DOING GOOD, AND THE RESURRECTION
DOING GOOD, AND THE RESURRECTION Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
I suppose it is not uncommon for people to believe if they do good now they will be rewarded in the next life, and if they are wicked they will be punished. This seems to be a general feeling on the part of ordinary folk. They are correct. They have Bible to support their view.
Since Christian teaching leaves the impression that there is little or no relationship between how we live now and our situation in the next world, one group or the other is in error in their thinking. Maybe we better look at what the Bible says about how our behavior today affects what we will face in the future.
Table of Contents
DOING GOOD, AND THE RESURRECTION
"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." (John 5:28,29—NIV)
"Those who have done good will rise to live."
"Those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."
Think about it. If we do good works we will be resurrected to eternal life. If we practice evil works we will face condemnation when we are raised from the dead.
Now, where does the Gospel of Jesus Christ fit into this picture?
Does this mean we can reject Christ when He is presented to us and save ourselves by trying to do good?
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18—NIV)
Does this mean we can believe in Jesus, practice evil, and be raised to eternal life? Absolutely not! This is the primary error of current Christian thinking.
Current Christian teaching, which actually is a form of an ancient philosophy called Gnosticism, teaches that our behavior does not matter. If we are not a Christian there is nothing we can do that God will honor. All our efforts toward righteousness are as filthy rags in God's sight.
Once we become a Christian, however, everything we do is righteous because God sees us through Jesus Christ. Our lie is the truth. Our immorality is moral cleanliness. Our rage is love, joy, and peace. This is because God "sees us through Christ" (an unscriptural expression). Such is the prevailing Christian schizophrenia.
There are three kinds of righteousness, three forms of "doing good," three aspects of human behavior that are acceptable to God within their designated boundaries and circumstances.
One of the great errors of Christian teaching is that God does not honor adamic integrity, the effort of an honorable man or woman to do what is right.
Granted the human heart is deceitful and wicked. Granted we were born in sin and formed in lawlessness. Granted flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, the Bible has much to say about human righteousness.
Consider the following verse.
Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism But accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34,35—NIV)
God accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. This verse alone ought to warn us that the Christian axiom stating no righteous person has ever lived is incomplete at best, misleading and destructive at worst.
The occasion that motivated Peter to speak (above) was the Divine direction given to Peter to go to the house of Cornelius. Peter, a Jew, would not have gone into the house of a Gentile had not God given him a vision. Peter was reflecting that not only Jews but people of any race are acceptable to God if they fear Him and do what is right.
Cornelius gave gifts to the poor. God did not tell Cornelius that his giving of alms was filthy rags in God's sight. Rather God was moved to bring to Cornelius the Gospel of Christ because of the righteousness that Cornelius demonstrated by giving gifts to the poor. God heard Cornelius' prayer because he was righteous.
Then there is the parable of the sower. Three kinds of ground bore no lasting fruit when the Divine Seed was planted.
The fourth kind of ground was "an honest and good heart."
But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:15—NIV)
A noble (or honest) and good heart! Christian teaching says there is no such thing. Yet the expression was applied to the adamic nature prior to receiving the Divine Seed, Jesus Christ.
The truth is, if we do not have an honest heart, if we do not have integrity, it is almost impossible to make a success of the Christian discipleship. The demands are so great the individual who is full of guile and self-pity will not be able to press through to the self-denial that is required.
Of particular interest are the words of Christ to the sheep nations. We are of the opinion that the judgment of the sheep and goat nations is at least part of the White Throne judgment that will occur at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
You may note that at the White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:12) the dead were judged according to what they had done, that is, whether their works had been good or evil
Now notice carefully, for these words are significant.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:34—NIV)
On what basis did the Lord call the sheep nations blessed? On what basis did they become heirs of the Kingdom of God?
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Matthew 25:35,36—NIV)
On the basis of doing good to the Lord's brothers.
But there is something else that is important.
"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?" (Matthew 25:37—NIV)
The "righteous" will answer Him.
On what basis are the sheep nations termed righteous?
On the basis of their works.
