WHEN A CHRISTIAN DIES
WHEN A CHRISTIAN DIES Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
There are two aspects to be considered when thinking about the destiny of the Christian after his death: what he will experience when he dies, and what he will experience in the Day of Christ. What happens to us when we die is important to us, but little is stated in the Scriptures about this aspect of our future life. The Scriptures emphasize what will take place when Christ returns.
Table of Contents
What Happens to the Christian When He Dies? What Happens to the Careless Christian in the Day of Christ? What Happens to the Diligent Christian in the Day of Christ? Six Concepts of Salvation Nine Aspects of Salvation To have access to the Presence and Face of God, to know as we are known To be in Christ in God with all members of the Body of Christ To be changed into the image of Jesus in spirit, soul, and body To be filled with the power of eternal, incorruptible resurrection life To be filled with love, joy, peace, and every other desirable attitude, trait, and emotion To possess all authority and power over the nations of the earth and over all the works of God’s hands To be the light of the world To bear abiding fruit To experience eternally all the promises to the righteous, all the blessings promised to the Israel of the ages to come, and all the rewards promised to the victorious saint under the new covenant
WHEN A CHRISTIAN DIES
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:27,28)
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:2)
There are two aspects to be considered when thinking about the destiny of the Christian after his death: (1) what he will experience when he dies; and (2) what he will experience in the Day of the revelation of Christ. These are two different states and circumstances except for the saints who are physically alive when the Lord returns. Those who are living in Christ and are physically alive when the Lord returns will "die" and be raised in one moment.
There is little said in the Old Testament concerning the destiny of the righteous individual after death, except that he is "gathered to his people."
Then Abraham gave up the Ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:8)
And Isaac gave up the Ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. (Genesis 35:29)
The destiny of the righteous (and of the wicked) in the Day of the Lord is discussed in several passages of the Hebrew Prophets.
It is true also of the New Testament that little is stated concerning what happens to the Christian after he dies, while a great deal is said about rewards and punishments in the Day of Christ.
As to the attitude of the Old Testament toward physical death:
The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. (Psalms 115:17)
The above verse is typical of the manner in which death was regarded by writers of the Old Testament.
We can note from the raising of Samuel that the righteous dead were at rest:
And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?.... (I Samuel 28:15)
Compare the state of the wicked, as described by the Lord Jesus:
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:23)
The attitude of the Prophets toward Sheol (Hell; the grave) was that of dread—even for the righteous:
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. (Psalms 18:4,5)
The Prophets "saw" the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked and sang with joy concerning the Kingdom of God that is to come to the earth at the appearing of Christ.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)
As is true also of the New Testament, the Old Testament almost ignores what happens to us when we die and dwells on what will take place in the last days.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
The Prophets shouted with joy over the prospect of the coming of Christ in His Kingdom. Then shall the righteous rejoice. Then shall the nations learn righteousness and be delivered from oppression. Then shall the wicked be plucked up and cast out of the earth.
The Old Testament presents death as our going to be with the spirits of the deceased. The righteous go to be with Abraham while the wicked are gathered to their kind in an area of torment. Apparently, Sheol is a place of waiting for the Day of the Lord, especially for the judgment of the Lord. Dust returns to the dust from which it was taken. Life is over for the present.
Christian teaching has built up a body of traditions and fables about what the believer experiences when he dies. Much of the Christian thought concerning what happens when we die is derived from the translation of the Greek term for abodes, as "mansions" (see John 14:2).
While there may be stately mansions for the righteous in the spirit realm, one fact is certain: John 14:2 has nothing to do with grand houses in the spirit realm. John 14:2 is stating the same thing as John 14:23, that is, God is seeking a resting place in His saints.
Why is it that the Apostles of Christ had so little to say about what happens to us when we die? No doubt the reason is that the Apostles believed the Lord Jesus would return during their own lifetime. This hope is reflected in their epistles.
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (II Thessalonians 1:7)
The Apostles pointed repeatedly toward the return of Christ. They never emphasized our going to Heaven and making our eternal home there. This concept is never found in the New Testament. Rather, the Apostles spoke of the soon coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth, the return of Jesus Christ with rewards for those who serve Him faithfully, the salvation to come in the Day of Christ.
If the reader finds the preceding paragraph difficult to accept he should read through the Epistles (and the four Gospels as well). He will discover what we have said is the truth.
In the few instances in which Paul spoke of going home to be with the Lord he was reacting to his persecutions and troubles in this world. He was not in these cases preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, the hope of salvation in the Day of Christ. This was true also of Peter.
The New Testament writings, commencing with the Gospel of Matthew and proceeding through to the Book of Revelation, are concerned with the Day of Christ. To be saved is to be kept from being removed from God’s Presence in the Day of the Lord. This is the meaning of the Christian salvation. In addition there are rewards for those who run the race victoriously.
What happens to us when we die is important to us. However, the Scriptures emphasize what will happen to us when Christ returns. It may be noted also while the lashes and other punishments to be administered to the wicked are mentioned from time to time, the stress is on the marvels that will be the inheritance of those who live victoriously by the grace of Christ.
The Divinely ordained Scriptures, the Old Testament and especially the New Testament, state that in the Day of Christ every individual will receive the results of his behavior. Current Christian teaching does not emphasize nearly enough this most fundamental of Kingdom concepts—the eternal Kingdom law of sowing and reaping.
Today’s Christian teaching and preaching is leaving the flock of God with the false impression that those who make a profession of faith in Christ will neither be rewarded nor punished according to their works. The whole concept of the Judgment Seat of Christ has been seriously undermined. This false teaching is largely responsible for the moral weakness of the churches, the result being the lust and violence practiced in the "Christian nations."
Ours is a sad day in terms of Christian doctrine. The weakness of the Christian churches is revealed in the cloud of demons that has settled over the cities and villages of the earth. The demonic activity—even among professing Christians—is so pronounced it appears soon the demons will reveal themselves openly. Because of the false doctrine preached among us there is not enough power in many Christian assemblies to deliver people from the deceptions and activities of Satan.
The Scriptures hold out wonderful rewards to those who live in obedience to God, who take up their cross and follow Christ, who, through God’s grace, conquer the world, Satan, and their lusts and self-will. These rewards include personal transformation, desirable relationships, nearness to the Lord, and opportunities for joyous service. They will be given to us when the Lord appears.
The punishments that will fall on the careless and sinning Christian are terrifying.
Let us consider what will happen to the Christian when he dies, and then what will happen to him in the Day of Christ. The latter topic includes the Christian who does not serve Christ and also the Christian who does serve Christ in this world.
What happens to the Christian when he or she dies?
What happens to the careless Christian in the Day of Christ?
What happens to the diligent Christian in the Day of Christ?
No passage of the Scriptures portrays the righteous living in mansions in Heaven.
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; (Revelation 7:9)
Revelation 7:9-17 appears to be confined to those believers who stand true to Christ during the great and terrible tribulation that will accompany the reign of Antichrist. Their destiny is to serve God day and night in His temple.
Standing before the Throne of God and before the Lamb with palms in our hands, serving God day and night in His temple, is a marvelous prospect. If we think about it, it is greatly to be desired in preference to living our private life in a mansion.
What does it mean to be clothed with a white robe? Remember, when we die we are a bodiless spirit. Being clothed with a white robe very well may signify that we have been given a body of glory with which to clothe our spirit. When it is time for the Lord to return to earth we will return with Him in a glorified body, descend to where our physical remains are interred, call up from the place of death our flesh and bones and receive them as part of our personality.
Now we are ready to return to the Lord in the air in preparation for the attack of Armageddon.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Revelation 6:9-11)
Again we see the clothing of the bodiless spirits with the white robe woven from our Christ-filled, righteous behavior. Receiving the white robe means we have attained the first resurrection from the dead.
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)
Perhaps Peter, James, and Paul are under the altar of God in Heaven, among those who are crying out with loud voices for vengeance on their persecutors. They will they be given the white robes of the royal priesthood during the opening of the fifth seal. At present they are they resting in the Presence of Christ.
And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. (Revelation 15:2)
The above are representative of the passages that describe the state of the Christians who have lived a victorious life in Jesus. There would be no place among these overcomers for the careless, the lukewarm, for those who have buried their talents or allowed their lamp to run out of oil.
We do not say the above passages describe the limits of our future experience, for the testimonies of saints who were dead, or nearly dead, and then were revived, indicate a much different setting. The revived saints profess to have seen happy, righteous spirits in the Paradise of God. We do not for one moment doubt their testimony.
We note that Moses and Elijah were active with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.
We can be certain only of what is written. Also, it is important to understand the Gospel is not directed toward what takes place when we die physically but what takes place when the Lord Jesus returns in glory. The Gospel of the Kingdom has to do with the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth, not with our going to live forever in the spirit realm as is taught currently.
The Apostle Paul was willing to die and go to be with the Lord.
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. (II Corinthians 5:8,9)
The context suggests this is not as much a longing to go to Heaven to live as it is the realization he was preparing to be clothed with a body of life from Heaven, a white robe of righteous conduct, a body fashioned from his afflictions (II Corinthians 4:17). Paul was stressing his desire to be acceptable to the Lord in view of the day when he stands before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. (Philippians 1:24)
"And to be with Christ."
Paul always emphasized going to be with the Lord rather than going to Heaven or to Paradise. There is a truly great difference between desiring to be with the Lord and desiring to go to Paradise. Many people desire to go to Paradise when they die, but their lives on the earth reveal that they care little for the Presence and fellowship of Jesus.
