JUDGING THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
JUDGING THE LIVING AND THE DEAD Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
To a certain extent, at least, the family of God in Heaven and on the earth is one. What is happening to us on earth appears to be happening to the elect in the spirit realm. We all are growing together. We of today are learning and growing from what we read in the Bible of God's dealings with the saints of former times. It appears likely that they, surrounding us as a great cloud of witnesses, are learning and growing from what they are seeing of God's dealings with us.
JUDGING THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (I Peter 4:5—NIV)
The theme of this article is the oneness of the family of God, the elect of God, in the spirit realm and on the earth. At any given time the great majority of the saints are deceased and living in the spirit realm. Only a small fraction of the Church is on the earth. It is my point of view that we all are growing together, that what we are learning and what is happening to us is also true of them. To what extent this is true we will understand more clearly after we leave our body and enter the spirit realm.
I do not believe and I resist the idea that Christianity is primarily a set of beliefs. I endeavor in all that I preach and write to include only that which has a direct, practical bearing on the behavior of the believer. I would not speculate on the oneness of the dead and living saints unless I believed it had a direct, practical bearing on the behavior of the believers
What possible effect would the concept of the oneness of the Church have on our daily behavior? I believe it will alter our behavior if we gain the impression that our death solves nothing as far as our relationship to Jesus Christ is concerned. God is working to conform us to the image of His Son and to bring us into untroubled rest in Himself. I do not believe this work ceases when we die. How could it?
I think the majority of believers are looking to death to solve their problem of learning to relate to Jesus Christ and the demands He makes on us. In America at least the believers are often spiritually lazy, careless as to their discipleship, bemused with the enticements of the American culture. They are oriented more toward Disneyland than they are the things above.
The American gospel is soft. The believers are unaware, to a great extent, of the hardness that is required of those who would meet the daily demands of Jesus Christ. They are not denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Jesus.
The hope is that at any moment there will be a "rapture" in which these lovers of the flesh will be caught up in their infancy to Heaven where they will have fun forever in the great Disneyland in the sky. This prevailing concept is totally unscriptural. It shall not happen.
This is the practical import of what I am teaching. Death will work no change in your relationship to Jesus Christ. If you are a spiritual infant here, carelessly following the Lord afar off, after you die you will be a spiritual infant, carelessly following the Lord afar off.
We need to understand clearly that our life in the spirit world will be a continuation of our life here. No real change will occur because of our physical death. Why should it? The problem of sin originated in the spirit realm around the Throne of God. Why should our entrance into the spirit realm make us any more or less susceptible to sin and self-will?
Oh, but we will not have a physical body to war against us. No? I think we will have the sensations of our body to deal with, with all of its love of sin and the world. Do you remember that the rich man wanted Lazarus to put some water on his tongue?
So he called to him, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire." (Luke 16:24—NIV)
Now, think about this. The rich man was in Hell in the spirit realm. Lazarus, the poor man, also was in the spirit realm with Abraham. If we will not have the sensations of the body to deal with, how then could Lazarus, in the spirit realm, dip the tip of his finger in water? How then could the rich man have a tongue that could be cooled with water? What finger? What water? What burning tongue?
This reminds me of another verse.
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (I Peter 4:6—NIV)
It seems to me that Lazarus and the rich man were living according to God in regard to the spirit but were behaving according to men in regard to the body.
Does it sound like this to you?
The practical effect of this teaching is that we cannot any longer look to physical death as our redeemer. The great work of God, that of creating sons, brothers of the Lord Jesus in His image, holy people dwelling in the rest of God, in the center of His will, continues after we die.
This does not mean we can live a careless life now and then make up for it after we die. Not at all! When the Spirit presents a challenge of growth to us, whether we are on earth or in the spirit realm, we have to obey. We cannot evade the challenge, hoping to go around it and serve God in some other direction. At that point, whether on earth or in the spirit realm, we are judged as a disobedient servant. We shall be punished.
Can you see now the practical consequences of understanding the continuity of our life from earth to the spirit realm? We cannot escape the curriculum of instruction by dying. The believer who refuses to obey Christ will be beaten with lashes, and there is no escape in death. In fact, after we die we are judged.
The careless believers of today who are hoping to be caught up in a "rapture" will find that when they enter the spirit realm they will face the consequences of their behavior on the earth. If they are an ardent, faithful follower of the Lord Jesus, feeding the Lord's sheep and lambs today, when they die they will continue to grow in Christ and probably be given greater opportunities for service. Those who have used their talents well shall be given more talents, more cities to rule, so to speak.
