This month’s discussion picks up where last month’s left off. Did Jesus in Matthew 10:32-33 teach that we must confess our faith in Him in order to get into heaven? Let’s see.
The context clearly shows that Jesus was instructing His disciples about principles of discipleship, not justification. He warned them that men would persecute and possibly even kill them. Yet, they were not to be afraid. Why? Because, first, as believers (all but Judas) they were bound for heaven no matter what pain they might experience here (cf. Luke 10:20; John 13:10). And because, second, they would be rewarded in heaven for any suffering they endured here for Jesus’ sake. Earlier in Matthew Jesus is recorded as having taught His disciples that their reward in heaven would be great if they suffered persecution on account of Him (Matt. 5:11-12). Getting into heaven is not a reward for suffering. It is a gift freely received by faith alone in Christ alone. Notice in Matthew 10 immediately after the verses in question that Jesus spoke of being “worthy of Me” by willingly suffering for confessing Him. This is clearly a rewards idea. No one is worthy of Christ in terms of entrance into the kingdom. We are all unworthy. However, there is a common New Testament teaching that by serving Christ faithfully now we can in a sense become worthy to be a co-ruler with Him in His kingdom (cf. 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:12; 1 Pet. 2:19; 4:13; Rev. 2:26; 3:4-5, 21). Notice, too, that verses 41 and 42 deal with the idea of rewards for faithfulness. Giving food, shelter, and financial help to one of God’s true spokesmen means that we will share in his ministry and his reward (Matt. 10:41). Giving even a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name is rewardable (Matt. 10: 42). Clearly, then, confessing Christ, especially when persecution is likely to result, is very rewardable. Jesus is talking about rewards for faithfulness, not redemption for faithfulness.
What, then, did Jesus mean in verses 32 and 33 when He said that He would confess before the Father those who confessed Him and deny before the Father those who denied Him? He meant simply that. At the place where disciples are to be judged, the Judgment Seat of Christ, Jesus will praise or confess before the Father those who consistently by their words and deeds confessed Him before men. However, disciples who failed to consistently confess Him before men by their words and deeds will find that He will deny him something before the Father. What? Rewards. He will deny faithless disciples treasure in heaven and/or the privilege of ruling with Him. (Cf. Luke 19:11-26; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Jn. 2:28.)
There is a verse which is conceptually parallel to this one, 2 Timothy 2:12. The verses on either side of it strongly assert eternal security. However, verse 12 shows that ruling with Christ is not guaranteed for every believer. If we endure in confessing Christ in our words and deeds, we will reign with Him. If we deny Him by our words and deeds, He will deny us that privilege. The context of 2 Timothy 2:12 makes it clear that what Jesus will deny faithless disciples is ruling with Him, not kingdom entrance. ( Cf. 2 Tim. 2:13 “If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.”)
Here is a powerful passage. If I deny Christ by my words and deeds, He will deny me the opportunity to reign with Him. Confessing Christ may lead to persecution and loss now, but ultimately it leads to blessings and gain forever. Oh, how I long to please Him and have Him confess me before the Father! What a day of rejoicing that would be!