KINGDOM CONCEPTS

KINGDOM CONCEPTS Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The end of our striving to serve Christ is the forming of Christ in us. Christ in us is the mystery of the Gospel. The result of bringing forth Christ within the human being is a new personality, a unique expression of God. This new creation is the Kingdom of God.

Table of Contents

Foreword

That the World May Believe

We Shall Be Changed!

Watchman, What of the Night?

In the Year That King Uzziah Died

Kept By the Power of God!

Righteousness

Attaining to the First Resurrection

Faith and Fruit

Orientation to the Kingdom of God

The Inheritance

First Thessalonians 4:13-18

Security; Pleasure; Achievement

The Inner Resurrection

Reconciliation By Fire

More Than Conquerors

Foreword

What is the Kingdom of God? The Scriptures, both Old Testament and New Testament, have much to say concerning the Kingdom of God. But exactly what is the Kingdom of God? Where is it? When is it coming to the earth?

Both Jesus and John the Baptist preached the coming of the Kingdom of God. The parables that the Lord Jesus spoke have to do with the Kingdom of God. Some of the parables sound as though the Kingdom of God is an experience that takes place inside the believer, while other teachings of the Lord seem to point to the coming from Heaven of an external kingdom.

From our point of view the questions concerning the Kingdom of God are answered simply. The Kingdom of God is the Lord Jesus Christ. As Christ is being formed in us the Kingdom of God is being formed in us. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ is in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father. Therefore the Kingdom of God is in Heaven at the right hand of the Father.

Wherever Jesus is, there is the Kingdom of God. When Christ casts out devils the Kingdom of God is casting out devils. As Christ grows in us the Kingdom is growing in us. When Christ appears in the clouds of heaven with the saints and holy angels—that is the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.

The primary parable of the Kingdom is the parable of the sower. The parable of the sower speaks of the essential nature of the Kingdom of God, for the Kingdom of God is the sowing of Christ in every saved creature in God’s universe. The central purpose of God is to fill all things with Christ.

The activities of the Christian religion are sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful to the Kingdom. If we are to enter the Kingdom our adamic nature must do what it can to hold our personality before God, being helped by the grace that the Lord provides, until the Day Star, Christ, arises in our heart. We must pray, read the Scriptures, gather together with fervent disciples, give, serve, and do all else that the Scriptures associate with wholesome Christian living.

The end of our striving to serve Christ is the forming of Christ, the Kingdom, in us. Christ in us is the mystery of the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is the new creation that results from the development of Christ in the believer. The result of bringing forth Christ in the human being is a new creation, a new personality, a unique expression of God. Each saint has been called to be God’s servant, and a unique manifestation of God, to the ages of ages.

It can be seen from the above that the Divine redemption results in a change of our racial identity. The race of Adam came to an end on the cross. The new race consists of life-giving spirits (I Corinthians 15:45). As Christ is formed in us our first personality passes away. A new kind of creature emerges. This is why the process of redemption is so painful. The old must die so the new may live.

Some day all of the practices of the religion of Christianity (and of Judaism) will be done away. When Christ has been formed in us the scaffolding no longer will be needed.

God’s provision for the emptiness He has created in all of us is His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only as Christ is formed in us, and as we enter union with Christ, that we come into our role as "man," into the fullness of fruitfulness and dominion.

The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in the saints bringing the Presence of God to all the saved peoples of the earth. 

That the World May Believe

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)

"That the world may believe that thou hast sent me."

"For God so loved the world ." 

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2)

We know from the Scripture that not every person will be saved in the Day of the Lord. Some will choose eternal death in place of eternal life. This is so unfortunate because in Christ is eternal life, and that eternal, indestructible, incorruptible, resurrection life is the light of each person born into the world.

Every person in the world can possess life. Every person can receive into his personality that wonderful life, that glorious light, the complete healing of spirit, soul and body that is in Christ, the Son of God. He is the promised Redemption for all people everywhere—men, women, boys, and girls.

Christ is the atonement for the sins of the whole world. God loves the world—every person living in it. The nations of the earth are the inheritance of Christ.

Does God have in mind to save the world? Does God intend to bring the saving knowledge of Christ to every village on the earth? Are the kingdoms of the world actually going to become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ?

Indeed they are!

God’s Kingdom shall come. God’s will shall be done on the earth as it is performed in Heaven.

If, as the Scripture teaches, the power of the cross will bring the Gospel light to the ends of the earth, and the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, where does the Church fit into this picture? What role does the Christian Church play in bringing the saving, delivering, healing virtue of the Lord to the peoples of the earth?

The Church, the Body of Christ, is the instrument through which God will bring salvation to the nations of the earth. When Christ returns to the earth and receives the Church into total, complete, perfect union with Himself (which is the marriage of the Lamb):

The world will believe that God has sent Christ.

The saints will receive the glory that God the Father has given to Christ.

The world will know that God loves the saints as he loves his only begotten son, Jesus Christ.

The saints will be with Jesus forever and will behold his glory.

Where will this Divine union and glory be brought into being? It will be brought into being in the sight of the nations of the world so they may believe in Christ and be saved.

"That they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." 

For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:2,3)

The Day of Redemption is at hand now . The Kingdom of God is at hand. The Lord Jesus is coming soon to reveal His redeeming glory through the saints. Then the world will believe and be released into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

The saints have been called out from among the peoples of the earth. God has placed His Spirit in us. God has anointed us with the holy Oil of His Glory.

God is training us, teaching us, guarding us, chastening us, bringing us through numerous experiences, surveying every thought we think, every word we speak, every reaction, every expression of our personality.

All the movements of history, of current world politics, of the rise and fall of prominent personages, the various disasters and blessings of nature, the marching of armies and the sailing of navies, are working together to bring about the conforming of the saints to the image of Christ.

There is a purpose guiding all this process. Everything that takes place on the earth is under strict Divine control—to the fall of a sparrow to the ground. The Lord Jesus Christ working in the limitless authority and power of almighty God is bringing the Word of God to pass in the heavens and on the earth.

God’s dear ones are protected with the most diligent and loving care imaginable.

The saints will be filled with the Glory of Christ and all mankind will see and understand that the Presence and power of the God of Heaven have come to dwell in His Church.

The destiny of the Church of Christ is to be the light of the world—the only light of the world. When we have been prepared for His coming He will appear and reveal His Glory through us so the world may believe. God so loved the world He gave His Son. His Son is revealed through the Church. Whoever of the world beholds the Son and believes in Him will not perish but pass from spiritual death to spiritual life.

Christ is coming soon and the conquering saints will return with Him. Not all who profess belief in Jesus will return with Him but those who are filled with His eternal Life, those who are being transformed into His image. The lukewarm believers will not be revealed with Jesus at His appearing. 

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (I Thessalonians 4:14)

Christ will return to earth and the victorious saints will return with Him, so the world may behold His glory in us and believe, and believing receive salvation from God’s wrath and deliverance from the power of Satan.

Earth’s perishing multitudes and, in fact, all the physical creation are awaiting the shining of the Glory of Christ through His saints. 

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)

The Glory of Christ will be revealed in us

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

We shall appear to the world with Christ. 

When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)

Earth’s peoples will behold His majestic glory in us

When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (II Thessalonians 1:10)

Is God working with you today, preparing you for your appearing with Christ? He will appear with and in you, for both relationships are necessary if you are to live and minister to Him and to others in the fullness of His glory.

In the Day of the Lord the glory of Christ will arise on us. Then the nations of the earth will believe in Christ. A portion of that fullness of glory is given to us even now so we may serve Him until He comes. 

And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:3)

We must learn our lessons well today; for if we do, the Lord Jesus will use us to catch many "fish" at His return to the earth. 

And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. (Ezekiel 47:9)

The rivers of living water that will cover the earth in the Day of Christ will flow from the personalities of Christ’s saints.

Jesus has kept the good wine until now. The earth is in the pangs of travail as the Kingdom of God is being born. Abraham’s Seed will bless the nations of the earth with deliverance and justice.

Your calling, your role, your opportunity and privilege as a Christian, is to bring the glorious light of God to the men and women, boys and girls, of the earth—that the world may believe. 

We Shall Be Changed!

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:52)

First Corinthians, Chapter 15 is the "resurrection chapter" of the Scriptures.

The resurrection from the dead is one of the great pillars of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from the resurrection of the dead our preaching is in vain and our faith unfounded. 

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (I Corinthians 15:13,14)

But Christ has been raised from the dead and has led the way for the saints. We too shall not perish but through Christ shall receive eternal life in our bodies.

Let us look carefully at the resurrection, for we must be preparing for the resurrection today. Whether or not we will attain to the first resurrection, the resurrection of God’s kings and priests, depends on our conduct today (Philippians 3:11; Revelation 20:4-6).

Perhaps the main point that should be emphasized concerning the resurrection from the dead in general, and First Corinthians, Chapter 15 in particular, is that the resurrection from the dead has to do with our body.

Man is different from every other creature of God. Man has a spirit, a soul, and a physical body. No other creature of God that we know of has a spirit, a soul, and a physical body. Christ has a Spirit, a Soul, and a physical body. We are being created in the image of Jesus Christ.

Divine redemption includes our spirit, our soul, and our body. Our spirit is redeemed by Christ. Our soul is redeemed by Christ. Our body will be redeemed by Christ at His coming provided we have sown to the Spirit of God, putting to death through the Spirit the deeds of our body (Romans 8:13). The Divine salvation extends to the body as well as to the spirit and soul. 

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 5:23)

To be redeemed means to be rescued from the darkness and death of Satan and to be filled with the light and life of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our spirit must be redeemed. Our soul must be redeemed. Our body must be redeemed. Man has not been completely redeemed until his entire personality—spirit, soul and body—has been brought out from the power of death into the light and life of Christ.

When is our spirit redeemed?

Our spirit is delivered from death and brought into the glorious life and light of Christ the moment we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior. 

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)

As we receive Jesus and follow Him each day our spirit is filled with the eternal resurrection life that is in Him. We have passed from death to life. His Life is the light by which we walk. He who is joined to the Lord Jesus is one Spirit with Him (I Corinthians 6:17).

In the Holy Spirit we have been raised with Christ to reign triumphantly with Him at the right hand of the Father (Colossians 3:1-4). Our eternal life will be revealed to the earth at His appearing.

When is our soul redeemed?

Our soul is saved, or redeemed, as we step along in faith through the wilderness of trials and testings of the world. We must learn to possess our soul in great patience. We will save our soul if we endure to the end of our testings. 

In your patience possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19)

But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)

"Of them that believe to the saving of the soul." 

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: (I Peter 1:22)

The Christian ascends in the Spirit to God at the moment of receiving Christ, having been made one with Him in His resurrection. Then, if he continues to press forward in faith each day of his Christian journey, his soul will go to a place of rest in Jesus at the moment of his physical death. 

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: (Revelation 6:9)

There is not one moment of spiritual death, of separation from God, for the saint. He who lives and believes in Christ shall never die.

To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8). Because we live and believe in Christ we never shall be separated from God. If we should leave the earth this moment because of an accident, heart attack, or stroke we know that our soul will ascend to Jesus immediately.

Christ is our resurrection and our life.

To this point we have mentioned the redemption of our spirit and our soul. But neither of these is the resurrection from the dead of which Paul is speaking in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.

If the redemption of our spirit and our soul were the resurrection from the dead of which the Scripture speaks, and for which all of creation is waiting, then the resurrection would be past for all the saints who have died and gone to be with the Lord.

Make sure you understand thoroughly the preceding paragraph. If you do not you will understand neither the remainder of our brief discussion nor the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.

A multitude of saints already have been raised in the Holy Spirit to the right hand of God with Christ (Colossians 3:3), and then they have died physically and their souls have gone to be with the Lord. But they have not been resurrected as yet. The resurrection from the dead is not past but future. 

Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. (II Timothy 2:18)

The resurrection from the dead is a "better thing" than the saints have known thus far and it has not been experienced as yet by the heroes of faith who spent their lives searching for the "city that hath foundations." 

God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40)

Man has not been completely redeemed until he has been made whole again—spirit soul, and body. A creature who is spirit and soul but who does not possess a body is not a member of the human race. A man, as God has created him, is spirit, soul, and body. His God-given personality has been fragmented by physical death, which is the enemy of Christ and man. Therefore he is in need of redemption.

The resurrection from the dead of which the Scripture speaks, the act of redemption that will take place at the return from Heaven of our Lord Jesus Christ, is not of the spirit or soul of the saint. The spirit and soul have been redeemed previously.

The resurrection from the dead, the raising from the grave at the sounding of the trumpet of the Lord, has to do with the body of the saint.

In several instances when the Scripture is speaking of redemption or of not perishing or of eternal life, it is referring primarily to the body of the saint. This especially is true of the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, which may be the main exposition in the entire Scriptures of the resurrection from the dead.

Notice carefully the following passage: 

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (I Corinthians 15:22,23)

"Shall all be made alive . . . at his coming ." Do we wait until Jesus comes in order to receive eternal life?

Our spirit is made alive when we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior. At that point we pass from death to life.

At the moment of physical death our soul is saved into the Presence of God and the Lamb. Our soul does not sleep in our body in the grave. We go to be with the saints and the angels in Heaven and join the great cloud of witnesses.

Well then, what is the meaning of the following: ". . . will all be made alive . . . at His coming"? If our spirit already is alive and is in Christ at the right hand of the Father, and our soul already is alive and in the Presence of God at our physical death, then it is only our body that will be made alive at the coming of the Lord.

Therefore the expression "even so in Christ shall all be made alive" is referring to bringing back to life our mortal body. For if it is not the mortal body that will come forth from the graves of the saints, what is going to come forth? Why should the spirits and souls of the saints return from Heaven with the Lord Jesus if their bodies that were buried (or otherwise disposed of) are not going to come forth?

The New Testament writings speak of the salvation we are enjoying now as being a firstfruits, a guarantee of a greater fullness yet to come. 

Which is the earnest of [deposit on] our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:14)

Many saints are confused concerning the resurrection of their body believing that God is not going to raise their body but instead will give them another body from Heaven. The confusion surrounding the resurrection appears to come from at least three sources:

The current overemphasis on the ascension, which some Christians term the "rapture."

Uncertainty concerning the meaning of the "house from heaven," of the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians.

First Corinthians 15:37.

Since we have discussed the first and second sources of confusion in other writings we will restrict our present comments to the third source of confusion concerning the resurrection of our body from the grave—I Corinthians 15:37. Indeed it is true that we will receive a body from Heaven. But first let us, as the Spirit helps us, explain I Corinthians 15:37. The concept that God does not intend to raise our present body proceeds from a misunderstanding of Paul’s statement: 

And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: (I Corinthians 15:37)

The above verse in isolation from the context of its chapter, and of the remainder of Paul’s writings, appears to mean that our present body will not be raised. But if that were what Paul meant the rest of the chapter would be meaningless.

Look again at the verse. Paul is teaching that a farmer does not sow a mature plant, but seed. The farmer does not sow "that body that shall be." He does not sow stalks of wheat.

The body we have now will be resurrected, transformed, and glorified just as a sheaf of wheat is a resurrection, transformation, and glorification of the seed that was planted.

The point is, the sheaf of wheat comes from that seed , not from somewhere else. In like manner our resurrection body will come from our present body, not from somewhere else.

If our present body is not to be raised from the dead, then Christ’s body was not raised from the dead. If Christ’s body was not raised from the dead we yet are in our sins. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (I Corinthians 15:20).

The expression "the firstfruits of them that slept" implies that our resurrection will be patterned after Christ’s resurrection. If Christ’s body was raised from the dead then our body will be raised from the dead.

John 3:16 is speaking of our whole personality, including our body, being given everlasting life. It was eternal life in the body that was lost through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The great hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is not that we will go to Heaven to live forever but that our body finally will be redeemed, permitting us to resume our life on the earth. Our adoption as sons of God, the powerful declaration and release for which the creation is waiting, is the saving of our body. 

And not only they [the peoples of the earth], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)

"Redemption of our body."

The last tremendous trumpet blast will reverberate throughout the heavens and the earth. The Lord Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven in the fullness of the power of almighty God. God will bring with Christ every saint who has died in Him.

The Lord’s warriors will shout for the battle. Michael, at the head of the legions of angels that Christ could have summoned during His hour of suffering, will announce the coming of the Kingdom of God and of Christ as King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

Christ Himself will reach personally into each place of decay of the mortal body and bring back into eternal wholeness and vitality the flesh and bones of each of His saints who has come with Him from Heaven, and then will transform the saints who still are living on the earth at the time of His appearing (Philippians 3:21).

The reason Jesus personally will conduct the resurrection of each of His elect is that the resurrection from the dead is a demonstration of the love of Christ for that person—a love so powerful, so intense, that death itself cannot hold apart Jesus and the individual whom God has joined to Him.

The army of the Lord, the most terrifying host ever assembled, now will be standing on the earth. The nations of the world and their Satan-filled leaders and teachers will behold with utter horror and agony of mind and spirit the sons of God. God has spread the banquet of incorruptible life for His beloved in the presence of their enemies.

The Lord’s eagles will gather around the slain Lamb who is their Life. Each will receive his reward for the things he has practiced in his body.

A major part of that reward consists of a "house" of indestructible, incorruptible, eternal resurrection life that will clothe the flesh and bone that have been raised from the dead by the power of the Lord’s resurrection (II Corinthians 5:2). The power of the resurrection is dwelling now in the saints who are living in the Spirit of God. 

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [make alive] your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Romans 8:11)

"By his spirit that dwelleth in you."

The Spirit of the resurrection already is present in us. We must be sure to keep the "oil" in our vessel. The resurrection of our body depends on it.

We know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. 

Watchman, What of the Night?

The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come. (Isaiah 21:11,12)

Jesus spoke of our need to work the works of God during the daytime, and also of the night that is coming during which no one will be able to work (John 9:4).

The above passage from Isaiah sets forth the burden of the Holy Spirit in the present hour. There is a morning coming and there is a night coming. If we have a heart to seek the Lord, to find what His attitude is, what He intends to do, what shortly will come to pass in the earth, then the Lord invites us to return to Him.

In this brief article we shall think of the "morning" as referring to the time of blessing that is upon us now and also of that greater morning when the Lord returns and the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth. We shall view the "night" as the age of moral horrors, of temptation, of tribulation, that is to follow the present "latter-rain" revival.

The Lord Jesus will not be harmed by the calamities that are ahead. If we will come along with Him we too will be able to dance with Him at midnight on the waters of tribulation. 

Because thou hast kept [observed carefully; guarded] the word of my patience, I also will keep [observe carefully; guard] thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)

The term keep, used twice in the above verse, means to imprison under strict observation and control (Acts 4:3, for example). If we will observe carefully, guard, control the word of Christ’s endurance He will guard, control, and watch over us carefully throughout the night that is coming, as He did the children of Israel throughout the seven years of famine and throughout the plagues that fell on Egypt.

The Lord Jesus keeps (guards) us from the evil one (John 17:15). If we will exercise patience and endurance to the end of our life, we will be saved.

It is our understanding that the story of Joseph and Israel, from the time that Joseph dreamed his dreams until the day Moses led the children of Israel through the Red Sea, is one marvelous portrayal of the events that will take place from the present hour until the moment the Lord Jesus appears and delivers His saints from the power of death.

The pattern of events can be viewed in three major aspects: (1) the preparation of a deliverer; (2) a period of blessing and a period of tribulation; and (3) judgment and redemption.

The preparation of "deliverers" has been going on for some years now. It always has been true in God’s Kingdom that He prepares His saints for what is ahead. The time of blessing, corresponding to the "morning" of Isaiah 21:12, is at hand. The time of tribulation, corresponding to the "night" of Isaiah 21:12, soon will come to the earth.

Finally, judgment and redemption, the greatest "morning" of all, will visit the earth with the return of our Lord Jesus Christ with His saints and the elect angels.

There are two important concepts we wish to convey in this brief essay. The first concept is that we are to be taking full advantage of the time of blessing that now is upon us, because we and those to whom we are ministering will need all of our stored spiritual strength in order to survive throughout the "seven years of famine"—the period of spiritual oppression and gross darkness that will come to the earth before too long.

The second concept is that not only will the Lord Jesus keep the saints under His wings of protection through to the end of the present age, but in addition great spiritual good will be wrought in and through the saints until and including the very midnight hour.

All things will continue to work for good to those who love God, to those who have been called according to His eternal purpose in Christ.

Glory, opportunities, and responsibilities are ahead for the willing and obedient believer. Man’s distress always is an opportunity for God to help. Wherever sin abounds grace superabounds. The darker the night the brighter God’s stars shine. 

For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:2)

The promises of Scripture never will be suspended for the saint—not now, not during the coming desolation, not when the universe melts "with fervent heat," not ever!

The preparation of a deliverer. A morning of blessing is here now, and the night of spiritual darkness is appearing on the horizon. God is creating deliverers (Nehemiah 9:27; Obadiah 21)—strong saints who will be able to stand and assist many throughout the coming night, a night during which we will not be able to go forth into the Gospel work as we do now.

Do you want to be one of the Lord’s deliverers during the great hour of opportunity, the hour of spiritual famine? Then store up the corn of the Word of God now.

We are to take full advantage of the blessings from Heaven that are falling today so we will be able to stand as Christian people until our Lord returns. Also, we are to rejoice because the coming spiritual and material pressures will provide many opportunities for service (as was true of Joseph) for those who have allowed God to prepare them to stand in the evil day (Ephesians 6:13). 

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. (Joel 2:32)

Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them [in whose heart are the paths to God]. Who passing through the valley Baca [of weeping] make it a well [a fountain of waters of life]

Are you allowing God to make you strong in the Lord so you can bless and strengthen the weak and oppressed now and in the day of trouble?

It is customary for the life of Joseph, the deliverer, to be applied as a type of Jesus, Christ. Certainly Joseph is a type of the Lord Jesus. But the life of Joseph is also, as we understand it, a type of the preparation and ministry of strong saints to whom Jesus assigns the responsibility of sharing His riches with His people whom He loves dearly.

It always is the Lord’s will for us to bless and feed His lambs and His sheep. By so doing we prove our love for the Lord (Romans 15:1). Perhaps the story of Joseph can help us understand some of the ways in which the Lord Jesus deals with us as He prepares us for our responsibilities in the Kingdom of God.

Notice that the Lord began Joseph’s preparation with a dream (Genesis 37:5). It often is true that someone whom God has chosen for an area of responsibility will receive a supernatural visitation well in advance of his or her time of employment in the Lord’s vineyard.

Also, it often is true that the believer on being called by the Lord will blurt out what he has been told, bringing about his own rejection and his own preparation by various sufferings. How often we create our own teachers!

The more we mature in the Lord the less we are given to nonessential speech. We pray carefully about everything we say. We pray without ceasing.

Joseph, God’s deliverer, was tested in the same manner in which the Lord Jesus was tested and in which each of the saints is tested.

The first preparatory examination is that of physical survival. Joseph was thrown into a pit in which there was no water (Genesis 37:24). Lack of water in a hot country can be fatal.

We must learn to serve the Lord whether or not we can understand where our necessities will come from. Man cannot live by bread alone. We have been commanded to seek first the Kingdom of God. When we do our needs are met. The individual who will not do God’s will until he knows how he will survive physically shall not be able to pass this first examination. He cannot be a deliverer in the hour of need. He surely shall fail.

The second preparatory examination is that of resisting sin. Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife. She may have been glamorous but the flames of Hell were burning intensely in her filthy heart (Genesis 39:12; Proverbs 7:27).

The strong saint, the deliverer, flees from temptation as did Joseph. If we succumb to the carnal delights of the world we will fail the second examination. The morally weak believer cannot serve as a deliverer from the bondages of Hell.

The third preparatory examination is that of imprisonment on the pinnacle of restriction and futility. Joseph was confined in prison because of his righteous behavior (Genesis 39:20).

Our third preparation is that of enduring patiently and cheerfully the years of waiting as we are left seemingly deserted in a "prison" of suffering and restriction.

Every one of the Lord’s strong saints must be tested in each of these three areas, and there will be no release until the Lord’s appointed hour.

Our tests and trials, our pains and perplexities, our hindrances and frustrations, do not originate in Satan even though he may be the instrument the Lord is using to perfect us. Our pain does not originate with the world, with evil, perverse people. Our discomfiture is proceeding from the Lord if we are serving Him.

