SUFFERING AND RULERSHIP
Copyright © 1998 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Those who will rule with Christ in His kingdom must suffer in order to form godly character in them, train them, and test them. This is why Acts 14:22 tells us that we must endure much trouble in order to enter the kingdom.
The demands Christ is making on His victorious saints are greater than we have known previously. When the demands are presented to the Christians, other teachers rise up and speak of how we are qualified for Heaven by the grace of God and we are to rest in His mercy and redemption. It certainly is understandable that this objection should be voiced. The problem is, the teachers and believers who are holding out for the “go to Heaven by grace” doctrine do not understand the purpose of suffering, of the need for enduring hardness, for iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father. They do not recognize the purpose for such painful transformation when God’s mercy and grace are sufficient to bring us to Heaven.
If God’s plan were to bring us to Heaven to recline on our ivory beds, having grapes popped into our mouths by servant girls, and if our ticket to such a paradise were our acknowledgment of the theological truth concerning Jesus Christ, then those who are calling the believers to cross-carrying obedience would rightfully be seen as individuals with a need to be unhappy and to have everyone else unhappy.
But God’s plan for us is not to recline on beds of ease while we are served pies and cakes that can never make us fat. God is preparing rulers and priests who will govern His creation with a rod of iron. The purpose of the fires and waters through which He brings them is to create godly character that will enable them to rule successfully. This is why the call today is to arm ourselves with the willingness to suffer as Christ suffered, to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
One of the aspects of salvation that really warps the thinking of God’s people is that of imputation, or imputed righteousness. In order to get us started on the road to transformation into the moral image of Christ and entrance into untroubled rest in the center of God’s will, God has furnished us with a legal device known as imputation.
Imputation, or imputed righteousness, accomplishes three things for us: it frees us from the authority of the requirements of the Law of Moses, it forgives our sins of the past, and it forgives our sins of the present and future provided we follow the Spirit of God instead of the desires of our flesh and soul. This last part is often left out, leaving us with an incorrect understanding of redemption.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
Romans 8:1 states there is no condemnation resting on those who are in Christ. This verse is often quoted. However its meaning is perverted. It is presented as though once we have taken the four steps of salvation, we can never again come under Divine condemnation no matter what we do. This is not what is it says; it is not what it means. The verse says, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It does not say there is no condemnation resting on those who have taken the four steps of salvation. To be “in Christ” is defined in verse four: “who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” Such people are rare today. This means that people who are not under Divine condemnation are a small minority.
To be “without condemnation” means God is imputing or ascribing righteousness to us. So we have the general attitude of Christians, “There is no need for me to do anything because Christ has ascribed everything to me apart from my behavior.” The truth is, the only thing that is ascribed to us is a legal righteousness that holds only as long as we are not living according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.
The formation of Christ in us is not ascribed to us or given to us instantaneously and magically. The fruit of the Spirit is not ascribed to us or given to us instantaneously and magically. Joy is not ascribed to us or formed in us instantaneously and magically. Conformation to the image of Christ and untroubled rest in the Father are not ascribed to us or given to us instantaneously and magically.
As we said, the only thing ascribed to us is a legal righteousness that covers us as long as we are walking in the light of God’s Presence and will.
Now we come to rulership in the Kingdom of God. The authority to govern and the ability to govern are not ascribed to us — cannot be ascribed to us or given to us instantaneously or magically, not now, not when we die, not when the Lord appears.
The authority to govern is given, according to the clear Word of God, as we actually, through the Lord Jesus Christ, overcome the problems presented in Revelation chapters
The ability to govern, the rod of iron mentioned in Revelation
So we see that imputed righteousness is a legal maneuver of the Father that enables us to start and pursue the program that leads to moral transformation and rest in the Father’s will.
The horrific error of our time is that imputed righteousness is an alternative to the slow, painful process of moral transformation and rest in the Father’s will. We think everything is imputed to us. The Kingdom is imputed to us. Ruling with Christ is imputed to us. Paradise is imputed to us. Aren’t we having fun in the Son! Whoopee! Just think of the poor people of the Old Testament trying to live righteously when everything has been imputed to us and all we need to do is wait until we go to Heaven and enjoy our mansion with a backyard full of diamonds. Dear God in Heaven, how did we ever get ourselves into such a mess? Will Christianity ever recover?
There are many promises in the Bible directed toward those whom God brings through suffering. One of our favorites is as follows:
But now, this is what the LORD says — he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:1,2)
Notice that God does not promise to prevent our passing through the waters, the rivers, or the fire, but to keep us from drowning or being burnt up. It is crucially important for us to understand the Divine pattern. God does not remove us from the scene of danger, but protects us in the midst of it.
