THE PATH TO GLORY
THE PATH TO GLORY Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There is a path we must follow if we hope to attain to the glory of the royal priesthood. Before the general resurrection of those who have died takes place, God first will bring back to life the members of the royal priesthood. They will work with Jesus Christ in establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
To attain to the resurrection of the priesthood requires a lifelong quest. We will attempt to describe some of the experiences involved as we make our way to the crown of life, to the fullness of Divine glory that God has prepared for His elect.
Table of Contents
Introduction Entering the Death of Christ on the Cross Entering the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ Removing the Grave Clothes Attaining to the Fullness of Inward Resurrection Life Experiencing the Redemption of the Body Conclusion
THE PATH TO GLORY
Before we can understand the path to the glory of the priesthood we must be aware there are two resurrections: the resurrection at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, which will occur at the appearing of Christ, and then the general resurrection of the dead, which will take place at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
The current understanding is that the first resurrection is for the saved and the second, general resurrection is for the lost—that all who are raised in the general resurrection will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. This is not true, as we understand the Scriptures. We think those who have done good, at the second resurrection, will enter eternal life, and those who have done evil will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
The first resurrection must be attained. The general resurrection, however, is inevitable. Every person who is not raised in the resurrection of the priesthood will be resurrected in the general resurrection.
The first resurrection is portrayed as follows:
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6—NIV)
Notice that nothing is said about salvation. No books of judgment are opened because those found worthy to attain to the first resurrection are judged beforehand.
The second resurrection, the general resurrection, is portrayed as follows:
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. (Revelation 20:12-14—NIV)
Can you see the great difference between the two resurrections? The second, general resurrection is the one people usually think about when they imagine what will take place after they die. The dead will be raised and stand before God. The righteous will enter the Kingdom. The wicked will be cast into the flames.
But the first resurrection is that of God's kings and priests, His judges. In fact, it is Jesus Christ and His kings and priests who will perform the work of judging those who are raised in the second resurrection. They also will judge the angels.
As you might expect, those who attain to the first resurrection are not the average church-attenders of our day. There is a path to the glory of the first resurrection that must be followed, and it is strenuous and totally demanding.
Before we proceed, let us mention two relevant passages from the Bible.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4—NIV)
The verse above is referring to the Christian Church in Sardis, the lampstand of God. Only a few of these Christians will walk in the white robes of the priesthood. The rest of the believers were not found worthy of the first resurrection.
Why were they not worthy? Because they had soiled their clothes. They had been given clean spiritual clothes when they believed in Jesus Christ. But then they were not careful to confess and turn from their sins each day.
The concept of worthiness is seldom preached today because of the tremendous overemphasis on the grace of forgiveness. We must at once turn from the unbalanced preaching of our day and proclaim the need for God's people to wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. Otherwise they have no hope of attaining to the first resurrection from the dead.
The second relevant passage is as follows:
And so, somehow, to attain to to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11—NIV)
Our readers are well acquainted with Philippians 3:11 because we employ the verse so frequently. However, it is not often preached in other places. Is this true?
But stop and think! Here was Paul, an old man, already having founded several churches and written some epistles, in the Praetorian barracks in Rome, probably chained to a brutish Roman soldier, stating his chief goal: "I am striving with all my might to attain to to the resurrection from the dead."
What is remarkable is that the primary goal of the Apostle is seldom or never preached. Yet he exhorts us to be "thus minded."
Maybe we better become "thus minded." But before we can have the same goal as Paul we need to know more about the resurrection Paul was seeking to attain. Obviously this is not the general resurrection, for all shall participate there. The second resurrection is inevitable.
It is also obvious that attaining to the first resurrection must call for outstanding consecration if Paul still was pressing toward it.
The second death has no authority over those who attain to the first resurrection because through the Lord Jesus Christ they have overcome all the areas of sin over which the second death maintains authority.
