Inheriting the kingdom; Rev. 2:11 and I Corinthians 6:9-11
Grace is one of those concepts that is so poorly understood. There are often people who think that grace is something that we earn, that we deserve, something that is sort of doled out one increment at a time according to how often we participate in certain rituals and rites of the church. Some people think that grace is fine but if you commit certain sins or perform certain acts or think certain thoughts, or of you continue that over a certain amount of time then maybe you weren't really saved, and that would introduce works in the back door. So grace is constantly being perverted by the introduction of works. That is the trend of the sin nature. We constantly want to try to impress God with something that we have done and constantly want to make our salvation dependent in some way, shape or form upon something we do.
At the judgment seat of Christ we have the destruction of those rewards that are not distributed to loser believers. This raises another question. Revelation 21:8 gives a list of sins, and obviously it is talking about inheritance. Even though it does not use the precise terminology, "shall not inherit the kingdom," there are other passages in the New Testament that do talk about not inheriting the kingdom. This raises a lot of questions in the minds of many people because if grace is grace and Jesus Christ paid for all the sins then it looks at first glance that these verses teach that if you continue to sin these sins then you won't be saved. You will either lose salvation, which is how one group of people take this, and that comes under the classification of Arminianism—basically the idea that you can lose your salvation, or at the other end of the spectrum is the extreme Calvinists who we identify as "perseverance Calvinists," who believe that if you don't persevere in good works then you weren't really saved to begin with. The terminology that has been used today to identify people who teach that is "Lordship salvation," that if you are truly saved then there is a change in your internal nature so that you just can't commit certain sins, or if you do you won't do it for a lengthy period of time; you may stumble but you won't fall. So they have to do a little two-step to get around grace, because what grace really teaches is that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for every sin so that sin is no longer the issue when it comes to your eternal relationship with God. It may affect other things. Continual sin in the post-salvation life of the believer represents a failure to grow. So there are consequences if the believer is living out of fellowship for the majority of the time.
1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." Twice we have this statement that there are those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. The first identifies them as "unrighteous," the second replaces the word "unrighteous" with a list of sins and practices. In both places there is the statement that those who continue to sin will not inherit the kingdom. What exactly does that mean?
1) The concept of inheriting the kingdom is understood in two radically different ways. This is a major division among evangelicals today. Most evangelicals don't understand grace, they just want to slip works right into the back door. One group will interpret inheriting the kingdom as entering the kingdom. In other words, if you commit any of these sins you aren't going to get in. Somehow you either forfeit the salvation that you had or you weren't really saved. The other group (the view that we hold) it is not that you won't enter the kingdom but you will not have a share or a portion or an inheritance and the privileges and possessions in the kingdom. These are the two ways that are offered in handling these passages.
2) The phrase "inherit the kingdom" is used in six passages: Matthew 25:34; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5.
1 Corinthians 6:9 says, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" So we have to ask two questions: a) What does the term "unrighteous" mean? Who are the unrighteous? The word in the Greek is ADIKOI [a)dikoi]. In a strict literary interpretation ADIKOI could be understood to mean "unrighteous," but in numerous passages it simply means wrongdoing. 1 John 5 says that all ADIKOI is sin. It just has the idea of wrongdoing, of missing the mark. b) What does it mean to inherit the kingdom? Does it mean to enter heaven or to have a possession in heaven?
The context of 1 Corinthians 6 is Corinth. Corinth in the ancient world had a population of 200-250,000 and it was located on the isthmus of Corinth. In those days it was easier to transport goods across the isthmus than to go all the way around the peninsular because the winds and the currents made it extremely dangerous. So Corinth was a seaport town. A seaport town usually brings in all kinds of the dregs of society, and with all the ships that are coming you have people coming from different cultures and different backgrounds, so they are bringing all of the various religions that are to be found in the ancient world, so Corinth became a melting pot. In the history of the city of Corinth it was destroyed by the Romans in 149 BC, and the early Corinth was known for sexual debauchery and licentiousness to the degree that the term "Corinthian" became a synonym for someone who was just a real pervert and a licentious individual. The same thing happened when they rebuilt the city. They didn't have a Christian value system to tell them these things were wrong, so everything was accepted and it was just standard operating procedure. It is out of that melting pot that a number of individuals were saved when the apostle Paul went to Corinth and gave them the gospel. The problem was that they had a hard time learning the Word and applying it, and so even a few years later they were still living like they did before they were saved. In this Corinthian epistle alone the Corinthians were described as being divisive and fractious (1:10ff). There were others in the group who were enthralled and enamoured by Greek pagan philosophy, so they were judging what Paul taught by what the pagan Greek philosophers taught. In chapter three they are described as being carnal. They were jealous of one another, there was strife in the body of Christ, they thought of themselves as being over-important (4:8). They were described as being boastful (1:29; 3:18; 4:7); arrogant in 3:6; 4:7, 18; as licentious and morally permissive in chapter five. The were gluttonous and drunkards at the Lord's table in chapter eleven. They were self-absorbed and pagan in their view of spiritual gifts in chapters twelve through fourteen. So when we look at that list we don't see a group of mature believers here. They have every kind of sin bouncing off the walls. Most of them were still living like they were before they were saved.