But if they are a lazy, careless, fleshly believer they will find, on entering the spirit realm, that they still are lazy and careless. They shall receive the consequences of laziness and carelessness. This is the practical effect of what we are teaching and the reason why we are dabbling in that which is somewhat mystical.
Let me tell you what got me started on this topic. I was thinking about the division between the righteous and the wicked that will take place at the end of the age.
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous And throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50—NIV)
Please consider the above parable carefully. There is a lot of food for thought here.
First of all, we know when the separation will take place—"at the end of the age," probably referring to the end of the Church Age.
This parable shows clearly that our salvation is established at the end of the age, not at some point in past time when we "accepted Christ."
The Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a net. It brings up all kinds of fish.
At the end of the age the good fish are retrieved from the Kingdom net and the bad are thrown away.
Notice that the good fish are the righteous and the bad fish are the wicked. The division is not between those who accept Christ and those who do not, but between the righteous and the wicked. When the Lord returns He will not be concerned about our doctrinal beliefs but about our behavior. This truth needs to be brought to the attention of the Christians because we are in error on this point.
Now, here is the issue and this needs a lot of thought.
The question is where will this division take place?
Our natural reaction, I think, is that it will take place on the earth.
But please consider: at any given point in time the great majority of those who were brought in by the Kingdom net are in the spirit realm, not alive on the earth.
The division between the wicked and the righteous does not take place at the time of physical death but at the end of the age.
Since only a small fraction of those who will be involved in the separation will be alive on the earth at the end of the age (we assume), we are forced to the conclusion that the division will take place both on earth and in the spirit realm—primarily in the spirit realm.
Since we have not arrived at the end of the age (I don't think), although we probably are close to it, this means the separation of the wicked from the righteous is yet ahead of us. In fact, it may be beginning already.
I think the Lord today is removing the sin from His people. This is a program of judgment and deliverance. The Spirit of God helps us judge our own conduct. When we confess our sins and turn away from them God is faithful and righteous to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This process of judgment and deliverance always has been in the Bible but appears to be emphasized today.
If we are willing to surrender to the Holy Spirit the spiritual death that is in us, we shine forth in God's Kingdom, so to speak. But if we continue with our worldly, lustful, self-centered life, then we ourselves will be removed from the Kingdom and cast into the fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The point of the present article is that the same judgment and cleansing that is taking place now on the earth is taking place also among the saints in the spirit realm. The judgment is on both the living and the dead at the same time.
But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (I Peter 4:5,6—NIV)
Christ is ready (was ready two thousand years ago) to judge the living and the dead. The living and the dead are to be judged at the same time. It appears the two thousand years of the Church Age, and possibly the one thousand years of the Kingdom Age which follows, are devoted and shall be devoted to judging the worldliness, lust, and self-will that came into being when Satan set his will against the will of God.
We are not implying in this article that Hell or the Lake of Fire are a kind of purgatory and that people will remain there and then be released. It may be noted that after one thousand years in the bottomless pit Satan, when released, immediately set out to destroy the work of God. There is no passage of Scripture that to my knowledge implies that Hell, or the Lake of Fire, or the wrath of God, is redemptive.
Our only emphasis in this article is that opportunity for spiritual growth does not cease with our physical death. If this were the case the future indeed is bleak, when we consider the spiritual state of most of God's people when they die.
I think our Christian tradition is that somehow we will be transformed, either by death or by the touch of Christ when He comes. What I am maintaining is that this tradition has no basis in the Scriptures. It is much more reasonable to assume the program of judgment, of cleansing, of spiritual growth, will continue whether we are physically alive or in the spirit realm.
It may be that some Christians suppose God forever will "see us through Christ" so no transformation is absolutely necessary. If such be the case, God help us! We are doomed to live forever with the gossip, slander, strife, division, striving for preeminence, adultery, and all the rest of the wicked behavior that today characterizes the Christian churches.
It is not scriptural that sinful behavior will be permitted in the new Jerusalem. Either we are transformed morally when we die (for which there is no scriptural basis), or Christ will transform us instantaneously when He appears (for which there is no scriptural basis), or it does not matter if we are not transformed (which the Scripture denies vehemently), or the program of cleansing and growth in Christ continues independently of whether we are on earth or in the spirit realm. It appears the latter has some scriptural support, as we are pointing out, and is eminently reasonable and logical.
