Tuesday 18 October 2016


Can great men and women of God be absolutely sure they will go to heaven one day?

The apostle Paul likened the Christian life to a race. In order to win the race, athletes (believers) must endure and exercise self-control and discipline.

Just as contenders in the Olympics need to be watchful about diet, rest, training and abide by the rules (no illegal drugs such as anabolic steroids), believers too have to learn how to control their fleshly desires and passions. They have to subdue their carnal inclinations so that they can finish the race well.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).

One of the strongest indications that even famous Christian leaders can miss out on heaven is found in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Paul compared himself to a contender (runner) and a herald (preacher) of the race. Though he was perhaps the most faithful and impactful apostle in Christendom, past or present, he was afraid that he might not finish well.  

The Greek word from which ‘disqualified’ is derived is ‘adokimos’, which can also mean the following: failing to pass the test, unapproved, castaway, rejected, reprobate. It is a very serious term that cannot be trifled with. Apparently, ‘adokimos’ refers to bad metals which fail to pass the test; thus they are rejected or cast away.

Put simply, Paul was afraid that he might be disapproved, rejected, cast away, deemed unfit to enter heaven. If he had allowed himself to be overcome by his inherently corrupt nature, he would not finish well and might even lose his salvation.

Two questions logically follow when we consider this verse, 1 Corinthians 9:27. Firstly, is Paul’s fear positive or negative? It is definitely positive for it keeps him from making the greatest mistake in life—to be lost and damned for all eternity. Secondly, if super apostle Paul feared that he might not make the grade in eternity, how much more ordinary heaven-bound citizens should live their days on earth with godly fear!

Come to think of it, if Paul entertained the thought he could possibly be disqualified from heaven, how much more “spiritual plebeians” like us should be cautious that we might not reach our intended final destination if we fail to fulfil certain conditions (Matthew 7:13,14, Luke 13:24).

Not everyone will agree with this interpretation of 1 Corinthians 9:27, but let me explain why this verse is not just a red herring. Using a single verse to build a doctrine or premise is not a sound principle. So here are some references that reinforce this particular verse:

Even famous prophets and miracle workers who profess faith in Christ can miss out on heaven:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7: 21-23)

Any believer, leader or otherwise, who continues to willfully live in sin will miss out on heaven, if he fails to repent. God is impartial. He is no respecter of persons.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
(1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Past faithfulness cannot nullify present sinfulness:
“When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
(Ezekiel 18: 26, 32)

If a believer, leader or otherwise, fails to endure, he or she may lose the chance of entering heaven:
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
(Hebrews 10:36,39)

False teachers who propagate destructive heresies will be destroyed. Their fate will be worse than that of pre-believers because they were once enlightened but later chose to fall away.
False prophets arose among the people, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
(2 Peter 2:1, 20)

Complacency and failure to abide may rob a believer, leader or otherwise, of eternal life. And it is not about getting smaller or lesser rewards but totally missing out on heaven.
  • “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
          (Revelation 3:15-16)
  • “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
          (John 15:6)
Why Leaders Face Increased Risks

Actually, many factors can potentially work against leaders, leading to their downfall:
  • Leaders are in the frontline engaged in spiritual battle. Satan predominantly targets them because they are a greater threat to the kingdom of darkness.

  • Leaders may think they are God’s favoured ones as they have achieved so much for His glory. They may have brought many to Christ or built a big church or organisation. So, with these feathers in their cap, it would seem that God would logically not reject them on judgment day.

  • What truly matters in the end is not necessarily how many followers we have, the size of our church or how stupendous our ability to bring about miracles but how faithful we have been in discharging our God-given calling and utilising our talents.

  • Overfamiliarity with scriptures may breed complacency. Head knowledge may substitute a vibrant and intimate relationship with Christ.

  • Popularity and power, which are worn like medals, may breed pride. An inner circle of believers may feed their egos and tell them they can do no wrong: God’s “anointed ones” cannot be touched.

  • Performance culture and busyness may mean that some leaders are so preoccupied that their devotional life falters. While cultivating the vineyards of others, they may be neglecting their own. Burnout may lead to sexual temptations and moral failures.

Even a powerful man of God like Balaam can miss out on heaven. As a prophet, he was privy to God’s secrets as he was His mouthpiece. But he fell because of his love for money.

Nothing is pre-determined or “automatic” in the Christian life. We have to be faithful and endure till the end. We have to really examine ourselves to see whether our lives are befitting of our status as His chosen ones.

That’s why Paul was jubilant when he ended the race well: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).

And it is not that we strive by our own strength to keep ourselves in God’s love. It is by seeking God, and being empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we are able to walk the narrow and difficult way, a path strewn with trials and temptations.

As the passage in Philippians 2:12-13 puts it, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

The fact that a man has a very successful ministry is no guarantee that he will eventually be saved. Some people get converted through the ministry of teachers who themselves are deceived. They may preach some truth which God may choose to bless, resulting in the saving of souls.

Even Paul, for all the ministry success to his credit, was afraid that he might eventually be disqualified and cast away. Hence, there is no absolute guarantee that a successful minister will definitely go to heaven.

Postscript: The purpose of this article is to emphasise the fact that believers have to be on our toes, spiritually speaking, as even great men of God (like Paul) cannot claim that they will definitely go to heaven. Spiritual complacency is a disease to be avoided at all costs. The purpose of the article is not to judge any leader because no one is morally perfect and only God can claim to be the ultimate Judge.


A powerful prophet of God once enjoyed God’s favour but failed to make it to heaven. Being counted among God’s chosen ones is no guarantee that all will end well. Who is he?

If we are unaware of our enemy, how can we fight and defend ourselves? If we are unclear about our areas of weakness, how can we be victorious?

As leaders are the key people who make or break an organisation, they certainly deserve our respect and support. But we should not “idolise” them to the extent we think they can do no wrong even in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary. Like all men, they too are weak and fallible.

God’s love towards believers is immeasurable but can we take it for granted?

Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?

Two different views—easy and difficult ways to heaven

As believers, what’s the point of having great miraculous power, riches, wisdom and unbridled pleasure at our disposal if we miss out on heaven?


For a quick overview: http://bit.ly/1ijiXHp 

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