“Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, ‘Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.’ Then Peter began to say to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed you.’ So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’”
The weather has been very hot and humid lately, and I commend you all for braving the heat wave and still come to Church and listen to the Lord’s Word. It’s so hot in here that it’s difficult to even breathe, and so I will keep today’s sermon short.
The Scripture passage we just read today speaks about the wealthy. Here Jesus speaking to the disciples said that it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Put differently, Jesus was saying that it’s impossible for the wealthy to be blessed by God to enter Heaven. Shocked by this, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Then does this mean that the rich are excluded from Heaven? Isn’t this unfair? Who then can be saved?” Jesus then answered them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God” (Mark 10:27).
As you know very well, Heaven is God’s Kingdom. The Lord said here that those who are rich on this earth cannot enter Heaven. What does this passage really mean? Does it just mean that all the rich people in this world are destined to hell just because they are rich? No, that is not what the passage means. Rather, this passage means that if one’s heart is set only on this earth—that is, on the riches of this temporal world that is visible to the eye—then this person’s soul is full of sins, and therefore he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
Who Can Receive This Faith That Allows One to Enter Heaven?
Answering this question, Jesus said the following: “With men it is impossible, but not with God” (Mark 10:27). As Jesus Christ said here, our Lord has saved us by bearing all the sins of the human race through His baptism and being condemned for all these sins on the Cross. That is why He said here that salvation is possible only with God. This means that everyone must understand and believe in the Lord’s work of salvation. Through today’s Scripture passage the Lord is teaching us that we should not set our minds on just the visible and physical world.
It’s not just our bodies that were made in the image of God. The souls that are in our hearts were also made in the image of God. When God created man in the beginning, He made his body first, and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This breath of life denotes the living Spirit of God. It’s because we have this spirit that the Bible says that man was created in the image of God. Therefore, just as God is forever living, human beings are also forever living as spiritual beings. Therefore, if you really want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven by faith and live there forever, then you must not allow your heart to be oriented solely towards this visible world and get greedy over its riches. It’s inevitable if this happens that people will lose sight of the Kingdom of Heaven, and that is why our Lord said here that it’s more difficult for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
The Lord has given the gospel of the water and the Spirit to everyone so that all may be able to enter the Kingdom of God, rich and poor alike, for He wants to save everyone from sin. He wants to remit away all the sins of those who listen to the Word of God instead of setting their minds on just this world, such as its fleshly and material riches. That is why He has saved us perfectly from all our sins through His work of salvation, by being baptized and crucified to death. God has thus made it possible for us to enter His Kingdom through our faith in this salvation which was fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
In fact, every Word of God including the Lord’s work of salvation is contained in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. But sadly too many Christians in this world are still interested in material prosperity alone, even as they claim to believe in the righteousness of God and carry out His work. Although the Lord’s Word has nothing to do with their fleshly concerns, these people cannot cast aside their greed for the world. Even as such people are completely ignorant of the righteousness of God, they are full of greed for carnal and material prosperity. Since these “nominal Christians” are solely interested in their own material prosperity, their faith is not one that is placed in the righteousness of God, but it is nothing more than simple greed. Therefore, you should be particularly wary of someone who preaches the following: “You can go to Heaven only if you serve Jesus faithfully and offer a lot of money to Him. Only then can you be saved by God.” Such sermons are not the genuine teachings based on the pure Word of God. These sermons are given just to rob the congregation of money. Our Lord is the Lord of righteousness who has nothing to do with such false preachers. The Lord made not only this present world that is visible to our eyes, but also the invisible dominion of Heaven. Therefore, the Word of Scripture is fundamentally far removed from our fleshly affairs.
Whose Faith Is Carnal and Materialistic?
