People who are against any form of KE (and various forms do exist) usually insist on challenging the idea that KE is temporary. This means that they believe either KE is eternal or non-existent 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 that position for the following passage?
In Matt. 24:36-51, Jesus warns His disciples to be ready for His coming. 24:36-42 stresses that we don’t know when He will come. 24:43-44 teaches that if a master of the house knew when a burglar would be coming, he would be prepared for the thief. Through these passages Jesus warns us to be ready because He is returning at an unexpected hour.
In 24:45-47 Jesus answers the question of what it means to be ready: the servant continues faithfully at his assigned task while the master is absent. The faithful servant is made ruler over all the master’s goods.
In 24:48-51 Jesus answers the question of what it means not to be ready: the unfaithful servant has rejected his duties and he was found in that position at the master’s return; he is cut in two and put with the hypocrites and there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus intends the above teaching to apply to His disciples by the use of “you” – “Therefore YOU also be ready.” Why say this if it was not possible for them to be unprepared? Therefore the teaching of the two servants are to warn us of the consequences we’ll suffer if we are not ready and encourage us of the blessings to come for being ready.
Note that Jesus is not talking about two separate servants, one good and one bad, but the same servant. “But if that evil servant” refers to the same servant, not to a different person.
If KE is permanent, and you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior then are unfaithful at His coming, you’ll lose your salvation. If KE is permanent, then salvation is according to works.
People avoid this trap by saying that the above are two separate servants, one saved and the other not. It makes no sense to say that an evil person goes to hell and a saved person goes to heaven – that is obvious! It also makes no sense in the context of what Jesus was teaching – before and after the passage on the two types of servants are warnings to be ready. Readiness through being faithful in one’s works is stressed, not readiness through accepting Jesus as Savior.
Jesus’ teaching above is to stress the importance of His disciples being ready, and even gives them positive and negative examples to help them with the concept. The idea of using positive and negative examples is a well-established way of teaching a truth.
If you accept that KE is permanent, then you also believe that salvation can be forfeited. I believe that a believer cannot lose his or her salvation; rather, such teachings as the above passages show us that our actions here have great ramifications for obtaining or losing future rewards.
In Matt. 25:1-13, through the analogy of the wise and foolish virgins, Jesus reiterates His warning regarding being ready. Jesus repeats His teaching again with another illustration in 25:14-30 regarding the faithful and unfaithful servants. Jesus specifically tells us that these passages relate to the “kingdom of heaven,” so they relate to kingdom exclusion – the wise and faithful enter into the blessings while the foolish and unfaithful are excluded from the blessings. So a believer being excluded from the kingdom for a period of time is very real.
If you believe that no Christian is excluded from the Millennial Kingdom, then what else do the above passages teach? The above passages are the plainest teaching for exclusion from the kingdom in the Word of God. How much plainer could God have made it? Those who have rejected KE have not given me alternate meanings for the above passages (they do not have to of course, but it might create a more helpful discourse if they did).
If KE is permanent, then salvation is according to works – you are saved by holiness, not the blood of Jesus; if you are not a faithful Christian, you are going into the Lake of Fire for ever. In this scenario, how can one ever have assurance of salvation, for temptations continue day after day? (Yes, I’m aware that some Christians believe a saved person can lose salvation. In such cases, no conversation will be fruitful – just read their debates in the Christian forums.)
KE is real because Scripture teaches it. KE is temporary because salvation cannot be lost – Christ’s work on the cross was sufficient.
Christians will suffer through KE because they are not motivated to obtain the unseen glories of the kingdom of heaven, which involves denying themselves through the cross. Human beings are made to be motivated to higher ideals by rewards. Those who want Olympic gold deny themselves the normal engagement with this world to work hard to discipline their bodies. God offers a greater reward to believers who discipline their flesh to live for the kingdom to come and the rewards to follow. God offers no rewards for the slacker – and neither does anyone else. And Christian slackers abound.If we confess Christ before others, Christ will confess us (Matt. 10). If we deny Christ, Christ will deny us. If we are tempted to deny Him, we may take boldness in the fact that Christ will handsomely reward those who stand for Him.
As God’s people suffer through bad choices in this life, so they will suffer in the life to come. Mere death will not prevent this – if our life represents a denial of Jesus, then after death we’ll experience Christ’s denial of us.
We cannot lose our salvation, but we can lose our reward.