Every suffering of the saint is for a specific and eternal purpose. We are to look to Jesus in every instance. If we complain, murmur, blame other people, we only will delay the hour of our usefulness in the Kingdom of God. In order to escape from God’s prison we must break God’s laws. We may lose (perhaps for eternity!) our appointed role as a nourisher of the people of the Lord, and of the whole earth, in the day of trouble.

Joseph was not a complainer, he was one of God’s "stars." He was in prison by the Word of the Lord (Psalms 105:17-19).

When Joseph’s "word" came he was exalted to a position of supreme influence in the world. The present earth and all of the people who live on it belong to the Lord God of Heaven (Psalms 24:1). The pressing need today is for saints who will allow Jesus to prepare them so they may be able to nourish the Lord’s people, and some of the rest of earth’s population, throughout the terrible desolation that soon is to appear. 

A period of blessing and a period of tribulation. "The morning cometh, and also the night."

A time of unprecedented spiritual blessing now is upon us. It will be followed by years of unprecedented spiritual leanness.

Spiritual oppression and material desolation soon will fill the entire earth (Matthew 24:21). How soon? Perhaps during our lifetime; almost certainly during our children’s lifetime.

What does this knowledge mean to us? 

It means we are to be taking advantage of every opportunity for spiritual growth and service placed before us in the present hour.

We are to be storing up spiritual strength and understanding, spiritual food, spiritual grain, spiritual corn—the knowledge of the Lord and His precious Word.

The believer who allows the present hour of spiritual opportunity to pass by unheeded, wasting his time and strength in the contemporary life of material pursuits, most certainly will suffer greatly and will be of no use in the Kingdom of God during the dark hours that even now are on the horizon.

He or she will not be able to help others during earth’s great opportunity. Also, he himself will panic in fear and unbelief during the dark hours because of lack of preparation now.

We are to be redeeming the time . We are to be buying back the time because the days are evil. We are to be putting on the Gospel armor so we may be able to stand in the evil day.

In the dark hour the Lord will have an army of saints ready to help those in need. The days of trouble will bring the elect among the Jews to Christ and perhaps turn some of earth's peoples to the Lord (Genesis 41:56,57). That which would have resulted in total destruction for everyone will be alleviated because of prepared saints. Also, the days of trouble will be shortened for the elect’s sake (Matthew 24:22).

"The morning cometh." Days of unequaled blessing are upon us. The Word of God is being revealed as never before. The ministries and gifts of the Spirit are available to each believer who will prepare his heart to receive the Presence of the Lord.

The conquering power through which we can overcome the world, the devil, and our own flesh and self-will is being given to us through Christ. The Holy Spirit is being poured out. The yokes of worldliness, lust, and self-will are being broken. Miracles are being performed in Jesus’ name. The sick are being healed. The spiritually dead are being revived. It is an hour of revival even though some of the members of many congregations are living in the lusts of the flesh and are following their self-will.

The Scriptures speak of the "former" and the "latter" rain, meaning that an outpouring of the Spirit of God watered the planting of the Gospel Seed in the first century and a more copious outpouring of the Spirit will bring the Lord’s "wheat" to maturity just before the great tribulation and the gathering to the Lord of the harvest of the earth.

Truly, Jesus has kept the good wine until now.

We find the same pattern of revival followed by tribulation, and then final victory, portrayed in the life of Joseph. 

Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: (Genesis 41:29)

The problem is this: how are we to respond to the period of unequaled abundance? Our usefulness as one of the Lord’s trusted and prepared workers depends on how we respond, and how we teach others to respond, to the abundance being given to us now.

One part of the deliverer’s role is to bring the wisdom of God to the day in which we are living so we can understand what it is we are to do.

If Joseph had not been able to inform Pharaoh of the seven lean years of famine that soon would come to the earth, the seven years of abundance would have witnessed a widespread wasting of grain. The people, supposing that such bountiful harvesting would take place forever, would have been careless with the grain. They would have filled their stomachs and left the remainder to rot.

So it is today. God is pouring out His blessings. But in some instances God’s people are busily pursuing their own fleshly interests, supposing that they always will be able to obtain as much "oil" and "grain" as they need.

An hour of unequaled darkness, oppression, and temptation is drawing near to the earth. We are to be taking full advantage of the present spiritual abundance so we will be able to stand and assist other people to stand throughout the years of spiritual famine that are ahead.

The wise saint of any period of the Christian Era takes advantage of each day of his pilgrimage, being in the world but not of the world. He always is strengthening himself in the Lord so he can stand, and help others to stand. He always uses the time well because the days in which he lives are "evil" (Ephesians 5:16).

How much more, then, should we be serving the Lord diligently today, when both the Scriptures and the burden of the Holy Spirit are warning us that a period of trouble and temptation without equal in history will come upon the earth before the Lord returns. (Matthew 24:21). 

And there shall arise after them [after the years of abundance] seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; (Genesis 41:30)

The lean cows will consume the fat cows. The desolation will destroy the land because man is making himself God. Only those who have prepared themselves during the period of blessing will be able to resist Antichrist and to stand in faith until the coming of the Son of Man. 

Watch ye [keep on the alert] therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy [may gain full vigor; may have strength—Rotherham and others] to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:36)

. . . These [the great multitude of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues] are they which came out of [the] great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14).

Let us serve the Lord as if our life depended on it. It does!

Perhaps most of us know the remainder of Joseph’s story from our Sunday school instruction. The famine covered the face of the earth (Genesis 41:56). Joseph, God’s prepared deliverer, was able to save not only his own family and the land of Egypt but also the starving multitudes of other countries as well.

How like the Lord! For those who are in God’s will, even the time of disaster becomes an opportunity to demonstrate the wisdom and power of God. Joseph, now with a wife and two boys, was reigning in Egypt. His father, Jacob and the rest of the family were provided for in every way. The famine brought desolation to the world but blessing and glory to God’s anointed people who were performing His will.

God makes all things work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His eternal purpose.

The promises of God are sure to us no matter what may take place on the earth. The believer who seeks the Lord diligently today may find that in the near future he will have more opportunities to bring the goodness of the Lord to people than he ever thought possible.

Judgment and redemption. Now we come to the type of the Lord’s actual return. It is the midnight hour. There is no help for Egypt now, its destruction is at hand. There is no Joseph who can avert the wrath of God that is ready to fall from the heaven.

Israel has become millions of people. A pharaoh was in power who did not remember Joseph. At the same time the Lord God of Heaven was preparing a deliverer for His people. Our God is a God of preparation—provision always is made for those who serve Him. The baby Moses, the future deliverer, was protected from Pharaoh’s edict.

Speaking figuratively, the time had come for the stars (the saints) to withdraw their shining (to be persecuted by Pharaoh); the sun (Christ) to withdraw His light (darkness in the land of Egypt); and the moon (the Church) to be covered by the Passover blood. We believe that these events will take place in the physical universe at the time of the coming of Christ; but there is a strong type here.

The people of Israel were placed under the hand of the Lord’s protection in Goshen in the northeast corner of Egypt. Then the wrath of God fell in acts of vengeance on the many gods of the Egyptians. Plague after plague struck Egypt until the land was destroyed. The nation lay in ruins, but Goshen was spared totally although it was part of Egypt. What lesson can we learn from this concerning the keeping power of God? 

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. (Psalms 91:7)

The blood was placed over Israel. The firstborn, the strength of Egypt (Egypt being a type of the world), were slain by the Lord. The cloud and the fire appeared and Moses led Israel out of Egypt (the resurrection from the dead). Will our Lord Jesus come with clouds "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God"? (II Thessalonians 1:8).

Egypt was judged and destroyed; Israel was redeemed in the same action at the same time. All the events worked together for good for the Lord’s people even in the hour of judgment. A gracious attention to detail took place here: not one of the Egyptian dogs was able to bark at the departing Israelites—and this at midnight! (Exodus 11:7). The Israelites carried off the gold, silver, and bronze, and other valuables of the Egyptians, and used these materials at a later time in the construction of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.

Our Lord is coming again to free us from the bondage of physical death. He will revive us in the presence of our enemies, but not until He is ready to judge and destroy the gods of the world. We shall go forth to meet the Lord in glorious victory, not a "dog" being able to lift its tongue against us.

Christ is coming soon. but first there must come a period of blessing and a period of tribulation. Are you preparing yourself in the Lord today? Are you returning to the Lord in diligent repentance?

"Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?

The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return! come!

In the Year That King Uzziah Died

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. (Isaiah 6:1)

Uzziah was a popular young king. 

Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah. (II Chronicles 26:1)

King Uzziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord. He sought the Lord earnestly. As long as King Uzziah sought after God he prospered wonderfully.

He waged war successfully against the Philistines. The Ammonites gave gifts to him. He constructed strong fortifications and dug many wells. Being a man given to farming he possessed herds of cattle and grew grapes.

The army of King Uzziah was well organized and well equipped, including over a quarter of a million trained troops. The wall of Jerusalem was defended by special machinery that launched arrows and hurled large stones. 

. . . And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: . . . (II Chronicles 26:15,16).

King Uzziah went into the Temple of the Lord to burn incense to the Lord. Burning incense on the golden Altar of Incense was one of the principal responsibilities of the sons of Aaron. This service, which was performed twice during each twenty-four period, belonged to the priests alone.

Burning incense by someone—even a king—who was not of the descendants of Aaron was a grievous breach of Levitical law punishable by death. 

But those that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, even before the tabernacle of the congregation eastward, shall be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, keeping the charge of the sanctuary for the charge of the children of Israel; and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. (Numbers 3:38)

When he was rebuked by the priests, the proud Uzziah became very angry. At this moment leprosy "rose up in his forehead." The Lord had punished him severely for his presumption. Immediately the priests hurried him out of the Temple.

Uzziah remained a leper until the day of his death. He never again was allowed to enter the Temple of God. His son, Jotham, ruled as king in his place.

King Uzziah represents self-exaltation and self-will in the Christian.

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord."

When the Lord slays self-exaltation and self-will in us we are able to behold the Glory of the Lord. It is impossible to see the Lord’s glory when we are filled with self-love and are pursuing our own will and way.

When self-exaltation and self-will die, then we see the Lord sitting on His throne—high and lifted up. His royal robe fills the heavenly temple.

Before this time we may have thought of the Lord as a set of spiritual principles by which we are to achieve our goals in life. Or we may have pictured Him as a gentle teacher who had the best of intentions for the world, but whom men have disappointed to such an extent that his plan for saving the world has been ruined.

Now that self-will has been removed from the throne of our heart we perceive that Christ is the Lord of Glory. He is the mightiest of kings—an emperor with powers and dominions so vast the universe itself is but one small demonstration of His awesome creative Word. He is LORD. Christ is powerful and majestic far beyond our ability to comprehend.

Christ holds every second, every atom, in total control. Nothing takes Him by surprise.

Christ not only is the Savior of men He also is the Lord of men. He is Lord. He will accept His servants on no other terms.

His train fills the Temple of God. There is no room for anyone else. Christ is All in all, the Alpha and Omega. He is the First and the Last, the Author and the Finisher of everything.

Christ retains all authority and power in Heaven and on the earth and He uses His unlimited power as He will. In Him dwells all the Fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. The Father is pleased with the Lord Jesus Christ and has given all things into His nail-pierced hands.

Christ is the Lord who smote Uzziah with leprosy and also the Lord who was beheld by Isaiah the Prophet. 

Above it [the throne of Christ] stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. (Isaiah 6:2)

The seraphim covered their faces. The covering of the faces means that self-exaltation cannot look upon the Lord of Glory.

The seraphim covered their feet. The covering of the feet means that self-will cannot come into the Presence of the Lord of Glory or walk in His way.

They flew on two wings. When the saint learns to wait on the Lord, desiring the exaltation of the Lord rather than of himself, seeking the will of his Lord rather than his own will, then he mounts up with the wings of a great eagle. He is able to renew His strength in the royal Presence of the Lord of Glory.

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord." When self-exaltation and self-will die in the believer he beholds Christ. Christ is high! He is lifted up! His royal robe fills the Temple of God.

When we see the awesome Majesty who upholds all things by the Word of His power there is only one appropriate response: 

. . . Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. (Isaiah 6:3)

We may never have perceived that fact before. Because we have been "serving God" in our own self-exaltation and self-will the world has not seemed to be full of the Glory of God but of opposition and enemies of all kinds.

But now we behold the Lord, and the heavens and the earth are filled with His praise. filled with His glory. filled with His majesty. All things are working according to His irresistible will. His wisdom is governing the affairs of men and beasts. The oceans and continents are speaking of His power. The stars in their courses are "fighting against Sisera." The heavens are telling the Glory of Christ and the firmament is revealing His handiwork.

Everywhere and on all sides nature and history are teaching us of the Lord and His righteous ways.

As soon as we lift our eyes from our own glory and behold the Glory of the Lord of hosts, the foundations of the entrance to our heart are moved. All of that in which we have been trusting is shaken. Our confidence in our righteous works and religious enterprises is found to be misplaced, established on what is insecure and threadbare.

Our personality is filled with the smoke from the coals of the Altar of Incense. "Uzziah," portraying the self-exaltation and self-will of proud, ambitious, religious flesh, had attempted to offer self-centered, self-willed works and praise in God’s Temple. He did not realize that the coals of that Altar cause "voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake" (Revelation 8:5).

As long as we are praising ourselves our environment remains seemingly secure, tidy, predictable. But when we begin to offer our praise to the Lord God Almighty our security is shaken, our tidiness turns into hopeless turmoil, our ability to predict our "safe" pathway is undermined and removed.

We come face to face with our Creator. Then we perceive God for who He is and ourselves for what we truly are.

We see ourselves and God for the first time. 

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 6:5)

To realize we are in a woeful, wretched condition, that we are completely undone, that we have unclean lips, that we dwell among people of unclean lips, and that God is a great King and worthy of all worship, is to begin to see matters as they really are. Any other view of the world is a deception.

The Christian who has his heart set on his own glory, and is occupied solely with himself and his little group of friends, is coming short of the Glory of God. Each of us must look up and behold the awful majesty of Christ—He who holds the angels of the churches in the right hand of His thundering, stupendous might.

Then we shall cry, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts." We shall discover that we and our friends are in a deplorable condition and have unclean lips. We are not the favored children we thought we were.

But God loves us.

The moment we make our confession of unworthiness, as did Job in a similar situation, the seraph touches our lips with a glowing coal from God’s Altar. God is far more than our Teacher. He brings us into relationship to Himself by blood, by fire, by circumcision. The Lord is much more than a theologian or religious philosopher. He is the consuming Fire. We are the little fires that find no rest until our flame becomes one with the larger Flame.

Our God is the holy Fire. Sin and self-will also are fires. "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell," James informs us (James 3:6). With our mouth we confess Christ unto salvation or else we lie, blaspheme God, and curse men. Our words will stand in the Day of Judgment to justify or condemn us.

Uzziah "worshiped" God in his self-exaltation and self-will, hoping to enhance his own glory. Isaiah made the proper confession: "I am humbled because I have seen the King"! No self-glory here. This is the red clay of the earth adoring the Living Eternal Fire from which it received the breath of life in its nostrils.

The glowing coal from the holy fire of the Altar of Incense touches our lips and all our uncleannesses are taken away. The fiery Word purifies us, burning away the proud flesh.

Then Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord: 

. . . Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? . . . (Isaiah 6:8).

As soon as the Lord puts to death our self-exaltation and self-will we can hear His voice. He always had been speaking but we were not in a position to hear. We did not have "ears" because we were filled with our own ways.

Now we are becoming aware that God has a plan of His own. He is not interested in blessing our plans to set up our own kingdom in His name. He desires to send us to do His will. But God’s will and plan are so high above any scheme we can imagine that the most we can do is to agree to worship and serve Him.

Isaiah responded instantly: 

. . . Here am I; send me (Isaiah 6:8).

Our self-made ambitions and plans fade into obscurity and we are willing to serve the Lord. Then our enthusiasm revives. "He will use me after all. There may be some glory for me."

But God’s ways can be flesh-crucifying, self-crucifying.

Who among us would go and perform the Lord’s will if he received Isaiah’s commission? 

. . . Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not (Isaiah 6:9).

What kind of assignment to preach is this? This is the Good News? 

Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. (Isaiah 6:10)

Isaiah cried out in distress, "Lord, how long?" 

. . . Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, (Isaiah 6:11)

What a miserable commission! Total darkness except for the glimmer of hope for the remnant of the holy seed who would return (verse 13).

If ever there was an assignment calculated to destroy the last trace of self-exaltation and self-will in a man of God, Isaiah had just received it. Isaiah’s nation, the only audience with which he was familiar, was suffering because of its rebellion against the Lord.

But the Lord Jesus had in mind an exceedingly magnificent mission for our disappointed prophet—an unnumbered congregation of saints from every age of history, from every city and village on the earth.

For to the "prince of the prophets" was given the Gospel of the King of kings and Lord of lords—a light that has shined and yet will shine in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls. And they shall hear and be saved.

It was Isaiah who proclaimed: 

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; (Isaiah 61:1)

Isaiah was given a true understanding of his own sinfulness and of those about him. His assignment from the Lord was a difficult one. There is tradition to the effect that he was martyred.

But to few men has been granted the opportunity to reveal in such fullness the atoning death and the glorious eternal life and Kingdom of the Lord Jesus.

Can we see the King high and lifted up today? Can we hear His voice?—His concern for the peoples of the earth? Can we accept the wretchedness and uncleanness of our own condition?

When we exalt the Lord He will purge our iniquity with a glowing coal from the Divine Fire of His own Being. Whether our commission is plain and acceptable, or difficult to understand or appreciate, Christ will be exalted in us and through us if we yield ourselves to His Presence and purposes. 

Kept by the Power of God

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)

The above promise is of outstanding importance today.

Several concepts are included:

The believers are obliged to keep (guard carefully, observing to obey) the Word of Christ.

The Word is the word of Christ’s patience (endurance).

If we will guard carefully Christ’s Word He will guard us carefully.

There is coming upon all the world an hour of temptation (trial; testing).

The hour of testing will examine those who dwell on the earth.

The noun temptation and the verb to test have the same meaning and are employed many times in the New Testament writings.

The primary meaning of the term temptation is not that of pain and harm, although pain and trouble certainly are included in our testing. Rather, the meaning is that of the testing of our faith. It is temptation with the end in view of determining the quality and strength of our faith (Matthew 4:1; 6:13; 16:1; 22:18; Acts 5:9; 20:19; I Corinthians 7:5; 10:13).

The "hour of temptation" of Revelation 3:10 is not referring to the wrath of God that is to be poured on the earth as judgment and vengeance on sin and rebellion. Rather it is speaking of a severe and prolonged examination of the condition of the hearts of people as they are exposed to an exceedingly seductive, enticing environment.

Only the Lion of Judah is worthy to open the scroll of the hearts of men and to loose the seven seals. The scroll was written "within and on the back." Everyone can see what is on the outside of the person. But only the claws of the Lion of Judah are able to tear open the personality and reveal what is written "within." 

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Revelation 5:5)

Many people are being examined today. Those who have guarded the word of Christ’s patience will be kept by Him and delivered from destruction.

All men are examined by the Lord, saints and sinners alike (I Corinthians 10:13). The difference between saint and sinner is not that the saint will not be tempted, will not be tried by fire, will not be tested and his responses examined. We know that the saints indeed are thoroughly tested by the Lord, sometimes by allowing Satan to entice them to sin or to cause trouble to come upon them, as happened to Job.

The difference between the saint and the sinner is that God provides "a way to escape" for the saint (I Corinthians 10:13). This does not indicate, as we have said, that the saint will not be tempted. It means that with each temptation the Lord presents a solution, a means of bringing the conflict to a successful conclusion so the saint may emerge more than a conqueror through Christ.

God provides a successful pathway to victory for every fiery trial we experience. Sometimes the "way to escape" consists of the difficulty and pain being removed from us or we from it, as was true of Jacob and his family who fled from Canaan to the land of Egypt where God had provided food and safety for them.

In other instances, Christ sustains His servant in the midst of terrifying circumstances. This was the case with the three Hebrew men in the furnace, with Daniel in the lions’ den, with Paul before Nero. 

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (Isaiah 43:2)

God can carry us bodily up to Heaven when our testimony has been completed, as was true of Elijah; or He can maintain the prophetic anointing on us while we die in sickness, as happened to Elisha who possessed the double portion of God’s Spirit.

God can cause the waters of judgment to buoy up the prepared saint and his loved ones, as in the deliverance of Noah.

The Lord causes the faithful, persevering saint to march along in the triumphal procession of Christ for all mankind to behold.

The Scriptures reveal to us that the Lord God has an infinite variety of "escapes" for the saint who is undergoing testing.

Stephen showed us how perfect victory and glory can be maintained even during the final moments before martyrdom. What have we to fear?

Let us return to Revelation 3:10.

The believer is obliged to guard carefully, observing to obey, the Word of Christ. This is not the careless, lazy, slipshod, halfhearted manner in which many Christian people address themselves to God’s Word.

If we would claim the guarding power of Christ during the worldwide testing at hand we must guard the Word of Christ with the same diligence with which we trust Christ will keep us from evil.

It is not scriptural, not of God, to hope that even though we have drifted along without diligently learning and obeying the Word of Christ that we will be guarded in that hour, kept from the seductive power of a demon-filled environment. It appears there are numerous "believers" in Christ who are continuing in the delusion that because of their initial profession of belief they will not undergo severe testing in the world. We are not to abuse the Scriptures in this fashion. Christ will perform His promises only if we keep our part of the contract.

Teachers of the Scriptures who are slanting God’s Word so it attracts people, omitting the stern demands of discipleship and righteous behavior, are moving toward a dreadful day of reckoning—they and their students who trusted them.

To guard and observe the Word of Christ is to treat the Scriptures as a precious possession. It is to read the Word, to study it carefully, to memorize portions, to talk about the Word to other Christians, and to attend assemblings of believers where the Word of God is expounded by prayerful, holy people. It is to come boldly to the Throne of Grace and ask for Divine assistance so we may do what the Word commands.

If the major part of our time, attention, and interest is occupied with the cares of this life, not with that which Christ has said, then we are not candidates for the keeping power of Christ.

If the Lord Jesus were to guard us anyway, even though we have been careless with His Word, He Himself would be breaking the Scriptures. But the Scriptures cannot be broken.

The overcomers will learn, to their unutterable delight and rejoicing in the Day of the Lord, that the Scriptures cannot be broken. The careless will learn, to their wretchedness and despair in the Day of the Lord, that the Scriptures cannot be broken. They will turn against their teachers who, perhaps for the love of material gain and popularity, have counseled them that although they are not diligent in adhering to the Scriptures they will be delivered by grace and mercy.

If we are careless in guarding His Word, Christ will be careless in guarding us in the hour of trouble.

Notice that it is the word of Christ’s patience, His endurance.

One of the noteworthy characteristics of the victorious saint is his or her willingness to keep the Word of Christ year after year even though there is little excitement, little observable success in ministry, little recognition of his steady application and faithfulness.

Many believers will walk as Christians provided there is attention and fanfare being given to what is taking place. But God’s worthies, those who are able through Christ to turn the valleys of weeping into wells of resurrection life, are formed slowly and patiently.

In order to make a success of the Christian discipleship, great patience must be practiced. Patience brings about a perfect work of conformity to the image of Christ. We save our souls by perseverance, by patiently plodding through the wilderness.

Those who look for a quick, easy path invite spiritual trouble. Many have started off joyfully on the highway to Zion, only to end up barren and spiritually sick in some "isolation ward" along the route. How heartbreaking! Oftentimes the deciding factor in victory in Christ is the willingness to be patient with God, with one’s circumstances, with one’s self. Patience! Patience and the Kingdom of God! The Word of Christ’s patience!

If we would be kept from the destructive elements that accompany the hour of testing we must patiently guard Christ’s Word, being diligent to observe, through His grace, that which His Word commands.

There is coming upon all the world an hour of testing. The hour of testing will examine those who dwell on the earth. In the twenty-first chapter of Luke, Jesus spoke of the hour of testing.