It is the fleshly people who make a god according to their own thoughts and pray to this god of their own making to bless them, trying to ensure their material prosperity through this. In other words, they create religions for their own material prosperity, out of their desire to enjoy a wealthy life. This is the fundament motivation for all the religious people of this world. Ultimately, these religious people just seek their own material prosperity. For such people who are interested only in the riches of this earth rather than the righteousness of God, it’s absolutely impossible to enter the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, all who think or say that you can receive many rewards from God only if you store treasures in the Kingdom of God by offering a lot of money to their churches are liars. Such preachers emphasize that one must offer a lot of money to enter Heaven, rather than admonishing their congregation to believe in and preach the righteousness of Jesus. In a church led by such a leader, anyone who offers a lot of money is automatically given a great deal of respect, called a deacon or even an elder. Worldly Christians love it when they are given a title and are called elder so-and-so or deacon so-and-so. And once they receive such titles, they turn arrogant and try to meddle in church affairs, saying haughtily, “This church could not run if I stopped my donations. Had I not offered $100,000, how could the church have purchased that bus?” Such nominal Christians’ faith is not genuine but only religious, and their ultimate end is money itself. These people cannot discover the righteousness of God even if they opened the Bible and read the Word of God.
Our Lord has no interest in such shallow people. It’s not this temporal world that our Lord speaks of, but it is the dominion of the righteousness of God. In today’s Scripture passage, the Lord said that those who are interested in their own material prosperity alone, rely on their own money, and try to reach Heaven by offering their material possessions to God can never enter His Kingdom. He said clearly here that one reaches the Kingdom of Heaven only by believing in the righteousness of God, not by offering the riches of this world.
How did God fulfill His righteousness? The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” As this passage says, God the Father saved the entire human race from all its sins by sending His Son to this earth and making Him accept all the sins of mankind by being baptized by John the Baptist, die on the Cross, and rose up from the dead in three days. This is the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the very righteous work that God has fulfilled for us. It proclaims that Jesus Christ has blotted out all our sins by coming to this earth, being baptized, dying on the Cross, and rising up from the dead. And God has made it possible for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven on account of our faith in this gospel.
Have We Lost Our Everything to Follow the Lord?
It’s written in Mark 10:28, “Then Peter began to say to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’” Peter had actually been a fisherman by profession. In those days, fishing was considered a good occupation as it provided for a stable source of income. Moreover, a properly equipped fishing boat required at least 5 or 6 men to run it, and so it also generated sufficient employment to hire a whole family and sometimes even relatives or neighbors. Simply put, Peter had a secure job that had enabled him to provide for his family’s needs and live a comfortable life.
But one day, while walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw Peter and said to him, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). At that time, Jesus was 30 years old and Peter was a middle-aged man with his hair already turning gray. But upon hearing these Words of the young Lord telling him to follow Him, Peter abandoned not only his boat but also his family to follow Him. Peter had left his everything behind to follow Jesus. That’s why he could say boldly to the Lord, “All your twelve disciples including me have forsaken everything to follow You.” This was in fact true, but Peter said this because he thought that Jesus would assure the disciples that at least they would enter Heaven if not anyone else.
Jesus then said to Peter, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). When the Lord heard Peter saying that he had forsaken everything of this world for Him, the Lord answered him by saying that whoever has left his everything for the Lord will receive a hundredfold in this present age along with persecution, and eternal life in the next age to come. In saying this, the Lord revealed His caring heart to comfort Peter, but this passage contains an even more important meaning. The truth that’s revealed in this passage is in the same vein as the one manifested in the previous passage where the Lord said that it was more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. What the Lord listed here—your father, mother, brothers, and sisters’ that denotes your immediate family, and your house and lands that symbolize your business or job—are the concrete examples of material prosperity that so many people seek after. In other words, the Lord was saying that whoever left all these things of the world to follow His gospel would not only receive a hundredfold in this present age, but also eternal life in the next age to come.
Our Lord has saved us once and for all by being baptized and crucified to death on this earth. No matter what kinds of sins we might have committed, all our sins were passed onto Jesus through His baptism. And thanks to this, by believing in this Truth of salvation, we have been washed from all our sins. Because the Lord has blotted out all the sins that everyone has ever committed and will ever commit, anyone who believes in the baptism of Jesus and His blood on the Cross can now be saved from all his sins by faith. That is why the Lord said in today’s Scripture passage, “With men it is impossible, but not with God” (Mark 10:27). However, those who still pursue only material prosperity to satisfy their fleshly desires rather than believing in this gospel of the water and the Spirit which the Lord has given to them, can neither receive the blessing of entering Heaven nor reach their salvation. What the Lord said to Peter here was spoken to remind us of this Truth of salvation.
