PREPARING FOR OUR RESURRECTION

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PREPARING FOR OUR RESURRECTIONCopyright Š 2012 by Robert B Thompson. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

The Christian Gospel, as far as I know, is different from all other religions in that its goal is renewal of physical life upon the earth. There are other religions that teach reincarnation. But reincarnation is not resurrection. Rather it is the reappearance of the dead individual in a different body.

In the case of the Christian resurrection, we appear again in the same body, only our body has been clothed over with a body of eternal life that has been reserved in Heaven, although modified by our behavior on the earth.

I am not certain how this has happened, but the emphasis on our bodily resurrection found in the New Testament is not set forth as often as one could wish. Why is this? The redemption of his body was the Apostle Paul's goal.

We have invented a "rapture." But a rapture is not a resurrection. A resurrection occurs when our body is raised from its place of burial and then transformed; or, if the Lord comes while we still are living on the earth. the resurrection occurs as our flesh and blood life ceases and is replaced by the Life of the Spirit of God.

What is the relationship of our inward nature to the making alive of our mortal body? Resurrection begins in our inward nature as we learn to live by the Life of Christ. We think as Christ is thinking. We speak as Christ is speaking. We act as Christ is acting. We no longer are living but Christ is living in us.

Such is the necessary preparation for our body being raised from the dead and being clothed with a body from Heaven fashioned from eternal life and modified by our behavior while living on the earth. Thus we see that the resurrection begins in our inward nature and then, when Christ appears, is extended to our physical body.

I say "physical" body because our flesh and bones are present. But being clothed upon with the body from Heaven makes our body a physical-spiritual body. I emphasize the "physical" aspect because our Christian teaching has been so heavily influenced by the religion of Gnosticism that we are apt to emphasize our inward nature and neglect or dismiss altogether the importance of the physical body.

It is the emphasis on the resurrection of the "physical" body that distinguishes the Christian Gospel from all other religions, to the best of my knowledge, as I said previously.

The Apostle Paul was striving to attain to the first resurrection, the resurrection of the Royal Priesthood.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

Resurrection begins in the inward nature and then, when the Lord appears, is extended to our outward form.

Notice how Paul was preparing himself to participate in the first resurrection:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

I realize that Paul's preparation (above) for participation in the first resurrection appears to be extraordinary. Actually it is not.

I have thought quite a bit about the standard Paul raised, and then about what we see today as being the standard for "being saved." It seems that so few Christians come close to Paul standard. And yet, Paul urged this upon all of us.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. (Philippians 3:15)

I think Paul would make allowances for those who yet are immature. But he would insist that we held such preparation to be our goal. Yet I don't believe I ever have heard a preacher or evangelist point toward Paul's preparation as being that which we are pressing toward.

One of two things must be true. Either very few believers are going to participate in the first resurrection, that is, the resurrection that will take place when Christ appears. Or else the believers must grow spiritually after they die. I think this must be the answer.

In fact, the Apostle Paul stated that the gifts and ministries given to the Body of Christ would operate until we all came to the full stature of Christ. For Paul's word to be fulfilled, there must be growth in Christian maturity after we die.

A disclaimer is needed at this point. I am not saying that we have a "second chance"—that we can be careless in our discipleship; and then, after we die we can get down to business with God.

Christ deals with individuals one at a time, at the time He chooses. Some while on earth are inspired to seek Christ fervently. These are God's Firstfruits. If such a chosen one neglects to follow his inner compulsion, his crown will be removed. His talent, a tremendous urge to do God's will, is removed and given to another who has been more diligent. He himself will be sent to the Land of Darkness.

God knows each sparrow. God knows each person and deals with him in s unique manner. Each person is judged only on the basis of that which has been entrusted to him.

There are those who have not been given, while living on the earth, the compulsion to serve God that is true of the Firstfruits. They will be judged only in terms of the resources allotted to them.

Later in the spirit world, God will deal with them according to their foreknown destiny. They must be sternly obedient at that time or suffer the consequences. If they are a member of the elect, they will be taught and otherwise ministered to until they are ready to descend to the new earth as a member of the Royal Priesthood.