In verse 36 of this chapter, Jesus refers to "all these things that shall come to pass": 

Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:36)

Let us see what Christ was speaking of, commencing with verse six: 

As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Luke 21:6)

The Temple of Herod will be demolished.

Many deceivers will come in Christ’s name.

Nations and kingdoms will engage in war.

There will be earthquakes, famines, plagues, fearful sights, great signs from Heaven.

Christians will be persecuted, delivered up to synagogues and prisons, brought before kings and rulers for Jesus’ sake.

The saints will be betrayed by parents, relatives and friends.

Some of the saints will be put to death.

Here is a remarkable fact. In verse 18 Jesus promises, "But there shall not a hair of your head perish." But two verses previously He prophesies, "some of you shall they cause to be put to death."

The Lord Jesus does not view persecution and death by martyrdom as being significant harm. In Revelation 3:10, Luke 21:36, Isaiah 43:2, and other passages promising deliverance to the saint, God’s concern is with our spiritual well-being in His sight. Who would not willingly share Stephen’s martyrdom if he could see "the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God"?

Would you agree that not a hair of Stephen’s head perished? This is literally true because his body will be raised from the dead in glory in the Day of Christ.

It is possible for the saint to be overly concerned with the physical well-being of himself and his family and not concerned enough with the spiritual well-being of himself and his family. But Christ emphasizes the spiritual, the relationship with God, the well-being of the soul.

"In your patience possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19).

Patience; perseverance; endurance. Here is the quality required for success in the conduct of the victorious Christian life.

Jerusalem will be desolated and the Jews led away captive. There will be "great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people."

Jerusalem will be trodden down until the times of the nations have been fulfilled.

There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars.

The nations will be distressed and perplexed.

The sea will roar and the waves surge.

Men will faint with fear in anticipation of what is coming on the world.

The powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Then all the world will behold the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

All these are the events that will take place in the world, from the days that Jesus’ disciples asked Him about the end-time until He comes again with power and great glory.

History reveals that Jesus is a true Prophet. From Jesus’ time until now, philosophers have searched for an earthly utopia. But only Jesus was able to prophesy of world history as it actually has taken place.

Many of the calamities of which Jesus spoke have happened already. Some of His sayings have not been fulfilled as yet, but we know they will be. We know also from what the Scripture teaches, and from the present-day burden of the Holy Spirit, that the greatest woes of all soon are to come upon the world.

If we look at Revelation 3:10 and Luke 21:36 together we can see that they proclaim the same message: Prepare yourself to stand in the evil day! 

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)

Watch ye therefore [keep on the alert!], and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy [that ye may prevail—alternate reading] to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:36)

The concept in both of these passages is that of difficult conditions on the earth and the Lord keeping in safety and well-being the disciple who has served his Lord diligently and faithfully.

The saints from the days of Jesus have known of these promises and have placed their hope and trust in them. Each generation of the faithful has viewed the turmoil of their own day as the sign of the end. Each generation has served the Lord with diligence, and the Lord Jesus has kept His Word to those who have served Him. He has guarded them. He has made a way of escape for each person who has kept the Lord’s Word.

We feel certain that we of today have reached the end-time. Perhaps every calamity of history will be repeated and magnified during the next few years of world history as we approach the end of the age.

What does Jesus mean when He states He will guard us from the hour of trial? What danger will threaten us if He is not guarding us?

Let us take Stephen, for example. Was he an alert, faithful, diligent saint? Did Stephen meet Jesus’ requirements of worthiness (or strength) to "escape all these things"? We think that most saints hold Stephen in high regard as we know that Jesus does also.

Stephen kept Christ’s word of patience. Did Jesus guard Stephen from temptation and testing? We believe He did indeed. Stephen was guarded with utmost care, although he died under the stones of enraged Jews as Saul of Tarsus held the robes of his murderers.

If such be the case, being kept or guarded from the hour of temptation has little to do with our physical well-being.

With what, then, is our protection concerned? It is concerned with our spiritual well-being, with our ability to stand before the son of man.

Is Christ concerned with the saint suffering pain or with the saint losing his soul? What is it that is to be guarded?

Let us examine the context of Luke 21:36. We have pointed out already that the Lord Jesus in one breath had stated that many of the saints would be betrayed and put to death, and in the next breath had declared that not a hair of their head would perish. The Lord Jesus does not view physical tribulation as a threat to the saint’s well-being.

If we can understand and accept that the Lord Jesus does not always prevent our experiencing tribulation, imprisonment, fiery trials but that these can and do befall us, we are on our way to the interpretation of Revelation 3:10 and Luke 21:36. It is true that the Lord delivers us constantly from physical dangers and calamities of all kinds. Every experienced saint can tell of numerous occasions on which the Lord Jesus came to the rescue. Thank God! He can and does deliver us from physical harm and pain each day of our pilgrimage.

But it is true also that the righteous suffer many afflictions and disappointments, fiery tests and temptations of every description. Our pilgrimage is not an easy, comfortable one. The same is true of the life of the sinner.

If Revelation 3:10 and Luke 21:36 are not addressed primarily to our physical safety and comfort, to what deliverance are they pointing?

Both of these verses are directed toward our not losing our souls during the hour of testing but toward our overcoming the works of Satan and standing in glory before the Lord Jesus Christ. 

. . . And he said to me, These are they which came out of [the] great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14)

The prime concern of the Lord Jesus is the cleanliness of our robes, that is, the righteousness of our behavior. Are we keeping our conduct washed in His blood or are we living in sin and spiritual carelessness? 

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting [dissipation], and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34)

This is the concern of the Lord Jesus. He knows that physical suffering during our short stay on the earth does us more good than harm ordinarily. Physical suffering is not the concern. Suffering is not what He promises to keep us from.

The concern is our soul. Will we lose our soul because of the things that are coming to pass in the world and the abundance of moral temptation on every side? Will we become discouraged and cease seeking the Lord? Will we drift back into the covetousness, lust, and malice of the world? Will we choose Antichrist over Christ? Will we choose Babylon, the spirit of world religion, over the Kingdom of God? These are the true dangers. These are the temptations from which He promises to keep us, from which we can escape if we remain alert in prayer and guard His precious Word with diligence.

The years ahead will bring many changes to the world. Sin will multiply to an astonishing extent. Tremendous natural calamities will occur. Supernatural signs and wonders will abound, with many false teachers leading astray those who have not become established in Christ.

In some instances the deadliest condition of all will be the ready availability of sin and comfortable living. The opportunity to live comfortably in immorality has the potential to destroy many saints who might have stood fast in suffering. Remember, Christ has promised to guard us from the hour of temptation no matter what form that temptation may take.

The saints need to be alerted concerning the newly developed Internet computer system. Many pastors and believers will be trapped in Satan’s web because of the lust that will be presented to them on the Internet. Pornography is a powerful devil in the world of today and is associated with the taking of drugs and other destructive practices.

Are our hearts overcharged today with dissipation, drunkenness, and the cares of the present life? Or are we keeping the Lord’s Word with the utmost diligence, the utmost patience and endurance?

In some cases the believers are looking for a monster to come forth from the sea having the number 666 stamped on him. What is not realized is that the spirit of Antichrist has been in the world since the days of the Apostles, and many Christian people already are thinking and acting as Antichrist desires they think and act.

The meaning of 666 is man making himself a God. This spirit is in the world now. Many believers in Christ already are caught up in the materialism and humanism so important to the antichrist system and so destructive of our soul’s welfare.

Antichrist is here now, and we have been caught by him because we neither pray fervently nor guard the Word of Christ with patience. Therefore Christ is not guarding us from the present hour of temptation. He is not guarding us because we are not guarding the Word of His patience.

During the next few months and years many Christian people will be brought into painful situations or intense moral seduction in which they will be forced to choose between Christ and Antichrist, between the Kingdom of God and Babylon.

Which way are you leaning now?

Jesus loves you with an exceedingly fervent love. He is offering to you His Divine power and glory. Through Him you will be able to escape all of the enticements of the world and stand triumphantly in the Presence of God and of the Lamb.

To insure your spiritual protection you must attend to His Word with great concern and self-control. If you do not, the Lord Jesus may send trouble your way in order to move you to a position of spiritual strength and safety.

The promise of protection is not to the careless but to the watchful.

We are not to fear physical suffering. The worst that men can do is to kill our body. Our goal is to enter eternal life in the Presence of God and it is to this haven that Jesus is guarding us and guiding us.

If we will choose to guard Jesus’ Word with great diligence He will choose to guard us with great diligence. Through His watchful care we will be enabled to escape all these things that are coming to pass on the earth. We will not lose our soul but we will believe to the saving of our soul. 

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (John 17:15)

Righteousness

Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. (Isaiah 32:1)

Next to the Lord Jesus Christ and our relationship to Him, righteousness may be the most important topic of the Scriptures. Without righteousness there is no Kingdom of God. The Lord will not work apart from righteous behavior. He has called His elect in righteousness and to righteousness.

A major goal of the program of salvation is the creation of righteousness in God’s people: first in an imputed (ascribed) right standing before God; then in actual character and behavior.

God’s goal has not been attained in an individual until that person will make righteous decisions in every circumstance.

What is righteousness—this trait that fills the whole Scripture; this virtue that Christ loves so much?

Righteousness dwells in decision-making. The righteous person is the one who makes decisions that are according to God’s will. The unrighteous person is the one who makes decisions that are not according to God’s will.

The Kingdom of God is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17).

Perhaps the best definition of righteousness to be found in Scripture is Micah 6:8: 

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to practice righteousness, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8)

Righteousness is righteous decision-making. God requires that each person in the Kingdom of God behave righteously. This means he acts justly, he loves mercy, and he walks humbly with God. This is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

First of all, the believer in Christ must act justly. Cheating, lying, stealing have no place whatever in the Kingdom of God. The Christian who cheats, who lies, who steals may be naming the name of Christ; but as long as he is practicing these acts of injustice he is living outside the Kingdom of God.

The people of the Lord are to deal equitably in all business, whether they are working with fellow Christians or with the unsaved. Saints tell the truth. The followers of Christ are to be scrupulously honest in all their business. Honest dealing is an aspect of righteousness and is more important to the Lord Jesus than religious and church activities. 

A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight. (Proverbs 11:1)

A Christian who cheats, who lies, who steals, who deliberately leans toward that which is devious, slippery, hard to pinpoint, cunning, treacherous, not dependable, misleading, is not living in the Kingdom of God. Also, he is not bearing a true witness of Christ no matter what he states with his mouth concerning salvation in Christ.

Can we cheat someone and then lead them to Christ? What is the world’s opinion of the assembling of believers who cheat, who lie, who steal, who cannot be trusted? If such an assembling is not willing to repent it would be far better for it to disband for it is an abomination to God and to man.

The love of mercy is another important part of the image of God, in whose image we are being created. God loves mercy. He Himself does not sin but He is merciful toward those who do.

We Christians do sin—many times. Yet, we often are unmerciful toward our fellow believers as well as toward the unbelievers. We are harsh, vengeful, angry, holding people to strict account for every infraction we notice.

When someone has caused us pain, and we cannot find it in our heart to forgive him or her, especially when they are asking for forgiveness, we are behaving unmercifully and unrighteously.

The righteous person forgives, covering human frailties and faults with the cloak of mercy. He is slow to anger, quick to forgive, always attempting to put matters in the best light for everyone’s sake. Such is the way of righteousness.

Many so-called believers are hard of heart, being filled with avarice, meanness, bitterness, and hatred. Why is this? It is because they have been taught that the Lord Jesus is their ticket out of Hell and admission to Heaven no matter how they behave. The current Christian teaching presents a lawless grace that often does not result in new creations of righteous behavior.

Walking humbly with God is the true meaning of the expression, "The just shall live by faith." 

Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just [righteous] shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)

The righteous shall live by his faith.

Each person on the earth continually is making a choice as to how he or she will maintain physical survival and security, will attain pleasure and joy, and will accomplish fruitfulness and enduring, worthwhile achievement. These are the three areas of motive and behavior found in the healthy human personality.

There are two different ways in which we can attempt to attain security, joy, and achievement. We can attain and maintain them through our own pride and abilities, especially with the accumulation of money, or we can walk humbly with God, trusting Him for our security, joy, and achievement.

To choose to ignore God and to conduct our own life apart from God is unrighteousness. To choose to submit to God’s will in all three areas of our personality and life is righteousness in the sight of God.

What is righteous behavior in the believer, from the Lord’s viewpoint?

First, to think, speak, and act in an honest, upright, straightforward, truthful attitude before God and man.

Second, to treat other people in a kindly, forgiving manner.

Third, to choose to look to God and submit to His will in obtaining material security, in seeking joy and happiness, and in attempting to enlarge our realm of influence and accomplish something enduring and worthwhile in life. 

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

The purpose of God under both the old covenant and the new covenant is to create people who make their decisions according to God’s will. He is bringing forth such people for the world to behold by creating Christ in every aspect of their personality. This is what salvation is !

Death rather than life comes by the Law of Moses because of our sinful nature. The Law is the Divine agent to bring us to Christ.

When Christ becomes central in all that we are, all that we think, all that we say, all that we do, we behave righteously in our personality, our thinking, our speaking, our actions.

The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Righteousness brings God’s peace to us. The wicked never possess peace. Peace brings joy to us, peace being an important element of joy. But first of all must come righteousness; for everything in the Kingdom of God depends on our behaving righteously in the sight of God.

Under the new covenant, the Christian covenant, there are two kinds of righteousness. It is important that we understand the difference between the two when we are studying the Scriptures.

The first kind of righteousness is that which God ascribes freely to the human being who places his faith in Christ but who as yet is making many decisions in his behavior that are contrary to God’s will.

The freely ascribed righteousness given to the repenting sinner through his faith in Christ is an ascribed righteousness based on the atonement made by the shedding of the blood of Christ. Ascribed, imputed righteousness is explained by the Apostle Paul in Chapters Three through Five of the Book of Romans.

The second kind of righteousness is found in the human being who, through the grace given to him in Christ, is actually behaving according to God’s will. Righteous behavior is discussed throughout the Scriptures and summed up in Micah 6:8. The necessity and the power for righteous living are explained by the Apostle Paul in Chapters Six through Eight of the Book of Romans.

The first kind of righteousness, ascribed righteousness, is the righteousness of Christ Himself placed to the account of the sinner who comes to Christ for forgiveness and transformation.

The second kind of righteousness, actual righteous behavior, is produced by the wisdom and power that come from Christ through the Holy Spirit so that we grow every day in the ability to distinguish between good and evil and in the willingness to choose the good and reject the evil. This is what is meant by the expression growing in Christ (Hebrews 5:14).

Let us speak of the first type of righteousness as ascribed righteousness and the second type of righteousness as righteous behavior .

When the Lord ascribes righteousness to an individual it is for the purpose of bringing him or her into righteous behavior . If righteous behavior, the fruit for which God is looking, does not begin to grow, then the believer has received the grace of God in vain (II Corinthians 6:1; Philippians 2:15,16; I Thessalonians 3:5; James 1:26, Jude 1:5).

The purpose of God is to create righteous behavior in His people. The purpose of God has not been achieved when only ascribed righteousness is possessed by one of His elect.

Ascribed righteousness is the gift of God’s grace that brings us into favor with God when as yet our behavior is unrighteous. But ascribed righteousness does not fulfill the purpose of God in our personality and conduct.

We think with joy of the thief on the cross who was brought to Paradise with Jesus because of his recognition and confession of Jesus’ Divine royalty. Such ascribed righteousness is wonderful for the thief and we rejoice with him. But God’s desire to conform people to the image of Christ was not accomplished in that transaction.

The bells of Heaven ring and there is joy in the presence of the holy angels of God when a prodigal returns home, when a son is restored to his Father. The heavenly rejoicing takes place because of the great love of God for the souls of men. A sinner has come home. But the purpose of God has not been fulfilled when the sinner repents, although repentance is the first step toward accomplishing the Divine purpose.

At this point in our discussion the believer who trusts in Christ for his or her salvation may be stumbling. But let us go on to explain. A little reflection on what we know to be true about God and Heaven, and a thoughtful re-reading of the New Testament, soon will reveal that ascribed righteousness is given to us so we may enter the Divine program of redemption that ultimately brings about the purpose of God in the individual: that is, thinking, speech, and behavior that are pleasing to God.

The familiar Lord’s prayer itself teaches us that the coming of the Kingdom of God into the earth is the doing of God’s will in the earth (Matthew 6:10). This is not referring to ascribed righteousness but to righteous behavior. The Kingdom of God brings about righteous behavior.

Will the new world consist of believers who have been forgiven but who still are full of sin and rebellion against God? Or will the new world consist of believers who, being filled with God in Christ, reveal in themselves righteousness of personality and deed?

By righteousness of personality and deed we mean they act justly, show kindness and mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Will the holy city, the new Jerusalem, be filled with "saints" who have received ascribed righteousness but who cheat, lie, and steal; who are unmerciful and unforgiving in their attitude toward one another; and who find security, joy and achievement apart from the Lord Jesus Christ?

Do we truly believe that the inhabitants of Heaven and of the new Jerusalem possess ascribed righteousness but do not behave righteously?—that unrighteous people will be praising God forever because, while it is true that they have not been transformed morally, God by grace dwells with them in their unrighteousness?

There already has been one rebellion in Heaven against the rule of God. Would we bring about another rebellion? Will the Christian people behave in Heaven and in the new Jerusalem as they do on the earth?

The principal difference between Heaven and Hell is found in the personalities and behavior of the inhabitants of each area.

The nations of the earth will be deceived into unrighteous behavior at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. God will not save them "by grace." They will be destroyed by fire because of their deeds (Revelation 20:8,9).

No person will be admitted into the new Jerusalem (the holy city) on the basis of ascribed righteousness but on the basis of righteous behavior. This is not to say we earn admittance to the new Jerusalem. Ascribed righteousness is the authority that admits us to the path that leads finally to the new Jerusalem. If we choose to follow the path of life we will dwell in the new Jerusalem. But if we, after having accepted the atonement made by Christ, choose to follow the path of sin and rebellion, we will never enter the new Jerusalem. 

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:22,23)

He that overcometh [chooses to put Christ first in all areas of life] shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7,8)

The wall of the new Jerusalem will keep out all unrighteous behavior. That is why the wall is there.

No person will be permitted to remain in the Kingdom of God who continues to behave unrighteously. 

Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God . (Galatians 5:21)

The above passage is addressed to the "churches of Galatia."

We see, therefore, that the Kingdom of God does not consist of ascribed righteousness only but also of righteous behavior. Righteous behavior is expected of us while as yet we are on the earth, according to Paul.

The doctrine of ascribed righteousness, the foundation of being saved by faith in Christ, is based by Paul on Genesis 15:6. Abram and Sarai had no children. One night God pointed Abram toward the stars of heaven and promised him that his Seed would be as great as the stars in number. Abram believed God. God counted Abram’s faith as righteousness. 

And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

Paul bases his argument for ascribed righteousness on this incident. The Law of Moses was not given until several hundred years later. Therefore, Paul reasons, Abraham received righteousness, not by the works of the Law of Moses but by faith in what God had promised to him concerning the great number of descendants that were to be his.

To conclude from this episode that we are brought into the Kingdom of God on a statement of belief concerning Christ and it no longer is expected of us that we will begin to make substantial progress in righteous behavior is to depart from the life of Abraham, and also to contradict the major portion of Paul’s teachings concerning the Kingdom of God.

First of all, Abraham was a man who conducted himself in a righteous manner, as was true also of all the Apostles of the Lamb. God said to Abraham, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect" (Genesis 17:1). God did not say to him, Now that you have been given righteousness, Abraham, it no longer is important how you behave.

When reflecting on Abraham’s righteousness, God did not speak of his belief but of his deeds: 

Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. (Genesis 26:5)

Although Abraham did not always fulfill the laws of righteousness (Genesis 20:2), yet his obedience to God in the matter of Isaac stands as one of the highest mountain peaks of righteous behavior in the history of mankind, James himself bearing witness: 

Was not Abraham our father justified [declared to be righteous] by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (James 2:21)

"Justified by works"!

When Paul compared grace and works as the basis for obtaining righteousness (justification; acceptability to God), he was not contrasting ascribed righteousness and righteous behavior. Paul was not teaching that God desires to regard us as righteous and cares little for the manner in which we behave ourselves.

It is not possible to prefer ascribed righteousness over righteous behavior because it is by righteous behavior that we bring the Kingdom of God into the earth. The Kingdom of God is righteous behavior, not ascribed righteousness.

Paul’s argument was with Jewish teachers. Paul was informing them that the righteousness of the Law of Moses cannot be mixed in any manner with the atonement made by Christ on the cross. We cannot earn righteousness by keeping the Law. Christ has kept the Law perfectly and has given His own righteousness to us.

But the same Christ who gives His righteousness to us is now working in us to bring forth works of righteousness. If He is in us we are showing forth works of righteousness. If we are not being transformed in our behavior, if we are not pursuing righteousness, then Christ is not being formed in us.

If Christ is not being formed in us we are not overcoming the world. If we are not overcoming the world we are not heirs of the promises that the Scripture gives to those who overcome the world. Let us not be deceived: God shall not be mocked. Whatever a person sows he shall reap.

It is not possible to earn right standing with God by the Law of Moses, now that God has reconciled us to Himself through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

This does not mean, however, that the Christian is a person who is viewed by God as being righteous while he continues to cheat, to lie, to steal, to treat his fellow Christians with bitterness and hatred, who rushes about in his self-love without regard to the will of Christ for his life.

Should we conclude from God’s workings with Abraham that God intends to bless people because of their belief in Jesus while they continue to sin and rebel against God? Was Abraham a thief, a fornicator, a drunkard, a murderer, a treacherous, rebellious, self-willed worker of iniquity?

What can we say of Paul? Did Paul by his behavior and teachings suggest to us that the Christian is permitted to live in adultery, uncleanness of the flesh, stealing, lying, covetousness, violence, carousing? Is this what Paul taught concerning the Kingdom of God?

Yet, Paul is the apostle whose writings are the basis for the perverted doctrine that the emphasis of the Kingdom of God is on "grace," meaning that it is not essential how we behave ourselves provided we make a correct theological statement concerning Christ (Romans 3:8; II Peter 3:16).

Those who hold such a viewpoint are making the Word of God of no effect by their tradition. Truly, the Day of Christ will prove to be the day of surprise for those who fancy that Christ is approving their lukewarm, indifferent, fleshly, self-centered, self-willed, worldly "Christianity."

The next consideration, with respect to God’s assignment of righteousness to Abraham, has to do with God’s purpose. We have stated that God’s eternal purpose is to create people in the image of Christ, filling them with Christ so they are righteous in thought and deed.

When God pointed Abraham toward the stars and said, "So shall thy seed be," God was pointing toward Christ—for Christ is the Seed of Abraham. God always will regard the individual as being righteous who believes and obeys God as God is bringing Christ into prominence, into His central position in the heavens and on the earth.

The end result of bringing Christ into the center of everything is the total destruction of the works of the devil, and righteous personality and behavior on the part of all of God’s creatures. Such righteousness of personality and conduct is the product of the Divine program of redemption that works solely through the authority and power that God has given to Christ.

Paul warns us that we are not to attempt to obtain or increase our righteousness by adding the works of the Law of Moses, such as circumcision, to our faith in Christ. 

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:21)

Does that mean, therefore, we can continue to behave in the sins of the flesh because we are "saved by grace"?

Not at all, for being "saved by grace" means we are dead to our old sinful and rebellious behavior and Christ is living His Life in us. 

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

If we are in Christ we are walking in "newness of life" (Romans 6:4).

If we are walking in newness of life, if Christ is dwelling in us and growing in us, then four things are true:

We now are without blame in the sight of God.

We shall be judged to be not guilty in the coming Day of Judgment.

We are growing in our love of righteousness and in our ability to behave righteously.

In the Day of Christ we shall be given increased power to behave righteously, in fact, to rule with the crown and sceptre that enforce righteousness on mankind (Hebrews 1:8; Revelation 2:26,27).

