ESTABLISHING OUR GOAL
Copyright © 2011 by Robert B. Thompson. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
When a systems analyst begins his work, he must obtain a clear statement of the goal of the system. If the goal is not what the management desires, then a new goal must be defined and stated with utmost clarity. Once this supremely important task has been completed and approved by the board of the corporation and the management, every operation of the system must be brought into harmony with the newly defined goal, including the selection and assignment of personnel. Until the systems analysis has been completed and implemented, it is impossible for the system to be effective.
According to the Scripture, the goal of Christian effort is stated as follows:
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19,20)
Did you notice that none of these scriptural goals mentions going to live forever in a mansion in Heaven?
It is the responsibility of Christian leadership everywhere to study these goals carefully, and then examine every operation of their systems to see whether they in fact are contributing to these goals. Christian organizations, great and small, do have stated goals which they attempt to implement. But these stated and implemented goals may not be the same as the goals of the Scripture.
The first, and probably most spiritually destructive of contemporary Christian goals, is that of enabling people to escape Hell and live eternally in mansions in Heaven in Paradise after they die. There is no basis in the Scriptures for such a goal. This goal is destructive because the believers do not know that redemption operates as a growth in Christ each day. Growth in Christ is exhibited as we reject evil and embrace righteous behavior.
The goal of salvation is growth in Christ. The Gospel looks toward the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth and the resurrection of the dead, not the bringing of the saved to Heaven to live forever.
Let’s think about the unscriptural goal of going to Heaven to live forever. What is behind this goal? Obviously, to be removed from the pains, troubles, worries, and frustrations of life in the present world. Who would not want to go to a world of love, peace, and joy! It is true that a part of the spirit world is an environment of love, joy, and peace. But hold on for a moment. Love, joy, and peace, are the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of Heaven.
When we think of going to the Paradise that is in the spirit world, we assume that we then will be free from sin. Whereas during our sojourn on the earth, we have been a bitter, unforgiving, angry, unfaithful person, and have been casual in our relationship to Christ, the moment we die and go to Heaven, we will be sweet, loving, peaceful, and loyal. Also, we will follow Christ fervently and do all He says.
If such a transition were the case, death would be our redeemer rather than our enemy. I know that First Corinthians speaks of our being changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. However, this is speaking of the resurrection of our body, which depends on a prior resurrection of our inward nature. Our bodies will be changed at the last trumpet, not our personalities.
A passage used sometimes to show that we are changed instantaneously is as follows:
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2)
Then the remainder of the chapter contains what probably is the strongest admonition to Christians not to sin, that is found in the New Testament. Again, we have a case of cut-and-paste theology so prevalent in our day.
Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (I John 3:3-6)
Why is it true that our personality does not change when we die? To understand the reason, we must consider two different kinds of sin. First of all, there are alien sins. These are spirits that dwell in our flesh. Some we inherited, and some we gained according to the choices we made during our lifetime on the earth. As far as I know, these spirits will leave us when our bodies die. However, I am not certain of this. When we die, we enter the spirit world. There are areas of the spirit world where demons are active. It is conceivable that if we have continually yielded to these spirits during our lifetime, they may be able to enter us again upon our death, even though we then will have a spirit form.
Also, there are what we might term “native” sins. These are part of our own spirit. Many Christians, and unsaved people as well, have a mean, bitter, unforgiving, quarrelsome spirit. They are able to start an argument when there is no cause for disagreement. They are disagreeable personalities. If they went with their families to the most scenic, restful, peaceful area of the world to enjoy a picnic, they soon would find a fault with somebody. So it is when they die and enter the spirit world. The beauty and peace of the environment would not change them. Why would it? They are bitter people. They still will be bitter after they pass into the spirit world. They have no bitter spirit dwelling in their spirit form. It is they themselves who are bitter and quarrelsome. Some Christians continually seek to be preeminent. They strive to be noticed, to be important. It is not that an evil spirit is dwelling in their flesh. It is they themselves who have a native spirit of wanting to be important, sometimes accompanied by their own native pride and arrogance.
If a Christian, or anyone else, is a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus, always seeking to please and obey the Lord, having been faithful in overcoming the compulsions of the alien sins that dwell in his flesh, he will bring this noble character into the spirit world when he or she dies.
I do not say that the quarrelsome and the noble of heart go to the same area of the spirit world. I do not believe they do. I think the angels examine each personality and decide where he is to be placed. The bitter will go where the bitter are. The faithful will go where the faithful are. It would not be pleasant for the faithful to be placed among bitter people. And the reverse possibly may be true.
What takes place after that I am not certain. It is my opinion that some people have a chance to change. Perhaps when the bitter and unforgiving experience what it is like to live among other bitter and unforgiving people, they will want to change. The angels seeing this repentance may bring them to a place of instruction where they can be taught.
I have no Bible support for this but from what I have experienced during more than 65 years as a disciple, it seems to me that this is the way the Lord would work. He is not anxious to throw people into the Lake of Fire until all hope of repentance is gone.
