Eternal Life Is Not Given by Measure :: By Gene Lawley

The parable Jesus told of a vineyard owner hiring workers throughout the day but paying each of them the same wage for the day’s work seems to illustrate the principle, as in the title above. The parable is recorded in Matthew 20:1-16:

“…For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.  And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’

“So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 

“But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

It is a rather long narrative, but there are three points to be considered as insight into the “likeness of the kingdom of heaven” so revealed in this parable—the same wage being paid to each of the workers; the first is last and the last first; and many are called, but few are chosen. The challenge is to learn how those three points are illustrated by this parable. It brings me to that proverb that says, “And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10b).

But wait! The first part of that verse also has an important input to this as well: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10a).

The first item is the way the workers were paid—each one received the same amount, although their hours of work differed. As the article title indicates, it compares to the gift of eternal life and how it comes to those who believe and receive it. No one gets more eternal life than anyone else. That seems to be a simple answer, but does anyone have difficulty with the realization that someone who receives the gift of eternal life through Christ at an early age and spends his life in service to the Lord, while someone on his deathbed accepts Christ and has no life left to live for the Lord, yet he also has eternal life? Perhaps not so much, but that is a reasonable comparison with the details of the parable.

That old Adam nature each believer spars with all day long, every day and night, has a way of crying out, “That’s not fair!” Remember how the disciples, James and John, wanted to sit on each side of Jesus when He was seated on His throne in heaven? Who doesn’t want special privileges to satisfy his self-centered soul?

The passage that sheds light on this is found in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

There is only one foundation for eternal life, and that is Jesus Christ. Likewise, there is only one full and complete eternal life. It is not handed out in pieces, depending on how well we have served. Notice in that passage how well one has served results in rewards that are not burned up by the test of fire. Yet, the foundation remains firm and sure. That is the assurance of salvation, as so stated in 1 John 5:11-12:

“And this is the testimony that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son; he who has the Son has life, and he who does not have the Son does not have life.”

That thief on the cross who believed did not have time for any good works; his only one was his recognition of Jesus as the Savior. Yet, his salvation was as assured as anyone else’s.

As an example, a man who accepts Christ on his deathbed might say, as his wife, perhaps, tells him of the Jesus he has avoided all his life, “I love you more now than I ever did before you helped me find Jesus to save me.” That comment of love may be the only “good work” he would be able to do, but it would be in the gold, silver or precious stones category and not burned up.

As Jesus said to Peter when he asked about the purpose Jesus had for that other disciple, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21:22). Believers are saved one by one and not in groups as a whole. Believers are individually responsible to God for their own service. It is spelled out in 2 Corinthians 5:10, the reference that speaks of the judgment seat of Christ:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Now, what does the phrase, “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” mean in respect to this parable? It is possible that it is an idiom, a saying, that means all entrants will be equally together at the end of the day. That seems to be the picture painted by the parable, at least. But here is another way to look at it: In short, “the first shall be last and the last first” means that being first has no meaning in the kingdom of heaven, for everyone arriving there is totally on the same level. The difference comes in what a person’s calling for service is, as Romans 12:3-4 tells us that God does measure out our gift of faith to perform that calling:

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function….”

Then, the phrase, “many are called, but few are chosen” — how does it fit into this parable? It is a phrase repeated in another parable, the one of a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son; invitations were sent out but none came who were expected. Instead, his servants were sent out to invite anyone to come, and many did. That parable is found at Matthew 22:1-14. In that parable, it is clear how the statement fits the passage.

But in this one, when the owner of the vineyard came each time during the day, he found men standing around, waiting—as they said—for someone to hire them. Those who responded to his invitation to go to work ended up being his chosen, while it was an open invitation for anyone to go to work. That is comparable to our sharing the gospel—the Great Commission. Some respond favorably, but many do not, then or even later.

The Scriptures are clear, in spite of beliefs to the contrary, that God does not charge into a person’s life uninvited. He honors a person’s freedom of choice, just as He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden so long ago. It can be no better explained than is done in Revelation 3:20, as Jesus pictures His approach to a person: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and live with him, and he with Me.” It is also evident in the constantly repeated challenge in the Scriptures and by evangelists that “you must believe in Christ to be saved.” It is an act of the will.

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Contrasting Conditions at Rapture & Second Coming :: By Gene Lawley

About Contrasting Conditions at Rapture & Second Coming 

What the conditions of the economic, social and geophysical in the world are likely to be at the Second Coming of Christ seem to be overlooked when placing some Scripture passages into the correct timeline. Those things make a great difference in how to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Getting that scenario straight is always important for knowing how prophetic passages fit together properly.

Let’s consider some factors that will contribute to those conditions at that time of the Second Coming. We believe the Scriptures clearly pinpoint the Rapture of the body of believers, the church, at the beginning of the seven-year period of tribulation, the time of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). It is not the “time of judgment on the saved in Christ.” At the time of the Rapture, the Bible says there will be “sudden destruction,” and one can easily envision the chaos that will take place when millions of people from all walks-of-life situations will suddenly disappear. They will leave their clothing and any non-body, non-flesh items lying where the person was sitting or standing. The Scripture times the disappearance as “in the twinkling of an eye” it will happen. That full passage is very worthy to be quoted here:

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).