After rehearsing his background as a Pharisee, Paul exclaimed: 

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (Philippians 3:8,9)

Then Paul explains what it means to live in the righteousness that is by the faith of Christ: 

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10)

To stand in the grace of God, receiving the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ, means to come to the full personal knowledge of Christ; to experience in ourselves the incorruptible power of His resurrection from the dead; to be pressed into full conformity to the mold of His death on the cross. Our old life is dying and Christ is living in us.

This is the true Christian life, the true grace of God wherein the elect stand. We stand by faith in the marvelous grace of being held blameless in the sight of the Lord God of Heaven. Both ascribed righteousness and an ever-increasing righteous behavior are our eternal possession because Christ is dwelling in us and growing in us. 

Attaining to the First Resurrection

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [Greek, out-resurrection] of the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)

The atoning death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the saints from the dead are the foundation of the Christian Gospel. They form the great hope that "whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

To a much greater extent than often is preached, the resurrection of our physical body and the accompanying rewards of power and glory are the "life" promised in the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Our confession of faith in Christ, when we come to Him for the first time in repentance of heart and mind, is our entrance into the race for eternal life. Our initial experience of salvation is by no means the fullness of eternal life, it is only the beginning—a firstfruits.

While it is true that we pass from death to life at the moment of sincerely receiving Christ, nevertheless it is also true and scriptural that we are pressing toward the attainment to eternal life—particularly eternal life in our body (see Philippians 3:10,11 above).

First Corinthians, Chapter 15, which may be the most important passage of Scripture concerning the first resurrection from the dead (the resurrection of the victorious saints, states that while the life Christ came to bring us comes first to our inward nature it also has much to do with the life that will enter our dead body at the return of Christ to the earth.

It appears that in our day the salvation of our spirit and soul has been emphasized almost to the point of totally ignoring what the Scriptures teach concerning the resurrection of the body.

Notice carefully: 

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (I Corinthians 15:22,23)

"They that are Christ’s at his coming."

Think of the statements in the above passage. Physical death, the death of our body, as well as of our spirit and soul, came into being on the earth through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

But the obedience of Christ reversed this calamity. Eternal life will be given to those who believe in Him. The Divine Life will come first to their spirit and soul. Then, at the coming of the Lord their body will be redeemed with eternal life. 

And not only they [the material creation], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)

"The redemption of our (physical) body."

First Corinthians 15:23 declares that the coming of our eternal life is in the future, being an inseparable part of the coming of Christ in the clouds of glory.

"Afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming." It is at His coming that we will be "made alive."

What kind of eternal life will Christ bring to the saints at His coming? It is the fullness of eternal life in our body. We understand this from the statements in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.

There are many passages in the New Testament writings explaining that if we would attain to life, that is, if we would arrive at the resurrection from the dead, we must walk continually in the Spirit of God and not in the appetites of the flesh. Resurrection life, while it will be brought into worldwide view at the coming of our Lord from Heaven, is a state at which we must be arriving now (Philippians 3:11).

This is not to imply we are being resurrected in our body in bits and pieces for that is contrary to Scripture (I Corinthians 15:52). But it is to say we must be attaining to the spiritual aspects of the resurrection on which our physical resurrection is based. If we do not take the necessary preliminary steps there is no possible chance we will participate in the first resurrection.

It is not that God will show His disapproval of us by not permitting us to rise to meet the Lord in the air. Rather, without the preparatory processes we will be unable to experience the change from mortality into immortality. Such physical transformation is impossible until the supporting spiritual transformation has taken place in us.

One of these all-important preliminary steps is that of learning to walk in heavenly places in Christ now. 

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:1,2)

How are we living now? If we are seeking the things that are above, if our attention, our love, our interests, our hopes, continually are focused on the Throne of God, on Christ who is at the right hand of God, then we are attaining to the spiritual dimension of the first resurrection from the dead.

But if our attention, our love, our interests, our hopes continually are focused on eating, working, playing, reproducing, buying, selling, scheming how to get rich and find pleasure in the things of the world, then we are not attaining to the first resurrection from the dead .

We may refer to the name of Christ from now until He comes. But if we do not do what He has commanded, the first resurrection, the resurrection unto life and glory, will not be a part of our future. All theological discussions in the world cannot change the smallest aspect of the spiritual realities of the Kingdom of God.

A second step to the resurrection from the dead has to do with our suffering and our willingness to await with patience the rest and joy that will come to us at the appearing of Christ in the power of His Kingdom.

We must be made worthy of the first resurrection and of the Kingdom of God, and suffering persecution and tribulation is a necessary part of the program. 

Which is [the persecutions and tribulations that the saints in Thessalonica were enduring patiently] a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: (II Thessalonians 1:5)

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)

The believer who is unwilling to accept the tribulations that come to him or her, who continually is looking for a way to escape unpleasantness, who refuses to carry his cross patiently, who is attempting to enjoy the world while serving Christ, cannot attain to the first resurrection from the dead, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord returns.

The true Christian life is one of patient perseverance throughout the numerous tribulations by which we enter the Kingdom of God. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. It is by prolonged testings and refining fires that we are prepared to be coheirs with Christ, that we are made ready for our positions of power and authority over the nations of the earth.

If we suffer we will reign. The cross and the crown go together.

The Christian is a stranger and a pilgrim in the world. He is seeking a city that has foundations. He is not of the world, of its systems of solving problems apart from God’s wisdom, of its fierce desire to acquire wealth in order to become independent of the Lord’s help.

The true Christian will be persecuted and will suffer in the world. But his hope is in the coming of Christ who will punish all those who have harmed the Lord’s witnesses. This is the true Christian hope, the proper attitude to hold if one desires to attain to the first resurrection from the dead. 

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (II Thessalonians 1:7,8)

A third step toward arriving at the first resurrection from the dead is the forming of Christ in us. 

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)

The forming of Christ in the saint is the most important aspect of the new covenant; in fact, it is the new covenant.

Everything else in Christianity is secondary to the forming of Christ in the believer. Everything else is scaffolding, a means to the forming of Christ in us.

When Christ has been formed in us, then the new covenant has been established in our personality.

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Only Christ, and that which has been wrought in Christ and is an inseparable, integral part of Christ, inherits the Kingdom of God.

Christ is the Resurrection. Christ is the Life. Christ is the Kingdom of God. As Christ is formed in us the Resurrection is formed in us. As Christ is formed in us the eternal Life from God is formed in us. As Christ is formed in us the Kingdom of God is formed in us.

The Christian who is so occupied with other matters that he is not attending to the development of the Life of Christ in him is dying. He or she is not attaining to the first resurrection. He is ignoring the very resurrection that he is hoping will be presented to him at the last trumpet.

The first resurrection from the dead is Christ. He is being formed in us now. If He is not, then we are not attaining to the first resurrection.

Either we are gaining the resurrection today or else we are losing the resurrection today. The Day of the Lord will not cause a change in our personality; rather, it will be an unveiling of that which has been wrought patiently throughout our pilgrimage on the earth.

Christ is formed in us as His body and blood become our spiritual life. It is that body and blood, that eternal life, that will raise us up to meet Him in the clouds. 

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)

Are you attaining to the first resurrection? Or are you dying because you are living according to the appetites of your fleshly body?

A fourth step toward the first resurrection involves coming out from the multitude of halfhearted believers and entering total union, complete marriage, with the Lamb of God.

Keep in mind that many are called into the Kingdom of God but only a few are chosen for the first resurrection, chosen to rule with Christ as an eternal, inseparable, integral part of His Person. 

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)

Each of us has been called to come up to Mount Zion, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect in Christ. How many of us obey that heavenly call and pass into the ranks of the chosen?

Whoever chooses to do so may become one of God’s stars, His sons who are wells of living water. Each of them marches every day in the joyous processions to Zion. They bring refreshing and blessing wherever they go. 

And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. (Revelation 14:3)

That song is the love song, the song without end that can be sung only by Christ and His firstfruits, His Bride. She is the perfect one, the "only one of her mother" (Song of Solomon 6:8-10).

One of the main characteristics of these who are Christ’s firstfruits from the earth, those who arrive at the first resurrection from the dead, is the purity of their personalities. They are not defiled with that which is religious but not of Christ. There is nothing in their spirits, no person, no attainment, no thing, no ambition competing for first place in their affections.

They are married to Christ. Nothing else and no other person has a hold or claim on their spirit. They are Christ’s and Christ’s alone. They are not of the churches but of Christ. Their relationships with everyone else and with all other things and circumstances are governed strictly by what Christ does or does not desire concerning them.

This group of people came originally from mankind. But having attained to the first resurrection from the dead they will be with Christ as an inseparable part of Him throughout the eons of eternity.

A fifth step toward the first resurrection from the dead has to do with the Divine harvest, with the separating of the wheat from the tares.

It is a mistake to suppose the Lord will gather into His barn, in the first resurrection, both the wheat and the tares. He is not going to do that. He first will remove the tares from the wheat and burn them. Then he will store the wheat in his barn.

The churches of today are filled with tares as well as with wheat. The individual saints have both the wheat of Christ and the tares of the devil in their lives. God will not gather the believer into His barn when there is adultery, lying, hatred, strife, envy, pride, greed, self-seeking, and every other abominable work in his personality.

Whoever would seek to attain to the first resurrection must purify himself of all unrighteousness (I John 3:3).

The tares must be gathered out of the Kingdom of God. Then the righteous will shine in the Kingdom of their Father, in the power and glory of the first resurrection. 

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13:30)

The Kingdom of Heaven, as it stands today, cannot be lifted from the earth in the first resurrection and ascension of the saints. The preaching of the Kingdom has gathered "of every kind." Some of what has been gathered is fit for the Kingdom; some is not.

Before the Lord returns and the saints are gathered to Him there must take place a separation between the vile and the precious, the unclean and the clean. Then the hoped-for eternal life will be given to us. 

So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, (Matthew 13:49)

From the above words of Christ we know that the wicked and the righteous will be mingled together until the end of the present age. By the term righteous is meant those persons who, having received Christ as Lord and Savior, are through His grace practicing the righteous ways of the Lord. They are not living in sin. They are being transformed into righteous, holy, and obedient behavior because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and because Christ is being formed in them.

A sixth step toward the first resurrection involves thrones and judgment. This step is the most important of all with reference to who will participate in the first resurrection.

The issue is that of who is in control of our personality. Seated on the throne of our personality is one of two kings. Either King Self is seated on the throne of our personality or else King Jesus is seated on the throne of our personality. This is the final determinant of participation in the first resurrection, and is the reason why suffering is necessary if we aspire to rule as a coheir with Christ.

It is impossible that any self-willed person can participate in the first resurrection. A self-seeking individual, whether or not he or she professes Christ, is a menace to the kingdom of Christ and God and cannot in any manner be entrusted with the power and authority of the first resurrection from the dead.

How, then, can we make the transition from King Self to King Christ?

God has a thoroughly effective solution to the problem of King Self. It is the cross.

"I" must be crucified. The prisons, embarrassments, sufferings, perplexities, delayed answers, frustrating circumstances that harass us continually are God’s method of dethroning Self and enthroning Christ.

The Christian who would avoid suffering, who "escapes" every time the Lord puts him in "prison," is preventing his own resurrection. There is no other way. Either we take up our cross and follow our Lord and Master or else we lose the first resurrection from the dead.

There will be no exceptions. We must "lose" our life so Christ can live in us. Christ, and only Christ, inherits the Kingdom of God. When we insist on "serving" God according to our own desires, then King Self remains on the throne of our personality.

The continued reign of King Self rules out all possibility of our arriving at the first resurrection from the dead.

Many are called but few are chosen. You have been called to the Kingdom of God. Whether you attain to the ranks of the chosen depends on you. If you serve Christ only as long as you are comfortable, as long as your discipleship costs you nothing, you will not be chosen. Unless you make seeking Christ the focus of your life, forsaking all else that you might please Him in all matters, you will not be a part of the first resurrection. 

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:4,5)

What type of person will participate in the first resurrection? 

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

Are you laying aside all else in order that you may attain to the first resurrection? 

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [Greek: out-resurrection] of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

Faith and Fruit

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Christ, even we have believed in Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16).

One of the fundamental teachings of the Apostle Paul is that a person is justified by faith in Christ, not by the works of the Law of Moses.

What does it mean to be justified?

To be justified means to be declared righteous by the Lord. Therefore in this discussion we will not refer again to the term justified, but for the sake of ease of understanding by the reader we will speak only of righteousness. What does the Scripture say about our becoming righteous?

To become righteous means nothing less and nothing more than to gain acceptance in the sight of God. If what we are and what we are doing at any given moment is pleasing to God and acceptable to God, then we have attained righteousness (right standing) in the Presence of God.

We are including here the right standing that we gain by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and also the righteous personality and conduct that result from our putting on the Lord Jesus Christ and making no provision for our fleshly lusts (Romans 13:14).

Indeed, righteousness is a primary subject of the Scriptures. Righteousness is the state of being in which we are pleasing to God, in which He receives us and blesses us, in which we have fellowship with Him.

Deep in the heart of each saint there is a hunger for righteousness. Because of the pressures, the dreads, the problems and concerns of life on the earth we begin to desire to die and go to Heaven. To die and go to Heaven is a wonderful release toward which we can look with joyful anticipation.

But to die and go to Heaven is not the deepest desire of the saint. The deepest desire of the Christian is to be righteous, to gain full acceptance in the sight of God and to possess God. That is the goal of every genuine believer in God.

How do we enter the righteousness of the Kingdom of God? What are we to do in order that our righteousness may exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees? (Matthew 5:20).

When we turn to the New Testament writings we discover what appears to be two separate viewpoints of righteousness. Paul, in certain parts of his epistles, seems to stress we are made righteous by our faith in Christ apart from any effort on our part. James, in his epistle, appears to emphasize attaining righteousness by means of righteous works.

Notice carefully Paul’s statement: 

Knowing that a man is not justified [made righteous] by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, . . . . (Galatians 2:16)

And then James’ assertion: 

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:24)

Paul, in some of his writings, emphasizes faith as the means by which we are received of God. James, also an apostle, also inspired by the Spirit of God, emphasizes works as the means by which we are received by the Lord.

The difference in emphasis shown here is one of several seeming conflicts in the Scriptures. Predestination and human choice is another seeming conflict. The unstable select one emphasis and reject the other. The saint accepts both viewpoints as being true and trusts God for the resolution; for he understands that the Scriptures are true in every part and cannot be changed in any manner.

There are no contradictions in God’s Word, only limitations on our understanding because of our lack of experience in God.

Both Paul and James, who possibly may be revealing here some arguments that took place among the early followers of Christ, based their doctrine on God’s dealings with the patriarch, Abraham. Let us go back to Abraham and discover why Paul could find a basis for preaching faith as the way to gain righteousness, while James could find a basis for preaching works as the way to gain God’s approval on one’s life.

Paul found great significance in Chapter 15 of Genesis. God directed the childless Abraham to consider the number of stars in the sky, and then promised Abraham his children would be as many in number as the stars.

Abraham believed exactly what God had promised and no doubt began to rejoice exceedingly, giving thanks to God and praising Him for all of these descendants. 

And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

It is not recorded that Abraham did anything to earn such a fabulous inheritance, although it is true he had been faithful to God to this point. God gave this marvelous promise to him. Abraham accepted it with rejoicing even though he and Sarah already were old.

Abraham’s ready acceptance of the promised inheritance was regarded by the Lord as an act of righteousness. God was well pleased with Abraham’s response of faith. The immediate, unqualified faith in God’s Word that Abraham demonstrated gained for him the favor and blessing of almighty God.

Paul’s doctrine of righteousness by faith is derived from Genesis 15:6. Beginning from Paul’s day, the important and scriptural doctrine of righteousness by faith has, in numerous instances, been turned into immorality. It has become an excuse for lawlessness because its necessary and scriptural balance, righteous, holy, and obedient behavior, has been neglected or even discarded as not being an essential aspect of salvation by grace through faith.

We must not forget that Abraham was a righteous, holy, obedient servant of God. 

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Genesis 17:1)

"Walk before me, and be thou perfect." Was God speaking here of Abraham continuing in the belief that he would have a seed? Is this what the Lord meant by "be thou perfect"? Probably not.

God was exhorting Abraham to walk in the land as an upright man, not beating his servants, not lying, not cheating his neighbors, not bearing false witness, not committing adultery. Abraham was commanded to add to his faith the virtue of godly character and living. And so are we. Godly character and behavior are necessary if we are to continue in fellowship with the Lord.

God comes to each Christian, after he or she has been a believer for a while, and points toward the need for upright, conscientious behavior in the Presence of the Lord.

If we are to use an action of Abraham as our model for receiving Christ by faith, then we are also to use the life of Abraham as our model for behavior after we become a Christian.

James, in his emphasis on works as a means of obtaining favor with God, stressed that Abraham was a sternly obedient servant of God. Let us look more deeply into Abraham’s behavior. Let us employ the incident to which James was referring.

God came to the believing, perfect Abraham and tested him concerning his willingness to obey God under very difficult circumstances. 

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Genesis 22:2)

This truly was a Gethsemane experience. We too, as Christians, are brought from time to time into difficult tests of faith and obedience. This also is part of our Christian walk in addition to receiving the Gospel of Christ by faith.

We all may know the story of God’s command to Abraham to offer up the heir of promise. This incident points out that faith reveals itself in our actions. Whether or not we truly possess victorious faith is demonstrated as the Holy Spirit brings us into arenas of extremely difficult decisions.

Consider God’s response as Abraham lifted the sacrificial knife: 

. . . for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. (Genesis 22:12)

What shall we say about Genesis 22:12: "now I know that thou fearest God"?

Faith in God, which is inseparably connected with the wholesome fear of God, is revealed in what we do. Who can know whether he truly possesses faith in God? Because we state that we do? The fires of testing and tribulation reveal the actual condition of our faith.

If we love Christ and believe in Him we will do what He says. We will keep His word. We will feed His lambs and His sheep. We can say we love Christ, that we believe in Him. But it is our actions that give final proof.

Did the rich young ruler believe in Christ? Did he love Christ? He thought he did until Jesus told him to turn over his vast possessions to the poor. No, he did not truly believe in Christ. He did not truly love Christ. Faith and love are revealed by our actions, not by our words alone.

Faith apart from works is dead. No person can be saved by a dead faith.

Today we have in Christianity what might be termed a "ticket to Heaven" doctrine. The ticket doctrine is based on Paul’s teaching that we are saved by faith and not by works.

One of the sources of the confusion here is that Paul was speaking of the works of the Law of Moses, not of righteous and holy conduct. But let us leave that for now.

The ticket to Heaven doctrine teaches that if any person will make a profession of Christ (and this apart from sincere, thorough repentance!) he will go to Heaven when he dies. We go to Heaven by "faith" and not by works, it is claimed. All that is required of the believer is that he does not renounce this profession. In some extreme instances the ticket doctrine adds that once the profession is made there is nothing the holder of the ticket can do that would deny him entrance into Paradise.

Many people are genuinely converted to Christ under the ticket doctrine, including its extreme form, and develop into truly fine saints. They receive strong assurance from the doctrine of righteousness by faith and this assurance enables them to emerge as victorious saints.

However there are multitudes of professing Christians whom we cannot regard with such confidence. They are living according to the appetites and lusts of their soul and flesh, disobeying God, and believing they hold a ticket that guarantees their entrance into the full blessings of the Kingdom of God, a ticket that cannot be made void by wicked conduct.

Let us see what Peter says to those who have made a profession of Christ but who are continuing in the ways of the world: 

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (II Peter 2:20,21)

"The way of righteousness"! "Turn from the holy commandment"! "Escaped the pollutions of the world"! These statements sound more like a way of living than they do like holding a ticket.

It appears from the above passage that Peter leans more toward James’ doctrine of righteousness by works than he does toward righteousness based solely on a profession of belief. This is true also of Jude, Hebrews, Revelation, and the First Epistle of John, and a number of passages from Paul’s writings.

The bulk of the writings of the New Testament, including the four Gospels, have more to say about righteous living than they do about pleasing God through belief. We are using the term belief in our discussion here rather than faith because there is a difference between belief, as the word often is used, and the faith that is a transforming grasp on God and His Word.

In some instances belief is nothing more than a mental assent to spiritual facts. We may believe that Christ is the Lord and Savior of the world. The devils themselves are aware of this fact. Yet their "faith" does not save them.

True faith is a grasp on God such that what we read in the Scriptures begins to change what we are, what we do, what we perceive, what we know, what we say.

Theological belief and knowledge will not save us. It is our personal, living faith in Christ that brings forth a new creation in our personality. The Christian salvation is more than anything else a new creation is us.

Consider what Peter is saying here. His words indeed are a serious challenge to much of what is considered to be Christianity in the twentieth century.

"Escaped the pollutions of the world." "Again entangled therein, and overcome." In no way could these expressions refer to belief only. They are speaking of leaving the behaviors of the world. Peter is stern enough to claim that if the "believer" lives as a worldly person he will end up in a worse condition than was true of him before he professed Christianity.

Notice also, "the way of righteousness"; and, "turn from the holy commandment."

The way of righteousness. There is a way of pleasing God. That way of righteousness is the way of holy living, the way of separation from the world. There is a "holy commandment" that the Christian must obey.

To be righteous is to be received of God . It is obvious from the New Testament Scriptures that being received of God includes more than a profession of belief in Christ. 

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (II Corinthians 6:17)

We see, then, that righteousness, the state of being received and approved by the Lord, includes both faith in God’s promises and also a change in our behavior until we actually are practicing the actions that are pleasing to God.

We cannot emphasize faith and reject the need for godly behavior. We cannot emphasize godly behavior and reject the need for faith. If we select one and reject the other we will make shipwreck of the Christian discipleship.

We cannot earn righteousness by any set of good works, whether of the Law of Moses or of any other religious observance or moral code. The Gospel of Christ is a Divine promise, freely given; and we are approved of God (righteous) when we receive the promise with rejoicing.

We are not approved of God when we attempt to earn what God is offering to us as a gift (Romans 5:15-17; Ephesians 2:8,9).

It is important to understand we cannot remain in God’s favor by accepting Christ and then living as any other worldly person. Such an approach to salvation is far removed from the teaching of the Lord Jesus and of His Apostles (Romans 8:13; Hebrews 3:11-14).

If we cannot earn the inheritance by righteous works, and yet are required as a part of New Testament righteousness to grow each day in godly character and behavior, how, then, do these two aspects of righteousness fit together?

Faith and godly behavior fit together in the new covenant concept of fruit —the fruit of the new creation

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)

If a person truly receives by faith Christ as his Lord and Savior, a new creation will be seen in his personality. The new creation is Christ in him. The new creation does the will of God by nature because it is born of God (I John 3:9; 5:4).

If—and this is important to understand!—over a period of years there is no transformation of the personality, then that individual is not in Christ. His faith is dead. He does not possess saving faith.

The God of Heaven requires the fruit of godly behavior as a part of salvation by faith. In fact, it is the godly behavior that is the proof of salvation and is the salvation. 

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7,8)

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2)

The two passages quoted above give us insight into the seriousness with which God views the bringing forth of Christ’s righteous Nature in the saints.

The healthy, growing Christian will bear the fruit of Christ-likeness in his personality. If over a period of time there is no change in the personality, no growth in righteous behavior, then something has gone wrong. Spiritual sickness is present. Spiritual death will occur unless steps are taken to correct the deficiencies.

What is the fruit of the Christian life? What is the evidence that Christ is abiding in us and we in Him?

The fruit is the moral image of Christ revealed in our personality (Romans 8:29). The fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, generosity, good will, faithfulness, teachableness, self-control, humility, the fear of God, brotherly kindness (Galatians 5:22,23; II Peter 1:5-8).

We accept Christ by faith, receiving forgiveness of our sins and right standing in God’s Presence.

Then we build on that framework of right standing by walking in Christ, loving Christ, praying, reading the Word, obeying God, assembling regularly with fervent brothers and sisters, giving of our money, forgiving others when they hurt us, and practicing all the other Christian behaviors. We do not earn righteousness by such behaviors but we do exhibit the Life of Christ in us.

God’s righteousness is the Life of Christ in us.

What if there is no evidence of the Life of Christ in us? If there is no evidence of such fruit then we are not abiding in Christ. Our faith is not taking hold on God as it should. Our "faith" may be little more than a mental assent to the facts concerning Christ and redemption.

