Are you IN the kingdom, or NOT FAR FROM the kingdom? Big difference!

Mark 12:34, You are not far from the kingdom. Yeshua makes this complimentary statement to the scribe who had correctly and succinctly summarized the message of the Torah (both its letter and spirit intent) in verses 32–33. 

However, note that Yeshua didn’t say, “You are in the kingdom of Elohim (i.e. “you have eternal life”).” 

So what was the one thing that was keeping this scribe from being in the kingdom? It was doubtless the same thing that kept the rich young ruler from obtaining the eternal life that he sought (Matt 19:16). After having obeyed the Torah the best that he could, the young ruler still needed to surrender all to Yeshua the Messiah, and to follow him unreservedly (Matt 19:18–22). 

This lesson teaches us that not only is it difficult for humans to surrender all to the Master, and then to follow him wherever he leads, but after having followed the Torah the best we can, we must still humbly recognize that without the righteousness of Yeshua in the equation, our best efforts at Torah-obedience will still miss the mark of YHVH Elohim’s acceptable standard of righteousness, thus leaving us maybe not far from the kingdom, but quite possibly NOTactually in the kingdom of Elohim.

 

Saved By Grace Unto Good Works

Exodus 24:1, Worship you far off. This verse clearly tells us that man can approach to worship YHVH only on the basis of the blood of the Passover lamb, but not on the basis of his own works of the law, since YHVH had not yet given the full Torah to the Israelites (that would occur later at Mount Sinai in Exod 24:12).

That is not to say that the works of the Torah are not essential in one’s spiritual walk. Rather, they simply are not the basis of our salvation, but rather a guide to lead us in the paths of righteousness once we are saved, and to keep us on the path of righteousness until we die (Eph 2:8–10).

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

not of works, lest anyone should boast.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Furthermore, Yeshua taught that our works will determine our level of rewards in his kingdom (Matt 5:19), though not our initial salvation.

Some have misunderstood Paul’s teachings to mean that since we are not saved by keeping the law, we therefore no longer need to keep the law. This is not what Paul taught! In numerous places in Paul’s writings, he upheld the validity of the Torah in the life of the redeemed believer, and even confessed that he was obedient to the law in his own life.


 

Was Abraham saved by faith or by works or both?

Genesis 26:5, Because. Based on Paul’s teaching in Romans 4, we see that the Abrahamic Covenant is the model for salvation, which is salvation by grace through faith leading to or resulting in good works or righteousness (Eph 2:8–10).

From this verse, it might appear the Abrahamic Covenant wasn’t a faith-based covenant at all, but a works based one. In other words, Abraham had to do something to be counted righteous or to come into good standing with Elohim—a concept which is commonly referred to as “earning one’s salvation through one’s good works.”

The fact is that in the Abrahamic Covenant, Abraham only had to have faith and believe in YHVH to be justified or to be considered righteous by Elohim (Gen 15:6). It was on this basis that YHVH granted him “salvation.”

But this initial step of faith on Abraham’s part and the righteousness Elohim attributed to him was but the first step in Abraham’s faith walk. From that point, he had to walk out his faith and continue trusting YHVH (see also Gen 19:5).

The apostolic writers present the idea that one’s spiritual journey is a walk, not a one time event that occurs at the beginning of that walk. Our faith walk is more than just mental assent with a few emotions thrown in for good measure. It’s more than just following the golden rule about loving our neighbor in some nebulous sort of way. It involves faithfulness to YHVH’s instructions. James clearly states in his epistle that this is how one demonstrates the legitimacy of one’s faith when he declares that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:18, 20, 26; see vv. 12–26 for context).

Abraham demonstrated his faithfulness by his obedience to YHVH’s Torah or YHVH’s Word or voice. Furthermore, as a result of this obedience, YHVH promised to bless him beyond simply being granted initial salvation or righteousness.

This two-step approach or model still holds true in the Testimony of Yeshua. One is saved or delivered from the wages of their past sin (Rom 3:25), which is death (Rom 6:23) by their faith (initial salvation), and then one ceases from that sin by continuing in the good works of Torah obedience (Eph 2:8–10).

Moreover, Yeshua and the apostolic writers in numerous instances reveal that future rewards (both temporal and eternal rewards) come as a result of one’s good works (e.g. Matt 5:19). The ultimate reward is being granted eternal life and inclusion in the family of Elohim.


