SEEKING ETERNAL LIFE
SEEKING ETERNAL LIFECopyright Š 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
I suppose that Christians often regard eternal life as living for eternity. By "living" they mean being conscious in some kind of body. The idea is if you once "accept Christ" you will be alive forever in Heaven.
Am I correct? Is that what we believe? God stamps us as a person who will live forever in Heaven. We now have eternal life because we have made our profession of belief in Jesus Christ.
Well, let's think for a moment about something Jesus said:
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14)
Somehow our idea of "accepting Christ" does not sound to me like a road. When we say that all people who have "accepted Christ" will live forever in God's Presence, are we considering what is true generally speaking of Christian people? Do all reveal the Life of Christ in their personality?
A person wrote recently that if all the Christian pastors and evangelists taught that to be a Christian we must deny ourselves, take up our cross of deferred desire, and follow Jesus every day, that most of the Christian people would leave the churches.
I believe that individual wrote the truth. I wonder how many professing Christians in our day actually have attained to eternal life.
If we are to answer that question, I think we are going to have to think about eternal life somewhat differently than we do. I believe eternal life is a kind of life, not merely the duration of our consciousness because we have made a religious statement.
The Lord Jesus announced, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Now what does that mean?
Is the Lord Jesus Christ actually eternal life? Is eternal life a person?
Jesus did not say, in this instance, I will give you eternal life. He said, "I am the Life"!
In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus referred to His own body and blood as being the resurrection and the life. Isn't that interesting! When we eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood, we are eating and drinking eternal resurrection life.
If this is true, then eternal life is not eternal consciousness in Heaven but is the Substance of Christ Himself. It actually is independent of being in Heaven.
Since all of us are at different levels of learning to live by the body and blood of Jesus. then there are levels of eternal life. If this is true, then it would make sense for a Christian to make seeking more of eternal life, more of the Life of the Lord Jesus, the primary focus of his or her life.
Would you agree with that? Does what I have written make sense to you?
The reverse would be. If you are not partaking of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, then you do not have eternal life. Eternal life is a kind of life, not eternal consciousness, as I mentioned previously.
Apparently we are dealing with various levels of eternal life, with some Christians having more eternal life than is true of others. You can see at a glance that we are referring to a kind of life, not to duration of consciousness.
Let's for a moment think about the Apostle Paul. Paul told us of his primary goal in life. Yet, I have never heard it preached. Have you? Isn't that strange?
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)
If the highest priority of the Apostle Paul was to attain to the resurrection from the dead, and the context of the passage suggests this is the case, then why is this passage not preached more often than it is?
This statement of Paul's really fits our first verse, doesn't it?
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14)
It may be true that our understanding of eternal life depends on whether we view eternal life as eternal duration of consciousness, or whether we view it as the Divine Substance of Christ.
I believe Paul is implying that we should be seeking to know Christ until we are living in His Life, in the eternal Life of God.
What did Jesus say about eternal life?
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Paul spoke of wanting to know Christ; of giving up lesser things in order to have a better knowledge of Christ.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)
How about you and I? Do we consider knowing Christ more important than everything else?
Paul was not a new Christian when he said this. This means that as Paul progressed in his walk with Christ he was on that road that leads to the full knowledge of Christ, the road that leads to eternal life.
Paul suffered a great deal, as he tells us in the Book of Second Corinthians. All of those sufferings and afflictions resulted in increased eternal life in Paul and increased eternal life in those who heard him.
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (II Corinthians 4:11)
It appears that eternal life always proceeds from someone's crucifixion. The true Christian walk is the way of the cross. So we see from this that the true Gospel of the Kingdom is not a religion or philosophy but the bringing forth of God's life from afflicted flesh.
If we are going to partake of the Life of Jesus and bring it to others we are going to have to share His sufferings. There is no other way.
There are strange, unscriptural demonstrations of uncrucified flesh occurring in some of the Charismatic churches of our day. These unfortunately are not symptoms of spiritual life but of spiritual death.
Notice in the following passage what Jesus has to say about eternal life:
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)
How do we eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ? Every time we are tempted to yield to our sinful nature, and call on the Lord for help in resisting the sinful deed, we are given the spiritual nourishment of the flesh and blood of Christ. It is the overcomers who feed on the hidden manna.