Righteousness is that which pleases God. Part of new-covenant righteousness is faith in the Gospel of Christ. An equally important part of new-covenant righteousness is the change into holy behavior that results from the forming of Christ in us (Galatians 4:19).

If our faith is of the right kind, a change into Christ’s moral image will take place. Faith will bring about the desired results. The Seed of Christ will grow in us if we keep it in a healthful environment (Luke 8:15).

Paul, writing to the saints in Galatia, climaxes his explanation of the true Christian salvation by stating: 

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

The believer who embraces the Lord, sharing each day in the death and triumphant resurrection of Christ, reveals in himself or herself both the faith and the fruit that go together to form the true salvation that God has given to us in Christ our Lord. 

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation [conduct] and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. (II Peter 3:10-14)

Orientation to the Kingdom of God

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14)

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)

What is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God?

The Gospel of Christ is the Good News of a Kingdom coming to the earth. The Kingdom of God will establish righteousness, peace, and joy throughout the creation.

The Christian saints through and with the Lord Jesus Christ will inherit the earth and its peoples. Can you imagine anything more glorious than that?

First of all, let us make certain we know there is a Heaven, that Heaven is more real than the present world, and that the godly in Christ go there the moment they die physically (Luke 23:43; II Corinthians 12:4). The writer is anticipating with joy entering the Presence of God and the Lamb, and to reunion with loved ones, at the moment of passing from the body.

So while we are orienting the reader toward the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, we are not in any way taking away the hope of going to Heaven when we die. That hope remains firm.

It remains true, nevertheless, that the Christian Gospel is not a plan whereby we attain eternal residence in Heaven. Eternal residence in Heaven is not the goal of the Kingdom of God. It is not the goal of the Christian discipleship and pilgrimage.

Consider the following: 

God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40)

They, in the above verse, are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and the other heroes of faith of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.

Are these patriarchs and prophets in Heaven around the Throne of God and of the Lamb? Are they beside the crystal sea, casting down their crowns before God and His Christ, worshiping and adoring God continually? We are persuaded that they are.

Have they reached perfection by attaining residence in Heaven? Have they attained the goal of their pilgrimage? Have they found the "country," the "city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God"?

No, they have not. Look once more at the verse: 

God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40)

What is better than the present state of the patriarchs in Heaven? What is the perfection that is better than eternal residence in Heaven? Perfection is the Kingdom of God. Perfection is the bringing of the Lord Jesus Christ into every atom of the material creation.

The better thing, the perfect state, is union with the Lord Jesus. The union (marriage) of the saints with the Lord will be revealed in the first resurrection from the dead. In terms of the Book of Hebrews, the "better thing" is the rest of God.

The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, of the Kingdom of God, is the coming of the rule of Heaven into the earth. The Kingdom of God is Christ: Christ with us, Christ being formed in us, Christ dwelling in us, Christ central in all things in the heavens and on the earth (Ephesians 1:10).

Wherever Christ (or any saint in whom Christ is dwelling) is, there is the Kingdom of God. There is the rule of God. There is the power and wisdom of God to release the world into righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The entire Scriptures emphasize the coming of the Kingdom of God into the earth.

The resurrection from the dead, which is a major part of the entrance of the Kingdom of God into the earth, will take place as the Lord Jesus descends from Heaven, bringing with Him the perfected spirits of the righteous dead. The all-powerful Conqueror will descend from Heaven with a shout, the voice of the chief angel, and the trumpet of God. He will destroy Antichrist at His glorious appearing.

As part of the advent into the earth of the Kingdom of God, we who remain alive on the earth unto the coming of the Lord will go forth, along with the dead in Christ, to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. We then shall have resurrected bodies.

The hope of the Christian Church is the return of Christ to the earth in order to receive His saints, to destroy Antichrist, and to establish a righteous government on the earth in fulfillment of the words of the prophets of Israel (II Thessalonians 1:7-10).

The prophecies, doctrines, and admonitions of the prophets and apostles have to do with our being transformed into the righteous and holy image of Christ so we can serve God acceptably on the earth (Isaiah 40:10,11; Daniel 7:27; Matthew 25:31,32; John 17:21; Revelation 2:26).

It is obvious that our concept of the Kingdom of God will affect the seriousness with which we obey the many New Testament passages that exhort us to enter now into the transforming work of the Kingdom in us; for if we are waiting to die and go to Heaven we may tend to give little attention to the laws of the Kingdom of God.

Why pay attention to the laws of righteousness if we are waiting to die and go to Heaven, where our faith and strength of righteous and holy conduct will not be tested constantly; where we will behave in a godly manner without effort (we suppose)?

Perhaps the central issue of our discussion is this question: exactly what is the Kingdom of God? Is the Kingdom of God the place called Heaven? Or is the Kingdom of God a change taking place in us today in preparation for the invasion of the earth by Christ and the saints and elect angels?

Is the Kingdom of Heaven a place where we go or is the Kingdom the filling of the peoples of the earth, and the earth itself, with Christ?

Is the Kingdom of God a land beyond the stars where we will travel some day if we profess Christ? Or is the Kingdom of God the transformation of the world by introducing Christ into it?

Is our main objective to die and go to Heaven? Or is our main objective to press into the Kingdom of God, meaning we continually are bringing Christ into each area of our own lives and, as the Spirit of God enables, into the lives of those around us?

The Kingdom of God either is another country to which we will go some day or else it is the bringing of righteous behavior into the earth. Either we die and journey to the Kingdom of Heaven or else the Kingdom of Heaven is being formed in us now, and will be revealed in great power and authority when the Lord Jesus returns to destroy the wickedness out of this earth.

The Kingdom of God either is Paradise in the spirit realm filled with sparkling fountains and luxurious homes or else it is the conquering of evil in the spiritual and material realms by the Presence of Christ.

Is the Kingdom of God Paradise or is the Kingdom of God Christ? Heaven and Christ are not the same thing. Heaven is a place. Christ is a Person. One may say, Heaven would not be "Heaven" without the Lord Jesus. That is our point.

When Jesus came from Heaven and dwelled on the earth, the Kingdom of God left Heaven and dwelled on the earth; the resurrection from the dead and eternal life left Heaven and dwelled on the earth.

If the Kingdom of God is Christ, then to be with Him and in Him is to be with and in the Kingdom of God. Wherever Jesus is, there is the Kingdom of God. If Christ comes to this earth and reigns over the nations, and we are left in Heaven, then we are left without the Kingdom of God for it has gone into the earth.

Jesus does not promise us we will be in Heaven forever. But He does promise we will be with Him forever (John 14:3; 17:24; I Thessalonians 4:17).

If gaining Christ, gaining the Kingdom of God, is our goal, then we need to be pressing into Christ each day of our Christian sojourn. 

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10)

Paul to the end of his days on earth was pressing into Christ, into the Kingdom of God.

If our goal is eternal residence in Heaven we essentially are a death-oriented individual. We are holding our "ticket" and waiting for the Lord to come and take us "home," or to die and go "home." In some cases, those who are waiting to go to Heaven are not using the talents that the Lord of the harvest has given them. This is not wise.

The Christian who is correctly oriented to the Kingdom of God also regards Heaven as his homeland. He has been born from above, from Heaven. His heart, his treasures, are in Heaven above. He yearns to be with God, with Christ, with the saints and holy angels.

But something else is true of the Kingdom-oriented Christian. Each day of his pilgrimage he is pressing into Christ—into Christ’s death and triumphant resurrection. He is seeking to attain to, to arrive at, the first resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:11). He is being changed into the image of the Lord (II Corinthians 3:18).

What is the difference between these two attitudes toward the Christian life? The death-oriented believer perceives the spirit Paradise beyond the stars as being his or her eternal destiny. The resurrection from the dead is not supremely important. What is of supreme importance is getting to the heavenly home. Many of our best-loved hymns are written around this theme.

The Kingdom-oriented believer perceives perfect union with Christ as being his or her eternal destiny. The resurrection from the dead is of supreme importance because then his personality—body, soul, and spirit—will be whole again. He will be whole in Christ. He will be with and in Jesus forever, serving the Lord throughout the creation of God, but particularly in the earth because the inheritance of Jesus consists of the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth (Psalms 2:8).

The death-oriented Christian primarily is concerned with a change in location. The "Kingdom" Christian, while he also with great joy is awaiting the coming of the Lord or going to Heaven, whichever comes first, is concerned with gaining an ever-increasing grasp on the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and the power of Christ’s resurrection.

The reason the "Kingdom" Christian is so concerned with coming to know Christ in a greater way is that God has placed in his heart a love for the Lord and also a love for the nations that are Christ’s inheritance. He begins to share in the awesome love that God has for those people whom He has created.

The Kingdom-oriented Christian is becoming aware, from the writings of the Prophets of Israel and also from the present-day burden of the Holy Spirit, of the wonderful plan God has for the release, the conversion, and teaching of the nations of the earth—for the removing of all sin and unrighteousness from the world.

The Millennium is becoming real to the Kingdom-oriented Christian. The Millennium (thousand-year Kingdom Age) is the coming of the Lord Jesus to assume the rulership of the world. The coming of Christ in His Kingdom is near at hand!—at the door! This is the Good News that is to be preached to every man, woman, boy, and girl on the face of the earth, accompanied by signs and wonders of the Spirit.

Because the Kingdom of God is at hand, at the door, people are to repent of their unrighteous behavior, being baptized in water and confessing Christ as Lord and Savior. To be saved means to be kept from Divine wrath when the Lord Jesus returns to take control of the world.

The Kingdom-oriented Christian is being carefully trained and prepared every day of his life to bring Christ and His righteous government into the earth now, and in greatly increased measure when the Lord Jesus returns in glory with the saints and holy angels.

The death-oriented Christian hopes he will go to Heaven rather than to Hell when he dies, or perhaps will escape from the problems of this wretched world by being carried up to Heaven. What happens to the nations of the world at that time is of little concern to him.

The Kingdom-oriented Christian is on the pathway of righteousness that shines more and more to the perfect day when righteousness will fill the whole earth. The death-oriented Christian is apt to view the problems that come his way as being unrelated troubles we all encounter while we are on the earth. As a result, he learns little from them and tends to blame people around him or Satan for his discomfort.

The Kingdom-oriented Christian views each problem as a lesson in righteousness that the Spirit of God has brought to him for his strengthening in the Kingdom of God. The death-oriented Christian is spiritually "high" and then spiritually "low" as he waits for death to remove him from the present world.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament Scriptures are directed toward the Kingdom-oriented Christian. The Prophets spoke plainly of the day when Christ comes and establishes righteousness throughout the earth. The Prophets had nothing to say about the elect dying and going to Heaven. 

Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously. (Psalms 96:10)

Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it. (Isaiah 45:8)

For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)

Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:35)

Notice the emphasis in the preceding passages on the world, the nations, the earth. There are many similar passages in the Old Testament. They stress the coming of the rule of God into the earth.

Christ and the Apostles of the New Testament also emphasized the coming of the rule of God into the earth. 

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)

And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. (Acts 24:25)

Because the creature [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)

Revelation 11:15 presents the nature of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not the making of all new things, it is the making of all things new. God will take the kingdoms that are, including our own personality, and make them new by filling them with Christ.

The Kingdom of God is both internal and external. The Kingdom of God is in us, like a grain of mustard seed "that a man took, and sowed in his field" (Matthew 13:31). Yet, the Kingdom of God will come in power and great glory and we will see many "come from the east and west, and . . . sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11).

The Mount of Transfiguration was an advance coming of the Kingdom of God. 

Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. (Matthew 16:28-17:2)

Here is a picture of the coming of the Kingdom of God into the earth—that for which our whole Christian life is a preparation.

Christ is the Center. The location is the earth. The Old Testament and the New Testament saints are present. That which is physical (the Body of Christ) is transfigured by the Glory of God. Christ’s raiment was "white as the light," speaking of God’s righteousness that will fill the whole earth in the Day of the Lord.

A few verses later we notice the work of the Kingdom of God being carried forward as the bondages of mankind are released through judgment on the kingdom of Satan. 

Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. (Matthew 17:15-18)

The Kingdom of God is the righteousness, peace, and joy that are in Christ. As Christ is formed in us the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Kingdom are formed in us. We are able to bring release into the earth as we ourselves are released by the authority and power of Christ.

The material creation is waiting anxiously for the revealing of the sons of God—those in whom Christ has been formed and is dwelling (Romans 8:19). When Christ returns we shall return with Him and establish righteousness, peace, and joy throughout the earth in fulfillment of the writings of the Prophets.

How about you? Are you a Kingdom-oriented Christian or a death-oriented Christian? Are your experiences and faith preparing you to escape to a world without problems or are they preparing you to be a solver of the problems of the world through the power and wisdom of Christ?

We are to press into the Kingdom of God now. Now is the time to take the Kingdom. God is cheering us on. The Holy Spirit stands ready to exercise the tremendous power of the Godhead. Christ is the only solution to the bondage and confusion of mankind.

The inheritance of Christ consists of both the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth (Psalms 2:8). If Christ were to inherit the nations by taking them to Heaven the Father would not have added, "the farthest reaches of the earth."

The peoples of the earth belong to Christ and to the coheirs. Is the chief desire of your heart to bring the love and blessing of God to the nations of the earth? 

The Inheritance

Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. (Joshua 1:6)

The inheritance of the people of Israel was Canaan, the land of promise. As soon as the Israelites came out of Egypt they were pointed toward their inheritance, their goal—the "land of milk and honey." The geographical boundaries of the land of promise were set forth clearly. 

From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. (Joshua 1:4)

Many times in the Old Testament, Canaan is referred to as the inheritance of Israel.

What is the inheritance of Christ and His coheirs? What is the goal, the land of promise, of the saints? Toward what are we pressing? Are the boundaries of our inheritance also set forth clearly?

We understand that Egypt represents the world system of spiritual slavery. We know that God judged the gods of the world on the cross of Calvary and that if we will sprinkle the blood of the Passover Lamb, Christ, on our households the destroyer will pass over us and we will be saved during periods of Divine wrath and judgment.

We are aware also that the "wilderness" through which we are plodding is a place of instruction. We are learning many lessons as the Lord God humbles us and allows us to be deprived of what we so fervently desire. Although the wilderness is a series of testings and troubles we are coming to know the Lord and His ways.

Every test of our faith becomes a stepping stone toward the Glory of God. But if we resist the Lord’s dealings in this wilderness, insisting on grasping the "pleasures" of the world, then we are failing in the school of the wilderness. We will not be promoted to the glory that would have been ours if we had placed all our trust in the Lord Jesus.

Salvation from "Egypt" we understand, and now we are experiencing the trials of the wilderness. But toward what land of promise are we journeying? What is the promise of Christ to us? What is our inheritance ?

In order to find out, let us turn to the second Psalm.

In the beginning verses God describes the rebellious attitude of the nations of the earth. Then the Spirit speaks to us of the coming Kingdom of God: 

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. (Psalms 2:6)

The following verse sets forth an epoch in the history of the Kingdom of God: 

I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalms 2:7)

Prior to this statement, Christ was the Word of God. But then an eternal transformation occurred: "This day have I begotten thee." "Today I became Your Father."

God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son. We know from the Scriptures that Christ, the Word, was "in the beginning with God." We understand that the Word was with God and indeed was God. We know too that "all things were made by Him." Nothing was made that Christ, the eternal Word, did not make.

Now, at the commencement of the Kingdom of God, the eternal Word is to undergo an eternal transformation. Christ is unchanging. Yet, in becoming a man He has been set forth as the beginning of the new creation of God.

Will we ever comprehend such a marvel? God became a Man. This is the central fact of all history.

It is not only the Word of God who is seated in regal splendor on the highest throne of the universe, it is the Man who is above all. The cave of Joseph of Arimathea is empty. The human form, once so weary as to fall crushed in the dirt of the Way of Sorrows under the weight of the timbers of the cross, is now King of kings at the right hand of God Almighty.

The Father spoke to the Word: "You are My Son."

Then the Spirit of the Almighty spoke of a day: "This day I became Your Father."

"This day ." What day? On what day was the eternal, creative, life-giving Word of God born as the Son of God?

On the day the eternal Word of God became a man.

Christ was declared by the angel to be the Son of God when He was born of Mary.

Christ was declared to be the Son of God at His baptism in water when the Father spoke from the cloud.

Christ was declared to be the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit who raised Him from the dead.

Each of God’s sons, each man, must be born of woman, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and raised from the dead into eternal life.

Although none of us is the Word of God from eternity, yet we also become heirs of the Kingdom of God at these same three points: when we are born as a human being; when the Spirit of God comes upon us after our baptism in water; and finally and completely when our body is raised from the dead. 

And not only they [the material creation], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)

"The adoption (as sons), to wit, the redemption of our (physical) body." Our new inward man is born of God but our body will be adopted.

As soon as the Father declared that the Word of God is to be born as the Son of God, and therefore as a man by His birth from a human mother, the Father gave to the Son the prayer that will bring into being the inheritance of Christ and the saints—the Kingdom of God.

"Ask of me, and I shall give thee . . ."

Isn’t it true that the most powerful prayers we pray are those that God places on our heart? When the Lord God of Heaven invites us to ask of Him, then we know the prayer will be heard and the request granted.

The prayer that the God of Heaven placed on the heart of His only begotten Son is the burden for the Kingdom of God, for the land of promise, for the inheritance of Christ and His saints.

The Word of God on being declared to be the Son of God, a Man, immediately was given the following burden. This is the true burden of all saints, of all the sons of God: "I will give thee the heathen [nations] for thine inheritance, and the farthest reaches of the earth for thy possession."

The inheritance, the land of promise, "Canaan," the goal of Christ and His coheirs, consists of the nations of the earth, and the earth itself.

What is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is Christ doing God’s will in the earth. The Kingdom of God is the rule of Christ with and through the saints over all persons and things in the heavens and on the earth (Ephesians 1:10). The emphasis of the Scriptures is on the persons and things in the earth.

The Kingdom of God began with the resurrection of Christ and continues in the heart of the saint. The Kingdom of God will come to the earth when the Lord Jesus returns with His saints to rule the nations.

If it is true that the nations of the earth and the farthest reaches of the earth are the possession, the inheritance, the promised land of Christ and His saints, why, then, has it been true up to the present hour in the development of the Christian Church we have considered Heaven to be the inheritance, the eternal home of the saints?

The reason we have regarded Heaven as being Canaan, as our inheritance, is that our life in the present hour is in Heaven in Christ at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1-4). But when Jesus returns to earth to receive His (and our) inheritance we shall return with Him. Where Jesus is, that is where our eternal home is.

But what is home to us? For what are we yearning? For what are we being prepared throughout our pilgrimage on the earth? Where is the place of our rest, our inheritance in the Lord?

What is the meaning, the purpose of our life? Why were we called out of the world to become a member of the Church, the Body of Christ? Where are we heading?

Every person who struggles through the problems of the world has a dream of a land beyond the rainbow, a place of victory that makes the battle worthwhile.

But what or where is it? We call it "Heaven." But what is Heaven to us?

There is a place in the spirit realm called Heaven. But the eternal home of the saint is God Himself. God is our inheritance, our home. Since God in Christ desires to be among the peoples of the earth and to rule them in love, our inheritance as members of the Body of Christ is to participate in Christ in God as the Kingdom of God is established throughout the earth.

Christ is our home, our fortress, our peace, our security, our abode, our place of rest. Paul says, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord " (II Corinthians 5:8). We have been chosen to be with Jesus forever (John 17:24; I Thessalonians 4:17).

When we leave this fleshly body and go to be with the Lord Jesus we shall be at home. Then we shall be ready to enter our inheritance in Him and with Him.

If we are to understand why the nations and the ends of the earth have been given to Christ and His saints as their eternal inheritance and home, rather than streets of gold in Heaven, emeralds, luxurious mansions, and so forth, we must give some thought to the concept of what constitutes a home .

If we believe that pearls, gold, elegant estates will bring rest and joy to the heart of Christ or His saints, we understand neither the Nature of God nor the nature of man.

The only treasure that brings eternal joy and contentment to the heart of Christ and to the heart of His saints is the love that flows from God through Christ through His saints to other people. No other treasure begins to compare in value with such relationships.

This is why the Father, on the supremely momentous occasion when the beloved Word of God became the Son of God and Son of Man, advised the Choice One of His Heart to pray that the nations of the earth and the farthest reaches of the earth would become His eternal inheritance, His eternal joy, His eternal rest, His eternal home.

We need to give some thought to the concept of a home .

Let us say a boy was raised in a wealthy home in a certain city. There his family enjoyed all of the luxuries of the world and were knit together in love. The neighborhood was friendly and at peace.

After a while the boy grew up and was called into the military service. While he was gone, financial reverses struck his father and he was forced to sell the estate and move to a much more humble residence in a smaller town. There he established himself in business and the family once again was happy and content.

Several years passed. The young man was discharged from the service and returned home. He had such fond memories of the former estate that he decided to visit there before going to the small town where his family now was located.

When he came to his former house he found that the new owners had kept up the elegant appearance. The lawns and gardens were neat and flourishing. The shrubbery was trimmed. The house was newly painted. A limousine gleamed in the long driveway.

But when he knocked on the door an unfamiliar face appeared. He did not recognize the voice that fell on his ears. A visit to the surrounding homes informed him that the families he had known from his earliest years had moved away. He was a stranger.

Was there joy in his heart? Did peace and contentment flood his soul? Did the stately house, the lawns, gardens, shrubs, the limousine and chauffeur bring joy and rest to him? Was he home ?

Going to Heaven of itself would not bring lasting joy and rest to the believer. No paradise in the creation of God can bring joy and peace to any soul. It is only our relationship with God and other people that can bring joy and peace to us.

Then the young man journeyed to the small town where his family was living. As he walked up to the cottage he heard the voices of his family. He knocked on the door. When it opened he saw his father and mother, his brothers and sisters. There were cries of joy and loving embraces as he was made welcome. The family dog, now old and gray-muzzled, barked a greeting and wagged his tail as if it would break off. The familiar sights and sounds and smells told him he was home .

It is people, not houses and grounds, who make a home.

Every human being has a longing in his heart to go home. He may deceive himself for many years as he plays with the toys of the world. But no person ever will attain joy and contentment in success, in money, in things; nor would he if he managed to acquire all the money in the world and were the most famous of all the inhabitants of the earth.

The story of the prodigal son is the account of every person’s life.

When we are sick from attempting to satisfy our appetites with the glamour and tinsel of this Satan-filled world we are ready to "go home." We hunger for joy, for contentment, for security, for rest. But such can be found only in our relationships with Christ and with people.

We desire to be with God and our loved ones. When we die we want to be "gathered to our people," to use the scriptural expression. Apart from God and our loved ones there is no home, no inheritance.

We have been chosen to be ever with the Lord Jesus. That desire is deeper in our heart than we may realize.

We may think of mansions and streets of gold as the deep longing of our heart. An unsaved person might well be of the same opinion concerning Heaven.

But as we begin to grow to maturity in Christ we understand that mansions and streets of gold will not satisfy the hunger of our soul. The cry of our heart is to be at rest in the Father through Christ, and then to be in a position to express Christ’s love to other people. This is the land of promise toward which we are struggling while we are in the wilderness of this life. This is home. This is the inheritance.

What would Paradise mean to you if Christ and your loved ones were not there? If there were no person for you to love and help toward the knowledge of God, how would you feel? Would Paradise prove to be empty and cold? Would you be restless? Would all that the Holy Spirit has taught you be unused and wasted? Would your life be empty, void of meaning and purpose?

The Word of God created all things in Heaven and on the earth. But things do not satisfy. Did the Word of God lack anything after He had created all things? Yes, He did. He lacked companionship. He lacked someone to love and serve, and someone to adore Him and to appreciate His love—someone like Himself. Angels cannot provide that contentment of being.

God became a Man. But not to be by Himself, for there is no joy and peace in that. There must be others of His kind. It is not good for a man to be alone.

The Word owned all things, having created them. But love and companionship cannot be created. Love must be purchased with one’s self.

The Word of God had to become Christ—Son of God and Son of Man. He had to come to earth and be cruelly treated by people. He had to give His body and blood for the life of the world. He had to learn obedience to the Father as His only begotten Son. All of this was required if Christ were to gain the supreme inheritance, if He were to build an eternal home.