Our Lord said that those who forsake their own material welfare to follow the Lord—that is, those who cast aside their attachments to their families, jobs, and riches—will receive eternal life, but at the same time, He also said that they will face persecution along the way. This means that it’s inevitable for us to face persecution when we believe in and follow the righteousness of the Lord.
In fact, many sacrifices must be made for us to believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit which the Lord has given us and follow His righteousness. Jesus has saved us from all our sins once and for all by coming to this earth, being baptized, dying on the Cross, and rising from the dead, and if we really want to believe in this Truth of salvation, then we must pay a price of faith. For us to have the faith of righteousness and follow it, sometimes we must forsake all the attachments that we have to our families, and sometimes we must lose all our material possessions. To believe in the God-given Truth of salvation and follow Him completely, in other words, we must be willing to lose all these things.
For example, let’s say that there is a family where each member follows a different religion. Some of them are Christians attending different churches of different denominations, and some of them are Buddhists. Let’s now say that one of them came to hear the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the true Word of God, and this person understood and believed in this gospel. But when this man looks around, he sees not only his mother, father, wife, and children all bound by some religious faith of the world, but also his friends and business acquaintances imprisoned by false religions. Since the Truth of salvation is the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and yet all those around him believe in something entirely wrong, this man would feel sorry for them and pity them.
However, far from listening to him, these people reject the gospel of the water and the Spirit. His own family members stand up against him, saying to him, “If you insist on believing in this gospel that you are speaking of, don’t even bother to come home! Let’s just end our family ties right here and now!” As a result, this man is excluded from his own family, whether explicitly or implicitly. Among those who are on their way to Heaven and wholeheartedly believe in the righteousness of Jesus, there are many who have lost their worldly possessions like this man. In particular, many of us have been estranged from our own parents, brothers, sisters, and relatives; and some of us have suffered financial losses as well. Because these people oppose the gospel of the water and the Spirit, if we continue to hang onto them, we cannot follow the Lord completely by faith, and that is why we cannot be with them. If we side with them, it’s impossible for us to defend the God-given gospel of the water and the Spirit and preach it in our lives.
The Apostle John said, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). In other words, the world or the things in this world —that is, our own family or money—can sometimes be an obstacle that prevents us from living out our faith and believing in the Lord’s Truth. But the Lord told us to forsake our everything for Him and also endure all the persecution that comes from the world because of our devotion to God. He said that only then can we wholly believe in and follow the Truth of salvation proclaiming that Jesus has saved us through His baptism and His blood on the Cross. Our Lord is saying to us that even if we lose everything in this world, so long as we hang onto the Truth of salvation unwaveringly and keep our salvation, we will be blessed by God a hundred times more than what we have lost. Put differently, the Lord has promised us that if we suffer any loss to believe in and follow His righteousness, He will reward us a hundredfold. If anyone is estranged from his own family of the flesh on this earth because of his faith in Jesus’ gospel of the water and the Spirit, then this person will surely meet a new family in Christ and be rewarded a hundred times more than his loss. This is the Truth that the Lord is teaching us here in today’s Scripture passage.
