Chapter One: Prologue
Why This Book?
Welcome, to what we consider one of the most important books we have ever written.
After being Christians for more than fifty years, what we have learned during the past couple of years in our research for The Kingdom, Power and Glory has totally revolutionized our personal walks with the Lord. We consider the truths that you are about to read to be some of the most life-changing principles we’ve encountered since our new births.
We are passionate about this material because it has made the whole Bible come alive for us. Passages of Scripture that we have known for years are now taking on a new depth of understanding; passages that have stumped us are being enlightened; and passages we never saw before as millennial are now jumping off the page.
We pray that we’ll be able to adequately communicate all that God has taught us and that then you can take what you hear back to the Word of God and see if the Lord confirms the same thing to your hearts. We are going to cover some controversial issues – issues that probably will go against some of your traditional views – so we first of all encourage you to be open and teachable, but then to check out everything with God’s Word. Acts 17:11: “They received the Word with all readiness of mind, [but] then they searched the Scriptures to see if these things be so.”
If intense warfare is any indication of the importance of a spiritual message, then this has to be one of the most important messages we have ever given! The warfare in preparing for this book, and the DVD series that accompanies it, has been greater than anything we’ve faced in preparing other studies or materials.
Get ready for a real roller-coaster ride!
How We Live Our Lives Has Eternal Consequences
One of God’s purposes for calling us is “to be conformed to His image” (Romans 8:29). We used to believe that to be the extent of our calling. What we didn’t grasp is that God’s calling is far more extensive than that. The real reason for our salvation is to be able to rule and reign with Him in the Millennial Kingdom, and after that for eternity. Everything moves toward this goal.
Being conformed into His image is critically important. Being a living example of Christ is what will bring others to the Lord, but the real purpose for our calling is to have positions of authority alongside of Christ in the coming Millennial Kingdom. Our life here on earth is simply the training ground, the proving ground, and the testing ground for that next life!
D. L. Moody said in his book The Overcoming Life, “I have an idea that we are down here in training, that God is just polishing us for some higher service.” (Remember the word polishing as it will become important later.)
The Millennial Kingdom that we will be talking about is not heaven; it’s that literal, physical kingdom on earth where Jesus Christ will reign in person for a thousand years. It’s a place where we will recognize each other, a time when we will have intimacy with the King of kings, and a realm in which we will rule and reign alongside of Christ.
When we say “rule and reign” with Christ (which we will mention quite often in this book) we simply mean we will hold positions of authority (or levels of responsibility) that Christ will entrust to us. It might be authority over a country, over a state, a city, a town, or simply a housing complex. It all depends upon our faithfulness here in this life. Christ is the One who knows the truth and He will decide.
Most Christians acknowledge this Millennial Kingdom to some degree or another, but many have absolutely no idea as to what criteria is required (if any) to enjoy a significant role there. We certainly didn’t.
We asked one young believer recently, “Does what you do here on earth as a believer influence your position in the coming kingdom?” He immediately responded, “Oh yeah, we get rewards or something like that!” That was the extent of his understanding. To be honest, that was the extent of our own understanding until a few years ago.
Many of us have not been taught about the Millennium. We don’t understand that not only our rewards, but also our place of responsibility in this future kingdom will either be won or lost according to our faithfulness in this life. Consequently, there is an urgent need in the Christian body for a renewed recognition of our own personal accountability. It’s imperative that we see our lives here on earth in the context of eternity. We need that Fear of God back! We must understand that once we are saved, we are still responsible for what we do with the rest of our lives here and now. It isn’t “cheap grace”! Saving faith is more than just belief. It’s more than just knowing the Scriptures! And it’s more than just going to church on Sundays. Saving faith is learning how to be a partaker of Christ’s Life – which means not only receiving His Life at our new birth (being born again), but also living His Life every day!1
The Bible calls these kinds of Christians “overcomers.”
What Is an Overcomer?
The Greek word to overcome is nikao, which means “victory over hostile powers,” to subdue something or to prevail over something. Suffice it to say, an overcomer is a conqueror or a winner. This victory has as its foundation the victory already won by Jesus Christ. In other words, Christ is the real conqueror and winner. He is the true overcomer! The only way we can become overcomers, is to yield ourselves to Him and allow Him to conquer, subdue, and prevail through us.
