Copyright © 1994 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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In an imaginary discussion before God during the day of judgment, two men give an account of their lives. One man attempts to justify himself by strict reliance on God’s grace in the absence of righteous behavior. The other individual presents a life full of faith balanced with good works. The reward God gives to each man underscores the misunderstanding many Christians have today concerning our scriptural accountability before God.

Table of Contents

The First Son
The Second Son
Incorrect Responses
Why the Incorrect Responses?
God’s Actual Response


The First Son

In the day of reckoning, God called two of His sons to stand before Him.

To the first son God said: “Son, I have loved you with an everlasting love. I found you when you were a Gentile without hope, in the guilt of your sins, in the filthiness and pride of your self-centeredness and self-love. I said to you at that time, ‘Live!’ And you came to life in My Presence.

“I forgave your many sins. I taught you to take up your cross so you would have the opportunity to overcome your self-centeredness. I gave you the gift of My Son and put My Spirit in you. I watched over you night and day and guided you with My eye. Many times I forgave your ignorance and foolishness. All these things I did for you that I may be your God and you may be My son.

“Therefore, what have you done with your life?”

The first son answered God and said, “My Father and my God. I thank and praise You that You saw fit to reach down from Heaven and save me. Since that time, I have served You with all my heart. Although I behaved ignorantly and foolishly on many occasions, when You corrected me; I changed my ways and ceased from sin and rebellion.

“I redeemed the time to the best of my ability. I never sinned knowingly and willfully. Many times I set aside my greatest desires and chose to do Your will instead.

“I have laid down my life, have taken up my cross, and have followed Your Son, Jesus Christ. Whatever He has said to me, I have done, as He has given me wisdom and strength.

“I have prayed, studied the Scriptures, and have fellowshiped with the saints. I have been loyal to my wife, family, and friends. I harbor hatred against no person, but would rejoice to see everyone enter the Kingdom of God.

“I have been diligent in the ministry Christ has given to me and have placed the work of the Kingdom of God first in importance. I did not spend my days cultivating my own abilities or ensuring my own security. Many have turned to righteousness as a result of my testimony.

“I have cheated no person, but have made restitution whenever it has been clear that I should do so.

“This is what I have done with my life, as the Lord Jesus has helped and guided me through the Holy Spirit.

“I stand ready now to do, by Your grace, whatever You would have me to do.”

The Second Son

To the second son God said: “Son, I have loved you with an everlasting love. I found you when you were a Gentile without hope, in the guilt of your sins, in the filthiness and pride of your self-centeredness and self-love. I said to you at that time, ‘Live!’ And you came to life in My Presence.

“I forgave your many sins. I taught you to take up your cross so you would have the opportunity to overcome your self-centeredness. I gave you the gift of My Son and put My Spirit in you. I watched over you night and day and guided you with My eye. Many times I forgave your ignorance and foolishness. All these things I did for you that I may be your God and you may be My son.

“Therefore, what have you done with your life?”

The second son answered God and said, “Sir, I thank and praise You that You saw fit to reach down from Heaven and save me.

“It is true that since the time You revealed Christ to me, I have not chosen to serve You as I should. Although You attempted to correct my ignorance and foolishness on many occasions, I was not able to learn. I continued on as before because it is difficult for me to change the way I am, the way I do things.

“I spent much time on the things that interest me. I did sin many times, even though I was aware or suspected what I was doing transgressed Your laws. Whenever I wanted something badly enough, I took it, although I realized what I was doing might displease You or harm myself or some other person. I confess Your will was clear to me on some occasions and I chose instead to do what I desired to do.

“I could not bring myself to take up my cross nor did I follow the Lord Jesus as I should have. I can’t stand to suffer. It is very hard to give up one’s whole life and follow Jesus. Instead, I lived my own life and hoped Christ would help and bless me in the things I wanted to do.