I think you will agree with me that we American Christians had better get busy and start walking on the pathway to glory if we hope to be raised to the priesthood when the Lord Jesus appears in the clouds.
The first step we take on the path to the glory of the priesthood is that of entering the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Until we willingly become part of His crucifixion, dying to our old nature, dying to the world, counting ourselves dead with Him, we may be a fine religious person but we are not on our way to the priesthood.
In water baptism we are portraying that we are entering the crucifixion of Christ. When we come out of the water we are portraying that we are one with Christ in His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God.
The only way in which we can come out from under the authority of the Law of Moses is by dying on the cross with Christ. As long as we cling to our own life we are under the authority of the Law, even though we have made a profession of believing in Jesus.
Even more importantly, we cannot begin the program of judgment that leads to the first resurrection. It is appointed to people to die once, and after this they are judged. God counts our death with Jesus as being a real death—more real, in fact, than our physical death. As soon as we die and are resurrected in a spiritual sense, the process of judgment commences.
Sin originates from two areas within our personality. The first area is that of the various lusts and passions that dwell in our flesh. These are alien to us. They were inherited, or else acquired during our lifetime.
The second area is that of our self-will. The basis of all sin is self-will. It is because we are self-willed that sin can find an entrance in our flesh, soul, and spirit.
God's program of deliverance from sin focuses on our self-will. We begin by counting that we ourselves are dead with Christ on the cross. Our whole first nature is crucified. We declare it as a fact and then God brings situations into our life that accomplish the actual slaying of the old nature. Has that happened to you?
God has condemned our entire first personality, assigning it to the cross with Christ, that He may deliver us from the body of sin that is in us. God cannot successfully remove the sin that is in us until the old nature is slain. We can treat the symptoms, but the root of the problem, which is self-will, remains.
We see a division coming in the Charismatic movement. Those whom Jesus is calling to Himself will enter death with Christ, as they should have when first converted.
The remainder, people who have been brought into the churches by human efforts, will never agree to laying down their life for the Gospel. They will talk about it but never do it. They may seek the power of the Holy Spirit so they can "go forth and save a lost and dying world." This is all smoke and mirrors. Nothing of eternal value will take place.
Christ is calling us back to His cross so we may participate in the great witness of the Kingdom of God designated for the closing days of the Church Age. Jesus does not want believers running amuck, trying to build the Kingdom without knowing what they are doing. He is looking for obedience to His will. Are you willing to cease from your own efforts and look to Jesus for His guidance?
We need to get off somewhere by ourselves and yell, "From this time forth I am dead with Christ." Just don't do it where the neighbors can hear you.
Forget about all the great things you are going to do for God. Go to Jesus and declare yourself dead with Him. This is the first step on the path to glory. Until you die you cannot begin the program that leads to the first resurrection from among the dead, the resurrection of the royal priesthood.
When we count ourselves as dead with Christ on the cross we also are to count ourselves raised from the dead with Him and brought with Him to the right hand of God, far above every other authority in the universe.
This is what it means to be born again. A firstfruits of our personality, that which has been made alive by the Spirit of Christ, is caught up to God's Throne in Heaven. From now on Jesus Christ is our Life. When He appears we shall appear with Him and assist in establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Because a firstfruits of our personality has been waved before the Lord, so to speak, our entire personality is holy and our immediate family is holy. This is the principle of the firstfruits.
Our body still is on the earth. It is dead because of sin.
Our inner nature, our soul and spirit, have to choose each day to overcome, through Christ, the lusts and drives of the body. We have to bring our throne-life down into our personality yet on the earth. We have to pray and compel our body to serve God. This is not easy and requires diligent, consistent praying, meditating in the Word, and living a wholesome Christian life as we have opportunity.
Our body has its own ideas about how we should live. But we do not owe the body anything that we should live according to its desires. Why not? Because our body is dead because of sin and its desires are not to be respected.