Then the loving Father, in His infinite wisdom, directed the prayer that inaugurated the Kingdom of God: "Ask of me, and I shall give the nations to you. I shall give to you the earth—all of it."

Why the earth? Because earth, not Heaven, is the home of all men, including the Son of Man. Heaven is not our home. This is why people resist death. They do not want to leave their loved ones or the earth.

The reason we want to go to Heaven is that we desire to escape the fears and pains of life on the earth. But in actual fact, the deepest cry of our heart is first for Christ and our loved ones, and then for the familiar earth, sea and sky where we were created.

How would you like to stand forever on a crystal sea in a place where there was no earth, no grass, no trees, no sky, no animals, no lakes, no children—nothing with which you are familiar? Would you take comfort in the angels and six-winged creatures?

God created man on earth because the earth is man’s home. We understand this in the depths of our soul. We are not angels, we are people.

If you possessed a glorified body and could appear and disappear at will, feeling neither fear nor pain, would you rather live and minister to people on the earth or would you rather sit in a mansion in Heaven?

Has God directed the Lord Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to request the nations and the ends of the earth for His inheritance? Is this the inheritance that Jesus desires with all of His heart?

Yes, indeed! And the desire burns with an intensity far beyond our imagination to picture or our senses to experience.

Christ wants the nations. Christ wants the earth. Mansions and streets of gold in Heaven are as nothing in the sight of Christ when compared with the love of just one person of the nations of the earth.

Christ created the heavens and the earth. He can have either or both for His inheritance. He has chosen the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth for His special inheritance (He is Lord of the heavens also). As glorified Man He already has authority over all things. 

Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. (Hebrews 2:8)

Why, then, is that same desire not in our hearts, since we are coheirs with Him? Why do we dream of moving permanently to the spirit realm?

Why do we not desire the nations of the earth and the farthest reaches of this planet for our inheritance, our home? Why are we willing to flee to Heaven and allow fallen angels and demons to inherit the nations and the earth? The fallen angels and the demons are more than willing to occupy the earth because they understand better than we the desirability of the inheritance.

Are we unwilling, as were the Jews, to fight for our inheritance?

The reason we cannot understand the nature of our inheritance, of the Kingdom of God, is that Christ has not been formed in us. We are still young in the ways of the Lord.

But as Christ begins to be formed in us He gives us a part of His love for the peoples of the earth, of His desire to come and rule the world in righteousness. Christ has to exercise patience in waiting for the Kingdom of God to enter the earth just as we do (Revelation 1:9).

As Christ is formed in us we become oriented to the Kingdom of God. There comes into us such a love for the nations, as the Spirit of God directs, that we can understand why Christ was willing to offer Himself as a ransom in order to purchase for Himself so wonderful an inheritance.

What is the inheritance, the land of promise, of the Christian saint? Our inheritance consists, first of all, of perfect, complete rest in God through Christ. Then, as God directs, our attention is turned toward the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth.

As God in Christ grows in us and the spiritual darkness is purged from us we find our "home" in God through Christ. Then we are at rest. Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, has led us home.

Now the love of God flows from God through Christ to us. But it does not stop there. The love of God in us begins to be directed toward the nations of the earth. We long for the return of Christ so we can receive our inheritance and begin to minister the love and wisdom of God to those people toward whom the love of Christ in us is flowing. 

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. (John 15:9)

First Thessalonians 4:13-18

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13)

What a hope we have in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! Our hope is that we will see our loved ones again; not in a vague, far-off dream world of spiritual fantasy but as solid, joyous, speaking, laughing people with whom we shall be reunited in the grandest fellowship hour of all time.

We are not ignorant concerning our loved ones who have passed into Heaven for a brief season. We understand that our families and friends are alive and well in the Presence of God and Christ and the elect angels. If they have been believers on the earth they are among the saints of all ages.

It is we who are alive now who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

The unsaved are filled with anguish when a loved one dies. To them it is an eternal loss of a relative or friend. But we Christians have the assurance that those whom we love are alive and are not far from us. They are among the great cloud of witnesses who surround us.

It is no tragedy when a soul goes to Heaven to be with God and the Lamb, and we ought to bring as much hope, peace and joy as we can into our funeral services. 

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (I Thessalonians 4:14)

Our hope that we will see our loved ones again is based on the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Every person who has died while abiding in Christ is with Jesus now. He or she is "sleeping" in Jesus. The spirit and the soul are in Heaven with the Lord. But the physical body is "sleeping" for a brief season, having succumbed to old age or sickness or some type of accident or violence.

Again, let us state there is no tragedy here. Regardless of the pain or the extent of destruction of the physical body, if the spirit and soul are dwelling in the Presence of God and the Lamb, the saints, and the elect angels, then no true harm, no evil whatever, has come to the one who has passed from our view. Not a hair of his or her head has perished.

There is no basis for prolonged anguish of heart and mind. The loved one is not dead, only asleep for a short period.

We shall see him or her again soon. The relative or friend will be recognizable, "human" as we have always known him or her, except that all that was undesirable and of concern to us will have vanished.

When Jesus comes He will not come alone. God will bring with Jesus those who have died in faith in Christ. Our saved loved ones will return with the Lord Jesus at His appearing. This is why we do not grieve for those who have gone on to be with the Lord. 

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [be resurrected before] them which are asleep. (I Thessalonians 4:15)

Paul is speaking here by the direct command of Christ, "by the word of the Lord." Christ always is especially diligent concerning the passages of Scripture that tell of His second coming because there will be much deception relating to this glorious event. The Scriptures are clear and we must be careful to follow the Lord’s Word exactly as it is written.

Notice the expression, "the coming of the Lord." Five verses later (5:2), Paul speaks of "the day of the Lord," obviously referring to the preceding passage. First Thessalonians 4:13-18 is the coming of the Lord, the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ. It is the first resurrection from the dead.

The coming of the Lord and the hour of the resurrection from the dead are found discussed also in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians and the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of the Book of Revelation.

We are speaking also of "that day" to which the Prophet Isaiah refers so often—the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ, the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.

The "blessed hope" of the Christian Church is the coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, and the resurrection and catching up of the dead and the living saints. Apart from this hope we are of all people on the earth the most to be pitied.

Our Lord is coming "after the tribulation of those days" (Matthew 24:29), and then we shall be reunited with our loved ones who have died in the faith. Then we shall be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord Jesus in the air.

We understand from the Scriptures that great tribulation is coming to the earth and that a Satan-possessed man will rule the nations of the world. The saints are called on to stand firm throughout all that comes to pass on the earth. God will protect us from Satan if we will remain stedfast before Him. The believer who patiently endures to the end of his or her life on earth shall be saved.

There will be some Christians whom God will keep alive throughout this entire period. They will be living on the earth at the time that Christ returns.

The saints whom God has ordained to be living and serving Christ at the time of the Lord’s return are a privileged group indeed. They will never experience physical death. They will walk into glory standing upright. They will be a company of Enochs who will be resurrected and will ascend to meet Christ in the air without having to lay down their mortal bodies for a season.

But in spite of this special opportunity they will not be resurrected before those who are sleeping. The deceased saints of all of history will be raised first. Then those of us who are yet alive on the earth will be transformed instantly, passing from flesh-and-blood life into Holy-Spirit life.

Then, perhaps after "forty days" (the Lord ascended forty days after His resurrection) of fellowship, greeting old friends, marveling together at the goodness and greatness of the Lord Jesus, we all shall rise together in clouds to meet the Lord in the air. 

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (I Thessalonians 4:16)

"The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven."

This is the coming of the Lord, the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ. Christ is coming from Heaven. Every eye shall see Him.

First Thessalonians 4:13-18 is the long-awaited coming of the Lord from Heaven, the blessed hope of the church. It is at this time, at the appearing of the Lord, that "two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." Where will she be taken ? She will be taken to meet Christ in the air . She is an "eagle," feeding on the body and blood of the Lamb. She will go to the slain Lamb.

When will she be taken? She will be taken "immediately after the tribulation of those days" (see the context of Matthew 24:41) but before the wrath of God is poured out. Lot, a type of the saved, was brought out of Sodom before the fire came down and destroyed them all.

Listen to the Word of God: 

Immediately after the tribulation of those days [the great tribulation] shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (Matthew 24:29)

It is not possible that the Lord Jesus can return to earth until the four great signs that announce His coming have come to pass. The Scriptures cannot be changed. If an angel from Heaven teaches some other doctrine we will reject him. Christ has spoken clearly and distinctly.

The saints in Thessalonica, two thousand years ago, thought that Paul meant the next event that would take place in the world would be the return of Christ. Many of them quit their jobs because of the imminence of Christ’s return. 

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. (II Thessalonians 3:11)

Therefore, in Second Thessalonians Paul told the saints in Thessalonica to go back to their jobs because the Day of Christ will not come until the worldwide revolt against authority has taken place (which is taking place now) and the man of sin has ascended to the Throne of God in the Temple of God in Jerusalem, sitting on the golden Mercy Seat between the wings of the Cherubim of Glory, declaring that he is God Almighty and there is no God except himself.

As we have said, some of the believers in Thessalonica were persuaded that Christ would return to earth immediately. With this in mind they had abandoned their daily work and were waiting for the coming of the Lord. It was fortunate for them that Paul instructed them to go back to work considering that two thousand years have passed since then.

The Scriptures inform us that Christ will not come until the worldwide revolt against authority has taken place; the man of sin has been revealed; the sun has been darkened; the moon has ceased to give its light; the stars have fallen from heaven; and the powers of the heavens have been shaken.

It is possible that these last four signs have a spiritual as well as a physical fulfillment: Christ has been removed from the attention of the world as being anything more than a human philosopher and teacher of the past (the sun has been darkened); the testimony of the Church has been overcome (the moon has ceased to give its light, being covered with "blood"—the persecution of the saints during the time of Antichrist); Satan and his angels have been cast down from the heavens (the stars have fallen from the heaven); and the spiritual thrones in the heavenlies have been shaken in preparation for the saints to ascend the thrones formerly occupied by fallen lords of the heavenlies (the powers of the heavens have been shaken).

The Spirit of God has carefully instructed us concerning the events that will lead up to the return of the Lord from Heaven.

God has a purpose in telling us of the things that must come to pass—events that will prepare the Church and the world for the return of the Lord. God’s purpose is that we may have an awareness, a vision, an understanding of history—past, present, and future. When we have a "vision" of history we can prepare ourselves accordingly.

God’s saints are not to walk in darkness. The Day of Christ will not overtake the righteous as a thief. Christ has told us what to look for. When we behold the worldwide mutiny against authority, the man of sin sitting in the Temple of God, the sun grow dark, the moon cease to give light, then we know that the coming of Christ is near—"even at the doors" (Matthew 24:33).

First Thessalonians 4:16 informs us that the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the chief angel, and with the trumpet of God. This is the coming of Christ of which Jesus spoke in Matthew, Chapter 24, the hour when two will be in the field; the one will be taken and the other left (Matthew 24:40).

Notice in First Thessalonians 4:16: 

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (I Thessalonians 4:16)

Compare the following verses with I Thessalonians 4:16: 

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:30,31)

There shall take place a glorious appearing from Heaven, a shout of battle from the armies of Heaven, the mighty cry of the chief angel, the trumpet of God, and the resurrection of the dead and living saints. All of this will occur immediately after the great tribulation.

When the Church and the world have been prepared, when both the wheat and the tares have come to maturity, the Lord Jesus will return. The tares will be bound in bundles to be burned. The wheat, the Lord’s saints, will be glorified in righteousness in the kingdom of their Father.

The coming of the Son of Man will not be a secret event. It will be as the lightning that comes out of the east and shines to the west (Matthew 24:27).

After Jesus made it so very clear He would not come in secret we are still teaching a "secret rapture." Will we ever learn?

According to Matthew 24:30,31, the Son of Man is "coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." At the sound of the trumpet of God the angels will gather together the elect of Christ from one end of Heaven to the other.

First Thessalonians teaches us that there will be a shout, the voice of the chief angel (perhaps commanding the angels to gather together the elect), and the trumpet of God.

The "clouds" are mentioned, and the gathering together of the elect in Christ. Christ will bring all of His saints, His elect, with Him. We who are alive on the earth at that time will be "caught up together with them."

This is the same gathering together of the elect mentioned in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew.

The "elect," as we are told so many times in the New Testament writings, are the people, both Jews and Gentiles, whom God has called out of the world and given to Christ (Romans 8:33; 9:11; 11:7; Colossians 3:12; Titus 1:1; I Thessalonians 1:4; II Timothy 2:10).

Christ is coming from Heaven and we shall be caught up together with all the saints from all time to meet Him in the air. But we must prepare ourselves today because the Day of Christ will not come until there has been a worldwide revolt against all lawful authority and the Satan-filled man of sin is revealed.

Jesus will destroy this man, the Antichrist, with the glory of His coming.

Great darkness even now is coming upon us. We are to prepare ourselves by prayer, by learning God’s Word and living what we learn, and by consecrating our lives, our loved ones, our possessions, to Christ.

If we are living carelessly and at ease today we will not be able to endure the circumstances that are coming. We will fall. But if we learn to trust Christ today we will escape the events that are coming to pass and we will stand in victory and joy before the Son of Man.

Every saint is to prepare himself and his household today by prayer, by assembling with fervent disciples, by behaving as a Christian should. We are to untangle ourselves from the cares of the world and begin to live as disciplined soldiers of Christ.

There is a spiritual battle that must be fought before the Lord returns from Heaven. Let us get ready so we are not caught off guard. 

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (I Thessalonians 4:17)

Paul is emphasizing the catching up, the gathering of the elect to be forever with the Lord Jesus. But we know that the catching up cannot take place until the elect have first been resurrected, have been reunited with their bodies in the state of eternal life.

Paul mentions the resurrection in another passage: 

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:52)

"We shall be changed." Those who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord from Heaven will be people of great faith, of mature spiritual life. They will be living in heavenly places in Christ. They will be required to hold steady with their eyes on Jesus as the processes of life in them are converted from flesh and blood digestion and metabolism into the life-force of the Spirit of God.

The living saints will be changed from mortal beings into immortal beings while they are physically conscious on the earth. Think of it! Then they will be able to join together in loving fellowship with those whose bodies (some of which have been in the grave for thousands of years) have just emerged from the land and the waters.

At the time the trumpet of God sounds, each person who professes faith in Christ will be required to make a decision. Either he will possess the faith and the "oil" to go to meet the Lord or else he will fall back in unbelief and disobedience.

The ability of each individual to respond to the resurrection trumpet will be determined by the preparation he or she has made before that fateful hour. "Remember Lot’s wife"!

"To meet the Lord in the air." We do not meet the Lord in Heaven. We meet Him in the air, directly overhead, where the glorious unity of the saints in Christ in God can be witnessed by the world (John 17:21-23).

Today Satan and his angels rule the earth from their thrones in the air above us. But Christ will assign His saints to their positions on those thrones in preparation for His descent on the Mount of Olives to take His lawful place on the Throne of David.

The purpose of the first resurrection of the dead is to change the occupants of the thrones in the air that influence the behavior of people on the earth. The wicked lords of the heavenlies will be cast down and the saints will take their place. Only the victorious saints are qualified to participate in the first resurrection from the dead. The remainder of the believers are not authorized or competent to sit in the awesome thrones in the air that govern the earth.

Spiritual darkness is filling the world today. It will become darker yet—much darker than it is today. An age of moral horrors is upon us. Both Christ and Antichrist will perfect their images in the personalities of human beings. The wheat and the tares will come to maturity side by side.

At the "midnight hour," the hour of greatest darkness, the cry will be heard: "Go forth to meet the Lord Jesus!" The slain Lamb will appear in the heavens above us. Those who live by eating His flesh and drinking His blood will be drawn upward to Him. Eternal Life will call and the eternal Life in the saints will answer.

Those who are filled with the spirit of the world, Christian or not, will be bound to the earth. They will not be able to leave all and rise to be with Christ. As Lot’s wife, they will glance backwards. That one final act of unbelief and disobedience will seal their doom. The eternal doors will close in their face. They will be put into outer darkness. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Those who are teaching the believers that they all will be caught up in their carelessness and lukewarmness to meet the Lord and return with Him to Paradise will be screaming in terror in that Day—and their deceived followers along with them. 

The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? (Isaiah 33:14)

"The sinners in Zion"! Not the sinners in the world but in the household of God! 

Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. (Amos 5:18,19)

We know that if we have been faithful to the Lord we shall be gathered to Him to be with Him forever. We know we shall be reunited with our loved ones who have passed away. We "comfort one another with these words" concerning the coming of Christ.

We have sorrow and pain now because we are not a part of the present world. We are girding ourselves for the final battle that lies ahead. We are not afraid; we stand in the Word of God Almighty.

Many of our fellow believers profess Christ but they are at ease in the world. They claim to be "Jews," to be the Lord’s people. But they despise those who are bearing their cross. They cannot understand why we are rejecting the world when they appear to possess both Christ and the world.

One day soon our Lord will appear from Heaven. Those who fear the Lord and trust in Him alone will be filled with glory. They will rise to be forever with the Lord Jesus and with the saints and holy angels.

The multitudes who have attempted to serve both Christ and money will be bowed down with their "treasures." They will not be able to rise to meet the Lord in the air. They have been disobedient to the Gospel and their disobedience has closed the doors of the Kingdom against them.

The Lord Jesus be with all who love Him in sincerity. 

Security; Pleasure; Achievement

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:10)

The eternal purpose of God the Father is that the Lord Jesus Christ become the Center of all persons and things in Heaven and all persons and things on the earth. Every work of God is moving toward the accomplishment of this one supreme objective.

There was in ages past a rebellion against God on the part of many high-ranking angels. Through the Christian Church, the Body of Christ, the Lord God is demonstrating His wisdom to both the wicked and the righteous angels. Every angel elected to remain in Heaven will come to acknowledge the wisdom of God Almighty and the supremacy of Christ in every aspect of its existence. 

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by [through] the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ our Lord: (Ephesians 3:10,11)

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

God has determined that His only begotten Son shall be the Center of all things in Heaven. The angels of God shall worship Him.

Now, let us think about the earth.

Each of God’s creatures on the earth, especially the saints, must come to accept the supremacy of Christ in all matters. It is not enough just to be saved from God’s wrath. That is important indeed. But the plan of God is that Christ become central . God has saved us to this end.

The issue of the centrality of Christ, which is the question of what God we are worshiping, is divided into the three major aspects of living. The Spirit of God deals continually with each of us concerning these three major aspects. They are security, pleasure, and achievement.

Every son of God is tested along each of these three lines. These were the three tests of the Lord Jesus in the wilderness. These are the three areas in which Christ overcame the world.

Men are tested by money, women, and monuments.

Whether you and I become a part of God’s eternal plan to fill Heaven and earth with Christ or else become a competitor of Christ, an antichrist, depends on how we respond each day to the three major issues of security, pleasure, and achievement.

Receiving Christ as our personal Lord and Savior does not immediately solve these three problems for us. Rather, accepting Christ gives us the key to the solution. It is of the greatest importance that we understand this thoroughly, for many today are "accepting Christ" apart from sincere, deep repentance.

Accepting Christ apart from thorough repentance is not in line with the preaching of the Apostles. A study of the Book of Acts will reveal that the Apostles always preached repentance as the means of obtaining forgiveness of sin. If we do not turn from our former life and begin to make Christ central in all we are and do, we have not entered God’s plan of salvation.

It is what we do after we receive Christ that determines whether we will become a part of God’s eternal plan to fill Heaven and earth with the Lord Jesus Christ or whether we will become a competitor of Christ in the universe.

Security, pleasure, achievement—these are the three issues of life.

When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden that was located eastward in Eden, God gave his new son and daughter all the security they needed, all the pleasure they needed, and all the achievement they needed.

But one of the lessons we learn in life is that the things that come to us easily and readily we may lose as easily and readily. Before we humans can hold things of value we first may have to lose them. It is in the labor to gain back our blessings that we learn to appreciate our gifts and develop the strength to hold them properly in God so they do not become gods to us. 

Security has to do with protection, a home, confidence in the future, a fortress against the enemy, privacy, shelter, warmth, comfort, independence.

Adam and Eve had perfect security in the Lord. Food, shelter, survival, were no problem in the garden of Eden. God had graciously and lovingly supplied their every need.

But sin, the great destroyer, entered. The man and woman were thrust out into a threatening environment. The issue of security emerged as the first of the three great questions of life. 

Money is the symbol of security. Men seek money in order to gain protection, a home, confidence in the future, protection against the enemy, privacy, shelter, warmth, comfort, independence.

Men seek money because they do not trust God. They worry that God’s promises concerning our material needs will fail. Money is our insurance against the failure of God’s Word; it is our guarantee of survival in case God’s Character is not all it should be. That is why no person can serve both God and money.

The soldiers of Christ’s army must draw on the grace of God until the issue of security has been mastered.

Will God provide our needs or not? This is the first great question of living outside the garden of Eden. The decision that faces us is whether we will place Christ as the eternal Center of the answer to this question.

Is Christ alone sufficient for our security on the earth (and in Heaven)? Is He actually the Lord who provides? Shall we indeed know no want and fear no evil?

No individual can serve both God and money. Money appears to make us independent of God; therefore, the love of it is the root of all evil. The conquering saint does God’s will whether or not he can understand how the necessary means for survival will be forthcoming.

The soldiers of Christ march forward at the sound of the trumpet. They trust Christ to meet their needs. They will not be stopped by their inability to see the future. They know what God has stated. That is sufficient for them.

Christ Himself is our Security. Christ Himself is our Guarantee of always having as much protection as we need, as much home as we need, as much comfort and independence as we need, as much money as we need.

Christ Himself is our Confidence in the future. He is central in the hearts and minds of the saints in the realm of security. In Christ, Eden is restored. Paradise is regained. 

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength, in whom I will trust, my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (Psalms 18:2)

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

The Ark of the Covenant, the chest kept within the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, reveals the Character of Christ and also the character of the mature saint. The articles placed within the Ark of the Covenant, the jar of manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s rod that budded, speak of security, pleasure, and achievement.

The jar of manna represents security. The mature saint has learned to trust God moment by moment for food, clothing, shelter, health, strength, and every other element of safety and well-being.

As we have stated, the three issues facing men are "money, women, and monuments" (another way of describing security, pleasure, and achievement).

We are associating women with pleasure and joy because they often go together. After a man thinks he is secure he turns toward the second great loss of Eden—that of pleasure

Pleasure is the realm of interest, stimulation, excitement, creativity, relaxation, gratification of appetites and desires. It also is the domain of worship.

The greatest pleasure any creature of God can know and, in fact, that God Himself can know, is pure love for another person.

God’s love pouring into Christ; the love of God in Christ pouring into us; the love of God in Christ in us pouring into other people—these are the motivations for the things God creates. 

There is no other aspect of life that approaches in significance the love of God in Christ in us.

God’s love in Christ in us flowing out to others is the highest priority of all. It is the only true basis for the creation of eternal relationships and things.

There is no other pleasure as great as the flowing of God’s love. God’s love is more powerful by far than death itself. It is the power that will raise the dead bodies of the saints.

Adam and Eve were driven from Paradise, and then the search for pleasure began.

The Ten Commandments, which were kept in the Ark of the Covenant, are God’s judgments against Satan and his followers. The Ten Commandments have to do with relationships, with morality. The Ten Commandments point us toward the holiness that God loves. Holiness is Christ, is oneness with God and other people through Christ, and is freedom from relationships with unclean spirits.

Satan and his followers are helplessly chained in the area of relationships. They and those who obey them are always in Hell, are always in unrest, frustration, torment, remorse. The wicked are driven by forces of darkness they cannot control. There is no peace for the wicked—ever, at any time!

Those who make their bed in Hell will find that true love, joyous love, peaceful love, is forever denied them. They will never again hear a child laugh or enjoy the frolicking of a kitten or gaze on anything else that is pure and beautiful in God’s creation. They never again will hear the words, "I love you."

No temptation and testing happens to any individual except that which is common to all men. Christ Himself is no exception.

"Command this stone to turn into bread!"

"Not so," responded the Lord. "It is written: man’s security comes from God’s Word. Man lives by the Divine Word."