How many fatalities will result from the chaos that will occur at that time cannot be imagined. Then, the preview in Revelation 6 of what is coming in those seven years only increases the horror. First, the Antichrist comes on the scene, riding a white horse and deceitfully posing as the Redeemer, but instead, “conquering and to conquer.” That means he will be taking charge of all things as he presses toward the time of his final judgment. Knowing that his modus operandi is to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10), one can clearly expect things to be very terrible clear to the end of the age. With that view in mind, what conditions of economic, social, and otherwise should we expect to see at that time? It will not be a pleasing environment, for sure.

That preview in Revelation 6 continues with three other horses, each having a rider, who certainly must represent that first rider in his conquering mode. Those horses are colored red, black, and gray or pale. They represent warfare, famine, and death, the conditions that will be predominant in the seven years—not peaceable, happy or prosperous at all. As one reads through Revelation 7 to 19, he will discover the judgments on the earth will be very destructive. A third of mankind will be killed, a third of the sea will be turned to blood, a third of the green foliage will be burned up—and that is just in the early phases of that time.

When the heavens begin to explode, with hailstones of a hundred pounds weight falling from the sky, earthquakes in multitude, waves of the oceans creating havoc, it will not be a place of safety and security for anyone. It will be a time of judgment upon Jacob, that rebellious nature of the Jewish race, and all of those who will have rejected Jesus Christ as their Savior. Two-thirds of the Jews will be killed, and one-third will have God’s protection in a wilderness hiding place (Zechariah 13:8), but they will recognize Christ as their Atonement and turn to Him in fulfillment of the Feast of the Atonement (Zechariah 12:10).

The final half of those seven years will be very, very terrible, for the Antichrist will have imposed a Mark of the Beast upon all people, and those who do not accept that mark, a mark of submission to his authority and lordship, will be killed. The false prophet who is introduced in Revelation 13 will be readily available to do the Antichrist’s bidding in all of those evil actions.

Those who are shown in Revelation 7, standing before the throne of God, souls in white robes, are identified as those who have been killed in the “Great Tribulation,” the last half of the seven years. There are multitudes standing there, not in resurrection bodies, but souls. Thus, they are not the raptured saints, for they have been “snatched away” before the tribulation gets underway. Remember how Luke 17:31-36 relates it: “Two will be sleeping; one will be taken and the other left; two will be grinding meal, one will be taken and the other left. Two will be in the field, one will be taken and the other left.” As Noah and Lot were taken out of the way of judgment, so are those taken out of the way of judgment that will occur on earth to all those left behind.

It is not at all likely there will be any “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, buying and selling, building and planting” going on during those seven years, especially at the end of that time, for it is far more likely there will be a total effort being made merely for survival, even to those who have taken the Mark of the Beast. And given the multitude already killed for not taking that Mark, the few, if any, who still survive, their motivation may well be only to survive over multiple oppositions.

Now take a look at conditions well described when the Son of Man will be revealed. Both Matthew 24:38-39 and Luke 17:26-30 describe the physical and social conditions when the Lord comes, although Luke includes Lot’s time, additionally. Both passages in their extended contexts describe the “taken and left behind” actions, however, which are clearly a pre-tribulation action not later timed for nor mentioned at the end of the tribulation in Revelation 19 when Jesus returns to the earth. Following is the Matthew description of conditions at Noah’s time:

“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).

Luke reports what he has learned, guided by the Holy Spirit:

“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).

The spiritual conditions of the times of Noah and of Lot, in Genesis 6:5 and Genesis 18-19, respectively, were marked by a saturation of sinfulness. In Noah’s time, God’s observation was “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In Lot’s time, the whole city of Sodom was saturated with all the men of the city filled with the lust of homosexuality.

It is clear that those physical and social conditions are not like what the results of the tribulation will leave behind. It is also clear that such conditions of all things being as they have been, generally, will make the coming of the Lord “as a thief in the night” much more of an unsuspected surprise. Peter wrote of this in 2 Peter 3:3-4: “…knowing this first, that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.'”

While the exact time of the Lord’s coming to meet His saints in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) is said to be unknown by anyone except the Father in heaven, there are many clues toward the general time of His return at the Rapture event. These references to the conditions on earth tell us much about the timing. Realizing that the Lord never made a promise that He did not intend to keep gives us much more guidance to the timing. It is so told in Luke 21:28, where Jesus announced, “When you see these things begin to happen, look up, for your redemption draws near!” He said this in context with descriptions of extreme physical disturbances in the earth and the restoration of Israel to its statehood in the far-off future of the year 1948—the blossoming of the fig tree (Luke 21:29).

Then, the timing of the confirming of a covenant foretold in Daniel 9:27, along with the exclamation in 1 Thessalonians 5:3, saying, “Peace and safety,” tells us more of the timing of the Rapture. God has appointed the day and the hour before time began, and I submit that it will not be “some day and some hour” that occurs, but on the day and the hour so appointed (italics used for emphasis).

One important thing we must not forget is distinctly mentioned by Jesus in John 7:6 that brings home the significance of our mortal uncertainty: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.'” He said this in reference to His coming death on the cross, but it is equally true in these last days that His appointed time has not yet come, but every mortal person could face death at any time. And that means eternity is merely a heartbeat away for any of us.

No one can mentally picture or imagine the breadth and depth of that “sudden destruction” that will occur around the world when that “last trumpet” sounds and Jesus calls the dead in Christ out of their graves and up to Him in the air, along with those who are alive, all in transformed, resurrected bodies.

Again and again, we acclaim the victorious “blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ!” (Titus 2:13).

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