by Xiaochen, Xinjiang
It was a grey day and the sun was not shining. I sat at the desk reading the scriptures: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Reading these words, I recalled my twenty years of following the Lord: I’ve been imitating Paul, expending for the Lord. Regardless of whether it is rain or shine, or whether it is a bitterly cold day, I persistently protect the Lord’s flock.
I always believe that if I keep striving like this and hold onto the Lord’s name and His way, I will surely gain reward and enter the kingdom of heaven when the Lord returns. However, when I encouraged brothers and sisters with these words after the last meeting, Brother Wu raised a question: “The Lord Jesus said, ‘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). From the Lord’s word we can see that only those who do the will of our heavenly Father can enter the kingdom of heaven. The Lord required us to be honest and humble and to love one another, yet we are still engaged in frauds and deception in front of God and our brothers and sisters; we are jealous of those who preach better than us; we can still be arrogant and unconvinced when our brothers and sisters point out that our conducts are against the Lord’s will; and we sometimes even have hatred in our hearts. We constantly fail to practice the Lord’s words, committing sins involuntarily even after repenting and confessing before the Lord. I think we’re still not doing the will of our Father in heaven. So, can people as us enter the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes back?” It is the truth, as he said, that we are often bound by sin. But the Romans says, “For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:10). Since the Lord Jesus has completed the work of redemption when He died on the cross, and has forgiven our sins, He no longer sees us as sinners, and we have become righteous by our faith. Therefore, as long as we forsake everything and work hard for the Lord, we’ll be raptured into God’s kingdom. It is the Lord’s promise. So I told Brother Wu that we shouldn’t have any misgivings about this, nor should we doubt our means of pursuit. However, we didn’t fully discuss this problem in our last meeting for the sake of time. I have to make this issue clear today.
As soon as I entered the door of the meeting place, I heard Brother Wu and some co-workers communicating about entering the kingdom of heaven. At the sight of me, Brother Wu said seriously, “Brother Zhao, we haven’t communed the truth about entering the kingdom of heaven clearly last time. I’d like to fellowship about it with brothers and sisters today.” Then I walked among them and sat down, saying, “OK, we’re communicating this topic today. Could you share your opinions first?”
Without preamble, Brother Wu said, “I think that being saved and entering the kingdom of heaven are not the same thing. Being saved refers to being free from the condemnation of the law, and it refers to sins being forgiven, but those who are saved can still resist and oppose God through sinning; while those who enter the kingdom of heaven ought to be those who do the will of our Father in heaven, who obey God’s word. They are those who know and submit to God, who are compatible with God. Thus in my opinion, being saved and entering the kingdom of heaven are two different matters. The Lord Jesus said, ‘For many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14). I often pondered: It’s likely that those who are called refer to those forgiven, while those who are chosen are the ones entering the kingdom of heaven. That is, many are saved, but few enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Right after Brother Wu finished the words, Brother Wang said with great excitement, “What Brother Wu said is quite reasonable. The Lord Jesus said, ‘the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force’ (Matthew 11:12). I don’t think entering the kingdom of heaven is as easy as we imagine. Only through following the Lord’s way actively can we enter the kingdom of heaven.” Brothers and sisters present all talked about it, saying, “Brother Wu’s words are insightful and illuminating. It seems that entering the kingdom of heaven is not as easy as we imagine.”
At their words, I thought: Isn’t our sacrificing for the Lord doing the will of our heavenly Father? How can we not enter the kingdom of heaven? So I refuted firmly, “Brother Wu, Brother Zhao, what you said is correct. We must do the heavenly Father’s will before we can enter the kingdom of heaven. We’ve been imitating Paul, forsaking everything for the Lord’s work. Many brothers and sisters have dedicated their whole life to the Lord and never get married in their entire lives. Some endured the ridicule and insult when preaching the gospel. And some even got arrested by the CCP but continued serving the Lord after getting out of prison. It can be said that we all have suffered a lot and paid many prices for entering the kingdom of heaven. Aren’t we doing the heavenly Father’s will? I believe that if we keep pursuing this way, we will surely enter the kingdom of heaven. It is undoubted!” Some brothers and sisters nodded in agreement to my words, while Brother Wu and Brother Zhao frowned slightly and fell silent. I thought: Since I have believed in the Lord and worked for many years, should I not know the matter of entering the kingdom of heaven better than you? When I was about to continue, my younger brother said abruptly, “Brother, I don’t agree with your view. Through the entire Bible, we see that the Lord Jesus had never said that if one forsook everything and labored for Him, he would enter the kingdom of heaven. Rather, He said, ‘but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ From this we can see that doing the will of our Father in heaven is the only standard for a believer to enter the kingdom of heaven. I think those who truly do the will of the heavenly Father should be those who love God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind. They have attained holiness and will never sin. And only such people can enter the kingdom of heaven!”
