JUDGMENT, REDEMPTION, AND THE FIRST RESURRECTION
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
There will be two principal resurrections from the dead. The first resurrection will take place at the beginning of the thousand-year period commonly known as the Millennium. It is a resurrection out from among the dead, a resurrection of a firstfruits to the Lord. It is the resurrection of the royal priesthood. The members of the royal priesthood will be given back their bodies when Jesus appears so they may rule on the earth with Him throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
The second resurrection will take place at the end of the thousand-year period. The second resurrection is the resurrection in which people either are saved or lost. It is at the second resurrection, the general resurrection of the dead, that the dead are brought from many areas of waiting in order that they may appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ and be judged according to their works.
Table of Contents
Our Response to God’s Invitation and Our Appropriation of the Divine Provisions, Resulting in Our Personality Being Judged Worthy of Eternal Life
Our works: we always are judged according to our worksThe Transformation of Our Personality From Death to Eternal Life The Resurrection of Our Mortal Body to Righteousness and Eternal Life
The exercise of our will: our decisions—great and small
Our faith that causes us to follow the Lord in strict obedience
Our patient and cheerful confidence in the Lord through prolonged periods of suffering
The intercession of others on our behalf
Some Additional Comments
JUDGMENT, REDEMPTION, AND THE FIRST RESURRECTION
The Two Resurrections
It is the writer’s point of view that most believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will not be raised from the dead in the first resurrection, at the time when the Lord returns to earth; or if they are raised at that time they will not be glorified in the manner that is true of the victorious saints.
First, let us think about the two different resurrections from the dead. There will be two principal resurrections from the dead:
- The first resurrection will take place at the beginning of the thousand-year period commonly referred to as the Millennium.
- The second resurrection will occur at the end of the thousand-year period.
The second resurrection. We believe the second resurrection is the resurrection in which people either are saved or lost. It is at the second resurrection, the general resurrection of the dead, that the dead are brought from several areas of waiting in order that they may appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ and be judged according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:13)
The wording of the following verse gives the impression that a minority of those raised at the last judgment are cast into the Lake of Fire while the majority are found worthy to enter life:
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)
The expression “whosoever was not found written in the book of life” seems to imply it is the exception who are condemned to this most terrible of destinies. God looked through the book, and if someone was not found written there he or she was cast into the Lake of Fire.
If the majority were to be cast into the Lake of Fire it should read, “if anyone’s name were found,” as though only an individual here and there was found in the book. But since the expression is, “whosoever was not found,” we are of the belief that ordinarily the person’s name was found there.
Thank God for that! The Lake of Fire, the second death, indeed is a fate so frightful as to be incomprehensible.
Think of never knowing any love, any joy, any peace, any of the Presence of God for eternity! Can you grasp anything as terrible as that?
Yet those who refuse the deliverance from Satan offered by the Lord Jesus Christ indeed will be cast into the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.
The second resurrection, then, is the general resurrection of the dead. At that time all those whom God judges to be worthy of eternal life will be released from sin and death and brought into the new world. This is what it means to be “saved.”
The lost are those whom their Creator does not judge worthy of eternal life. They will be cast in their flesh and bone bodies into the Lake of Fire, there to be looked on with horror by the saved of mankind (Isaiah 66:24).
The people called up at the last judgment will be judged according to their works—according to the choices they made throughout their lifetime on the earth. Those who have practiced righteousness will enter eternal life. Those who have practiced unrighteousness will experience wrath.
To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, (Romans 2:7,8)
It is common Christian teaching that no individual will be saved at the last judgment because the dead are judged “according to their works,” and all the works of man are evil. This is incorrect. It is a conclusion denied by numerous passages.
The Scriptures proclaim clearly that all human beings are judged according to their works. Every one of us must give an account of himself to God, whether or not he is a Christian.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12)
Jesus described the last judgment as follows:
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28,29)
The division of the wheat and the tares is not between those who believe in Jesus and those who do not believe in Jesus but between the righteous and the wicked. If receiving the Lord Jesus does not make us righteous in behavior, then the grace of God has not affected our personality in the desired manner.
The emphasis is on what we have done, not on what we have believed. Those who do good enter life. Those who practice evil enter wrath.
There is no question that Paul believed he would be judged according to his works.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
The reason Christian thinking has become confused is that we do not distinguish between the judgment of Satan and the judgment of the individual. Satan was judged on Calvary and his works will be destroyed in the last days. Satan himself will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
However, the human being, whether Christian or not, will appear before Christ to give an account of his actions on the earth. This is taught clearly throughout the New Testament. He will not be cast into the Lake of Fire unless his works have been wicked.
The wicked are appointed to the Lake of Fire, including the wicked Jews, the wicked Christians, and everyone else who practices wickedness and does not repent. To believe otherwise is to be deceived.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:27,28)
The above passage means every individual will give an account of himself to Christ after he dies. It states also that in the last days Christ will appear and remove sin from those who are looking for Him.
The fact that we have been forgiven our sin through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ does not mean we will not give an account of ourselves to God. The deliverance from the power of sin, the removal of the presence of sin, that will take place in the last days will be a reward for those who are true disciples of Jesus, who eagerly are looking for His appearing. Deliverance from the power of sin is a judgment of Satan and it will be given to those whom God judges worthy of eternal life. Whether or not we are found worthy of deliverance, and the resulting eternal life, depends on Christ’s evaluation of us when He judges us.
We have stated that all human beings will be raised at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age and their destinies will be determined at that time. This is the general resurrection of the dead, some to eternal life and some to eternal torment. The basis for judgment is how each individual behaved during his or her lifetime on the earth.
If any person hears the voice of Jesus and refuses to yield to the Lord, no other evidence is needed. He is doomed. There is no salvation other than in the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem is, multitudes have never heard of Jesus, or if they have heard it has not been a clear presentation of the Lamb of God. The people who have not heard will be judged according to their works, whether good or evil.
The first resurrection. There is, however, another resurrection. It is not the resurrection of salvation. It is a resurrection out from among the dead, a resurrection of a firstfruits to the Lord. It is the resurrection of the royal priesthood. The members of the royal priesthood will be given back their bodies when Jesus appears so they may rule on the earth with Him throughout the thousand-year period.
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. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power [authority], but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)
Notice that these victorious saints “lived.” This means they regained their bodies so they may reign on the earth with Christ.
Notice also that nothing is said in this passage about those who are raised being judged (they have been judged previously) or about their being saved to go to Heaven. The participants are destined to govern the nations of the earth.
This is the first resurrection. It is not the general resurrection where it is decided whether we are saved or lost. It is the resurrection of God’s kings, priests, and judges. It will take place when the Lord returns, at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
These are the sons of God. They will go through the earth, destroying all sin and bringing the government of Christ to every nation.
The second death has no authority over them because Christ has delivered them completely from every trace of Satan. The second death has authority over all sin, whether it is in a Christian or not. It only is as we are delivered completely from sin that it can be true of us that the second death has no authority over us.
We notice in Philippians 3:11 that the Apostle Paul was seeking to attain the first resurrection from among the dead, the resurrection of the royal priesthood:
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [Greek, out-resurrection] of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)
The term “resurrection,” as employed in Philippians 3:11, properly should be translated out-resurrection. It is the word for resurrection with a preposition prefixed to it. Paul was not seeking to attain the general resurrection of the dead, because all persons will be raised from the dead and stand before Christ. Rather, Paul was seeking to attain the out-resurrection, the resurrection out from among the dead, the first resurrection.
It is important that the believer understand it is the royal priesthood that will be raised from the dead and ascend to meet the Lord Jesus at His appearing. The first resurrection is a special resurrection, the resurrection of the rulers of the Kingdom of God. It is not the general resurrection of the dead.
Only the blessed and holy, those who have learned to trust in the Lord instead of in their own reasonings, those who have shunned involvement in the economic system of the world except for their necessities—and sometimes to the point of being denied their necessities (as the Lord leads)—will be raised and ascend to meet the Lord when He appears. The remainder of the dead will not be raised from the dead until the end of the thousand-year period.
It is essential, therefore, that the disciple understand what he has to do in order to be qualified for participation in the first resurrection.
One of the principal concepts to be mastered is that of the relationship of the redemption of our body to our being delivered from sin. The first resurrection has to do with complete freedom from sin. It is the final, climactic act of our redemption from the hand of Satan. The last enemy that will be destroyed is physical death (I Corinthians 15:26).
The first resurrection is the answer to Paul’s cry:
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24)
We have stated before that there often is confusion between the judgment of Satan and the judgment of the individual. Satan was judged and condemned on the cross of Calvary. The Lord Jesus bore our sins in His own body, thereby releasing us from the authority of Satan. The Lord Jesus will come again, this time to remove from the earth, beginning with His firstfruits, all of the presence and works of Satan. This is a further judgment of Satan.
Satan was condemned on the cross, and those who place their trust in Christ have been delivered from the condemnation that abides on Satan and his works.
Now the Lord Jesus has come, in the spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, to remove from His Body, His Church, all the works of Satan. It is a consequence made possible by the judgment and condemnation that occurred on the cross. The deliverance from the bondages of sin taking place today is not primarily a judgment of the human being. Rather, it is a judgment of Satan. It is an appearing of the Lord Jesus “without sin unto salvation” to those who are looking for Him (Hebrews 9:28).
The final judgment of Satan, as far as the members of the Wife of the Lamb are concerned, is the first resurrection from the dead. Here that last enemy, death, is crushed under the feet of the Church. Again, this is not a judgment of human beings. It is a judgment of Satan.
If such is the case, are human beings ever judged? Yes. We indeed are judged. We are judged according to our works, according to what we have done.
It can be observed that we are making a distinction between what the person does, and the satanic bondages that reside in his physical body. The deliverance of the human being from the satanic bondages that reside in him is a judgment of Satan. The judgment of the human being himself is the judgment of the decisions he has made throughout his lifetime.
