TRANSPORTATION OR TRANSFORMATION?
Copyright © 2001 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
It assuredly is time for a reformation of Christian thinking. Historically, the concept of salvation has been that we are saved to make our eternal home in Heaven. While this concept is embraced by other religions, it is not a true concept of the Christian salvation. The Christian salvation is a program that changes man from the image of Satan to the image of God. When brought to maturity, the result is a total transformation of the individual believer. The person then can have fellowship with God wherever he is located.
Table of Contents
TRANSPORTATION OR TRANSFORMATION?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (II Corinthians 5:17)
The Nature of Man
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 5:23)
It can be noticed that the terms spirit and soul are used somewhat interchangeably in the Bible. Therefore this article will not attempt to provide an exact definition of the three parts of man, but how each part, especially the soul, is affected by the salvation that comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ now, after death, and after the resurrection.
I have pondered the topic of the nature of man, and of the program of salvation, for several years. This morning as I awoke it was much on my mind. I asked the Lord to increase my understanding. What is man that God is mindful of him? For one thing, man is spirit, soul, and body.
One aspect of the topic has been troubling me. Paul spoke of an incestuous man being delivered to Satan that his spirit might be saved in the Day of the Lord.
Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature [or that his body; or that the flesh] may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (I Corinthians 5:5)
However, the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to press forward to the saving of our soul, not our spirit.
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving [possessing of] the soul. (Hebrews 10:39—NASB)
The resolution that seemed to come to me this morning is that sometimes the term “spirit” and the term “soul” are employed to mean our entire inward nature, that is, our personality minus our body. For example, when the Lord said to Peter “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” I think Christ meant our inward man is willing — “spirit” referring to both spirit and soul, the part of man that is invisible to us.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
Again, when God said to the man who intended to retire, “This night your soul is required of you,” God meant the man’s inward personality, including his spirit.
But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” (Luke 12:20—NASB)
I don’t believe the spirit and soul are considered separately, in many instances. Obviously, our body is nothing more than the residence of our soul. It may be true also that our spirit is what radiates from our soul. If our soul chooses to sin, our spirit reflects that corruption. If we persist in sinning, whether or not we are a Christian, we lose possession of our soul. What we are as a unique personality has been corrupted. Paul spoke of cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. This would entail some decisions on the part of our soul.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1—NASB)
Perhaps we can say that our soul is what we are as a unique person. It is our soul that makes decisions. Our spirit reflects the decisions made by our soul. If our soul chooses to be morally filthy, then our spirit reflects that filthiness.
The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4). The death spoken of here is separation from the Life and blessing of God. When we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and cooperate with the Spirit of God, the Kingdom law that the sinning soul shall die is suspended while we are being transformed morally. If we as a Christian continue to sin, do not cooperate with the Spirit of God each day, we will come under condemnation and die spiritually, preventing the redemption of our body.
Before we enter the discussion of the condition of the spirit, soul, and body in this life, and the impact of the program of redemption, there are some thoughts that might be introduced. First of all, physical death cuts the bloodline. After we die physically, our adamic inheritance no longer exists. Until the resurrection of the dead, we are a spirit, not a flesh and blood human being. The life that has come down from Adam and Eve through our mother and father no longer is part of our personality.
There will be nothing whatever of the adamic nature in the new creation. God is making all things new. The adamic nature is corruptible and never can be perfected and made suitable for God’s new world. For this reason, the doctrine of the pre-tribulation “rapture” is entirely inappropriate, because it leaves the impression that we are going to be caught up to Heaven as we are now in personality. The adamic creation was finished on the cross. The plan of salvation makes an end of the adamic creation and brings forth a new person born of Jesus Christ.
Body, Soul, and Spirit in This Life
Mankind, descended from Adam and Eve, is a most marvelous creation of the Lord God. God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Thus man became a living soul. As I understand it, the “breath of life” was not eternal life, God’s Spirit, that was breathed into man. Rather it was the ordinary life of flesh and blood. Metabolism began at this point as Adam gained warmth and energy from the burning of oxygen in his cells.
God made man in God’s image according to God’s likeness. I think this means that man’s inward nature was fashioned in the image of God’s inward nature, having a spirit and soul, while man’s body, his outward appearance, was fashioned in the likeness of God’s outward appearance.
The angels are spirits, and they must have some kind of soul, or personality, because they make decisions. Satan, a cherub, made some decisions that were rebellious, and it appears that many angels followed him in his rebellion. But as far as I can see, the soul (if we would want to term it that) of an angel is not nearly as comprehensive as that of man. We do not read of angels laughing or crying or otherwise exhibiting human characteristics. They do rejoice when a sinner returns to God. But their “soul” falls far, far short of being in the image of their Creator.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)
So man was made spirit, soul, and body. His soul appears to be man’s unique, conscious identity. His soul makes its decisions, whether for good or evil. Man will be judged in terms of the decisions he makes.