The above passages often are cited by believers. "It is gain for me to die," they quote; or, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."
This may or may not be true for every believer. Because it was better for the imprisoned, persecuted Paul to die than to live, and that for him to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord, does not mean this is true for every individual who makes a profession of faith in Christ.
The current practice of ignoring contexts and focusing on certain "key verses," and then claiming that because we profess faith in Christ these verses apply automatically to us, is one of the reasons behind the prevailing spiritual deadness of the Christian churches.
Verses such as Galatians 2:20 or I John 3:2, apply to us only as we enter the spiritual maturity of the Apostles. These passages announce spiritual realities to which we are to aspire. They are not legal states given to us because our doctrine is correct.
The purpose of the Scripture is to bring us to the living Word, Christ. The Scripture is not Christ and must never become a substitute for Christ in our thinking.
We see, therefore, that neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament tells us much about what happens to us when we die. We know judgment follows death. We know also if we serve Jesus with all our heart He will keep in careful custody, until the Day of His appearing, that which faithfully has been committed to Him.
The preceding paragraphs provide great hope for the Christian who is living as a true disciple of Christ. What we have stated is true and scriptural. However, in order to provide comfort for the reader who may have picked up our book because he is facing death, or because of a dying loved one, let us make some additional comments.
Keep in mind that what we are stating in the following few words is not based on any passage of Scripture and therefore is not set forth as "Thus saith the Lord."
There have been many instances in which saints of God have died momentarily, or have had a near death experience, and then have been revived to live several additional years. During the period of "death" they have been able to see people and circumstances that ordinarily are hidden from our eyes.
The author has read many of these accounts and, with one or two exceptions, is convinced they are genuine revelations of life after death. It may be noted, however, that such visions never emphasize the primary revelation of the Scriptures—that Christ is being formed in us and is preparing His throne in us. The dreams and visions deal only with an external paradise, presenting Christ as being with us but not in us.
Also, the near-death revelations do not portray life after the resurrection of the dead—only what happens to the saint after he or she dies and prior to the Day of resurrection.
Combining the visions we (the author) have read, and our own perception of the spirit realm, we would suggest the illusory environment in which we live at present will be continued for a season, at least for the righteous, until we are able to enter the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
Now, what do we mean by stating we are living in an illusory environment and that this will be continued.
If we have some knowledge of science we understand the present world of molecules and atoms has no "real," lasting form. What we see and feel result from the properties of molecules we perceive by electrical impulses interpreted by our brain. If our eyes were powerful enough we would "see" electrical phenomena instead of people and houses. Yet, we could not "see," we could only perceive in terms of our brain.
There is a real world, a world that actually can be seen by eternal, spiritual eyes. But it is not the physical world.
The physical world is a temporary device that God has constructed for the purpose of testing spirits. If we are faithful in the present world, which is least in significance, we will be entrusted in the future with the spiritual realities, which are very great in significance.
Because of God’s goodness it may happen that when we die, God will continue, for a season, to construct an environment in the spirit realm that will represent "Heaven" to us, such as might be experienced in an instructional dream or vision. This tailored environment will comfort us greatly and teach us spiritual realities. Also, we may for the first time contact some of the reality of the spirit realm.
It is highly likely that our misunderstandings of doctrine will continue after we are in the spirit realm. Dying and passing into the spirit realm will not clear up the mysteries of God. We will not know as we are known until that which is perfect comes, that is, until we are filled with the Presence of the Father in the Son through the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Those who have followed the Scriptures and the people who have adhered to their teachings will be radiant in righteousness in the Day of Christ. Those who have taught that Christians are not required to behave righteously, and the other fables that fill the Christian assemblies of today, will be ashamed. They and their followers will be admonished by the Lord. What their end will be we cannot say. We do know every individual will reap what he has sown, whether or not he is a believer.
The actual Kingdom of God, that for which we have been appointed, may still be barely discernible for most of us. The Kingdom of God is at once an external Kingdom and an internal Kingdom. In the eons ahead of us, God will install His Person in us so He may be Present in us and through us wherever He desires throughout His creation. The Divine love of God that fills Christ will continue to be expressed in us. We shall be the temple and revelation of God, just as the Lord Jesus is today.
The joy and peace of the inner Kingdom of God will be far superior to any paradise of external delights we can envision in the present hour. God, fully understanding our immaturity in spiritual matters, holds out "Heaven" as a paradisiac environment, knowing that we find joy and peace in the idea of going to a country where all is love, beauty, peace, and joy.
It is not at all unlikely that the righteous individual, upon dying physically, will be ushered into a wonderful world of beauty and joy, there to live in bliss among relatives and acquaintances. Perhaps the musician will be provided with an instrument, the artist with a brush, the gardener with a garden. We personally believe this to be highly probable.
The incomprehensible joy of the inner Kingdom of God, bringing the Presence of God to the nations of saved peoples of the earth, is not clear enough to us yet to provide a strong hope—not as much of a hope as the prospect of returning to the Garden of Eden in Heaven.
It seems true that when the righteous individual dies he enters a world that is marvelous, a world from which he would never return voluntarily. When we are able to look back on the present world, after having seen the beauty and peace of the next, we will understand we now are attempting to survive in the darkest of caverns, in the very environs of Hell.
The present world is the "valley of the shadow of death." The spirit realm of the righteous dead is Paradise.
The wicked person faces no such release. He is living in Hell now by his own choice. When he dies physically he will continue in the chains of Satan. In the present hour he is able to pull down righteous friends and relatives into the darkness he has chosen as they attempt to encourage him to serve the Lord and live righteously.
After he dies he no longer will be able to oppress the righteous. He will be placed among those who prefer the works of Satan just as he does. But then he no longer will be able to enjoy the goodness of the Lord, the light and life of his righteous relatives and friends.
The righteous person will enter love, peace, and joy, when he dies to a degree that cannot be experienced in the present world. The wicked will enter hatred, unrest, and agony, when he dies to a degree that cannot be experienced in the present world.
God cannot be mocked. Those who love Him will be blessed beyond measure. Those who hate Him will be punished beyond measure.
Now, back to the teaching of the Scriptures.
The Gospel accounts contain several warnings to the careless Christian, explaining to him what he can expect when Christ returns. The fearful fates of the five foolish virgins and the servant who wasted his Lord’s talents give us some idea of the severity of the judgment facing the believer in Christ who neglects his salvation.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. (Matthew 25:10)
"The door was shut!"
The door was shut against whom? Against the unbelievers?
The door was shut against "virgins," each of whom possessed the "lamp" of the Word of God. The five foolish virgins were they who had gone "to meet the bridegroom." This hardly is a picture of the unsaved.
Multitudes of believers in Christ will be denied entrance to the Kingdom when the Lord returns. They will be denied entrance because they have not maintained the Life of Jesus in themselves. They have been too busy in the world. They have neglected their salvation and will not escape the inevitable penalty.
As for the Christian who wasted his Lord’s money:
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30)
Notice, in the above two incidents, the virgins and the unprofitable servant, that judgment is not executed on the careless believer when he dies but when the Lord returns.
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (I Corinthians 4:5)
Salvation has to do with what happens to us in the Day of Christ, not with what takes place at the time of our physical death.
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 5:5)
"That the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
Not when the incestuous believer dies but in the day of the Lord Jesus.
The reason we are emphasizing this is that the current doctrine suggests the purpose of receiving Jesus is to shun Hell and to make Heaven our home. The concept is held that if we do not go to Hell when we die we can rest in the assurance we shall lead a blissful life forever in our mansion in Heaven.
Such is not the teaching of the New Testament. The teaching of the New Testament is that when the Lord Jesus Christ returns He will reward each of us according to his works. It is our belief that if the believers understood they were going to be rewarded in the Day of Christ according to their conduct, their deeds, they would behave in a different manner.
The Lord Jesus did not come to save men from Hell but from their sins. Whoever sins always will abide in Hell. Whoever serves the Lord in righteousness will abide in eternal life. Grace does not change these immutable facts. The Lord Jesus did not come to change the fact that sinners always are in Hell. Rather, He came to deliver us from our sins so we can behave righteously and enter life.
If today’s careless "saints" understood thoroughly that when Jesus comes He will not say to the lukewarm believer, well done, good and faithful servant, they would repent of their coldness and begin to seek the Lord. Our common sense tells us this is so.
But we are being taught, in many instances that we can hide our abominable behavior behind a covering of grace. Those who teach this will be cast out of the Kingdom when Christ returns.
Our conscience and our common sense warn us that the day of reckoning is coming. Religious teachings have a way of destroying conscience and common sense, and so we are warning the Christian people that they indeed will be rewarded or punished according to their works when Jesus appears.
Those who are removing from the churches the normal fear of the Day of Judgment by teaching that a profession of belief in Jesus will shield the individual from reaping what he is sowing shall suffer punishment at the hands of Jesus, for they are false prophets. They are destroying the Lord’s inheritance.
The Book of Hebrews is a warning to believers in Christ that they will not escape God’s anger if they neglect their salvation and turn back into the ways of sin.
The Book of Hebrews does not emphasize an individual’s going to Heaven or Hell when he dies. Rather, the writer of Hebrews speaks of the danger of dying in the wilderness, that is, of losing our joyous confidence and zeal in the middle of our pilgrimage; of not living in the Spirit and pressing forward to the rest of God. The "rest" of God is not Heaven. The rest of God is the state of abiding in victory in Christ in God and all else that goes along with victory.