I do know, however, that there is no scriptural support whatever for the notion that dying will make us a better person, a faithful follower of Jesus. Rather, the parable of the talents suggests this is not the case.
If our goal is not primarily to go to Heaven but to make progress in becoming heavenly, where does our help come from? The Holy Spirit has given many gifts and ministries for the purpose of building us up into the fullness of the standard that is Christ. Of special importance are apostles and teachers who guide us in spiritual growth.
The new covenant is the writing of the eternal moral law in our minds and hearts. This means we are flesh being made the eternal Word. It is Christ who is being formed in us as the various ministries interpret to us the experiences we are having.
If our goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ and to attain to perfect rest in the center of God’s Person and will, rather than going to Heaven to live in mansions, then the time, energy, and money of Christian organizations should be assigned to operations that will accomplish these two primary objectives. This would mean much more teaching of the New Testament in the Christian churches rather than the incessant (and often fruitless) exhortation to “go out and get people saved.” I am not speaking of neglecting evangelism. Rather, I am stressing the need to bring our efforts into line with the scriptural goals. God’s plan is to create kings, judges, and priests who will work with Christ at His appearing to install the Kingdom of God on the earth. New converts are in no position to work with Christ as kings, judges, and priests over the nations of the earth.
There always will be converts if the churches give themselves to the work of building up the members of the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit will see to that. By emphasizing evangelism rather than the building up the members of the Body to the fullness of the stature of Christ, we are frustrating God’s plan of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
The true sign of a growing church is not the growth in numbers who attend, it is the growth in the likeness of Christ of the members of the church. No doubt most Christians would agree to this, but meanwhile the wrong goal is pursued vigorously by the Christian institutions. And then the leaders are upset over the deplorable moral condition of America, wondering why the fear of God has left our country.
It is not God’s purpose to bring spiritual infants to Heaven, although God loves “children” dearly — physical and spiritual.
God’s purpose is to create a Kingdom that will cause His will to be done on the earth, to bring justice to the oppressed of the nations. In order to do this, He must have mature saints who will work alongside the Lord Jesus Christ at His appearing. Spiritual babies are of no help at this point.
We all agree with God’s goal, I am sure. Once we understand that our going to Heaven will not accomplish God’s goal, I believe the Christian institutions will make certain that modifications are made all down the line until every operation is contributing to this goal.
The creation was made for God’s children to play in. By “play”, I mean lovingly and joyously perform whatever roles and tasks God has planned for us from the beginning. This was true of Adam and Eve, wasn’t it? However, people who are filled with unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, seeking to control others, seeking preeminence, hatred, ambition, lying, stealing, pride, arrogance, cannot possibly lovingly and joyously perform the roles and tasks God has planned for them.
Another contemporary and unscriptural goal is that of encouraging people to take “the four steps of salvation,” which do not resemble the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. The premise is that belief and profession of spiritual facts guarantee escape from Hell and residence in Heaven. The result is that people do not know that their conduct today determines the kind of resurrection they will experience.
The Great Commission is viewed as getting people to “accept Christ,” teaching them that we do not need to keep the commands of Jesus because we are “saved by grace.” It appears that the idea of making disciples is not ordinarily stressed.
A disciple is a believer who denies himself, takes up his cross, and follows
Jesus each day
Another one of today’s invalid goals is to fill buildings with proselytes. The success of a church is measured by the number of people in attendance. There are ministries that bring in multitudes of people, but they must keep their teaching very superficial.
Remember in John chapter six, when the Lord Jesus began to speak of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, which is the manner in which we grow in resurrection life, thousands of people left Him immediately. Likewise, when a minister speaks of cross-carrying obedience, or the fact that we today by our choices are determining our place in the Kingdom of God, as well as the type of resurrection we shall experience, he must content himself with a small congregation.
I could recite many instances in which the Christian organizations have unscriptural goals. Because of their invalid goals, the actual scriptural goals are not met. For example, in a very large church, how many true disciples might one find? Since, by definition, a Christian is a cross-carrying disciple, how would one characterize the majority of people in the congregation?
Since the witness the people of the world behold, more often than not, is the behavior of the church-attenders who are not disciples, the result, in America at least, is a steady slide downhill into a pit of moral abominations. Therefore, God is removing His covering from us and we are suffering financially and socially.
The number of children who die from abuse or neglect in America is great enough to be considered a major epidemic, it is reported. Every five hours a child dies in America from abuse or neglect. Think of the bright little pennies, the American boys and girls who never reach four years of age because of brutality in the home, and you will realize what an unspeakable abomination this is. This is not to mention the abortions.
The disintegration of the American culture is due to the unscriptural goals pursued by the American ministry. The pastor who preaches grace-rapture-Heaven every Sunday to ensure a growing attendance is responsible for the moral decline. If he were preaching patient cross-carrying obedience to Jesus, he would have a small group, but at least these believers would save themselves and others during the coming American chaos. And in the Day of Resurrection, they will bless their faithful pastor for holding to the truth.
