Those Who Do Not Inherit
The Kingdom . . .
Are They Saved or Unsaved?
Today in the evangelical world there is a mushrooming movement which professes
to champion the “free grace position,” but which others see as dangerously
approaching antinomianism. Those who embrace this doctrinal position insist that
a true believer can depart from the faith, deny Christ totally, persist in sin
(including homosexuality, drunkenness, adultery, etc.), abandon Christianity,
and yet still be counted among those who are truly saved. According to this
view, such apostates will gain heaven, but will suffer greatly at the judgment
seat of Christ and during the kingdom reign of Christ. Indeed they teach that
there will be a group of saved people during the kingdom age who will put into
outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (a hell for
They divide the body of Christ into two parts: 1) the joint-heirs with Christ (those who suffer with Christ and persevere to the end; 2) those saved people who are not joint-heirs with Christ (those who do not suffer for Christ and who do not continue in the faith, the non-overcomers, the immoral believers, etc.). [For a complete analysis and refutation of this doctrinal position, see the study entitled, The Theology of Zane Hodges and Joseph Dillow and the Grace Evangelical Society and also the study Refutation of the Teachings of Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow, etc. by James Ventilato]
The growing popularity of this movement is due, at least in part, to three factors:
1. The writings of Zane Hodges who for many years taught at Dallas Theological Seminary. [Zane Hodges sets forth his theological position in the following books: The Hungry Inherit, The Gospel Under Siege–A Study on Faith and Works, Grace In Eclipse–A Study on Eternal Rewards. These books are available from Redencion Viva, Box 141167, Dallas, TX 75214. See also his commentaries on Hebrews and 1,2,3 John in The Bible Knowledge Commentary.]
2. The writings of Joseph Dillow who has systematized this teaching into one comprehensive volume. [Dillow’s volume is entitled The Reign of the Servant Kings (649 pages), Schoettle Publishing Company, P.O. Box 594, Miami Springs, FL 33266.]
3. The influence of The Grace Evangelical Society which publishes a newsletter and a theological journal, both of which receive wide circulation. This society strong promotes the teachings of Hodges, Dillow and others of a similar persuasion. [The Grace Evangelical Society, P.O. Box 167128, Irving, TX 75016-7128. This society has published several commentaries, including one written by Zane Hodges dealing with the book of James.]
Hodges, Dillow and Wilkin (GES) are brothers in Christ. To my knowledge they are living for Christ and walking worthy of of the gospel. It is not our desire to cast any aspersion on these men, their character, or their ministries, but simply to examine their teachings in the light of the Word of God. We hold no animosity towards these men. We agree with them on most of the doctrines of the Christian faith, but we are very concerned about some of their teachings as described and explained in this present article.
Can a Saved Person Fail to Inherit the Kingdom
and Yet Still Enter It?
One of the key doctrinal issues pertaining to this “free grace” movement revolves around this question: Will all believers inherit the kingdom of God or only some? Hodges and Dillow insist that all believers will enter the kingdom but that the immoral, carnal, wicked believers (those believers who are drunkards, homosexuals, thieves, fornicators, covetous, etc.) will not inherit the kingdom. Are those who do not inherit the kingdom saved persons, as this view suggests, or are they unregenerate?
Heirs of the Kingdom
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5).
The “Free Grace” Position
The Teaching of Zane Hodges and Joseph Dillow
The fruitful believer
The partaker or heir
The believing believer
The barren believer
The carnal one (non-heir)
The unbelieving believer
This righteous believer will inherit the kingdom of God and will reign with Christ during the millennium.
This unrighteous believer (even one who persists in adultery, drunkenness, fornication, homosexuality, etc.) will not inherit the kingdom. He will not share in Christ’s millennial reign. He will enter the kingdom and be a citizen of the kingdom and live in the kingdom as a resident, but will not inherit the kingdom. He will be excluded from the wedding feast. According to this view, he will be cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (yet he is saved!).
Zane Hodges says, “There is no difficulty at all in speaking of people who live in the Kingdom of God but who do not inherit that Kingdom…the heirs of the Kingdom, then, are its owners, not merely its residents or citizens.” [Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1985), p. 71. ] Joseph Dillow writes: “All Christians will enter the kingdom, but not all will rule there, i.e., inherit it….They will, having been justified, be in the kingdom; however, they will not inherit it….There is a difference between being a resident of the kingdom and inheriting it.” [Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings (Miami Springs, Florida: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pages 62, 64, 78.] Dillow adds, “they will be in the kingdom but not at the wedding feast.” [Ibid., p. 389.] Faust teaches that these wicked saved people are totally excluded from the kingdom and that they will taste of the second death and then be punished in the fires of Hades for a thousand years.