What will be the condition of the careless Christian (of whom there are a great many today) after he dies and before the Lord comes and demands an accounting of the talents that have been entrusted to him?
The current teaching that every believer will ascend into the new Jerusalem when he dies is neither scriptural nor logical. Will God take the deceased into glory and then, in the Day of the Lord, deal with him concerning his diligence or lack of it? Is this sensible? It appears our current doctrine covering this aspect of redemption is woefully inadequate, leaving the dying believer unprepared for what he or she will experience after death.
There is little scriptural support (where are the passages?) for the commonly held belief that all believers in Christ, regardless of their behavior in the world, are brought into the Presence of God when they die, there to live forever in mansions of delight. As we have stated, the apostolic concept of being "saved" is not that of where we go when we die. Rather, the concept is that of being saved from Divine wrath when Christ comes in His Kingdom.
Although the Scripture does not have much to say about what happens to the believer when he dies, it seems reasonable that each believer in Christ is evaluated as to the formation of Christ in him and then placed in a suitable area of the spirit realm, there to await his placement in the Kingdom of God at the appearing of Christ.
It is neither scriptural or reasonable that people will be changed in moral standards, attitudes, mannerisms, dedication to the Lord, or in any other area of personality by reason of their physical death. Rather, they join with their family members to await the Day of Judgment. If they are happy, generous people in this world they will continue to be the same in the next. If they are mean, rebellious, stubborn, moody now, there is no reason to believe they will be different after they die.
What would cause them to change? The sins we practice are spiritual in nature. Gossiping, hatred, strife, the seeking of preeminence, pride, anger, are all spiritual in nature. They are of the personality of Satan. Why would the bitter, spiteful person be any different because he or she died? In fact, the bitterness and spitefulness probably will increase because the individual no longer will be able to vent his spite on his acquaintances still living in the world. This is true whether or not the person has been a believer.
It seems reasonable also that these areas of waiting are places of instruction and, hopefully, of opportunities for spiritual growth. Many ardent young disciples have died before they have had much of an opportunity to learn to love and trust Christ, to learn the lessons those who have wandered for many years in the wilderness of this world have been taught.
Surely there are opportunities for spiritual growth and service after we die and before the Lord returns. We cannot be certain such is the case. We cannot say thus saith the Lord because there are so few passages that describe life after death.
Of one fact we are certain: the careless Christian is facing a terrifying experience when the Lord returns. To have the door of the Kingdom of God shut in one’s face, to be cast into outer darkness, to be tormented to the point of weeping and gnashing one’s teeth, are stern consequences indeed.
The written Word of God warns the negligent Christian that he will face an angry Christ in the Day of the Lord. He can expect to experience fiery torments, unbearable remorse, spiritual suffering, for an unknown period of time.
Perhaps he will be saved by this fire. Or, he may receive the maximum sentence—that of being separated from His Creator forever while in confinement in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. His may be the blackness of darkness forever, being alone!—without God!—without hope!
We are not speaking of the people of the world. We are referring to Christians who have neglected Christ. They will receive numerous lashes. The current belief that punishment can be avoided by a profession of doctrine is producing moral chaos in the churches of Christ.
Christianity is not a set of doctrines. It is not a philosophy. Christianity is a new creation, a creation of righteous, holy, and obedient personality and behavior. Apart from the new creation there is no Divine redemption. We have been misled.
Christian ministers place most of their faith and hope in the individual’s thought structure. If they can convince someone to change his beliefs they are delighted. They suppose they have accomplished much in the Kingdom.
But the Kingdom of God has little to do with one’s beliefs. The Kingdom of God is Christ formed and dwelling in the heart. The more of Christ we have the more of the Kingdom we have, our thoughts meanwhile excusing or accusing us.
To live daily in vigorous interaction with the Lord is to enter the Kingdom. To hold to a set of beliefs about theological or historical facts is of value only as that set of beliefs leads us into vigorous interaction with the Lord Jesus. Otherwise, our beliefs are without value in the Kingdom.
We must search the Scriptures, not primarily for the sake of knowing the Scriptures, as valuable as such knowledge can be, but in order to come to Him who is the Truth. There is no eternal life in the Scriptures, only in Jesus.
When discussing His actions on returning to the earth, Christ never raised the issue of a person’s doctrine. He spoke of how He will punish the wicked and reward the righteous.
It may be true that Christianity is the most misunderstood religion in the world. Christianity, contrary to popular understanding, does not consist of a set of theological teachings, belief in which guarantees bliss after death.
Christianity is Jesus Christ. Christianity is the entering of the Life of Jesus into us so our personality is changed for eternity. Christianity brings righteousness of personality and conduct. Such personality transformation is not possible under the Law of Moses or under the rules of any other religion to the extent possible under the Christian new covenant.
Our present conception of the Christian salvation as the holding of special knowledge is closer to Gnosticism than it is to Christianity.
The actual purpose of the new covenant is to make an eternal end of sin. The bulk of the New Testament writings have to do with commandments which we are to keep, as the Spirit of God assists us, until Christ is formed in us. Christ formed in us and living in us is the new covenant. In every and all instances, the goal of the Christian salvation is to change the behavior of people from sin to righteousness. Any Christian teaching that does not demand our change from sinful behavior to righteous behavior is not of God but is "another gospel."
God has given us the iron of the Word of God, the blood of the Lamb of God, and the fire of the Holy Spirit of God that we may be able to put all sin out of our life.
Christianity the Kingdom of God, is Christ in us. If Christ is in us a new, righteous creation is coming into view. If there is no new, righteous creation in the process of coming into view, there is no Christianity, no Kingdom of God. It is as straightforward as that.
The purpose of Divine grace is not to bring a fallen race into Paradise. The purpose of grace is to provide the forgiveness, wisdom, and power necessary for our conversion from the old Adam to the new Adam. Apart from such change there is no salvation.
The altering of the concept of the Divine redemption from a new creation into a revised thought structure and a ticket to Paradise is the deadly product of Christian theology. This alteration has destroyed the testimony of the churches and as a result the welfare of the nations of the earth, which depend (without realizing it) on the light of the churches for moral guidance.
May the Lord Jesus Christ help us repent before our generation of Christians is lost to the eternal purpose of God in Christ, before numerous believers enter death unprepared for the realities of the spirit realm.
Our concept today of what constitutes a "Christian" comes short of the Glory of God. A true Christian is a person who has given his life to Christ to the extent he is a "prisoner" of Christ, whether or not he is a literal prisoner behind bars on the earth.
The true, diligent Christian is a cross-carrying disciple of the risen Lord Jesus. For him to live is Christ and to die is gain. He, through the Spirit of God, presses forward in Christ until every aspect of his personality and behavior is under the strictest guidance and supervision of Christ. He does not belong to himself, he belongs to Christ.
The Lord God of Heaven has a way of imprisoning each of His true saints until, like Paul, he longs for his release through death, but especially for the coming of salvation with the appearing of Christ. His fondest hopes are deferred. He waits, waits, waits until it seems such waiting and hoping will continue forever. These are the saints, and they are learning of the Kingdom and patience of Christ.
These are the heirs of God, the coheirs with Christ. Little by little God closes them in until their treasures are in Heaven. A great deal is stated in both the Old Testament and the New Testament concerning the Kingdom, the treasures that Jesus will bring to the righteous at His appearing. These treasures are the rewards promised to those who fear and love Him, who serve Him faithfully. We can be certain of these rewards because they are mentioned in the Scriptures.
In order to inherit the heavenly rewards we must be found worthy. We must serve Christ with a pure heart. We must conquer, through Christ’s grace, the corruption that is in the world, Satan’s deceptions, and the lusts of our body. Also, we must deny our self-love and self-will, choosing instead to place Christ as absolute Lord of our life.
We are saved from wrath by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But faith apart from works is dead. True faith always results in the works of righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God that are stressed in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Such works will bring rewards in the Day of Christ.
Unbelief, on the other hand, always results in unrighteousness, uncleanness, and disobedience toward God. Such works will bring punishment in the Day of Christ.
Christians of today are saying they believe in Christ and that they are saved by their belief. But their works reveal that they do not believe in Christ. They are walking in deception, in the way of the False Prophet.
To die is gain for the true Christian because when he dies he is released from the prison in which God has placed him. He has lived in Christ and for Christ. When he dies he will continue in the same nearness to Christ, only now he will see Christ more clearly. He will be with the Lord. When the Lord appears, the true Christian will receive the crown of righteousness, the crown of eternal life.
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also love his appearing. (II Timothy 4:8)
Conversely, the careless, negligent Christian has lived to himself. He has not conducted himself in the Presence of Christ. Let him not imagine that when he dies he will pass into the glorious Presence of the One whom he has shunned while he was alive on the earth.
He has lived far from Christ. When he dies he will continue to be far from Christ. What he has sown he will reap. Physical death does not change our relationship with God or with people. Physical death only reveals and emphasizes what always has been true of us spiritually.
The faithful disciple has chosen to abide in the fiery Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Physical death will not change his spiritual state except to reveal and emphasize it. His many rewards will not be given to him when he dies but in the hour when Jesus appears. Christ will return and bring our rewards with Him.
Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. (Isaiah 40:10)
We have discussed briefly what happens to the Christian when he or she dies, what happens to the careless Christian in the Day of Christ, and now are speaking of what happens to the diligent Christian in the Day of Christ.
There are six concepts the reader must hold firmly in mind if he would understand the Christian salvation:
The Christian redemption fundamentally is a hope for the future for saints who are undergoing tribulation, and who are being required to exercise much patience concerning their many hopes and desires that are being deferred. The idea that God has given Jesus to us so we may get what we want out of life in this world is of the False Prophet. It is true, rather, that we are required to lay down our life for the Gospel, to commit to Christ our hopes and dreams so He may bring them into fulfillment in His own time and manner—especially in the Day of His appearing.
The salvation that will be given to us at the appearing of Christ is the consequence of what we have become and have practiced in Christ. The currently expressed concept that what will happen to us in the Day of Christ is unrelated to our behavior in this world is false. It is a deception from the enemy of our souls. Grace does not operate to give to sinners the rewards of the righteous; rather, grace operates to make sinners righteous so God can reward them according to their righteous behavior. The belief that we shall be rewarded anyway, even though we have not served Christ as we should, is the terrible deception of our day.
The rewards assigned to the victorious saints are the breadth of salvation. They are the goal of the Divine redemption, the purpose of our election as saints (holy ones) of God.
Salvation has to do with what will happen to us on earth, not with our going to live forever in the spirit realm. Our treasures now are in Heaven, in the faithful keeping of Christ. When He comes He will bring our rewards with Him.
Since we, along with the elect Jews, are the true Israel of God, the true Kingdom of God, the only Seed of Abraham, the Body of Christ, our destiny can be found in the writings of the Hebrew Prophets. The idea that the Gentiles are saved to go to Heaven while the Jews are saved to rule on the earth is false. This misunderstanding has prevented the churches from seeing their destiny in the Prophets. If you want to know what you will be doing after the Lord returns, read the Book of Isaiah—and rejoice!
The majority of scriptural passages concerning the Kingdom of God have to do with the saints who press forward to receive their inheritance in Christ. The Prophets speak much of the righteousness that will be wrought in Zion, and of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Isaiah, Chapters 60 and 61 are especially rich in this respect. The destiny of those who lose their crown, who are saved by fire, is not described to the same extent.
The above concepts are essential to our understanding. When these are not grasped clearly, the Christian redemption becomes a confusing set of half-truths and fables.
We shall now set forth nine aspects of the glorious salvation God has promised to the victorious Christian—that which he will receive in the Day of the Lord.
To have access to the Presence and Face of God, to know as we are known.
To be one in Christ in God with all members of the Body of Christ.
To be changed into the image of Jesus in spirit, soul, and body.
To be filled with the power of eternal, incorruptible resurrection life.
To be filled with love, joy, peace, and every other desirable attitude, trait, and emotion.
To possess all authority and power over the nations of the earth and over all the works of God’s hands.
To be the light of the world.
To bear abiding fruit.
To experience eternally all the promises to the righteous, all the blessings promised to the Israel of the ages to come, and all the rewards promised to the victorious saint under the new covenant. He who overcomes shall inherit all things.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (I Corinthians 13:10,12)
One of the most difficult aspects of the Christian discipleship is that we are required to endure "as seeing him who is invisible." We walk by faith and not by sight. It is easy to fall into the snare of basing our decisions and joys on what we can see.
One of the hottest flames of our tribulations and trials is the fact that we cannot understand what God is doing and that we do not know when (or if) our pain will ever cease.
If only we could see God! If only He would speak to us and we could know for certain what His will is! But we have to keep plodding along in faith most of the time, basing our life on the written Word. Here is where the saints are fashioned.
One day we shall see the Lord face to face. Think of it! This will not take place when we die but when that which is perfect has come. That which is perfect is the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in us (John 14:23).
We find in the Book of Revelation one of the most incomprehensible of all the verses of Scripture. It tells us that we shall behold the Face of the Father:
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. (Revelation 22:4)
In that Day we shall be pure in heart, for only the pure in heart can see God.
To behold the Face of the Father is a privilege and a glory so far beyond anything we can imagine that we only can speculate on it. We are not ready when we die to gaze on the Face of the Almighty. It is likely also when Jesus returns and we are resurrected and caught up to meet Him, we still shall not be spiritually strong or pure enough to gaze on the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
After we have worked with the Lord Jesus for a thousand years, assisting in the rulership of the nations of the earth, it may be possible we then shall have been transformed in personality to such an extent we are able to see the Face of Him who is the Source of everything.
We would not dare to think for one moment of such a holy privilege were it not for the fact the Spirit of Christ revealed this to the Apostle John.
There are many dimensions of our salvation. To see the Face of the Father truly is beyond our ability to comprehend in the present stage of our development as sons of God.
To inherit all the works of God’s hands, to be God’s sons, and to know God and see God, are the rewards for serving Christ faithfully in this world.
We know from the Scripture that we shall behold Jesus as He is, in the Day of His appearing. We understand also to see Jesus as He is requires a change of us into His image.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2)
The Apostle John knew Jesus as well as did any of the other Apostles. But when John beheld Jesus on the Isle of Patmos he was overcome. We cannot see Jesus as He is while we still are in our flesh-and-blood mortality. We must be changed before we can see the Lord.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)
Today we are being prepared to dwell in the Presence of God Almighty. Only the righteous can exist in the Presence of the Lord. Apart from holiness, no individual ever will be able to abide in God’s Presence.
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. (Isaiah 33:14-17)
The Christian churches of our day are ignorant of the Kingdom principle set forth in Isaiah 33:14-17. They believe they will "see the king in his beauty" while they still are living in their sins and self-seeking. They think they will be caught up in their sins and self-centeredness to walk merrily with the Lord Jesus. They have a false image of Jesus.
The believers have been taught to envision Jesus as a kind of Santa Claus who one day will come and bring them to a land of toys. The truth is, the Lord Jesus Christ is a blazing Furnace. His Presence consumes all sin and self-seeking.
Jesus died for our sins. He expects us to receive the atonement He has made for us and then to take up our cross and follow Him each day. He expects us to lay down our lives, to hate this world system, and to live as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Christ expects us to be His bondslaves.
Jesus told us if we do not hate our lives, setting aside all our interests for His sake and the Gospel’s, we are not worthy of Him.
Life in this world is finished for the true saint. The saint lives for the Day when His Lord will appear. The true saint experiences much tribulation in this world as the Lord burns away that which cannot survive the Presence of God. It is a painful stripping. But the end of the burning is the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
By the grace of God working through the blood of Jesus, the prayer of the sinner goes past the holy veil and approaches the throne of Holiness. There the sinner obtains the Divine power and virtue to enable him to put aside the things of Satan. The sinner himself cannot dwell in the Presence of God unless he comes out from the world, by the grace of God, and does not touch what is unclean (II Corinthians 6:17).
It is difficult for us to keep ourselves from being corrupted by the wicked one, but we can do so through the grace of God in Christ. When Jesus appears the strife will be over. Then we can dwell in the Presence of God in love and holiness. This wonderful liberty will be given us in that Day provided we have fought the good fight of faith during our pilgrimage on the earth.
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)
This is the marriage of the Lamb. Here again we are on holy ground.
God’s saints (holy ones) are being invited to become part of Christ as He is part of the Father. Christ is born in us. Christ dwells in us through the Spirit. We eat, drink, and live by the body and blood of Christ. We are being created an eternal part of Christ.
The motive of Christ in bringing us into Himself and the Father in eternal union is Divine love—a love proclaimed in the Song of Solomon. It is a love so consuming, so total, so fierce, so intense, so all-demanding, that only a few Christians, it seems, begin to grasp what Christ is seeking.
Christ is offering marriage to us. He is making us one with Himself as He is One with the Father. This is why Christ is making such extraordinary demands on us.
Being one in Christ in God, which is the Marriage of the Lamb, and also the Kingdom of God, begins, as do the other eight aspects of the coming salvation, in this present life. The uniting of us with Christ is taking place now. When the Lord comes He will strengthen us enormously. Then He and the Father will enter us in the fullness of the Divine indwelling.
It must be obvious to the reader that a believer cannot take a casual approach to the Christian discipleship and then be filled with Christ and God in the Day of Christ’s appearing. Rather, we are being strengthened now in our inner being by the Spirit of God so Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. The forming and dwelling of Christ in us takes place one small step at a time.
The Bride must prepare herself for the coming of her Lord. It is those whose life Christ is who will appear with Him in glory. Our preparation for the powerful entering into us of the Godhead is not one of belief in doctrine; rather, it is the transformation of all we are. Even those who have pursued Christ with all their devotion and energies will be staggered by the awesome Presence of God they will experience in the Day of the Lord.
Truly, our hearts will "fear and be enlarged" in that Day (Isaiah 60:5). The nations will behold the glory of the tabernacling of God with His people. Those nations that do not come up to Jerusalem to acknowledge that God now is dwelling in His people will be punished by the Lord. Then the whole world will know and understand it is God who has sent Jesus Christ, and also God loves the saints as He loves Jesus.
Let us repeat: the dwelling of Christ and the Father must be beginning in us now if we expect to be ready for the marriage of the Lamb that will take place when the Lord appears. It is impossible to be a careless Christian and then enter the marriage "by grace." The Bride is purged from her spots and wrinkles by the wilderness experiences of this world.
