The coming time of Christ’s judgment seat where rewards are given to believers is highlighted by the Apostle Peter as he speaks of virtuous believers gaining an “abundant entrance” into the kingdom. He observes that this will come to those who add seven key virtues to their faith in Jesus Christ.
In the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, the tranquility of the US naval base at Pearl Harbor was shattered. Japanese carrier-based planes, with the support of submarines, struck suddenly at the US Pacific fleet and brought about tremendous devastation. Eight battleships and ten other naval vessels were either sunk or badly damaged. Also about twenty-four hundred lives were lost and some 200 aircraft were destroyed. A devastating defeat for the USA.
Shortly after this event (and continuing on to this day) the question was raised about how much of a surprise attack this really was. Evidence seemed to point to the reality that there was some very good intelligence about the intentions of the Japanese military. Now we are not going to try and solve the Pearl Harbor issue here. But this situation does remind us that to have information about a significant coming event and not prepare for it would be most unwise. This truth would apply to many things in life and it certainly should apply to that upcoming event in which all believers will be involved; namely, the Judgment Seat of Christ. Wise believers will be making preparations for this eternally significant day. Not to prepare would reveal an amazing shortsightedness on our part. If 2016 brings this time of our evaluation before the Lord Jesus Christ, how prepared will you and I be? The Apostle Peter has some valuable instructions for us to follow in 2 Peter 1:5-11. But two verses are important reminders before we look at the advice of Peter.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed (paid) for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” Revelation 22:12
The importance of this coming event is evidenced by the repeated references to it by Jesus and the Apostles. Peter is one who gives valuable advice on preparing for payday. He begins his second epistle by reminding us that we have been given a wonderful salvation as well as everything we need to live a godly and productive life. To this great gift of salvation, we are to add seven virtues. He points out that if these seven virtues are present and growing in our lives then two things will be true. First, our present lives will be useful and fruitful (1:8). These virtues will not only give great value to our present lives but certain negatives will be avoided. And second, Peter observes that if these virtues are added to our faith now, we will experience significant reward in the future kingdom of God (1:11). Note his use of the word “abundant.”
“For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” 2 Peter 1:11
Entrance into the kingdom of God is by faith alone, but a rich or abundant entrance into the kingdom is speaking of something else. It is looking at the rewarding of believers who have added many virtues to their faith.
This abundant entrance pictures the victorious Olympic athlete triumphantly returning to his home city. He has won and has brought great honor to himself but also to his city. Traditionally such a victor would not enter the city by the usual gate, but an entrance would be created in the wall just for him. He deserved to be honored in some distinctive way and an “abundant” entrance would be created in the wall just for him. Using this picture of the triumphant athlete, the apostle Peter conveys the important truth of rewarding at the Judgment Seat of Christ. He is speaking of more than just entering the eternal kingdom, but something beyond that. This apparently is not something that all believers will receive but just those who have added these virtues to their faith. The presence of these virtues insures this rich entrance into the kingdom. Laboring to produce these in our lives (with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit) is a key to our preparation for the coming payday.
SEVERAL KEY WORDS. To help us get a grip on Peter’s message we should note the words diligence and supply. The word “supply” acts as bookends to the discussion. Peter says that we are to “supply” to our faith these virtues (1:5), and if we do, then Jesus will “supply” to us an abundant entrance in His kingdom (1:11). The word “supply” means to “add lavishly, or add abundantly”. If we will lavishly add these virtues to our faith, then Jesus is going to add lavishly to us at the time of His coming kingdom. And Peter says that to do this is going to take “diligence” on our part (1:5, 10). Adding these virtues does not automatically occur, nor will it take place if we are casual or passive about doing so. No, we are to give focused attention and expend significant effort (empowered by the Spirit) to achieve these ends. We do not need to do so to be saved, but we must do so if we would be victorious and thus are honored with the “abundant entrance.”
THE SEVEN VIRTUES. Each of these virtues deserves a sermon, but all we can do here is give a brief definition and explanation. But we need to have some idea of what they are if we are to identify them, and see if they are in our lives.
(1) Moral excellence. This is a unique word which has the idea of something that fulfills the purpose or function for which it was made. So, for example, the “excellence” of a knife is that it cuts things. Our “excellence” is to fulfill the Lord’s will for our lives, whatever that may be. Nothing we do comes ahead of Him and obeying Him. Are we fulfilling His will for our lives?
(2) Knowledge. Genuine biblical Christianity has an intellectual aspect to it. Paul reminds us that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. (So many churches today seem to believe that we are transformed by having emotional experiences). We are to understand God’s Word and apply it to our lives. Diligence is required in obtaining “knowledge” (see Prov. 2:2-5).
(3) Self-control. In every aspect of life, the passions, thoughts, emotions, and desires of the believer are to be controlled. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23), and the believer in whom the Spirit dwells has the power to be self-controlled in all areas of life, including the thought life (2 Cor. 10:5).
(4) Perseverance. This word means to “stay under” and looks at a life that does not move away from the Lord when confronted by adversity, difficulty or distress. This one does not give up but rather increasingly submits to the Lord. This becomes more and more realistic when the believer comes to understand that the Lord is sovereign, good and wise.
(5) Godliness. The emphasis on this word is having an attitude of reverence that seeks to please God in every area of life. Believer’s used to speak of “practicing the presence of Christ.” Theirs was an attitude of dependence and trust in the Lord on a daily/hourly basis. (Just including the Lord in our lives on Sunday mornings would likely point to ungodliness in the life.)
(6) Brotherly kindness. This would be evidenced in a gracious and merciful attitude towards other imperfect believers. It does not mean that sin is overlooked, but it does mean that we will be ready to forgive and will attempt to guard the unity of the Body. It includes the idea of “being devoted” to one another (Rom. 12:10).
(7) Love. This greatest of virtues is a mindset that seeks what is best for others. This is produced in the heart of the yielded, obedient believer by the Spirit of God. We are able to “grow in love” as we search the scriptures to discover what constitutes the best for others, and then seek to do what we can in any given situation.
Individually, we must come to that point where we decide all this is important enough to live our lives with “all diligence”. Peter states that believers who don’t come to this point are “blind” and “shortsighted” (1:9). We don’t want to be in that group when payday arrives. Rather it should be our ambition to have an “abundant entrance” into Christ’s kingdom. It will be worth it on that day. Perhaps we should target two or three of these virtues and focus on maturing them in our lives in 2016.