Paul Benware's Payday
Dividing All Believers Into
Dr. Paul N. Benware is Professor of Bible and Doctrine at Philadelphia Biblical University. He has also taught at the Moody Bible Institute and at the Los Angeles Baptist College. He has written a book entitled The Believer's Payday--Why Standing Before Christ Should Be Our Greatest Moment.
Brother Benware is to be commended for seeking to write a detailed theology on the Judgment Seat of Christ. Very few, if any, have even attempted to do this. It is a crucially important future event and Benware has given it the attention it deserves. He is correct in suggesting that most believers do not give the doctrine of the judgment seat of Christ enough careful consideration. Benware has done this, and most of the book is very practical, helpful and Biblical, and serves as an incentive to faithful Christian living in the light of our awesome accountability when we someday will stand before the One who bought us with His own blood.
Benware makes a good distinction between salvation which is a free gift and rewards which are earned. He does a good study on what the Judge will be looking for and how the Judge evaluates. He presents some interesting case studies regarding the sin of certain men (David, Peter, the Apostles, Zerubbabel), and how they repented, recovered and someday would be rewarded. He offers practical suggestions as to how believers may prepare for the judgment seat of Christ. His discussions of all of these important issues are profitable.
The main problem of the book is that Benware follows the "free grace" view that all believers will ultimately be placed into two distinct groups:
Believers who persevere to the end and are willing to suffer for Christ. They will be rewarded by ruling with Christ in the kingdom.
Believers who will depart from the faith, who will refuse to suffer for Christ, and who will live carnal, immoral lives.
|Believers who are
joint-heirs with Christ and who will reign with Him.
Key passage: Romans 8:17
|Believers who are heirs of God but not joint-heirs with Christ and who will not reign with Him.|
|Believers who will
inherit the kingdom.
Key passages: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5.
|Believers who by their wicked way of life (drunkenness, adultery, homosexuality, etc.) will not inherit the kingdom.|
|Believers who are
partakers (sharers) of Christ and who will participate with Him in His
Key passage: Hebrews 3:14
|Believers who are not partakers (sharers) of Christ and who will not participate with Him in His kingdom rule. These believers do not continue in the faith.|
Let us deal with these issues, one at a time.
1) Will only some believers be joint-heirs with Christ or is this true for all of the blood-bought children of God?
It is true for all of God's saints. Every believer is an heir of God and every believer is a joint-heir with Christ. Every believer is a partaker of Christ's sufferings and every believer will also share in Christ's glory. Suffering is not optional for the believer; neither is glorification.
For a complete refutation of the view that only some believers are joint-heirs with Christ, see our Discussion of Romans 8:17. See also the very helpful discussion of Romans 8:17 by James Ventilato.
2) Who are the ones who will not inherit the kingdom? Are they saved people or unsaved people?
For a refutation of the view which teaches that wicked, immoral saved people will not inherit the kingdom, see our Discussion of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. See also the excellent study by James Ventilato.
3) Do only some believers qualify to be partakers of Christ?
Hebrews 3:14 and Hebrews 3:6 must stand or fall together:
"For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:14).
"But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:6).
If not all believers are partakers of Christ (verse 14), then it would follow that not all believers are part of Christ's house (verse 6). But the consistent testimony of the New Testament is that every single child of God is a part of Christ's house (1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5). The point of Hebrews 3:6 is that continuance in the faith is the evidence of being part of the true building. Scaffolding is not part of the building, as evidenced by the fact that it does not remain (compare 1 John 2:19). In the spiritual realm there are many "temporary attachments" which in time fall away (Luke 8:13). There is a difference between an apostate faith which rejects the Saviour and turns away from him, and a continuing faith with holds onto Christ to the end, even if it be at times a weak grasp. In 1 Peter 1:5 we learn that we are kept by the power of God through faith, not apart from faith. The Lord Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail (Luke 22:32), and every believer today enjoys similar intercession on the part of our Saviour (Rom. 8:34).
4) Do only some believers rule and reign with Christ?
"If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim. 2:12a). Hodges, Dillow, Wilkin and Benware teach that there is a whole class of believers who are saved but because of their unfaithfulness they will not reign with Christ. They teach that only the persevering, suffering saints will reign with Christ. Only those who are "partakers" ("servant/kings") will rule with Christ for a thousand years. Only the "joint-heirs" will reign with Him (Rom. 8:17). All other believers will be lesser citizens of the kingdom and will be in some sense on the outside, in outer darkness, etc. They teach that the non-overcoming, non-suffering believers will lose out on the privilege of reigning with Christ (Rev. 2:26-27).