Do you remember the parable of the sower?
The seed that is sown is the Word of God. The Word of God is the Divine Nature and Substance of Christ. It comes to maturity in us if tended properly.
Some Christians reap Christ to a thirtyfold extent. Some reap Christ to a sixtyfold extent. Some reap Christ to a hundredfold extent. To reap Christ is to reap the Resurrection and the Life.
Why is there a difference in the amount of Christ that is reaped? It has to do with pruning.
When we first receive Christ we may bear a certain amount of His image in us. When the Father sees that fruit, He may decide that we can stand to be pruned. So He strips away what has been accomplished in us thus far in the hope that we will survive the pruning, the death involved, and proceed to bear richer, more abundant fruit. More of the image of Christ.
If we succeed at this second level, God may decide that we are strong and determined enough to proceed to the third level of fruit bearing.
And so we may enter the "dark night of the soul," as Saint John of the Cross expressed it. If we continue with God, not running away in unbelief in God's faithfulness, we bear a fullness of the image of Christ.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57)
To live by Christ as Christ lives by the Father is to abide in eternal resurrection life---that to which the Apostle Paul was seeking to attain.
As I have written many times, I believe we are approaching chaos in our country, the United States of America. We have given ourselves over to the lusts of the flesh and spirit.
Because of this slide down into moral filth, Divine judgment will come upon our nation. I believe much blood will be shed as we seek to maintain our way of life. In any case, I think America is destined to become a third-class nation, no longer a leader of the nations of the world.
This period of suffering and danger will cause a division in the Christian churches, I assume. The church people of our country in many case are as spoiled children. Their pastors have promised them that if they will "accept Christ," all the blessings of Heaven and earth will be theirs.
They do not need to take up their cross and follow Jesus. If they will just come to church and keep on believing the Statement of Faith, they will have an enjoyable life and go to Heaven and recline in their mansion when they die.
Therefore the church will be divided between the Christians who are in the pursuit of eternal life, and the church-members who attend the services for any number of reasons but who are casual in their service to the Lord Jesus.
They have no attention of suffering anything for Christ. When being a Christian no longer is a comfortable way of life for them, they will forget about serving the Lord and either leave the Christian religion altogether, or else join with those who enter one of the babylonish congregations that operate by human strength, wisdom, and talents.
The Book of Revelation informs us that in the last days the babylonish congregations will come together into one huge world-wide church, perhaps having its headquarters in Iraq at the site of ancient Babylon.
The dividing of the Christians will be an opportunity for those who wish to become true Christians and seek to increase in eternal life to meet together and abandon the babylonish practices which characterize many of the churches of our day.
I have no doubt there will be persecution for the sincere believers. They can expect that. I think most Protestant church in America pose no threat to Satan, with their lawless-grace and escape-by-rapture teaching. Certainly the churches that practice fleshly manifestations of all sorts are not putting Satan in danger of losing his control of mankind.
But when Satan perceives that there are Christian believer who are determined to know Christ, to attain to the power of Christ's resurrection, who are willing to die for the Gospel, he will become enraged. He will attempt to destroy them, just as Herod killed the little children because he believed one of them was the prophesied King of Israel.
I think history will prove that fiery persecution usually succeeds in purifying the Christian churches. The sincere Christ would rather be purified than be comfortable. That may not be true of the majority of Christian people in our day.
For those who have ears today, the Holy Spirit is telling us to confess and renounce our worldliness, lusts, and personal ambition. We are to take up our cross of deferred desires and follow the Lord Jesus closely at every moment of the day and night, when we are awake.
I notice in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation that the Lamb is standing on Mount Zion with His Firstfruits company. Prior to this, Christ is seen as seated at the right hand of God in Heaven.
Mount Zion is the Christian Church. The Lamb is standing because it is time for the Father to deliver the Lamb's enemies into His hand. Ours is a time of warfare and rebellion, both in the world and in the Church as well.
If we are wise we will turn from the compromising ways of the churches and seek Christ with all the diligence we can muster. It will not be too long before the spiritual oppression will be so great that the unprepared believers will not be able to stand or help their loved ones to stand.
Today is the time to look to Jesus for every decision we make, every action to take. If we keep looking to Him, He will enable us to stand in the day of terror that is approaching us in America.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. (Psalms 125:1)