Some Free Grace people are very sophisticated in the questions they ask. A solid Free Grace person knows about the doctrine of eternal rewards and may have some concerns in that regard that others would have concerning their salvation.
I received an interesting question from an actual handwritten letter. Larry asks, “Anyway, my question is this: Since I denied Christ once or twice, because of all the false teaching I had encountered, and turned my back on God, does this mean I will never be able to reign with Christ even though I repented and came back full force with a greater commitment than ever when I found the truth of Dr. Arnold Fructenbaum, GES, Bob Wilkin, Zane Hodges, et al.?”
I’m thrilled he is asking about rewards, not eternal destiny. Larry knows that he is eternally secure. He knows that denying Christ is a rewards issue, not a destiny issue. I hope you do as well. Compare Matt 10:32-33 with 2 Tim 2:12. The only condition of everlasting life is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for that life (John 3:16; 5:24; 11:25-27).
Larry went on to answer his own question. He writes, “Peter denied Christ three times and was restored…and Peter will reign with Him.” I think Larry’s concern is that Peter’s three denials occurred all within a few hours, and Larry’s denials took place over a longer time period. But the point is the same. Whether someone denies Christ three times in an hour, or many times over a course of years, he will rule with Christ forever if he is confessing Christ at the time of his death (or the Rapture).
We know that Paul says, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Christ” (2 Tim 2:12a). He is interpreting Matt 10:32, “He who confesses Me before men, him will I confess before My Father who is in heaven.” We know that because 2 Tim 2:12b and Matt 10:33 both concern believers who deny Christ and who will not rule with Him.
I should add that the time during which a believer is denying Christ is a time during which he is not laying up treasure in heaven. Plus, if he died during that time, then he would not rule. But once he returns to fellowship with the Lord and confessing Him, then he begins to lay up treasure again, and he is now in a position to rule with Christ.
Another consideration is that rulership with Christ is not simply yes or no. It is also a matter of degrees. In the Parable of the Minas, we learn of one servant of Christ who will rule over ten cities (Luke 19:17) and another who will only rule over five cities (Luke 19:19). Surely, we are meant to understand that there will be rulership ranging from whole countries, ten cities, five cities, one city, and maybe all the way down to parts of cities. How much of one’s time as a believer he has confessed Christ and how wholeheartedly during that time will determine how much he will rule with Christ—assuming he was confessing Christ at the end of his life.
If a believer denied Christ for the first 50 years of his Christian life and in the last six months of his life confessed Him, he would rule with Christ, but his rulership would be quite limited. If a believer denied Christ for two years out of his first ten as a believer and then confessed him for his last 50 years, his rulership would be much more.
Of course, the Scriptures do not lay out for us any way of determining how many cities we will rule over based on some mathematical formula. What we know for sure is that if we endure in confessing Christ at the end of our lives, then we will rule with Him. How much we will rule will depend on how wholeheartedly and how much of our Christian lives we confessed Him.
Finally, what does it mean to confess Christ? It is not simply saying, “I believe in Jesus.” Nor is it sharing our faith, per se. Confessing Christ is being part of a local church which accurately teaches God’s Word and which calls out to Him in prayer. Our weekly gatherings are the primary way in which we confess Christ (Rom 10:10, 13; Heb 10:23-25). Of course, we do confess Him when we share our faith, when we tell others that we are believers in Christ, and even when we live for Christ and suffer persecution for Him. But the primary way is our corporate worship. If we persevere in confessing Christ before men, then He will confess us before the Father at the Bema, the Judgment Seat of Christ (Matt 10:32).
That is even true for believers who have a checkered past. We cannot go back and relive the past. We’d all like to do some things differently in the past. But we can move forward, living by faith in our risen Lord and watching for His soon return.