The issue of the sheep nations is not that of imputed righteousness or the righteousness of Christ. The righteousness is that of an honest and good heart, of someone who out of love for God and the fear of God (as did Rahab of Jericho) gave aid and comfort to those whom he or she believed to be from God.
It is my point of view that current Christian teaching does not take into consideration the numerous occasions on which the Bible refers to unregenerate man as either righteous or wicked, without reference to the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. (Psalms 1:5—NIV)
The Book of Psalms contains numerous references to "the righteous." If the student were to search in the Bible for the expression "the righteous" he or she would soon be convinced that the Christian teaching that there is no righteous person is not properly balanced, not reflective of the whole counsel of God.
Let us proceed to a discussion of imputed righteousness, the righteousness most familiar to Christian people.
The teaching of imputed righteousness comes mostly from the early chapters of Romans. From Chapter Six forward there is more of an emphasis on actual righteousness of behavior that results as we obey the Law of the Spirit of Life.
The purpose of imputed, or ascribed righteousness is to free us from the heavy bondage and guilt of the Law of Moses so we can have a clean, unencumbered start with Jesus Christ.
This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him [Abraham] alone, But also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Romans 4:22-24—NIV)
If we turn away from the Law of Moses and trust in God who has given us Jesus Christ as an atonement for our sins, God will credit righteousness to us just as He did Abraham. God counts those as righteous who believe and obey Him.
At this point an enormous error has entered. Instead of viewing credited, or imputed righteousness as a device to free us from the burden of the Law of Moses, a means of forgiving our past sins and giving us access to God apart from the Law, we are treating Divine grace as a new way in which God has decided to relate to man. A more destructive interpretation of imputed righteousness cannot be imagined.
We have invented a "dispensation of grace." There is no such thing as a dispensation of grace. The grace of God is God in Christ making available to man the Virtue, wisdom and power of the Godhead that man might become a new creation of righteous, holy behavior. This is what grace is intended to accomplish. Imputed righteousness is part of this package.
To then view Divine grace and imputed righteousness as a new way in which God relates to man, so man can be accepted of God independently of any real transformation of his personality, is totally unacceptable. Such an interpretation completely defeats God's plan for a better covenant, a covenant more effective in creating righteous people than was true of the old covenant.
The only person to whom God imputes righteousness is the one who is performing His will at any given time. In the days of Abraham there was no Law of Moses. Abraham believed God when God promised him a seed. This was God's will and so God ascribed righteousness to him. Paul used this to show that a person could be counted righteous apart from the works of the Law.
Then God spoke to Abraham and commanded him to walk before God and be perfect. If Abraham had refused to do this God would not have ascribed righteousness to him.
Later God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Because Abraham did this God ascribed righteousness to him. If Abraham had refused to offer Isaac, Abraham would have been treated as a disobedient servant. The righteousness he had gained originally by belief in God's promise would not have carried over when further demands were made on him, had he decided to be disobedient.
Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (James 2:21—NIV)
Paul's point is that diligent adherence to the Law of Moses is not enough to gain righteousness. It is faith and obedience that result in righteousness, not the works of the Law.
However, when God commanded the Jews to obey the Law then righteousness came as they obeyed the Law. It was not the Law itself that brought righteousness but the faith and obedience of the worshiper.
When God supersedes the Law by giving us Jesus Christ, we are not to keep on obeying the Law. We are to receive Christ and keep His commandments. It is not the receiving of Christ that brings righteousness, it is the faith and obedience of receiving Christ that results in righteousness being ascribed to us.
We are making the same mistake of the Jews. They thought it was doing the works of the Law that brought righteousness. This never was the case. It was faith and obedience that brought righteousness. We of today believe it is our acknowledgment of the facts concerning Christ that brings righteousness. It is not. It is faith and obedience that bring righteousness.
If we accept Christ, and then do not keep His commandments, we are not acting in faith and obedience toward God. So our faith in Christ is actually not faith at all but our attempt to follow a formula that will insure our righteousness. We are as incorrect as were the Jews.
This is a tremendous error in Christian thinking. If we have faith in Jesus we will keep His commandments and those of His Apostles. If we do not, we do not have saving faith in Jesus. We may have a head knowledge about the things of Christ and may assent to this knowledge as being true, but there is no salvation, no eternal life, in subscribing to the things of Christ as being true.