Here is the problem of the teaching of the “pre-tribulation rapture.” The “rapture” is a doctrine of removal rather than of victory throughout the circumstances. Think of Noah and his family riding safely on the waters of judgment; of Israel in the land of Goshen protected from the plagues; of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace; of Daniel in the lions’ den. There may be an instance in the Scriptures where God carried people away from danger so they wouldn’t be harmed, but I can’t think of any. Can you?
The promise is that a thousand shall fall at our side and ten thousand at our right hand, not that we will absent during times of catastrophe. Our protection is not Heaven, but the wings of the almighty God.
John records the Lord saying, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” The Lord Jesus does not pray that God will remove us from the scene of trouble, but that He will protect us from Satan and wicked people so they cannot harm us spiritually.
Someone traced to a Gnostic writing the idea that we would be removed from trouble. No doubt Gnosticism is the source of the “removal doctrine” because several other prominent errors in today’s Christian teachings have been found to be Gnostic. For example, the Gnostic is intent on making Heaven his home and stresses leaving our evil flesh and residing in the spirit realm. The Christian should be intent on gaining the resurrection from the dead and living in immortality on the earth. We have been heavily infiltrated with Gnosticism without our realizing it.
If we view the Christian salvation as going to Heaven to lie around doing nothing, and the means of getting there as God’s mercy and grace, then we are going to see no purpose in suffering, in character transformation, in learning to stand in the evil day. If nothing is to be gained by painfully carrying our cross behind Christ, why shouldn’t God remove us from the earth before we are called on to suffer?
The concept that Christians will never be called on to suffer is of course ridiculous. Such unscriptural doctrine is a product of the easy life of Christians in America. Actually no person in America, including Christians, is living an easy life. The happy American is an image that exists only in the mind, promoted by the political party in power at the time. There are numerous very unhappy American Christians in our day. Are you one of them, or has your life been a bed of roses?
The Scriptures teach us we must enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation
The Christians who are called to rule with Jesus Christ will suffer in this world. This is because the suffering creates the character rulers must possess if they are to serve the Lord satisfactorily. Of special importance is the development of stern obedience to God in those who will judge and govern mankind and the angels. Character and obedience are not formed in us as we are carried to Heaven by grace and mercy.
Notice the following:
Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17)
It seems plain enough from the above verse that if we hope to share in Christ’s glory, we must share in His sufferings. Christ and we are coming into our inheritance together. We shall enter His joy. We must also share His sufferings. He learned obedience through suffering. We must learn obedience through suffering. He was brought low and was despised by people. We also must be brought low and despised by people. He was rejected by the world. We must be rejected by the world. He was not of this world. We are not of this world. The world hated Him and it will hate us if we are living in intense interaction with Him.
In America today, we are being taught that God intends to give Christians every material blessing, and that we will become so rich that the world will need to borrow from us. What passage of the New Testament teaches this? What is it going to take to bring us back to the Gospel of the Kingdom?
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
God’s Glory will be revealed to the nations through us, at the appearing of Christ and His saints. The glory and release of the earth will not come down as rain from Heaven, but from the wells of water being created in those who are willing to accept God’s dealings no matter how severe. The sufferings we are experiencing now are to prepare us to be the rivers of life that will bring eternal life to the dead sea of mankind.
We can endure all kinds of trials if we will keep our eye on the joy that will be ours when we are able to bring righteousness and peace to the peoples of the earth. We must set joy before us so we can keep in our minds and hearts that what we are enduring now is not to be compared with the incomprehensible glory we shall experience in the Day of Christ.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:19)
Notice that the creation is not waiting to go to Heaven, nor is it waiting for Jesus to come, but for the sons of God to be revealed. The sons of God are being prepared not only to bless the saved nations with the Holy Spirit, as the priests of God, but also to judge and destroy wickedness and then to govern the nations.
And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9,10)
“They will reign on the earth”! How can they reign on the earth when they are lying around in their mansions in Heaven?
If the Christian church will ever accept the fact that we have been purchased from every nation by the blood of Jesus Christ to reign on the earth, not to go live in a mansion in Heaven, the greatest revival of all time will be here. We will escape the teaching of Gnosticism (which has ruined the Gospel) and begin to press toward the first resurrection and our role as governors of the earth (Revelation
Because we have been called to “reign on the earth”, we must suffer. The American Christians tend to be silly, immature, pleasure-loving gossipers. They are not all this way; there are many fine disciples in our day. But far too many of the believers shun the idea of suffering. They have been pampered and coddled with the reckless doctrine that God will keep them from suffering, a doctrine that defies history as well as the Scriptures.
