FROM LIFE TO DEATH TO LIFE
FROM LIFE TO DEATH TO LIFE 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.
No one can receive anything of eternal Kingdom worth until he receives it twice. All we are and possess must die in Christ. All that dies in Christ that will bring us fullness of joy and is of Kingdom worth will be raised in Christ and restored to us. Then it is our possession forever.
FROM LIFE TO DEATH TO LIFE
To be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:10—NIV)
This is God's eternal purpose—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one Head, under Christ.
The present world, the creation, including human beings, is a prototype. It was never meant to be permanent.
He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." (Hebrews 1:10-12—NIV)
Jesus Christ is eternal but the present creation is temporary.
"They will perish, but you remain."
The greatest mistake any human being can make is to regard the present creation as permanent and thus to clutch it, to cling to it, not realizing it is passing away.
Jesus spoke of the value of the flesh:
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. (John 6:63NIV)
The present world is as seed that is to be sown in Jesus Christ. The creation that comes forth from it will be as different from the creation we now know as a tree is from the seed that is planted. Yet the new creation will come from this world just as the tree comes from the seed.
This is why our tradition of going to Heaven when we die is so limited. In fact, the idea of making our eternal home in the spirit Paradise is Gnostic rather than Christian.
It is man and the material creation that is our destiny, but man and a creation that has been sown in Christ and then raised in Christ.
The greatest picture we have of this is Christ Himself. He came into this world as a Man, but not the Man to be. The Man who came had to be brought down to death. From His death the Christ who now is has come forth. The Christ who now is, is destined to fill the entire creation with Himself. The Seed is becoming the Tree. In the case of Christ, the Seed was planted in the tree (the cross). Now out from the tree is emerging the eternal universe.
This all sounds fine and wonderful but when it works out in our life it can be critical, chaotic, traumatic.
We are born and raised in this world as a bundle of nerve endings. We inherit many tendencies and bondages along with capabilities. We have emotions. We are most vulnerable in the area of relationships. We have been given a flesh and bones body, operated by blood, that is a marvelous gift, not possessed as far as we know by any of the other creatures of God.
For all of this we are, as God said, "dust." We are a brief sound in the night. We play our little play, dance our little dance, utter the parable that we are. A puff and we are not seen anymore. Our body returns to the dust from which it came. Our spirit returns to our Creator. The world continues without us.
The thought is enough to make one hopelessly pessimistic.
Then into our world strides the Son of God. For some reason known only to God the Tree of Eternal Life stops at our door. He knocks and we let Him in.
Christ asks us, "Will you die in Me that you might live forever?"
Will we die? Will we give to Him all we are and possess including our most precious relationships and treasures? What a question!
If we answer "yes" He begins to remove the things and relationships from our grasp, sometimes from our sight. All we have treasured begins to shake. We have to let go. We have to put all on the altar. Why? Because until the things that make up our life die in Christ and are raised in Christ they are temporary. Only that which has died in Christ and been raised in Christ is ours for eternity.
"But suppose He does not give them back to us?" Yes, that is the problem. We have to trust that if something is removed from us permanently it would not bring us fullness of joy and is not worthy of the Kingdom.
This, of course, was the original temptation. Is God to be trusted?
The Lord has given us the drama of water baptism to show us the path of life. In water baptism we descend into the death of Christ on the cross. When we come out of the water we are saying we have died to the present creation and have been raised with Jesus Christ into new life, into the Kingdom of God, into the new heaven and earth reign of Christ, into the world without end.
No aspect of our salvation operates properly until we really and truly count that we have died with Christ and been raised with Christ.
If we save our life we will lose it for eternity. Each aspect of life we cling to is an idol, and Christ will permit no idols in His Kingdom. Whatever we cling to must be destroyed. If we refuse to give something up then we will lose part or all of our inheritance. We are warned of this several times in the New Testament.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25—NIV)
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13—NIV)
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8—NIV)
We must count ourselves as dead on the cross with Christ and raised with Christ. As we do this God begins to judge the worldliness, lusts, and self-will of our personality. Our entire first nature must be counted as dead so God can get at the sin that lives in us.
