Westward declined the sun; the sunset’s afterglow tinted half of the sky and the evening glow appeared especially beautiful and dazzling. Su Mingyue, sauntering on the pebble road in the park, looking thoughtful, didn’t have the heart to enjoy such a brilliant scenery. A breeze stirred the tips of the trees, golden falling leaves dropping with the wind. This scene was just like her mood at that time. She was thinking: Over the past twenty years in serving the Lord, I have often sinned, but I believe firmly all along that the Lord has already forgiven the sins of us humans. And as long as I stick to working and preaching for Him, I will change in an instant and become holy, and then be raptured into the kingdom of heaven when He comes back. Yet … the scenes just now, just like motion pictures, were swimming into her mind.
Su Mingyue was about to get up to leave after talking about the problems of the work of the church, when Lin Muzhen said thoughtfully, “Sister Su, a question has confused me for a very long time.”
“Oh, what’s it? Speak please. Let’s seek and fellowship together.” replied Su Mingyue, staring at Lin Muzhen, seemed much burdened.
Lin Muzhen, somewhat knitting his brows, said, “These several years in our meetings and preaching, we often say Paul’s words, ‘For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Rom 10:10), and say when one is saved, he is eternally saved. Therefore, we’re convinced that we have been saved and been justified by faith, and that we still often sin and are far from being sanctified, but the Lord’s return will change our image in an instant and rapture us into the kingdom of heaven. After brothers and sisters listened to such sermons, they seem to have faith in being raptured into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord returns. Nevertheless, they don’t pay attention to practicing the Lord’s words or abiding by His commandments. They even increasingly accommodate themselves and follow their fleshly desires without any reverence for God, living in sin like the unbelievers. Do you think we, believing in the Lord like this, can and ?”
Listening to Brother Lin’s words, Su Mingyue, clenching the pen in her hand, was startled, thinking: Such is indeed the universal condition of the brothers and sisters in the church now. I’ve been preaching the doctrine of justification by faith these years, but the believers become decreasingly dispirited and weak, fewer and fewer of them having meetings but more and more having a fondness for this world. My son and daughter-in-law serve mammon and God at the same time, and how much more others. When those believers were persuaded to hurry to repent to the Lord, some of them said, “Unbelievers though we look like, yet the Lord won’t forsake us when He returns. He will change our image in an instant, allowing us to become holy and to be raptured into the kingdom of heaven.” Now the majority of the believers are farther from the Lord. Can such belief in God be compatible with the will of the Lord?
Lin Muzhen continued to say, “In the , God ever said, ‘Be you holy; for I am holy’ (1Pe 1:16). It also records, ‘And holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Heb 12:14). We who often commit sins have been awaiting all the time the return of the Lord to be raptured into the kingdom of heaven, which, in my opinion, is impossible! We live in sin and are unrepentant, but hope to be raptured when the Lord returns. This is wishful thinking. I wonder what you think of this.”
Some agreed, “Right! I have the same feeling.” Others, “That is just what I’m thinking.” Deep in thought, Su Mingyue gave no reply.
Holding the Bible, Sun Wangu came up to the chair beside Lin Muzhen and lifted his voices, saying “Brother Lin, You cannot put it like that. The was crucified for mankind as the sin offering and already redeemed us from sin, so our faith in the Lord Jesus justified us freely, and no one can condemn us. Just as Paul said, ‘Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that comdemns?’ (Rom 8:33-34). Since God has justified us, is there need for us to worry that we cannot be raptured into the kingdom of heaven because of our constant sin?”
Zhang Enhui was about to speak when Hu Peng stood up from his seat and said, “What Brother Sun said is right. Paul also said, ‘For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph 2:8-9). Believing in the Lord is justification by faith, is relying on grace for salvation, as well as gaining eternal salvation once we are saved. As a result, there is no need for us to worry whether we commit sins or not, whether we achieve holiness or not, or whether we are consistent with the Lord’s will—those are not questions. Never hesitate to believe Paul. We’ll be changed immediately and be raptured into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes back. If we have no such confidence, how can we be called believers in the Lord?”
Zhang Enhui then fellowshiped, “Brother Sun, Brother Hu. I don’t agree with you on your viewpoint. According to yours, no matter how we commit sins in believing in the Lord, He will forgive us; when He returns He will take us into the kingdom of heaven all the same. Thus, how will you explain the words 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).”
Sun Wangu and Hu Peng looked at each other, speechless.
Zhang Enhui got on with her topic, “The Lord Jesus also prophesied He will come in the last days to separate the goats from the sheep, the weeds from the wheat and the wicked servants from the good servants. Supposed man can enter the kingdom of heaven on account of his justification by faith and his relying on grace for salvation, then how will the prophecies of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled? Can you explain them clearly? In my eyes, it is absolutely not so easy as man imagines to be raptured into the kingdom of heaven.”