“I was busy and could not find the time to pray as one ought, and I find it difficult to understand the Bible. I did not fellowship with other Christians very much because there were too many faults in the churches. They were all full of hypocrites.

“I divorced my first wife because we fought all the time and I could not believe You would have me to be so unhappy. It is true that I left my two children, a son and a daughter. I felt they would be better off without me.

“Where are they now? I don’t know. My son is a drunkard. My daughter is living with some man. Neither my children nor my first wife will attend church. My present wife and I attend church on Christmas and Easter, and when friends get married.

“There is one man whom I hate because of what he did to me. I cannot forgive him. I hope You will forgive me for that.

“I do not know of any ministry You have given me. I have worked hard at my job all my life and have spent most of my time that way. I do not know of anyone who has come to know You because of me.

“I have offended some people, but was too embarrassed to go to them and ask their forgiveness.

“This is what I have done with my life.

“I realize I have not been a faithful Christian; but I was taught when I was first saved I could never be lost no matter what I did. I have professed Christ. I believe He died for my sins and that He is the Lord and Savior of the world. I have been taught we are saved by grace, not by works of righteousness we have done but by Your mercy.

“I still am afraid to do Your will, but I hope You will not be too hard on me and You will allow me to enter Heaven on the merits of Jesus Christ my Lord.”

Incorrect Responses

How will God respond to each of His sons?

Current Christian teaching is divided as to how God would respond to these two men. The opinion that would be given by the most extreme proponents of “grace” is as follows:

God answered the first son and said, “All of your self-righteousness is as filthy rags in My sight. Your works mean absolutely nothing to Me. I hope you are not thinking you deserve a reward because you have tried to please Me!

“Don’t you know you are saved by My grace alone? — that there is nothing you can add to My salvation? If your works are to be added to My grace, then grace is no more grace. Jesus Christ alone is righteous. You will enter Heaven, not because you tried to please Me, but because Christ is righteous.

“Your perseverance has nothing to do with your salvation. I have saved you by My grace alone, and your answer reveals that you do not understand this well.

“You have acknowledged that Jesus died for your sins, and so I am obligated by My Word to allow you into Heaven. But it is not by any works of righteousness you have done; it is because you have professed faith in Christ.

“You really are wicked because you are implying that My grace is not sufficient for your salvation. You are setting yourself against Me in a legalistic, pharisaic manner, not allowing Me to save you by My unmerited favor. You are trying to present some righteousness of your own. But, My son, it is not what you have done; it is what Christ has done. Remember that in the future!”

God said to the second son:

“Well done! Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter the joy of your Lord. You acknowledged that Christ died for your sins. You called Him, Lord. You perceived correctly that it is only the righteousness of Christ that brings salvation.

“By not attempting to please Me, you have caused My grace to shine as a jewel. My mercy is enlarged because I have saved you — you, whose conduct was very ungodly and self-centered. You have not worked, but have believed in God who justifies the ungodly.

“When you left your wife and children, I saw only the faithfulness of Christ. When you fornicated, I saw the moral purity of Christ. When you ignored My will, I saw only the obedience of My Son. When you lied and stole, I beheld the truthfulness and honesty of the Holy One of Israel.

“You never repented, but repentance is not necessary because you have been clothed with the righteousness of the Lord Jesus ever since you professed belief in Him.

“Enter the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.”

Do you truly believe that the God of Noah, Abraham, and Daniel would respond in this manner? It would be the logical consequence of much contemporary Christian teaching. The opinion that would be rendered by less extreme Christians is as follows:

God spoke to both sons and said, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Enter the joy of your Lord. Because you have believed in Christ, making a statement of faith in Him, each of you will be allowed into Heaven and given a beautiful mansion. You are complete in Christ. Your behavior in the world will not increase or decrease the power of My grace.”

Thus we have made the commandments of God in the New Testament vain and useless by our traditions. Again let us ask, do you truly believe the God of Noah, Abraham, and Daniel would respond in this manner?

