SUFFERING A LOSS
When the Lord Jesus comes back, the Apostle Paul will inherit the manifestation of the kingdom. But what about the sinful brother in 1 Corinthians 5? Shall he inherit the kingdom of God? No! What will happen to him? The answer to this is found in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15: "Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." When the Lord Jesus returns, the fire shall try every man’s work. If a man’s work abides he shall receive, not salvation, but a reward. These verses are not related to the security of our salvation; they are related to whether we shall receive a reward or suffer a loss when the Lord Jesus comes back. Verse 15 says, "He shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through (lit.) fire." Don’t consider that as long as you are saved, there is no problem. To be saved is one thing, and to be rewarded or to suffer a loss is another. You can be saved and yet still suffer a loss. And even though you suffer a loss, you will still be saved. Once we are saved, we can never be lost (John 10:28-29). But once we are saved, we can either be rewarded by the Lord or suffer a loss.
THE EXERCISE OF THE KINGDOM
The kingdom of the heavens is used by God for two purposes: first is for the exercise of His children, and second is for a reward to His children. Today the kingdom of the heavens is an exercise. Don’t say that we have been saved by grace and that everything is by grace. Yes, we do have Christ as grace, but we also have the kingdom as an exercise. Even with a proper family life there are these two sides. In the Bible there is surely the side of enjoyment and grace, but there is also the side of exercise and responsibility. Christ is the grace, and the kingdom is the exercise. By His resurrection, the Lord Jesus has regenerated us (1 Pet. 1:3). But now that we are regenerated, we must be exercised in the kingdom. We are not simply in the home of God; we are also in the kingdom of God. The home is a place for grace and enjoyment, but the kingdom is a place for exercise. Many Christians simply enjoy the family life of the household of God, but they neglect the exercise of the kingdom life. The kingdom of the heavens is used by God to cause us to exercise.
THE REWARD OF THE KINGDOM
The kingdom of the heavens is also used by God as a reward to His faithful children. If we exercise ourselves in a proper way after we are saved, we will enjoy the manifestation of the kingdom of the heavens as a reward. Today the kingdom of the heavens is an exercise to us, but tomorrow it will be an enjoyment to us. The big question is whether or not we will be qualified to inherit the kingdom of the heavens. God is very gracious, but He is also very wise. He saves us by His grace, but in His wisdom He causes us to be exercised by the kingdom, and He will reward us with the kingdom. If we are defeated, when He comes back surely He will punish us. We will not enjoy the manifestation of the kingdom of the heavens as our inheritance.
Now let us read Matthew 24:37-44: "For as the days of Noah were, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, until the day in which Noah entered into the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Then shall two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord comes. But know this, that if the householder knew in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also, be ready, for the Son of Man comes in an hour that you think not." These verses show that the Lord Jesus will come back, not as a visitor, but as a thief, either to steal you away or to leave you here. When the thief comes, he always steals only precious things. If you are a precious one when the Lord Jesus comes back, you will be stolen away, but if you are a defeated believer, you will not be so precious to the Lord, so He will not take you away. The Lord’s words were: "Be ready, for the Son of Man comes in an hour that you think not."
Let us also read Matthew 24:45-51: "Who then is the faithful and prudent slave, whom the master has set over his household to give them food at the appointed time? Blessed is that slave whom his master when he comes shall find so doing. Truly I say to you, that he will set him over all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, My master is delaying his coming, and shall begin to beat his fellow slaves, and eat and drink with the drunken; the master of that slave shall come on a day when he does not expect him, and in an hour which he does not know, and shall cut him asunder and appoint his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth." Do not consider that the slave who was cut off signifies an unbeliever. The fact that he is a slave indicates that he is saved. Consider your own situation: you are saved, but are you a faithful slave of the Lord? Are you the first slave or the second? If you are the first slave, the Lord Jesus will appoint you to be the ruler over His goods when He comes back. But if you are the second, you will be cut off from this ruling manifestation and, furthermore, you will suffer. You will weep and gnash your teeth.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 48, by Witness Lee)