If we are faithful in putting the impulses of our body to death, through the Spirit of God, we will be prepared to receive the redemption of our body at the coming of the Lord. If, however, we are not faithful in putting the impulses of our body to death, we will not receive the redemption of our body at the coming of the Lord. Then we do not know what to expect in the future. We shall have to wait until Christ makes a decision concerning us. We have not been a faithful steward with that which has been given to us. We have allowed our robe to remain dirty.
We must be careful not to let anyone pull us down from our high place in Christ. If we permit someone to take our crown, then we will not be qualified to be raised when the Lord comes. We disqualified ourselves from being part of the glory that will be revealed at the Lord's return.
It is just this serious! If you allow a minister or other person to talk you out of the seriousness of the preparations that must be made for entrance into the first resurrection, then you will have only yourself to blame when you see other believers brought into the Presence of Jesus Christ and you yourself denied entrance.
This can happen, you know. "You will say to me I have done this thing and that thing in Your name. But I will say, ‘I never knew you! Get away from me!’"
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." (John 11:43,44—NIV)
What a picture of us is portrayed here! The Lord Jesus Christ has raised us from the dead but we are bound with graveclothes.
Judgment must begin at the household of God, Peter tells us. This is what is taking place today. The Holy Spirit is pointing out the graveclothes that are binding us. Now we must confess these as sin and turn away from them by the help the Lord gives us.
How about you? What has the Lord shown you lately about yourself? It is not a pretty picture and you thought all this was behind you. No, it is not behind you. The Lord cannot deal with the graveclothes until you first die and then are raised by Him.
If Christ delivered you all at once you would be a house swept and decorated and worse demons would enter you. Just as Israel entered the land of promise a city at a time, so must you enter your own land of promise one city at a time.
Jesus did not remove the graveclothes from Lazarus. He left that up to the people around him to do.
So it is with you and me. God uses people to unwrap our graveclothes.
You are going to be tempted to become angry with the people that are helping sanctify you. If you allow yourself to become angry at the tools God uses to stir up the evil and spiritual death in your personality you will end up being bitter and you will not be delivered.
When someone says or does something that wounds you, go straight to the Lord. Ask Him why you are so wounded, why someone was able to get past your armor. Do not, do not, do not spend your time getting angry with people. Go to Jesus and let Him remove the flaming arrow.
If you only knew it, that individual who did such a terrible thing to you was helping remove your bondages. Be thankful and praise the Lord with all your might that He has counted you worthy of His Kingdom.
Quit hanging on to your sins, your pride, your self-will. It is all death. It is all interfering with your progress toward the Glory of God. The Bride must become without spot, wrinkle, or any other blemish. Let the fine needlework continue. Be as cheerful as you can. Look to Jesus alone.
As you walk in the light of God's perfect will, the blood of Jesus continues to keep you without condemnation, and you have fellowship with God.
As the Spirit brings your sins to light, confess them as sin. Turn away from them. God will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
If we live according to our fleshly desires we will die spiritually. We will destroy our inner spiritual life, that which is the prerequisite for the redemption of our body.
If we through the Holy Spirit put to death the appetites of our flesh, we will continue to live and grow spiritually. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God to put their sins to death, these are the sons of God. They will be revealed as such at the return of the Lord. It is their unveiling that is the marriage of the Lamb and an occasion for the greatest rejoicing throughout the creation of God.
But if we continue to live in the flesh, counting on "grace" to "bring us to Heaven," we are going to be cruelly disappointed when we see how we have injured our resurrection. We have destroyed our greatest hope—that of being like Jesus when He appears.
When Paul spoke of attaining to the resurrection that is out from among the dead he was speaking of attaining to the fullness of inward resurrection life. It is only as we attain to inward resurrection life that we are eligible for the redemption of our physical body.
Paul was seeking to live by the resurrection Life of Jesus and to share the sufferings of Jesus. Paul realized this is the only way we can live if we hope to attain to the earlier resurrection from the dead.
