When I was 12, I began believing in the Lord Jesus and became a Christian. After I began believing, I actively and persistently participated in Sunday worship and Bible study groups. At Bible study meetings, we often discussed 2 Timothy 4:7–8, “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.” We thought that, as Christians, we should imitate Paul and strive to run around and do works, because the Lord would bestow crowns of righteousness upon us. Our pastor also often encouraged us by saying the kingdom of heaven is entered through effort, and as long as we make efforts to pursue and diligently do the Lord’s work, when the Lord returns, He would rapture us up to the kingdom of heaven. These teachings became the cornerstone of my belief in God, and I swore to myself that I would do all in my power to participate in church service work so that I could accrue enough “value” to satisfy God, so that when He came, I could be raptured up into the kingdom of heaven.
Nowadays, earthquakes, fires, floods, plagues of insects, epidemics and other disasters are growing ever greater, and just in recent weeksthe 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.
The stirring kingdom anthem has rung out, announcing God’s arrival among man to the whole universe! The kingdom of God has come! All people cheer, all things rejoice! Everything throughout the heavens brims with merriment. What captivating scenes of jubilation are these?
Many believers in the Lord think, “The Lord has already forgiven all of our sins and doesn’t see us as sinners. We have gained righteousness through our faith, and as long as we continue to attend church gatherings, to pray and do some good deeds, when the Lord returns, we will be raptured directly into the kingdom of heaven.” Is this view based on the word of God? The Lord Jesus once 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). According to God’s words, we know that only those who do God’s will can enter the kingdom of God. Let’s check ourselves against God’s requirements to see whether our behaviors are in line with God’s will? The Lord said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). Although we want to love the Lord and act according to the Lord’s requirements, we can still complain about the Lord, even deny and betray Him when we encounter trials and disasters. We clearly know that God teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but we even can’t tolerate our family members, and we will get angry when something doesn’t go our way. God wants us to be pure and honest people, but we often lie and deceive others in our lives. We can’t live out the Lord’s teachings at all, so how can we say that we are those who do the will of God?
We are now in the last stage of the last days, I’ve seen in the news that all kinds of disasters are growing and growing in scale, and whether or not I can be caught up before the disasters and made into an overcomer before the disasters are key issues for me. My opinion about these two issues is that, so long as we hold to the name of the Lord no matter what happens, work hard for the Lord and do not turn back as we go through all manner of adversities, then we can become overcomers. And when the disasters come, we can then be caught up into the sky to meet with the Lord and enjoy His promise. But some have questioned my opinion, saying that some people have now achieved this and that, moreover, the disasters are growing in scale and many kinds of disasters have befallen us already, and yet still no one has been seen being raised up into the sky. Does being caught up really mean being raised up into the sky? And is it so simple to become an overcomer, that one becomes an overcomer just by achieving these things? I don’t quite understand all this, so I’d like to ask your opinion. Looking forward to your reply!
This is Jiang Li. How time flies! More than a year has slipped by since I came to America. How have you been doing? How is the condition of our church? I remember at a co-worker meeting, Brother Zhang said, “We believers of the Lord constantly live in the situation of sinning in the day and confessing at night, and are always bound by sins. If continuing like this, can we be raptured into the heavenly kingdom when the Lord returns?” At that time, I replied without hesitation, “The Bible says, ‘For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:14). So, although we sin every day, the Lord no longer remembers our sins, let alone sees us as sinners. We have been justified and saved by faith. As long as we work hard, spend and sacrifice for Him, the Lord won’t abandon us and will definitely take us to the kingdom of heaven when He comes.” However, Brother Zhang refuted, by saying, “We humans have received the Lord’s salvation, and He doesn’t remember our sins anymore. Yet the Lord Jesus said, ‘Be you holy; for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16). The Bible also says, ‘And holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). Now, we still often sin and confess, and can’t attain holiness. So, how are we fit to enter the heavenly kingdom and see the Lord’s face? Besides, the Lord Jesus never said that all believers can enter the heavenly kingdom so long as they labor for Him. I think entering the heavenly kingdom is not as easy as we imagine. Though I am uncertain of this, I think there is truth in here to seek.” When having such an argument, all of us were lost in confusion, not knowing how to enter the kingdom of heaven. I thought: The disasters in recent years get greater and greater, and from various signs we can judge that our Lord must have come, but we don’t understand this aspect of truth. In such a case, won’t we be forsaken when the Lord comes? So, in order to understand this aspect of truth, after I came to America, I sought many spiritual pastors and elders, but their understandings were nearly the same as ours. Thus, the puzzle in my heart still couldn’t be solved.
My name is Ella, and I am 53, from the Philippines. I was born in a Catholic family. Even though I believed in the Lord in the Catholic Church from childhood, I barely knew about the Lord and had little faith in Him, even pursuing to be rich like the unbelievers. In April 1987, I met Villan, who was a Filipino Christian, when I was a domestic helper abroad. She worked not far away from my work place. At that time she was a leader of a Christian church. She preached to me the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and invited me to go to her church. She also shared with me Romans 10:9-10 of the Bible, “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation,” telling me that I could go to heaven if I believed in the Lord Jesus. Hearing this I was shocked because I was afraid of going to hell. So I accepted the Lord Jesus and started regularly living the life of church in this Christian church. Afterward, I saw 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “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…” and 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain.” Influenced by these thoughts, I actively pursued superficial good deeds, often giving my family financial support, helping those who were in trouble, giving offerings to the church frequently, being nice to others, and never quarreling with others. Besides, I attended the meeting every Sunday and never missed it, often preached the gospel in public places, and handed out tracts in the park. I lived this way for 7 years, and then I became the leader of a church.
Many believers in the Lord long to be taken up to the sky where they can meet with the Lord when the Lord returns. Now disasters grow worse and worse; the prophecies of the Lord’s return have been basically fulfilled; the Lord is very likely to have returned. However, many people are confused: If the Lord has returned, why have we not seen that anyone is raptured to heaven? What’s going on here? Let’s see what the Lord Jesus said: “Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Mat 6:9-10). The Book of Revelation also prophesied: “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven … And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev 21:2-3). “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 11:15). These prophecies mention “coming down from God out of heaven,” “the tabernacle of God is with men,” and “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.” It shows that God will establish His kingdom on earth and the destination God arranges for man is also on earth. Yet we always want to be raptured to heaven. Is that not our notion and imagination?
One day, when I preached, I spoke of the great disaster that was going to come. So I exhorted brothers and sisters to attend meetings actively, put more effort in the Bible, and follow the Lord’s way in real life, so that we could watch and wait for the return of the Lord. But I saw some brothers and sisters remain weak and full of doubts whether they could be raptured to the kingdom of heaven. Then I explained, “Brothers and sisters, the Bible says, ‘For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Rom 10:10). As long as we believe in the Lord in our hearts and confirm our belief in Him with our words, our faith will allow us to obtain eternal salvation. When the Lord comes again, we will surely be raptured to the kingdom of heaven.” Hearing what I said, brothers and sisters were all happy and they had some strength. At this moment, co-worker Zhang stood up and said, “I’m not sure. The Lord Jesus said, ‘But he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven’ (Mat 7:21). This clearly tells us that only those who do the will of God can enter the kingdom of heaven. Although we have been saved, we’re still committing sins during the day and repenting at night. This’s not doing the will of the heavenly Father. I think we still will be unable to enter the kingdom of heaven.”