Overcomers are those faithful and obedient Christians who not only talk about doing the will of God, but who also do it. “Not every one that saith unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). By doing God’s will, we are able to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.
As we begin to talk about overcomers, we want to make something absolutely clear. We are not talking about someone who is perfect or religious or good. We’re talking about someone who simply recognizes his choices, confesses them, and then chooses to turn around and go God’s way!
Remember David in the Old Testament? He was an overcomer and yet remember all the ways he blew it? The New Testament even calls him “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). In other words, David knew how to confess his sin, how to turn around from following it, and how to go God’s way. This is the kind of overcomer that we are talking about in this book.
This is something that we didn’t stress enough in our first edition of this book and some people seemed to jump to the conclusion that overcomers are somehow “perfect,” i.e., believers who have it all together. They are not! An overcomer is just a regular person – he or she is someone who has simply learned to choose God’s way. He could be that janitor in the school building down the street, or that laundry woman in the back room of that large downtown hotel or that widow in the country who faithfully gives her one dollar every week to the Salvation Army. In our opinion, these believers are often more faithful overcomers than the most popular Christian television personalities. In no way is being an overcomer dependent on our socio-economic status. God is the only One who knows our hearts. So, He’s the only One who knows the truth and the only One who can judge us.
Why Is Being an Overcomer So Important?
Okay, so why is learning about being a faithful overcomer so important? Why make such a big deal about it?
It’s important because the Bible teaches us that overcomers are the only ones who will inherit the Millennial Kingdom and possibly rule and reign with Christ. Revelation 21:7: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” Overcomers are the ones who will have various levels of responsibility in the coming kingdom.
What we are saying is that all Christians will enter the Millennial Kingdom, be “with Christ,” and have eternal life (John 14:3; John 3:16). We have eternal security. But only the “faithful overcomers” – the ones who have fulfilled the conditions set down by God in His Word – will inherit and possibly rule in that kingdom.2
Some of those conditions are found in Romans 8:17 and 2 Timothy 2:12, which say, if we don’t suffer with Him, we will not be joint-heirs nor reign with Him. Matthew 24:45–47 says that if we are not faithful, He will not make us rulers over all His goods. Galatians 5:19–21 warns us that if we don’t walk by the Spirit, we won’t inherit the Kingdom. James 2:5 warns that if we don’t love Him, we won’t be heirs of the kingdom. And, finally, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 says that if we are unrighteous, we will not inherit the kingdom.3
There’s a huge difference between simply entering the Millennial Kingdom and being a “subject” there (which all believers will do) and actually inheriting that kingdom and being a “sovereign” there (which only the faithful overcomers will do). All born-again believers will enter, but only the triumphant overcoming Christians will rule and reign. The deciding factor is how we live our lives here and now.
This is why learning how to become an overcomer is so very important! What we do in this present life does affect our role in the future kingdom because there’s a distinction between entering a realm and inheriting that realm. We will explore this more in chapter three.
The Kingdom Perspective
At the beginning of the “church age,” this kingdom perspective (that we are being trained here to rule and reign with Christ there) was the central message and the prevailing thought taught throughout Christendom.4 Now, however, at the end of the age, this message has been essentially forgotten.
Except by a few great men.
