The Great Refusal


By George Feldman

One day during His earthly ministry an excellent young man came to the Lord asking how he may inherit eternal life. He was a ruler in a synagogue and very wealthy. This episode is in Matt. 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18.

This young man's inquiry as to how he might inherit eternal life has been often used by evangelists as a text for salvation messages. But the application is in question because there is no indication whatever from the context that this young ruler was an unregenerate Jew in need of personal salvation. We suspect that many people assume that such terms as "eternal life" and "save" and "salvation" as they are found in the Bible always have reference to the issue of personal salvation. However, when the Lord dealt with believing Jews, and surely the young ruler was one. He was primarily concerned that as believers they would meet the requirements for the great reward of entry into the Messianic Kingdom.

When the rich ruler asked the Lord what he must do to inherit eternal life, or more literally age-abiding life, which is synonymous with the Kingdom, doing good and keeping the Law were the only terms given by Christ. Doubtless many people think that any reference to the Kingdom of Heaven refers to the future habitat of all believers after they die. This is not so. The Kingdom of Heaven has strict reference to the Messianic Kingdom which will be set up after Christ return, and is earthly, not a heavenly habitat.

As pictured above, the rich ruler went away sorrowful. Riches in themselves are not sinful or evil, but they became that to the rich young ruler because he loved them too much. They possessed him, so to speak. That is the only reason the Lord asked him to give them up and trade them for treasures that would be stored for him in the future Kingdom. But he was not willing to meet these terms, and tragically it became "The Great Refusal."

Where is our focus? The Word exhorts us, "Setyour affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:2).