Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 18, 1961

Inheriting The Kingdom

Joe Neil Clayton, Noble, Oklahoma

It is natural, perhaps, that a series of lessons on the "kingdom" parables should end with the subject of inheriting the kingdom. However, last in consideration should not mean least in importance, for inheriting the kingdom is the goal toward which all citizens of the kingdom, that is Christians, strive. In former lessons, we have discussed the necessity of entering the kingdom, the value that must be placed on it, and the growth of the kingdom through the work of God and man. Now, our consideration is of the reward that is granted to faithful and loyal workers.

The prime lesson to be learned from parables that speak of this inheritance is that receiving such a reward is conditional. We have already seen that God expects labor, and labor involves responsibility of sorts. But, the conditions presented to us in the parables of this lesson are those of stewardship, or the responsibility of proper use of the commodities which the Lord has placed in our care for his profit Part of this responsibility is the recognition of the spiritual value of good works. Christ says:

"But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; and I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink? And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not .Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw 'we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them saying, verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me. And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life."

(Matt. 25:31-46)

When Christ invites those on his right hand to "inherit the kingdom," he makes it plain that the benevolent work they have done to the "least" of the brethren was in reality done to himself, and are therefore considered as works which merit recognition in reward. They were "blessed" of the Father "for" they had done these works.

Consequently, we know that Christ has stipulated conditions to be met in receiving our reward.

When we remember the passage which says "not of works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us," let us also remember that this statement was made to show "works" avail nothing to the alien sinner. (Titus 3:5) However, in Titus 2:14 we are told that Christ "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works." good works thus prove to be an integral part of Christian life. The "Kingdom" parables, remember, describe the nature of the church, the body of the saved. The ultimate salvation of the Christian will very definitely depend on and be determined by his works.

A perfunctory performance of good works, on the other hand, could have the effect of making the Christian complacent about his spiritual status. Some of the "Kingdom" parables warn against this, such as that of the Ten Virgins in Matt. 25:1-13:

"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For the foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there is a cry, behold, the bridegroom! Come ye forth to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are going out. But the wise answered, saying, Peradventure there will not be enough for us and you: go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went away to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour."

The meaning here is so obviously transparent that it contributes many disturbing thoughts to the man who believes in the impossibility of apostasy. This author once heard a Baptist preacher state that he would not be guilty of delving into interpretations of this parable, but would expose only the "prime" lesson in it, which was, he said, "Don't go to sleep on the job?" By using this questionable escape, he condemned the wise virgins as well as the foolish ones. The reasoning of such an action expose the fear which he had of the true interpretation of the passage. He could have avoided preaching on the passage, but we hope that all such preachers will continue to wrestle with such passages until the inherent power of the truth will bring about their conversion.

But, aside from this, we learn in this text that after the Ten Virgins were awakened, an inventory of their le-sources revealed an unforeseen shortage of oil. Five of those who waited had foolishly failed to provide themselves with adequate supply. They first turned to the others in an appeal to share, but, as could be expected in wise vigil-keepers, they refused for fear that a supply calculated to be sufficient for one would prove inadequate for two.

The wise virgins might be viewed by the critic as needlessly severe in their denial of the petition, but we must see that Christ attributed their wisdom to this caution. It is the refusal to be complacent about having met the conditions attached to our inheritance. As a side issue, it could be argued that the narrative also shows that virtue based on conditional preparedness is not transferrable, which is contrary to the position taken by Catholic regarding the invocation of saints. The real issue, however, is seen demonstrated first in ample preparation, and then in the refusal to trust their supply to accelerated consumption. Tragedy is noted in the failure of the belated attempts to make up the lack and the subsequent rebuff from the bridegroom.

To clinch the argument in favor of the possibility of apostasy we note that the apostle Peter says:

"For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear? Wherefore, let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:17-19)

Peter's charge to commit our souls in "well-doing" to God follows clearly Christ's revelation that ultimate salvation is based on conditional obedience in good works.

In other parables, we are shown the expectations of the Lord concerning our performance of works. The parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and the parable of the Pounds (Luke 19:12-27) are the best example of this. We observe many similarities in these two accounts. They both reveal that a commission was given to the servants and the Lord's goods put into their hands. Then both narrate the circumstance of an extended absence of the Lord, followed by a reckoning on his return. The rewards and punishments meeted out in the two parables are also comparable. However, there are some dissimilarities to be considered. First, the Talents men received different amounts to work with, which is an indication that the commission of the Lord takes into account the ability of the servant. A Talent of Gold or of Silver represented a great deal of money, and indicates by interpretation a commission of great responsibility. Even the man who received only one Talent was charged with considerable obligation. When the Lord's expectation was not met, He had no choice but to punish such gross neglect. In contrast, the Pounds men all received the same amount with which to work. It was a relatively small sum, if compared to the Talent of Gold or Silver. The lesson in this indicates equal responsibility on the part of all servants. The expectation of acceptable performance is noted in this parable as much as in the first, but the results are expressed in a different manner. It could be said that the Talents men represent the stewards, both of souls and of the word, in the house of God, or the church; the Elders, evangelists, and teachers. The Pounds men could be seen as representing all citizens in the kingdom, charged with equal responsibility before the Lord. Yet, we note that the reckoning brings similar results to both workers and shirkers. Those meeting the conditions are rewarded abundantly, and the unprofitable servants are confronted with eternal destruction.

In the New Testament, Christians of all abilities and responsibilities are charged with works to do in both the evangelistic and the benevolent realms. Our obedience to these commissions is imperative, if we hope to render a satisfactory report in the great reckoning. The Day of Judgment will prove too late to begin this work, for John writes of his Patmos vision in the finale of the New Testament:

"And he saith unto me, Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand. He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still. Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city. Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning star.

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely." (Rev. 22:10-17)