“What Saith the Scriptures?”
Hodges and Dillow divide saved people into two distinct categories—-the spiritual and the carnal, the overcomers (Rev. 2-3) and the non-overcomers, the “partakers” (Heb. 3:14) and the non-partakers. However, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul makes it clear that the group of immoral people he is referring to is not the carnal Corinthians. In verse 11 he says, “and such WERE some of you.” In chapter 3, verse 3, Paul said to the Corinthians: “For ye ARE yet CARNAL.” Paul acknowledged that they were carnal and yet he did not include them with the unrighteous ones described in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Such a description only fit them when they were unsaved. That is what they WERE. If the Hodges/Dillow view were correct, then Paul should have said in 1 Corinthians 6:9, “and such ARE some of you.”
When Paul speaks of the “unrighteous” (unjust) in 1 Corinthians 6:9 he is not speaking of some carnal, unworthy, unpersevering members of the Body and Bride of Christ. No, Paul uses the term “unrighteous” (unjust) as a description of unsaved, unregenerate, lost people. This term “unjust” is clearly defined for us in the context of this chapter. In verse 1 Paul says, “Dare any of you having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?” (1 Cor. 6:1). Paul clearly distinguishes two groups: 1) The unjust (the unsaved) and 2) the saints (the saved). These same two groups are seen in verses 9-11. In verse 9-10 we have the unrighteous (unjust) which are the unsaved. They will not inherit the kingdom. In verse 11 we have those who are justified and sanctified. These are the saints (the saved) who will inherit the kingdom. There is no such thing as a saint or a saved person who will not inherit the kingdom, contrary to the teachings of Hodges and Dillow.
We need to carefully follow Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. What is it that makes a person RIGHTEOUS and able to inherit the kingdom? Is it because the saved person has persevered in the faith and walked closely with the Lord and thus has earned his share in the kingdom, as Hodges and Dillow suggest? No! In verse 11, Paul says that the reason the Corinthians are righteous and thus fit to inherit the kingdom is because they have been JUSTIFIED! Even carnal Corinthians will inherit the kingdom because they are seen as perfectly righteous IN CHRIST!
Paul’s argument is as follows:
1. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
2. Every believer has been justified or declared righteous (1 Cor. 6: 11).
3. The justified believer, therefore, is not unrighteous.
CONCLUSION: Every believer will inherit the kingdom based solely on his righteous standing in Christ Jesus made possible only by the grace of God! [Paul was championing the free grace position!]
Comparing Luke 18:18 with Matthew 19:16 (two parallel passages) demonstrates that the expression “inherit eternal life” means the same as “have eternal life.” INHERIT means to possess, to receive, to have. In Matthew 19:29, we read “inherit eternal life” and in the parallel account (see Luke 18:30) we see that the expression means “receive eternal life.” To inherit the kingdom means to possess the kingdom, to have a place and a part in the kingdom (cf. Rev. 20:6 “part”), to participate in its blessings and benefits. Those who do not inherit the kingdom are those who do not possess it, who have no part in it. They are excluded from the kingdom and its benefits.
In considering the Ephesians 5:5 passage, the very next verse speaks of God’s wrath coming upon THE UNSAVED because of their sins: “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things (see v.5) cometh the wrath of God upon the CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE” (Eph. 5:6). If the Hodges/Dillow view were correct, we might expect Paul to discuss how God’s wrath will come upon saved people, the carnal ones who are persisting in such sins; but instead Paul discusses God’s wrath upon the children of disobedience (the unsaved).
In the Galatians 5:19-21 passage, we learn that those who persist in the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom. Hodges and Dillow teach that fleshly saved people will not inherit the kingdom, though they will enter it. But notice what Paul says in this same context about all saved people: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24).