Salvation is a daily experience with the living Jesus, not the confession of a doctrinal formula.
We have seen, then, that God honors the attempts of the adamic man to act with integrity, with honesty, with compassion. We have seen also that righteousness is imputed to us only as we obey the Spirit of God each day. Imputed righteousness is not a new way in which God deals with man. It dates back to Abraham. Divine grace is not an alternative to moral transformation. Rather it is the wisdom and power to change us from the old adamic nature to the new Christ nature. God's goal is that we be conformed to the moral image of Christ and brought into untroubled rest in the Father through Christ.
The third kind of righteousness is that which Jesus Christ is. He is our righteousness.
This does not mean we do not need to behave righteously because Christ is righteous. It means as we follow Him each day our inward nature experiences the death of the cross and then is raised to walk in Christ in newness of life. The righteous works we are able to perform as Christ is formed in us are vastly superior to the efforts of the adamic nature to be righteous.
The adamic nature of an individual may be marked by outstanding compassion. But put in the right situation the person's compassion will fail. However, when we receive the compassion of Christ there never is a failure. It is a superior compassion.
A person may be noted for being honest. But put in the right situation the person's honesty will fail. But the honesty of Christ never fails.
How then do we pass from adamic compassion and honesty to Christ's compassion and honesty.
The transfer occurs as we are brought down to death and then raised again. When we perceive we are being pressured past the point where we can respond righteously, we call upon the Lord for help. He then raises the dead, so to speak. He gives us of His compassion, His honesty, His Divine nature. In this way old things pass away, all become new in Christ. This is how the new covenant operates.
God accepts adamic righteousness provided the individual is doing God's will at the time. God accepts imputed righteousness when as yet there is very little righteous behavior on the part of the individual. God accepts the righteousness that comes from Christ's nature as soon as Christ has been formed in us.
In every instance, the righteousness will affect our resurrection. Those who do good, whether by adamic righteousness, or imputed righteousness, or Christ's righteousness, will be raised to eternal life. Those who do evil, whether by responding to their sinful adamic nature, or by refusing God's imputed righteousness, or by not keeping the commandments of Christ with the result that Christ's Nature is not formed, will be raised to condemnation.
Now notice carefully:
God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; But glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 2:6-10—NIV)
The above holds true for "each person," as Paul stated.
If the individual has never been presented with the Gospel, God will look for persistence in doing good. If God finds it the person will receive eternal life.
If the individual has been newly saved, having had no opportunity to follow the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ, but has received Christ gladly upon hearing the good news, then the person will receive eternal life. He has obeyed God within the limits of his opportunity and experience.
If the individual is an experienced Christian, then God will look for persistence in doing good. If God finds it the person will enter life in the day of resurrection.
But for all who are self-seeking and reject the truth, who follow evil, there will be wrath and anger in the day of resurrection.
Rejecting the truth, as Paul meant it, includes rejecting Christ initially, or, after having accepted Christ as the atonement, choosing to obey sin.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:12—NIV)
If we sow to our flesh we will reap corruption in the day of resurrection even though we have "accepted" Christ. The truth is, we may have accepted the facts about Christ but never have received Him, the living Jesus, as our personal Lord. In this instance we are not a disciple. We are still walking in sin. We certainly will reap corruption in the day of resurrection.
Can you think of a warning more needed by the American Christians of our day?
Did you know that most of the Bible is addressed to our adamic nature, to the old man? This is so important to understand. The Christian belief is that the old nature is so hopelessly corrupt that all we have to do is believe in Jesus and we will be saved no matter how we behave. Divine grace is perceived as an alternative to righteous behavior
Some teach that Jesus "did it all." There is nothing left for us to do but wait until we go to Heaven.
Others are teaching that we should live righteously but we must wait until Jesus does is in us or for us.
The slightest knowledge of the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New, will reveal there are things we are to do.
I suppose most Christians would agree the people of the Old Testament had to obey God by means of the efforts of their natural personality, since they were not born again. So I will not discuss the Old Testament.