So no, we are not teaching a "second chance." Each individual is known to God and must respond in total obedience when presented with Christ. If he is obedient, his end will be full of joy and glory. If he does not respond at the time of his visitation, he will be punished and assigned a place with the rebels against God.

We see the same idea, of preparation for the appearing of Christ, in the following passage:

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:4-6)

And again:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (I John 3:2,3)

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:"

"Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

There is a symbolic picture of the preparation for the resurrection in the incident concerning Lazarus.

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." (John 11:43,44)

We who have been baptized in water have been crucified with Christ and also have been raised with Him to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, that is, in our inward nature.

But then there are these graveclothes–worldliness, the passions of the flesh and spirit, and personal ambition. Our resurrection has taken place in the timeless vision of God. But the full power of God extended to our physical body has not taken place as yet.

Today is the Day of Salvation. In our time the Holy Spirit is unwrapping the graveclothes in preparation for the return of the Lord Jesus. But how many have ears to hear?

In order to have ears to hear the Spirit, we have to be living in what I term the prophetic milieu. We live in the prophetic milieu by keeping in the Presence of Jesus at all times throughout the day and night.

We constantly are looking to the Lord for everything we think, say, and do. We pray about everything. Each time God answers our prayer we make it a point to give thanks. We pray continually. We look to Jesus continually. This is how we live in the prophetic milieu. This is the environment in which the ministries and gifts of the Spirit operate.

The sons of God are those who are led by the Spirit of God. They live by every Word of God. The Spirit continually is pointing out to us our graveclothes. When the Spirit emphasizes a sin, such as lying, we confess that particular sin; we denounce it as not fit for the Kingdom of God; we renounce it with all our strength, looking to Jesus for help.

When we follow this procedure we are forgiven and cleansed. The peace of Christ returns to us. We must continue confessing our sins and turning away from them, with Jesus' help, as long as we live. This is what is required if we are to remain in the prophetic milieu in which we hear the voice of the Spirit of God.

We do not work for our salvation. Rather, we keep following Christ, bearing our cross of deferred desires. He sets His joy before us from time to time so we do not become weary in well doing. This is the rest of God which we must enter if we are to be eligible to receive a resurrected body when the Lord comes.

Being resurrected has nothing to do with "going to Heaven." I have found this to be a source of confusion in the minds of the people I teach. The purpose of resurrection is that we may renew our life on the earth, not to bring us to Heaven. After we have been resurrected we may enter the spirit world as often as we like.

It is important to note that we shall receive, in our body, the good we have done and the evil we have done. It is a case of sowing and reaping. We can, however, if we confess our sins and turn away from them, have the evil removed so it does not appear in the Day of Resurrection.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)

If there is any point of doctrine more needful of emphasis today, it is that we are preparing the nature of our own resurrection today by obediently following the Lord Jesus. Each action we take is affecting what we shall experience when the time comes for us to be resurrected.

I do not know what everyone else is teaching and preaching. From what I have heard, the emphases of the ministry do not always appear to be scriptural.

There are three teachings that seem to be stressed: first, lawless grace; second, the "rapture"; third, going to Heaven when we die or are raptured. Grace-rapture-Heaven. These may be the current doctrines in the Christian churches–and not only in America! Perhaps I am incorrect in saying these are the predominant Christian doctrines of our day.

Without any doubt, the teaching of lawless grace is the single most destructive of all the heresies to enter Christian thinking.

Paul, writing to the Jews, pointed out that God has in time past and always can credit righteousness to anyone He chooses, apart from the observance of the Law of Moses. We are not saved by obeying the Law of Moses but by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus–and that means obeying the Lord Jesus, not just assenting to the fact that He is our Savior.

We Gentiles have created a new dispensation under which an individual by saying "I accept Christ," and while not denying himself and bearing his cross of deferred desire patiently after the Master, now abides under a screen through which God cannot see his sinning.

What an abomination? What a guaranteed method of destroying the moral character of Christian people? What a product of humanistic thinking in which people always must be comfortable?