There is a relationship between these two judgments—the judgment of Satan and the judgment of the individual. As we do the things that please God, being judged worthy in His sight, God passes judgment on the bondages of Satan that reside in us and delivers us. This process, which is the process of redemption, begins with our initial acceptance of Christ and continues until the fullness of deliverance is realized in the first resurrection, in the case of the royal priesthood; or at some point after that, in the case of those who do not attain the first resurrection from the dead.
Human beings always are judged according to their works. The sentence of judgment either is our release from Satan and the resulting fullness of eternal life, or else we are cast with our satanic bondages into the Lake of Fire, into the environment reserved for Satan, his angels, and all human beings who refuse to enter the process of redemption the Lord God has provided for us through Christ.
The seventh chapter of the Book of Romans reveals the difference between the person, and the satanic bondages that dwell in him.
Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (Romans 7:17)
Here we see two personalities, two motivations. On the one hand we have the human being, the believer. On the other hand we have an enemy who is dwelling in the flesh of the believer and attempting to control his flesh.
Two different judgments are required because we have two different personalities with whom we are dealing. There must be a judgment of the enemy who is dwelling in the flesh of the individual. Then there must be a judgment of the individual himself.
As we have stated, the resurrection to eternal life is a judgment of the enemy who dwells in our flesh. The redeeming of the mortal body of the believer by the casting out of death is a destruction of the works of the adversary. But in order for Divine judgment to come upon the works of the enemy in this manner, the believer first must be judged worthy of the resurrection. He must, as Paul says, seek to arrive at the resurrection that lifts us out from among the dead.
When God judges the believer, either the judgment falls on Satan, and Satan is condemned to the Lake of Fire while the believer enters eternal life, or else the judgment falls on both Satan and the believer and they both enter the Lake of Fire. Those who attain the first resurrection have no basis for fear of the Lake of Fire. All other persons do, whether or not they profess belief in Christ.
Only the saint who lives in victory over sin is safe from the second death.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches; He that overcometh [lives in victory over sin] will not be hurt of [be harmed by] the second death. (Revelation 2:11)
It is obvious that believers who do not live in victory over sin have reason to fear the second death.
With respect to the resurrection of the body to eternal life, which is the goal of the Christian redemption, we have four main aspects to consider:
- God’s invitation to redemption and the provisions He has made for our success.
- Our response to God’s invitation and our appropriation of the Divine provisions, resulting in our being judged worthy of eternal life.
- The transformation of our personality from death to life.
- The resurrection of our mortal body to righteousness and eternal life.
As we are considering the process of redemption we must remember that it begins with our initial salvation and continues until we are raised from the dead—at that point to enter life or, if we have drawn back from Christ, into punishment or eternal separation from God. All the factors involved interact until the final product is attained, which is eternal life in our spirit, our soul, and our body. The goal of the Christian redemption is immortality in the Presence of God throughout His creation.
But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Hebrews 3:6)
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition [destruction]; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
God’s Invitation to Redemption and the Provisions He Has Made for Our Success
Several elements of Divine grace and mercy, of God’s love for His elect, come under this heading:
- Predestination and calling.
- The body and blood of the Lamb.
- The Holy Spirit.
- The Word of God, both of the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Apostle Paul taught concerning predestination and our calling. God loved us before we knew Him. The Lamb of God was slain from the creation of the world. God called, justified, and glorified us, according to the counsel of His own will, from the beginning of time.
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)
We know that no person can come to Jesus for redemption unless the Father draws Him. We understand also that we did not choose Jesus. He chose us and ordained us that we should bear much fruit.
Truly, salvation is of the Lord from its beginning to its conclusion.
There is no way in which we can contradict or minimize the full role of predestination and calling in our salvation without violating the clear teaching of the Scriptures. It is the Lord God of Heaven who comes to man and draws him to Himself.
It is in the area of God’s invitation to redemption, and the provisions He has made for our success, that His love and mercy are revealed most clearly. All the aspects of the process of redemption are of Divine grace.
However, in our day an error—a distortion—is occurring in Christian thinking concerning Divine grace. The concept is being advanced that the entire process of redemption proceeds as a product of Divine grace in the sense that man does nothing of significance other than to maintain his profession of belief that redemption will occur on his behalf. The actual condition of the believer remains static while glorious things are spoken of him by the Word of God.
It is as though an Israelite remained in Egypt while maintaining stoutly that God was bringing him into the land of promise. He held fast his belief in what God had stated but he did not move with God in the process of removal from Egypt and entrance into Canaan.
This concept is extended to mean that untransformed believers will participate in the first resurrection on the basis of God’s love and mercy. (“It is not what we have done but what He has done” kind of thinking.) This is a distortion of the actual process of redemption. Apart from man’s active, fervent, faithful involvement in the process of redemption, participation in the first resurrection is impossible.
It is essential that the Christian believers understand this because many are neglecting their salvation and still are hoping to be raised and to ascend to meet the Lord Jesus when He appears. But it seems only a handful of Christian believers actually are prepared to participate in the out-resurrection from the dead, the resurrection of the royal priesthood, when Christ appears from Heaven.
God not only has predestined and called us but He has provided the blood of the Lamb for the forgiveness of our sins. He has given us the Divine Virtue of His body and blood so we may have dwelling in us the very Life of God. We have the Presence of the Holy Spirit to comfort us and give us the wisdom and power of God so we may lay hold on the plan of redemption. To help us further there is the Word of God, both Old Testament and New, so we may understand the Person, will, program, and eternal purpose of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God has drawn us to Himself by His Spirit and has given to us every Divine blessing so that through these we may lay hold on the promise of redemption.
If we do not respond with sincerity and diligence, the calling and Divine provisions are of little use. They bring us to the first resurrection from the dead only as we lay hold on them. They are not Divine pronouncements concerning what will happen to us regardless of our response. Rather, they are the Divine opportunities for us to fight our way into the promised-land rest of God.
Our Response to God’s Invitation and Our Appropriation of the Divine Provisions, Resulting in Our Personality Being Judged Worthy of Eternal Life
We must respond to God’s invitation and appropriate the Divine provisions in such a manner that when we are judged we are found worthy of eternal life. The concept of being judged worthy of eternal life in the Kingdom of God is taught in the Scriptures.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37,38)
But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. (Luke 20:35,36)
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)
I Therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, (Ephesians 4:1)
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:10)
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (I Thessalonians 2:12)
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)
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: (II Thessalonians 1:11)
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)
Christian scholars have overemphasized imputed (ascribed) righteousness until the doctrine has become error. It is not true that “Jesus did it all.” The Lord Jesus made it possible, and still makes it possible, for us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. The Lord has a part to play and we have a part to play. If we do not do our part we will not be found worthy of the Kingdom of God regardless of “grace and mercy.” It is time for the Christian people to wake up and cease their sinning.
Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. (I Corinthians 15:34)
The Lord Jesus stands ready to receive, forgive, and bless all who come to Him no matter how sinful they may have been. This is Divine love and grace. The problem today is that God’s love and mercy are being used as an alternative to, a substitute for, faithful discipleship rather than the means of making it possible for us to begin to live righteously.
When considering the resurrection of the body to eternal life, particularly the first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood, we spoke of God’s invitation to us and the provisions He has made for our success.
Now we are thinking about our response to God’s invitation and the manner in which we must appropriate God’s provisions if we would be successful in attaining the out-resurrection.
We have noted that the Scriptures show us plainly we must be accounted worthy of the resurrection. God always is able to deliver us from Satan and his works and to bring us to the fullness of eternal life in spirit, in soul, and in body. But we must be judged worthy of such resurrection life. We are judged worthy of eternal life in terms of the following factors:
- Our works: we always are judged according to our works.
- The exercise of our will: our decisions—great and small.
- Our faith that causes us to follow the Lord in strict obedience.
- Our patient and cheerful confidence in the Lord through prolonged periods of suffering.
- The intercession of others on our behalf.
Our works: we always are judged according to our works. We can see that all but the last (the intercession of others) come under the category of our works.
It is what we do that determines our eternal destiny.
We have stated previously that there are two different judgments. One judgment is of Satan, of the lusts that dwell in our flesh. The second judgment is of us as an individual. When our ways please the Lord, His judgment falls on the evil that resides in our flesh. The evil is handed over for sentencing. We go free.
When our ways please the Lord we are judged worthy of salvation, of deliverance. But we must understand that worthiness from the standpoint of God requires a far more diligent discipleship than that to which we are accustomed.
The present-day standard of Christianity in the wealthy nations of the world is too low. It does not approach the level of discipleship God judges worthy of His Kingdom.
There soon is to come on the earth great tribulation—disasters of every kind. The purpose of these disasters is to bring the members of the Body of Christ to the level of righteousness, holiness, and obedience God considers to be necessary on the part of the judges, kings, and priests of the Kingdom of God.
Speaking of worthiness, Jesus advised us it is better to pluck out our eye, or cut off a member of our body rather than not to be found worthy of life. The Divine standard is high. God is pleased with nothing less than the offering of our body as a living sacrifice to Himself.
Many churchgoers live a fairly decent, ordinary life, spending some time in the Lord’s service. They expect to hear the approval of the Lord. But they will not hear the approval of Christ unless they have set aside their own life completely, have taken up their cross, and have followed the Master. Nothing short of total consecration is acceptable with respect to every member of the royal priesthood.
Each individual who has lived on the earth will be judged according to his works. The judgment will be according to the light and blessing that have been given to him or her.
For those who have been called by the Lord to the royal priesthood, to the first resurrection, the judgment is strict.
Each person who has been called to the priesthood will stand before Christ. He will give an account of himself to God. He will not be found worthy of the first resurrection unless he has laid down his life, taken up his cross, and followed Jesus with a pure heart.