But what about the New Testament? First of all:
It is unscriptural that all we have to do is "believe in Jesus" and it does not matter how we behave.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21—NIV)
Honestly now, does the above passage sound like it does not matter how a Christian behaves?
What about the idea that "Jesus did it all" and we are just to wait until we go to Heaven?
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12—NIV)
Does the above verse sound like Jesus did it all?
What about waiting until Christ in us obeys the Apostles?
Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame. (I Corinthians 15:34—NIV)
Does the above verse sound like we are to wait until Jesus acts in us?
I could have put several passages under each of the three headings. We have believed a lie, that is all there is to it. We are trusting in our traditions instead of the New Testament writings.
You know what? The churches in America are not bearing witness of Christ. There is a lot of preaching going on but the witness has been killed. The lampstand has gone out. This is because there has been little stress on righteous behavior, on doing good.
The Lord Jesus said when people see the good works of the Christians they will glorify God. Preaching is one thing. The testimony is something else again. The testimony is the moral Nature of the Lord Jesus exhibited in works of righteousness. When these are not in existence we are not bearing a true witness of Jesus Christ.
Witnessing is not telling others about Jesus. Witnessing is showing others the Nature of Jesus in our conduct.
I have purposely avoided mentioning the difference between the resurrection of the royal priesthood and the resurrection of those who are saved but not of the royal priesthood. I have done so to keep the concept of the relationship of our behavior to what we can expect in the day of resurrection as simple as possible so American Christians might be alerted to the danger they are facing if they do not begin to serve God in earnest.
I know the virus of "faith alone" is also active in other countries, but I am more familiar with what goes on in America and so I address my own nation.
I think the relationship between our conduct now and our resurrection later is as I have described. For those who wish to examine the differences between the resurrection of the priesthood and that of the saved nations, another essay, titled "The Path to Glory," might be of interest.
If we do not start doing good we are going to have a miserable resurrection
In the day of resurrection we are going to be clothed in our own conduct. We are working on a building, a house from Heaven, a robe from Heaven. The characteristics of our house, our robe, are being created now by our conduct. If we are doing good it will show in what we inherit in the Day of the Lord. If we are practicing evil it will be revealed in the Day of the Lord.
We shall be revealed before the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Day of the Lord will not be one of the transformation of our moral nature but a revelation of our moral nature. Our moral nature will be revealed by the kind of house, or robe, that covers us.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7,8—NIV)
Now think about this. The Bride makes herself ready. How does she do this? By following the Lord Jesus each day, confessing her sins and turning away from them, washing herself in the blood of the Lamb.
What is the result of her preparations? She is clothed in fine linen, bright and clean.
What is the fine linen? Notice carefully: "Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints."
If the believer does not act righteously, what then?
We are not speaking merely of ascribed righteousness here, but righteous acts.
Can you see what we mean when we say if you do good you will be raised to life but if you practice evil you will be raised to condemnation? This is true whether or not you are a Christian. Of course, if you have had an opportunity to receive Christ and do not do so you will be under condemnation no matter how righteously you behave.
The problem in America today is not primarily that of people who reject Christ because they believe they can please God by practicing righteousness, but of millions of Christian believers who think they can live as they choose and still please God by "grace." There is little love for God in them. They imagine they have found a way to live their own life in their own way and still be accepted by Jesus Christ. They suppose "accepting Christ" is their ticket to Heaven. They are horribly mistaken
God is looking for those who love Him, who seek His face all the day and night, who are being recreated in the moral image of Jesus, who are confessing their sins and turning away from them.
Christ wants disciples—those who deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him.
"Believers" who make their profession of faith (which is really a statement about their acceptance of the facts concerning Christ) and then go about their own business as usual are not disciples by any stretch of the imagination. They have no hope of being raised when the Lord comes. They are not prepared to work with Him in establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth. They have not created a white robe with which to clothe themselves in the day of resurrection.
They are really not Christians but members of a religion that calls itself by the name of Christ.
Big movements are afoot today. God is restoring truth. The Lord is seeking those who will serve Him with their whole heart.
Will you be one of these?