If someone wants to be certain he or she is not prepared for the resurrection, the lawless-grace teaching is the best route to take.

How such an unscriptural travesty of God's plan for the redemption of human beings ever was introduced into Christian thinking, I cannot imagine. No doubt it finds its origin in the democratic-humanistic-rights of people philosophy that pervades the Western nations.

In First Corinthians Paul states, referring to the resurrection, that the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (meaning, from the context, physical death). By the lawless-grace teaching, Satan is insuring that the last enemy never shall be destroyed; this is to say, the believers never shall be prepared or the resurrection of their body.

Can you see, in the three deadly doctrines, that our bodily "resurrection," the goal of the Apostle Paul, is not mentioned? We might protest that the "rapture" is the resurrection. This is not true. The rapture is the immediate ascension of the inward nature to Heaven to escape Antichrist and the Great Tribulation. I know of no preparation that is needed for the rapture except to "accept Christ."

Can you imagine the Apostle Paul saying that he was setting aside his own life that he might attain to the rapture? If Paul's preparation was to attain to the rapture, then numerous Christians of today are going to be disappointed, for they have not by any means met the criteria presented by Paul.

The is no sound of war in the "rapture" teaching. The first resurrection, that which will occur when Jesus next is revealed, is a calling up of the purified saints so they can descend with Christ and install the Kingdom of God upon the earth. Hence the shout (of war), the voice of the Archangel (Michael, the commander of the army of angels), and the trumpet of God (announcing the beginning of the Battle of Armageddon).

This is no flight of carnal believers to escape Antichrist and the Great Tribulation! How ridiculous! Yet there are sincere, devout Christian people who have accepted this delusion.

The third doctrine, that of going to "Heaven" by means of death or by a "rapture," is based on an error that has pervaded Christian thinking (and, in some instances, Jewish thinking) throughout the Christian Era. When it entered Jewish thinking I do not understand, since going to Heaven as a result of good behavior is not found in the Tenach, to the best of my knowledge.

The concept of going to a paradise after we die, if we have behaved well, is common among religions, I understand. But such is not true of the Christian Gospel. The reward for doing well, according to the New Testament, is to gain a better resurrection.

What a monumental and distracting error this is! The Christian believers, for the most part, are waiting to die and go to Heaven so they can recline in a mansion on a golden street, doing nothing of significance for eternity.

The truth is, we are to be preparing for our resurrection today, with a view to returning with the Lord Jesus in His Kingdom to establish justice on the earth.

By making eternal residence in a Heaven of our imagination the goal of our salvation, and lawless grace and a rapture our means of getting there, we have departed altogether from the Bible.

First of all, the spirit world is a very, very large area, and includes areas that range all the way from Mount Zion down to Hell.

Mount Zion is what we mean by "Heaven." It is the home of the elect, God's Royal Priesthood. If we are abiding in the Lord Jesus, we already have come, in our inward nature, to Mount Zion, that is, to Heaven.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

When we say we want to go to Heaven, we are speaking of Mount Zion. To the best of my knowledge there is no "Heaven" other than Mount Zion. Mount Zion is the place where God desires to dwell, and that certainly must be the "Heaven" to which we wish to go.

Why gaze in envy, O rugged mountains, at the mountain where God chooses to reign, where the LORD himself will dwell forever? (Psalms 68:16)

Mount Zion is the "heavenly Jerusalem" which one day will come down from Heaven to be installed forever upon the new earth. And we already have come there in our inward nature. Now it is time to make our body eligible to enter through the gates into the holy city.

The remainder of the spirit world, where most people are, is not "Heaven." It is where people go after they die. Decent, God-fearing people go to communities of decent people like themselves. Truly wicked people go to one of the areas that also contain people like themselves.

But Heaven, Mount Zion, is the city of the Living God. It is the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. It is the Church of Christ, the place of the holy angels, of Jesus, of the spirits of righteous people made perfect, of the atoning blood.

