The cross was a torture device used for capital punishment in ancient times. After the Lord Jesus, who was free from sin, sacrificed Himself as a sin offering and was crucified for mankind, the cross came to symbolize the Lord Jesus’s redemptive grace. When we receive His salvation and come before the Lord to confess our sins and repent, our sins are forgiven. That is, the Lord no longer views us as sinful. As such, many of our brothers and sisters believe that receiving the salvation of the cross means they have already been saved, which means they have already been gained by God and when the Lord returns they will be caught up directly into the kingdom of heaven. However, has anyone stopped to question whether this line of thinking is commensurate with the Lord’s word? It’s true that we have received the salvation of the cross, but it’s also undeniable that we still often sin. Will people such as us really be caught up directly into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord returns?
I’m sure many of my fellow brothers and sisters have had the following experience in their lives: Despite having received the salvation of the cross and being forgiven of our sins, we still often sin in spite of ourselves. No matter how hard we try to forsake the flesh and overcome ourselves, we still get caught in the vicious cycle of sin and confession and just can’t seem to break free from the binds of sinfulness. For example, in our interactions with others, we always want to be in a position of power and compel others to do as we want. When other people have different ideas or if their thinking is not in line with our own, we resist them, reject them in our hearts, and even judge and disparage them. When we meet people more talented than ourselves, we become jealous and can’t help but try to compete with them and strive against them for profit and status. During work or in sermons, we often go on about how hard we’ve worked for the Lord and how much we’ve given to Him in order to exalt and draw attention to ourselves, yet we place little emphasis on communing God’s will and requirements. As a result, we get our brothers and sisters to worship and revere us and then there’s no place for God in their hearts. Oftentimes, we can’t stop ourselves from lying and deceiving to protect our self-interest, reputation and status, thus failing to be the honest people that God requires us to be. While we may abandon everything to serve God and work tirelessly, when we meet with some tragedy or our interests are compromised, we still complain about and misunderstand God, or even want to quit our ministry. Such examples abound. Given that we often sin and even rebel against and resist God, how do we still expect to be gained by Him or get straight into the kingdom of heaven?
The Lord Jesus said, “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). “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). Jehovah God said, “And you shall be holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). The Lord Jesus certainly never said that those who received the salvation of the cross and whose sins were forgiven would be gained by God and caught up into the kingdom of heaven. Rather, He clearly tells us, “Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin” and a servant of sin is certainly not one of God’s people. God is holy, so how could those who are constantly sinning be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven? Thus, only those who have cast off sin, been cleansed, and become the ones who do the heavenly Father’s will may enter into the kingdom of heaven. Only such people are truly gained by God.
At this point, some brothers and sisters may ask: “We’ve received the saving grace of the Lord Jesus’ crucifixion and our sins have been forgiven: Doesn’t that mean we’re already saved? Why is it that we continue to live in this vicious cycle of sin and confession and can’t break free from the fetters of sin? Why is this?”
God’s word explains this issue in the following way: “At the time Jesus’ work was the redemption of all mankind. The sins of all who believed in Him were forgiven; as long as you believed in Him, He would redeem you; if you believed in Him, you were no longer a sinner, you were relieved of your sins. This is what it meant to be saved, and to be justified by faith. Yet in those who believed, there remained that which was rebellious and opposed God, and which still had to be slowly removed. Salvation did not mean man had been completely gained by Jesus, but that man was no longer of sin, that he had been forgiven his sins: Provided you believed, you would never more be of sin” (“The Vision of God’s Work (2)”). “Man’s flesh is of Satan, it is full of disobedient dispositions, it is deplorably filthy, it is something unclean. People covet the enjoyment of the flesh too much and there are too many manifestations of the flesh; this is why God despises the flesh to a certain extent. When people cast off the filthy, corrupt things of Satan, they gain God’s salvation. But if they still do not divest themselves of filth and corruption, then they are still living under the domain of Satan. People’s conniving, deceitfulness, and crookedness are all things of Satan. … When you live under Satan’s domain you are incapable of manifesting God, you are something filthy, and cannot receive God’s inheritance. Once you have been cleansed and made perfect, you will be holy, you will be a proper person, and you will be blessed by God and delightful to God” (“Practice (2)”). “The sins of man were forgiven through the agency of the incarnate God, but this does not mean that man no longer has sin within him. The sins of man could be forgiven through the sin offering, but as for just how man can be made to sin no more, and how his sinful nature may be extirpated completely and transformed, he has no way of solving this problem. The sins of man were forgiven, and this is because of the work of God’s crucifixion, but man continued to live within the corrupt satanic disposition of old. This being so, man must be completely saved from his corrupt satanic disposition, so that his sinful nature may be completely extirpated, never to develop again, thus enabling the disposition of man to be transformed. This would require man to grasp the path of growth in life, to grasp the way of life, and to grasp the way to change his disposition. Furthermore, it would require man to act in accordance with this path, so that his disposition may gradually be changed and he may live under the shining of the light, so that all that he does may be in accord with the will of God, so that he may cast away his corrupt satanic disposition, and so that he may break free from Satan’s influence of darkness, thereby emerging fully from sin. Only then will man receive complete salvation” (“The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)”).