It is interesting to scan the pages of the book of Revelation to see what it teaches about believers ruling with Christ and to see if this privilege is limited to some elite group of saved persons. "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Rev. 1:5-6). This passage teaches that all blood-washed believers have been made kings and priests unto God. And as kings, we must rule. Also, as the church of God we are the bride of Christ, and shall not the queen rule with the King?
"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9-10). Notice the added information supplied by this passage. These blood-bought kings and priests had been redeemed out of every kindred, and tongue and people and nation. As kings they must rule, and we are here told the location of their reign: "We shall reign on the earth." Nothing is said about a special class of blood-bought believers. These statements apply to all.
"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Rev. 20:6). We have already seen that all blood-washed, blood-bought believers are made kings and priests unto God. Here we are told that they will all reign with Christ a thousand years (this will also include the tribulation saints according to Rev. 20:4). All who are part of the first resurrection ("the resurrection of life"–John 5:29) will share in this reign. It is interesting that Joseph Dillow, in his textbook on who shall someday reign with Christ (The Reign of the Servant Kings) says nothing about any of these passages in Revelation (1:5-6; 5:9-10; 20:4-6), apparently because they contradict his theory. Hodges teaches that Revelation 20:6 does not refer to all believers, but only to those faithful believers who are the HEIRS of the kingdom (Grace In Eclipse, p. 75). This is another example of forcing the text to fit one’s theological view.
It is interesting that Paul taught that all saints, including the Corinthian believers (who had serious problems with carnality), would someday "judge the world" and "judge angels" (1 Cor. 6:2-3). It is inconceivable that this could be done apart from reigning with Christ, the One who is the final and ultimate judge of all men and all angels. "Judging" the world and angels in 1 Corinthians 6 refers, indeed, to "governing," "ruling," or "reigning over," as in Matt. 19:28 (judging the twelve tribes of Israel) and Rev. 20:4a (judgment was given to those seated on the thrones). This is just one more indication that all saints will rule with Christ, not just some special class of "overcomers."
See also the helpful study by James Ventilato, "Is Reigning With Christ a Privilege Reserved for Just Some Saints?"
Other Observations Concerning Paul Benware's Book:
1. Hodges, Dillow and Wilkin teach that those who will not reign with Christ will experience weeping and gnashing of teeth. Dillow teaches that some of the verses on weeping and gnashing of teeth describe the experience of profound regret for the unfaithful Christian during the kingdom (The Reign of the Servant Kings, p. 351). Robert Wilkin, the Executive Director of the Grace Evangelical Society (GES), teaches that the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" represents the sorrow and remorse and regret that unfaithful believers will experience at the judgment seat of Christ. He says that this severe remorse and regret will not last for too long, perhaps for only a few moments. Hodges apparently holds to the same view. Benware seems to avoid any mention of "weeping and gnashing of teeth," and he does not go into great detail about what happens to those who do not reign with Christ. Whether or not Benware believes that true believers will experience weeping and gnashing of teeth, I cannot answer.
For a detailed and lengthy study on this issue, see Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth--Will This Be the Fate of True Christians? The reader is urged to give this article careful consideration.
2. Benware quotes frequently from Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow of the free grace camp, especially on matters pertaining to his belief that God will divide the body and bride of Christ into two distinct groups, with only one of these groups reigning with Christ. For a full examination as to why many of the teachings of Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow are troubling, see The Theology of Zane Hodges and Joseph Dillow and the Grace Evangelical Society.