Let us think about the true goal. Although it is expressed in different ways in several passages, it merely is that of being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus and entering rest in the center of God’s Person and will.
One aspect of the true goal is the first resurrection from the dead. Although this topic is not always emphasized in Christian teaching, the believers must come to know that there will be two resurrections of the dead, and the first must be attained to, as Paul said so emphatically in Philippians chapter three.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)
I am aware that it sometimes is preached that (1) every saved person will experience this first resurrection, and (2) at the second resurrection, at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, all who are judged will be lost. However, this doctrine does not agree with the passage concerning the second resurrection, nor the above description of the first resurrection.
The first resurrection is that of God’s firstfruits. Those who have attained to the first resurrection are victorious saints. They will reign with Christ for a thousand years. When one considers the level of spiritual maturity in today’s American churches, one will realize that such individuals are not prepared even to be with Christ, much less govern the nations of the earth.
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations — He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery. (Revelation 2:26,27)
They are judges. They have the authority to govern the situations of people in the Kingdom, or to even remove them if in their judgment this is indicated.
I think being “beheaded” refers to our learning to look to Christ for everything we think, say, and do. This is the “rest” of God. How many believers in our day are willing to let go of their own plans and desires and look to the Lord Jesus for every aspect of their lives?
Not worshiping the beast or his image means they are not involved any more than absolutely necessary in our culture, especially in the worship of money. For young people, this would mean not immersing themselves in the electronic communication devices that continually are being improved. The mark of the American culture is subservience to the pursuit of money beyond actual needs, and fascination with sexual activity, entertainment, and luxury. This mark is revealed in the worldly thinking and actions of many of those who refer to themselves as “Christian.”
Those who attain to the first resurrection are God’s firstfruits from among mankind. They obey and worship Christ, not the American idols. They will come to life, meaning they will be resurrected bodily. They will ascend to meet the Lord in the air and descend with Him to govern mankind. They will work with Him in installing the Kingdom of God, the will of God, on the earth.
Notice that no books of judgment are opened when the first resurrection takes place. This is because the victorious saints have passed before the Judgment Seat of Christ during their lifetimes on the earth.
The participants in the first resurrection are blessed and holy. The second death has no power over them. Victory over the power of the second death reveals the character of those who attain to the first resurrection. The second death is the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. The Lake of Fire has authority over eight behaviors. That the members of the first resurrection are no longer under the power of the Lake of Fire tells us that they have overcome the eight areas of sin which never can be included in the Kingdom of God.
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (Revelation 21:7,8)
Those who attain to the first resurrection from the dead have, through Christ, overcome cowardice, unbelief, vile behavior, murder, the practice of magic, idolatry, and lying.
It is interesting to note that the description of God’s firstfruits, in Revelation chapter 14, includes the statement: “No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.” It is obvious from this statement that to be blameless, we always must tell the truth. Lying is a large part of our sinful nature. Liars will never eat at Christ’s table. God does not lie, and we are supposed to be being made in God’s image. A significant part of our spiritual growth consists of the removal of lying from our behavior. It requires the fire of God if all lying is to be burned out of us.
Whoever patiently overcomes each of these eight behaviors will have power over the second death. In addition, he will inherit all that God makes new at the time of the coming down to earth of the holy city.
It is “winner takes all,” isn’t it? If we live the victorious life in Jesus, we inherit splendor far, far beyond anything we can imagine. If we profess belief in the Lord Jesus, but do not make the effort to overcome through Christ the behaviors listed in Revelation 21:8, we will remain under the power of the Lake of Fire.
Those who maintain that “grace shields us from the power of the Lake of Fire,” and “we only need to believe that Jesus did it all,” are leading themselves and their followers to Divine judgment. The Bible means precisely what it states. It is time for our leaders to study carefully the goals presented in the New Testament and modify their operations accordingly.
Millions of souls are in the balance today. There is no source of the knowledge of God other than the members of the Christian churches, regardless of the protestations of other religions. If our goals are not conformed to the goals of the New Testament, the social fabric of America will crumble and we will not be a significant force in the world.
We may not realize it, but God is pouring out His Spirit in other countries and signs and wonders are taking place there. But we in America are being left high and dry, spiritually as well as financially, although there are preachers who are attempting to work up some sort of revival by means of their soulish enthusiasms.
Let each one of us now set our goal, as Paul did, on attaining to the first resurrection from the dead. This will require that we count all things as loss in order to gain a full knowledge of Christ. The toys of the world must become as garbage to us.
It is so utterly important that we continually listen for the voice of Jesus. He is near us today. Every thought, every word we speak, every action we take, must be brought into subjection to the Lord Jesus. Listening to Jesus and obeying Him carefully is the manner in which we enter the rest of God.
By making entering the rest of God our goal, we may not be able to save America, although we always should pray for the welfare of our nation. But at least we will save ourselves, our loved ones, and those who will follow us.
Let’s do it!
Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
(“Establishing Our Goal”, 3241-1, proofed 20211120)