My fellow believers, we have indeed forsaken many things to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Because of our faith in Jesus, we have lost our own families and riches. However, we have also gained new brothers and sisters in the Church. We have gained the true family of God in the Lord. This family we have attained in the Kingdom of God is on a completely different dimension from any earthly family. None other than you and I are the members of this family of the Kingdom of Heaven; and we are each other’s brothers and sisters. If we are otherwise still too attached to our worldly possessions or lingering family ties rather than believing in and hanging onto the Truth of salvation, then it would be more difficult for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. As you know very well, the eye of a needle is a tiny hole through which thread is inserted for sewing. How could such a huge animal as a camel ever go through this tiny eye of a needle? It’s obviously totally impossible. But some preachers misinterpret this passage in a strange way, saying, “The word ‘camel’ (gamla in ancient Greek) is a misspelling of the word ‘rope’ (gamta). The Bible scribes made a mistake by misspelling the word ‘gamta’ in the original text. So, this Scripture passage should be corrected like this: ‘It is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ This then means that it is very hard, but not impossible, for the rich to enter Heaven. So if you are rich, you need not worry. All that you have to do is offer more money to your church, do more charitable work, and offer more prayers of repentance. That’s all that it takes for you to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
This is a ridiculous interpretation that turns even more preposterous the more you hear it. The Word of Jesus is spiritual in essence, but what He said here in today’s Scripture passage is glaringly obvious even in physical terms. Don’t ever think about editing the Lord’s Word according to your human thoughts to reach your own preferred interpretation. Some of you may think that you can’t trust any vernacular translation and insist on seeing the original text, but the same is written in the original text as well. What exactly the word camel refers to in today’s Scripture passage is not what’s really important. The Lord is speaking of just how difficult it is for a rich man to enter Heaven. He is also saying that no one can be blessed to enter Heaven through his own worldly possessions, but only by believing in what God has done for him, and this is the gist of today’s Scripture passage,
The Lord said to all who believe in His righteousness that they would be blessed along with persecutions. Accordingly, it is only a matter of time that we should lose the things of this world if we were to believe in the Lord’s righteousness wholeheartedly, receive the remission of sins, and follow Him. It’s only natural for us to suffer loss for the Lord. Even when it comes to your own family members, if they don’t believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit nor follow the righteousness of God, then they are not only God’s enemies but also your enemies as well. Just as those who have received the remission of sins are enemies to those who have not, those who do not follow this Truth are also enemies to us who follow this Truth faithfully. Since these people are our enemies, what will happen to them? They will be lost and forsaken in the end. In other words, those who don’t follow the Truth will be cast into hell along with every enemy of God, while those who follow the Truth will live together in unity with all their fellow saints in the Kingdom of God.
It’s by losing the things of the world that we the redeemed receive the Lord’s blessings along with the persecutions of the world. Do not think so lightly of this Truth of salvation that has brought the remission of sins and everlasting life to you. Even if you believe in the Lord wholeheartedly and you have received the remission of sins, if you surrender to your family that stands against the Truth, then you will soon lose your everlasting life.
But this doesn’t mean that you should casually kick away and abandon your own family without hesitation. Rather, it means that if you believe in the Lord’s Truth and continue to follow Him, you will naturally come to drift away temporarily from your family members that stand against this Truth even if you don’t forsake them on your own volition. What I am saying is that you should not lose your courage to believe in the Truth, hang onto it, and follow it because of those around you who have not received the remission of sins.
The problem, however, is that most people facing such a difficult situation keep trying to rationalize their circumstances. They allow themselves to be pushed around by their circumstances and let their lives be dictated by lies, thinking that it’s best not to stir up any trouble in the family. When this goes on long enough, they come to follow what’s appealing to their eyes more and more, eventually succumbing to their flesh to seek religious faith. Ultimately, they end up rejecting the Truth to ensure peace in the family. You should realize here that such people obviously cannot follow the Lord wholeheartedly, nor can they receive everlasting life.
Then what should we do when we face such circumstances? Above all else, we must hang onto the Lord’s salvation and everlasting life and follow Him, even if we were to lose our family and the treasures of this world that are visible to our eyes. After this, once our faith is established firmly, rather than abandoning our estranged family members, we should preach the gospel to them and guide them into the gospel so that they may also reach salvation and come into the Truth. None other than this is the Lord’s blessing that comes along with persecutions
What Is the Persecution for the Righteousness That the Lord Is Speaking of?
Being hated, beaten, threatened, robbed, and despised for the sake of the Lord is what persecution is all about. To hear others saying the following about us is to be persecuted: “That man used to be a decent guy before he met Jesus and began to attend this church, but ever since then he has changed for the worse. All he does nowadays is preach the gospel. He used to be so friendly before, but now he is so distant.” This is how we will be persecuted after we have received the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We face persecution from our own families, friends, and everyone around us. However, there is something wonderful that we receive along with this persecution, and this is none other than the salvation of our souls—that is, eternal life.