Why the Incorrect Responses?

Now, let us suppose you, dear reader, were wealthy and owned a large business. You were ready to retire and called your sons to you to speak to them concerning the management of your estate. One of your boys has been an excellent worker, always doing what you wanted. The other boy has been lazy, careless, having disobeyed you at every turn. You now are ready to divide your estate between them. What would you do? Would you, in order to demonstrate the love you have for them, turn over your business to the son who would not behave himself properly, and scold your other son for his exemplary behavior?

No, you would not. Neither will God. He also is a father and a businessman. Would you divide the inheritance between them, making them equal partners in the business?

Probably not, if you cared whether the business continued to be successful.

If you loved both of your sons, you might say to the virtuous son, “Son, you already know the family business. You have learned quickly. You are dependable. You have made many mistakes, but you have gone on to learn rapidly and to improve your abilities. “If I leave the inheritance to you, you will be able to use it well. You already have demonstrated the kind of person you are — your trustworthiness, your conscientiousness, your faithfulness in small, difficult, bothersome responsibilities. I know well what you will do. It will be your responsibility to take care of your mother and brother when I am gone.”

To the other son you might say, “Son, your Dad loves you. You have made many mistakes, and even now you are confused about what you have done that is wrong. You have not demonstrated the strength of character your brother has. But your life still is ahead of you. If you will apply yourself, you can learn and grow in responsibility. I have given the inheritance to your brother. He is able to manage it after I am gone. He will take care of your mother and you. He cares for you and will help you to learn.”

Or, you might say to the disobedient, lazy son, “Son, you have wasted every opportunity I have made for you. You have broken your mother’s heart. The way you act, I am not sure you even consider yourself to be my son. I have given everything to your brother. He deserves it. I am leaving you five thousand dollars. Why don’t you use it to try to get yourself straightened out?”

The Christian doctrine of “grace” has gotten off course. The term grace is being employed in an unscriptural manner. The current doctrine of grace teaches that if a person will “accept Christ” in the sense of acknowledging and applying personally the fact of the blood atonement, he will escape Hell and go to Heaven on that basis. All who profess belief in the Lord Jesus Christ will receive virtually the same reward.

The profession of Christ has taken on a kind of magical characteristic. The program of salvation has become an acknowledgment of the facts of the death and resurrection of Christ. It is taught that if we believe there is a God and that He has sent the Lord Jesus Christ to die for our sins, we have pleased God, and that our behavior is not essentially important because we are only waiting to go to Heaven. This current Christian message really is a philosophy rather than the Divine salvation.

Recently, the Lord spoke to a minister who was preparing to teach a seminar. God said, “Do not preach about Christ. Preach what Christ preached.” When I first heard about the Lord telling this to a man I do not know, it rang true. It was difficult to understand, but it somehow seemed to be correct. Since that time, I have come to see how very important that word was (and is). When reading commentaries and footnotes, especially concerning the New Testament Gospels and Epistles, one can find many paragraphs telling how great and exalted Christ is. We agree wholeheartedly with the descriptions of the majesty of the Lord.

But the paragraphs that advise us to practice and preach Christ’s commandments are few and far between. One is more apt to read that it is not necessary to keep Christ’s commandments than he is to find that if we do not keep Christ’s commandments, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God.

It is a massive, grievous error. We are calling Jesus “Lord! Lord!” but not doing what He commands. We are building our house on the sand instead of on the rock of His commandments. How terribly frustrating this must be to the Lord!

There is something wrong here. It is a mental assent to theological facts, not expressing itself in godly works, while the Scripture tells us that faith apart from godly works (an abstract faith) is dead.

It is true that the Scriptures stress faith. But the “faith” of the Scriptures is the faith of Hebrews chapter 11. It is the faith that seeks Christ day and night. “The just shall live by faith” has little or nothing to do with belief in doctrine; it is speaking of the life lived in humble dependence on God.