The Bride is not regarded as perfect, and prepared for her marriage to the Lamb, by imputed (ascribed) righteousness. The Bride is made perfect in actual righteousness, holiness, and obedience to Christ by the refining of her faith in the fires of tribulation. She is purged from all sin and self-centeredness by the baptism of fire that she must endure at the hands of God. Only then is she fit for union with Him who is fairer than ten thousand.
Not only shall we see God, having been made like Him, but we shall be a part of His Personality. Do you agree that such a salvation, such a redemption, is marvelous beyond words to describe? Our hope would be blasphemous were it not found in the written Word of God.
We can keep on following Jesus in our darkest hours because we understand the glory that will come to us is so lofty, so powerful, so filled with God’s Person and Glory, that our character must be transformed and refined in order to receive the inheritance. God’s intentions toward us are thoroughly good. Let us respond with faith and trust in our Father in Heaven.
It may be noticed that we not only are one in Christ in God but also are one with all the members of the Body of Christ:
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)
It is mentioned several times in the Old Testament that the saints were "gathered to their people." It appears also from the testimonies of dying believers of our day that we go to be with our families and friends.
However, in the Day of Christ’s appearing we shall be made one with those who are in Christ as we are. The flesh-and-blood ties will no longer be primary. There are infinitely closer ties even now—eternal bonds of the body and blood of Christ, of the Spirit of God.
Jesus referred to this transition from fleshly ties to spiritual ties when He exclaimed, "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:50).
The self-seeking of religious people has caused the Christian Church to be divided into thousands of warring camps. There will be enough tribulation and persecution in the days that are ahead to cause the true saints to flee from the self-seeking churches. The work of unifying the Body of Christ will commence before the Lord returns.
In the hour of the Lord’s appearing the Glory of God will enter the members of the Body of Christ until they are one with the oneness of the Godhead. They will be one in Christ in God, one Body of Christ, one eternal Temple of God, one Wife of the Lamb.
This is just the beginning. Throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age the work of bringing the new Jerusalem, the Wife of the Lamb, to maturity and unity will continue until the holy and radiantly beautiful Jerusalem is ready to descend from Heaven and be established forever on the earth as the Kingdom of God.
The Wife of the Lamb is being created on the body and blood of the Lamb. Today the firstfruits of the Wife is learning to live by Jesus as He lives by the Father. When Jesus is ready to appear she will be clothed in the white linen of the righteous deeds of the saints. Then the Father and the Son will enter her until her light blazes in the gross darkness of this world. She will be part of Jesus forever and will follow Him wherever He goes. She will ride with Him, being as terrible as an army with banners, in the Day of the Lord.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7)
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be changed into the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
The eternal purpose of God is that a company of sons be brought into the image of Jesus and that these predestined brothers of the Lord may share with Him the glorious inheritance of the Kingdom of God. Each of the several dimensions of our Divine inheritance depends on our having been transformed into the image of Jesus.
It is not possible for us to be the Wife of the Lamb, to be the eternal Temple of God, to rule the nations of the earth, or to participate in any of the other aspects of our inheritance as sons of God, until we are in the image of Jesus.
We must be changed into the image of the Lord Jesus in spirit, soul, and body.
We must cleanse our spirit from all uncleanness if we hope to be with the Lord.
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
Our spirit is to be one with the Spirit of the Lord.
But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. (I Corinthians 6:17)
If we ask God’s help He will keep us blameless in spirit until the appearing of Christ.
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 5:23)
Our soul is undergoing a process of change. It is being transformed into the image of the glory of the Lord.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18)
The new covenant represents a changing of what we are in mind and heart.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: (Hebrews 8:10)
God transforms our soul by conforming it to the death of Christ, and then by raising our crucified nature by the power of Christ’s resurrection.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed unto his death; (Philippians 3:10)
Our old nature died with Jesus on the cross. It may be a long time before we recognize that what we are in essence has been crucified. Our old nature is finished. None of it can be brought forward into the Kingdom of God. It is the new man who is resurrected from our death who is the heir of the promises of God.
The believers are hoping to be transformed into Christ’s image while they are flying upward in their "rapture." We ought to know better than that. Even a little experience as a disciple of Christ teaches us that it is only as we are brought down into Christ’s death that change occurs in our personality.
It is here a little and there a little. Every day we are delivered to death by the Lord so the Life of the Lord may begin to be seen in us. It is command upon command; rule upon rule. Little by little the old nature is slain by the Word of God and little by little the Life of Jesus takes the place of our first personality.
The process of transforming what we are in personality and in behavior is slow but certain. It requires much patience, and sometimes the stress on us is almost more than we can bear.
There is no other way. There is no method for evading the cross and still enter our inheritance. The whole first creation died on the cross with Christ. We can enter the new creation only as our first personality enters the death of Christ.
People today are attempting to enter the Kingdom of God without being transformed. It is true that we come to the cross of Christ as we are. But we do not enter the Kingdom of God, the holy city, as we are. What we are in spirit and soul is not acceptable. Flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of God. It is only as we die in Christ that we can be raised into the eternal Kingdom of God. Only the deceived individual attempts to enter in some other manner.
When the Lord comes we shall be changed. Our spirit, having been strengthened by the Holy Spirit, will be filled with the Presence of the Spirit of God.
Our soul, having died in Christ and been raised in newness of life, will be occupied by the Father and the Son. The King will enter the chambers that have been prepared for Him. The Father and the Son will not enter our old adamic nature but into Christ who has been formed in us (Galatians 4:19).
The most dramatic change will take place in our body. Throughout our pilgrimage on the earth we patiently have held our body down by the Spirit of God, keeping it under submission, knowing it is dead in sin. At the appearing of the Lord our body will be raised from the dead and then clothed with a house of eternal life—a house that has been created as our present body has been sown to the death of the cross.
For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body [the body of our humbling], that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21)
The Lord does not change our body when we die but at His appearing from Heaven. What kind of a body (if any) we shall have in the spirit realm after we die is not set forth in the Old or New Testament.
In the Day of resurrection our flesh and bones will be raised from the dead. Then we shall be clothed with a "house" from Heaven which is the direct result of our being cast down by persecutions and tribulations and raised up by the Life of Jesus. Those who have not entered the sufferings of the cross, who have not died in Jesus, who have not borne the reproach of the Gospel but have nourished their self-will, will be found naked in the Day of Christ.
Today we are dragging around a body of dead flesh. Our body constantly is attempting to persuade us to indulge its appetite for fornication, murder, drunkenness, lying, stealing, and every other practice contrary to the law of God. We have to fight without ceasing to insure that the Spirit of God is directing what we think, say, and do.
In the Day that is coming we shall be delivered from this body of death. Our body will be raised from the dead and then clothed with a body fashioned from the substance of resurrection life. Our body then will possess the same love for righteousness and hatred of sin that have been created in our spirit and soul. Our imprisonment will be over.
Those Christians who have chosen to live in the flesh are not eligible for the transformation of their body into the image of Jesus’ body. They will be clothed in the body that is suitable for their untransformed spirit and soul.
The victorious saints will be changed into the image of Jesus when He appears.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2)
Here is the desire of the righteous. Here is the hope of the patient saint. Here is the object of the "groaning" of the Apostle Paul. We shall be delivered from the prison of this present body. We shall be the eternal Temple of the Father and the Son. We shall be one with the Spirit of God. This is the salvation that is to come with the appearing of Christ.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)
Eternal life is not merely endless existence. All the creatures of God have eternal existence.
Eternal life is the re-creating, regenerating virtue, knowledge, and force that proceed endlessly from the Personality and Presence of God.
There are degrees of eternal life:
. . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
The gate is narrow and the way restricted that lead to eternal life. Few people travel this road. There are a multitude of professing Christians but it appears few are proceeding toward incorruptible Divine Life.
Our Christian discipleship is to be a sowing to life. Eternal death and eternal life always are seeking to control us. There is eternal death in our mortal body. There is eternal life in our reborn inner nature. The Spirit of Christ who is in us is alive and is the Righteousness of God.
Every day we yield either to our death-filled body or to our life-filled reborn inner nature. One or the other is making the decisions that determine our thinking, our speaking, and our actions. We are sowing to death or we are sowing to life.
The Christian pilgrimage is the pursuit of eternal life. We must "lay hold on eternal life," as Paul exhorted Timothy, or eternal death will lay hold on us.
If we live according to the desires of our flesh we will die spiritually. If we, through the Holy Spirit, put to death the lusts of our flesh we will live in the Presence of God.
The reward for overcoming through Christ the lusts of our flesh is to be permitted to eat of the tree of life (Revelation 2:7). The reward for enduring faithfully unto death the "prison" into which we are cast is the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
To eat of the tree of life is to receive immortality into our body—that which Adam and Eve were denied. To receive the crown of life is to be given the authority and power to rule the creation of God. The more life we are given the more power we have to enforce our will.
Righteousness is an issue of power. Most of us would bring ourselves and our environment into greater righteousness if we had the power to do so.
When Jesus appears we shall receive the consequences of our behavior on the earth. If we have pursued life, life will be given to us. If we have pursued death, death will be given to us.
Those who, through Christ’s grace, gain victory over sin will be given immortality. They will enter life in the Kingdom of God. Those who suffer for the Gospel’s sake will be made kings and priests of God. They will rule by the power of incorruptible life.