There is no need for you to think of everlasting life too complicatedly. Everlasting life literally means living forever, and this is what’s written in the original text. It is all about living happily forever without any imperfections, filled with eternal joy. What ultimately awaits all the righteous, who are persecuted in this world, is this everlasting life which we will be receiving from the Lord. They will all live happily forever in the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, as we believe in the righteousness of the Lord, there is no need for us to feel despondent even if we are persecuted. The Bible says that those who try to save their lives will perish and those who give up their lives will live. Sometimes we feel torn between the need to follow the Truth and the need to take care of our families, thinking to ourselves, “I am persecuted because of the Lord and His Truth. I know that I should do everything possible to take care of my family, but I have neglected this to follow the Truth, and my own family members despise me for this. If I follow the Truth, my own family will suffer, but if I only take care of my family, the Lord’s Truth will be neglected.” Torn between these two choices, we struggle over what to follow. And it is indeed the case that if we follow the Lord’s Truth, this would make some of our family members unhappy. They would say to us in sadness, “How can you do this to us? Our family used to so harmonious, but ever since you believed in Jesus, the ties that bind this family together have come all undone.”
But even when you are persecuted like this, you must still follow the Lord’s Truth unwaveringly. What will happen then? In the end, you will save your family of the flesh. This is not abandoning them. As God is full of love, He would never tell us to abandon our own families. God promised us that if we are saved and follow the Lord by trusting in His Truth above all else, then even if we are persecuted by this world, God will give us a new family and new lands by a hundredfold.
What are the lands here? They refer to the workplace where we can carry out God’s work. And this workplace is found inside God’s Church, where we can carry out God’s work freely. Those who lose all their worldly things to follow the Lord will surely see their faith strengthened to be rock-solid, they will arm themselves with faith in their workplace, and they will ultimately save their families who still have not been saved. They will lead their families of the flesh into the dominion of salvation. Moreover, they will guide not only their own families to receive the remission of sins but also everyone else.
The Lord said that He would give us lands by a hundredfold. This means that the scope of our activities would be broadened by that much. He also said that we would be blessed in both body and spirit. Therefore, we have no need to be afraid of being persecuted in this world. Because we have the promised blessings of the Lord, there is no reason why we should hesitate to receive the remission of sins through the Word of the Lord and follow Him by faith.
Let’s now turn to the last verse in today’s Scripture passage. The Lord said here in Mark 10:31, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
What does this passage mean? It means that those who have not freed themselves from the ties of their unsaved family members will ultimately be last in spirituality, even if they have received the remission of sins first and no matter how long they have believed in the Lord. In contrast, those who believe in this Word of Truth just recently but follow it faithfully will be first spirituality. That is what this passage means. Those who wholeheartedly believe in the Word of God, the Truth of salvation; those who live by faith united with the Church before everyone else; those who expand the scope of their activities by faith; and those who begin a new life by faith—it’s such people who have become first. These are our predecessors of faith marching forward ahead of us. By any chance, among our saints who have received the remission of sins just recently, is there anyone who, upon seeing many predecessors in the Church, wants to be at the forefront also to guide other saints? The way to do this is not so difficult. It’s actually quite simple. You can surpass everyone else in no time if you just believe in the Word of God and follow the Lord by this faith instead of being bound by your worldly attachments.
Those who believe in and follow the God-given salvation rather than being drawn to material prosperity have received eternal life from the Lord along with persecutions. Along with persecution, they have come into the Church and found a place to carry out God’s work. We should remember here that it’s inevitable for all who are blessed by God to face persecutions first, even after receiving the remission of their sins and coming into the Church, and even while living by faith under the guidance of the Church. And we should not fear these persecutions. Even though it’s an immense struggle for us to bear persecutions, we should think that these persecutions are borne for the sake of the gospel of God, to be united with the Lord. In other words, we ought to embrace persecutions willingly, knowing that God is allowing us to be persecuted like this to bless us by a hundredfold.
If you want to be blessed by the Lord by a hundredfold, then you must follow His Truth. Those who have received the remission of sins and follow the way of faith will all be blessed without fail. They will receive not only material blessings while living on this earth, but also the blessing of everlasting life. This blessing is something that should be received not just by you alone but also all your family members.
Who are your brothers and sisters? Your fellow saints who follow the will of the Lord are none other than your own family, your parents, your brothers, and your sisters. All of us who believe in the righteousness of the Lord are one family. Do you believe that we are one family?
God’s Church here is your workplace. Here in God’s Church is where you can live according to the law of faith and be blessed by a hundredfold for your faithfulness. I pray to God to give such blessings to all of us. I hope and pray with all my heart that we would all be able to endure persecutions by placing our complete faith in the Lord, and be blessed by a hundredfold along with our trials.