We can understand how the current emphasis could be derived from certain verses of the Scriptures. But let us keep in mind that the majority of the passages of the New Testament (including the four Gospel accounts) emphasize how we are to live the Christian life, not that we take the Name of the Lord Jesus or acknowledge the fact of His blood atonement or His bodily resurrection. It is possible to adopt the name of the Lord and continue in our own ways, like Queen Vashti who prepared her own banquet and ignored King Ahasuerus. This is not acceptable to God.

And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, “We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach.” (Isaiah 4:1)

“We do not desire you or your ways; we just want to adopt your name so people will think we have husbands.” We repeat, there is something radically wrong here. Let us take, for example, Romans 5:9:

Much more then, having now been justified [declared righteous] by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:9)

It is easy to see how such verses as this and Romans 10:9,10 would lead to the conclusion that if we acknowledge the Lord Jesus, we will be saved regardless of our conduct. If we add to this conclusion the unscriptural tradition that the goal of the Divine redemption is to live forever in a mansion in Heaven, we have the customary belief that “by accepting Christ, you will escape Hell and go to Heaven by grace.”

But if we take the entire book of Romans and add to it the teaching of the remainder of Paul’s epistles, of the other Apostles, and of Christ Himself in the Gospel accounts, we soon discover that the current presentation of the plan of salvation is incomplete to the extent of being dangerously misleading.

It was never God’s intention that a profession of belief in Christ would be the whole scope of the Christian discipleship and that the behavior of the believers would be cast into an inconsequential role. This is obviously unscriptural.

It is God’s intention that the Lord Jesus Christ be the Rock, the chief Cornerstone, the Door of the Kingdom of God, the Center and Circumference of the entire creation. On this Rock, the glorious Church is being built, not glorious because it professes belief in Christ, but glorious because of the radiant Glory of the indwelling Christ revealed in the character and works of the Church.

The Christian who is not growing in good works is defeating the purpose of God in saving him or her.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

The Christian who is not bearing the fruit of good works will be cut out of the Vine by the Father.

Something has gone wrong with the Gospel of the Kingdom. The results of the error can be seen in Christianity’s loss of testimony — loss of the only testimony that glorifies God, which is the testimony of good works (Matthew 5:16).

Is the Kingdom of God primarily a set of doctrines that brings us exemption from the eternal moral laws of God? — from the Kingdom law of sowing and reaping? No.

Is the Christian Church actually a favored group of Gentiles who, because of their statement of belief in the facts of the atonement and resurrection, are released from the rules that govern all other men? Are these people destined to be whisked away to do nothing in Heaven forever, while a Jewish Kingdom of God proceeds to establish righteousness and praise among the nations of the earth? No.

God’s Actual Response

How shall God respond to His two sons?

God answered the first son and said, “My son, My son, how I rejoiced over you in My love! You were quick to receive correction. You employed your time wisely and well. Your sins were those of ignorance, and through My grace you outgrew them. When you stumbled and fell, you repented, confessed your sins, and with My assistance took up your cross and marched forward.

“I noted very carefully and was deeply gratified when you made those extremely difficult decisions. I saw you give up the desires of your soul to the point of death. This is the kind of sacrifice I accept — the sacrifice that is selfless, being as a whole burnt offering to the Lord.

“Indeed, you did set aside your own life. At times your cross was heavy and cruel, but you guarded and observed the precious words of My beloved Son. You did what He said to do. You followed Him every mile of the way as He revealed Himself (and Me) to you.

“I was with you in your prayers. I opened the Scriptures to you. I gave you a love for the saints, and a breadth of soul so you were able to overlook their shortcomings as I overlook their shortcomings (and your shortcomings).

“You were loyal to your wife, your family, and your friends. Now you have their love and respect — that which could not be purchased with a king’s treasure.

“Although some have wounded you, you have found the Virtue needed to forgive them, through the body and blood of My Son.

