Can People Who Are Justified by Faith Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
By Zhao Hui
Gu Hanlin is a house church preacher. He has dedicated himself to the Lord and worked hard for Him for many years. But recently, he was troubled by a question …
One day, in the co-worker meeting, Gu Hanlin spoke out his confusion, “Brothers and sisters, the Bible says, ‘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’ (Romans 10:9–10). From these verses we can see that we can be approved by the Lord and be called righteous because of believing in Him and following Him. These years, we have also thought that we will be brought into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes. We have served the Lord for many years and have read the Bible many times, but we still often commit sins, tell lies, deceive, and have not the slightest tolerance and patience for others. Can such behaviours of ours be approved by the Lord? Are we able to enter the kingdom of heaven like this? I can’t see through this matter, so I want to explore it with you.”
The second he said this, Li Yan said humbly, “The Bible says, ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:23–24). In my opinion, as long as we trust that the Lord was nailed to the cross for us sinners and that He has redeemed us from sin, then we are gratuitously called righteous. Though we still commit sins, God no longer sees us as sinners. It is because of our faith that we receive huge salvation. This is ‘righteous through faith.’ I think this is totally in accordance with the Lord’s will. When He comes back, we will enter the heavenly kingdom.”
Hearing that, Zhou Jian nodded and said, “Right! I agree with Sister Li’s viewpoint. It is written in the Bible, ‘Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus’ (Romans 3:25–26). Because Jesus was crucified as the sin offering and successfully redeemed us from sin, as long as we believe in Him in our hearts, we can be gratuitously called righteous. It is completely due to our faith that we gain the salvation bestowed by the Lord! I firmly believe that this can’t be wrong!” The majority of the co-workers echoed one after another, “Amen!” “This is right.”
But Liu Dazhi questioned their viewpoint, saying “About this matter, I don’t think it is as simple as we’ve imagined. The Lord Jesus was crucified as the sin offering for us, and we are called righteous by our faith. This is an undeniable truth. The Lord doesn’t see us as sinners, which is His grace. But it can’t prove that we are righteous people. Just as the Bible says, ‘By works a man is justified, and not by faith only’ (James 2:24). The Bible also says that belief that only has faith but no works is dead. It seems that the key is to practice the Lord’s word. We all know that at the critical moment, in order to protect two angels, Lot wholeheartedly gave his two daughters in exchange for them and also didn’t regard his own life. This is a righteous action. What’s more, there is Job. Relying on his faith in Jehovah God, when he went through trials, he still didn’t deny God’s name and bore testimony to Him. He was called righteous by God. … The above facts prove that the righteousness we talk about is entirely different from the righteousness God talks of. If we think that as long as we hold on to our faith in the Lord, we can be justified and can enter the kingdom of heaven, then I think such an understanding is not in accordance with the Lord’s will.”
Though Li Yan acknowledged that Brother Liu’s fellowship made some sense, she didn’t totally agree with his view. So she continued to argue, “Though what we’ve done can’t compare to the testimony of the saints of ages past, we’ve also sacrificed, expended, suffered and paid prices after accepting the Lord Jesus. I believe that all these good deeds will also be approved by Him. Because the Bible says, ‘If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward’ (1 Corinthians 3:14). It can be seen that all the things man does in the Lord’s name and for His work will be commemorated by Him. They can all be called righteous.” Just as Li Yan finished speaking, Zhou Jian followed right away, “That’s right. The Lord knows that we’ve trekked, expended and worked hard for Him. He will also commemorate that.”
Liu Dazhi refuted them by saying, “The Lord said, ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Matthew 7:22–23). Aren’t those who prophesied, cast out devils and did many wonderful works in the name of the Lord all people who labored, sacrificed, and suffered? However, they were in the end detested and rejected by the Lord. I believe it isn’t as simple as we’ve imagined. There is truth in here to seek. The Lord is the Lord who observes the depths of man’s heart! I think the people the Lord truly approves are those who trek and expend in the Lord’s name and for His work without any impurities and selfish intentions. All that they pay and expend is taking God’s heart as their own and doing God’s will as their missions. They don’t talk of their own conditions and reasons, nor care about their own personal gain or loss. All that they do is completely for loving God and satisfying Him. Take Abraham as an example. When God asked him to offer Isaac, he could endure the pain of parting from Isaac and offer Isaac without hesitation. He was able to obey all God’s orchestrations and arrangements without conditions, which was his true faith and obedience. God approves such sincerity and unconditional obedience. Take Noah as another example. He built the Ark for one hundred years for doing God’s will. During that time, he didn’t have his own intentions and purposes, nor did he make demands of God. Instead, he accepted God’s commission, obeyed, considered and satisfied God’s will and practiced according to God’s will. Look at us today. How many among us are sincerely spending for the Lord? In our belief in God, we all consider Him to be a cornucopia, a Swiss Army knife, and consider making demands of Him and asking for blessings to be a matter of course. We sacrifice, spend, and labor with such intentions. How can it be said that we are for the Lord? How can we be approved by the Lord?”
Gu Hanlin said thoughtfully, “This reminds me of the words the Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves’ (Matthew 23:15). Outwardly, the Pharisees, chief priests and scribes also spent years abandoning and expending for God, and served Him in the temple every day, but they did these totally for their positions and meal-tickets and for controlling the believers in their hands. When the Lord came to work, they held back the believers from accepting the Lord in every possible way. Besides, they hated and rejected the Lord’s words, and they even joined forces with the Roman government to nail the Lord Jesus to the cross. Not only was their laboring and sacrificing not praised by the Lord, but they were punished and cursed by the Lord. Therefore, that people merely trek and spend for the Lord can indeed not be approved by Him.”