Some may object we are setting the standard too high. Indeed, we are not setting the standard too high. The first resurrection from the dead will proceed precisely according to the terms we are stating. Those who lower the standard for any reason whatever are deceiving themselves and their listeners. The Day that is coming will declare the truth of what we are saying because it is what the Scriptures teach.
It is possible that only a few will be found worthy to walk with Christ in that Day.
We understand that many pastors and teachers are inviting their listeners to take their bill and change the amount: “Do you owe the Master your body as a whole burnt offering? Here, take your bill and write down that all you need to do is to try to do good. You do not owe Him your whole life!”
The unrighteous ministers who are advising their listeners to change the amount they owe the Lord are wise. The Lord already has discharged them from His service. They need to make friends with the worldly so they will have someone to receive them when they die.
This is no time for the saints to grumble in the wilderness about how strict the Lord is. Rather, it is the time to take the Kingdom. The Kingdom will go to those who, like Joshua and Caleb, have followed the Lord faithfully with a pure heart.
The Scriptures teach clearly that each human being, whether or not he is a Christian, will be judged according to his works. Only after he has been judged will it be determined whether he is worthy of the final release from Satan, the release that will (for the royal priesthood) take place at the appearing of Christ.
Who shall render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God. (Romans 2:6-11)
Romans 2:7 (above) reveals that eternal life is the product of “patient continuance in well doing.”
The current belief, which is that the believer in Christ can gain eternal life apart from patient continuance in well doing, is a distortion of the doctrine of the Apostle Paul and may result in the destruction of the believer.
Let us think about additional passages proclaiming that all persons, including the Christians, will be judged and rewarded according to their works.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (II Corinthians 5:10)
It is obvious from the context of the above verse that Paul is including himself. Paul will receive the things done in his body, according to what he has done, whether good or evil. Jesus taught (John 5:29) that the kind of resurrection we shall experience depends on whether we have practiced good or evil.
The current Christian teaching that the believer will not experience a resurrection in accordance with his behavior is a destructive error.
And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you [of the churches] according to your works. (Revelation 2:23)
… the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:12)
… they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:13)
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:12)
What are the types of works that will be the bases on which we are judged and rewarded?
- Resisting sin.
- Heeding the Scriptures.
- Our consecration and obedience to God.
- Not neglecting our salvation.
- Abiding in Christ.
- Using our talents in the Kingdom.
- Charitable deeds.
One of the most important of all Christian works is the resisting of sin. He who does not resist sin and the devil can never attain the first resurrection. He runs the danger not only of not being received by the Lord at His coming but also of being thrown into the Lake of Fire.
God’s wrath against sin is very great. He has provided grace, wisdom, and power to assist us in our struggle against sin and the devil. If we will avail ourselves of all God has provided, exerting our own will in the process, the Lord Jesus will enable us to achieve victory, to overcome the works of darkness.
Extraordinary grace is available in our day. We are experiencing the beginning of the spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27). There is power available to enable us to put to death the deeds of our body.
It also is true that the spiritual darkness is increasing every day.
Soon it will be impossible to resist the devil. Christians will find themselves driven to lust, murder, covetousness, and every other work of Satan without being able to control themselves.
Many believers are not keeping the word of Christ’s patience today. Therefore He will not assist them during the hour of temptation (Revelation 3:10).
Not only will professing Christians be driven to commit sin but in addition they will pay the full penalty for the committing of the sin over which they have had little or no control. This apparent injustice is in accordance with the spiritual principle that to whoever has shall be given and from him who has not shall be removed even what he does possess.
It is today we must choose to overcome sin through the grace of Christ. If we do not, if we do not put to death through the Spirit the deeds of the flesh, we will discover to our horror, in the near future, that we no longer are able to resist the enemy. Let the reader take heed!
As we do everything in our power to overcome every sin of which the Spirit makes us aware, God has mercy on us. He begins even now the process of removing the satanic bondages from our flesh. In the Day of Christ, God will complete the work of delivering our flesh, raising our flesh from the dead and filling it with glorious eternal life.
But if we do not do everything in our power to overcome every sin of which we are aware, excusing our conduct on one basis or another, God will not begin the process of removing the satanic bondages from our flesh. In the Day of Christ, God will not complete the work of delivering our flesh. He will not raise our flesh from the dead and fill it with glorious eternal life. We have not been found worthy of the first resurrection from the dead.
Let the reader determine now that he or she, through the Holy Spirit of God, will achieve victory over every sin. Call on the Lord. Ask Him to reveal to you the bondages He is concerned about.
As the Holy Spirit begins to reveal your sins to you, confess them to God. Call on God with all your strength. Name your bondages and denounce them fervently as sin. Confess them to your wife, or husband, or some older Christian of the same sex as yourself.
Mean business with God. If your sin is an outward act, such as profanity, or smoking (which destroys the temple of the Holy Spirit), or fornication, repent with all your strength. Confess your sin to the elders if need be. Fast. Pray without ceasing.
Do not waste your time in an endless struggle leading nowhere. Call on God for deliverance through the Holy Spirit. Have the elders of the church lay hands on you and pray over you.
Make certain that you, Satan, and God are convinced that you regard your particular sin as a filthy, abominable practice that belongs in the Lake of Fire. Condemn it! Denounce it! Cease practicing it!
When we confess a specific sin and determine in our heart that by the Lord’s help we never will practice it again, God is faithful and righteous to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).
As far as an outward sin is concerned, it never is God’s will we continue practicing it. Do whatever is necessary but stop the practice of it. If you are so bound by Satan you cannot stop fornicating, or lying, or swearing, or stealing, go to your church and ask the elders to bind Satan and cast him from you.
In the case of more subtle sins of imagination, denounce them before the Lord. Ask Him to remove them.
Some of your personality traits, such as pride, may not yield immediately to your confession and repentance. In that case, submit yourself to God. Pray without ceasing. Praise the Lord. Obey Him. Continually render thanks to Him.
Do all you can to stop sinning. Learn the difference between condemnation and conviction. If you are serving the Lord to the best or your ability there is no condemnation resting on you. However, the Lord may convict you of a sin. Ask the Lord to deliver you from that sin. Anxious struggling or frantic behavior will not deliver you. God will hear your cry and judge you worthy of deliverance. Then He will deliver you.
Some deliverances require years of patient waiting on God for the answer.
That through them [through those bondages that do not yield immediately] I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua. (Judges 2:22,23)
Faithless Israel was slow to respond to God. On many occasions the Israelites refused to drive out the enemy but compromised with the Philistines and used them as slaves to cut wood and draw water. God did not command them to make slaves of the Canaanites. God commanded the Jews to destroy every Canaanite that breathed. But Israel was unwilling to do this.
In our day God is commanding us to destroy every spirit, great and small, that is not of the Kingdom of God. All the sins we are practicing, from the gross, overt acts to the finest, most subtle points of pride, romance, hatred, occult practices, and covetousness, are to be denounced and put to death through the Holy Spirit.
Israel never gained complete victory over their inheritance. As a result they were enticed into sin by the Philistines they did not overcome. God wants every one of us to gain complete victory. God wants us to press forward in faith until our whole spirit, soul, and body is preserved blameless to the coming of the Lord. Whatever we do not conquer will seek continually to entice us to sin.
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)
There are promises in the Scriptures that offer total victory over every spiritual and physical bondage. Never, never, never quit until you have gained complete victory. Do not reason or talk yourself out of total victory. The Bible promises total victory. Claim your inheritance!
Only those believers who come against the sins of their flesh with the full fury of the Godhead, with all the redemptive graces God has provided, will be able to stand during the coming hour of darkness.
We must pray fervently without ceasing that we may be found worthy to escape the deceptions and spiritual destruction that will be brought forth by Antichrist. Through the help of the Lord Jesus we can stand in triumph, in the fullness of victory, in His Presence when He appears.
God always is able to deliver us totally from every bondage. The question is one of our participation in the process. Are we really doing all we can? Are we walking in Christ to the best of our ability? If we are not we have no hope of participating in the first resurrection.
It is as God considers us worthy, as we do our best to overcome the bondages of sin, as we put to death the deeds of our body, as we crucify our flesh with its lusts, that God is moved to complete the work of deliverance in us. First, God judges us to be worthy of deliverance. Then God’s hand brings judgment on our adversary, Satan, and sets us free in eternal life.
We are judged according to our works. One of our most important works, a work that leads directly to the worthiness that qualifies us for the first resurrection, is our submitting to God and resisting the devil. The Christian who continues to serve unrighteousness has no hope of being raised from the dead at the appearing of Christ.
Another important work is that of taking heed to the admonitions of the Scriptures: to the New Testament and, where applicable, to the Old Testament.
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (Romans 6:17)
The New Testament is filled with various admonitions to godly behavior and illustrations that teach us the importance of righteousness and holiness. The sincere disciple meditates on each of these and seeks the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit in the fulfillment of them.
Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. (Titus 2:6-8)
The admonitions found in the Book of Titus, and in all the other epistles of Paul, are necessary for our salvation. As we learn the Scriptures, and through the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit put them into practice, God esteems us worthy of the Kingdom that He has prepared for those who love Him.
The Lord Jesus gave us many rules of conduct. There is great reward for those who, through the Holy Spirit’s help, do what the Lord commanded us. Notice the response of the Godhead to the individual who puts into practice the Words of Jesus.
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 14:23)
Blessed is that man or woman, boy or girl, who meditates constantly in the Word of God and seeks God’s help in putting the Word into practice. He or she will be found worthy of eternal life and will experience the indwelling Presence of the Godhead forever.
A third aspect of the works of the believer has to do with his consecration and obedience to God. Numerous believers do not make a success of the Divine program of redemption because they never have laid down their life in the world and presented their body a living sacrifice to the Lord. They do everything except this. Yet if we do not lay down our life, take up our cross, and follow the Lord Jesus we are not worthy of Him. We cannot be His disciple.