Three passages (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:5 and Galatians 5:19-21) essentially teach the same thing—the wicked (the unrighteous, those in the flesh, etc.) will not inherit the kingdom. In light of these three passages consider also Revelation 21:8—“But to the fearful and unbelieving and those who make themselves abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.” It is very obvious that the Apostle John was speaking of unsaved people, not some class of carnal and wicked Christians. Putting all four of these passages together forces us to conclude that those who do not inherit the kingdom will have their part (inheritance, share, portion) in the lake of fire! James Ventilato says it this way:
After all, according to 1 Corinthians 6:9,10, Ephesians 5:5 and Galatians 5:19-21, those who, e.g., are characterized as fornicators, idolaters, impure persons, covetous persons, sorcerers, murderers, etc.–these all shall not inherit the Kingdom of God; and likewise, according to Colossians 3:5 and Revelation 21:8, those who, e.g., are characterized as fornicators, idolaters, impure persons, covetous persons, sorcerers, murderers, etc.–upon these all comes the wrath of God in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
In Matthew 25:31-46, the Lord Jesus mentions only two groups, the sheep (saved) and the goats (unsaved). The Hodges/Dillow view supposes three groups: the unsaved, the wicked saved who do not inherit the kingdom, and the righteous saved who do inherit the kingdom. The Lord Jesus taught that the goats (unsaved) will go away into everlasting fire—everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:41-46). He taught that the sheep (saved) will inherit the kingdom: “Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand [the sheep, see verse 33], Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). There is no indication that the Lord was speaking to only some of the sheep, and there is no indication that any of the saved people were excluded from inheriting the kingdom.
This Matthew 25 passage raises an interesting problem for Hodges and Dillow, who both teach that there is no necessary connection between faith and good works. In the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46), those Gentiles who do not perform good works toward the saved Jewish remnant during the tribulation will be eternally punished and will go away into everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41-46). This indicates that there must be a relationship between a person’s faith and his works. Hodges and Dillow teach that a saved person can be devoid of good works. If the Hodges/Dillow view were correct, then why should these Gentiles who lacked good works be sentenced to eternal punishment? The passage makes sense only when we understand that true saving faith is evidenced by one’s works.
In the New Testament, numerous passages indicate that ALL BELIEVERS are heirs and that all believers participate in the inheritance. Consider the following: Ephesians 1: 14, 18; Colossians 1:12; 1 Peter 1:4 (“an inheritance incorruptible”); Acts 20:32 (an inheritance which is shared by “all” who are sanctified); Romans 8:17 (“heirs of God”); Titus 3:7 (those “justified by His grace” are “heirs”); Hebrews 1: 14; 6:17; 11:7. James 2:5 identifies those who are “heirs of the kingdom” as those who are “rich in faith,” indicating that all believers are heirs of the kingdom. These passages argue against dividing saved people into two classes—those who are heirs and those who are not.
Who Will Enter the Kingdom in Natural Bodies?
This has been a difficult question for those who believe in a post-tribulation rapture, but it also is a major problem for those who embrace the teachings of Hodges and Dillow.
Here is the problem facing Hodges and Dillow and Wilkin:
1. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50). Hodges and Dillow understand this to mean that those who inherit the kingdom will be in resurrection bodies, not in mortal bodies. Keep in mind that in their way of thinking, the ones who inherit the kingdom are the victorious, overcoming believers in contrast to other saved people whose faith has failed, who are immoral, or who do not measure up in some other way.
2. “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Since the sheep inherit the kingdom and since mortal flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom, Dillow concludes that “the resurrection and transformation of the sheep occur prior to their ‘receiving the kingdom’ and must be simultaneous with the judgment of the sheep and the goats.” [The Reign of the Servant Kings, pages 78-79] In other words, they believe the sheep must enter the kingdom in resurrected, glorified bodies. This is contrary to the common dispensational position which teaches that the "sheep" represent saved Gentiles during the tribulation who will enter the kingdom in natural, unglorified bodies.