Li Zhi said with agreement, “Right! God said, ‘And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be’ (Rev 22:12). Based on the words of the Lord Jesus, when He comes back, He will reward or punish each in accord with our deeds. Whether we will finally enter the kingdom of heaven or go to hell in believing in God is directly related to whether we practice the Lord’s words and follow His way. However, on the basis of your viewpoint, we are to be instantly transformed and become holy and be directly raptured into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord returns, irrespective of whether we walk the way of the Lord or whether we sin. In this way, entering the kingdom of heaven is less associated with our deeds, and we will have no need to lay stress on practicing the Lord’s words and complying with His commandments. If so, will His word ‘to give every man according as his work shall be’ be lost? Don’t all of you think so?”
Sun Wangu and Hu Peng stared at each other, embarrassed and ashamed. The others nodded their agreement in succession. Looking at Yang Xinjing, Li Zhi asked, “Sister Yang, what do you think of that?” Hearing Li Zhi’s inquiry, everyone looked at Yang Xinjing and waited for her reply.
She said gently, “I agree with the viewpoint of Sister Zhang and Brother Chen. We’re forgiven of our sin in believing in the Lord Jesus, which is justification by faith; this is right. Yet the people who are justified by faith often sin and have no true repentance; is that after the Lord’s will? People of this kind still look forward to being raptured into the kingdom of heaven; I think it seems impossible, for the Lord Jesus never said people of being justified by faith can enter the kingdom of heaven. With regard to which type of people are to be raptured into the kingdom of heaven, the Lord Jesus’ words show clearly, ‘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’ (Mat 7:21).” How obvious the Lord Jesus’ word is! Only those who practice the Lord’s words, walk His way and thus obey His will can enter the kingdom of heaven; that is the unique condition of entering the kingdom of heaven predestined by the Lord Jesus. Judged by our practical situation, we haven’t practiced more of the Lord’s words, nor have we kept His commandments. We don’t possess this basic condition of entering the kingdom of heaven. Additionally, we always can’t help but tell lies, cheat others, hate and envy others inwardly, have greed and evil thoughts, and complain against and judge the Lord when meeting unsatisfactory things. Measuring our conduct, we are not the people who obey . People like us can really be changed in an instant and be raptured into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord returns? It is merely possible for those who obey God’s will to be changed immediately and be raptured into the kingdom of heaven. If we, who often commit sins, are to be raptured into the kingdom of heaven, how can the word of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled and realized? In the opinion of me, it is possible that the word said by Paul, “in a moment we shall be changed,” will be fulfilled on the apostles and disciples of the Lord Jesus; while it is impossible to be fulfilled on us. This is my point of view.
“Sister Su, wait, please.” Yang Xinjing’s shouting interrupted Su Mingyue’s thinking. Yang Xinjing quickened her pace to catch up with her. “What’s wrong with you? You seem to be thoughtful. You didn’t hear my shouts.” Yang asked, looking concerned.
Su Mingyue said with emotion, “I was thinking our fellowship today. According to Paul’s words, we thought in the past, that we had been justified by faith, and had been saved and received God’s grace in believing in the Lord. In spite of our constant sin, the Lord will change our image in a split second and take us into the kingdom of heaven. I often gave such sermons, not realizing what the results would be. Unexpectedly, many brothers and sisters, holding onto such a viewpoint, ignore the Lord’s words and requirements, pay no attention to practicing the Lord’s words or observing His commandments, and even become more and more debauched, farther from the Lord, living in the situation of relying on grace and committing sins at the same time, but still yearning for being changed in an instant when the Lord returns and entering the kingdom of heaven. I was thinking: Why does it not bring edification for brothers and sisters if this fellowship of mine is in accord with the Lord’s will? Why can it cause many believers to become more and more degenerated?”
Yang Xinjing said, “Yes. Through the fellowship today, these questions are exposed evidently. It’s a good thing. As can be seen, it is probably not after the Lord’s will that we don’t believe in the Lord by His word, but await His return to rapture us, change our image and make us holy in an instant by Paul’s word. In that case, how can we practice the Lord’s words to conform to the will of Him, and be raptured into the kingdom of heaven?”
Su Mingyue nodded her head and said, “This question is really worthy of our deep thought.”
Yang Xinjing seemed to think of something, saying, “Do you remember the Lord Jesus’ words, ‘My sheep hear my voice …’ (Jhn 10:27) and ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Mat 25:6). Our church is now so desolated without the slightest of the work of the Holy Spirit, nor can the priest and elder point out a way for us. I think we shall seek out the work and utterances of the Holy Spirit. We can’t sit still and wait for death this way.”
Su Mingyue said in approval, “You’re right. We shall go out to see in which church there is the work of the Holy Spirit and the new light, and who is testifying the words spoken by the Holy Spirit to all of the churches.”
They went forward side by side. The pebbled road in the rays of the late sun appeared narrow and long …