“Right!” agreed Brother Wang, “The Lord Jesus said, ‘but the righteous into life eternal’ (Matthew 25:46). It’s evident that the righteous shall remain in God’s kingdom. The righteous here doesn’t refer to those ‘justified by faith’ but those who do righteousness and no longer sin. Though we may now lay all aside for the Lord’s work, we still often sin and are not truly righteous. So we are not worthy to enter the kingdom of God.”
I wasn’t convinced by their words, thinking: All these years, we have been acting according to Paul’s words. How could Paul’s words possibly be wrong? Then I raised my voice and said seriously, “My co-workers, about entering the kingdom of heaven, the apostle Paul has already shown us the way. ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul’s word is enough to prove that when we spread the gospel, labor and suffer, and keep the faith, we are doing the will of our heavenly Father. In doing this, we can surely gain the crown of righteousness and enter the kingdom of heaven!” Only Brother Lyu and few co-workers agreed with me, while other brothers and sisters all stared at each other. For a moment, there was an air of tension at the meeting.
Then Brother Wu said to me, “Sorry, but I don’t think what you said is after the Lord’s will. We all know that the Pharisees of that time served Jehovah God in the temple for years. They also traveled over land and sea, suffering much for spreading the gospel everywhere, and having some outward good behaviors. However, when the Lord Jesus came to work, they could still oppose God and nail the Lord Jesus on the cross. That’s sufficient to prove that outward sufferings and good behaviors do not represent doing the will of our heavenly Father, nor do they represent knowing and submitting to God. Similarly, today we suffer and spend for the Lord, and have some good behaviors outwardly, yet we still often live in sin, being conceited, treacherous, and selfish; when encountering something that doesn’t conform to our notions, we can still carelessly judge it; and we can even follow evil worldly trends and betray God. Regarding our living out like this, we are still not those who do the will of our heavenly Father, and still not worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Brothers and sisters all murmured their agreement, saying, “It’s true! It does make sense.” Embarrassed by his retort, I rose to my feet in anger saying, “Is there, then, any wrong in striving according to what Paul said? I firmly believe that if we follow Paul’s words, we will surely enter the kingdom of heaven!”
Hearing this, my younger brother stood up and said, “Entering the kingdom of heaven is not about following Paul’s word, but about following the Lord Jesus’ word. What Paul taught us is not to follow the will of our heavenly Father. It is his own view on a way to enter the kingdom of heaven, and it has already gone against the Lord Jesus’ word. Are we going to believe that Paul’s word is the truth, or that the Lord Jesus’ word is the truth? Are we going to believe in the Lord Jesus or in Paul? Only the Lord Jesus’ word is the truth. Since we believe in God, we should take the Lord Jesus’ word as the standard of entering the kingdom of heaven! The Lord Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6). As a believer in God, we must follow the Lord Jesus’ word if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven. For only our Lord Jesus is the gate to the kingdom of heaven, the King of the heavenly kingdom. Paul was just an apostle preaching the gospel, one of the corrupt people. Thus his words are not the standard of entering the kingdom of heaven. How can you believe in what Paul said rather than the Lord Jesus’ words? Can Paul’s words represent God’s words?”
At this point, Brother Wang said thoughtfully, “Right! Paul is not Christ. He, like us, is a corrupt human being. And he is even the chief of sinners who resisted God. What he said is man’s word, not the truth! How could man’s word be compared with the Lord Jesus’ word? As the Lord Jesus had never witnessed that the word of Paul was the truth, even if some of Paul’s words conform with the truth, we can only say that they came by enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. They may render some help to brothers and sisters, but they can never represent God’s words. We’ve always exalted what Paul said instead of exalting the word of the Lord Jesus. How foolish we are!”
Hearing these words, I was rendered speechless, feeling hot pain in my face. Their understanding left me both ashamed and embarrassed. My heart was in tumult, and I felt horrible inside. To relieve the embarrassment, I got up to get water. Then I said to myself: What they fellowshiped is truly practical, and is the problem I’ve never thought about in all the years of my belief. Could it be the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit? Or, how could they have such pure understanding? In all these many years, I’ve always been acting according to Paul’s words, believing that suffering and working is obeying the heavenly Father’s will, and that I will surely enter the kingdom of heaven as long as I keep pursuing this way. But what they fellowshiped today is also the fact. Even though we’ve worked fervently for years, we can still constantly sin. Are we, with a sinful nature, really able to enter the kingdom of heaven? It seems that entering the kingdom of heaven is not as what I’ve imagined. I should seek more carefully rather than hold on my own view. If I really take the wrong path, I will regret all my life.
That day after the meeting, I went back home and continued to seek: Can we really not enter the kingdom of heaven through laboring for the Lord?