Man was born with a sinful nature and a mind that is the enemy of God. This is the judgment of God upon all the children of Adam because of Adam’s sin. God knows that we did not choose to be born with a sinful nature, and so God does not condemn us for having a sinful nature. That would be unjust. Instead, God, in His infinite love, gave His Son as a sin offering that we might be forgiven our sinful actions. God gave us the body and blood of Christ that our soul might be refreshed with Divine Substance. Then God gave us His Spirit that we might have the wisdom and energy to press forward into full deliverance from Satan and full maturity in the image of Christ, which is the image of God.
If we lay hold on the fullness of the grace of God in Christ, we will be blessed with transformation into the image of Christ, and with rest in the center of God’s Person and will. If we, having had an opportunity to receive Christ each day, do not diligently pursue this opportunity, we will not be transformed into Christ’s image, will not find rest in God’s Person and will, and shall receive the proper recompense for the wickedness of the sinful deeds we have practiced. This is true even though we are making a profession of belief in Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the sinful nature leaves the body when the body dies, because the sinful nature is spiritual. It is not an inherent part of our physical makeup. So it is not impossible that our sinful nature leaves our flesh and bones when we die and follows us into the spirit realm. I can’t think of any passage of Scripture that contradicts this, and it is logical. However, many aspects of the sinful nature, such as taking drugs for example, require a physical body for their expression. So the deceased individual may be in a state of frustration while in the spirit world after death, feeling various lusts and appetites but not being able to express them. This is why when a spirit is cast out of a living human being, it finds itself in arid places (Matthew 12:43), not being able to express itself through a body. It then will seek for a body that it is able to enter and through which it can gratify its cravings.
There is an adamic soul, and then there is a soul that has died in Christ and then been raised in Christ.
The mainspring of the Divine salvation is the crucifixion of the soul and then its resurrection in Christ. Far too often the Christian salvation is regarded as a religion whose tenets, if obeyed, produce a sterling human being. It is a fact that whoever will obey the commandments found in the New Testament will become a fine human being. But this is not salvation. Salvation depends on the crucifying of the first personality and the birth and development of the Divine Seed that is planted in us. Adam simply cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Only what is produced from Jesus Christ is able to see and enter the Kingdom of God, and in fact is the Kingdom of God.
What is born of the flesh is flesh. What is born of the Spirit is Spirit. There is the human and then there is the Divine.
The meaning of water baptism is our entrance into the death of the cross and our resurrection into newness of life in Christ. The Holy Spirit crucifies our soul by keeping us in a prison of one sort or another. If we are faithful to the point of death our soul will emerge from its prison in the image of Christ, having been transformed through the working of death and resurrection.
Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)
In Gethsemane, the Soul of the Lord was sorrowful to the point of death. After He was crucified, the Lord Jesus came forth from the cave in His body as the Firstborn of the new creation. He is the Beginning of the Kingdom of God.
In order to grasp the Divine salvation properly, we must perceive the futility of our animal, adamic nature. The flesh profits nothing. The flesh and blood creation cannot enter the Kingdom of God. It is little more than intelligent dust.
The all-important aspect of salvation is the new birth. What is born in us is Divine Life. It is the Kingdom of God. The radiance from our Christ-filled soul is a life-giving spirit. Our Christ-filled soul does not desire to sin because it has been born of God and is of God’s Divine Nature.
If any person is dwelling in Christ, a new creation is coming forth. The adamic nature, the original personality, what was born of our mother and father, is passing away. In its place is arriving a transformed soul and spirit that are from God. Meanwhile, the body remains in death because of the sin that dwells in it. However, our inward nature possesses eternal life because of the righteousness that has been ascribed to it.
We can see from this that the Christian discipleship is a protracted struggle, a fight of faith, as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He puts to death the deeds of our sinful nature and strengthens our Christ-filled inner man.
God is making all things new. We are to forget our former life and press into new Divine Life in the Kingdom of God.
Eventually, all saved human beings will suffer the removal of the adamic inheritance. Right now, the pressure for this transformation of soul is on the members of the Christian Church. Some will reap a transformed soul to a thirtyfold degree, some to a sixtyfold, some to a hundredfold. The extent to which the soul is transformed depends on the diligence of the believer.
Body, Soul, and Spirit After Death
When an individual dies physically, he or she no longer is “man.” Man is spirit, soul, and body.
Most, maybe all religions, point toward man’s destiny after death as a transportation to a place. The righteous go to a marvelous wonderland. The wicked are thrown into tormenting fires. There is an element of truth in this concept. The Christian religion emphasizes the desirability of going to Heaven when we die and living there forever. But this emphasis misses the goal of salvation almost entirely. The Lord Jesus warned us about the torments of Hell, but He emphasized gaining eternal life, that is, a change in what we are, rather than a movement from earth to Heaven.