Charles Stanley (Baptist pastor, radio preacher, and author of forty-five books) in his book Eternal Security wrote: “Does our behavior matter once we are assured of our salvation? You bet it does. Are there any eternal consequences when a believer sins? Absolutely. Will eternity be the same for those who follow Christ faithfully and those who live for themselves? Not a chance. Our God is a God of justice as well as grace. His offer of grace is continually extended to even the most vile sinner. But His justice moves Him to keep a careful record of those who remain faithful and those who do not. His grace moved Him to sacrifice His only Son to provide a way for our salvation. But His justice causes Him to take special note of those believers who are willing to sacrifice for His Son.”5
Donald Grey Barnhouse (Presbyterian pastor, pioneer of radio preaching, and author of many theological books) in his commentary on Romans said: “We can be sure that at the Judgment Seat of Christ there will be a marked difference between the Christian who has lived his life before the Lord, clearly discerning what was for the glory of God… and a nominal Christian… All will be in heaven, but the difference between them will be eternal. We may be sure that the consequences of our character will survive the grave and that we shall face those consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ.”6
Erwin Lutzer (Pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, radio personality, and author of thirty books, including One Minute After You Die) in his book Your Eternal Reward wrote: “The assumption that ‘rewards’ are nothing more than the crowns themselves is false in my opinion. Rewards have more to do with levels of responsibility that will be given to us. When we become like Him, we will be qualified to share with Him in the inheritance, and to work with Him in important positions of high responsibility over the whole universe.”7
Tim La Haye (Pastor and author of the Left Behind Series and fifty other books) In his book The Popular Bible Prophecy Workbook said: “Apparently Christians will be assigned to specific areas of service in the kingdom directly proportionate to the amount of ‘good works’ performed while alive on earth.”8
A.W. Tozer remarked in his book The Knowledge of the Holy: “To regain our lost power we, as the church, must see Heaven opened and have a transforming vision of God.”9
Grant Jeffries said in his book called Heaven: “One of the reasons for the lack of holiness in Christianity today, is because we have lost sight of our inheritance in heaven.”10
John Walvoord, In his book The Millennial Kingdom, wrote: “The study of prophecy embraces the totality of God’s purpose and plan. It is, therefore, the supreme good of Biblical theology to determine the ordered and detailed program of future events prophesied in the Word of God.”11
An article in the Layman’s Perspective said: “The church today is basking in the illusion that ‘being born again’ is the ultimate goal of preaching the Gospel. But a thorough investigation of the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, clearly shows that regeneration (new birth) is simply the prelude to the intimate relationship God desires to have with each one of us. But, it’s a relationship that we each must seek… because there are consequences to a careless Christian life—”12
The message we would like you to consider is this: All Christians will be “with Christ” (John 14:3) in the Millennium and in heaven, but only the overcomers – only those faithful and obedient ones who recognize their choices and allow Christ to live His Life out through them – will inherit that kingdom and have positions of authority there.13 This includes the throne (Revelation 3:21), the sceptre (Hebrews 1:8) and the crown (2 Timothy 4:8). Therefore, it is imperative that we learn what makes us overcomers, how we become overcomers, and what the future holds for overcomers.
It’s grievous that the church today seems to be relying upon the illusion that being born again and bringing others to Christ is the ultimate goal of preaching the gospel. It’s not! This is just the beginning. Working alongside Christ in the coming kingdom is the final and ultimate goal! Philippians 3:14 tells us that it’s the prize of the “high calling” of God.
Fear and Condemnation
Before we go any further, we want you to be aware of something very important. And, again, this is something we didn’t stress enough in the first edition of this book. The enemy hates this message of “overcoming.” He hates it more than any other subject because it reveals his total inability to defeat Christ. Therefore, he is going to try everything he can to put fear and condemnation upon you, in order to keep you from reading and learning this material. His goal is the destruction of all doctrine surrounding the future Kingdom of Heaven. If this occurs, we want you to recognize where these feelings are coming from and realize they are not from God. Scripture tells us that “Love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Therefore, knowing that God loves us needs to be the foundation upon which any new biblical truth is built (Jeremiah 31:3).
As far as God is concerned, it doesn’t matter how badly we’ve blown it in the past; it doesn’t matter what horrible things we’ve done; and it doesn’t matter how many times we’ve failed. That’s what 1 John 1:9 is all about: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is the basis of how we are able to overcome and the means by which we can become faithful. Don’t let the enemy get to you and feed you lies. This material is too important!
Remember, there’s a big difference between conviction, which is from the Lord’s Love (John 16:8) and will ultimately draw us closer to Him, and condemnation (guilt, reproach, accusations), which comes from the enemy and pushes us further away from the Lord. Romans 8:1 assures us that “there is therefore, no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
The Challenge of This Study
This study is in no way meant to be frightening, condemning, or intimidating. In fact, we pray it will prove to be just the opposite. We pray the material will challenge each of us to become faithful overcomers in our personal lives, our professional lives, and our spiritual lives. And we pray that if we are not overcomers now, these principles will challenge us to turn around and become so; if we are not obedient now, they will show us how to be obedient in the future; and if we are not faithful now, they will convince us that it’s not too late to learn steadfastness.
Proof: We received a letter from a friend who has been in prison for many, many years. He shared in his letter that any of us can learn to become overcomers, no matter where we are in life. No matter what we’ve done, who we’ve hurt, or how far we have fallen, there’s still time.