3. Hodges and Dillow recognize, and rightly so, that there will be people in the millennium kingdom in mortal bodies. Dillow cites Isaiah 65:20 and Ezekiel 36:11 as indicating that there will be physical procreation and physical death in the kingdom and he cites Rev. 20:7-10 as referring to a multitude of unregenerate men at the end of the millennium in mortal bodies who will rebel against Christ. [The Reign of the Servant Kings, page 78]
4. If in Matthew 25 the sheep are the saved people (the overcomers) and the goats are the unsaved people prior to the beginning of the kingdom, and if the saved people “inherit” the kingdom by ruling with Christ in resurrected bodies, then where are the saved people who will enter the kingdom in mortal bodies? Dillow has no dogmatic answer to this problem: “Since the Scriptures are silent on this problem, one must be careful how he explains the difficulty.” [The Reign of the Servant Kings, page 78] The solution that Dillow suggests is patterned after the fact that those who perished in the wilderness because of their unbelief had children who were allowed to enter the land of promise. Based on this Dillow says, “In a similar way, perhaps the believing children of the sheep who have escaped the judgments of the great tribulation will constitute a kind of ’second exodus’ and will be the mortal believers who enter into the coming kingdom.” [The Reign of the Servant Kings, page 79]
5. Bob Wilkin, the Executive Director of the Grace Evangelical Society, wrote the following: “I do believe that the sheep at the Judgment of the Sheep will enter the millennium with resurrected bodies (in light of 1 Cor. 15 that flesh and blood cannot inherit [=rule] the kingdom and Jesus’ statement in Matt. 25 that the sheep will inherit it). If that is so, the people who have natural bodies and who have children during the millennium are the children under the age of accountability who survive the tribulation.” [From a personal letter to this writer from Bob Wilkin dated 4/4/95.] So apparently Wilkin believes that the people who enter the kingdom in natural bodies are the young children and babies who will survive the tribulation being under the age of accountability at that time, and their parents could be either saved (sheep) or unsaved (goats). Dillow teaches a somewhat different view, namely, that they are the believing children of the sheep. Both apparently agree that no adults will enter the kingdom in natural bodies.
In conclusion, those who hold the position that only a special class of believers inherits the kingdom are forced to face the prophetic problem of how people in mortal bodies enter the kingdom.
How Should We Understand
1 Corinthians 15:50?
In 1 Corinthians 15:50, Paul is writing to church-age believers. He is about to reveal the mystery of the translation and transformation of living church saints at the time of the rapture (verses 51-53). It is absolutely true that no church-age believer will inherit the kingdom in a flesh-and-blood body. When it comes to the church, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (verse 50). Why not? Verses 51-53 explain.
Other Scriptures, however, such as Matthew 25:31-34, teach that believing tribulation survivors will inherit the kingdom in flesh and blood bodies and though they are saved, they will have corruption in their hearts, even a sin nature, which will be passed down to their children.
Dillow and Hodges err by taking verse 50 to be a truism for all saints, even tribulation saints. The truth set forth in verses 51-53 clearly applies only to church saints. May not verse 50 apply only to church saints as well?
Actually, 1 Corinthians 15:50 and its context argue strongly against the Dillow/Hodges view. Dillow and Hodges teach that out of all the church saints, only the spiritual elite (the “overcomers”) inherit the kingdom. Some church saints inherit the kingdom but not all. But in the very next verse, verse 51, notice the twice repeated emphasis on the word “all.” All will be changed and delivered from flesh and blood corruption, including the carnal Corinthians! ALL church saints inherit the kingdom apart from corruption (verse 50) by way of the rapture/resurrection (verses 51-53).
Who Are Those Who Do Not Inherit the Kingdom?
The “unrighteous” that Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 6:9 are unsaved people who have never been justified. They are “unjust” in contrast to “saints” (compare 1 Cor. 6:1). Contrary to what Hodges and Dillow teach, the “unrighteous” do not refer to a group of carnal believers who are eternally saved but who will not inherit the kingdom and will not reign with Christ. The passage teaches nothing of the kind. Indeed, Paul teaches that all those who are saved are not unrighteous because they have been washed, sanctified and justified! This would include the carnal Corinthians!
Those who profess faith in Christ but who then persist in a wicked and immoral lifestyle, such as characterizes the unregenerate, are giving evidence that they have never been born again. God’s Word certainly recognizes the problem of carnality among God’s saints (1 Cor. 3:1-4), but Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is contrasting those who are unrighteous with those, including the carnal Corinthians, who WERE unrighteous but who have been justified by faith. All those who are justified by faith are righteous in Christ and will inherit the kingdom. Those who “shall not inherit the kingdom” is not a description of fleshly believers who do not qualify for kingdom rewards. Those who “shall not inherit the kingdom” are the unregenerate, whose destiny is the lake of fire.
--George Zeller (revised 6/02, 7/06)
Other documents that relate to some of these issues:
The Middletown Bible Church
articles under Doctrinal Studies