"Here, let me show you the pleasures of the world," hissed the beguiler.

"Not so," returned the majestic Conqueror.

Then He shook off the snake of seduction into the fire of God’s judgment.

"It is written: God alone is to be worshiped. He is the source of all pleasure."

Christ endured the cross because of the joy, the pleasure that would be His to enjoy forever after His travail was accomplished.

How horribly bound people are as they slavishly serve the lusts of their own bodies! The Lord has compassion on us in our lowly, animal state. But true pleasure is found only in Christ.

It is only as we discipline ourselves against indulging in the fleshly appetites that war against the soul that we can be free of the pitiful chains of lust. Restraint produces freedom. Christ gives us the power of His own Personality so we can throw off these destructive urges. He whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

Christ Himself is our pleasure. He Himself provides us with all the joy we need. 

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (Psalms 37:4)

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, (Jude 1:24)

Creativity and pleasure come through women and yet can be lost through women.

Eve was Adam’s source of creativity and fulfillment of the Divine promises. But Eve was also the avenue that led away from God’s Presence, away from Paradise.

Christ has had to die for the sins of His Bride, the source of His fulfillment of the promises of the Father made to Him. Such are the wondrous ways of God.

A praying, devout wife is a pillar of strength for a man of God. A self-centered, self-seeking woman can ensnare the heart of the would-be conqueror and steal his crown from his head. There are "Sarahs" in the world and there are "Delilahs" in the world.

The Christian warrior overcomes through Christ the gods of pleasure. Christ is his chief pleasure. All else in his life is brought under the discipline of Christ.

Money, women, monuments. 

Achievement is concerned with enhancing our individuality, with accomplishment of purpose, dominion, the exercise of one’s will and judgment, the bringing of a vision into external form.

God’s vision is the Lord Jesus Christ as all Security, all Pleasure, and all Achievement in Heaven and on the earth.

What achievement was necessary or possible for Adam and Eve in Paradise? They had God Himself. God commanded them to populate the earth and rule it. The commandment included the necessary wisdom and power for its fulfillment. That is enough achievement for anyone.

Then Paradise was lost. But Paradise can be regained. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior we are given the key to Paradise. Whether we conquer through Christ in the realm of security, the realm of pleasure, and the realm of achievement, depends on us.

Mankind driven out of Eden was confronted with the issue of security. When man had attained a measure of apparent security he turned his attention to pleasure. 

That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Genesis 6:2)

The pursuit of pleasure always leads to wickedness and violence. 

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)

God’s response to the pleasure-seeking, wickedness, and violence was the flood.

After the flood came the desire for achievement—the desire to build a tower to reach to Heaven itself.

Man by nature is a builder, a doer. He is a little god. God’s purpose for man is that he become an integral, eternal part of God’s plan to fill Heaven and earth with Christ.

But religious man often is tempted to become a competitor of Christ, as happened to the horribly misguided Pharisees.

The desire for achievement was in the hearts of the inner circle of disciples. When they beheld the Glory of Christ on the mount of transfiguration they desired to build tabernacles.

It can be difficult for us to allow Christ Himself to be the Center of our achievement instead of attempting to "build tabernacles."

Christ Himself was examined intensely along the line of self-centeredness versus God-centeredness.

"Look at Jesus on the roof of Herod’s Temple! Hey! Jesus, up there! What are you doing? Are you going to fly away? Why don’t you jump off the roof and get back in your carpenter shop?

"Why don’t you leap off? Why don’t you dare to find out if the Scripture will work?

"Prophesy! Who hit you? Look at the king of the Jews! He looks a little sick.

"If you’re Christ why don’t you come down from the cross?"

Kings do not enjoy being mocked and they do not forget who it was that mocked them.

Men with drive and imagination set out to do something in the world. When they become Christians they set out to do something "for Christ."

Sometimes God allows energetic and able Christian men and women to perform valuable works of construction and service in the world.

But God’s servants always are more important to Him than are their works. Sooner or later the third great issue is raised: "If I remove all of your accomplishments from you, are you content to allow the possession of Christ to be your only achievement in life?"

To inform a human being who possesses drive and purpose that his achievement in life is to be Christ alone, that he will not be allowed to build a monument to commemorate his walk on the earth, is to sound the death knell. Hopes of glory fade. The cross is faced. The futility of the gable of Herod’s Temple is pondered.

Christ alone is our Achievement. He Himself is our Goal, our Accomplishment. He is All in all to us. To gain Him is our supreme objective. 

And the Lord spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. (Numbers 18:20)

So it is true of every member of the Body of Christ, of God’s royal priesthood.

The Apostle Paul was an individual of the greatest drive and purpose. He was headed for the top in the religious world.

Six years before his martyrdom, while confined in the barracks of the Praetorian Guard, he wrote: 

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (Philippians 3:8)

All those years of ministry and Paul still was striving to win Christ.

If the only achievement of our life is gaining Christ, is that enough for us?

Highly placed angels of ancient origin fell from God’s Presence, perhaps because of problems with security, pleasure, and achievement. To obey and worship God the Father was not sufficient for them. They were disobedient and proud.

God has determined that both Heaven and earth will be filled with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ Himself, and that which proceeds from Him, will be the security, the pleasure, and the achievement of every saved creature. Paradise will be restored and held by appreciative, capable saints.

The Christian saints, the members of the Body of Christ, are the first to place the Lord Jesus Christ in the center of all areas of life.

The Divine principle operates: that which we give to God will be blessed and given back to us as our eternal possession, now multiplied many times in glory. This is true of our security, our pleasure, and our achievement.

Those who choose to overcome the world through the grace of Christ in each of these three areas, making Christ the Center of all aspects of personality and behavior, will be seated with Christ on His throne.

The throne of Christ is the origin of all security, all pleasure, all achievement.

Each soldier of Christ’s army who allows Christ to be his security, his pleasure, and his achievement, will touch the world today as it has never been touched in all previous history. To that man or woman will be given the fullness of the glory of the Kingdom of God throughout the ages to come. 

The Inner Resurrection

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [Greek, out-resurrection] of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, anointed by the Holy Spirit, went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, and then was slain because of the murderous hatred of envious religious leaders. His death on the cross was an offering to God, an atonement for our sins.

Then Christ was raised physically from the dead. His body walked away from the burial cave of Joseph of Arimathea. Christ is alive today at the right hand of God and through the Holy Spirit is able to be everywhere at once among all of His saints, both in Heaven and on the earth.

Christ is gloriously, imperishably alive.

But the fact that Christ is alive and at the right hand of the Father is not the issue of central importance in the mind of Christ and the Father. For unlike us, Christ possessed eternal life at the right hand of the Father from eternity. He was eternally alive before He was born of Mary.

Christ was in Heaven before He was born. Also He appeared many times on the earth. Christ is the "Lord" who called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees. Christ is the Creator who convinced Job of his frailties. Christ is the "I Am" who appeared to Moses; who dwelled in Glory between the golden wings of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies.

Christ has always possessed eternal resurrection life. It is no new or surprising circumstance that He is alive. The eternal purpose of God has not been accomplished in the fact that Christ is eternally alive at His right hand. There has been one change, however. Christ now is resurrected Man . He is the Firstborn of man from the dead.

The issue of central importance in the mind of Christ and the Father is the resurrection of the saints, of the Body of Christ, of the Church, of the Bride of the Lamb. This is the eternal purpose of God in Christ.

Let us keep in mind that all that we say in this paper is based on the atoning death and triumphant, bodily resurrection of Christ.

The resurrection of the saints is of monumental importance in the eyes of Christ. That Christ Himself is alive forever is merely reestablishing what always has been true.

God already has raised Christ from the dead. That resurrection is the foundation of the Christian redemption. But it is the resurrection of Christ in our heart that is to be the focus of our attention.

Our resurrection is Christ. We are part of His resurrection. He is alive in us . His resurrection from the dead is magnified in us. This is the aspect of His own resurrection that Christ desires. He is seeking to show His Life in us. The world will behold the risen Christ in us.

There are two principal aspects of our resurrection: (1) the outer resurrection; and (2) the inner resurrection.

The outer resurrection.

The inner resurrection.

We will speak first of the outer resurrection. 

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:52)

The "change" spoken of here is much more than the healing of our dead body, as in the case of Lazarus or the son of the widow of Nain.

The raising of the dead is the eternalizing and glorifying of our mortal body so we will possess the same powers and abilities that Jesus demonstrated during the month and ten days between His resurrection and His ascension.

How wonderful it will be to be able to live on the earth and yet not be subject to fear, dread, pain or any other physical, emotional, or mental limitation!

Paul groaned for the redemption of his mortal body. Paul desired to be set free from sin, from death. He wanted to be released so he could obey the laws of righteousness and also, no doubt, to continue his service to Christ apart from the chains of the physical body. 

And not only they [the material creation], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)

How glorious will be the day when we have been set free from the shortcomings and bondages of the physical body, the body of sin and death!

This will be an instantaneous miracle. We will be changed into imperishable life in an incorruptible body. The change will take place in a moment, in the "twinkling of an eye."

This is the outer resurrection. It will occur in the future when the Lord Jesus returns to gather us to Himself.

But what about the inner resurrection—that to which we are to be giving our attention today?

The inner resurrection has two dimensions: (1) the forming of Christ in us; and (2) the abiding of Christ in us. In all aspects of our resurrection from the dead, Christ is central.

The forming of Christ in us.

The abiding of Christ in us.

Apart from a successful inner resurrection there can be no successful outer resurrection. The Lord will not place an imperishable body on a sinful, rebellious, self-willed soul who is living and behaving far from the Lord in an ungodly, unchristian manner.

The Scriptures appear to teach that it is possible to be saved from wrath even though the individual has not been successful in overcoming sin and self-will. But no resurrection has taken place in this instance. 

If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (I Corinthians 3:15)

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 5:5)

Christ has not risen in the believer mentioned above although he or she has been saved from the Divine wrath.

Adam and Eve were not permitted to partake of the tree of life after they had sinned. Why not? Not only because of their guilt but also because through their sin they had lost faith in God. If God had allowed them to eat of the tree of life they would have been doomed to eternal life in the flesh in a state of rebellion against God.

So it is that we have the guilt of our sin removed when we turn away from the world and receive Christ, believing in Him. But in order to eat of the tree of life, that is, to begin to gain inner resurrection life and the resulting outer resurrection life, we must commence overcoming the world, Satan, and our own lusts and self-will.

We can conquer the basis of death through the wisdom and power of Christ that come to us through the Holy Spirit. It is the conqueror who is given access to the tree of life. 

. . . To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

We are to be attaining to the resurrection now.

The inner resurrection is the forming and abiding of Christ in us. This is the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles that follows the feast of Pentecost (Deuteronomy 16:16). If we are earnestly seeking Christ today we are finding that the Spirit of God is moving us toward a greater experience of Christ in us than we have known.

The inner resurrection, which was being sought by Paul (Philippians 3:8-12, does not take place when we go to Heaven. It does not take place when Christ returns in the clouds of the heavens.

It takes place today through the travail of the ministries of the Body of Christ.

The writer has read many accounts, some new and some old, that record the experiences of Christians who have had visions of Heaven. It is our opinion that these are true visions from God and that they portray the spirit realm as we will experience it when we die physically.

But one fact is true of every such account: Christ remains external to the believer just as He was external to His apostles when He was on the earth. The saint who is having the vision sees Jesus, talks to Jesus, walks with Jesus, but Jesus remains an external Person. This is not the fulfillment of the new covenant (Colossians 1:27).

The fact that Christ is (apparently) external to the saints in Heaven leads us to believe that the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles has not been experienced to any great extent by the saints on earth nor by the saints in Heaven. They apart from us cannot be made perfect.

At the time chosen of the Father, Christ will enter the members of the Body of Christ in Heaven and on the earth. It is our point of view that this indwelling will take place before Christ returns to earth in the Day of the Lord.

We think that the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles is beginning to take place now. Are you experiencing the resurrection of Christ in yourself? Is He truly beginning to live in you?

We have stated that the inner resurrection consists of the forming of Christ in us and also the abiding of Christ in us.

The forming is the transformation of our personality as the Holy Spirit infuses Christ eternally into every atom of our being. The abiding is the actual coming of the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit to dwell forever in the transformed personality.

The first is the building of the Temple of God. The second is the occupying of the Temple of God.

Paul speaks of both of these, showing that the abiding is dependent on the forming: 

That he [the Father] would grant you [the saints and faithful in Christ], according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man [the transformation]; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith [the abiding of Christ in the transformed personality]; . . . . (Ephesians 3:16,17)

The first aspect of the inner resurrection is the bringing forth of a new creation—the eternal union of Christ and the personality of the Christian.

The second aspect of the inner resurrection is the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles, that is, the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell eternally in the new creation.

The first is the building of the "booth." The second is the eternal abiding of the Lord and the saint in the "booth," the eternally transformed inner man of the saint (Leviticus 23:40-43).

John portrays the resurrection of Christ in the members of the Body of Christ and the many "booths" (mansions) that Christ is preparing for His godly ones. 

A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. (John 16:16)

"Ye shall not see me." By this Jesus meant He would be crucified, descend into the interior of the earth, and then ascend to the Father. His followers no longer would be able to see Him.

"Again, a little while, and ye shall see me because I go to the Father." Does this mean they would see Him after He rose from the dead, when He ate and spoke with them? No, it does not, because their seeing Him after He rose from the dead did not depend on His going to the Father.

Does this mean they would see Him when He comes again in the clouds of glory, and "every eye shall see him"? Probably not.

Christ means that after He ascended to the Father He would be able to come to them through the Holy Spirit and appear to them by abiding in them. They would know He is risen because He is risen in them.

Notice how John 14:19 explains John 16:16: 

Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. (John 14:19)

This is the new covenant—the saint living by the Life of Christ. This is the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles. This is the resurrection of Christ in the saints

. . . Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:22,23)

When will this coming of the Father and Christ into the Church take place? It is our point of view that it will take place in the period of time just prior to the return of Christ from Heaven.

We know that Antichrist is coming, bringing great tribulation and desolation. Man seeking to make himself God always is an abomination that creates desolation.

What will Christ do for His Church in response to this "maturing of the tares"? Christ will enter His people to such an extent they will be more than conquerors. Christ who is dwelling in the saints always will be greater than Antichrist who is dwelling in the world.

The Old Testament prophets spoke of the Day when God enters into Zion, into His people, and destroys His ancient enemy. 

The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)

And the God of peace shall bruise [crush] Satan under your feet. . . . (Romans 16:20)

The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:16)

The above passage is God’s response to Antichrist through His Church. It is the power of Christ’s resurrection abiding in the saints that finally will destroy Satan and his works.

We must pass from an external fellowship with Jesus to an inner knowledge of Jesus if we would attain to the resurrection from the dead. 

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:20)

Today the world goes on its merry way rejoicing. Christ is not the focus of concern of earth’s peoples.

The saint who would know the eternal abiding of God and Christ in him must pass through a season (sometimes prolonged) of sorrow and weeping.

Why is this? It is because our personality, even though we have been saved through the blood of Christ, has not been totally reconciled to God.

In order for us to come to the fullness of the Tabernacles experience we must submit to the Lord’s judgment on us. There is no other way. Judgment always begins in the household of God, in those who are nearest to God. Much of the Christian Church of today remains unjudged.

There is an observance that comes before the feast of Tabernacles. It is the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27). The Day of Atonement is the Day of Reconciliation. Our total personality must be reconciled to God through Christ. This is the aspect of the marriage of the Lamb that is to take place now.

Christ must become central to our security, our pleasures, and our goals and achievements, plans and ambitions. There must be no part of us in which Christ is not central.

God deals strictly with each person with whom He would make His eternal dwelling. This fact is emphasized throughout the Scriptures. It is in sharing Christ’s sufferings that we are brought to the power of the resurrection. 

In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:8)

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: (II Thessalonians 1:4,5)

We are in travail. Christ is being formed in us. Our self-life is being brought down to death. We are decreasing, Christ is increasing. Pain, fear, sorrow, frustration, denial, are part of the process of Christ being formed in us. 

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. (John 16:21)

After we have suffered for a season God will give us the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Our sorrow will be turned into joy because Christ is being formed in us and will abide in us to a greater extent than we have known.

In this day-by-day outworking of Christ in us we attain to the resurrection from the dead, to use Paul’s expression in the third chapter of Philippians. 

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [out-resurrection] of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

Notice Paul’s emphasis on the forming of Christ in the saints: 

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)

Is Christ being resurrected in you today? If so, you are experiencing an inner travail as Christ overcomes and transforms each part of your personality.

The inner resurrection is taking place in us now. If we expect to participate in the first resurrection from the dead, at the coming of the Lord, we must experience the necessary inner resurrection beforehand. The current doctrine, that all who profess Christ will be resurrected and will ascend when the Lord returns, is incorrect according to the Scriptures. The first or out-resurrection must be attained. 

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [Greek, out-resurrection] of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

We will experience the needed inner transformation if we allow Jesus to have His perfect, unhindered way in our life.

We must forsake all other interests in order to have Christ formed in us and abiding in us. We must make Christ the Center of all we think and practice.

Our first, adamic personality is required to submit to the death of the cross. Then the new man comes into view, who is our personality reborn and filled with the resurrection life of Christ. The new creation is alive forever. Now we are able to know and have fellowship with the Father.

The Kingdom of God is the resurrection of Christ in the believer. 

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. (John 16:22,23)

Reconciliation by Fire

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:10-12)

There is a baptism with the Holy Spirit. There is also a baptism with fire. The saint is to be baptized both with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The baptism with fire is, as the context suggests, the cutting down of every tree that does not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness and the casting of it into the fires of Divine judgment. It is the fanning of God’s threshing floor in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the burning of the chaff with fire that cannot be extinguished.

It is this fire that reconciles the saint to God.

In Deuteronomy 16:16 we find the following commandment: 

Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: (Deuteronomy 16:16)

The feast of Unleavened Bread.

The feast of Weeks.

The feast of Tabernacles.

There are not only two works of grace in the Christian salvation, there are three.

The first work of grace is typified by the feast of Unleavened Bread. It includes protection through the Passover blood, repentance in water baptism, and the born-again experience.

The second work of grace is typified by the feast of Weeks, or feast of Pentecost as it is more commonly known. The second work is the filling of the Christian with the Holy Spirit. Some groups refer to the filling with the Holy Spirit as sanctification . Other congregations speak of the same filling as the baptism with the Holy Spirit and it often is accompanied by speaking in tongues.

The third work of grace is typified by the feast of Tabernacles. The spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles is the entering of the Father and the Son into the believer (John 14:23). It is the filling with "all the fulness of God" mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 3:19.

The feast of Tabernacles, was the third annual gathering of "all thy males before the Lord thy God." It was itself divided into three parts.

The feast of Trumpets.

The Day of Atonement.

The feast of Tabernacles proper.

All seven feasts are set forth in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus.

The believer is saved, baptized with the Holy Spirit, and then is to press forward to the spiritual fulfillment of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the feast of Tabernacles.

As soon as we are filled with the Holy Spirit we are to begin to move forward into resurrection life. Speaking in tongues is not a sign we have "arrived" spiritually. Speaking in tongues is the means God has given to us to learn to flow in eternal resurrection life. Speaking in tongues enables us to enter the "rest" of living in the Spirit of God (Hebrews 4:1).

The feast of Trumpets is celebrated after the feast of Pentecost. Tongues is the beginning of the "trumpet of the Lord" in our Christian life. It is our awakening to life lived in the Spirit of God.

The awakening of resurrection life in us, which is the result of our baptism with the Holy Spirit, is associated with the coming of the King, Christ, to us. The King’s coming is announced by the blowing of trumpets. It is the beginning of spiritual warfare. We enter the conflict that will culminate in God settling down to rest in us.

The goal of all the works of redemption is God in Christ settling down to rest in us. We are being constructed the eternal Temple of God.

Christ is the incarnation of God, the appearing of the invisible God in bodily form. Because Christ is being formed in us and will abide in us in His fullness for eternity, we also are becoming an integral part of the appearing of the invisible God in bodily form. It is our body that is the temple of the Holy Spirit. 

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (I Corinthians 6:19)

The goal of redemption is not to go to Heaven when we die, although the saints do go to Heaven when they die. The goal of redemption is, rather, the construction of the eternal dwelling place of the Father in Christ in us. The Father will become All in all: first in Christ, then in us, finally in the entire universe.

It is our point of view that God and Jesus will come through the Holy Spirit, prior to the return of Jesus to the earth, and dwell in us in a much greater measure than we have experienced thus far. However, it appears that the fullness of indwelling that is the Lord’s goal for us cannot be realized until our present body has been glorified. The saint who has attained to the inner resurrection of life will proceed to the resurrection and glorification of the body and be filled with all the fullness of God. He then will be a living stone of the holy city, the new Jerusalem.

The third great gathering of Israel was the convocation of Tabernacles. Included in the convocation of Tabernacles were the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and finally the feast of Tabernacles itself. The dwelling of God in Christ in us is the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles itself—the climax of the feasts of the Lord.

The fervent disciple who is experiencing "Trumpets," to whom the King, Christ, has come in order to establish total dominion over his personality, may find he has a strong desire for more of God. The Spirit is encouraging him to press vigorously toward a fuller apprehension of the rest of God, that is, a fuller realization of Christ abiding in him.

Now we come to the subject of this paper, which is reconciliation by fire. In between "Trumpets" and "Tabernacles" is the "Day of Atonement." The spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement in our lives is the baptism with fire of which John the Baptist spoke.

The term atonement has several shades of meaning. The definition that seems to best sum up the various shades of meaning is reconciliation. Therefore we will refer to the Day of Atonement as the Day of Reconciliation .

Why is it necessary for the Spirit-filled Christian to be reconciled to God? It is necessary because we are being made the eternal habitation of God. We who are filled with the Spirit are filled also with sin and self-will. The wisdom of God has placed the Day of Reconciliation as the final step before our being filled "with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:19).

The Day of Reconciliation indeed is a reconciliation by fire. It is Divine judgment on us. It is a "slaying" of us so we can walk with God. It is a wounding, a tearing down so the Lord can heal us and construct that which He desires in us. After we are baptized with the Holy Spirit we must be baptized with the fire of Divine judgment—the fire that eventually will reconcile us to the Consuming Fire.

There is no other pathway to the rest of God. It is "eternal judgment," a fire that cannot be extinguished until every particle that cannot exist in the Divine Fire has been burned out of us.

The fourth chapter of First Peter provides a study of the baptism with fire, which is the spiritual fulfillment of the Levitical Day of Reconciliation. 

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (I Peter 4:12)

Every true member of the Body of Christ will experience this chastening of the Lord. The "believer" who does not experience the chastening hand of God is an illegitimate child. His mother is the church but his Father is not God.

Notice how Peter interprets the fiery testings of the saint: 

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: . . . . (I Peter 4:17)

There is a suffering "according to the will of God." The purpose of such fiery suffering is to reconcile the saint to God. It is Divine judgment on all that the saint is, does, thinks, imagines, speaks.

The baptism with fire cleanses sin from us. It prunes out of our personality all that is useless and dead. It truly is the Day of Reconciliation, leading to the tabernacling of God in Christ in us.

The blood of the Lamb removes the spots from the wedding garment of the Bride of the Lamb. The hot iron of fiery testings removes the wrinkles.

Turning to Second Thessalonians we find the same concept: 

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: (II Thessalonians 1:4)

How does Paul explain the fiery trials, the baptism with fire, through which the church of the Thessalonians was passing? 

Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: (II Thessalonians 1:5)

"Which [persecutions and tribulations that ye endure] is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God."

"That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God."

If we are willing to endure our necessary sufferings in the present hour we will be able to rest with all the saints when the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed from Heaven (II Thessalonians 1:7).

Our God is the Consuming Fire. He calls us and then seeks to "slay" us. 

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him [Moses], and sought to kill him. (Exodus 4:24)

Why would the Lord seek to "slay" Moses after having called him to go and deliver Israel from Egypt?

It was because Moses’ son had not been circumcised. God seeks out the part of our nature that has not been "circumcised," that has not been brought into covenant with God. Then we are compelled, as was Jacob, to struggle for our life.