The Christian salvation is a change of soul and spirit, and eventually of the body. When we die, we will go to a place suited to our spiritual development. We see this principle operating today as fervent disciples seek out fervent disciples; lukewarm believers gather with lukewarm believers; the wicked are drawn to the dens of evil. Today the fervent, the lukewarm, and the wicked are mixed together to a certain extent. But the potential for separation already is present.
It is very important that we know that the Christian redemption is a reconstruction of our soul, and the reconstruction is taking place right now. Otherwise, we will fritter away our days on the earth believing we will be carried into the midst of the saints when we die, meanwhile missing the opportunity for transformation into the image of Christ.
How will people differ after they die? I will give my opinion. Those who persist in wicked behavior, Christian or not (“I never knew you!”; Matthew 7:23), will be led away into the outer darkness or the tormenting fires. Those who were not wicked, but who never had a chance to receive Christ, will wander about in the spirit world. This is a great sea of people, the majority of those who have lived on the earth and then died. Now we come to those who have begun to bear the fruit of Christ in their lives: some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, some one hundred fold.
Will these three degrees of soul transformation differ in appearance? I think so. We might think of the thirtyfold as children, the sixtyfold as young people, the hundredfold as mature adults. There is another consideration. The Apostle Paul taught us that if Christ is our life, we are hidden in Christ in God.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
Therefore, we are in two places at the same time.
- We are living on the earth in a human body.
- At the same time, our new born-again inward nature is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3 quoted above).
This is true of Jesus, isn’t it? He is here with us, and yet remains at God’s right hand in Heaven. My guess is it will be like this after we die. We will be active serving God in the spirit world, doing the Lord’s will. Yet our inward nature will somehow remain hidden in God, just as always is true of the Lord Jesus.
Will we be able to continue in the work of the transformation of our soul after we die, and also after the resurrection? I believe so. But our further growth in Christ will depend on our willingness to cooperate with the Spirit of God, just as is true today. In my opinion, life will continue after we die in much the same manner that we experience today. As Peter said, the dead are judged as though they were still alive in the world.
Do you get a sense of how dynamic redemption is? I think that sometimes the viewpoint of our religion is that our position in Jesus Christ is frozen. Thus, our receiving of Christ gives us a ticket to a wonderful world in the sky. Once we get there, we will remain forever in much the same state that is true of us today. What we will do for eternity is not made clear. Do you find this to be true?
Body, Soul, and Spirit After the Resurrection
Every person who has lived on the earth will stand before God in the general resurrection of the dead (Revelation
The only exceptions are those victorious saints, perhaps only the hundredfold, who will be raised from the dead at the time Jesus appears from Heaven and then caught up to meet Him in the air. These mature Christians, having attained to the stature of the fullness of Christ, will descend with Him to help install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Speaking now of the general resurrection at the conclusion of the Kingdom Age, at that time, Hell and Death will surrender their occupants. I think those in Hell are the wicked. Those in Death are people who have killed their spiritual life with the love of material wealth. This may be true of numerous American churchgoers. Then the great sea of people will appear along with the former residents of Hell and Death and stand before the Throne of Judgment. On that throne will be seated the Lord Jesus Christ and His brothers — the saints who had attained to the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord Jesus next appears from Heaven.
Remember, the earth and sky have fled from the face of Christ, so all these people, those from Hell, those from Death, and those from the sea, will be standing in the spirit world.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12-15)
The books of record will be opened. Every individual will be evaluated according to his or her behavior while living on the earth, the decisions he made. My opinion is that the vast majority will be found worthy to receive the Life of Christ and enter the new world of righteousness. Those whom Jesus Christ views as unworthy of the Kingdom will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to be with Satan, his angels, and the wicked of mankind. They have chosen to be like Satan, and Satan will be given to them.
Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy. (Revelation 22:11)
There are two aspects of the Kingdom of God:
- First, there is the Kingdom proper, the Church, eventually appearing as the new Jerusalem. The emphasis during the Church Age has been on selecting the rulers of the Kingdom and giving them an opportunity to grow to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.
