pursue the truth, pursue change in our dispositions, rid ourselves of corruption, live out a human likeness and comfort God’s heart. By undergoing many situations in which we fail and fall, in which we are pruned and dealt with, tested and refined, when we have read many of God’s words of judgment, and when we have understood much more about God’s requirements, our corrupt dispositions can then gradually be replaced by the truth, a God-fearing heart arises within us in our duties, and we begin to seek the principles of the truth. When we encounter issues, we are able to discuss them with brothers and sisters and we do not rush to make decisions with things we do not understand. Instead, we go before God to pray and seek many times, we do our best to do our duties in accordance with God’s will and requirements, and slowly, we begin to live out a human likeness. These are the effects achieved in us by God’s work of judgment in the last days. Although this way of working may be stern and may cause people distress, it can enable us to see our corrupt and despicable substance and appreciate God’s salvation and mercy. Our resolve to pursue the truth is thereby stimulated, and only by experiencing God’s work of judgment in this way will we be able to cast off our corrupt dispositions, live out a true human likeness, become people who truly revere and obey God, do God’s will, and attain God’s salvation once and for all. Such results cannot be achieved merely by relying on ourselves. Only by experiencing God’s work of judgment in the last days can we be cleansed and changed into people who do God’s will; this is the one and only path into the kingdom of heaven.
If we do not experience God’s work of judgment in the last days, then no matter how much we read the Bible, exercise self-restraint, suffer or pay a price, we will never be able to rid ourselves of our sins. We will remain the servants of sin, people who resist the Lord, and we will only end up being swept up in the disasters and punished by God. When that time comes, these prophecies in the Bible will be fulfilled: “Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Revelation 1:7). “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). Someone who has waited for the Lord to come with clouds should be joyful, so why then will they mourn? It will be because during the period in which God becomes flesh in secret and performs His work of judgment, we cling to our various notions and imaginings and so refuse to accept the work of purification and salvation brought by Christ of the last days, and because some of us even blaspheme, condemn, and resist Christ of the last days. After God has made a group of overcomers, He will bring His secret work of purifying and saving man to a close and will appear openly to man. When that happens, all who refused to accept the work of judgment in the last days will have missed their chance for their sins to be cleansed away. Not only will they not become overcomers before the great tribulation, but they will be utterly filled with sin, they will be those who resist the Lord, and ultimately they will meet their end with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Just as Almighty God’s words say, “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. Those who are not supplied with the water of life will forever remain corpses, playthings of Satan, and sons of hell. How, then, can they behold God? If you only try to hold on to the past, only try to keep things as they are by standing still, and do not try to change the status quo and discard history, then will you not always be against God? The steps of God’s work are vast and mighty, like surging waves and rolling thunders—yet you sit passively awaiting destruction, clinging to your folly and doing nothing. In this way, how can you be considered someone who follows the footsteps of the Lamb? How can you justify the God that you hold on to as a God who is always new and never old? And how can the words of your yellowed books carry you across into a new age? How can they lead you to seek the steps of God’s work? And how can they take you up to heaven? What you hold in your hands are letters that can provide but temporary solace, not truths that are capable of giving life. The scriptures you read can only enrich your tongue and are not words of wisdom that can help you know human life, much less the paths that can lead you to perfection. Does this discrepancy not give you cause for reflection? Does it not make you realize the mysteries contained within? Are you capable of delivering yourself to heaven to meet God on your own? Without the coming of God, can you take yourself into heaven to enjoy family happiness with God? Are you still dreaming now? I suggest, then, that you stop dreaming and look at who is working now—look to see who is now carrying out the work of saving man during the last days. If you do not, you shall never gain the truth, and shall never gain life.”
Now that we are faced with the gospel of the Lord’s return, how should we approach it? The Lord says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The Lord’s words tell us that only the poor in spirit will have the chance to enter the kingdom of heaven. When we hear that Almighty God has come to perform the work of judgment in the last days, therefore, we should seek and investigate it as much as we can and listen out for the bridegroom’s voice. I trust that as long as we are able to seek with an open heart, then God will lead us and guide us to greet the Lord’s return, and by doing this we will then have the opportunity to be made by God into people who do His will and who may enter the kingdom of heaven.
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Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:52—Can We Truly “Be Changed in the Twinkling of an Eye” When the Lord Returns?