Observations on the “Exploring Kingdom Exclusion” comments

Posted: October 14, 2008 in Kingdom Exclusion
Tags: , ,

Here are my observations of the conversation recorded in the comments under “Exploring Kingdom Exclusion” at an earlier date.

Rev. 20 shows us the punishment of the Devil, who is bound for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). This would be a good place to show that Christians would be excluded from the kingdom for a thousand years also. Nevertheless, many details are absent from Revelation, such as the rapture occurring in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Such details we find outside of Revelation. May we not need to look elsewhere to find Christians excluded from the kingdom for a thousand years? We’ll find Christians excluded from the kingdom in Gal. 5:21. The question is, is it for a thousand years, never, or for ever?

The Old Testament mentions two resurrections, of the just and the unjust (Dan. 12:2-3). Not until we get to Revelation do we find that they are a thousand years apart.

The Old Testament records the coming of God’s Anointed, the Messiah. Not until the New Testament do we understand that it spoke of two comings of the Messiah, now over two thousand years apart.

Could there be two resurrections of Christians, a thousand years apart, and thus determining a set period of punishment?

Rev. 20 mentions those who will be cast into the Lake of Fire – those whose names are not written in the Book of Life. To me, this implies that those who names ARE in the book of life will not be cast into the lake of fire. If Christians’ names are written in the Book of Life in such a way that they cannot be erased (an idea which is not easy to determine), then this is where they may be reinstated. But where’s the proof of reinstatement, and thus, temporary punishment during a kingdom period?

First we need to establish that Christians will be cast out of the kingdom. Gal. 5:21 tells us specifically that this is a possibility: “. . . those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Mark does not seem to believe it is possible: “Those forgiven by Christ, redeemed by his blood, do not face punishment that never ends. Nor do they face punishment in the millennial kingdom” (posted September 28, 2008 at 3:25 pm). Perhaps he does not believe exclusion from the kingdom is a form of punishment. I don’t believe in punishment of Christians in the Millennial Kingdom, but outside of it.

Matt. 24:45-51 shows us that at the Lord’s coming, faithful servants will be rewarded with ruling over the Lord’s goods. Unfaithful servants will be banished from the Lord’s property. Both incidents are marked by the coming of the Lord. The Lord deals with the judgment of the righteous and unrighteous servants soon after His return. This means that kingdom inclusion and exclusion begin at roughly the same time – shortly after Christ’s return. While some enjoy the kingdom, some are outside of it – this is kingdom exclusion at its most basic level. The reward and punishment occur simultaneously.

The context of Matt. 24:45-51 is Matt. 24:36-44, which tells us that the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Be watchful. So Matt. 24:45-51 helpfully answers the question, “What do I do to be watchful? What does it look like to be unprepared?” In Matt. 25:1-13 Jesus switches to another way of looking at preparedness, using the analogy of wise and foolish virgins to depict watchfulness and not while waiting for the bridegroom to come. In Matt. 25:14-30, Jesus covers it yet again from another tack in the examples of servants laboring for their master while he was away on a trip – examples of faithfulness and not. None of these examples mention the duration of punishment.

Some believers think that all punishments are for unbelievers. Importantly, in Matt. 24:45-51, the servants shown are the same servant, but in two scenarios: the first scenario is an example of watching, the other of not watching.

The servants cannot be two different servants because of verse 48: “but if that servant says in his heart. . .” “But” signals a contrast to what went before. “If” signifies an alternate possibility to consider. More importantly, “that servant” indicates the faithful servant who was the subject of the earlier verses. If Jesus meant to describe two different servants, He could just as easily have said, “but if another servant.” The word “that” tells us the servant previously mentioned is in view.

The passage does not make sense in context if it were two servants, such as saved and unsaved. It doesn’t make sense to make an unregenerate person a servant of Jesus, as a number of people try to do. They do this for a very understandable reason: they don’t believe Christians will be punished in the way this man was, therefore they conclude that the man was an unbeliever.

Commenting on this passage, a poster wrote, “Mat. 24:36-39, where Jesus establishes the context. He defines two groups of people: those in the covenant and those outside (”…as were the days of Noah”).” (October 5, 2008 at 12:01 pm)

I think this quote helps explain why some people cannot see Christians being excluded from the kingdom – the second servant was unsaved in the first place. 1 Cor. 6:9 warns Christians of the possibility of exclusion from the kingdom, yet this poster seems to think Christians will not be excluded from the kingdom. Who is right? In Matt. 24:45-51 we have an actual case illustration of a Christian being excluded from the kingdom. If you believe that the two servants are two different servants, the first saved and the second unsaved, then this is not a picture of kingdom exclusion. Which idea is correct?

