THE END GAME (EXCERPT OF THE THEOLOGY OF ROBERT B. THOMPSON)
Copyright © 2013 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
(“The End Game” is taken from The Theology of Robert B. Thompson, copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson)
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Some passages of Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
The End Game
For so many years the Christian churches have viewed eternal residence in Heaven as the end game, that is, as the final product of God’s salvation. As is true of any system, when the wrong goal is held, there is confusion back down the line, from the procurement of materials, to manufacture, to quality control, to marketing.
Since Christian theology, particularly that area dealing with redemption, often presents an incorrect goal, the formulas for success are misleading and the results are invalid, at least from the standpoint of the Kingdom of God.
Quality control procedures, given the present understanding of the Christian religion, would suggest that the number of people who gather on Sunday morning in the church building is the indication of successful or unsuccessful ministry. The idea is that all of the members have subscribed to the “Statement of Faith” of the church, and now are waiting to go to Heaven and live forever in a mansion, doing nothing of significance. Thus the objectives of the program have been met.
The last two chapters of the Book of Revelation describe the end game, that is, the result of the Divine redemption. Notice that our destiny is the earth. It is a new earth, to be sure, but it is not the spirit Heaven, the spirit Paradise that occupies so much of our hymnology and preaching.
There is a new sky and a new earth. There is the holy city, which is the glorified Christian Church. There are the nations of saved people, who are the inheritance of the Church and whom the Church will govern.
In what way is the new Jerusalem the glorified Christian Church? The city is the assembly of the saints; and the parts of the new Jerusalem portray their characters.
Here is the main point, if we would understand the symbolism presented in the last two chapters of the Bible. The portrayal by the Apostle John is the way God sees the saints. What we would see would be a congregation of people, the Wife of the Lamb, the eternal Tabernacle of God. We would see many activities and hear many sounds that are not mentioned by John.
God would see a massive wall with precious stones in the foundation. We would see saints whose characters have been formed under great heat and pressure.
God would see a River of Life, and trees of life growing on each side of the River. We would see saints who are able to bring life and healing to the citizens of the new world of righteousness. When they lay hands on the sick, the sick recover.
The holy city is wherever these members of the city are. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the priests whom God has chosen to govern and bless mankind.
God sees pillars of glory that provide structural strength and symmetry for his Temple. We see stalwart saints who are responsible for the strength and beauty of the city. God’s name, the name of the city, and the new name of Christ, are on each of those who constitute the new Jerusalem.
God sees what is true of the new Jerusalem. We see the people and their activities.
The same situation exists on the earth of today. We see the great cities of the world, Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, New York City, Paris, London, Beijing, Delhi. They are a wonder world to behold. Driving or flying into Las Vegas, Nevada, at night is to enter a fairyland of fluorescent lights.
But what does God see in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City? A procession of skeletons who dwell in dark caves, participating in a “Danse Macabre,” a “Totentanz,” a dance of death choreographed by demons.
What does God see in me, in you? What does God see in my house; in your house?
One must overcome the morally dark environment of the world if he or she is to be a pillar in the Temple of God and inherit all this Divine Glory. The destructive doctrine of Dispensational “grace” tells people they can please God by belief in Christ even though they do not overcome the forces that come against them.
Thus this pernicious doctrine of unconditional grace robs God and mankind of members of the Body of Christ capable of installing and governing Paradise on the earth.
Our world began with two people playing in a garden. The new world also will be a garden, a Paradise in which people with the hearts of children perform the tasks for which they were created. They live in righteousness, love, joy, and peace because money no longer is a medium of exchange.
Each one receives freely and gives freely. There no longer are rich or poor. The angels of God minister to the heirs of salvation, making certain that everyone does his part, and no individual accumulates more than he needs or is without what he or she needs.
The Paradise on the new earth will be installed and maintained by the members of God’s elect, those who constitute the new Jerusalem. This is why we are “struggling upward in the darkness,” as someone said, endeavoring to serve God in a world that is becoming more evil each day. All these pains, problems, and frustrations are necessary if we are going to possess the character required for the installing and maintaining of Paradise.