At that moment, Zhou Jian lost his cool. He said loudly, “I admit what you talk about, but the Lord has already taken on all of our sins. He doesn’t see us as sinners. This is enough. The Bible says, ‘And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). The Lord died for us sinners and lived for us sinners. He is merciful and compassionate. Will He not forgive us even though we commit sins?”
As soon as Zhou Jian’s voice subsided, Zheng Xiaohui said with steady conviction, “Though the Lord Jesus has taken on all of our sins, it can only be said that God doesn’t remember our sins. However, we still live in sin every day and can never break away from them. A man with sin will never see the Lord. As the Bible also says, ‘For God has not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness’ (1 Thessalonians 4:7). ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). Could it be that we can be called righteous by God because of the Lord Jesus redeeming us with His life? Let’s take a look at all the pastors and elders around us and the veteran Christians who have believed in God for their entire lives. Who among them is called righteous by God? Then look at each of us co-workers. Not only can we not follow the Lord’s teachings, but some of us use the excuse of working for the Lord to covet the comforts of the flesh; some fight for positions and have jealous disputes with each other; some use the excuse of working for the Lord to protect their own self-respect and positions, and often exalt themselves and testify to themselves to get others to adore and look up to them; some reveal selfishness and arrogance in everything they do and they love pleasure, follow social trends, and have no fear of God at all. Which of us does not live in the state of sinning each day and confessing each night? Can this be in line with the Lord’s will? Can we enter the heavenly kingdom?”
Liu Dazhi followed, “The Bible says, ‘But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid’ (Galatians 2:17). ‘For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries’ (Hebrews 10:26–27). From these two verses we can see that if one sins willfully after that he has received the knowledge of the truth, he can’t gain the Lord’s forgiveness. Even when David whom God delighted in sinned, he wasn’t forgiven by God and still met with calamity, so how could we be forgiven? If we often commit sins, even less can we be approved by the Lord.”
Zhou Jian glanced at Liu Dazhi and Zheng Xiaohui with resistance and then shouted loudly, “You are denying the Lord’s salvation! We’ve been saved by grace. When the Lord descends, He will bring us into the kingdom of heaven. We must never doubt the Lord’s salvation.”
Liu Dazhi was not constrained by Zhou Jian in the slightest. He said, “Brother Zhou, we are not denying the Lord’s salvation but exploring the truth of the fact. In our belief in the Lord, we should seek His will. We can’t depend on our imagination to measure what kind of people can enter the heavenly kingdom but should base it on the Lord’s word, which is accurate. 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). The Lord said plainly here that not all those who believe in the Lord and call on His name can enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who follow the will of the heavenly Father and love the Lord wholeheartedly can enter the heavenly kingdom. Though we believe in the Lord and follow Him, there are few who can truly carry out God’s will and enter the kingdom of heaven. For instance, when God led the Israelites out of Egypt, on the way to Canaan, most of them died in the wilderness. Only the pure, obedient and submissive women and children entered the good land of Canaan. Let me give another example. During the time the Lord worked, there were many people conquered by His signs and wonders. But they were not the true believers in the Lord. They followed Him not to gain the truth, but only to eat the loaves and have their fill and receive His grace and blessings, so the Lord didn’t acknowledge them. There were many other people following the Lord. But when they learned that the Lord was not to be the king of the Jewish state, they actually stood by the side of the Pharisees, shouting that the Lord Jesus should be nailed to the cross. Were they the true believers in God? Absolutely not! As we can see, only those who truly believe in God and obey Him can follow Him to the end. Just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘For many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14). Whom the Lord delights in are those who are compatible with the Lord and those who can care for His will.”
Hearing this, Zhou Jian embarrassedly bowed his head in silence.
Liu Dazhi took a glance at others and continued, “These days, through studying the Bible in many aspects, I read these words in Revelation 22:14, ‘Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.’ From this prophecy I realize that in our belief in the Lord, if we want to be approved by the Lord, we should follow His way and practice His word. We should not only change our external behaviors, but should focus on changing our life dispositions. Only after casting off our filthiness and corruption can we achieve the righteousness God talks of and can we achieve the knowledge of the Lord and compatibility with Him. Then we are worthy of entering God’s kingdom.”
Several co-workers all nodded in agreement and discussed with each other. Gu Hanlin said happily, “Brothers and sisters, today’s fellowship is endowed with the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination; such fellowship has solved my confusion. Thank the Lord!” Others also nodded and echoed, resonating with him. Gu Hanlin looked at the clock and said, “It’s getting late. Let’s finish up the meeting here.”
In the evening, Li Yan and her husband Gu Hanlin sat on the sofa studying the Bible. She found her husband seemed to have something on his mind, so she asked, “What’s wrong?” Gu Hanlin said with a scowl, “I’m a bit confused. Why are the fellowships of Brother Liu and his wife Sister Zheng so insightful?” Li Yan nodded, “I have the same feeling. Their words and the viewpoints they express at present are not only insightful, but also filled with the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination.” Gu Hanlin’s eyes lit up. He said mysteriously, “Perhaps they have been reading some good spiritual books? How about going to their home tomorrow to seek and discuss?” Li Yan smiled, “We thought of the same thing. Let’s go visit them tomorrow.”
The world is beset by disasters and the Lord’s day is upon us. The Lord Jesus said, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). It can be seen that only those who truly repent can enter into the kingdom of heaven. So, what’s true repentance? How can we achieve true repentance? This text will tell you.