I think that Christians, perhaps without realizing it, already are hoping for deliverance in the spirit realm. If they suppose, as many do, that we will be delivered from sin when we die, they are pointing toward deliverance in the spirit realm. If they are looking to be delivered from sin when the Lord appears, then again they are hoping for deliverance in the spirit realm, because most Christians will be in the spirit realm when the Lord appears.
There is another truth to consider, and that is the spiritual nature of sin. We may assume when our body dies and we are separated from it, we also will be separated from sin; for the Apostle states that sin dwells in our flesh.
But stop and think. Christians understand we are surrounded with various unclean spirits, such as those of alcohol, lust, lying, and violence. Now consider: these spirits cannot exercise their passions except as they find an outlet through a human being. Is this correct? Yet the passion exists in them, in the spirit realm, whether or not they can find a human outlet.
So the sins resident in our flesh also exist in the spirit realm apart from a fleshly vehicle of expression. This being true we can understand when we die and pass into the spirit realm our spiritual personality may contain the same lusts and passions we now have, if they have not been removed from us by the power of Jesus Christ.
If this is the case, what is the advantage of pursuing deliverance in the earth if Jesus Christ can deliver us from sin in the next world?
There are three great advantages to gaining the victory over our sinful nature in this world. First, if we do not, through the Holy Spirit, overcome our sinful nature we no longer remain without condemnation. The ascribing of the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses to us depends on our living above our sinful nature.
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4—NIV)
We see in the above verse that righteousness is imputed to us only as we choose to live not according to our sinful nature but according to the Spirit of God.
Second, if we do not avail ourselves of the present grace and thus put to death the sinful practices of our body we will not be entrusted with greater deliverance in the future.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. (Luke 16:10—NIV)
Third, the rewards of rulership go to those who overcome while on the earth. It is my opinion that, while we may be able to obtain further deliverance in the spirit realm, provided we have been faithful in our present opportunities, the spirit realm is not an appropriate environment to teach and test the victorious saints, the rulers of the world to come.
For example, the Lord Jesus Christ came from eternity with God. Yet it was in the earth that He learned obedience. It may be true that the iron scepter of overcoming strength be wrought only in the fires of earth.
The Lord Jesus said we must overcome as He overcame.
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21—NIV)
Perhaps all Christian people would agree the promises of the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are assigned to the victorious saints. Also, I do not think we are going against the Scripture or even fundamental Christian beliefs when we maintain that other kinds of spiritual growth (other than the development of kings) must always be continuing in the Kingdom of God, such as deliverance from sin and coming to maturity in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God until we arrive at the stature of the fullness of Christ.
After all, the Kingdom is as a seed, Jesus told us. Possibly in this article we have gone against some traditions that have not really been thought through sufficiently.
There is one widely held Christian belief that we must oppose. It is the teaching that people will be cast into the Lake of Fire because they have not believed in Christ even though they have never heard the Gospel. Some go so far as to say that if a baby dies and has never heard the Gospel it will go to Hell.
Can't you just imagine our righteous God saying, "I am casting you into the Lake of Fire because you have not received Christ although I know you have never heard of Christ." Such a statement would, of course be unreasonable. Where in the Bible does God speak or act in an unreasonable manner?
My position is that you cannot reject Christ until you have been presented with Christ, whether in this world or the next, and that this is true of all points along the way of spiritual growth. For we continually are being presented with Christ as He invites us to take a step forward in spiritual growth. Most believers die before they really are challenged beyond the very elements of salvation, before they have taken more than a few baby steps toward their Father.
In our day God is giving wonderful revelations of His Word and opportunities to come to maturity in Christ through the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit, spiritual understanding and opportunities not always available to people in time past or even to everyone today. Is it reasonable that they will never have the chance we have had, even though the Book of Hebrews states that we all will come to perfection together? This seems to me to be an unscriptural position to take.
But could a believer have a sinful nature after he or she dies? Why not? The cleansing comes only through Jesus Christ, not by virtue of dying or by entering the spirit realm. Sin began in the highest Heaven around the Throne of God. How is it different now? What we are we are, until we interact with the Lord Jesus Christ in such a manner that we are set free from Satan and enter rest in the center of God's will.
Peter says the Gospel is preached to the dead so they may be judged.
You know, the issue today is that of our will. People on earth can come to Christ and be forgiven through the blood atonement. This must be true also in the spirit realm or else how could the saints of God who lived before Calvary receive the blood atonement?