The great majority of the citizens of the new world of righteousness will not be members of the holy city, of God’s elect. Rather they will be governed and blessed by the elect, the saints of God.
I expect that this true vision of the end game will become clear to all Christians in the next few years. This will redirect the churches into more productive efforts and more scriptural preaching and worship.
The words of the hymns will speak of Christ and of righteous behavior. They will teach us of the warfare that brings us into the Kingdom of God rather than about flying away to a mansion in Heaven. Such words may have been helpful in time past but they are not appropriate today.
The true vision is simple, clear, and scriptural. The present concept of mansions and streets of gold is not simple, clear, or scriptural. In fact, it is not what people really want. What people actually want above all else are loving relationships, whether the setting is luxurious or plain.
Revelation, Chapters Twenty-one and Twenty-two describe what God has planned from the original six days of creation. Now God is resting. We are to enter that rest, that finished work of God. We enter God’s rest by continually looking to the Lord Jesus for his Presence and wisdom in every aspect of our thinking, speaking, and doing.
Notice, in Revelation, Chapter 22, the “River of the Water of Life.” This is flowing from the Throne of God. This means the Holy Spirit will now be issuing from the saints, since the Throne is in the city, in the members of the glorified church. “The streams of living water shall flow from within him,” Jesus said concerning those who believe in him.
The saints follow the Holy Spirit until they are living in waters to swim in, a River that cannot be crossed. They are trees of life on each side of the River.
This is the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, and Jesus made this proclamation at the feast of Tabernacles. Here is the end game. The members of the Christian Church, God’s elect, the saints, are to bring eternal life to the saved peoples of the nations of the earth.
Our training as a saint throughout our lifetime is to prepare us to govern and bless those multitudes of people whom God intends to save to the new world of righteousness.
There is only one Tree of Life. It is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. But when we have eaten of his flesh and drunk his blood, and the Father and He are dwelling in us, then we are a tree of life. This is how the Tree can be on both sides of the River.
We will see God’s Face and his name will be on our foreheads. This unprecedented blessing makes all of the problems and pains of our discipleship seem as nothing when compared with such an inheritance.
There is “one great street” of the new Jerusalem. I believe this street symbolizes “the way of faith.” It is of pure gold, transparent as glass.
The curse has been lifted. The blood atonement has been made on the cross. Since, then, a multitude of people have come up from the dust of the earth, through the grace of Christ, and have obeyed the Father. They have overcome the Accuser, Satan, by the blood of the Lamb. Their lives have given a true witness of God, his Person, his will, and his ways. They have set aside their own life that Christ might have his unhindered way in them.
Through them God is able to lift the curse from the world.
They will live by that light that created an evening and a morning during the first three days of creation, when there were no sun, moon, or stars.
They will be so filled with God’s eternal Life that there will be no need of a night in which to rest.
They will govern the works of God’s hands throughout eternity. There will be an ever increasing multitude of people in the new world of righteousness. “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.”
The members of the Church, the called out from the nations, have been created for the purpose of installing and maintaining Paradise on the new earth. This is why their discipleship is so rigorous. They must be perfected in obedience to ensure there never again will be a rebellion against God.
People who do wrong must continue to do wrong. People who do right must continue to do right. This is so the way of the Lord can be made straight, transparent, crystal clear to everyone. There shall be no more crooked, elevated, rough, depressed ways among people. There shall be no more mixtures. The holy will be with the holy. The unclean will be with the unclean, throughout the eternal ages to come.
Jesus shall reward every individual in terms of what he or she has done. This statement in Revelation has been fought tooth and nail by religious leaders. They are speaking from Satan when they say this clear statement can be circumvented. But it shall stand. Every individual shall be rewarded according to what he or she has done. “Let every man be a liar.”