Did Jesus really mean for both scenarios to represent two options for His followers? Jesus warned His disciples about being ready. He applied the passages to them when He told them, “Therefore YOU ALSO be ready” (Matt. 24:44a, emphasis mine). He applied the warnings to His disciples, not to those outside the covenant (the unsaved). If the warnings apply to only the unsaved, then I can see how it would be hard to find punishment of the believer during the kingdom age. I take Matt. 24:45-51 as a general principle, that all the faithful Christians will have a part in ruling or managing Christ’s kingdom in some capacity.

I believe it’s clear that faithful Christians will be raptured or resurrected at the first resurrection and receive their rewards around that time. Jesus said, “behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with me” (Rev. 22:12), so He will reward us at His coming. Scripture indicates that we who are alive may escape the tribulation period that precedes Christ’s coming (see Luke 21:36 and Rev. 3:10-11), so those passages also confirm a pre-tribulation or pre-wrath position.

If you believe that the second scenario represents an unregenerate man, not a Christian, then you may not believe that Christians can be punished during the Millennial Kingdom. In Matt. 24:45-51 we see an illustration of a believer missing the kingdom for the very reasons Paul warned us about: the works of the flesh. We don’t need Rev. 20 to verify the punishment of Christians from the start of the thousand-year kingdom. Matt. 24 already tells us this fact. Since Jesus is warning us about getting ready, this is the ideal place to put the illustration, not necessarily in Rev. 20.

So the Judgment Seat fixes the beginning point for the exclusion of believers.

Since Paul warns the church about losing out in the kingdom, we know that believers will miss the kingdom. I cannot consider the unfaithful servant in Matt. 24:45-51 an unbeliever. This man will be punished according to his works. This means we must be careful when we study other passages of judgment and not to quickly define the wicked as the unregenerate and the good as believers.

“Let me clarify my position: As regards the final judgment in the ancient literature (the OT included), the righteous are never excluded from God’s presence” (September 27, 2008 at 9:33 pm).

Do you have a problem with Christians being classified as good or evil? The master calls another unfaithful servant, “You wicked and lazy servant” (Matt. 25:26) for the way he behaved. If I believe I can be faithful by the grace of God and hear my Lord tell me, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” then if I reject His grace and persist in bad deeds I should also believe that the Lord could tell me, “You wicked and lazy servant.”

“I continue to affirm that Rev. 20 presents no picture of Christians being punished in the millennial kingdom. To borrow your line of thinking, wouldn’t any of the apostles (including John) said so?” (October 5, 2008 at 12:01 pm).

Jesus warned His disciples about being denied kingdom rewards in Matt. 24. That is enough to establish the doctrine. I am looking at the whole idea from the perspective that Christ’s work was enough to redeem those who believe upon Him for salvation. 1 Cor. 3:13-17 tells me that even saved people and their works can be burned, yet they will still be “saved.” Since this is so, what salvation was Paul talking about? Is being cast into the Lake of Fire part of salvation? I don’t believe so.

If punishment was never to end for believers who lived after the flesh, wouldn’t Scripture have given us a sterner warning than to just miss the kingdom? Why would Paul talk about not inheriting the kingdom when he could have just said that those who do such things will burn forever in the Lake of Fire? Which would have been a greater impetus to holy living for believers?

Why did Jesus tell the church of Ephesus that if they did not repent, He would remove their lamp stand from its place? Why not tell them about eternal burning in the Lake of Fire? Why did He tell the church in Thyatira that they’ll be cast into tribulation and not into the Lake of Fire? He tells the Laodicians that those in the church who overcome will reign with Him. They had a choice to reign or not, so they were all regenerate – do the unregenerate have this choice?

We know that Jesus warned us about hell, and we know from Rev. 20 that hell is not for ever – the dead will rise from it for the second judgment. Hell is everlasting – until something else takes its place: it is emptied and cast into the Lake of Fire. From that point, the people go in one of two destinations based upon books that are opened. Why open any books at all? If the question of guilt has been settled by casting them into hell, which is forever, then has not their guilt been settled already? Why review their works? Why not immediately toss them into the Lake of Fire along with hell? To me, this is the dividing place. It makes sense to review each person if hell had a duration that stopped at the second resurrection, and to decide who went where.

