Preacher’s Question: Laboring Cannot Enter the Kingdom of God?
Chen Zhong began to believe in the Lord when he was a child. When attending meetings, he often heard pastors say: “‘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…. (2 Timothy 4:7–8). Brothers and sisters! When we believe in the Lord, as long as we work hard and give up all to follow the Lord, then there will be a crown of righteousness in store for us. When the Lord comes, we’ll be raptured to the kingdom of heaven.” From then on, Chen Zhong made up his mind: I will follow the Lord all my life, I will labor for the Lord, preach the gospel, and testify the Lord in all places when I grow up.
After growing up, Chen Zhong became an excellent preacher. He ran through wind and rain, preaching in all places and shepherding the church no matter if it was bitter cold or scorching heat. He even gave up his family and marriage. He dedicated all to the Lord, deeply believing that only by doing so could he be raptured to the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes. However, every time he saw the words of the : “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). He felt very puzzled: When I was a child, pastors often told us that we could be raptured to the kingdom of heaven as long as we labored for the Lord. Paul also said: “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….” (2Ti 4:7–8). But from the Lord Jesus’ words, it can be seen that He did not approve those who did work in His name, but even called them evil-doers. Why is that? Cheng Zhong thought it over and over, but couldn’t figure it out.
One day in a co-worker meeting, Chen Zhong said: “My fellow co-workers, I have one question that has puzzled me for a long time. Lately, I have been reflecting: Are we truly obeying the will of the heavenly Father by preaching and laboring for the Lord in all places? Can we be raptured to the kingdom of heaven by doing so? I want to hear your views on this matter by this opportunity.” Several co-workers looked at each other, and started talking at once.
Co-worker Li said: “There is nothing to worry about. Paul said: ‘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….’ (2Ti 4:7–8). I believe that as long as we work hard, and suffer and spend for Lord in accordance with the words of Paul, we will surely be raptured to the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes back. I don’t think there is anything questionable!”
After hearing co-worker Li’s words, Hao Aiguang said with a frown: “In the Bible, Paul did say so. Throughout these years, we also worked hard, suffered, and spent for the Lord according to Paul’s words. And, we believe that as long as we act like this, we will surely be taken into the kingdom of heaven by the Lord. However, I have some confusion lately. I feel that we may not necessarily receive the Lord’s approval by seeking according to Paul’s view. For I saw the Lord Jesus’ words 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’ (Mat 7:22–23). Those who preached, cast out devils, and did wonderful works in the Lord’s name were surely people who labored. But the Lord Jesus clearly said that they were evil-doers and would be forsaken by Him. This shows that working hard simply doesn’t mean that we can gain the Lord’s approval. But Paul thought that as long as he toiled and worked hard for the Lord, then he could enter into God’s kingdom. I think Paul’s words are different from the Lord Jesus’ and not accordant with the Lord Jesus’ teachings. On such an important matter of entering the kingdom of heaven, we should consider it according to the Lord Jesus’ word for He is the King of the kingdom of heaven. No matter whose words they are, if they are not accordant with the Lord’s words or teachings, we should have discernment and should not listen to them blindly. Otherwise, we will easily resist God, offend God’s disposition, and be forsaken by God!”
Several co-workers nodded in agreement, co-worker Li looked a little ashamed.
Co-worker Zheng said approvingly: “Right, the Lord’s word is the standard of what kind of man can enter the kingdom of heaven. We indeed should measure it according to the word of the Lord Jesus! Actually, the question asked by brother Chen also has puzzled me for a long time. God said: ‘Be you holy; for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16). The Bible also said, ‘and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). We have worked for the Lord for years, but we still often sin and confess, even cannot stop telling lies. There is so much filth and corruption within me. All my thoughts are evil and none of them is compatible with God. Sometimes, when brothers and sisters are not to our liking, we would express disdain and aversion, without forbearance and patience. When something that does not match our notions happens, we still can complain and misinterpret God. Moreover, we even crave the world and follow the trends of the evil world. When the Lord comes back, can we be raptured to the kingdom of heaven? What will we do if we are forsaken by the Lord? We really need to think about it very carefully.”
Co-worker Li flung his arms open with an incredible look, saying: “How can the Lord forsake us? Though we still have sin and also haven’t reached holiness, our sins have been forgiven by the Lord and we have been saved. Besides, we have worked for the Lord so many years and have suffered so much. The Lord should give us credit for hard work, if not for good work. How can the Lord not commend us?”
Hao Aiguang refuted: “It is a fact that the Lord has forgiven our sins and allowed us to come before Him to enjoy His grace. But on the matter of entering the kingdom of heaven, He never said that ones whose sins were forgiven could enter the kingdom of heaven, nor did he say that whoever labored for Him could enter the kingdom of heaven. On the contrary, the Lord clearly told man: ‘but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ The Lord Jesus also said, ‘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). The Lord is holy. We are such impure and corrupt men, how can we have the qualification to be raptured to the kingdom of heaven?”