This really is such a marvelous plan!
When sin entered the spirit world with the rebellion of Satan, God conceived of a material world that one day would clothe a spirit world from which all sin and rebellion had been removed. First there would be a temporary world, and finally the end product—the new heaven and earth filled with the Presence of the Righteous One, Jesus Christ.
The people of the new world, the brothers of Christ, would first be created from the dust. The dust would then serve not only as a prototype of that which is to be permanent but also as a sponge capable of absorbing evil. Remember that God does not tempt anyone to sin or cause anyone to sin. God merely knows what we will do under certain circumstances and lets nature take its course, as we say.
God has done all this with the hope one day He can bring forth a redeemed creation into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
God is very wise, you will have to give Him that!
God sets Christ before these sin-laden human beings. God says, "You have to surrender your personality to death so I can destroy the sin that dwells in you."
Great! We have been given a life and now we have to give it back to God.
Precisely. Whatever you will not give back to God is an idol. God is your Creator. Don't forget that. He can do as He will with or without your permission. He asks your permission because He wants sons, not robots, in the future.
God is working toward the future. The Kingdom is not here yet, it is at hand. True Christianity is a hope for the future. This is why the Gospel is not to become a plan to help us achieve prosperity in the present temporary world.
You can see from the above that everything depends on our willingness to die in Christ. If we are willing to die in Christ, to put on the altar everything we are and possess, then all that is of joy and Kingdom worth will be raised in Christ and given to us for eternity.
But if we are not willing to die in Christ, then we forfeit the Kingdom of God and all possible joy. We are a slave to the present corrupt world with no faith in God, doomed to eternal misery.
As we said, God begins to judge us as soon as we count ourselves as dead. It is appointed to man once to die and after this the judgment. Every area of our life is tested by the fire of God's Holy Spirit. We are baptized with fire. The fire comes on us, body, soul, and spirit, as chastening, as judgment on our worldliness, lust, and self-will.
We cannot endure the process of judgment except as we keep counting ourselves dead with Christ and raised with Christ. When we try to cling to some relationship, some thing, or some circumstances, we suffer. We suffer because God wants us to let go of our idol so it will not hinder our future joy.
All depends on our faith in God. The righteous of all ages have lived and yet live by faith in God's willingness and ability to bring us to the fullness of joy.
From life to death to life. From temporary life to death with Christ to eternal life. This is the only path to the Kingdom of God and fullness of joy.
Sometimes the Gospel, at least in America, is preached as though it is God's plan to make our first personality happy on earth and then to bring us to Paradise when we die. This is a religion like all the other religions of the world, not the Christian Gospel. Christianity is the only plan for bringing human beings and their environment down into death and then up again into eternal life.
It is not that we go to Heaven, it is that Heaven is going to be clothed with us. We see the picture of this as the fullness of Heaven clothed with flesh and bones emerged from the cave of Joseph of Arimathea.
Get ready to die that you may live forever. Whatever you do, do not clutch your present existence. If you do you will lose everything. Will you trade your threadbare rags for a royal robe? Are you so doubtful about God's character that you do not dare to trust Him?
The pathway to life is always through death. There are many portrayals in the Scriptures of this truth.
The greatest portrayal occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane. Where would Christ be today if He had refused to drink the cup of death? Where would we be?
Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains as it is, which isn't very much! The original Christ was much indeed. But look what He is now!
The story of Abraham and Isaac probably is, after Christ, the greatest portrayal of the fact that you cannot keep anything until you receive it twice.
In the first place, Isaac did not appear on the scene until it was impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have children. The twenty-five years they waited was a death in itself. Many of the heroes of the Scriptures came from mothers who had been barren. "Rejoice, O barren. More are the children of the desolate than of the married wife." Something like this.
God waited until Abraham's soul was totally entwined in Isaac. Then God asked for Isaac back.
This is the way God deals with us. He brings us into the world and gets us all entwined with the present creation. Then He asks for it back. Until God does this our possession is an idol to us. Without realizing it our treasure has become a chain preventing us from being free in God.
