For the past few months, I’ve engaged Steve Husting in a dialog about kingdom Exclusion at his blog, Living With the End in View. Husting’s field of study is living the Christian life with “the end in view.” He maintains that, at the close of the age, Christians will be held accountable for how they lived. Though accountability is not the exclusive domain of exclusionists, they do maintain a unique perspective, that carnal Christians will experience some form of exclusion in the millennial kingdom. Moderate exclusionists say that unfaithful Christians will simply be excluded from reigning with Christ but that they will be present with the savior; some extreme exponents of this theology hold that the carnal will be hurt in the lake of fire. Husting claims to be working through the details, though he embraces the idea of exclusion as a biblical truth.
He argues that the scriptures “prepare us for a confident entrance into His presence,” but that “we often fail to see the link between our Lord’s end-times prophecies and our behavior.” He continues, “Thankfully, the Word of God has much to say to prepare us for a confident entrance into His presence. We often fail to see the link between our Lord’s end-times prophecies and our behavior. This web site attempts to make the link clear.”
The discussion between Husting and me focuses on a particular point: will the so-called carnal Christian be excluded in the millennial rule of Christ at the close of the age (Rev. 20)? My position is that they will not. No mention is made of the judgment of Christians in Revelation, let alone exclusion. That exclusion is absent in the key text is acknowledged by the majority of exclusionists.
I further maintain that exclusion is not mentioned anywhere else: in no place in scripture does it say Christians will be temporarily excluded from God’s kingdom, i.e. his presence. When you put these ideas together, you have the crux of my argument.
Husting’s position is that the warnings in the New Testament indicate that Christians will be excluded at some time in history, even if one cannot find an explicit reference to it in scripture.
After a few months of debate, he concedes my major points, though he does not change his position. Writes Husting:
1. “God does not reveal everything about a doctrine in a single verse.” Here, he establishes the idea that exclusion need not be expressly stated in Rev. 20.
2. Husting bolsters his argument, declaring that the phrase, “kingdom of God,” which is found elsewhere in scripture, refers implicitly to the millennial rule of Christ. “I’ve never picked up KE from Rev. 20. I’ve picked it up from Matt. 24:45-51, Gal. 5:21 and other perfectly plain teachings on the subject. What part of ‘shall not inherit the kingdom’ should puzzle me?”
3. His acknowledgment of my claim that exclusion is absent in Rev. 20 is categorical, but he vigorously denies that its absence confounds the doctrine of exclusion. “If kingdom exclusion MUST be found in Rev. 20 and it is not, then you’ve made your case that the entire doctrine is a sham, right?” Much later, he writes, “Since you believe that God has to put it in Rev. 20 for it to be true, nothing will satisfy you.” Of course, simply finding a passage in Revelation that mentions exclusion would satisfy me. When pressed on this point, Husting wrote, “To be excluded for only a thousand years is an attempt to harmonize eternal security of the believer and the passages on punishment of the believer. You won’t find a specific passage that ties the two together… [Thus,] your challenge [to find a reference to exclusion in scripture] cannot be met, so consider yourself preeminently unsatisfied.” Later, he added, “With regards to not finding a specific verse that the punishment is limited to one thousand years – that is a piece of the puzzle that is missing.”
4. At times, Husting seeks to distance himself from the term, yet only to preserve the idea. “Forget the term Kingdom Exclusion and hear what the passages are saying: Exclusion may happen at any time at God’s discretion.”
5. Finally, I asked that if exclusion is not mentioned in Rev. 20 (or all of Revelation), how would Christians have known that the “warning” passages found in other places in scripture spoke of temporary punishment in the millennial kingdom? Husting succinctly replied, “They would not have known.”
I have researched kingdom exclusion extensively for over a year now, conducting interviews, reviewing literature, and participating in online discussions such as the one at Husting’s blog. I offer this outline to demonstrate what is constantly lacking in this debate: a single reference in scripture. Even in composite, taking a verse here and a verse there, it’s lacking.
Yet exponents of this theology are confident that theirs is the correct perspective, that the general church community has failed to disseminate the truth about accountability. I find this astonishing.
Some rebut my claims boldly asserting that exclusion is explicitly mentioned in other places in scripture and even in Revelation itself. Yet when pressed to supply a reference, none is found. In short, exclusion simply is not taught in scripture.