FEARING HIM WHO HAS AUTHORITY
TO CAST INTO GEHENNA
Now let us look at what other places in the Bible say concerning this matter. Luke 12:1 says, "Meanwhile, when the myriads of the crowd were gathered together so that they trampled on one another, He began to say to His disciples first." He did not speak to everyone, but to the disciples first. "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." The Lord’s word proves that the disciples are not the hypocrites; they are the Lord’s people. Then in verses 4 and 5 the Lord said, "My friends, Do not fear those who kill the body and afterward have nothing more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear Him who, after killing, has authority to cast into Gehenna." The Word of God is clear enough. It tells us, not once, but many times, that it is possible for a Christian to be "cast into Gehenna." It says this clearly here. The Lord told the disciples not to fear those who kill the body but afterward can do nothing more. They should not fear what some can do to their body, as long as this is all they can do. But they should fear the One who can cast them into Gehenna.
The verses following also prove that the ones spoken of here are the disciples, that is, the believers. Verses 6 and 7 say, "Are not five sparrows sold for two assaria? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But even the hairs of your head have all been numbered. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows." Only Christians are sparrows. The unsaved ones are not sparrows; they are crows. In Matthew the lilies in the field refer to the Christians and so do the sparrows. The sparrows neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns (Matt. 6:26). This refers to Christians and not to unbelievers. Here we are told clearly that it is possible for God’s "sparrows" to be "cast into Gehenna." Note also that it says the hairs of these ones have all been numbered. God would not exercise that much care on unbelievers. Therefore, what is meant here is that those belonging to the Lord need not fear what others do to their bodies. The One they must fear is God, for God has the authority to cast them "into Gehenna." We have to fear God who has the authority to deal with our souls. We have no fear of those who can only kill our bodies.
The next two verses, verses 8 and 9, are very precious. "Moreover, I tell you, Everyone who confesses in Me before men, the Son of Man will also confess in him before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God." Christians can be divided into two classes: those who confess His name and those who do not. Some confess His name while others do not. Some are prepared to be persecuted while others are not. Some will only be Christians secretly. They desire man’s glory. Others confess the Lord openly and are ready to be martyrs. Hence, you can see whom the Lord is talking about in these verses in Luke 12. We should not fear any suffering that comes through confessing His name. If we do not confess His name, our sin is more serious than all other sins. Consequently, He will not confess our names before the angels of God. When you take verses 1 through 9 together as a whole, you see that the "casting into Gehenna" in verse 5 is equivalent to the Lord not confessing their name before the angels in verse 9. The confessing before the angels can be illustrated by an example. Suppose a teenager has done something wrong and ends up in jail. His parents or other family members can bail him out of his trouble and let him slide by. But suppose that the child is really bad, and his parents feel that he needs some suffering. As a result, his parents will not bail him out. The same is true with the believers. Unless the Lord confesses our names, we will fall into punishment.
There is a wonderful word in Revelation 3:5. "He who overcomes will be clothed thus, in white garments, and I shall by no means erase his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." At the beginning of the kingdom, before the judgment seat, the angels of God will take the Christians up to God. The book of life will be there. In the book of life the names of all the Christians are recorded. There will be many angels and many Christians. The Lord Jesus will also be there. One or more angels will then read off the names from the book of life, and the Lord Jesus will confess some of the names. Those whose names He confesses will then enter the kingdom. When the names of the others are read, the Lord will not say anything. In other words, He will not confess their names. The angels will then put a mark against these names. Hence, the overcomers’ names are clean in the book of life, while the defeated ones’ names are marked. As for the unsaved ones, their names do not appear in the book of life at all. One group does not have their names in the book. Another group has their names there, but their names are marked. And still a third group, by the time of the kingdom, has their names preserved in the same way as they were first written in the book.
If your name is marked at the judgment seat, that does not mean that you are through and are no longer saved. Revelation 20:15 says, "And if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire." This shows us that those whose names are not recorded in the book of life will be eternally in the lake of fire. Those whose names do not appear in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire. This is at the beginning of the new heaven and new earth. We cannot say that the ones in Revelation 3 do not have their names written in the book of life. We can only say that their names have been marked. By then they will not be thrown into the lake of fire because their names are already in the book of life. Eternal salvation is most secure; it can never be shaken. But on the other hand, there is a danger. If we tolerate sin, if we do not forgive others, if we commit adultery, if we revile the brothers, if we are afraid to suffer, to be ashamed, to be persecuted, and to confess the Lord, we have to be careful, for God will cast us "into Gehenna" so that we may be punished temporarily.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 24, by Watchman Nee)