The proper order is Christ under God, man under Christ, and all the creation under man. Much of our Christian life consists of God taking things, relationships, and circumstances, removing them from their position between us and Christ, and putting them under our feet. Think about this. It can be a painful procedure if we are not willing and obedient.
Suppose Abraham had refused to give Isaac back to God? What if Abraham had screamed and protested, getting Sarah to scream and protest along with him, until God changed His mind? How do you think this would have played out?
Probably Isaac would have caught the flu and died. But what is infinitely worse, Abraham would never have become the father of all who believe.
Jesus Christ and all who belong to Christ are the Seed of Abraham. Think of it! What an inheritance!
God does not give everyone an opportunity to die such a dramatic death, only those appointed to the highest rank in the Kingdom. It is those who are destined to be at the right hand of Christ who must drink the cup.
How about you right now? Is God knocking on your door? Is God asking you to give back to Him your dreams, your hopes, the entire scenario you have developed for yourself?
Probably He is if you are reading this essay. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to scream and wail to try to get God to change His mind? If you do your idol will turn to ashes and you will lose your crown.
It appears to me, and I certainly hope I am mistaken, that God could not approach many believers with an Isaac-type test. He would lose them at the outset. The moment they felt threatened the tiny trust in God they now have would be destroyed. God is not in the business of destroying the bruised reed or the smoking flax and so He has to treat people gently.
But when it comes to the cup the King drinks from, as someone said (was it Saint Anthony? I forget), that cup must be burned in the fire. Unless we are willing to suffer under the hand of God we do not have a prayer of ruling in the Kingdom of God. God's kings give everything to God. He can ask for anything and He will get it from them, although there may be some pain involved.
Everything must be brought down to death and raised again in Christ if it is to bring us joy in the end.
There were some elements in Jacob's struggle of the process of death and resurrection. Jacob was petrified with the fear that Esau would come and kill Leah and Rachel and the kids.
Jacob went across the Jabbok and wrestled with God over the approach of Esau. Somewhere during the night Jacob forgot about Esau and asked God for His name. This is what happens to us if we do not let go of God. Finally we forget about our own desires and get interested in God. Then our name is changed from the con artist to the struggler with God. We become Israel.
How wonderful to have our name changed! What a narcissistic, cowardly, self-seeking pot of quivering flesh we are until we grapple with eternal Life! What a death we die! God's man of faith and power is seen to be a helpless, hopeless mouse possessing neither faith nor power.
The sooner we die and are raised in Christ the better for us and for our acquaintances.
Has the moment of truth come to you as yet? Until it does you will remain the first creation. What you are is temporary. True life begins when you die with Christ and are raised with Christ.
Job is another portrayal of not being able to keep things until you get them twice. The Book of Job (also the Lamentations of Jeremiah) are nice pieces of literature until God picks up His option on us. Then they become extremely meaningful. They are as meat that we can chew when Christian platitudes become sugar and water
Remember, Job was a righteous man. When we speak of God giving us our inheritance twice we are not speaking just of the destruction of sin out of us. It goes far, far deeper than the removal of sin. All we are, the good and the bad, must die in Christ and be raised in Christ. Not one mote of our personality is exempt from the process. Anything we hold back is loss for us and loss for Christ. Anything we are or possess apart from Christ is garbage—relatively worthless!
Job's family and possessions were taken from him and then restored to him, not the same people and possessions as before. The first were gone. You never know if you are going to get Isaac back. Such decisions are to be left in the hands of our Maker.
The important thing was that Job became acquainted with God. To have God speak of us as He has of Job is worth every pain, every humiliation, every perplexity. In the world to come Job will once again have his original sons and daughters, if they are found worthy of the Kingdom and will bring him fullness of joy. Again I say, God must be trusted for this. Do you see what I mean?
Joseph died the death before he governed Egypt. First Joseph died to the world (the pit). Then he died to sin (Potiphar's wife). Then he died to self-will (the prison). These three tests are administered to each of God's rulers. They must die to all three realms of the flesh and soul in order that they may receive the fullness of the inheritance.