It appears there are few genuine Christians in our day. There are multitudes of church members and believers, many of whom have recited the “sinner’s prayer.”
How many people do you know who actually have laid down their life for the Gospel’s sake? These are the true Christians. The remainder cannot participate in the resurrection of the victorious saints.
God never changes. His Word, His standard, never changes. He has commanded us to present our body a living sacrifice, to come out of the world, to live as a pilgrim and a stranger in the strictest obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.
If no individual on the earth does this, then no individual on the earth will participate in the first resurrection. God does not change. We are so accustomed to bending standards to fit the desires of people it is difficult for us to comprehend the inflexibility of the standard of attainment required for participation in the first resurrection.
Sometimes the believers say they cannot do what God is requiring. They are deceiving themselves. What they mean is, they do not want to do what God is commanding. God’s commandments are reasonable, practical, and workable through the assistance of the Holy Spirit. It is we who insist on our own ways, on retaining a certain portion of “Egypt.”
Leading the life of victory is not impossible. It is a joy for all who pursue it. But it is impossible to lead the life of victory, the life that leads directly to the freedom and glory of the first resurrection, until we come out of the world, take up our cross of self-denial, and follow Christ with a pure heart.
Another work is that of not neglecting our salvation (Hebrews 2:3). In the industrialized nations, time is a problem. Many people are so busy! The danger here is that of neglecting our salvation—the sin of neglect.
Being a disciple of Jesus requires time. We must pray each day, meditate in the Scriptures, meet on a regular basis with fervent disciples as possible, give of our means, stir up the gifts the Spirit has given us, receive the benefit of the gifts of others, obey those who have the rule over us, assist in the work of the Gospel, and practice all the other duties and activities of the Christian life.
It is easy to neglect our salvation because there does not seem to be enough time in the day. If we are too busy to attend to the Lord as we should, we are too busy. Serving the Lord is more important than our trade or profession. Our first business in life is to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
This is not to say we are to neglect our family or our other responsibilities. We must learn to work that we may support ourselves and our family and be able to help those in need.
In addition to carrying out our worldly responsibilities we must pray for time and strength to seek the Lord with a perfect heart. Those who neglect their salvation will be punished. They will not be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, of participation in the first resurrection. We must pray to God to give us the desire and opportunity to attend to the duties, such as prayer and Scripture reading, that are part of the normal Christian discipleship. Our job in the world is secondary in importance to these works of righteousness. Far better to take a secular job of less importance in order that enough attention may be given to one’s discipleship.
Another work is that of abiding in Christ. We always must live, move, and have our being in Jesus. Each day of our discipleship the Lord moves back a step, as it were. To abide in Him that day requires an additional step of faith. He keeps moving, so we must enter ever further into the process of redemption in order to stay with Him. Abiding in Jesus never is a static experience.
Putting on immortality will be just one more small step for those who have been abiding faithfully in Jesus. But those who have not been abiding in Him each day will not be able to make the huge leap into eternal life that would be required of them.
Those who are alive on the earth when the Lord comes must be strong enough in faith to survive the transformation from mortality into immortality if they expect to be gathered together with the members of the royal priesthood. It will not be easy for us to forsake our flesh and blood metabolism in favor of a spiritual metabolism, to drop our accustomed physical life and become a life-giving spirit—without once looking back.
Sudden transformation into immortality will be possible for those, and only those, who have been abiding in Jesus throughout their Christian life. The believers who have been living in the flesh will not be able to drop their first personality and enter the new, spiritual humanity without fearful misgivings concerning what they are losing. They do not have enough oil in their vessels with their lamps. They will look back to their former life and that one hesitation will prevent their participation in the indescribable joy of the saints who rise in glory as members of the Body of Christ.
Those who are alive when the Lord returns will be required to die on their feet and then be resurrected. They will not have the opportunity to die physically, rest a while in the spirit realm, and then descend with Jesus in the Day of the Lord to pick up their body from the grave. We can imagine what faith will be required to enter death and resurrection while we yet are alive on the earth! What dedication and trust will be necessary for us to leave flesh-and-blood ties without once looking back!
Remember Lot’s wife!
Then there is the work of using our talents in the business of the Kingdom. The Lord Jesus will deal harshly with the individual who buries his talent.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30)
We would not expect such a harsh sentence to fall on someone whose only sin was neglecting to utilize his gifts in the Lord’s work. We would think that outer darkness, the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, would be reserved for those who have been guilty of grossly abominable crimes.
The reason for our lack of perception is that we do not distinguish between the judgment of Satan and the judgment of the individual. Sometimes the perpetrators of gross wickedness are people who are bound with Satan and who never have heard the Gospel of the Kingdom. A wicked spirit in them is driving them. Unless Christ chooses to deliver them they will go into the flames along with the spirit that is compelling them. But they are to be pitied because it actually is Satan who is to blame for their conduct.
However, it is the Lord’s servant whom we are concerned with here, the individual who does not use the Kingdom talent that has been given to him. Unlike the pagan who has not heard the Gospel, the Lord’s lazy servant has been entrusted with much light and glory. He is well able to put his talent to good use, but of his own will he chooses to spend his life on his own pursuits rather than the business of God.
Much has been given to him and much will be required of him. The judgment falls on him, not on Satan, because the sin has proceeded from his own wickedness and laziness. He has not been found worthy of the resurrection to eternal life. He will be cast into outer darkness.
If we aspire to the first resurrection we must redeem the time, being diligent with all the Lord has entrusted to us. Only then will we be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God.
Charitable deeds are a work that causes God to regard us as worthy of the Kingdom.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament emphasize God’s concern for the poor of the world.
The story of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, is a very helpful exhortation. First of all, we must realize this is not a discussion of the merits of receiving Christ. The issue here has to do with the treatment of the poor by the rich.
The rich man was assigned to the flames of torment because he had not shared his wealth with the beggar. Lazarus was taken to Abraham in Paradise because he had suffered in the world. God has a concern for the poor and expects us to be considerate and helpful to those who are in need. This is part of the worthiness required for entrance into eternal life.
Cornelius “gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway” (Acts 10:2). God took notice of the charity of Cornelius and brought salvation to his household.
The kind treatment of the needy can lead us into eternal life.
And these [who ministered to the needs of the Lord’s brothers] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46)
The right kind of faith in Christ produces righteous behavior in us. It is the righteous behavior that brings us into eternal life. It is as we overcome sin and self-centeredness that we are given to eat of the tree of life (Revelation 2:7).
To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: (Romans 2:7)
But now being made free from sin [by choosing to obey righteousness], and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
The end of holiness is eternal life.
When Adam and Eve transgressed, the scales of Divine equity became unbalanced. No human being was able to bring those scales back into balance.
When Christ paid the price in His own body on the cross the scales of Divine equity came back into balance. The price was paid, not only for the elect but for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2).
The price has been paid, but “Adam and Eve,” so to speak, are not worthy to be readmitted to Paradise. If they are allowed back into Eden they will continue to sin, causing the entire horrible, agonizing situation to take place again.
Yes, but now they have learned their lesson. Have they? Have we?
God’s program of restoration makes certain that only those who choose to serve the Lord are permitted back into Paradise. God assures Himself of our behavior by destroying all the works of Satan in us, by re-creating our inner nature, filling it with the obedient Nature of Christ, and by dwelling in us and bringing us into total, eternal union with Himself. Only then are we permitted back into Paradise.
The guarantee that we shall not repeat the folly of Adam and Eve is the Presence of the righteous, obedient Christ formed in us and dwelling in us.
It is worse than useless to discuss the possibility of untransformed individuals being permitted to partake of eternal resurrection life. Do we want eternal sinners on our hands? The purpose of Divine grace and mercy is not to permit sinners to enter Paradise. The purpose of the Divine grace and mercy in Jesus is to so transform sinners they can be entrusted with eternal, incorruptible resurrection life.
God has given to us His grace through Christ so we may choose to walk in righteousness. As we choose to walk in righteousness, God delivers us from the curse of sin. If we continue following the Lord the Day will come when we are set free from every aspect of Satan in our spirit, our soul, and our body. Then we will walk on the earth in the fullness of the glory of eternal life.
The royal priesthood is a firstfruits of those who are to be resurrected to eternal life. Through the royal priesthood the release will come to the entire creation, to those whom Christ chooses to save.
Because the members of the priesthood, the members of the Body of Christ, are part of the government of the Kingdom of God (being pillars in the eternal Temple of God), the Lord deals with them with the utmost strictness. The priesthood of the Kingdom is being called out of the churches today. The demands on us are total. We have been grasped by the Lord for this glory and our whole life is to be dedicated to laying hold on that heavenly mark for which we have been grasped.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ. (Philippians 3:12)
“If that I may apprehend [grasp; lay hold of] that for which also I am apprehended of Christ.”
It will be the responsibility of the royal priesthood, the firstfruits of Christ, to govern the nations of the earth with a rod of iron until those peoples either receive Jesus as Lord and enter eternal life, or else reject the rulership of Jesus and enter torment. The issue of the Kingdom of God is the doing of God’s will in the earth as it is in Heaven. Eternal life will be given only to those who do God’s will.
Eternal life is not given to us on the basis of love and mercy. It is given to us on the basis of doing the will of God. It was disobedience to the will of God that drove Adam and Eve out of the garden, away from access to the tree of life.
If we obey God by receiving Christ and being baptized in water we receive a portion of resurrection life, an earnest (advance installment; pledge; guarantee) of the full salvation to come. If we are to obtain the full redemption we must enter the process that leads to the full redemption.
If we come short of our calling we will be disciplined severely and suffer very great loss. To whom much has been given, of him shall much be required. Let the Christian take heed to himself and keep his body under subjection to God’s will so he may be found worthy of the first resurrection.
We have been discussing our response to God’s invitation to life and our appropriation of the Divine provisions. We are to lay hold on the Divine provisions so we may be judged worthy of eternal life.