We already are there, if we are abiding in Christ. Mount Zion is the new Jerusalem that will come down out of Heaven through the new sky to be installed forever on the new earth. This will take place after the last resurrection.

The new Jerusalem is the government of the Kingdom of God. It will govern the people from the nations who are saved.

Since our goal is to attain to the first resurrection, we might say that in that sense, salvation is resurrection.

Let me qualify this just a bit. All members of God's elect, those whom God has called to be a member of the Body of Christ, the royal priesthood, together compose Mount Zion, the government of the Kingdom of God. These are God's Israel, whether Jewish or Gentile by physical birth.

God's Firstfruits, those who will be resurrected and ascend to meet the Commander in Chief in the air in the first resurrection, are a special, warlike group of the entire Christian Church, the Body of Christ, Mount Zion. After the second resurrection, the Firstfruits will be joined together with the remainder of the Royal Priesthood.

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)

There are many symbols in the Old Testament of a part of God's people being separated for a season until the entire Body of Christ has been reconciled to God. The reconciliation of the Bride of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, is the purpose for the thousand-year interval between the next coming of the Lord and the final resurrection and creation of the new sky and earth.

One symbol is the rule of David over Judah and later over all Israel. Another is the division of the Tent of Meeting into a Holy Place and Most Holy Place. A third symbol is that of David's Mighty Men and the remainder of Israel.

The purpose of this essay is to point out that salvation is resurrection and resurrection is salvation. Salvation has nothing to do with "going to Heaven when we die." Salvation is the rest of God. It is the goal of the Apostle Paul, the redemption of his body that Paul was seeking so that he might be free from the body of sin and death.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:23-25)

Can you see in the above passage that it is in the hope of the redemption of our body that we are saved? Can you see also that changing our hope from the redemption of our body to eternal residence in Heaven is destructive of our discipleship?

When the believers are waiting to die and go to Heaven, and believe they will go there by "grace," they are not going to press forward into the resurrection, into the Kingdom of God. The numerous opportunities the Spirit gives them each day to overcome their love for the world, the lusts and passions of their flesh and spirit, and their personal ambition, are overlooked. Yet these opportunities are given that they might prepare themselves for their resurrection from the dead.

How people who have died and did not participate in the first resurrection, and are in Mount Zion waiting for their descent as the Royal Priesthood, can prepare themselves for their resurrection, I do not know.

However, there is a passage in the Song of Solomon that suggests to me these immature members of God's elect will be taught and ministered to by those who did attain to the first resurrection. Following is that passage.

We have a young sister, and her breasts are not yet grown. What shall we do for our sister for the day she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her. If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar. (Song of Solomon 8:8,9)

The "We," then, would be the Firstfruits, those who did attain to the First Resurrection.

The two immature persons are sisters of the Firstfruits of the Bride, as I understand the passage. It then falls to the Firstfruits not only to govern the nations of the earth along with the Lord Jesus, but also to pass into the spirit world and minister to the immature members of the Royal Priesthood.

In any case, the concept of lawless-grace, "rapture," and eternal residence in a mansion in Heaven doing nothing of significance for eternity should be dismissed from the mind of every serious Christian.

The Lord has impressed me of late that physical death is nothing to be feared. We pass into the spirit world and are placed where we belong.

If we have received Christ when He was presented to us, and have denied ourselves, have placed our treasures in Heaven, have faithfully borne our cross of delayed gratification, have looked to Him night and day for each of our decisions, giving thanks continually to God for His love and goodness, then there absolutely is nothing to fear when it comes our time to die.

Actually, for the faithful Christian, death is like awakening from a nightmare.

As far as I know, the casual Christian will be placed with people like himself or herself. God does not like mixtures.

For the individual to whom Christ never has been presented, he or she will be judged fairly after death. Peter told Cornelius that all who fear God and do what is right are accepted by the Lord. This person, man or woman, boy or girl, will go to a suitable place in the spirit world to be with people–perhaps relatives–like him or her.

So there is no reason for any of us to fear death, unless we have refused Christ when He was presented to us, or have been a wicked person. In this case we indeed do have reason to fear!

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)