How many Christians do you know who are seeking to live by the resurrection Life of Jesus and to share His sufferings? These are the true Christians. These are attaining to the glory of the priesthood.
The Book of Second Corinthians has much to say about the sufferings of Paul, the sufferings that led to the resurrection Life of Jesus for other people, and also to the gaining of a surpassingly great weight of glory for Paul himself. Indeed, Paul was telling us how to put weight on the house that will clothe our personality in the Day of the Lord.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (II Corinthians 4:8-12—NIV)
"So that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." "So that his life may be revealed in our mortal body."
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (II Corinthians 4:17—NIV)
Can you see from the above that our inward nature is filled with the Life of Christ as we suffer? Not only must our sins be removed, if we are to attain to the glory of the priesthood, but in addition Christ must be formed in us. Christ is formed in us as we are brought down to death and then raised by the power of God.
If you are called to a high rank in the Kingdom you are going to endure the process of death and life, death and life, death and life, over and over again as Christ's Glory is formed in you. The Life of Christ formed in you will benefit those around you today but is designed especially for your appearing with Christ to install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
You may be wondering at this time, "How do I get started on the path to the glory?" You start by declaring yourself dead with Christ and alive and risen with Christ to the right hand of God. Then you faithfully follow the Holy Spirit as He unwraps the graveclothes from you.
After this you must experience continual death and resurrection so what you proclaimed to be true in water baptism now becomes a reality. You actually are being crucified, so to speak. You actually are being resurrected and raised to the right hand of God.
You made your verbal statement to this effect, and now God is making your statement a reality.
Perhaps many believers will flee for their lives when they read what I have just written. But God's true elect will not flee. They will take up their cross and follow the Lord Jesus because the call to the priesthood is in them. The mixed multitudes in the churches, to use an Old Testament expression, will never understand. They are good people, decent people, but they have never been brought to Jesus by the Father. I do not say they are lost, I am stating only that they will not understand the demands that are made on those who are called to be members of the royal priesthood.
In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus spoke of the manner in which we feed our inward nature by eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:54-57—NIV)
Each day a portion of evil is set before us. Each day a portion of Divine grace is given to us to overcome that evil. If we are careless and permit the evil to become part of our life, no inward growth takes place. In fact, death gains a foothold in us.
If we, however, call on the Lord, gaining the wisdom and power through Him to overcome the evil, we are fed the body and blood of Christ in the spirit realm. This is how Christ grows in us. This is how the first resurrection from the dead grows in us.
Jesus Christ is so one with the Father that all He thinks, does, and says is of the Father. He and the Father are One—not the same Person, but One in Being and doing.
This is the goal set before us. We are to be one with Jesus Christ so all we think, do, and say is of Christ. We and He are to become One, part of the larger Oneness.
This is what it means to attain to the first resurrection and become a member of the royal priesthood.
Jesus Christ Himself is the Resurrection. When He is formed in us the resurrection in formed in us. Paul was seeking to attain to this fullness of incorruptible, resurrection life. Paul was counting all else as garbage that he might win Christ to this extent. This is to be our goal also. This is the heavenly mark that has been set before us.
The major task is to attain to the fullness of the inward, spiritual resurrection—that which we have been describing. The redemption of the body is actually an expression of the inward transformation. It is an outer transformation that will take place in the twinkling of an eye. Our ascension to meet the Head in the air is of much less significance. It is merely a movement of resurrected saints from the surface of the earth to the air to meet the Commander in Chief as He descends in the attack of Armageddon.
The Christian churches of our day are picturing the ascension of Christ's warriors as an escape from Antichrist, and as being the "blessed hope" of the Church. This would be funny if the effects of such warped preaching were not so destructive.
There actually are two aspects of the redemption of the body. The first is the raising of the body from its place of interment. The second is the clothing of the resurrected body with the house, the robe from Heaven.
The house from Heaven will possess the characteristics we are placing in it today as we sow our present body to the death of the cross.