The first aspect of worthiness we have mentioned is that of our works. We are judged according to our works, according to the deeds done in our body. Under the category of good works we have mentioned resisting sin, taking heed to the Scriptures, our consecration and obedience to God, not neglecting our salvation, abiding in Christ, using our talents in the Kingdom, and charitable deeds.
If we would obtain the salvation to eternal life we must take heed to the scriptural doctrine of godly behavior.
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (I Timothy 4:16)
It can be seen how deadly is the teaching that Christ did it all and there is nothing we are to do but passively rest in the “finished work.” While the concept of the finished work of Christ may bring peace and assurance to some soul who is laboring in condemnation, striving to please God in his own strength, yet an overemphasis on the finished work of Christ can destroy and indeed has destroyed the very fiber of Christianity in the twentieth century.
The Christian life is far from being an acknowledgment of the finished work of Christ. Rather, it is an intensely active involvement in the Divinely ordained and administered process of redemption, as is evident in the writings of the Apostles of the Lamb.
The exercise of our will: our decisions—great and small. In addition to the works we have mentioned we need to think of the exercise of our will, of our decisions, as being part of the basis for being judged worthy of the first resurrection.
The Christian discipleship is a matter of our will, of our choices. All true saints know it is with the will that we choose to serve Christ. The double-minded believer accomplishes nothing. We constantly must choose to serve the Lord.
So many of the Lord’s flock are indecisive! They never shall attain the first resurrection because they cannot make up their mind that the things of God are more important than what they see about them. They waver and are driven about by every wind of desire and fear.
They do not know what to believe. One moment they are persuaded to follow the Lord with their whole heart. A week later they are thinking about something else.
Every day we make choices, we decide among alternatives. The individual who does not keep clearly before himself or herself the Glory of God, the goal of the discipleship, the mark of the heavenly calling in Christ, can never arrive at the first resurrection. He is weak and fearful and because of this he will turn back into the wilderness at the first sign of the enemy. It is the conqueror, the overcomer, who inherits all things, who is counted as God’s son. God takes no pleasure in fearful, indecisive people.
God takes no pleasure in those who, for whatever reason, cannot make up their mind to serve the Lord. Those who do make a success of the process of redemption are as frail and spiritually handicapped as those who fail. One of the differences is that the victorious saints are single-minded. They put their hand to the plow and do not look back. When they stumble they get up again and continue pressing forward. God considers them worthy of eternal life in His Kingdom.
Choose this day whom you will serve. Be hot or cold. If the Lord is your God, then serve Him. If Satan is your God, then serve him. It is impossible to attain the first resurrection if we cannot make up our mind what direction we will go.
Our faith that causes us to follow the Lord in strict obedience. Faith is an important part of our response to God’s invitation to life.
Faith brings us through the process of redemption until we arrive at the resurrection that will take place when the Lord appears.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is a definition of what it means to live by faith. The righteous live by faith.
As we ponder the eleventh chapter of Hebrews we notice that the faith by which the righteous live is not a profession of belief in doctrine. The faith by which the righteous live is obedience to the revealed will of God. Faith is a laying hold on God in such a manner that the promise of God is brought to reality.
Faith apart from works is dead. When we think of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, we can see that a profession of belief in doctrine is not what they had in common. What they had in common was an actual, practical, response to what God had shown them to be true. They did what God told them to do. They did not continue in their daily business and claim that God by Himself was going to bring the promise to pass.
The New Testament uses the journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan as an illustration of the process of redemption, of the transition from sin and death to eternal resurrection life.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (I Corinthians 10:11)
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: (Hebrews 3:8)
I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. (Jude 1:5)
Clearly, the Holy Spirit intends that we should consider the movement of Israel from Egypt to Canaan as an example of our movement from death to life.
Notice that the Lord destroyed the Israelites because they “believed not.”
If we can look at what it was they did that brought about their destruction we can understand what it means to “believe not.”
Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: (Numbers 14:22,23)
If the current emphasis were true, that the Christian redemption consists of our sitting in Egypt and believing we are in the land of promise because Christ is in the land of promise and we are in Christ, then all the Israelites would have had to do was to wait in Egypt and claim they were in Canaan. This is a spiritual fantasy, a withdrawal from reality.
The reason they tempted God in the wilderness ten times is that they were wandering in a barren, inhospitable wilderness and they were miserable. They were following the cloud by day and the fire by night. They were not sitting in Egypt and exclaiming all they had to do was believe. Such indeed would be a dead faith.
So it is in the Christian life. We must follow the Spirit of God. The Spirit is leading us from death to life. Every day we must follow the Spirit. To do otherwise is to neglect our salvation. It would be as though an Israelite were to sit in the wilderness of Sinai and wait for God to save him by his acknowledgment of God’s promises.
God already had put His fear on the Canaanites. Their protection had departed from them. They were bread for the Israelites.
But the Israelites lost faith in God. They murmured. They complained. They wept in fear. If they had believed in God’s trustworthiness God would have led them in battle against the Philistines and they would have conquered every village and city. But instead God directed them back into the wilderness to die there.
It is important to note that God did all the fighting against the Egyptians. The Jews had only to make their exodus. But when Israel entered Canaan the Jews had to fight their way into their possession—city by city. God did not do all the fighting for them on that occasion.
In fact, we find in the Book of Judges that God would not deliver all the cities into their hands because He first wanted to prove their worthiness (Judges 2:22,23).
Canaan, the land of promise, the land of milk and honey, was the goal of Israel, of the army of God.
The spiritual, new-covenant fulfillment of Canaan is the resurrection to eternal life. Our goal as Christians is the attaining of the first resurrection, the resurrection of the victorious saints. The Christian salvation is the achieving of eternal life.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)
“Lay hold on eternal life.”
Faith is a fight. It is fighting our way into the rest of God, into the inheritance, into eternal life. We must labor to enter rest. We must cast aside our own works in order that we may enter the works of God, into that finished inheritance. God gave the Word, and the Word is bringing about a new race, a new heaven, and a new earth. We are not to perform our own works. We are to enter Christ so we work as part of the working of God.
Some have wondered why Paul taught we are not justified (found righteous in God’s sight) by works, while James insisted we are justified by works.
The answer is, there are two kinds of works. There is the wrong kind of works and then there is the right kind of works. The wrong kind of works leads to self-righteousness, not to eternal life. The right kind of works leads to eternal life.
The right works are those that proceed from Christ, from the Holy Spirit. As we labor to enter the rest of God, into what God has spoken from the beginning, the works of Christ are revealed in us. These works lead to eternal life.
There is no conflict between Paul and James. Paul is speaking of the wrong kind of works, of the dead works that proceed from the religious person. James is speaking of living works, of the works that proceed from our active, daily pressing into the will of Christ.
What is our goal? Precisely what is eternal resurrection life?
Eternal life, which is the goal of the Christian discipleship, is as follows:
- The perfect, complete union of our spirit with the Holy Spirit of God.
- The conversion of our mortal soul to the Substance and Virtue of Christ, and the dwelling of the Father and Christ therein in untroubled rest, making our soul the Throne of God and of the Lamb.
- The clothing of our resurrected mortal frame so it becomes the chariot of God, a vehicle fashioned from resurrection life, carrying about a new creation who soars like an eagle in the spirit realm, who reigns as a king in Christ, who always serves the God of Heaven, and who is in the moral image of God.
This is the goal of the Christian discipleship. This is the spiritual counterpart of Canaan. This is eternal, incorruptible resurrection life in the Kingdom of God. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.
Our patient and cheerful confidence in the Lord through prolonged periods of suffering. Patient confidence in the Lord during periods of suffering is the mark of the victorious saint. In many instances we must suffer in order to be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God.
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)
The righteous are saved with difficulty. So great is the wrath of God directed toward the sin and rebellion found in the earth that God chastens His own children severely in order that they may be partakers of His holiness.
Our task is to maintain our patience and faith while we are suffering persecution and tribulation. If we are patient and faithful in our suffering, giving glory and praise to the Father without ceasing, then we are acceptable to God and received of God. He judges us worthy of His Kingdom. We will have rest when Christ appears.
The Kingdom of God is associated with patience (Revelation 1:9). We are to allow patience to have its perfect work in us. The believer who is impatient must cry out to God for deliverance from the sin of impatience.
There is coming an hour of temptation on the earth. Lawlessness, lust, and violence will abound. If we are willing to guard the Word of Christ’s patience now, Christ will guard us throughout the period of temptation (Revelation 3:10). But if we do not carry our cross patiently in the present hour, Christ will not guard us during the time of temptation. We—Christian or not—will be drawn into the deceptions of Antichrist. We will have our part in fiery burnings under the watchful eyes of the holy angels and the Lamb (Revelation 14:10,11).
If we are patient to the point of the death of our fleshly nature we will find rest in the time of trouble. We will rest from our labors, and our works will follow us as light and heat follow the rising of the sun (Revelation 14:13). This is the patience of the saints, of those who keep the commandments of God.
Much patience and cheerful confidence in the Lord throughout every kind of suffering and perplexity are necessary if we would attain the first resurrection.
The intercession of others on our behalf. A factor that must not be overlooked, in the attainment of eternal life, is intercessory prayer. The intercession of Christ in the Presence of the Father is one of the major provisions God has made to ensure our success as we pursue the narrow, pressured, rigorous way that leads to life.
Perhaps Lot is one of the clearest examples of the power of intercession. Lot was delivered from destruction because of the intercession of faithful Abraham on his behalf.
The writer does not consider Lot an example of attainment to the first resurrection. The first resurrection is for those who have a full inheritance in the Lord, like Noah and Abraham. Lot barely escaped destruction, losing his wife and his possessions.
Nevertheless God counted Lot worthy of deliverance from destruction. This is because another person stood in the gap for him.