We all know that in the later period of the Age of Law, people became more and more sinful and were all at risk of being convicted and executed under the law. According to the needs of man at that time, God incarnated in the flesh as the Lord Jesus to do the step of work of humanity’s redemption, promulgate the way of man’s repentance, and redeem man from being convicted and fettered by the law. Having received the Lord Jesus’ salvation, we are qualified to come before God in prayer. If we sin again, as long as we confess to God and repent, our sins will be forgiven. This is the true meaning of salvation. Clearly, what we think of as salvation is nothing but being forgiven of our sins and no longer being convicted and executed under the law. However, being saved does not mean we’ve been gained by God, and having our sins forgiven does not mean that we no longer have sin within us. The Lord Jesus only absolved us of our sins, but He hasn’t absolved us of our sinful nature. Satanic natures like arrogance and conceit, selfishness and baseness, greed and evil, and crookedness and deceitfulness still control us, and they still dominate our thoughts, words and actions, and cause us to frequently sin and resist God in spite of ourselves. If we can’t rid ourselves of these corrupt dispositions, we will never be able to genuinely submit to and worship God. As such, we will always live under Satan’s domain and be one of Satan’s people.
If we want to be gained by God and become one of His people, we must cast off our satanic dispositions, break free from the fetters of sin and be cleansed. We must have genuine love for and submission to God, wrest ourselves from Satan’s influence and live in the light. This is the only way we can be qualified to be brought into the kingdom of heaven by God. So then, how can we be cleansed and enter into God’s kingdom? In fact, concerning this matter, the Lord Jesus long ago prophesied: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (John 16:12–13). “And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 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 12:47–48). And it says in 1 Peter 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” The Lord Jesus knew that those that had just recently been redeemed from the law would only be capable of confessing and repenting based upon knowledge of their sin. They weren’t at the point yet where they could understand the more profound truths regarding how to rid themselves of sin. The Lord Jesus was understanding of the fact that man was still at that immature state, so He didn’t express truths regarding man’s purification at that point. From the Lord Jesus’ prophecies we can see that He will come again in the end days to do the work of judgment beginning from the house of God, and impart all truths to us that we need to be cleansed and attain full salvation. He will show us the way to change our disposition, cast off our sinfulness, rid ourselves of our corrupt, satanic disposition and become cleansed so that we may be qualified to enter into God’s kingdom. Only by accepting God’s work of judgment in the end days and accepting the cleansing of God’s words, can we who have received the salvation of the cross thoroughly break out of the cycle of sin and confession and be gained by God.
These days, disasters throughout the world are unfolding on a larger and larger scale and many of the prophecies associated with the return of the Lord have already been fulfilled. Many brothers and sisters believe that the Lord might very well have already returned. At this crucial moment for welcoming the return of the Lord, we must be like the wise virgins and listen carefully for God’s voice. Whenever we hear someone testify that the Lord has returned, has issued His word and is doing the work of judgment, we must seek and investigate with an open mind. We must evaluate whether the word issued is the truth and can point us to the path of being purified. As long as we pray and seek, God will guide us. For the Lord has said previously, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). May all brothers and sisters welcome the Lord’s return, accept His work of judgment in the end days, soon break free from our corrupt dispositions and be caught up by God into the kingdom of heaven. Amen!