Listen to what he wrote:
I feel like an overcomer when I choose the difficult over the easy. It might be loving someone unlovely (and there are many here that qualify) or it might be accomplishing the goals I’ve penned in my daily planner. My accomplishments here have been miniscule. I’ve written no books, have no substantial savings, etc. But somehow I think God sees me as an overcomer. And how He perceives me is all that truly matters anyway… I’m very thankful for prison and for my hardships, because they have clothed me with humility.
We believe this man is one of God’s special “saints.” Like that washerwoman in the hotel and the janitor in the school, he’s going to have a special place in the future kingdom, because he is a faithful overcomer right where he is now. After hearing his testimony, none of us can say, “I can’t do this!” “It’s too difficult!” If a guy in prison (without much temporal hope) can become an overcomer, then any of us can!
From now on, when we talk about overcomers throughout this study, think of this prisoner as an example. Again, he’s not perfect, he’s just someone who recognizes his choices.
Are We All Overcomers?
Many Christians believe and teach that all of us become overcomers the moment we are born again and they use 1 John 5:4–5 as a proof text: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Consequently, the idea that a Christian can somehow fail to be an overcomer and lose his inheritance is a totally foreign notion to many. This fallacy (that we are all automatically overcomers) has robbed the church of the truth, clouded its perspective of grace, and played right into the enemy’s hands. Now, it’s true that positionally we are overcomers when we are first born again because Christ lives in us. (He is the true overcomer!) But “experientially,” how many of us really are overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil, even after being Christians for years? Not very many of us!
There is no teaching quite as conducive to godless living on the part of Christians than the teaching that all Christians, no matter how they live their lives here and now, will someday rule and reign with Christ. This philosophy frees Christians from any responsibility toward God in regards to daily living. This is the type of theology that has caused our kids to say, “Hey, I’m saved; that’s all I care about, it doesn’t really matter how I live my life now.”
Well, it does matter! It matters tremendously how we live our lives in the present, because our part, our place, and our position (our level of responsibility) in the Millennium reign of Christ depends upon it. Paul even called our inheritance in Christ the “prize” of the high calling of God. And he told us we are to seek that prize with everything we have (Philippians 3:14).
A Greatly Neglected Area
Unfortunately, this teaching about overcoming in order to inherit is one of the most neglected areas of eschatology – the study of the end times. It has been obscured because of the strong emphasis on grace during the past several decades. Grace wonderfully brings us to God, but it doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility to live our lives as God desires. We must remember God is a God of justice as well as a God of mercy.
Being born again by asking the Holy Spirit into our lives will get us into the Millennial Kingdom, but faithfulness, obedience, and perseverance in this life are what will render us the “prize” and allow us to inherit positions of responsibility in that kingdom. And there’s a huge difference between these two. Failure to distinguish between “eternal Life” (which is assured if we are born again) and “participation in the coming kingdom” (which is assured if we have been faithful) has resulted in tremendous confusion in the body of Christ. James had it right all along: “hearers of the Word” gain eternal Life; whereas “doers of the Word” will gain an inheritance in that kingdom (James 1:21–22).
Thus, it’s absolutely imperative that we recognize the need for our own personal accountability, the need to be faithful, and the need to overcome – because we’re going to decide today what kind of a Millennial Kingdom we’re going to enjoy tomorrow.
The Purpose of This Study
The purpose of this study is to explore three things: Why are we here? (Why were we called?) Where are we going? (What’s the future hold?) And, what do we have to do to get there? (How do we become those overcomers – those faithful ones – who inherit the kingdom?)
Our motive for writing is to help believers understand the real reason for our salvation, which is “our inheritance in Christ.” Ephesians 1:17–18 explains: “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling and [that you may know] what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
How many of us really know what the “hope of our calling” is? How many of us really know what the “riches of the glory of our inheritance” are?14
Both of us have been Christians for more than fifty years and we are only just now learning these things and seeing the ramification of what all this really means. We want to help believers realize why God has called them and why He has laid hold of them. Philippians 3:12 validates this: “that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended.” In other words, to be given divine understanding of “things to come.”
If we had only two words to describe what this study has meant to us, they would be “Hope Realized.” Through learning and applying these principles, our hope in Christ has been realized, apprehended, understood, and embraced. We now know why we have been called, where we are going, and what we have to do to get there.
