"Accounted Worthy to Obtain That World"

The words "accounted worthy" constitute a declaration of hope as well as a clear reminder that salvation is the gift of God and not something earned (Romans 6:23). This concept (kataxioo) appears only four times in Scripture, twice as "accounted worthy" (Luke 20:35; 21:36) and twice as "counted worthy" (Acts 5:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:5). The principle reflects a Divine pronouncement reflecting Yahweh's love, grace and mercy similar to the principle declared in Romans chapter 4 where we read of righteousness being "imputed." Though Scripture declares we must develop through much tribulation a character fit for the kingdom, the primary focus of this article will be on what those accounted worthy are "to obtain." The depth and fullness of the implication is most completely revealed in the celebrated passage wherein the Sadducees were put to silence by Jesus in Luke 20:35. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection yet boasted in Moses. They sought to challenge Jesus with the hypothetical case of a woman who had seven husbands, asking, "In the resurrection, whose wife is she?" Our Lord's response not only silenced them, but revealed a depth of implication for those who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world.

In Jesus' response we read, But they which are accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

The descriptions above may be read by some as merely further accolades associated with those "accounted worthy," yet they declare a depth of meaning that neither the Sadducees nor we may immediately comprehend in that in this passage we find ourselves focused on the surety of resurrection. In this review we will consider the fullness of our Lord's declaration in regard to "equal unto the angels" and the "children of God," for these references were intended to bring to mind the fullness of the exaltation that those who serve might look forward to.

First let us consider the hope of being "accounted worthy to obtain" within the framework of the divinely appointed principle of 'probation before exaltation,' or, as Solomon phrased it, before honour is humility (Proverbs 15:33).

Our probation begins when we put on Christ in the Divinely appointed manner. It should reflect our love of God and obedience to the Divine commandments with its consequence of self-denial, affliction and humility - the trial of a faithful walk consistent with our Father's righteousness and supremacy. Paul instructs that we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom and further refers to our trial as a "warfare," for once we put on Christ we must identify ourselves with the work of the Truth to which our flesh naturally rebels. It is oneness with the Father and Son that can make us perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:21). We are admonished to be transformed, continually adding to our faith that we be not conformed to this world, understanding and practicing the principle that Samuel expressed to Saul, to obey is better than sacrifice. It is a continual process of watching and praying, adding to our faith and forsaking / confessing our sins through our mediator Jesus Christ. The law of Christ is comprehensive and stringent and the real nature of the struggle is only realized by those who constantly endeavor to put those precepts into daily practice; yet it is this trial that develops the character fit for God's use.

The prospect of exaltation serves to motivate and strengthen the faithful probation. In this matter we hope to show that the very description of promise that Jesus mentions in Luke 20:35 opens to us such unfathomable glory that no reasonable person, convinced of the Truth, would hesitate to throw in his lot with Jesus Christ...be the conditions of probation what they may!

By exaltation is meant the gift of eternal life and a position of honor and glory in the kingdom of God! With our death or the appearance of our Lord our probation ends, and with the judicial pronouncement to enter into the joy of thy Lord exaltation begins, and the labors, afflictions and self-denial of the probation period will be but an incidental prelude to the eternal glory and blessedness conferred. Let us now look closer at our Lord's references to that glory in his response to the Sadducees in Luke 20:36: "equal unto the angels" and the "children of God."

Equal unto the Angels: This is a state of existence we cannot fully comprehend despite the insights provided us in the Scriptures. Christ told the Sadducees that those accounted worthy to obtain that world would be "equal unto the angels" and further declared them as "children of God" and "children of the resurrection," dying no more and neither marrying nor given in marriage. What is an angel? The Greek angelos means messenger and is used in reference to mortal as well as immortal beings. That immortal angels are presented as corporeal beings is clear from the many instances in the Scriptures where men have seen, talked to, entertained and even wrestled with angels of God they supposed to be men. The two angels that destroyed Sodom spent a night in Lot's house and "did eat" of the feast he prepared, while the angel Jacob struggled with weakened Jacob's thigh to release himself from his hold. This is not to imply that angels are human, but rather that the human form is angelic! David testified through the spirit that man was made a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5); lower as to nature, but in their image as to form - Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Genesis 1:26). Equality with the angels is a promise to be achieved when our Lord shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body (Philippians 3:21). In this life we bear the image of the earthly, but those "accounted worthy to obtain" shall bear the image of the heavenly (1 Corinthians 15:49). Brethren, as Paul admonishes, how shall we neglect so great salvation when such opportunity and honor is held in store for us as rulers within the kingdom, for unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come (Hebrews 2:3-5)!

Children of God: Referencing those resurrected individuals accounted worthy to obtain the world to come, the Lord Jesus refers to them as the "children of God." We recognize it is covenant relationship and a faithful walk in the promise of resurrection to life that initially establishes and qualifies one for sonship with God. Yet Christ here declares ...and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection, establishing resurrection - both to glory and equality with the angels - as the final and necessary step to present them as children of God in the full and final sense.

We see this same pattern applied to our Savior. Though acknowledged as the Son of God by the angel Gabriel at his birth and by a voice from heaven at his baptism, David by inspiration prophesied, I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee (Psalm 2:7). Acts 13:33 declares, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. Christ's example illustrates that the resurrection to glory is the necessary and essential step to be begotten as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.

Consider dear brethren, the honor and majesty of being elevated to sons and daughters of the Eternal God! Those "accounted worthy" will be elevated to an angelic state and "in the name" of their Father. In his letter to the ecclesia at Philadelphia Christ held out this promise, To him that overcometh...I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem...and I will write upon him my new name (3:12). The honor and power of immortals bearing God's name is clearly established in the cases of His angelic messengers in such references as Exodus 23:20-21, Behold I send an angel before thee...Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. Yahweh's name is above every name, and its application here is not merely to distinguish His family, but to embody them into His nature and character.

The one last consideration to be addressed is the identity of "that world" to be obtained by those "accounted worthy." The Greek word rendered "world" here is aion, interpreted eternity and age. This word has an indefinite quality about it, used in the sense of "evermore" in Revelation 1:18 - I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore (aion); and in reference to the "world to come" in Mark 10:30 - and in the world (aion) to come eternal (aionian) life. In our subject verse they which are accounted worthy to obtain that world (aion) obtain that aion to come - that age or dispensation identified as the kingdom age, in which Jesus says they will die no more, being equal unto the angels. This is the future aion in which God will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained (Acts 17:31), and those "accounted worthy" are to be elevated as co-rulers with him.

Dear brethren, how can we neglect so great salvation with such mighty and sure promises before us, when those accounted worthy to obtain that world will serve with Christ in the administration of that world as angelic sons and daughters of the Most High!

Jim Washeck, St. Peters, MO