Stop and think. Is the typical Christian of our day, jumping up and down next to his pew to prepare for the unscriptural “rapture,” refusing to deny himself, refusing to take up his cross, refusing to present his body a living sacrifice, refusing to arm himself with a mind to suffer, refusing to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, prepared to govern a nation such as Russia? Is such a lukewarm professor of Christ prepared to govern one city of Russia? Is our dainty church attender prepared to govern one village of Russia? Is our casual believer who refuses to repent of his gossiping, coveting, and unforgiving spirit, who loves pleasure more than Christ, who wants his ears tickled with teaching that makes little or no demands on him and yet promises him the fullness of God’s glory, able to bless and guide one Russian peasant?
Christian people often speak of “ruling and reigning” (sic) with Christ. Yet they reject the demands of Christ. They are living in a fantasy world. I think the Christian fantasy world is close to its demise in America. I suspect catastrophic trouble is on the way.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:20,21)
Do you see why suffering is necessary? Here is a material creation that at one time was Paradise on earth. Because of sin, God withdrew Paradise and separated the material forms of Adam and Eve (and all their descendants) from their inward spiritual nature. All of nature was deprived of the Life of the Spirit of God. God withdrew spiritual life and permitted corruption to enter His creation in the expectation that one day the material universe, including the bodies of people, can be liberated from the bondage of decay and futility and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God, the freedom of life in the Spirit.
But if God restores Paradise to the earth, spiritual life to the creation, immortality to the bodies of people, what is to prevent a recurrence of the original tragic rebellion? The prevention is found in the creation of people who have been transformed by the Substance and Virtue of the Lord Jesus Christ and who are instantly obedient to God at all times. These will serve in future ages as a wall against sin and rebellion.
If the plan of salvation were one of providing grace and mercy to people and carrying them to Heaven when they die, no solution to the problem of rebellion would occur. In such a situation, the saved people, the believers, have been forgiven and realize they are undeserving sinners and appreciate God’s forbearance, and now they are looking forward to living in a mansion and just enjoying their freedom from dread and pain. This is how salvation is presented in our day.
Can you see that rulers of nations and cities are not created in this way? So our talk about “ruling and reigning” with Christ is totally unrealistic. We are looking for a good time in the spirit realm. We are not truly hoping to begin the work of bringing the creation into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Am I correct in this?
How does God prepare us to govern? By bringing us through a rigorous program of instruction and testing just as He did Joseph; just as He did Paul; just as He did His own Son. God makes rulers. He brings them through fire and water. He teaches them of His fearsomeness, His love, His faithfulness.
There is only so much we can learn from reading words in a book. The rest comes as we follow God through the rigors of discipleship. There is no other way.
We Christians are filled with the love of the world, the passions and appetites of the flesh, and — worst of all — self-will. None of these attributes of character is permitted in one of God’s rulers.
- Every ruler must be delivered from looking to the world for survival and security.
- Every ruler must be delivered from yielding to the demands of his flesh, from lust, from anger, from covetousness, and from all the other sinful compulsions that drive and tempt us.
- Every ruler must be delivered from exercising his own will apart from the will of God.
These deliverances are not easy to achieve. They require that we obey the commandments found in the New Testament, that we pray much, that we meditate constantly in the Scriptures, that we assemble with fervent believers, that we stay in the prison where God places us, that we confess our sins and turn away from them, that we flee from temptation, that we count ourselves crucified with Christ and risen with Christ.
“Oh, Brother Thompson, this is too hard.” The problem is not that the Gospel is too hard; it is that American Christians are too soft. Think for a minute. Are you prepared to govern a group of self-seeking, rebellious people such as we will find on earth during the thousand-year Kingdom Age? Do you have the fortitude, the patience, the wisdom, the desire, to work with people? How would you like to have been Moses, doing his best for people who responded by periodically wanting to stone him? Is this what you really want, to rule with Christ? Training for rulership includes much suffering, much patience, much learning of obedience. You will go through many deep waters, many dark valleys, before God deems you ready to be raised with Christ in the first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood.
The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, He is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.’ (II Samuel 23:3,4)
Is this you? Do you think you are able to rule over men in righteousness? Are you able to rule in the fear of God? How about today? Are you successfully governing the kingdom that God has given you? Are you “like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth”? Is this true of you?
