The followers of Christ, as compared with the beneficiaries of Christ

In the Book of Revelation Jesus is prophesied as one who would be conferred with the rank of King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). If Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who would be the Kings and Lords under Him? The most sobering utterance is that those that are given authority under Jesus should not be regarded as different from Jesus.

“To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star” (Revelation 2:26-28).

Jesus was despised and called names, by the ignorant of this world, who assumed that they knew better (Matthew 12:24). The same Jesus is currently despised and called names, by the ignorant, still assuming they know better. Those who Jesus calls His brothers are not different from Jesus. Many people assume that they cannot be as foolish as the Pharisees who despised Jesus and caused His crucifixion. But the same stupidity continues and will continue, until His return.

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me’” (Matthew 25:42-45) (NIV).

Notice that the righteous who provided for the needs of those whom Jesus calls His brothers are not, necessarily, the followers of Jesus. The righteous can be described as behaving like the Good Samaritan. There is no doubt that such people will eventually receive eternal life. But they are different from those having left everything to follow Christ. Such followers are not different from Peter and the rest of the disciples of Jesus.

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Such followers are not of this world, just as Jesus was not of this world. Those people are guided by the Holy Spirit so that their behavior does not align with what happens with ordinary people. This is why Jesus said, one needed to count the cost, before following Him. Committing oneself to charitable activities, like the Good Samaritan, is not necessarily making one a follower of Christ. A follower of Christ is guided by the Holy Spirit, while a charitable person is guided by human conscience, which every human possesses.

This world may have plenty of charitable people, but the followers of Christ are very few. It is, therefore, important to make a distinction between being benevolent and being a follower of Christ. This is as Jesus warned in Luke 14:25-34, where He was particularly apprehensive of those blindly accepting to be His followers. The most dangerous thing to do for most Christians is to blindly become a follower of Jesus. The Good Samaritan was not a follower of Christ, necessarily. Yet Jesus advised the lawyer who desired eternal life, to do likewise.

Jesus had been answering a question from a lawyer who knew everything about God’s laws. Jesus did not advise that lawyer to become one of His followers, in order to attain God’s Kingdom. But He advised him to behave like a Good Samaritan, used in that parable. Such behavior is acceptable to God. But it is different from those who choose to forsake everything, in order to follow Christ, according to Luke 14:25-34.

Revelation 7:3-8 specifically shows the 144 000 people, comprising 12 000 from each tribe of Israel, being sealed. This takes place before the terrible event, just before the second-coming of Christ. The book of Malachi shows a prophecy, indicative of the redemption of some Israelites of the Old Covenant. Some of those people appear as will be saved from God’s wrath, under a prophet who would be like an Elijah (Malachi, Chapters 3 and 4).

Currently, no-one can be certain as to who the twelve tribes of Israel are, due to intermarriages across all nations. But God knows the spiritual identity of each person, regardless of the current racial outlook. Our physical bodies have got nothing to do with our true identities, which are spiritual. The most important thing to note is that those people will be physically alive, as to avoid the terrible event about to take place. Those are different from the deceased Saints, awaiting resurrection at the coming of Christ (Revelation 20).

The prophecy then goes on to reveal the great multitudes in white robes. Unlike the 144 000 thousand—spared from the great tribulation—these would have, actually, gone through the great tribulation. But would have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. These stood by the testimony of Jesus, regardless of the circumstances, during the time of great tribulation:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!” Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:9-17) (NIV).

Apparently, those coming out of the great tribulation did not do so out of their own strength or wisdom. They are the followers of Jesus, having forsaken everything to follow Him and being found alive, at the second coming of Jesus. It is Christ who cleansed their robes, at that time (Revelation 19:6-8). By the way, the followers of Jesus are not the Law-keepers, necessarily. Where Christ leads is not, necessarily, where the person wanted to go (John 21:17-18). Such people are as good as dead, having surrendered everything for the sake of Christ.

This does not mean that these should be regarded as junior to the 144 000, necessarily. But they are a special group, having been cleansed by Christ, Himself. That process of cleansing has got nothing to do with the person concerned, except a willingness to follow Christ. Following Christ implies a willingness to go contrary to what that person or other people think. Having counted the costs, such followers would have been willing to experience anything—even if that meant being beheaded for the testimony of Jesus.

The common mistake in Christianity is a failure to make distinctions concerning these different categories, in Christianity. Many people describe themselves as the followers of Jesus when in actual fact they would just be the beneficiaries of the services of Jesus. True Christians, who are Christ’s followers, cannot be as common and popular, in this world. Like those mentioned in Revelation 21:17-18, such people are willing to experience anything. They appear as not affected by anything, in this life, whether considered good or bad.

Christianity is attractive, in many ways. When Jesus walked upon this planet, He was surrounded by many people who benefitted from his services. Thousands of those who thronged Jesus needed benefits from Him, like healing or having their loved ones healed. Others followed because they needed bread. Nothing has changed, since that time, as many people are into Christianity for what they can get, but unwilling to give anything in return. Jesus never neglected to provide people with what is true about God’s Kingdom.

 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.

Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.  “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” (Luke 14:26-34) (NIV)

The mere misunderstanding of what Jesus said in these verses should be regarded seriously. The above passage of Scripture aimed at those following Jesus for what they could get from Him. Apparently, they did not follow Jesus for what they could give to Him. In other words, they had not envisaged giving up anything, except receiving benefits from Jesus.

I suppose the same applies, as Jesus remains popular, even in our time. Of course, Jesus does not need anything from anyone. If one decides to follow Jesus, today, what should the person do, to effectively avoid following for the sake of what one would get? The example of such behavior can be taken from the first disciples, Peter and Andrew:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20) (NIV).

The two brothers had been occupied in the fishing business. This means that their families had been sustained by their occupation in the fishing business. But when Jesus asked them to follow Him, they immediately left the net, including the fish that had been caught on that day, to follow Jesus. Apparently, nothing shows that they actually had time to go and tell their nuclear families of the new development in their lives. This is like someone going out fishing, never to return, possibly, having been attacked by crocodiles.

Their families would have all along been waiting, anticipating the fishermen to come home with fish, needed for the next supper. The disaster is that those fishermen did not come back, as anticipated. Remember, Jesus is on record as having said, unless a person becomes willing to neglect his family, he could not be His disciple. Getting good things, through the services of Jesus, is one thing. But, apparently, following Jesus is quite another.

We have to clear all the misunderstood words. So that the message of Jesus can truly be received by those sincere in desiring to follow Him. That message is about God’s Kingdom, which is diametrically opposed to the kingdoms of this world. The purpose of His coming was, basically, to announce the future establishment of God’s Kingdom. That Kingdom brings in a new civilization whose pattern cannot be likened to anything of this world.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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