Those who are careless and do not gain victory over sin will be beaten with lashes. If they are saved it will be by prolonged burnings which will purify them from the filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Those whom God had placed in prison but who have "escaped" by breaking God’s laws will find they have lost everything of value. They will appear before God’s throne in their miserable self-love and self-seeking.
God alone knows the destiny of those who have loved themselves more than they love God. They may be left to enjoy their selfish personalities forever.
Today we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. It requires constant fighting in order to lay hold on eternal life, to always choose to follow that restricted pathway. When Jesus appears we shall be raised into the radiant Presence of the Source of all Life. Then we shall be given that for which we have prepared ourselves.
Imagine what it will be like to be always filled with the Presence of Christ, with energy, with power. Pain, tiredness, sickness, and death then will be things of the past. We shall be eternally alive in the Glory of God.
The Christians who spend their lives embracing the things of the world will find, in the Day of Christ, that they have embraced death. They will reap what they have sown. They have chosen death and they will be given death. The salvation that we are to receive at the return of the Lord is the consequence of our deeds in the present world. The Scripture is clear on this point.
Every human being, as well as every angel, will exist forever either in or out of the Presence of God. Our goal as Christians is to live forever in the Presence and Glory of our Creator.
For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. (Isaiah 61:7)
Being filled with joy forever is our instinctive concept of "Heaven." Going to Heaven to live forever is the traditional goal of the Christian preaching and teaching of salvation. Some aspects have been added, such as the idea of a splendid mansion. "Heaven" in our thinking is a place of love, joy, peace, and everything else that is desirable.
There has been no need for God to further refine our thinking, because it is true that the righteous will inherit a "heaven" of love, joy, and peace that will endure forever. After our sojourn in the present world, the thought of living in love, joy, and peace forever strains our credulity. But we Christians know one day such joy will be our never-ending portion.
The Kingdom of God is at hand. Now God desires that we understand the goal of salvation is not to go to the spirit Paradise to live forever. Our home is the earth. Mankind was created on the earth and mankind will inherit the earth forever. The nations and the farthest reaches of the earth are the inheritance of Christ and of those who are coheirs with Him.
The sixty-first chapter of the Book of Isaiah tells us of the time when the inhabitants of Zion will be built into "trees of righteousness." Then they will repair what was destroyed during the terrible tribulation that soon is to come.
The righteous will inherit the earth, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
Although we may not realize it, the desire of our heart is neither the heavens nor the earth. The desire of our heart is to be in the Presence of God, to be filled with the love, joy, and peace of His Personality and Glory. Anyone who has been visited by the Lord Jesus Christ knows well that wherever Jesus is, there is "heaven."
The Christian salvation is a program of restoration—the restoration of all that was lost through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
In the beginning God gave to Adam and Eve a marvelous paradise in which to enjoy the company of God and of one another. This is all that is really important in life—to be rightly related to God and to one another. Right relationships are the source, and the only source, of love, joy, and peace. Everything else is secondary in value.
Satan entered and turned the hearts of the first people away from God, as God knew would happen. The resulting agony of mankind is the object lesson that God planned from the creation of the world. The world that God actually had in mind from the beginning is the new heaven and earth reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first world with its sin and death was necessary so when God gives us the paradise that He has in mind we will not lose it through spiritual ignorance and lack of faith in God.
The Hebrew Prophets have portrayed the glory that soon is to come to the earth. All that was lost through sin, everything of value, is to be restored, centered on Christ, and permeated with the eternal Life of God in Christ.
Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution [restoration] of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:21)
Speaking of life on the new earth, God promises:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
How would you like to return to earth in a glorified body? How would you like to be with King Jesus in Jerusalem, and then go from there to rule the nations of the earth? How would you like to dwell in love, joy, and peace in the fullness of the Glory of God?
How would you like to live on an earth in which all the animals dwell together in peace?—in which little children can play anywhere safely?—in which all nature praises the Lord and nothing is destructive or hurtful?—in which all people live together in peace and harmony?
This is the salvation that is coming to the earth with the return of Jesus Christ. First will come the Lord and His army of warriors to destroy the sinners out of the earth. Then there will be a thousand years during which the saints will rule and teach the nations of the saved. By the end of this period the Body of Christ, the new Jerusalem, will have been brought to Divine perfection.
After the thousand years the nations will rebel, under the leadership of Satan, and will mount one last attack on Jerusalem. The end of the present world will be marked by this final attempt of fallen mankind to destroy the Lord’s witnesses, His saints.
The history of mankind on the earth began with one man and one woman in a paradise of love, joy, and peace. The history of mankind on the earth will end with one last effort by the nations of the earth to rid themselves of the Presence of God—and this after a thousand years of rulership by the saints!
Truly the heart of man is desperately wicked. Truly the Lord God is justified in all He does.
Then will come the judgment of all people (except the firstfruits of the Bride, who will be raised at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age—Revelation 20:4-6).
After the judgment there will appear the heaven and the earth that the Lord God had planned from the beginning—now populated with the people whom God had marked out from the beginning for eternal life.
Love, joy, and peace will multiply forever in the new world, for it will be guarded and ruled by the saints in whom has been established the throne of God and of the Lamb. Sin and death will be conditions of the past. The memory of sinners will have been banished from the earth.
Those who have need to remind themselves of the consequences of sin and rebellion may, at that time, go and view the spiritual prison in which are confined wicked angels and wicked people. The wicked will not experience love, or joy, or peace forever—ages without end.
Were one of the wicked to be released he would set out immediately, as Satan will do at the end of the thousand-year period, to express his discordant nature in God’s creation. Soon it would become necessary for God to repeat the cycle of wrath and restoration that mankind has had to undergo throughout the course of history. We all are familiar with the pain and dread of living in the valley of the shadow of death and desire no more of it.
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. (Revelation 2:26,27)
Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. (Hebrews 2:8)
The concept of man having rulership over the works of God’s hands is a central idea of the Scriptures. But almost at the moment man was created his rulership was wrested from him by a cunning cherub, and man—God’s image—became the slave of Satan.
God’s sons have been called to glory, to the rulership of the creation. No other creature of God has been given the rulership of the creation.
Today the Son of Man, Christ, possesses all authority in Heaven and on the earth. Christ is waiting until the Father puts all His enemies under His feet. When God has done this, King Jesus will return and receive the earth and its peoples, which are His lawful inheritance.
Our Christian discipleship consists of one long warfare during which we seek, through Christ, to regain the rulership of our personality. Think of it! We who have been called to rule the creation are not able to govern our own personalities. We are weak indeed!
If we expect to be entrusted with rulership when the Lord returns we must gain victory now—in this world. It is the victorious saints, the conquerors, who will be established on the powerful thrones that govern the earth and its peoples. Either we are conquering the problems God is permitting to come against us, or we are being conquered. It is as simple as that. The rulership of the creation will be given to the conquerors.
In order to understand the rewards of rulership and priesthood promised to Israel in the Old Testament and to the saints in the New Testament, two facts must be established firmly in our mind: (1) there only is one true Israel, and we who belong to Christ, whether we are Jewish or Gentile by physical birth, are the promised Seed of Abraham to whom the promises have been made concerning the inheriting of the nations; and (2) the world to come will consist of nations of saved people, and then a ruling nation, Israel, the Kingdom of God, composed of the ruling priests of God. The ruling nation is the new Jerusalem, the Wife of the Lamb.
If either one of these two concepts is not firmly established, the words of the Hebrew Prophets and of the New Testament Apostles will make little sense. However, if we understand the "Israel" whom Isaiah was addressing, the "Servant of the Lord," is the one Body of Christ, and that it consists of chosen people, both Jewish and Gentile, who have been called out of the world to serve as a royal priesthood over the nations of saved people on the earth, then the teaching of the Hebrew Prophets and the Apostles of Christ will be perceived as one simple concept.
The rewards that will be given to the diligent Christians are related in part to their role and responsibility as ruling priests. True Israel, the Seed of Abraham, has been chosen to be a kingdom of priests whose inheritance in Christ consists of the nations of the saved and the farthest reaches of the earth.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [nations] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. (Psalms 2:8)
The nations of the saved consist of those persons whom Christ deems worthy of eternal life but who are not called to be members of the Israel of God.
The distinction between Israel and the nations of the saved can be seen in the following:
For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. (Isaiah 60:12)
Here we have two separate sets of people. The first set consists of the nations and kingdoms that choose to serve thee. The second set consists of thee.
It is obvious from Chapter Sixty of Isaiah that "thee" is Israel. It is God’s will that the nations and kingdoms of the earth serve Israel. The nations that do so are saved. The nations that do not serve Israel will perish.
Isaiah 60:12 corresponds to the passage in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew concerning the division of the nations of the earth into those that nourish Christ’s brothers and those that do not nourish Christ’s brothers.
And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles [nations], and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed. (Isaiah 61:9)
In the above passage, the "Gentiles" are the nations of saved peoples of the earth, and "the seed which the Lord hath blessed" is Christ and those who have become part of Him: that is, the members of the Body of Christ, the true Israel.
We can observe in Matthew 25:31-46 the distinction between the nations of the earth and the "brethren" of Christ. The nations that treat the Lord’s brothers kindly will inherit the Kingdom and enter eternal life.
The holy city, the new Jerusalem, is the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, the glorified Church. The "nations of them which are saved" walk in the light of the Wife of the Lamb (Revelation 21:24). At this point the saints have become the light of the world.