3. Benware frequently quotes from books published by Schoettle Publishing company. This publishing company is highly selective in the authors that they choose to publish, publishing only the writings of men who believe in kingdom exclusion. This is the doctrine that certain unfaithful believers will be excluded from the kingdom, or at least from reigning with Christ during that kingdom. Benware cites Dillow, Neighbour, Dodson, Panton, Philip Mauro--all authors of books published by Schoettle. Dillow's book, The Reign of the Servant Kings, seems to be the theology textbook of the free grace movement. Dillow teaches, as does Benware, that in the future kingdom, the glorious Bride and Body of Christ (the Church) will be divided into two distinct groups, and only the faithful group will rule and reign with Christ. Neighbour taught that unfaithful Christians will suffer weeping and gnashing of teeth and will be cast into outer darkness and will have no place in the kingdom [J. D. Faust, The Rod: Will God Spare It? p. 319]. Panton taught that unfaithful believers will suffer "millennial death," and will be cut asunder at the Bema, excluded from the kingdom, and some will be temporarily in Gehenna [Faust, The Rod, p. 323]. Panton was also a partial rapturist. Philip Mauro taught that unfaithful Christians would suffer greatly and be excluded from the kingdom [Faust, The Rod, pages 330-331]. Kingdom exclusion is a common theme among the men who author books published by Schoettle.
J. D. Faust wrote the book, The Rod: Will God Spare It?, also published by Schoettle, in which he teaches that unfaithful Christians will be cast into the dungeon of hell for a thousand years: "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in this outer darkness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). The unfaithful Christian goes to the same place as the unbeliever and hypocrite until after the millennium (Luke 12:46)" (page 408). Thus Faust teaches a fearful doctrine of purgatory, although he prefers to call it "millennial exclusion." Thankfully Benware has avoided the extreme positions of Faust and never quotes from him, and yet he, like Faust, divides all believers into two distinct groups, with the unfaithful group being disqualified from kingdom blessing.
4. Benware dedicates his book to four men: Dr. Herbert V. Hotchkiss, Dr. Charles Ryrie, Dr. John Walvoord, and Dr. John C. Whitcomb. He sat under the teaching ministry of these men. It is interesting to note that Ryrie, Walvoord and Whitcomb do not share his view that all believers will be divided into two distinct groups, nor do they share his view that unfaithful Christians will be excluded from reigning with Christ in His kingdom. I do not know Dr. Hotchkiss and I don't know his position on this.
5. Hodges, Wilkin, Dillow, Faust and Benware place all believers into two distinct classes:
|Those who inherit the kingdom||do not inherit the kingdom|
|The overcomers||do not overcome|
|The partakers||do not partake|
|Those who reign with Christ||do not reign with Christ|
|The spiritual ones||The carnal ones|
|Those who suffer with Christ||do not suffer with Christ|
|Those who are joint-heirs with Christ||… are not joint-heirs|
|Those who persevere in the faith||do not persevere in the faith|
This categorizing of believers into two distinct groups raises some interesting questions. How carnal does a saved person need to be in order to be placed in Group 2? Certainly there is some carnality in the life of every believer. How much does a saved person need to suffer in order to qualify for Group 1? How faithful must a saint be in order to inherit the kingdom? There are varying degrees of faithfulness among Gods people. At what point does one qualify as a "partaker of Christ"?
Some believers (according to Hodge/Dillow) might be thoroughly carnal and wicked and unfaithful and it would be evident to all that they belong to Group 2. Other believers live for Christ faithfully and consistently from the day they are saved to the day they go home to be with Christ. They obviously belong to Group 1. But what about those inconsistent believers who are in the "grey area" in the middle, sometimes serving the Lord well, at other times walking in the flesh; sometimes walking in the path of obedience, at other times being disobedient. Theoretically it seems that there could be two believers who both have inconsistent walks with Christ. One barely qualifies for Group 1 (he inherits the kingdom by the "skin of his teeth") and the other ends up in Group 2, almost but not quite qualifying for Group 1 (he was not quite faithful enough and did not quite suffer for Christ enough). It seems unfair that the person in Group 2 should be grouped with other believers who lived such wretched and unfaithful lives and suffer serious consequences at the judgment seat, in the kingdom and even beyond. It seems unfair that the person in Group 1 should share such bliss in reigning with Christ when he just barely missed the weeping and gnashing of teeth that his slightly more unfaithful brother must experience.
A much better solution is to allow the LORD to take care of all the gradations that exist in Christian character and conduct. This involves the Biblical doctrine of rewards. God will reward each and every believer according to perfect justice and will render to every believer according to his works. Every believer will be dealt with individually and there will be no problem dealing with inconsistent believers and all the gradations and degrees of faithfulness that are involved. The judgment seat of Christ will put everything in order: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:9).
The Middletown Bible Church
|More Article Pertaining to Hodges, Dillow, Wilkin (GES) and Faust|