Each of us should be encouraged by the deliverance of Lot. We have loved ones who have a difficult time deciding to serve God and continue to wander in the fields of sin. It is a comfort to us to know that God hears our prayers of intercession and counts the objects of our prayers as being worthy of life because of our prayers for them.
Many of us are where we are in the Kingdom because of the prayers of others for us.
We have discussed God’s invitation to salvation and the provisions He has made for our success. We have thought also about our response to God’s invitation and our appropriation of the Divine provisions that result in our being judged worthy of eternal life.
Now it is time to consider the transformation of our personality. As God finds us worthy He transforms our personality. It is impossible for us to participate in the first resurrection from among the dead unless our personality has been changed from death to life. The body of life will not be placed on a dead spiritual nature.
The Transformation of Our Personality From Death to Eternal Life
The demolishing of our sinful nature. There are two dimensions of our passing from death to life in our spiritual nature. The first dimension is the complete demolishing of the sinful nature that dwells in us. The second is the formation of Christ in us, and the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in our transformed inner man.
Both of these works are of God as we continue to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings us through the previous steps we have described so we may be worthy and competent to experience the transformation of our inner personality. As our inner personality is transformed, our worthiness and competence are increased so that the destruction of evil and the forming and dwelling of Christ in us are strengthened and accelerated.
It can be seen that we either are in a cycle going downward, in that what we are and what we do interact to ensure our loss of inheritance or possibly our complete destruction in the Lake of Fire; or else we are in a cycle moving upward, in that what we are and do interact to ensure our achievement of eternal life. In this is fulfilled the saying that to those who have will be more be given and from those who have not will be taken away even that which they possess.
The rewards go to the conquerors, and the rewards make God’s conquerors even more capable of conquest. The sin and rebellion that increase in the sinner bring further judgment and death upon him.
In the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul continues his discussion of the process of redemption. In the earlier chapters of Romans, Paul had stressed that the works of the Law of Moses no longer are adequate for our justification (righteousness) now that God has given His Son as an atonement (forgiveness and reconciliation) for our sins.
Let us examine how the Apostle Paul describes the progression from our present state of spiritual warfare to the climax, which is the redemption of our mortal body.
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
Here we find our present condition. Our physical body is dead because of the sins that abide in it. Sin always results in death, in separation from the eternal Life of God.
Our inner, spiritual nature is alive because of two facts: (1) we have been declared guiltless on the basis of our faith in the atonement made by Christ; and (2) the eternal Life of the Spirit of God is dwelling in us.
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)
If the inner resurrection life is dwelling in us, the Day will come when our inner resurrection life is extended to our outer frame.
If, however, the inner life has not been developed in us, then there is no eternal life to extend outward to our body. There is no oil in our lamp. We may be doctrinally sound. But we do not attain the first resurrection on the basis of our doctrine. We attain the first resurrection on the basis of the Life of Christ that has been formed in us. The resurrection is being formed in us in the present hour.
God will not raise people at the appearing of Christ on the basis of His love and mercy. God will raise people on the basis of the formation in them of the resurrection. Mercy and grace, if rightfully applied, create the resurrection in us today so that in the Day of Christ the same life that is dwelling in us can radiate outward to our mortal body. Isn’t this what Romans 8:11 is stating?
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (Romans 8:12)
Our sinful, dead flesh always is demanding more attention. However, our true life is not in our flesh but in our new inner nature—that which has been born of Christ. Therefore we do not owe our body anything except to keep it healthy, if this is possible. We are not to spend our life satisfying the lusts and appetites of our flesh. “The flesh profits nothing,” Jesus declared.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)
If we yield to the demands of our flesh, spending the great majority of our time and energy eating, sleeping, working, playing, and reproducing, the resurrection life given to us when we believed in Jesus will be crowded out by the cares of the world. We will slay our own resurrection.
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)
But if we, as the Holy Spirit guides and empowers us, denounce and resist the deeds of our flesh, using the world but not becoming involved in it improperly, the resurrection life in us will become increasingly powerful and prominent leading to the first resurrection from the dead.
But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. (I Corinthians 7:29-31)
The sons of God spend time in prayer, in seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
The Spirit of God leads us in putting to death the deeds of our body. We cannot drive the sin out of ourselves. We must follow the Spirit into battle against the enemy. The Spirit delivers the enemy into our hand, and we put the sin to death by denouncing it in the name of Jesus the Lord. The Spirit shows us how to gain victory over each sin.
God gives us victory over some sins as soon as we make the effort to put them to death. In other instances we fight a long battle. If we do not compromise but are determined to attain the resurrection, the Spirit leads us to total victory. We never are to give up. Total victory is both possible and necessary. The rewards go to the victorious saints.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15)
When the knowledge of his sin comes to an individual under the Law of Moses he or she experiences condemnation.
When the knowledge of his sin comes to a Christian he rejoices in Christ because he knows the Lord Jesus will give him total victory over his sin. Under the new covenant he cannot be forced to sin. Jesus has the power to deliver him. He or she is then responsible to follow the Holy Spirit to total victory over the sin by confessing the sin, repenting of it, and then resisting the devil in the future.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (Romans 8:16)
The new life that has been born in us is of God. It is an assurance to us that we are without condemnation and are on the way toward the fullness of redemption. If we choose to follow the Spirit in faith, fighting our way through every obstacle and enemy, we will emerge as sons of God. God has provided every grace. It is up to us to not be like faithless Israel but believing and confident in our God.
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:17)
The inheritance of Christ includes all things, especially the nations of the earth and the earth itself. We have been destined to share in the inheritance. In order to do so we must suffer with Him. We must go outside the camp with Him, bearing the reproach, the shame and disgrace that always fall on those who represent God among men.
All things appear to come against us when we reveal in ourselves the righteousness and life of the coming Kingdom of God. The adversaries are many. Satan is not worried about the activities of the churches. The churches can preach all they want to about going to Heaven. None of this is of major concern to Satan.
Satan’s concern is the bringing of righteousness and eternal life into the earth, because he considers the earth and the nations to be his possession. As soon as we come out of the babylonish (manmade, man-centered, man-directed) beliefs and practices of organized religion and seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, we experience the sufferings of the cross.
If we would know the power of Christ’s resurrection we must share in the sufferings of Christ. The two go together. Resurrection life proceeds from the cross. The personal cross of the believer slays his fleshly nature, making it possible for the Life of Christ to come to maturity in him.
Flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Flesh and blood, the first Adam, cannot participate in the first resurrection and ascension of the saints. Only the new creation can participate in the first resurrection. The suffering of the cross plays a large part in making us worthy to be part of the early resurrection from the dead.
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)
The suffering of the present life plays its part in releasing us from the death of the adamic nature. Suffering often causes us to cease our sinning (I Peter 4:1,2). We are able to live from day to day while we are bearing in ourselves the suffering of Christ because we have our eyes on the glory ahead of us—the first resurrection from the dead.
The thousand-year Kingdom Age will be filled with the Glory of God. The curse will be lifted from the earth. Antichrist and the False Prophet will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit. The knowledge of the Glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The peoples will be set free from their bondages and taught of God.
All of this Kingdom glory will come to the earth through the saints. The glory will be revealed in us. The Kingdom Age will flow from the personalities of the saints as from wells of living water. The saints will be in charge of restoring the world. They will possess the authority to bind wickedness and loose righteousness because in Christ they have the keys of the Kingdom.
For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)
The material creation will remain in the chains of sin and death until the sons of God are ready to be revealed with Christ. We are in training now. The sons of God will come to maturity during the tribulation period. The Christian Church, the Wife of the Lamb, will be separated from the worldly churches and washed from its sins by a baptism of fire until it is without spot, wrinkle, blemish, or imperfection of any kind. Many who are last in time will be first in the Kingdom of God.
For the creature [creation] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, (Romans 8:20)
God in His goodness drove man out of the garden so he could not gain access to the tree of life. Had man eaten of the tree of life he would have become immortal. He would have been an immortal sinner. He would have been as a fallen angel and redemption would not have been possible for him.
By making man subject to vanity, to death, and all nature subject to decay, God has given man a chance to find redemption through Christ. God caused death to corrupt the bodies of men so they could spend their few short years and then pass into the spirit realm, there to await the Day of Redemption.
This plan has proceeded from God’s love, God’s hope that one day God can bring forth a new race, a new heaven, and a new earth—all centered in Christ.
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)
It is God’s intention that eternal life be brought back into the physical realm. The redemption of the material creation began with the resurrection of the body of Jesus of Nazareth. The Man, Christ, walked out of the cave after having been dead for three days. This event marked the beginning of the deliverance of the material creation.
Next in order will come the members of the royal priesthood. As soon as the saints have gained victory in their inner spiritual nature and have been filled with the Life of Christ, Jesus will return from Heaven. He and His saints will appear in glory, being the firstfruits of the new creation.
Out from the Son and the sons will flow the Glory of God, the rivers of living water. The nations of the saved will taste of spiritual life. The Lord Jesus and His brothers now will be able to live and work on the earth among the nations in bodies no longer subject to sin, decay, or death. They are alive. They are alive forever. The Lord God of Heaven has brought about victory through His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (I Corinthians 15:54)
Christ and His saints will rule the nations of the saved with a rod of iron. The Kingdom Age is part of God’s plan to bring the material creation closer to the time when the remainder of mankind can have access to the tree of life and live forever.
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (Romans 8:22)
The world groans in one long sigh of pain and anxiety. Man and animals live but a few brief years on this planet, and those years are filled with problems and sometimes with agony of body, of mind, of soul. Indeed, the world is the valley of the shadow of death of which David spoke (Psalms 23:4).
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)
We of the elect have been given the firstfruits of the Spirit of God, the firstfruits of eternal, incorruptible resurrection life. God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. That eternal life is in the elect, in the firstfruits, today.