Is ADIKOS talking about being positionally unrighteous or is it talking about being experientially unrighteous? If it is positionally unrighteous then that means they are not saved; if it means experientially unrighteous, it means they are saved but are living as if they are not saved. The second word KLERONOMIA [klhronomia] has the idea of inheriting or possessing. ADIKOS is used in Romans 3:5, "But if our unrighteousness [ADIKOS] brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)" Paul is using this word in this context to refer to God. "Our unrighteousness" here is talking about something which is experiential. If we said "if our wrongdoing" it would probably be a better translation: "If our wrongdoing demonstrates the righteousness of God," because the basic meaning of ADIKOS means to do something that violates a standard. If we look at the word as it is outlined in the dictionaries we get the meaning that ADIKOS means someone who violates the law, that which is against law, or someone who is doing wrong. The lexicons clearly outline the two options: it could be positional or experiential. So we have to look at the context. The problem is how it is laid out in 1 Corinthians 6:1, "If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the unrighteous for judgment instead of before the saints?" So the contrast is between the ADIKOS and the saints, the HAGIOS [a(gioj]. HAGIOS here is clearly talking about those who are positionally righteous, so ADIKOS is referring to those who are positionally unrighteous or unbelievers. What Paul is talking about in context is that in their licentiousness every time one believer gets offended by another believer in the local church he is dragging him off in some law suit. This is the background issue. Paul is asking, "Do you think you are going to get justice by going to some unbeliever who doesn't have a biblical frame of reference or biblical scale of values, and you are having to believers going before some unbelieving judge for righteousness? Forget it, this is an unrighteous judge."
Many come to this verse 9 and see that back in verse one this word "unrighteous" refers to unbelievers who are positionally unrighteous, so we have to have that same interpretation in verse 9 and say Paul is asking: Do you not know that the unbeliever will not inherit the kingdom of God? Sure we know unbelievers are not going to inherit the kingdom of God! He changes the meaning of the word as he develops the passage. In verse eight Paul uses another variant of the word. He went from the noun ADIKOS to the verb ADIKEO [a)dikew]. "Instead, you yourselves cheat and are wrongdoers [ADIKEO = wrongdoers; experiential wrong], and you do this to your brothers." Then in verse 9 he says wrongdoers [those who commit experiential wrong] will not inherit the kingdom of God. It fits the context. Furthermore, there is a grammatical point that is brought out. Joseph Dillow, in his book The reign of the Servant Kings, says:
"…the phrase in v. 9 is not the same as "the wicked" in v. 1. In v. 1 the noun has the article, and it is definite, referring to a class. But in v. 9 it is without the article. "The articular construction emphasizes identity; the anarthrous construction emphasizes character." Because the same word is used twice, once with the article (v. 1) and then without it (v. 9), it may be justifiable to press for this standard grammatical distinction here. If so, then the ADIKOI of v. 9 are not "the wicked" of v. 1. They are not of that definite class of people who are non-Christians. Rather, as to their behavior traits they are behaving in an unrighteous manner or character. In other words, the use of "the wicked" in v. 1 signifies "being," but the use of "wicked" in v. 9 signifies not being but "doing," and that was their problem. According to the ADIKEO of v. 8, they continued to walk as "mere men" (1 Cor. 3:4)."
In a nutshell what we are saying is that the presence of the article indicates a classification of people, the unbelievers. The absence of the article is going to bring it down to character quality. So there is a shift that takes place between these two verses, and so down in verse 9 it is not talking about position anymore, their general categorization, but their behavior. So it is experiential righteousness. What this verse is saying is that believers who continue in carnality are not going to be logging any time walking by the Spirit, therefore they are not going to have any divine good at the judgment seat of Christ.
Verse 11 makes it a little more clear. "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." What is important to note here is that verse 11 says "some of you." That is plural: some of you all. Imagine a circle representing the congregation at Corinth. They are all believers. There is a subset to this overall group, and that is the some. Some were, homosexuals, thieves, liars, and all those others sins. All of them were justified; all of them were sanctified; all of them were saved. But some of them were in this category. That means that only some of them are no longer being classified that way. All of them are sanctified but some who used to be thieves and coveters and drunkards, and revilers, etc., are no longer—but the rest of them still are. Remember, these are the carnal Corinthians. Only this small segment have experienced this experiential sanctification. The rest of them are fractious, jealous, carnal, arrogant. Operating on human viewpoint, and all of the other listed sins. The vast majority of them are still operating on the sin nature. We see the same emphasis in some other passages that we run into. There is a distinction in inheritance. Titus 3:7, "so that, having been justified by his grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." What all believers have as heir of God—eternal life. Galatians 4:7 reiterates that, "So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." Galatians 3:18, "For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise." However, there are distinctions. Ephesians 5:5, "For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." That isn't saying that if you continue to commit these sins after you are saved that you have blown it, it is too late. Remember, there is 1 John 1:9, there is cleansing, there is growth, there is sanctification. To be sure, Christians continue to commit some of these sins post-salvation, but if we are cleansed that deals with it, we are back in fellowship and we move forward, walking by the Spirit, there is divine good produced, and that is what is rewardable, there is forward momentum. They still commit any number of sins but there is instant forgiveness and we move forward. Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward." This is a reward, not a gift. The gift is salvation, but if the believer continues to grow and operate and apply in the spiritual life, then what you get is additional inheritance. Colossians 3:25, "Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no partiality." Again there is a distinction, there are consequences even as a believer. There are consequences for failure in the Christian life. If there is ongoing failure and no confession of sin, then we will not be inheriting the kingdom. Cf. Galatians 5:16 with v. 19.
At the judgment seat of Christ He will perfectly evaluate and distinguish between our human good and our divine good produced by walking by the Spirit. Where there is divine good there will be rewards and this is what leads to an inheritance and a possession and a responsibility in the kingdom. So we have to be prepared for it. The warning that we get from these passages is that if we treat grace lightly and there is no advance, no capacity, not maturity in the spiritual life, then there is no preparation for the millennial kingdom and the eternal state and there will be a forfeiture of inheritance. Those who are not overcomers will suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ, and those rewards that are lost will be burned up in the lake of fire, though the believer enters into heaven, yet as through fire, and has eternal life but without those rewards that were his potentially if he had just gone forward in the Christian life.