Those who suffer with Christ will rule with Christ. The need for suffering on the part of Christ’s princes is based on what suffering accomplishes in them. Suffering, if it is borne correctly in the Lord, diminishes our self-centeredness and self-will. Suffering crucifies our personality. The result is, Christ is formed in us and we are sternly obedient to God.
The substitution of Christ’s will for our will is one of the most important of the dimensions of the Christian discipleship. Such substitution is necessary for each of the royal priests. During the ages to come the Father will not permit a self-centered person to rule any group of people. It always must be God in Christ who is ruling.
Today among many Christian churches, self-centeredness is strengthened by the teaching that is given. The believers are encouraged to use their faith to get what they want out of God. They can become successful and rich if they will only believe. Through Christ they can be happy and healthy and live a prosperous life on the earth. Such teaching is the opposite of the true teaching of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus did not come to support us in our endeavors. Jesus is seeking people who will permit Him to conform them to His death in order that He may live and move and have His Being in them. Jesus died that we may live. Now He is asking us to die in order that He may live.
"Unfair" you say. Then you do not understand your calling as a saint. The Lord is requesting that you die to the temporary that you may receive the eternal.
We have said to mankind has been given rulership over all the works of God’s hands. The rulership of the creation is being structured carefully by the Lord God. The Head of all is the Father. Under the Father is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father dwells in the Lord Jesus. Therefore all Jesus is and does is of and through the Father. Jesus lives in the Sabbath rest of God.
The Father never shall give His Glory to another. Whoever would possess the fullness of God’s Glory must become part of God.
Under the Lord Jesus Christ are His firstfruits, His warriors. They do not rule the remainder of the Bride but serve as elder brothers until all Israel knows the Lord, from the least to the greatest member.
No member of the Body of Christ is a king or priest over another member. Only Jesus is the Priest and King over the members of the Body. We serve one another in love until all come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Yet it is God in the Lord Jesus Christ in the firstfruits of the saints who assists in the building up of the other members of the Body. God never will give His Glory to another. It is God in Christ in us who does the work. This is the nature of the Kingdom of God.
Under the Wife of the Lamb are the saved peoples of the earth. It is God in Christ in the Wife of the Lamb who rules and guides the saved peoples of the earth. We can do nothing of ourselves. It is Christ in us who will govern the nations. The government will be on His shoulders. The nations of the earth are His inheritance.
Neither angels nor nature are to rule people. Human beings have been created in God’s image and they are not to be ruled by lesser creatures.
Under the saved peoples of the earth is the creation of God. The saved peoples of the earth are not permitted to rule the creation according to their ideas. They themselves will be ruled and guided by the Lord’s royal priesthood. They will walk in the light of the new Jerusalem.
The Kingdom that is coming to the earth is well-ordered, every detail of it having been conceived, executed, and supervised by the God of Heaven. When all creatures have been subdued under Christ, then Christ will turn over the Kingdom to His beloved Father in order that the Father may be All in all.
The most critical characteristic of every person who is saved, who is allowed to have a place in the Kingdom of God, is that what he is and does is centered in Christ.
The reason for the present chaotic state of the world is that wills other than the will of God in Christ are being exercised.
No creature will be allowed to receive his inheritance in the Kingdom of God until his will has been subjugated to the will of Christ.
Each one of us must come to the place, as did our Lord, where we say in sincerity, "Not my will but Yours be done." God brings us to such a point that to say Your will be done costs us the apparent destruction of every hope and desire we possess. Like our Lord, we learn obedience through suffering.
The higher the rank in the Kingdom to which we have been called, the more crucifying is our final Gethsemane. The richest, most abundant fruit comes from the severest pruning. The higher the structure is designed to be the deeper the foundation must be dug.
The saints whom God has set aside for His purposes know the seemingly endless dealings of the Lord, how the human will is challenged at every point no matter how slight.
Why is this? It is because the issue of the will is the supreme issue of the Kingdom of God. The will of God is to be performed in the earth as it is in Heaven. As long as there is one will that has not been brought under subjection to Christ, there is an enemy in the creation.
Today the Christian churches are filled with willful people. The resulting chaos is evident. Each believer is certain his way is just and that he should be allowed to express himself according to what he desires.
Only God is able to enter the human personality, into the caverns of darkness and deceitfulness, and pierce the monster of self-will repeatedly, smashing its head many times until it stops its thrashing, until all life has departed from it and it is dead.
Now the song of harmony, peace, and joy arises from the liberated soul and ascends to the throne of God. This is the beginning of the Kingdom of God.
Very little is known of such death to self, in the churches of our day. Antichrist is assuring the believers that they can pursue their own will and then ascend to the throne of God in a "rapture." This would be to destroy the environment of God’s Heaven as the many uncrucified wills sought their own advantage.
The common Christian belief is that all believers in Christ, whether or not there has been a crucifixion of the will, shall ascend, upon their physical death, to the spiritual Jerusalem and enter the Presence of Christ and God. There they shall continue to obey their own wills, to pursue their own pleasures as always, until the Day of Christ, at which time they will be placed on thrones as the lords of the creation. They never have learned to obey God and yet they will rule the nations of the earth.
This would be a greater disaster than the rebellion of Eden!
It is only the diligent Christians, those who have entered the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, being conformed to His death, who will be in places of authority. Only those who have accepted the work of the Holy Spirit in the conquering of their self-seeking will be entrusted with the rod of iron. Only the victorious saints will rule the nations of the earth.
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:14)
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. (Revelation 21:24)
Light is that by which we are enabled to perceive reality. If we walk into a room and it is dark we cannot tell whether the room is a library, a bedroom, or a prison cell. We cannot identify one thing in it. When there is light we understand the nature of the room.
So it is in the world. Flesh and blood cannot understand the use of the people and things of the "room" in which God has placed man. The earth is filled with destruction and chaos because willful men are not able to understand the proper operation of their environment. Darkness has covered the earth and great darkness the people.
Educators and scientists grope continually in the dark, hoping to find truth. Civilization itself is one long quest for truth. There only is one Light, one Truth, and that is Jesus Christ. We also become the light and the truth of the world when Christ has been formed in us and is dwelling in us.
It is not what we say about Jesus that is the light, it is Christ Himself who is the Light. It is the Life of Jesus that is the Light.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)
Men have studied theology for many centuries. But there is little light in theology. Light comes into the world only as the saints are willing to be crucified by the circumstances in which God places them. God works with His saints so the Life of Jesus, which is the Light of the world, may be revealed to men.
For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (II Corinthians 4:11)
The light we must have, if we would conduct ourselves properly as children of God in a world that God has made, is the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God. If Christ is being formed in us the true Light is in us.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (II Corinthians 4:6)
It is an amazing fact that people live in a world of relationships, things, and situations that have been created by God, and yet they reject God from their midst and attempt to understand how the world should operate. We can read every day in the newspaper how successful their efforts are.
It is the Life of Jesus that is the Light of men. When Jesus enters us He brings the understanding of God. He brings the knowledge of God. That knowledge, which one day will fill the earth through the saints, makes clear to us how relationships, situations, and things should work together in order to bring love, peace, and joy. Only God knows how to do that. Apart from God we are groping in the dark.
As Christ dwells in us we begin to work the works of righteousness. We exhibit moral purity, honesty, truthfulness, kindness, gentleness, faith, peace, joy, and all the other attitudes and traits that belong to God. When men see this light in us they glorify God. Men do not glorify God when we teach our religious beliefs (although there is a place for teaching), but when we reveal a godly character, when we worship God with our whole being. This is the light of the world.
At the time of Christ’s appearing from Heaven a light will enter the true Israel of God:
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1)
The Divine Light will rise in the hour of the greatest spiritual darkness the world ever has known. For the darkness that clouds the minds of people is spiritual darkness—the same darkness with which the Lord God has bound the rebellious angels. The fallen angels no longer can behold the light and glory of Heaven. They are cursed forever with ignorance and futility. They know only hate, misery, unrest, impatience, harshness, unbelief, treachery, selfishness, strife, discord, and raging, burning lust. They love lying, rebellion, and murder. They, and the people who choose to follow their path, will reap death forever because they are unable to cease from sowing death.
It is this angelic punishment that is the darkness that fills the minds of people who still are bound by sin and self-centeredness.
In the Day of the Lord, the Life of Christ, which is the true Light of the world, will fill the Body of Christ. Then the nations of the earth will come to that light and be healed of their unbelief and fear.
And the Gentiles [nations] shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. (Isaiah 60:3,4)
The saved peoples of the earth will come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the revelation of the Glory of God that has entered the people of God. The saints will teach the nations the ways of the Lord and they will walk in His paths. "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16)
When the members of the Body of Christ are one in Christ in the Father, the world will believe God has sent Jesus as Christ and King of kings (John 17:21-23).
The return of Christ will be as the lightning that shines from horizon to horizon. This is because the Light of God will enter the Lord’s people, raising them from the dead and glorifying them in the eyes of earth’s peoples. The enemies of the saints will behold this manifestation but will be powerless to prevent it in any manner. God will set a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
Those who serve the Lord today, performing His righteous works, will be blessed of the Lord. Their light will help to save those around them. In the Day of Christ they will shine as the stars. Their light today is as a day star heralding the morning of the great Day. This is true of the way of the righteous.