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18)
But the eternal life has not yet been extended to our bodies. Many enemies still are confronting us. If we follow Christ faithfully He finally will bring us to victory over the last enemy. The last enemy is physical death (I Corinthians 15:26).
Our new inner nature has been born of God but our body must be adopted by being redeemed. The Lord Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the power of the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). We also shall be declared to be the sons of God by the power of the resurrection from the dead.
We always are to be pressing forward in order that we may attain the resurrection of victory that will be available when the Lord returns.
It is absolutely necessary that all the works of the enemy be destroyed out of us. God enables us to do this as we demonstrate our worthiness by laying hold on the grace He has provided through the Lord Jesus.
The forming and dwelling of Christ in us. Another dimension of our inner spiritual preparation is the forming of Christ in us and the coming to dwell of the Father and the Son in our transformed inner nature. The Lord Jesus is the resurrection from the dead. To the extent He is in us we have arrived at the spiritual aspect of the first resurrection from the dead.
Notice this concept in the following passage:
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)
We continually must receive into ourselves the very Life of the Son of God. As we eat His flesh and drink His blood we eat and drink eternal life. If we are filled with His Life He will raise us up at the last day.
As we have stated before, a doctrinal belief cannot possibly enable us to attain the first resurrection. If it could, Paul, a few years before his martyrdom, certainly would not have still been seeking to attain the resurrection after many epistles had been written and churches had been established (Philippians 3:11). Attainment to the out-resurrection is the result of our being filled with the body and blood of Jesus and living and walking according to that body and blood. It is Jesus in us who is the Resurrection and the Life.
Let us notice this fact in another verse:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)
John 5:24 sums up the nature of the true Christian discipleship. The true saint lives by hearing the Word of Jesus and believing in God. This is how we live. Every moment of every day we listen for His voice. We wait before Him in prayer constantly. No decision is made without being offered to Him in prayer.
Our life is conducted in faith in God. We do not rely on money or outward circumstances. We live by faith in God. We do not lean on our own understanding. In all our ways we acknowledge God. We trust in the Lord with all our heart.
As we live by Christ His body and blood enter us. Everlasting life enters us. There is no condemnation upon us because we are part of Him. The individual who lives as part of Jesus is always passing from death to life.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:56,57)
Eternal life, which is the goal of the Christian redemption, is Christ. He is the Resurrection and the Life. As we by faith eat His flesh and drink His blood we dwell in Him and He in us. Dwelling in Jesus and He in us is the final result of all the works and actions we have discussed previously.
Resisting sin, heeding the Scriptures, our consecration and obedience to God, not neglecting our salvation, praying, giving, ministering, receiving ministry, using our talents in the Kingdom, the exercise of our will, our faith, our patient and cheerful confidence in the Lord—all have as their goal our dwelling in Jesus and He in us.
Peter sums up the Divine redemption, referring to the indwelling of Jesus as the day star that arises in our heart.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy [the Scriptures]; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (II Peter 1:19)
It is as we do what Jesus said, as we obey the commandments He gave to us through His Apostles, that the Father and the Son find Their eternal rest in us.
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 14:23)
Notice the progression of events:
- A man loves Christ.
- He keeps Christ’s Words: he does what Jesus has commanded us to do.
- The Father loves His obedient son.
- The Father and Jesus come to the faithful servant and make Their eternal dwelling with him.
This is the true eternal life. John 14:23, which reveals the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34), portrays what Paul meant by arriving at the first resurrection from among the dead. The experience of John 14:23 is the prerequisite for participation in and the beginning of entrance into the out-resurrection.
All the necessary works we practice are for the purpose of bringing us to the indwelling of the Father and the Son. The careless, disobedient “believer” knows little or nothing of such inner preparation. God has not found him worthy because he has not faithfully kept the Words of Christ. The Father and the Son enter no man until the necessary inner preparations have been made.
All the elements of the Christian pilgrimage, including our tribulations in the world and also the various graces and efforts involved in our discipleship, are for the purpose of preparing our inner nature for the abiding of the Father and the Son in us. We are being created the eternal habitation of God (Ephesians 2:22).
In the house of the Father there are many abiding places. Each saint is being made a room in the house of the Father. Each saint is being made a chariot of God in which God can travel to every area of His creation causing His will to be done and blessing His creatures.
The resurrection of our mortal body, the clothing of it with eternal life, is the next logical step after the Father and the Son have found Their eternal rest in us.
The Resurrection of Our Mortal Body to Righteousness and Eternal Life
It is possible that the works of redemption taking place in the saints on the earth have also taken place, or are now taking place, in the saints in the spirit realm whose bodies are sleeping in physical death. The whole Body of Christ, the Wife of the Lamb, may be coming to perfection together (Hebrews 11:40).
The righteous behavior that is being given to us now may be occurring also in the spirit realm, as suggested by the following passage:
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Revelation 6:9-11)
As we understand it, the white robes which were given to the martyrs are bodies that practice righteousness by their very nature.
After the great tribulation, the sun, moon, and stars will not give their light. The powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heaven above us. The peoples of the earth will see Christ coming on the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory.
Christ will send his angels with the sound of a trumpet and they will gather his elect from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:31).
In order to understand the resurrection to righteousness and eternal life we must realize that two different bodies are involved. The first is our mortal body, which for most of the members of the Body of Christ will be sleeping in death at the time of His appearing. The second body is our house from Heaven.
Our house from Heaven is constructed as the result of our being sown to death as we follow Christ. It is an “eternal weight of glory” produced by the continual renewal of our inner man in response to our “light affliction” (II Corinthians 4:16-5:2).
First of all, the Father and the Son will enter the prepared saints in the spirit realm and those still living on the earth. Such fullness of union with God and His Christ is, as we have stated, the prerequisite for participation in the victorious resurrection.
Then the unclothed spirits of righteous people in the spirit realm, those who have been filled with the Presence of the Father and the Son, will be clothed with their house from Heaven. This will take place, as we understand it, just before the time of the appearing of the Lord (Revelation 6:11; 19:8).
The house from Heaven is the reward for our behavior, the reaping of what we have sown. Because of this the house the saints receive will vary from individual to individual as to its authority, power, and glory. Our body will be like that of the Lord Jesus in that it will be eternally alive, but it will vary according to the type of person we have become through our response to the high calling He has placed on us. Our reward will be precisely according to our work (Revelation 22:12).
Not nearly enough attention has been given, in Christian thinking, to the fact that the kind of body we shall receive in the resurrection is our reward, is being fashioned and developed by our conduct today, and may prove to be our basic condition for eternity.
When the Lord descends from Heaven the righteous dead will descend with Him. Although they may be in their newly acquired spiritual bodies, they will be invisible to the peoples of the earth.
These saints then will be sent down to receive back their mortal bodies from the place of death.
By the power of the Father working through Christ, both of whom will be dwelling in the saints through the Holy Spirit, the victorious saints will pick up their bodies (no matter how decomposed or disintegrated) and enter this newly revived vehicle. The Ark of Covenant was made of acacia wood covered within and on the outside with gold. So it will be true of the inner nature and the mortal body of the saint in the Day of the appearing of Christ. The inner nature will be filled with the gold of Christ and then the mortal body will be revived and clothed with the gold of the house from Heaven. The victorious personality will be covered within and on the outside with the gold of Divinity, with the fullness of eternal, incorruptible resurrection life.
Mortality will be swallowed up by life.
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (II Corinthians 5:4)
The peoples of the earth will see the graves burst open and these eternal beings step forth in the fullness of Divine Life. The enemies of the Lord will gather together to fight against them. But the nations of saved peoples of the earth will come to their light (Isaiah, Chapter 60). The peoples of the earth will know in that Day that God has sent Christ and that God loves the saints as He loves Christ (John 17:21-23).
What of the living saints—those who have been protected by the Lord throughout the great tribulation and the reign of Antichrist?
They will have been prepared, as we said, by the Father and the Son entering them in the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34).
As we understand what will take place, their house from Heaven will be brought down to them. It will clothe their physical body. The biological frailties of the physical body will be replaced by incorruptible resurrection life. They then will be joined together with those who have come from Heaven and will ascend to meet the Lord in the air, there to enter the military preparations for the Battle of Armageddon, and possibly to take their places on the thrones in the air that have been newly vacated.
The thrones in the air, which govern the spiritual condition of the nations of the earth, will soon be vacant. Their wicked inhabitants will be cast down to the earth as a warlike remnant of God’s people overcome the accuser by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and by loving not their lives to the death.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:9)
The purpose of the catching away of the saints from the earth, which at that time will be inhabited by Satan and the rebellious angels as well as by people, will be to place the conquering saints on the thrones that govern the universe. Man was created to be the ruler of all the works of God’s hands. When we become “man” by being created in Christ’s image and by entering untroubled union with God through Christ, then we shall govern God’s universe. This is our destiny.
The peoples of the earth will see the eternal witnesses of God standing on their feet and great fear will fall on the onlookers (Revelation 11:11).
The empty cave of Joseph of Arimathea is a testimony to the world. But a greater testimony is coming. It is the empty graves of the army of the Lord. The nations will see these graves and know that God has sent Christ to be the lawful and only King of kings and Lord of lords.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (I Corinthians 15:52-54)
And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. (Revelation 11:12)
We have seen, therefore, that the out-resurrection must be attained. We have been invited to participate in the first resurrection, and God has made complete preparations for our successful achievement of the fullness of redemption.
But we must respond to God’s invitation by laying hold on the grace He has extended to us. We must call on Him constantly for guidance and power. We must overcome the numerous obstacles and enemies that strive without ceasing to prevent our escaping the sin and death with which all of Satan’s followers, and Satan himself, are bound.
Satan is jealous of our inheritance as sons of God and he fervently desires our worship. He will do everything in his power to keep us from gaining access to the tree of life.
We have discussed the varied works that compose the Christian discipleship, including the exercise of our will in such a manner that we continually make godly decisions. The Christian life is a battle, a warfare. We are seeking to enter the promised-land inheritance, the rest of God.