- The second aspect involves the citizens of the Kingdom. When the Lord returns, there will we a worldwide revival that will bring the nations of the earth to the members of the Church.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:3)
At the end of the Kingdom Age, the nations of the earth will stand before Christ and His brothers, His saints. Christ will divide the people of the nations into the sheep and the goats. The sheep will enter the Kingdom, the new world of righteousness. The goats, those who refused the assist the Lord’s brothers during their tribulations in the earth, will be assigned to the fires of torment.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41)
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:46)
Notice particularly the previous verse. Can you see that the “sheep” were not those who had received Christ and eternal life while living on the earth? Rather they had assisted the Lord’s servants. They had given a cup of cold water to the prophet, so to speak. Then, in the Day of Judgment, they were invited to enter the Kingdom of God and receive eternal life. Eternal life will be given freely in those days, being available from the Holy Spirit and the Bride of the Lamb.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)
When the Lord returns, the victorious saints will be raised from the dead. Then their flesh and bone bodies will be clothed with the robes of righteousness that has been formed in Heaven, a robe that has increased in glory as their souls have been transformed, attaining maturity in Christ. Their souls have been increasing in the image of God and always will continue increasing in the image of God. Their spirits now are life-giving spirits, capable of imparting life to those who come to them. Their bodies are like that of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The peoples of the earth, those who were not destroyed during the Battle of Armageddon, will still have adamic souls, spirits, and bodies. The victorious saints will possess Christ-filled souls, life-giving spirits, and bodies of miraculous wisdom and power — bodies filled with iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to God.
Then, at the conclusion of the Kingdom Age, the people, who after the last judgment are permitted to enter the new world of righteousness, will not be of the adamic race. After the thousand-year Kingdom Age, the adamic race will have come to its end. There will be a new sky and a new earth. God will make all things new.
There will be no more sea of people who can be driven back and forth by demagogues. Each person will have a portion of Christ. Death, Hell, and all the wicked of mankind will be in the Lake of Fire. Each person will have a portion of Divine Life in his soul, a pure spirit, and a flesh and bone body that is energized by spiritual life rather than blood — like the angels. Christ and His saints will govern the nations of saved people.
There is a verse in the Book of Revelation that implies the saved people of the nations will still be able to sin, and must be governed and taught by the saints who are resident in the new Jerusalem.
Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:15)
The above verse may mean nothing more than the fact that these types of people are in the Lake of Fire. However, the verse gives the impression that they are living outside the wall of the new Jerusalem. We must be careful when a verse almost fits our expectations, like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that almost fits. There is a temptation to force it into place, isn’t there? Here is a passage that supports the idea that these wicked people are not in the Lake of Fire, but are permitted to live on the new earth:
And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind. (Isaiah 66:24)
Why would people go out and look at the dead bodies of the wicked, unless it were a field trip with the purpose of warning them concerning sinful behavior?
It is commonly believed that “there is no sin in Heaven.” The truth is, sin began in Heaven, not on the earth. Sin is spiritual in nature. The pressure on each of us to sin is coming from the world of spirits. Therefore, entering the spirit world does not remove the possibility of sin. We must always choose to behave righteously, and it would help us to see the end of those who rebelled against God, wouldn’t it?
The flesh and blood existence we are familiar with cannot enter the Kingdom of God. When the Lord Jesus Christ said, “It is finished,” the adamic race came to an end and a new race came into existence. Our goal is to enter that finished work and to become part of the new race. The Lord Jesus is the beginning of the new creation of God. After Jesus, come the victorious saints, who are in the process of changing from living souls to life-giving spirits. After the victorious saints, being helped and guided by the victorious saints, will come the remainder of God’s elect, the nobility of the Kingdom of God. All these compose the new Jerusalem. After the nobility of the Kingdom of God will come the citizens of the Kingdom, the saved people who are governed by the saints.
God will be in every person, from the mightiest of the kings who rule with Jesus Christ to the least member of the Kingdom.
The important thing to remember is that we do not receive Christ so we can go to Heaven — a place. We receive Christ so we can begin the process that results in the salvation of our soul, its crucifixion and resurrection in Christ.
After they die, will people continue to have an opportunity to experience the transformation of their soul? I believe they will. And why not? A static kingdom in which there is no growth is neither scriptural nor desirable.
But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. (Malachi 4:2)
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7)
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; (Isaiah 42:3)
Is there any special benefit of having the opportunity to grow spiritually before death? I believe so. I believe those who Christ invites toward growth in Himself while they are still alive, a very small minority of earth’s people, develop in themselves an iron obedience and resistance to sin. The opportunity for such growth in militant righteousness may not be present when we once are in the spirit world.
Those who have been given this knowledge and opportunity while in the world will be treated as lazy, disobedient servants if they do not take full advantage of the Divine gift. They have been chosen to be rulers in the new world of righteousness. They will be thrown into the outer darkness if they do not vigorously follow Christ in strict discipleship. The transition from the adamic personality to the new personality, at least in the present hour, can be very demanding, sometimes painful, as we patiently endure various forms of tribulation. Our objective is to serve Christ in the rank and station to which he has called us; to grasp that for which we have been grasped (Philippians 3:12).
The Christian salvation, then, is a change in our personality from Adam to Christ. The purpose of such change is that we might have enduring fellowship with God and serve Him competently and faithfully in the roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God which we have been called to.
Going to another place, such as Heaven, accomplishes absolutely nothing. It is our opportunity to be transformed that is of utter significance.
(“Transportation or Transformation?”, 3078-1, proofed 20230819)