“You have been diligent and conscientious in the ministry Christ has given to you, and have placed the work of the Kingdom ahead of your own interests. As a result, a multitude of people have been helped and strengthened in their attempts to find God. You have no idea how many have been blessed, for the influence of one righteous person spreads across humanity as the waves spread across the ocean. The Body of Christ is nearer to My standard of perfection because of your faithfulness.

“No person on the earth or in Heaven can speak against you. I am He who justifies you. You have kept your relationships with people holy to the best of your ability, always looking to Me for guidance and strength.

“I know you stand ready now to do My will by My grace because your life has trained you to do that. I now am ready to reveal to you the pleasure of a grateful Father and God.”

Then the Father spoke a powerful word. Before the astonished view of His son, there opened up a scene of wonder and glory. He gazed on the glorious and huge kingdom being given to him — that already had become part of his personality although he did not realize it until now. He saw many people whom he knew. (I cannot speak further of his reward because it belongs to another age.)

“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (Revelation 21:7)

God answered the second son and said:

“It is true that you did not choose to serve Me with your whole heart. Although I yearned over you with a father’s love, you refused to accept correction. Change is difficult for every person. You simply were unwilling to make the effort.

“You wasted the greater part of your time. When you desired something, you went ahead and obtained it, even though it harmed your relationship to Me and injured other people. You rebelled against My will, following instead your own impulses. You were afraid that if you did obey My will, you would be harmed and deprived of things of value. In this manner you continually revealed your distrust of My intentions toward you.

“You refused to take up your cross, choosing instead the path of pleasure. You did not follow Jesus at all. You called Him “Lord,” but you did not do what He said. Indeed, you lived your own life and attempted to use the Name of Christ to further your own interests and pleasures. You were not a good and faithful servant.

“You seldom made an effort to pray or to read the Bible. There is no love of your Christian brothers and sisters in you, only bitterness and suspicion.

“You divorced your wife because of your lust. If you had asked Me, I would have saved your marriage. You left your children at an impressionable age. Your son is a drunkard because you had nothing further to do with him. Your daughter is living in fornication instead of marriage because her mother grew to hate you and put in your daughter a distrust of all men. You married a self-willed, rebellious woman and both of you have been living in adultery ever since.

“The man whom you hate is not as bad as you think he is. But in any case, I cannot forgive you while you are full of hatred toward him.

“You have abilities dwelling in you that would have been very helpful to a certain assembly of saints that gathers in your town. So those saints would not suffer loss, I have given to another man what was to have been your inheritance. Do you see that galaxy of stars over there? That is the man who took your place in the assembly.

“Your self-centeredness and disobedience have caused some people to suffer irreparable spiritual injury. Among these victims are your wife, your son, and your daughter. I know what they could have been had you followed Christ. Now it can never be. When they come up before Me in judgment, I will take into consideration what they have suffered at your hands.

“I am the merciful God. In My boundless mercy I found you when you were a Gentile without hope, in the guilt of your sins, in the filthiness and pride of your self-centeredness and self-love. I said to you, ‘Live!’ and you came to life in My Presence.

“I forgave your many sins. I taught you to take up your cross so you would have the opportunity to overcome your self-centeredness. I gave you the gift of My Son and put My Spirit in you. I watched over you night and day and guided you with My eye. Many times I forgave your ignorance and foolishness. All these things I did for you so I would be your God and you would be My son.

“In return, you chose to follow Satan, the world, and the lusts of your flesh. You professed belief in Christ, but by your works you denied Him. You did not choose to be filled with My Spirit; you chose instead to be filled with death and Hell.

“Like Esau, you sold your inheritance to satisfy your belly.

“I cannot bless you.

“You have not chosen Me to be your God.

“I am not choosing you to be My son.

“Depart from Me into outer darkness.”

‘And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:30)

(“Two Sons”, 3139-1, proofed 20230903)

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