From the creation of the world God has perfected in His mind a new race, a new heaven, and a new earth, a whole new world wherein will dwell righteousness. He has not put this world under subjection to angels but to the Son of God, Christ, and His coheirs.
Our task is to lay aside our own dead religious works and labor to enter the Divine workings that are bringing to pass the vision of God.
We can enter rest in God’s working but only after we, through the Spirit of God, achieve victory over the lusts that reside in our flesh, over Satan, over religious deception, over the spirit of the world, and over our own self-seeking, self-love, self-centeredness, and self-will. All these prevent our abiding in peace in God’s finished work.
The final result of our diligent grasp of all the help God has extended to us is the Father and the Son entering us so we are filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).
The Father and the Son entering us makes it possible for us to be clothed with our reward, which is a glorious spiritual house from Heaven.
Finally we will descend with the Lord Jesus, call together the components of our mortal frame, and then fill our mortal frame with incorruptible life. Like our Lord it will be granted to us to pick up our body again.
Then we will be placed on thrones and will serve as judges of men and angels (Revelation 20:4-6). This honor have all His saints.
But the rest of the dead will not live until the thousand-year Kingdom Age has been concluded.
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection, the out-resurrection from among the dead.
Some Additional Comments
It is the Holy Spirit who guides and helps us in resisting sin and in all the other righteous efforts we are to make. Every aspect of our attainment to life is to be under the supervision of the Spirit of God. We do none of these things by ourselves.
Being judged worthy leads to release from spiritual death by the body and blood of Jesus, the Spirit of God, and the Word of God. As we are released from spiritual death, Christ is formed in our inner man. Then the Father and the Son come and make Their eternal dwelling in the transformed inner man.
Release from spiritual death, and the entering into us of the Father and the Son, lead directly to the resurrection of our mortal body to eternal life.
Please note that Divine grace includes the invitation, the guidance, and the Virtue necessary for our salvation. Grace never is a substitute for, an alternative to, the program of salvation. The error of Christian thinking is that grace is God’s way of getting around the sin, rebellion, and self-centeredness of the believers so they may reign in glory with Jesus while yet in their untransformed state.
Forgiveness is an incomplete synonym of “grace.” Divine Virtue is a better synonym of “grace.” The Presence of Christ is the complete synonym of “grace.”
Salvation includes more than forgiveness. Forgiveness does not fulfill God’s Kingdom purposes in us. God’s problem of rebellious creatures is not solved when we are forgiven. We are not suitable as a ruler of the world to come merely on the basis of forgiveness.
God’s Kingdom purposes in us are accomplished as we are delivered from sin and self-will, changed into the moral image of Christ, and then filled with the fullness of God. Then we are candidates for rulership over the world to come. Then we have become “man” as God has destined man to be.
Mercy and grace bring to us an awareness of God’s plan of redemption and provide us with the authority, the power, and the desire to enter and continue with the process of redemption. The process of redemption leads to the resurrection of the body, which is eternal life.
We never earn eternal life. Rather, we enter eternal life by appropriate behavior.
It is the overcomer who gains access to the tree of life. Sinners are never allowed back into Paradise. The thief on the cross walked with Jesus in Paradise because of his remarkable confession of faith, but we can be sure that he too, along with the rest of us, will be required to submit to the rigors that accompany entrance into the Kingdom of God if he is to maintain his position.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:14,15)
We must follow through to total victory in the rest of God. No man who has put his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God. It is impossible for a double-minded individual to attain the first resurrection.
The trumpet of the Jubilee, the release, was sounded on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9). The Day of Atonement comes after the feast of Pentecost. This symbolizes the fact that after we have been filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit leads us to deliverance from the sins of the flesh.
As we confess our sins and put them to death through the Spirit of God, we enter the freedom of the Jubilee. It is time now for the members of the Body of Christ to enter the release, the redemption, the salvation that the Scriptures promise will take place in the last days (I Peter 1:5).
It is possible to judge one’s self unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46) by neglecting the table God has set, by not receiving and doing what God has provided and commanded.
There are some who may accuse us of teaching we are saved by works. We have explained previously that Paul taught that the wrong kind of works cannot save us, while James explained that the right kind of works is necessary for our justification (being counted righteous) (James 2:24).
The Word of God declares that faith without works is dead. Quite obviously, the right kind of works is essential to our salvation. Let us look at this a bit more closely.
We have said the children of Israel were saved by grace and faith when they followed God through the wilderness and into Canaan.
Now, what would the opposite be? What would it have meant for Israel to be saved from Pharaoh by works?
For example, the Israelites could have formed a union and gone on strike against Pharaoh. They could have demanded better working conditions, or perhaps they could have asked for part of Egypt that would belong to them and into which the Egyptians could not enter. (But God had in mind a far better inheritance for them.)
This is what it would have meant for the Israelites to have saved themselves by works.
The Israelites certainly were required to do all God said to do in order for them to escape from Pharaoh. But God, in His grace and mercy to the Jews, struck Egypt with plagues. God also gave the Hebrews protection from judgment by the blood of the Passover lamb. All of the Lord’s provisions for Israel, from the plagues of Egypt to the wisdom given to Joshua during the invasion of Canaan, were expressions of Divine mercy and grace. None of them were dead works of religion being pursued by the Israelites in order to obtain their deliverance from Egypt.
In order to gain the benefit of God’s mercy and grace the Israelites had to do what God said to do. They could not just sit in Egypt and believe that all was well with their souls, or trust that they were “accepted in the beloved” and then do nothing about it.
So it is today. To be saved by works would be to ignore the provisions God has made: the blood of the Lamb, the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the new birth; and to attempt to gain eternal life by keeping all the ordinances of the Law of Moses, or by practicing some sort of self-imposed system of fasting, meditation, and adherence to a moral code.
This is what it would mean to attempt to save ourselves by our works.
The Jews of Paul’s day were seeking to add the Law of Moses to the Christian Gospel. Since the Gospel does not need the Levitical statutes to establish its effectiveness, Paul exhorted the Judaizers that if it is by grace it is no more by works (the works of the Law).
Partly because of a spirit of deception, partly because of ignorance of the whole counsel of God, and partly because of a willingness to please people in order to gain their support, the Christian ministry of today is teaching that being saved by grace means we are not obligated to do what the New Testament commands. We do not have to keep the commandments of the Lord in order to enter life (compare I John 2:3-5).
To hold that we are saved apart from deliverance from the person and works of Satan is to claim we are saved apart from being saved. Salvation is our deliverance from the person and works of Satan and our union with God. The person who remains in the bondage of the devil has not been saved from sin.
But, some may object, being saved means only that we will escape the wrath of God and go to Heaven when we die.
The truth is, being “saved” in the full New Testament meaning of the term includes infinitely more than being saved from wrath. The fullness of salvation includes the entire inheritance of a son of God, the inheritance that includes “all things.” Being saved from wrath says nothing about our participation in glory as an heir of God, it means only that we have not been assigned to destruction.
The belief that the Christian salvation only or primarily is escape from Hell is a very weak concept of God and of the salvation He has provided for those who love and serve Him. The truth is, the Christian salvation offers an awesome inheritance to every person who will press forward in faith.
The current teaching is dangerously misleading because it implies that God has changed the penalty for sin in that if we believe in Jesus, God does not see our sin.
The truth is, God never shall change the penalty for sin. The Lord Jesus did not come to change the penalty in any manner but to deliver us from the behaviors that always will bring down the wrath of God upon us.
The doctrine that we are saved independently of a change in our personality and behavior is without doubt the most destructive error ever to enter Christian thinking. It is the same as teaching that we are healed apart from any change in our physical condition. It is a “false prophet,” a spirit of religious delusion. It is a masterpiece of deception. No concept could be more suited to Satan’s desire to perpetuate his kingdom than the idea that the Christian salvation is in name only and is powerless to break the hold of Satan on the individual.
We are not teaching that we can save ourselves by striving to behave correctly. The worldliness, lust, and self-will that are in us cannot be overcome by our efforts. Only the Presence of God in Christ can deliver us from worldliness, lust, and self-will.
Rather, we are teaching that the right kind of works, the works that lead to the victorious resurrection of the saints, are the only proof of salvation.
We are not to struggle hopelessly against our sin and self-centeredness. Rather, we are to follow the Lord Jesus into perfect victory in His Kingdom.
We cannot possibly save or deliver ourselves by our own works. But we indeed can, through the Holy Spirit, do those things that lead to our deliverance. To deny this is to deny the teaching of the entire New Testament.
The right kind of works in Christ bring us to a place of worthiness and eligibility for deliverance.
God does not judge us concerning what we cannot do but what we can do. God judges us concerning the decisions we make. If we continue to make godly decisions, God will deliver us from all of our bondages. Meanwhile we suffer because of the chains of sin and rebellion in our personality that have not as yet been broken.
We find the Lord when we seek Him with all our heart.
It is the Spirit of God who leads in battle against the enemy.
People today are seeking deliverance from their problems but God is seeking worthiness of behavior. When we do what God has commanded, God will deliver us.
God always is able to lift the curse from the earth, and sin and death from man.
The Day of Atonement results in the deliverance illustrated by the Levitical Year of Jubilee. The deliverance comes to those who demonstrate worthiness by pressing forward with the Lord.
This is the process of redemption by grace.
The opposite, or a process of redemption by works, would be impossible. Salvation by works would be the attempt to gain the resurrection of the body by following a dead code of religion apart from the atoning blood of Christ, apart from the Spirit of God, apart from having Christ conceived and formed in us.
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)
Our part is to turn away from the present world, to take up our cross, and to press on after Christ with all the diligence and steadfastness at our command. God’s part is to raise us up and cause us to live in His sight.
(“Judgment, Redemption, and the First Resurrection”, 3201-1)