I do not know how the saved people of the nations are going to “wash their robes.” Perhaps in the same manner we Christians do—in the blood of the Lamb.
In any case, people who continue to sin will not have access to the Tree of Life or be permitted into the city. Therefore they will lead a miserable existence, being denied access to that which would have brought them life and healing. This is true even today, isn’t it? It is not always readily apparent that sinful people lose their vitality; but eventually they do.
The Spirit of God and the Bride of the Lamb invite all who will, to come and receive the Water of Life. Again, this is true even today.
In Verse 18 of Chapter 22, Christ warns against altering in any manner the words of the Book of Revelation. I don’t know if this same curse is spoken concerning any other book of the Bible. This shows us how important the Book of Revelation actually is.
We sometimes hear from the pulpit that we should avoid the Book of Revelation because it will confuse us. I wonder from where this advice originates!
I do not know very much, but of one thing I am absolutely certain. The sun may not rise tomorrow morning. The sky may turn green. None of us may be alive. But every word of the Book of Revelation is heavier than the weight of the sand of the combined beaches of our planet. It shall survive every event that takes place. It never shall pass away!
Each and every word shall come to pass precisely as written, and there is no authority or power in the heavens, on the earth, or in the dark regions under the surface of the earth, that can in any manner change what is written in the Revelation that was given to the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos.
But you will be called the priests of the LORD; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. (Isaiah 61:6—NASB)
If you are like me, you want to know where what you are doing is heading. What is the end game? Why does God work in our lives the way He does? Does He have a plan? Does He know what I am going through?
Yes, He indeed does. During the first six days of creation, God planned opportunities for every one of his creatures, man and beast. And then He rested.
The Spirit and Word of God are directing and energizing that plan, and it is proceeding towards God’s goal. The plan encompasses the beginning of the world through to the coming down of the glorified Christian Church to the new earth, and then what shall take place throughout the endless ages after that.
The work is finished. Your task and my task is to enter the opportunities already in place for my life and your life. We have to endeavor every day to enter that finished work, that rest of God. There is a temptation to create our own plan and destiny, and that is unprofitable at best; tragic at worst.
There is a goal, an end game, for you and for me. The end game is well worth the battle!
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. (Psalms 139:16—NASB)
I have given a lot of thought to God’s goal, toward what He is working. While I was in Bible school, as a fairly new Christian, not having been raised in a Christian home, I was open to the teaching and assumptions of the teachers in the Bible school; and also to the assumptions of church people generally.
What was coming across to me is that God has no plan. He has made provision on the cross of Calvary for our salvation (whatever “salvation” is or means), but He has left it largely up to us to burn ourselves out, if necessary, to tell people the Good News so they will escape Hell and go to Heaven when they die.
There really is no Divine plan in place. Salvation is open-ended. This is what I was taught.
If this were true, there would be no “rest of God,” as mentioned in the Book of Hebrews, because the works were not finished from the beginning of the world. There is room for all sorts of creativity and spontaneity.
Being a conscientious sort of individual, I could not live with the idea that God has no specific plan for me or for anyone else, other than: “Go out and compel them to come in.”
I tried to do the evangelical thing. I endeavored to force myself to “testify to everyone you meet.” I had a good friend in Bible school who did this successfully. I was not as successful.
One morning, while standing in line for breakfast at a base in Hawaii, during World War Two, I was laboring under the burden that I was to “testify” to everyone. I had been a Christian for a few weeks. This was before I was in Bible school. I turned to a tall Marine behind me and said, “I want to tell you what Christ has done for me.”
The tall Marine said, “What has Christ done for you?” Do you know, I could not think of one blessed thing. I was tongue-tied. Maybe you could have thought of something. I turned back around and moved forward with my canteen cup so the Marine on KP could dip into the big can and pour out some coffee for me.
I had a few other similar experiences, and finally said to myself: “If the whole world goes to Hell, then that’s where it goes. If God doesn’t know what He is doing, how am I supposed to know?”