God is not merely a philosopher or a kindly teacher who guides us into a happy life. God is a fiercely possessive Spirit who makes a covenant with us by blood, by the sword of His Word, by fire.

Christian people are sure they know all about the Lord until He baptizes them with the reconciling fire. Then the believers are offended because God is not being "nice" to them. He is wounding; He is tearing down their works of fleshly self-love; He is demanding truth in the inward parts.

Blessed indeed is the individual with whom God is dealing in this manner. The results will be the "peaceable fruit of righteousness." Blessed indeed are those who are mourning because the Lord Jesus is judging the darkness in their personalities.

But woe to those who are making merry in Zion in the present hour! Such merrymakers have no idea whatever of the fearful judgment that awaits them when God turns His attention toward their condition. The coming of Christ will be a terrible surprise to the churches of today unless they repent. For those who do not repent, the terror of the Lord will be their portion as soon as they die. They are sitting in the seat of the scornful now but weeping and gnashing of teeth is soon to come.

In the fourteenth and sixteenth chapters of the Gospel of John, Christ speaks of revealing Himself to us but not to the world. It is our opinion that He is referring to the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles and that Christ will enter the members of His Church to a great extent before He appears in the clouds of glory for all the world to see.

His coming to the Church in celebration of the feast of Tabernacles will cause a "casting out of the moneychangers"—which always takes place when Jesus enters "His Father’s house." Jesus’ coming to us in this present hour will produce a baptism with fire. 

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: (Malachi 3:1,2)

When we seek the Presence of Christ in our life we are asking to live in the consuming Fire of God’s holy Presence.

There is an aspect of the Kingdom of God that needs to be made clear to God’s people. The sinner is justified by the blood of the cross—this we understand. What is not as clear is that the purpose of the atoning power of the blood is to bring the sinner’s prayer before the Throne of God so he may obtain mercy and Divine grace in his time of need. The mercy and Divine grace are needed if the disciple is to be able to follow the Holy Spirit in the rigorous work of sanctification.

Being justified initially by the blood is one matter. Walking with God in the program of sanctification is another matter. In order to walk with God, to dwell with God, we must walk in righteousness and holiness. If we choose to walk with God in holiness and obedience the blood of the cross will continue to cleanse us from all sin.

But if we are not seeking the Lord and obeying Him we then are candidates for fiery judgment. 

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (II Corinthians 6:17)

It is a false teaching that leads people to believe once they make a profession of Christ they have been fully reconciled to God. It is by coming out from the world and being separate, and touching not the works of Satan, that we make ourselves eligible to be received by the Lord.

No individual who is leading an unholy life ever will see the Lord or have fellowship with the Lord. It is the pure in heart who see God.

Many "Christian" people of today are sinners. They are hypocrites because they attend church and act as though they are living in God’s blessing and favor.

Will they be "raptured" to meet the Lord in the air anyway because of their profession of faith?

Never!

Sinning believers will never be caught up in a "rapture."

If you know of anyone who is in such deception, believing he or she can lead a careless Christian life and participate in the first resurrection from the dead, the resurrection of God’s kings and priests, it might be well to warn him or her. The Spirit seems to be testifying that the time is short. 

The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? (Isaiah 33:14)

Zion refers to the heavenly Jerusalem, the "church of the firstborn" of which every Christian saint is a member (Hebrews 12:22-24).

In the Day of Christ the sinning members of the Church will be terrified. The Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, is walking among the lampstands (churches) today. He is observing each believer.

Christ’ eyes are furnaces of fire. He is examining every motive, every action, every word. If we would "ever be with the Lord" we must pass the test of fire.

The question has been raised: "Who shall dwell with the devouring fire?"

What is the answer, the only answer? 

He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; (Isaiah 33:15)

The above verse sets forth the requirements for fellowship with Christ. Not one of these requirements can be waived.

The grace of God is not a substitute for righteous behavior. The grace of God in Christ is the means by which we are enabled to obtain help from the Throne of God—Divine help that empowers us to walk righteously, to speak uprightly, to despise the gain of oppression, to shake our hands from holding of bribes, to stop our ears from hearing of blood, to shut our eyes from beholding evil.

It may be true there is no greater error in Christian teaching than that which suggests the grace of God in Christ is an alternate route to fellowship with God; that we can have fellowship with God on the basis of a profession of faith in Christ rather than on the basis of righteous, holy, and obedient behavior.

The teaching that "grace" is an alternative to godly character has produced multitudes of spiritual "babies" who understand little or nothing of what it means to walk with God.

The wresting of Paul’s doctrine has produced the following condition: 

And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach. (Isaiah 4:1)

So it is today. The churches (seven women) desire to bear the name of Christ, to be recognized as belonging to Him. But they choose to eat their own bread, their own kind of spiritual food; and they will wear their own apparel, that is, they will behave as they please without regard for Christ’s standard of conduct.

The Lord’s people are "spotted" with the lusts of the world. They are lovers of money and material gain, which is an abomination to the Lord. Their garments are wrinkled with self-will and self-seeking. They are as children: they pout and complain if their circumstances are not merry.

The sufferings of the cross are shunned by them. They desire "prophets" who will speak smooth, acceptable things to them. It is a deplorable condition.

Does the Lord Jesus Christ have a solution to this problem? The Scripture indicates that He does: 

And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion [the end-time remnant], and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: (Isaiah 4:3)

How will the Lord Jesus purify His Church? 

When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. (Isaiah 4:4)

The prophecy has gone forth. It shall come to pass. In the last days the Lord Jesus will purify and set apart for Himself a holy Church. The unblemished Church will be selected from all groups of Christians. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches today!

The purified, sanctified Church will be the Body of Christ, the eternal Temple of God. It will be filled with all the Fullness of the Father and all the Fullness of the Son, and anointed with the Fullness of the Spirit of God.

This is the Witness, the Servant of the Lord of whom Isaiah speaks. The Servant of the Lord is Christ—Head and Body.

The Lord has come to His Temple today. Perhaps you have been called to be a living stone in the eternal Temple of God.

If so, God will reconcile you to Himself by fire. When your "warfare has been accomplished" He will settle down to rest in you for eternity. 

Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. (Hosea 6:1-3)

More Than Conquerors

Before the Lord Jesus comes and we are gathered together to Him, a worldwide revolt against authority will occur and Antichrist will take his seat in the Temple of God.

The Christians in Thessalonica had become excited because of the resurrection and ascension of the saints of which Paul had spoken in his first epistle to them. Apparently some of them had quit their jobs and had become disorderly, spending their time in unprofitable talk and gossip.

Therefore Paul wrote to them a second time. He exhorted them to settle down and go back to work, because certain events must take place before the Lord comes and the resurrection and ascension unite us forever with the Lord Jesus and with one another. 

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [the coming of the Lord] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (II Thessalonians 2:3,4)

Jesus spoke of the coming "abomination" of man making himself God and of the desolation that always results when man makes himself God: 

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (Matthew 24:15)

It appears that the Temple of God will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Then the current trend toward the attempt of man to be God will find fulfillment in a Satan-filled person who goes into the Holy of Holies, sits between the wings of the cherubim, and declares he is God. The Lord God of Heaven immediately will cause great tribulation to erupt on the earth because of such blasphemy. 

For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)

We understand there have been many antichrists in the world since the first century.

Why is it taking so long for a human being to boldly declare himself to be God, establishing his position with satanic signs and wonders? It is because there is an opposing force. 

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [restrains] will let, until he be taken out of the way. (II Thessalonians 2:7)

We can observe on every hand the signs of the working of the spirit of lawlessness. People are being taught in schools and universities that man is in control of the earth. The elevating of man over God produces rebellion—a despising of authority.

What force is restraining the full revelation of lawlessness and man-centeredness? It is the force of Christ through the Holy Spirit in the saints.

In order for the full maturing of the "tares" to take place the restraining force must be removed from the path of Antichrist.

If it is Christ through the Spirit in the saints who is restraining the full manifestation of Antichrist in the world, then the saints must be overcome in some manner if Antichrist is to come to full revelation. This is what will take place. 

And it was given unto him [Antichrist] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. (Revelation 13:7)

How will Antichrist overcome the saints and remove them as obstacles in his road to control of the world? One means is violent persecution, driving the saints from the cities of the world.

Speaking of the many tribulations and distresses that the saints suffer in the world, Paul states: 

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Romans 8:37)

Another means is deception. We know from the Scriptures that it is impossible for Satan to harm the saint who keeps his eyes fastened on Christ. Therefore in order to overcome us Satan must deceive us and gain our cooperation in our own destruction. This is what the Scriptures warn he will do. 

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (II Thessalonians 2:10)

Antichrist cannot deceive us if we cleave unrelentingly to the truth. The battle rages around "the love of the truth." Believers in Jesus can be deceived and overcome if they do not remain in the truth of God.

There are at least four great contemporary lies that have overcome multitudes of the saints by removing them from the truth. These four errors have nearly wiped out the power of the saints in our own day. Numerous saints have been overcome already. Antichrist is near to be revealed in his fullness. In some nations the Christian people have been conquered; and were it not for the current gracious outpouring of God’s Spirit in the "latter rain," the worldwide revival and testimony that even now is upon us, the end would be here.

God will purify to Himself a remnant in the last days, performing this act quickly in His sovereign wisdom and power, or else the Son of Man would find no faith whatever when He returns to earth.

The four great contemporary lies that have rendered the Christian churches virtually helpless in spiritual warfare are as follows:

The belief that God’s grace in Christ is an alternative to godly living.

The idea that God will not judge Christians.

The concept that the purpose of the resurrection and ascension of the saints is that they may not be exposed to persecution and suffering in the world.

The current emphasis on the use of "faith" to acquire material gain.

The first lie to weaken the Christian churches is the belief that God’s grace in Christ is an alternative to godly living, an alternative that makes the believer acceptable to God and brings him into fellowship with God even though he continues to be unrighteous, unholy, and disobedient in behavior.

As part of this error, the Gospel is being preached apart from repentance. People are told that being born again means only that they have expressed an acceptance of the blood atonement made by Christ.

A careful study of the Book of Acts will reveal that the Apostles did not preach that salvation comes through an acceptance of the atonement apart from repentance. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles preached that people must turn away from their sins in order to be saved.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to turn us away from our sins. If an individual who is about to die receives Christ, his many sins are forgiven. But in his heart he must have truly repented of his sins if he is to obtain salvation.

The Gospel of Christ is a Gospel of repentance. It is a false preaching that indicates all we must do is make a profession of Christ as our Savior. We must also receive Christ as our personal Lord, repenting diligently of our sins and worldly ways, in order to be saved in the Day of Wrath.

The second destructive lie, and it has penetrated deeply into Christian thinking, is the idea that God will not judge His people; that it no longer is necessary for the saints to work out their salvation with "fear and trembling"; that there is no need for any saint to fear the Judgment Seat of Christ because no believer in Jesus will receive the evil he has done in his body (II Corinthians 5:10).

The truth is that all people are judged in terms of what they have done while living on the earth. Some judgment occurs now and some after we die.

Judgment begins with the household of God. Those who are not of the family of God will be judged at a later time.

The closer we are to God the sooner we are judged. It is possible to go through the Judgment Seat of Christ now. If we will be diligent in cooperating with the Holy Spirit He will lead us to confess our sins. Then God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This is an eternal judgment. The sin that has been forgiven and put to death in us will not be mentioned at a later time.

The third widely held error is the concept that the purpose of the resurrection and ascension of the saints is that they may not be exposed to persecution and suffering in the world .

The concept of "escape by rapture" is taught persistently; yet it is not stated even one time in the Scriptures that the resurrection and catching up of the saints are for the purpose of escaping tribulation and suffering. Imagine—one of the most commonly believed Christian teachings of our day is not found anywhere in the entire Scriptures!

Neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever suggested a removal from the earth in order to escape exposure to tribulation. The Lord does give special direction to the elect during periods of danger. The Spirit of God on numerous occasions has delivered the saints from destruction.

Every Christian is to live in unceasing prayer. If he does, the Lord will warn him of danger to come and give him wisdom and guidance. This is why Christ exhorted us to "watch and pray." But the foolish, careless, worldly Christians will not know when trouble is coming and will be destroyed.

The resurrection and ascension of the saints are not for the purpose of fleeing Antichrist or the great tribulation. Rather they are stupendous acts of Kingdom power that will provide the most effective witness of Christ’s resurrection and Divinity ever to confront the peoples of the earth. Every eye will behold Christ when He appears in glory with His saints. At that time the world will believe that God has sent Christ and multitudes will be saved.

The fruit of the "escape by rapture" teaching is that the believers are not prepared to suffer in the flesh. Their faith has been weakened by soft living. Their determination to stand against the enemy has been undermined. They will collapse from fear in the days to come, losing their greatest opportunity to witness to the unbelievers. Can you see how the restraining power is being taken out of the path of Antichrist by the hope of a pre-tribulation "rapture" of the believers?

It is true that throughout the period of tribulation the elect will escape being harmed spiritually by the things that come to pass (provided they follow the Lord closely and obey Him diligently) and will stand in victory before the Son of Man. This does not mean that many will not suffer persecution and tribulation, for such often has been the experience of God’s elect.

But it does mean that the saints will learn to live by a miracle. Food, shelter, transportation, health, safety—all will be provided for the praying, believing elect. There are numerous examples in the Scriptures of the protection and preservation of the saints. Daniel in the lions’ den, the three Hebrew men in the furnace, Elijah in the days of famine, Jeremiah at the time of the conquest by Babylon, Israel in Egypt, Israel in the wilderness, reveal to us that God is faithful in protecting and providing for His saints in the day of trouble.

The difference between the above teaching and the concept of the "escape by rapture" teaching is that the protection of the elect is shown to be for a people of the Lord who are a praying, godly, believing, separated remnant. They all are God’s prophets in a day of apostasy. The only requirement for being caught up in the "rapture" is that the individual has taken "the four steps of salvation."

Also, in the above examples none of the saints was removed from the area of trouble but protected in it.

As far as we know there is not a single example of a witness of God being removed from a place of danger. Perhaps there is but we cannot think of it. Even Noah and his family were saved while riding on the flood of judgment.

The saints go through deep water and are brought through the fire. God does not remove them, He takes care of them in the midst of the danger. 

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (Isaiah 43:2)

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

"Having done all, to stand." "To stand "!

There is a difference between standing and flying away.

The doctrine of the protection of the elect is scriptural. It leads to godliness, prayer, faith, trust in the Lord. It brings a quiet assurance and confidence that God always is with us in the hour of testing.

The doctrine of "escape by rapture" has produced a multitude of believers who are at ease in Zion. They are at ease in Zion because they are under the impression that their faith will never be tested severely. They are to be treated differently from all the saints of Scripture and of history because they have made a profession of Christ. Yet today in some countries the believers are being tortured and slain for the Gospel.

Great tribulation soon is to fall on the nations of the earth. Every Christian who prepares himself today by prayer and dedication to Christ, and prepares his loved ones as far as possible, will be strengthened and guided by the Spirit of God. He or she will escape being harmed spiritually (and sometimes physically) by the things that are to come to pass.

But the Christian who continues to live as a worldling, trusting he or she will be carried off to Heaven in the day of trouble, trusting he will be treated differently from the saints of past and present history, will certainly be deceived by Antichrist.

We will leave it to the reader to decide which of the two doctrines is proceeding from the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The current emphasis on the use of "faith" to acquire material gain brings the believer into the lap of Antichrist.

The "faith message" is part of the contemporary "success" approach to the Gospel, In our day the Gospel of the Kingdom of God has been changed from a discipleship that leads to patient suffering, and sometimes martyrdom, into a program for success—success in our vocation, success in our marriage, success in our education, success in building a church, success in all we do. What an abomination! What a false prophet!

This is exactly what Satan desires: a "saint" who is living an unrighteous, unholy, disobedient life; who fears Satan but not God; who believes that God would never expose him to suffering, torture or martyrdom for the Gospel’s sake; and who has his heart and attention centered on material gain and the blessing of his adamic nature in the present age.

By these four lies Antichrist has overcome many Christians in the several nations of the world. Satan must, as Balaam counseled Balak, tempt the Lord’s people and lead them into sin. Satan understands that a holy people who are anointed by the Spirit of God always shall destroy his works.

Antichrist must deceive the saints away from God, away from the anointing of the Holy Spirit, before he can sit between the wings of the cherubim in the Temple of God. Therefore he is waging a war of seduction and deception against the saints. He cannot overcome the saints by a superior power and so he is overcoming them with their own lusts and self-love. Our enemy is exceedingly cunning.

Do the Scriptures teach that Antichrist will overcome the saints by flattering them and corrupting them with a false sense of peace and security? 

And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. (Daniel 11:32)

"Shall he corrupt by flatteries." "Corrupt by flatteries"!

The following passage is particularly important. It portrays the method that Antichrist will follow in order to remove from his path the anointed testimony and resistance of the saints: 

And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own [but by Satan’s] power: and he shall destroy wonderfully [astonishingly], and shall prosper, and practice [follow his own wishes], and shall destroy [corrupt] the mighty [men] and the holy people [the saints]. And through his policy [cunning] also he shall cause craft [deceit; trickery] to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace [in their security; by careless security; prosperity] shall destroy [corrupt] many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. (Daniel 8:24,25)

We think of Antichrist as coming against the saints with swords, guns, bayonets; and no doubt he will do so. In addition, Antichrist is a deceiver. He will be successful in overcoming the saints by deception to the extent that the restraint against his full manifestation will be removed.

How will Antichrist conquer God’s saints?

"Will he corrupt by flatteries"; and "by peace (careless security; prosperity) will destroy (corrupt) many."

What kind of Christians do we see in the wealthy nations of today? They are unholy, disobedient, unthankful, without the fear of God, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.

The effect of the beliefs that God’s grace in Christ is an alternative to godly living, that God no longer judges His people, that the purpose of the resurrection and ascension of the saints is that they may not be exposed to persecution and suffering in the world, and that "faith" can be used to acquire material gain, that we can be successful in this world by using "faith," is a multitude of churches filled with people who are self-centered, pleasure-loving, full of lust, prayerless, undisciplined, among whom there is no awe of God. Have not the churches been overcome by Antichrist’s trickery?

If God’s elect are to remain on the earth throughout the revealing of Antichrist, as we are suggesting, what provision has God made for their survival and joy?

God’s provision for His elect during the days of Antichrist is the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles. Truly, the Lord has kept the good wine until now.

First came salvation through the blood (the feast of Unleavened Bread). Next, the filling with God’s Holy Spirit (the feast of Weeks).

Now it is time for the Father and the Son to come and abide in the saints (the feast of Tabernacles—see Leviticus, Chapter 23; Deuteronomy 16:16; John 14:23). The spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles is the Lord’s response to the rise of Antichrist.

The true protection against Antichrist is discussed in the Book of First John.

Notice, first of all, that Antichrist comes out of the Christian churches just as Judas came from among the Twelve. The spirit of Antichrist is formed when believers in Christ attempt to use Christ for their own ends. Antichrist is an imitation of Christ. 

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (I John 2:18,19)

These antichrists were among God’s people but not of God’s people. Why were they not of God’s people? Because they had never been called by the Lord. They were imitators seeking their own gain. If they indeed had been called by the Lord, then it happened that they were overcome by the world, lust, or the desire to accomplish their own ends.

The true saints are those who pray and are anointed by the Spirit of God. If we would escape deception we must give ourselves to seeking the Lord and to godly behavior. 

But ye have an unction [anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things. (I John 2:20)

Only the believers who are close to God are able to discern between Christ and Antichrist. That is why Jesus warned the elect to watch and pray lest they be deceived. 

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (I John 4:3)

Christ already has come in the flesh, was raised in the flesh, and shall come again in the flesh. The issue raised by Antichrist is that of the coming of Christ in the flesh . Antichrist’s desire is to drive Christ out of the physical realm. When Christ appears in the clouds of heaven Antichrist will resist with force His entrance into the realm of flesh.

The great hope of the Christian saints, until recent times, was the coming, the return of Christ to the earth. Jesus will return in exactly the same manner in which He left. The scriptural hope is the coming of Christ to set up His Kingdom on the earth. This is the often repeated emphasis of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

But our glorious hope has been changed to a going of the saints to the spirit realm. It no longer is a coming, it has been changed to a going.

What is the purpose behind the altering of one of the greatest of the hopes of the Christian Church? It is to keep Christ and His saints in the spirit realm; to drive them out of the material realm so Satan and Antichrist can inherit the earth.

When Christ returns to earth He shall destroy Antichrist. Christ in the saints shall destroy Antichrist. Therefore by continually emphasizing the leaving of the saints, the whole nature and purpose of the Kingdom of God is thrown into chaos.

The issue is that of Christ in the flesh; not Christ in the spirit realm, not Christ in Heaven, but Christ in the flesh in the world. 

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. (Luke 24:39)

This is the hope of the Kingdom of God. This is the hope of the mature saints. This is the hope of the first resurrection from among the dead.

By minimizing the bodily resurrection and emphasizing the flight of the saints to Heaven the way is left open for Antichrist to inherit the earth. 

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (I John 4:4)

It would be much better for us on the earth if Satan, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, the rebellious angels, and the demons all went to Heaven where God would deal with them appropriately. The earth belongs to us!

Antichrist operates through deception. It is only as we are filled with God in Christ that we can escape being seduced away from the truth. God’s protection against Antichrist is the spirit of truth in the saint, not the flight of the believer to the spirit realm.

As we study the Old Testament prophecies relating to the Day of Christ we discover that the saints will be on the earth throughout the reign of Antichrist and will serve as deliverers and protectors for all who choose to seek God’s help in those terrible days. 

Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man [each one of them—the King and His princes] shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. (Isaiah 32:1,2)

Finally God in Christ will rise up in the saints and crush Satan.

Not only will we be preserved throughout the days to come, we also will serve, as did Joseph, as deliverers and protectors of God’s elect, of all who seek the Lord, and perhaps of some of the nations of the earth as well. It is our belief that the lives and ministries of Elijah and Elisha typify the power of deliverance that will be given to the elect in the last days.

The remnant of the churches, the people who do know their God, will not be removed from the earth. Through Christ they will overcome and will emerge more than conquerors.

Some of them will "fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days" (Daniel 11:33). But at the same time the Spirit of God will use them to instruct and assist many people.

Let us turn to the Book of Joel and see what our God will do in the closing days of this age. 

And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. (Joel 2:30,31)

These are the signs that will appear as the announcement of the soon coming of Jesus (Matthew 24:29,30).

Notice the ministry of God’s elect to every person who calls on the name of the Lord in the days just before Christ returns: 

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion [the Church of Christ] and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. (Joel 2:32)

Many persons will be forced to become hot or cold just before the Lord returns: 

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:14)

Then the great signs of Christ’s coming will appear for all to see: 

The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. (Joel 3:15)

Now comes the climactic act of God Almighty, an action mentioned by many of the prophets of Israel as they envisioned the last days: 

The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:16)

We are so accustomed to the gentle Jesus who speaks softly to our hearts it is difficult to understand that in the closing days of this age He will roar out of the church .

How can we be sure that "Zion" is the Church of Christ? 

But ye are [present tense] come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just [righteous] men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

We can see from the above that the Christian believer already has come to Mount Zion and that Mount Zion is the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of the Firstborn, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the time of the return of Christ from Heaven, God will rise up in the saints who are in Heaven and on the earth. Antichrist will be confronted by Christ in the saints everywhere he turns. He will be destroyed by the power of God in the saints. He will be crushed under the feet of the saints. 

And the God of peace shall bruise [crush] Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:20)

In that hour the Lord God will be the protecting, sustaining hope of His people. A thousand shall fall at our side and ten thousand at our right hand, but we shall have no need to fear because God Himself will be our hope and our strength.

Therefore we have no dread of the future. God Himself is our strength and our protection, our joy and our peace. As long as He leaves us on the earth we are perfectly safe in His almighty care.

If we should die and go to Heaven we will return in glory with Jesus. If we should live through part or all of the days of tribulation that are at hand we will discover that God is with us and in us, and that His power and love make us more than conquerors no matter what problems and dangers are before us.

Whether we are alive in the flesh or present with the Lord we shall be very active in the days ahead, as preparation is made for our rulership over the nations of the earth and we receive our inheritance.