The resurrection of our physical body is a major example of the program of giving us things twice.
We do not think often of the marvel we have been given, the flesh and bones body. Because of the influence of Gnosticism on Christian thinking we have all but discarded the doctrine of the resurrection of the mortal body. Yet it is the resurrection of the mortal body that is the central hope of the Christian redemption.
John 3:16 is speaking of rescuing the body from perishing. This thought may be new to you but the Scriptures will bear out that we are working toward the redemption of our body, that is, the reclaiming of it from indwelling sin and the corruption of death.
We are given a marvelous body, a house an angel would give anything to possess but never will. A flesh and bones body can come only from a woman. The highest possible calling of a woman (as God ordains for the individual) is to bring forth the flesh and bones body of a human being.
God has given us this marvel, and now he asks us to offer it as an sacrifice to God. Present your body a living sacrifice, Paul urges.
Now the fat is in the fire in more ways than one. Our whole life revolves around our body just as Abraham's whole life revolved around Isaac. When God asks for our body He is asking for most of what we are as a person.
We have a choice, just as did Jesus and Abraham. Either we give to God what He is asking for or we refuse to do so. Which will it be?
If, like Jesus and Abraham, we are willing to drink the cup, our end will be glorious beyond the mind of humans to comprehend. If we refuse to give our body to God, continuing to indulge its appetites and passions, the end will be corruption.
We may not realize it but the resurrection of our body is what Christianity is all about. The catching up of our body to meet the Lord in the air, the so-called "rapture," is not our hope. Being caught up to meet the Lord in the air is only our first step in the Kingdom of God, the first step we take after we have been raised from the dead. Our redemption is complete when we are raised from the dead.
The sooner the Christian churches begin to look toward the resurrection of the body as the blessed hope of the Christian salvation, and not that of being caught up to Heaven, the quicker our doctrine will begin to get straightened out.
Right now—today—we are forming the nature of our resurrection. There is nothing as important to you as an individual as the nature of your resurrection— what happens to you when you hear the voice of Jesus and are raised from the dead. Believe me, there is absolutely nothing as important as this. Most of our thoughts about going to Heaven when we die are not scriptural but mythological. The emphasis of the Scriptures is on our resurrection. Check it out in the Old Testament and the New.
If we are willing to die in Christ, to offer our body a living sacrifice to God, pressing into Jesus every day, denying ourselves as the Spirit leads, we will have a glorious resurrection. Our flesh and bones will be raised, just as Jesus' were, and then clothed with the house from Heaven that has been formed as we have sown our body to the death of the cross.
But if we are so foolish as to spend our days (I am speaking to Christians) in the appetites of our flesh, eating, sleeping, playing, working, reproducing, marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, if this is all we have to show for our days on the earth, then no house in Heaven has been formed, no robe with which to clothe our resurrected flesh and bones.
Our body will be raised, animated by spiritual energy and not by the eternal Life of Christ. We will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Our judgment could not begin previously because we had been unwilling to die in Christ.
Now we are in for it. All we have done in the body, good and bad, will be given back to us. If the good outweighs the bad we will be admitted to the Kingdom of God. But God Himself knows the lashes, the loss of our talents, the anger of Christ we shall experience. We may be saved as by fire, but how hot and how long will that fire burn?
The resurrection! This may be the greatest symbol of all of the program of being given something twice. We are given our body once. It must be sown to the death of the cross. Then we receive it back magnified and glorified beyond comprehension.
The greatest work is in our inward nature. Today the spirits of righteous people being made perfect dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem. When our inward nature has been cleansed from sin and taught stern obedience to the Father, then, and only then, will we be qualified to put on immortality.
Immortality, endless life in the body, cannot be given to us until we have gained the eternal Life of God in our inward nature. First eternal life is developed in our personality. Then immortality in the body will be given to us.
Every other enemy must be put down before physical death, the last enemy, is driven from us.