People on earth can come to Christ, receive God's Holy Spirit, and be born again of the Divine Seed. This must be true also in the spirit realm or else how could the saints of God who lived before the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the outpouring of the Holy Spirit be born again or receive the Holy Spirit?
Today we have come to the real issue, not that it has not been resolved in past time by outstanding saints. The issue is that of our will.
We can be forgiven through the blood atonement. Fine!
We can receive the Holy Spirit and be born again. Fine!
But do you know we can have these experiences and still not be changed in our will to serve God?
How many Pentecostal people of today, forgiven through the blood atonement, born again of the incorruptible Seed of God, able to speak in tongues, live according to their own will?
When you talk to God's people about doing God's will faithfully, fully, and consistently, about presenting their body a living sacrifice, about denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Lord, they turn away from you. They are interested in grace-rapture-heaven, not in suffering patiently the death that results from their personal cross. They never have heard such preaching, and because of the soft teaching they have had they resist the idea of suffering and bearing their cross.
I have no doubt the same is true in the spirit realm when sharing in the sufferings of Christ, such as being brought low in humility, are preached to those believers who are deceased. Why should it be any different? The will is the will!
Satan fell from his position of guarding the Throne of God because he set his will against the Father. Satan, although existing in the spirit realm, would certainly reject and rebel against the idea of being brought low in humility, of taking the lowliest of place among the angels.
On what basis do we rest the idea that life will be so much different after we die or during the ages to come? Pride will still be pride. Covetousness will still be covetousness. Faith in God will still be faith in God. Obedience to God will still be obedience to God. What will change?
Why would your will change because you died?
Ah, but when I enter the spirit realm I will realize Christ is important and I will serve Him. No you won't. Satan and his angels were in the spirit realm and they rebelled against God. Why would it be different with you? If you are going to give your will to Christ you will do it now. It will not be easier in the spirit realm. Perhaps it will be even more difficult.
But won't I realize after I die that I would be miserable apart from Christ? No more so than today. People can be in horrible circumstances, knowing they are fighting against God, and still persist in going their own way. Have you found this to be true? Even if they were made aware of the spirit realm they would not change. It is a matter of the will coming from the heart.
Isn't this what Abraham said to the rich man?
"No, father Abraham," he said, "but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:30,31—NIV)
So dying or having someone return from the dead will not help us.
The oneness of the household of God is shown as follows:
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39,40—NIV)
Notice that the patriarchs are in Heaven. Yet, they have not received what had been promised. Heaven is not the land of promise.
Notice especially that "only together with us would they be made perfect." This tells me that at some point they must receive that which is being given to us in the present hour.
Perhaps the program is shown in the following verse:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1—NIV)
Who are the witnesses? They are the heroes of faith of the previous chapter.
What are they doing? They are surrounding us that they might receive that which is being given to us in the present hour.
We grow in Christ by reading of the dealings of God with the people of the Old Testament. Now they are growing in Christ by watching what God is doing among us.
As the revelation of the Kingdom proceeds to unfold among the teachers on earth, the elect in Heaven are learning and profiting.
This is why we must "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. We must do this so they can be inspired and profit by God's dealings with us.
The following passage is worthy of note with reference to the continuity of what takes place on earth and what takes place in the spirit realm.
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, Through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison Who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, (I Peter 3:18-20—NIV)
The above passage is not often preached, I don't believe, but is well worth considering.
It tells us several things.
After Christ was crucified and then was made alive by the Holy Spirit He went and preached to the spirits in prison in the spirit realm. They had been disobedient to God during the hundred years that Noah's Ark was being built.
Notice that these disobedient spirits were not in Hell but in prison.
Why did Christ preach to them? If the Son of God took the trouble to preach to these spirits it must be with the intention of saving those who would turn from their disobedience to God. Why else would He preach to them—to tell them that they were all to be cast into the Lake of Fire? This doesn't make a great deal of sense to me.
What did Christ preach to them? Probably the same thing He preached while He was alive on earth: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand."
The Gospel of the Kingdom is the gospel of repentance, that is, of turning from your sins and serving God.
If you will search the Book of Acts and notice how many times the term "repent," or "repentance," is employed you will be amazed. We preach today "let Jesus into your heart," or "receive Christ," or "you must be born again to be saved." The term "born again" does not appear even once in the Book of Acts or in any of the Epistles of Paul.
