Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. 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.
According to the New Testament, the Gospel of the Kingdom has to do with attaining to immortality in the body, not with going to live in Heaven. How did we get so far off?
We are in need of a restoration of Christian thinking. For example, the goal of most Christians is to escape Hell and go to Heaven when they die. According to the New Testament, the goal of the Gospel of the Kingdom is bodily immortality. Which of these two goals we have in mind makes a significant difference in the way we think about our salvation.
In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. (Proverbs 12:28)
The verse above sets forth the issue. The issue is that of righteous behavior. It is the importance of righteous behavior in our salvation that has been lost, largely through the unscriptural doctrine of lawless grace.
Another name for salvation is “redemption.” Redemption means restoring to the original owner that which was lost to him, for one reason or another. It was immortality in the body that was lost in the garden in Eden, and it is immortality in the body in Paradise on the earth that Christ came to restore.
Adam and Eve were alive physically. There was no sinful nature in them. If they had obeyed God, and had eaten of the Tree of Life, which is the Lord Jesus Christ, they would have been living in their bodies to the present day. Paradise would still be on the earth. We would have no sin nature. Think of it!
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is not the Tree of Sin, as some are teaching. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which God told them not to eat from, is what it is named: “The Knowledge of Good and Evil.” The tree did not cause them to sin. Rather, the tree made them aware that they were naked, a shameful condition.
We Christians spend our lives learning the difference between good and evil. Understanding the difference, and embracing the good and renouncing the evil, is growth in Christ.
Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13,14)
If Adam and Eve had eaten of the Tree of Life, they would have received immortality. If they had obeyed God further, they would have learned they were shamefully naked, and would have been able through Christ to choose to wear clothes.
That is how it is with us today. We are alive in Christ. The Spirit of God points out where we are “naked,” so to speak. Then we “clothe ourselves” by confessing and renouncing the sin. In this way we press toward immortality in the body, which we shall receive when Jesus returns.
Let’s think about what the New Testament has to say about immortality:
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Romans 2:7)
Today’s gospel tells us if we will believe in Christ we will go to escape Hell and go to Heaven when we die. How absurd. There is no New Testament basis for this notion. Where did we get this idea?
In fact, we have substituted the “four steps of salvation” for the actual new covenant, found in the eighth and tenth chapters of the Book of Hebrews. We are way off the track!
Look at what the Apostle said in the Book of Romans:
By persistence. “What? We don’t just ‘accept’ Christ and wait to die to go to Heaven?”
By persistence in what? In doing good. “That can’t be right. I have always been told that if I try to do good I am adding my filthy works of doing good to the salvation which was purchased on the cross. So I believe the Apostle Paul should not have said that. I have been taught that I certainly do not have to persist in doing good!”
Seek glory, honor, and immortality. “I am not seeking glory, honor, and immortality. I am waiting to die and go to my mansion in Heaven, just like all good Christians.”
He will give eternal life. “Eternal life means to live in a mansion in Heaven for eternity. It has nothing to do with my body. I am going to be caught up to Heaven in a rapture. I doubt that my body will go along with me.”
I think my little dialogue is not too far off the mark. What do you think?
Let’s take the famous verse in the Gospel of John:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Now, here is how it is preached today:
For God so love the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not go to Hell but to Heaven to live forever.
Am I correct? Is this how John 3:16 is preached today? Where does it mention Hell? Where does the verse mention Heaven? But shall not perish means not to go to Hell. Does it? Eternal life means to go to Heaven. Does it?
First of all, our inward nature is imperishable, as far as I know. So the verse is saying the body will not perish.
Notice the terms perishable and imperishable in the following passage:
In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (I Corinthians 15:52-54)
Perhaps the passage above is what John 3:16 is telling us.
Eternal life has nothing to do with Heaven. It is a state of being. We can be in Heaven and have eternal life, or be on the earth and have eternal life.
Eternal life does not come through professing belief in Christ but through persistence in doing good, according to the Apostle Paul.
But what exactly is eternal life? Eternal life is the Divine energy that comes from eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood, according to the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John.
Eternal life is the righteous character that is developed in us as Christ is formed in us. Eternal life is the result of holiness of character which in turn results from righteous behavior.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
It looks to me like eternal life is the result of godly behavior, not just “accepting Christ.” Would you agree with me in this?
Eternal life also is live lived in the Presence of God and Christ.
Thus when Adam and Eve were prevented from eating of the Tree of Life they were cut off from the body and blood of Christ (these are an essential aspect of immortality but were not available as yet); they were cut off from the Divine Nature of Christ, which is an essential aspect of immortality; and they were cut off from the Presence of God and Christ, which also is an essential aspect of immortality.
Adam and Eve chose to be made aware of their nakedness but were not prepared to deal with it successfully. So several hundred years later the two bodies perished.
In short, John 3:16 is speaking of bodily immortality. It has nothing whatever with going to Heaven to live in a mansion.
It is not necessary to have a physical body in Heaven, although there may an advantage to having a body in Heaven that I do not know about. We indeed will have a spiritual form; but not a body until the Day of Resurrection.
When we are resurrected in the last day, our physical body will come forth from its place of interment. It then will be clothed upon with a body made by the Holy Spirit; or, not being found worthy of being clothed upon with a body made from the Holy Spirit, the body will perish in some manner.
The Apostle Paul speaks of our reaping either destruction or eternal life. My thought is that Paul is speaking of our body. Either we, because of what we have sown in this present life, will reap immortality in our body; or the destruction of our body.
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)
There is a verse in the Book of Isaiah that may be relevant here:
“And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (Isaiah 66:24)
The “dead bodies.”
It may be true that the passage above is what John 3:16 means by “perish,” and what the Apostle Paul means by “destruction.”
The Apostle Paul was looking forward to the resurrection of his body, not to going to Heaven. Where did we get this idea?
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)
Where the inward nature will be at this time I am not certain, but I seriously doubt it will be reclining in a mansion in Heaven.
You know, I am a believer in the words of the Bible. And when I think of how God’s people are being taught that all they have to do is make a profession of belief in Christ and they then are to carried up to Heaven in a rapture, having never persisted in doing good, I am troubled. I feel like Ezra when he found out the Jews were marrying the aliens.
Well, let us go on from here. Our objective is not eternal residence in Heaven. It is immortality in the body, so when Jesus comes we may descend with Him and install the Kingdom of God on the earth. Also, we will need a material body to serve God on the new earth that will be created after the final judgment.
Our example is the Lord Jesus. He rose from the dead in His body:
Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. (Luke 24:39)
We have to have a material body if we are to live again on the present earth during the Kingdom Age; and on the new earth when it is created.
The restoration to life of the physical body in the Day of Resurrection is the destruction of the last enemy. It is the goal of the Divine redemption, and here we are talking about going to a spiritual Heaven to live forever in a mansion. How totally unscriptural!
Everything is focused on the bringing back the body to life. This is the goal.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)
The Lord Jesus Christ came from Heaven to bring spiritual life and bodily immortality to everyone who would believe in Him, and demonstrate that belief by obeying Him.
An abstract faith not accompanied by the works of obedience that have been commanded by Christ and His Apostles is absolutely worthless to God’s plan of salvation.
But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (II Corinthians 1:10)
Would it make any difference in the way you pursue your discipleship if you realized your body is going to be raised from the dead; and if you follow Jesus each day in cross-carrying obedience, your body would be made immortal? Then you could continue with your life!