Proverbs 13:12 tells us that when our “hope is realized,” it will become a “tree of life.” In other words, when we realize (apprehend or understand) the real reason why we have been called, it puts everything together for us – the whole Bible comes alive. The symbolism of the tree of Life in the Bible represents “equipping believers with divine wisdom and understanding” in order to have levels of responsibility in the coming kingdom (Proverbs 3:13–18). It also stands for man’s possibility of ruling and reigning with the King of kings over all the earth.
Interestingly, Proverbs 13:12 also tells us, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” This describes what so many believers are experiencing today – hopelessness. And why the enemy is making such inroads in our lives.
In the Bible the words salvation, hope, and inheritance are all interconnected. Only when we are saved, can we possess hope. But we can only have that hope when we really understand our future inheritance in Christ. (See Romans 8:24.) That’s our “hope realized”! It’s what Ephesians 1:18 promises: “understanding the riches of our inheritance.” This hope is the anchor of our soul (Hebrews 6:19; 1 John 3:3).
The purpose of this study is to help believers understand the real reason for their salvation – our inheritance in Christ in the coming kingdom (Titus 2:13). And also to help believers implement these principles in their lives in a practical way.
It’s important to understand this future hope does not replace our temporal hopes (our hopes for marriage, careers, family, ministry, etc.); it simply enhances (magnifies, amplifies, and strengthens) them. In other words, when our temporal hopes fade (and they will because they are temporal), our eternal hope will always be there to carry us through. Our temporal hopes are fleeting (brief, they pass away quickly), but, the “hope realized” that we are talking about here – our inheritance in Christ – is eternal (Romans 15:13).
It’s like God’s Agape Love. When the human loves fade away and die, which they often do because they are human, God’s Love (Agape) will always be there to carry us through. It’s the same thing with the “hope of our salvation” – it will always be there to carry us though life’s ups and downs. This is the answer to the hopelessness that so many Christians are experiencing today.
Encouragement and Hope for the Future
Our purpose with this book will be to integrate “the sanctification process” (actually learning how to live Christ’s Life) here on earth with “the reward of inheritance” (co-reigning with Christ) there in the kingdom.
We will explore each of the passages that seem to hint of a Millennial disinheritance, along with the Greek and Hebrew words in each Scripture. We will also share some of the verses that absolutely revolutionized our theology when we first began to understand the full ramifications of what they really meant. We want to put all this information at your fingertips and then let you decide what you believe and how it will affect your own personal walk with the Lord. We want you to be like the Bereans and study these verses and see what the Holy Spirit shows you.15
Our purpose is to provoke one another “unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
As older Christians, who have at times blown it just like everyone else, we have learned through the grace of God how to turn around (1 John 1:9), how to give things to God (Romans 12:1–2), and how to overcome.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors [overcomers] through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Our intention is to give encouragement and hope for the future, to shed more light on God’s specific plan of redemption, and to answer those three important questions: Why are we here? Where are we going? What do we have to do to get there? Once we understand God’s answers to these questions, it should give us the incentive to live here and now, as God desires, because this life truly is the training ground for the next.
He that overcomes shall inherit all things and I will be his God and he shall be My Son.
The bottom line is: The way we live our lives here and now will have eternal and unchangeable consequences in the next life. In other words, what we do after we have been born-again dramatically affects our role, our position, our place, our status, and our authority in the coming Millennial Kingdom.
- Hebrews 3:14.
- Revelation 20:6; Daniel 7:27; 2 Timothy 2:12.
- See also: Revelation 2:7, 11, 26–28; 3:5, 12, 21; 19:7–9; Matthew 5:3–12; 7:21; Luke 6:20–26; 12:47; Romans 2:1–16; 14:10–23; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; 1 John 4:17.
- Colossians 1:25–26.
- Charles Stanley, Eternal Security, 180.
- Paul N. Benware, The Believer’s Payday, 2.
- Erwin Lutzer, Your Eternal Reward, 15, 18.
- Tim La Haye, The Popular Bible Prophecy Workbook.
- A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 121–122.
- Grant Jeffries, Heaven, 165.
- John Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, 5.
- A Layman’s Perspective, February 1992, page 1.
- Ephesians 1:9–10; Hebrews 1:6–8; 10:25, 37; Psalm 8:4–9; 1 John 3:1– 3; 1 Peter 1:13; Luke 14:14; 20:35–36.