Where are you in this program? Abraham is not asked to give up Isaac every day. Jacob doesn't face Esau every other week. Joseph isn't huddled in the pit, or pulled on by Potiphar's wife, or taking care of prisoners for the rest of his life. Job isn't asked for his new children and camels as soon as he learns to enjoy them. God is not in the business of seeing us suffer.
Here is one thing we must learn about Jesus Christ. He is a Monarch. He will be in debt to no one. The only reason He demands things or people from you is to set you free so you are not bound by idolatry. Your crying in the night, your traumatic crises and chaos, the death of your soul, are not some cute game He is playing. He is preparing you to govern the creation in the Presence of God.
If right now God is demanding something from you, you are looking at the cup, then drink it. Do you remember when you were a child and the doctor prescribed some nasty medicine for you to drink? If you have some bitter medicine to drink, don't torture yourself by sipping it. Hold your nose and swallow the whole thing. Get it over with if you want to get better.
If the cup is before you, then you are a chosen vessel. God has something great for you in His Kingdom or He would not be requiring this of you. Make up your mind and drink the cup. Cast yourself on God. Scream if you want to but not where the neighbors can hear you. Let God have it all. You will feel that your soul is sorrowful to the point of death. This is how Jesus felt.
Have faith in the power and goodness of God. He is able and willing to bring you to fullness of joy. When He demands something it is because it will bring you misery if you hold on to it, or because He wants to set you free from it so He can restore it to you with His blessing
Every aspect of the first creation is in a temporary form. We are destined to inherit everything of the creation that will bring joy and is worthy of the Kingdom, but first all of it must become filled with the Presence of Jesus Christ. Everything that you treasure must die and then be raised and filled with the Presence of Jesus Christ. Otherwise it will harm you.
God is not making all new things but all things new. We will not receive a different body but a body that has been made different.
Remember that Abraham wandered in the land of promise as in a strange place; but it is that land that will be given to him and his Seed in the future. We do not as yet see the holy land in the possession of Abraham and his Seed, but it one day shall be.
So it is with you and me. Today we are wandering in our land of promise as in a strange place. But it is a land that one day will be ours in the fullness of joy. Our body in time to come will bring us fullness of joy because it will be an integral part of a whole personality characterized by iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.
In order to gain the creation made different after this fashion we must be willing to suffer the loss of all things today. We have this one chance in eternity to gain the fullness of the Glory of God. We are called to be the brothers of Jesus Christ, made in His image, coheirs with Him of the nations and the farthest reaches of our planet.
He (or she) who overcomes will inherit all that God envisions. God will be his Father. He will be God's son. What marvels! What a future glorious beyond all glory! What a stupendous canvas, a tapestry threaded with gold and adorned with pearls and precious stones. All this is ours, and we belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
Let us therefore cease clutching the present world as though the flesh counted for something. It doesn't. It is only a device to be used to bring into being a new world in which dwells righteousness, a world in which there never again will be a rebellion such as took place among the angels in eons past.
God has kept the good wine until now. The best is yet ahead. The kings from the east are preparing to ride. The drums of Hell are beating to the attack. So are the drums of El Shaddai. The great banners with the ramping Lion are being unfurled. Michael and his angels are polishing their spears, the points glittering as far back as the eye can see.
The white stallions are pawing the ground. They can hear the shouting and the thunder of the commands of the captains. The creation is on tiptoe awaiting the revealing of the sons of God, the judges of men and angels.
Know the present world will pass away. Know when the titans from the heavens meet in the fury of battle your little fleshly existence will not have the weight of a grain of dust in a galaxy. Apart from the Life of Jesus Christ you are facing nothing but chaos.
But in Jesus Christ you can sing and dance in the heights of Zion.
What is it going to be for you? To clutch your pitiful rags and hope the Bible is untrue, or to open the door of your personality to the King of all kings and let Him come in to you and dine with you on His own body and blood, on the blood of the covenant, on eternal life.
God will never open the door of your heart. You have that awesome privilege. I sincerely hope you make the most of it.
Let us pray.
"Dear Jesus, we gladly give you all we are and possess. Come through the everlasting doors of our heart, great King of glory, and claim what is your own.
"In Your name we pray.