Just as after a wedding the bride is unveiled, so it is true that after we meet the Lord in the air and descend with Him, we will be unveiled. That which has been wrought in us as we have learned to live by the body and blood of the Lamb will be revealed for the world to see. And the nations will witness what we have become for it will be portrayed in the robe that has clothed our resurrected flesh and bone body.
Those of us who are living at the time of the Lord's appearing will be changed into immortality. The vast multitude of saints who have returned with the Lord will stand on the earth. We all shall be clothed with our house from Heaven, for the Lord will bring our house with Him at His coming. Then together we will rise to meet the Lord in the air.
In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (I Corinthians 15:52,53—NIV)
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (II Corinthians 5:4—NIV)
The following verse describes the rejoicing of the saint at the time of his being clothed with immortality.
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10—NIV)
The experience of being clothed with immortality will take place at the appearing of the Lord for those who have made themselves ready by keeping their robes spotless.
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7,8—NIV)
I think the fine linen is the same as the house from Heaven, of II Corinthians 5:4. It is the clothing that will cover our resurrected flesh and bones. If the house is in addition to this, then I am all for that also.
The point I am making is that the robe (and the house if it is something additional) is the product of our behavior. We see this in the expression (above): "Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints."
Paul told us in Galatians that if we choose to sow to the Spirit of God during our time on earth we will reap eternal life—presumably in the day of resurrection. If, however, we sow to our flesh, we will reap corruption. Reaping corruption may mean we enter the Kingdom of God as a naked spirit, or it may indicate a situation even worse than this. In any case it is something to be avoided.
The emphasis of the present essay is that while all persons who have lived on the earth will be resurrected and stand before God, there will be a special advance resurrection of the royal priesthood. This will take place when the Lord Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom on the earth.
Unlike the general resurrection at the termination of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, the resurrection of the priesthood must be attained. It is attained to as each day we lead an exchanged life. We give over our first, adamic nature to the death of the cross. We receive each day of the Life of Jesus Christ so our inward spiritual nature is transformed by the Divine Nature, enabling us to escape the corruption of the world spirit, a corruption caused by lust.
We must present our body a living sacrifice if we would prove God's will for our life. We must be transformed by the renewing of our mind so we do not live in the corruption of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
It is an uphill struggle all the way. We are swimming against the tide of pollution of the world. We are fighting the good fight of faith—resisting Satan and our flesh at every turn.
Many that are last in time shall be of first rank in the Kingdom of God. Right now—in our day—God is calling out warriors, heroes of faith who will turn away from the multitude of temptations offered by the cultures of the wealthy nations. The attractions are many. There is opportunity to keep ourselves occupied from dawn to dusk trying to keep up with the stream of technological and financial advancements. But all of this is dung compared with the glory of the royal priesthood.
The Lord Jesus is near us today, present as never before. We have but to open our heart and He is ready to enter and dine with us on His own body and blood. This is how we are married to the Lamb—by eating the Lamb. We are the Bride of the Lamb.
The path to glory can be rugged indeed, totally demanding on our personality and behavior. The stakes are as high as the heavens. There are many dangers and the bullets are live. Kings are being prepared, and the curriculum befits the office for which preparation is being made. It is not for those who can easily be dissuaded, who always are ready to turn back after having put their hand to the plow.
The thrones of glory are ready to be occupied. The call is to whoever will choose to place the things of God as the first priority of life.
You are deciding your eternal destiny today. Your actions will produce a future too glorious to be comprehensible, or too agonizing to be bearable as you can see in the distance the brightness of Paradise and the children playing at the feet of the Lamb while you yourself sit with your memories in a cave in the outer darkness.
Make no mistake, these two destinies are reality. They are not the unreality we live with every day in our American culture, as we are persuaded by the images so skillfully drawn by the advertising experts of the large corporations or the spin-doctors of our government.
When the Lord returns we will be facing absolute unchangeable reality. What that reality will be for us we are deciding right now.