Co-worker Zheng replied quickly: “Thank the Lord! Co-worker Hao’s fellowship is reasonable. This word is enlightening. I remember it is written in the Bible: ‘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’ (Heb 10:26–27). The Lord is righteous. We can work hard for the Lord, but we still often sin and confess, and always cannot put the Lord’s words into practice. We indeed have no qualification to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
After hearing the fellowship of brothers and sisters, Chen Zhong understood a little, but he still had some confusion.
Chen Zhong opened his heart and fellowshiped: “After hearing what you said, I do understand a lot. ‘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.’ These are words of the Lord. We should pursue according to the Lord’s requirement, and there is no doubt about it. But I have one confusion: We give up our families and professions, sacrifice our youth and marriage and labor for the Lord year after year, isn’t it doing the will of the heavenly Father? I am a bit confused, so I want to hear your fellowship.”
Hao Aiguang replied mildly: “For a long time, we have thought that as long as we give up everything and work hard for the Lord, we are doing the will of the heavenly Father. But why the Lord Jesus said these words: ‘I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Mat 7:23). Outwardly, we have done a lot of work, but in our heart, we don’t love and obey the Lord at all. How can we be the people doing the will of the heavenly Father? In fact, many of us only focus on religious rituals and rules. They do not seek the Lord’s will and the truths, and not focus on practicing the Lord’s words. They always act according to their own will and their personal likes. All these are not doing the will of the heavenly Father. Just like the Pharisees at that time, they gave up everything, toiled and labored, and traveled over land and sea spreading the gospel. But what they did was not for loving and obeying God, not for leading man to follow God’s way and worship God, and not even for lifting up God and bearing witness for God. Instead, they exalted themselves and testified to themselves, drew man to come before themselves, and let man worship and look up to themselves. What they did was full of their intentions and purposes, was for satisfying their ambitions and desires. Their toiling and laboring doesn’t bring them into the kingdom of heaven. On the contrary, it brought them to God’s righteous judgment.”
“Right!” agreed co-worker Zheng, “The Pharisees made sacrifices and endured hardships outwardly, but they still could resist and condemn God, and also could unite the Roman government to crucify the Lord Jesus. This is enough to show that external sacrifices and hardships doesn’t mean we are doing the will of the heavenly Father, doesn’t mean we are able to know God and obey Him! Similarly, today we work hard and make sacrifices outwardly, but we still often sin and resist God. We are not people who obey and fear God, then how can we be called people doing the will of the heavenly Father? How are we qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven?”
Hao Aiguang nodded and continued: “The Lord Jesus 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’ (Mat 22:37–38). I think the right way of doing the will of the heavenly father is to seek to love the Lord with our whole heart and mind. We are able to practice and experience God’s words, to work according to the requirement of the Lord, to lift the Lord and bear testimony to God in all things when we do our duties, and finally to truly obey the Lord. Acting like this is really doing the will of the heavenly Father, only those doing so are qualified to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
“Right!” agreed one co-worker. “Doing the will of the heavenly Father does not simply mean making sacrifices and enduring hardships outwardly. What’s more important is that we can practice the way of fearing God and shunning evil. We can maintain a heart of obeying God, care for the Lord’s heart, not fuss over our own losses and gains, and fulfill the commission of the Lord with all our heart and strength. When something happens at odds with our conceptions, we are able to seek the Lord’s will, to obey and satisfy God, no matter what kind of trial we meet. Only by doing so can we deserve to enter into God’s kingdom.”
After hearing that, Chen Zhong nodded and said: “what you said let me think of those apostles and prophets throughout ages: Peter sought to love and satisfy God, and focused on practicing the Lord’s words all his life. He could endure all suffering for loving God, finally he was nailed upside down on the cross and gained God’s approval. When, as required by God, Abraham offered his only son for a burnt offering and returned his son to God, although he was painful, he was willing to obey God’s requirement. At last he gained the approval of God. Job endured extreme pain in trial, but he still kept the way of fearing God and shunning evil. He praised the name of God, did not consider his personal gains and losses, but only sought to obey and fear God. In the end, he gained God’s approval and blessings.”
Hao Aiguang responded favorably: “That’s right! They could practice the Lord’s words, obey and satisfy God without any condition, and finally they obtained God’s approval. When believing in God, only if we seek the truth, practice God’s words and live out the reality of God’s words, can we become those who obey the and then be raptured to the kingdom of heaven.”
Chen Zhong said with a sigh: “In this case, working hard simply cannot help us to gain the approval of God and to be raptured to the kingdom of heaven. Today, sister Hao’s fellowship had the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, which makes me gain a lot. Well, sister Hao, why can you speak these words that are full of enlightenment?
Everyone looked at her with wonder-waiting eyes.
Hao Aiguang looked around at all the faces with a smile, then she took out a book from the bag …