If not, when do you think you will be prepared to rule with Christ? Do you suppose at some point while you are being “raptured”, you will be changed from a lukewarm, casual follower of Christ to “the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning”?
You know, the Kingdom of God is coming to the earth. Christ and His coheirs will actually govern the saved nations. Are you competent to do this at the present time? If not, when do you suppose you will be transformed from what you are now into one of God’s rulers? Are you waiting for the ability to govern to be imputed to you or given to you magically?
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
There are three deliverances that all sons of God (rulers) must experience: deliverance from the spirit of the world, from the lusts of our flesh, and from self-will. The most difficult of these is deliverance from self-will.
The Holy Spirit helps and guides us as we endeavor to leave the world, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. The wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit enable us to put to death the appetites of the flesh.
In order to destroy self-will from us, the Spirit permits Satan to put us into prison. Spiritual imprisonment is a place where your most intense desires are denied for a season and you are compelled to continue in a situation you detest. Only prolonged fires of suffering can burn the self-will and rebellion out of us.
Human beings are deeply, essentially rebellious against God. This is true of us as Christians until we carry our cross for the appointed season.
The earth is the crucible in which God’s rulers are formed and refined. Though He has come from eternity, even the Lord Jesus learned obedience to the Father by the things He suffered
And will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth — Gog and Magog — to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. (Revelation 20:8,9)
The truth is, if you are not undergoing moral transformation today, if you are not entering the rest of God, the perfect will of God for your life, you may never do so. There will come no golden moment when you will be changed from what you are. Life will continue until you find yourself old and perhaps bedridden, beginning to realize you never did really become a new righteous creation in Christ. This is what happens to most believers.
I do not say you will be cast into the Lake of Fire, but I declare with certainty that you are not competent to rule with Jesus Christ. You did not take advantage of the training offered in the present life. You neglected your great salvation
We know the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:22)
The material world is in travail waiting for the Kingdom of God to be born. The creation is hoping to be released into the glorious liberty of the children of God. The release of the creation will take place at the hands of the sons of God, sons who, through Jesus Christ, have overcome the world, the lusts of their flesh, and their self-will. These are the coheirs with Christ. They have suffered with Christ and they will rule with Christ. No one will rule with Christ until he or she has lived as a victorious saint. The average churchgoer in America has no hope of attaining the first resurrection or ruling with Christ. Not because God does not love him, but because he is still a spiritual baby.
What can you do about this? Go to God right now. Ask Him to lift from you the spirit of blindness that abides on the Christian churches. Ask Him to open the New Testament to you. Ask God to show you what He wants you to do. Flee from those who are claiming “Jesus did it all” and your only task is to believe and wait for the unscriptural “rapture.”
Read the Bible and let the Holy Spirit speak to you. Begin to obey what the Bible says. When it tells you to present your body as a living sacrifice to God, then do just that. When it tells you to endure hardness as a soldier of Jesus Christ, then do just that. When the Bible tells you to remain faithful in the prison in which you have been placed, denying yourself, faithfully performing duties for which you have no heart, then do just that. Always pray that God will give you what you want, but wait for God to do it. Don’t wrench yourself out of your miserable circumstances before God’s time, injuring and betraying other people in your mad rush to make your own paradise out of this cursed earth.
Call on God with all your might. Recognize that most American churches are backslidden, lukewarm travesties of what God expects. Do not compare yourself with any believer you know. Compare yourself with Paul’s attitude in Philippians chapter three.
God wants the standard raised in America today. Because of false teaching in the Christian churches, the doctrine that we need not keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles because we are saved by grace, and the extension of imputation far, far past its designated bounds, because of these erroneous teachings, the moral light of the churches has been nearly extinguished. Consequently, our nation is practicing abortion and homosexuality. People are worshiping money. Crime, violence, drunkenness, and taking drugs are common. Sexual lust (strengthened by pornography) is a tremendous debilitating sickness affecting many age groups.
A return to morality in our country depends entirely on the willingness of American Christians to repent of their sins and return to the original Gospel of the Kingdom. The secular realm will never recover until the Christian churches lead the way.
Do we really want to rule with Christ? Then we must lose our lives in Jesus Christ. Only then will we have developed in us the rod of iron, the scepter of the Kingdom. The rod of iron can be created in the human personality only as we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. We must patiently accept the fiery trials He sends to transform us from rebellious, lustful souls to life-giving spirits who are able to govern God’s creation in love, righteousness, peace, and joy.
(“Suffering and Rulership”, 3050-1, proofed 20230804)