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: (Isaiah 58:10)
The Christians who have chosen darkness rather than light, who are walking in sin and self-will, will be dealt with accordingly by the Lord. The salvation that is coming to each of us will be the consequence of what we have chosen to become and to do. Those who have sown light will reap light a hundredfold. Those who have sown darkness will reap darkness a hundredfold. There is no understanding more urgently needed in the Christian churches of today. Those who sow darkness will reap darkness, and those who sow light will reap light.
Each human being, including each Christian, will be judged after he or she dies. Each human being will receive the things he has practiced in his body (II Corinthians 5:10). Ignorance of this truth has produced the moral chaos that abounds in the Christian churches.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16)
God the Father is seeking fruit.
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (James 5:7)
So important to God is the fruit He is seeking that He will cut out of the Vine, out of Christ, any branch that does not bear fruit.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:.... (John 15:2)
The fruit is Christ. Christ has been sown in us and God is expecting to reap Christ in us. No other fruit can stand in God’s Presence.
Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary. Then He was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father. Now Christ is being multiplied. Christ is being multiplied to the extent of filling the creation of God. This filling takes place through the saints.
When we first come to Christ we are flesh-and-blood creatures. Then God plants Christ in us. Now there are two lives struggling for existence in us: our human life, and the Divine Life of Christ.
If we live in the flesh the Divine Life will be choked out, as we learn from the parable of the sower (Matthew 13: 22). If we allow the Holy Spirit to press our human life into the death of the cross, the Life of Christ will be multiplied in our personality. Soon the Father begins to behold the Nature of His Son in us. This is the fruit for which God is looking.
Traditionally the churches are filled with good works of all kinds. The members hope by these to please God, while in the meantime the members of the churches seek to preserve their life in the flesh. The fruit that God desires proceeds from our death, not from our active soulish life.
As far as God is concerned, the first creation is finished. There is nothing of it, good or evil, that God desires. All of it was condemned on the cross of Calvary.
Now there is a new creation. Christ is the beginning of the new creation. As Christ is formed in us the new creation multiplies. It is the new creation that inherits the Kingdom of God, the first creation serving only as a framework of support while the Lord God brings the new into being.
The Life of Christ is fertile. As Christ is formed in us He is conceived in those to whom we minister, and so on and on until the creation of God is filled with the image and Life of Christ.
He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. (Isaiah 27:6)
When our fruit remains, and Christ is established in us and in those around us, whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name He gives us. To this end we were chosen and ordained by the Lord—that we might bear the eternal fruit of righteous, holy, obedient behavior, the Life and image of Christ.
When we keep on interjecting our fleshly, soulish will into what we are and do, the Life of Christ is pushed to one side. No permanent fruit is borne in us or in those to whom we are attempting to minister. We then are in danger of being cut off as a branch, although we may be saved as by fire (John 15:6, I Corinthians 3:15). We are not serving our intended purpose in the plan of God.
It appears likely that our fruit-bearing will gather momentum after we die. This certainly has been true of Abraham and of the Apostle Paul. The Divine Life that issued through Abraham and Paul has continued to bear fruit throughout the centuries. We can bear a hundredfold or sixtyfold or thirtyfold depending on how willing we are to be pruned.
God has called us to exceedingly great fruit-bearing, perhaps on a scale with that of Abraham. We are pioneers, coming on the scene at the beginning of the construction of the Kingdom of God. All eternity lies before us. No doubt we shall populate new worlds with the image of Christ, although how that will be we do not know as yet.
The amount of fruit we bear depends on the extent to which we are willing to die during this present life. If we cling to our human life we will die in barrenness, even though we appear to have been fruitful in the Kingdom of God. If we are willing to die to our human life, giving place to the new Life of Christ that is in us, our fruit will remain. When the Lord returns, our fruitfulness and dominion will be extraordinary on the face of the earth.
In the Kingdom of God, the barren rejoice with a multitude of children while the children of the married wife are as nothing by comparison (Isaiah, Chapter 54). This follows the experience of Sarah. Those who are busy in church work may produce an abundance of accomplishments. Those who wait on the Lord may spend many years in hope and trust with little apparent success. When the "death" of the barren has been completed to God’s satisfaction, much fruit is borne.
Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom, toward the ways of the world. Lot fathered two daughters without difficulty. Later, Moab and Ammon were born. God never required that Lot offer up any of his children as an offering to the Lord.
Abraham waited for the promise of God and was without children for many years. When Abraham finally did have a son he was required to give back his son to the Lord. (How precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints!) Abraham has become the father, and Sarah the mother, of all who believe in Christ.
Unless we are willing to "fall into the ground and die" we shall be barren in the Kingdom of God. If we are willing to die in Christ we will bring much fruit. To die in Christ is to give one’s desires, ambitions, and plans to the Lord, trusting in Him to take care of all our needs and hopes. Such a death is not without pain but it is the only path to lasting fruitfulness in the Kingdom of God.
The Christians who evade the cross in this life will experience neither fruitfulness nor dominion when the Lord appears. The fruit of those who die in Christ will abide for eternity. It will be our joy to be with people whose characters were formed in part by the Virtue of Christ that came to them out of our death. Also, we may have the pleasure of ministering to those who still have need of us, as the Lord directs.
The Christians of our day are hoping to go to live in a mansion in Heaven. Such do not understand their own heart. The truest joy is that of working with people. We do not come to this understanding until we die in Christ and the love of Christ is formed in us.
There are numerous promises in the Scriptures that the righteous in Christ can claim as their own.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. (Psalms 84:11)
Jesus told us heaven and earth will pass away but the Word of God never shall be changed in its slightest detail. Psalms 84:11 is true of the righteous now; it will hold true for the righteous throughout the great and terrible tribulation that soon is to fall on the earth; and it will remain true throughout eternity. Those who walk uprightly before the Lord will receive the desires of their heart, and no sorrow will be added with the blessings.
The Christians who are not walking uprightly cannot claim such promises now by grace, nor during the tribulation period, nor when the Lord appears.
Numerous promises have been made to true Israel, especially concerning the Day of the Lord:
Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. (Isaiah 60:15)
The Christians who are not serving the Lord diligently are facing punishments, not glory, when Jesus appears.
The second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are filled with the rewards that will be issued to those who, through Christ, gain victory over the love of the world, Satan, and their lusts and self-will:
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
The Christians who are unwilling to remain faithful to death in their imprisonments will not receive the crown of life in the Day of Christ. Rather, they will receive the results of their lack of patience and faithfulness.
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (Hebrews 2:3)
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:8)
The ninefold salvation we have just described will come to the diligent Christian when the Lord appears, not when he dies physically. Each Christian will be raised into the consequences of what he has practiced in his body while on the earth.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:12)
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:4,5)
"Ready to be revealed in the last time."
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (I Peter 1:7)
"At the appearing of Jesus Christ."
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (I Peter 1:13)
"At the revelation of Jesus Christ."
The New Testament writings do not emphasize our dying and going to Heaven, as wonderful as that may prove to be, but our being raised from the dead and receiving the rewards for our behavior when the Lord Jesus returns to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords.
When the seventh trumpet sounds we shall be raised from the dead and shall ascend to meet the Lord Jesus in the air (not in Paradise). There we shall receive a substantial part of our ninefold salvation, although the fullness of our destiny, of what we shall become and receive, will continue to grow throughout the Kingdom Age into the new heaven and earth reign of Christ.
What happens to the Christian after he or she dies? Little is stated in the Old or New Testaments concerning this. We know after death comes judgment. Beyond this we understand little. No doubt those who live righteously will experience pleasurable circumstances in the Presence of the Lord, and those who practice wickedness will experience torment.
The Lord has informed us that His servants who did not do His will shall be beaten with lashes and shall be cast into outer darkness. Some will be saved "as by fire." What part of these punishments begin in this present life, what part take place immediately upon death, and what are reserved for the appearing of Christ, is not perfectly clear.
It does seem highly unlikely that God would bring a careless Christian upon his death into the new Jerusalem in Heaven and then punish him or her in the Day of Christ. We cannot speak with assurance concerning this because the Scriptures say so little about what happens to us during the period of "time" between our death and the coming of the Lord.
The Scriptures indeed have much to say, as we have pointed out in the previous pages, concerning what happens to the righteous when the Lord returns. Also, it is clear from the parable of the talents, of Matthew, and other passages, that the disobedient, careless Christians will be tormented in the Day of Christ’s appearing. All persons will receive the consequences of what they have practiced in this present life.
The current Christian doctrine that emphasizes Christians will not be held accountable for their actions, for the deeds they have practiced after "accepting" Christ, is denied by the written Word of God and has created moral chaos in the churches.
The Scriptures state that the victorious saints, the believers who, through Christ, have conquered the enemies they have encountered during their pilgrimage on the earth, will inherit all things. God will be their God, and they will be His sons.
The implication is clear that the believers who, because of their lack of diligent application to the things of the Kingdom are not found worthy to walk in white with Christ, will suffer a tremendous loss of inheritance. They have brought their eternal destinies into jeopardy. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" This question was raised concerning the backsliding Christians to whom the Book of Hebrews was written.
The inheritance of the sons of God is marvelous beyond description, and the punishments reserved for the unfaithful believers are very severe. Let us flee from those of today who are teaching that all professors of belief in Christ will receive the same reward in the Day of Christ. They have no scriptural support for their claim.
Those who currently are announcing that Christians will not be rewarded according to their works may bring themselves and their followers into dreadful consequences. It is appointed to each of us to die, and after we die we shall be rewarded according to our deeds.