Jesus and Paul never warned disciples about the Lake of Fire because there was no possibility of being cast into it. They were only warned about missing out on the kingdom. The above show plainly that the exclusion will occur when judgment is rendered right after Christ’s coming. The Lake of Fire is the consummation of all punishment. All evil, death and sin are finally dealt with. Christians are saved from death (1 Cor. 15:54-58). They shall never perish (John 3:15-16). Thus they are excluded from the Lake of Fire – there is no other place for punishment left!

Because I am starting from the sufficiency of Christ’s work, I accept the reasoning that believers will miss the kingdom, suffering during that time, and find the suffering ending at the second resurrection. They’ll enter the new heavens and new earth with their names in the Book of Life.

“Those forgiven by Christ, redeemed by his blood, do not face punishment that never ends. Nor do they face punishment in the millennial kingdom” (September 28, 2008 at 3:25 pm).

Mark says that there are no verses where punishment is temporary. Yet he believes that Christians do not face eternal punishment. Is this a contradiction? Perhaps he believes Christians will not be punished at all, or Christians will be punished only temporarily. My section called “Jesus on Judgment” covers passages giving God’s principles by which some Christians will be punished. If Mark believes Christians will be punished only temporarily, why request proof of temporary punishment of me in the first place?

“I believe that when we see Jesus we will be perfect as he is perfect, for we shall see him face to face” (October 5, 2008 at 6:21 pm).

Because the passage above is in the Bible, I believe it. However, one must make it mesh with other passages that say the contrary. When other passages seem to contradict, it is possible that the promise in the passage is conditional, especially if the so-called contradictory passage is a warning. We believe that we will be perfect when we see Jesus (1 John 3:2), yet what about the passage where there is a possibility of being ashamed at His coming – “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28)? Both verses are true, and conditional: if one is abiding in Christ, one will be full of fruit and joyful, having a good conscience. If one is not abiding in Christ, one will appear before Christ ashamed for the sinful choices made in this life, but still saved. Just as we don’t change our character when we walk through a door, so it is with dying – in the state in which the person died, so he appears before Christ.

Scripture gives several occasions when a believer will appear before Christ in the same character he possessed at his death. For instance, if we deny Him, He will deny us – He will not count us perfect (Matt. 10:32-33). If we do not forgive, and we die in that state, then neither will our Father forgive us (Matt. 6:14-15 and elsewhere). If we end our lives unfaithful, Jesus will call us “wicked and lazy” servants (Matt. 25:26). Assuredly, appearing before Him perfect is conditional. It is possible to appear before Him perfect as we live by faith. God will perfect those who abide in Christ. He will grant them what they have lived their lives for.

The warning passages promising grave consequences for living according to the flesh powerfully encourage us to endure pains to avoid any unpleasant consequences to come, to avoid sin at any price, to count the cost of being Christ’s disciple. And the consequences are so severe because the giving of God’s Son was so overwhelmingly gracious and the suffering of Christ was so harsh – “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:28-30).

Jesus is coming to establish a kingdom forever. He calls us to live worthy of such a holy calling that we may dwell in it with Him in honor, forever.

  1. Kevin Hobby says:

    Your opening sentence:
    “Rev. 20 shows us the punishment of the Devil, who is bound for a thousand years”

    Isaiah xxiv:21-23 details how that not only the Devil is bound, but entire host of the high ones that are on high seem to be in view as well…

    “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited”

    …Here we have the ‘spiritual wickedness in high places’ (Eph. 6:12b) imprisoned, along with the kings of the earth and their armies (which will gather together to make war against Christ and against His army); to await a future judgement, a judgement to take place ‘after many days’. This scenario is then followed by a description of just what will occur in the interim, during the ‘many days’, after they are ‘shut up in the prison’…

    “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously”

    Dr. Christian August Crusius comments:
    ‘the light of the sun shall be obscured before the splendor of the throne of Majesty’
    (De caelo per Adventum Christi commoto) A.D. 1757

    …The question may arise, ‘Okay, so exactly how many days are we dealing with here?’:

    And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne…(Rev. xx)

  2. […] in the first place. (For the record, I believe it is temporary. I lay out that argument here.) Let’s assume for the sake of argument that KE is not temporary. What are the ramifications of […]