Later, in Bible school, I promised the Lord that if He would give me the grace, I would do anything He said. I have kept this promise to the present day. I was twenty-four years old then. God always has enabled me to do whatever He is requiring.
I think some people have come to Christ because of my preaching and personal testimony. But whatever gifts I have are primarily in the realm of encouraging God’s people to live a victorious life.
I am interested in God’s end game. I know by now that God has a very specific plan for each person and each sparrow, from the beginning and then throughout all eternity; from the beginning of history throughout the endless ages of ages.
Maybe you don’t believe God is that great or that specific. Well, I know He is; so I am seeking to find his will each moment and live in it. This is the “rest” of God. This is living by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.
The forty-seventh chapter of the Book of Ezekiel speaks of the four levels of the Holy Spirit, of the Water of Life.
The first level is water to the ankles, representative of our initial salvation.
The second level is water to the knees. This is representative of our learning to commit our life to the Spirit of God.
The third level is water to the waist. This is a portrayal of the believer who turns away from life lived in the flesh. He keeps saying, “Not my will, but yours.” He loves not his life to the point of death to his plans and ambitions.
The Charismatic movement, as I see it, is between the knees and the waist. The majority of believers are supposed to use their gifts and go out and save the world; at least that is what they are being encouraged to do. The minority of believers are waiting in their prison, learning to listen to Jesus and to obey Him sternly in every circumstance.
You ought to see the dear Pentecostal people draw back when they realize they are not going to be able to live any longer according to their own plans, that is, if they want to enter the third level of the Water of Life.
But I am speaking now about the end game. The end game is the fourth level. It is waters to swim in, a river that cannot be crossed.
A person can attain to the third level, and rejoice that he or she is experiencing a greater measure of the Spirit of God.
But the third level leads, for those who are willing to surrender their life completely, to waters to swim in, a river that cannot be crossed. The River is endless. It is eternal.
When we get as far as “all the Fullness of God,” the Spirit of God leads us back to the bank of the River. What does this mean? It means that God wants us to forget about our own spiritual prowess and become a tree of life.
Now we are to lose our life in God and other people. People can come to us and receive of Christ. I do not mean they can learn doctrine. I mean they can receive of the Life of Christ so they can live in the Presence of God. Also, if they have been wounded in body, soul, spirit, or emotions, they can be healed.
The Sprit of God and the Bride (which we have become because we live by Christ’s body and blood) say, “Come. Whoever will may come and eat and drink of the very Life of God which is in Christ.”
This is the end game. God now has an eternal tabernacle through which He can govern and bless his creatures. We possess God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and those of God’s creatures whom He entrusts to us.
Our nation, the United States, no longer is as we have known it. It slowly but surely is losing the cultural inheritance of so many of us. We can fight this transition if we wish, and seek to resurrect the “good old days” of Shirley Temple, Roy Rogers, and the Hardy Boys. “Over the fields and through the woods” we go to Grandmother’s house so we can raid the cookie jar.
The empire of America is passing away, as happened to the empires of the Sumerians and the Hittites. Empires rise and fall so God’s will can be accomplished in mankind. We who are older may lament the passing away of our culture, but it is taking place.
I have gone to the Lord many times, but He never has told me He is going to restore the “good old days” in the United States. What has He told you?
But God also has told me that the darker it becomes in our land, the brighter will be the Light that God has prepared for us and for all members of his Body throughout the world. That Light, that new and surprising thing of which Christ has spoken, very well may be the establishing of the Throne of God in the heart of every Christian who will press past the sin and foolishness so prevalent in our culture and listen to Jesus and obey Him diligently.
How do you feel about all this? Are you going to fret yourself when public nakedness, incest, the sexual abuse of children, and bestiality are protected by law? Or are you going to turn to Jesus and discover that when sin abounds, grace does much more abound?
I have made my decision, and I invite you to share Christ’s stunning victory with me.
For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:10—NASB)
(“The End Game”, 3348-1)