 

Salvation by Works or Grace?

Ephesians 2:8, 10, Saved … good works. Are we saved by faith through grace or by our good works? This verse clearly answers this question. One is saved by the free gift of YHVH’s grace through faith (in Yeshua). Salvation isn’t based on good works (Torah obedience), or else prideful man would boast about how good his is, and that YHVH must have saved him on the merits of his good works. However, once one is saved, and a result of his salvation one will produce the fruits good works, which is Torah-obedience. This is the definition of biblical righteousness (Ps 119:172) and shows us how to walk in the Spirit by loving YHVH with our all and our neighbor as ourself. When we live out this pattern, we become Elohim’s workmanship through Yeshua.


 

James vs. Paul: Are we saved by faith or by works or what?

James 2:20–24, Faith without works is dead. James is here referring to the works of faith, not the works of the law. No man can live a good enough life to be saved by his Torah-obedience or the works of the law (Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:11).

However, faith in Elohim is more than just mental ascent—“a knowing in your heart.” It has to be backed up by action (and we’re not talking about the works of the law). For example, when Elohim told Abraham to leave Babylon or to sacrifice Isaac, he obeyed by leaving that country and moving to Canaan. Moreover, many were healed in Yeshua’s ministry because they had faith in the Master and backed that faith up with corresponding action, which was the evidence of their faith.

This faith-action continuum had nothing to do with Torah-obedience per se, but had everything to do with “putting your money where your mouth is” by backing up your faith or belief with action. It is this kind of faith that James is talking about here, and this in no wise contradicts the teachings of Paul who said that no man is justified by the works of the law.

When Paul declares in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Elohim, not of works…,” he was correct and not opposed to James. What’s more, Paul goes on to say in verse 10, “For we are [Elohim’s] workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works…that we should walk in them.” These good works (i.e. obedience to the Torah) are the fruits, evidence or proof of our salvation and are the works that back up our faith.

So, in summary, the Bible teaches that we need the faith (a heart that believes and wants to obey Elohim) to lead us to salvation, as well as the works of faith after we have received Elohim’s free gift of salvation as evidence that we are saved. This fact in no way contravenes the reality of salvation by grace through trusting belief in Yeshua the Messiah, which is apart from the works of the Torah-law.


 

Are you close, but not there yet?

Mark 12:34, You are not far from the kingdom. Yeshua makes this complimentary statement to the scribe who had correctly and succinctly summarized the message of the Torah (both its letter and spirit intent) in verses 32–33.

However, note that Yeshua didn’t say, “You are in the kingdom of Elohim (i.e. you have eternal life).”

What was the one thing that kept the scribe from being in the kingdom?

It was doubtless the same thing that kept the rich young ruler from obtaining the eternal life that he sought (Matt 19:16). After having obeyed the Torah the best he could, the young ruler still needed to surrender all to Yeshua the Messiah, and to follow him unreservedly (Matt 19:18–22).

Not only is it difficult for humans to surrender all to the Master, and then to follow him wherever he leads, but having followed the Torah the best we can, we must still humbly recognize that without the righteousness of Yeshua in the equation, our best efforts at Torah-obedience will still miss the mark of YHVH Elohim’s acceptable standard of righteousness, thus leaving us maybe not far from the kingdom, but definitely not in the kingdom of Elohim.


 

May your face shine like the sun!

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Matthew 13:43, Shine forth as the sun. The reward of the resurrected and glorified saints will be that they will shine forth like the sun or stars (Dan 12:3), and like Yeshua (1 John 3:2), whose face shines like the sun (Rev 1:16), for he is the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2), and the light of the world (John 1:6–9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46), and he will be the light of the New Jerusalem shining in place of the physical sun (Rev 21:23; 22:5; Isa 60:20).

Paul speaks of the resurrection of the saints and their glorification that will occur at that time, and he likens the saints’ appearance to the stars. As stars have different levels of brightness, so too will the saints (1 Cor 15:41–43) in accordance with their levels of rewards commensurate with their level of obedience to the Torah (Matt 5:19; 16:27; Rom 2:6–11; 2 Cor 5:10; Eph 6:8; 1 Pet 1:17; Rev 19:8; 22:12–15).