The Apostles preached none of these things. They preached the need to repent, to change our behavior. We really are unscriptural in many of the things we are preaching today.
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38—NIV)
Repent, then, and turn to God, so your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, (Acts 3:19—NIV)
Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. (Acts 8:22—NIV)
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30—NIV)
First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20—NIV)
"Prove their repentance by their deeds"! This is contrary to most of what is preached in our time.
I wonder if we should be preaching repentance instead of "let Jesus into your heart"? It is clear forgiveness and eternal life, as preached in the Book of Acts, were associated with repentance.
Repentance is not feeling sorry for our sins. This is not what repentance is. Repentance is not the confession of our sins. Repentance is not doing penance because of our sins.
Repentance is an act of will, a changing from the direction we are going, a change from wicked behavior to righteous behavior.
In my opinion, this is what the Lord Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. Could they then turn from their wickedness and receive the forgiveness of Christ? If not, what was the purpose of preaching to them? To remind them that they deserved to be in prison? That doesn't sound like God to me. How are they any worse than us?
Here you have several million spirits in prison for thousands of years, unable to go anywhere or do anything of interest, and then Jesus Christ is going to preach to them about how terrible they are? I seriously doubt it.
I think we Christians have a mythological concept of the spirit realm. I think we picture everyone going to Heaven when he or she dies, there to walk on streets of gold and live in a splendid mansion, or else being cast into the deepest Hell, there to be tormented for a season and finally cast into the Lake of Fire..
I don't believe this viewpoint tells the whole story.
I think when we go to the spirit realm we will be placed in an area where there are others of like spiritual attainment, there to either be instructed or else to wait for the Day of the Lord. Without doubt some will be ushered immediately into the flames.
We know the rich man is in Hell. We know there are souls waiting under the altar. We know there are people already chosen to be kings who are waiting until they have the opportunity to return to earth. We know some will come out of the great tribulation dressed in white robes. They will stand before God and serve Him in His temple. Yet others will be standing on the sea of glass mixed with fire, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.
Then there are the firstfruits from among men who will follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
None of this fits the concept of living in a mansion or walking on golden streets while we chat amiably with our friends and relatives.
The Book of Ephesians informs us that the gifts and ministries given to the Body of Christ will operate until we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.
If Paul meant what he wrote in Ephesians, and the Bible has a way of meaning exactly what it says, then ministry and growth must continue after we die. Or else how could we all come to the unity of the faith, to the knowledge of the Son of God, to the stature of the fullness of Christ?
How could the entire Bride of Christ develop until she is without blemish unless work continues in the spirit realm? In fact, our development may continue for eternity as we continue to grow in the image of our Father. Maybe God Himself will continue to grow. Why not? The Bible says, concerning Christ, that of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.
If we are to make sense of the New Testament we must give consideration to the fact that there is continuity from this life to the next. That which begins in us now will continue without our physical death interrupting the process in any manner whatever.
Let us always keep in mind that when Christ presents to us a new challenge to moral transformation we must press forward in Him. We must continue to walk in the light of God's perfect will if we expect the continual cleansing of the blood of the cross. I think this remains true whether we are on earth or in the spirit realm.
The biggest problem God has is with our will. The Kingdom of God is the doing of God's will in the earth as it is in Heaven.
For two thousand years the Christian churches, while they attempt to build the Kingdom of God, do so largely according to their own understanding. If this were not the case the Catholic Church would never have murdered those they regarded as heretics. The Lord Jesus Christ does not murder people just because they do not understand correct doctrine.
The fact that the Catholic Church murdered heretics proves beyond doubt the leaders were not obeying the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus does not act toward people as the Catholic Church has in time past. This has been true also in the case of some Protestant endeavors.
Today, in our time, there is a deeper challenge to our will than ever before. As we approach the appearing of the Lord we must realize we are destined to appear with Him. However, no individual—absolutely no individual—will appear with Jesus Christ whose will has not been made one with the will of God.
It is time now for the candidates for the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord appears, to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus to the crucifixion of their own will. Until we are ready to say "not my will but Yours be done" in every aspect of our life, it is not possible we will be raised from the dead and ascend to meet the Lord when He appears.
It seems to me that numerous American Christians are not candidates to be raised from the dead when the Lord appears. They have never, in obedience to Jesus Christ, denied themselves and taken up their cross. They have to be happy. When they are not happy they wrench themselves from the Lord's prison and pursue their own pleasure. Such have no chance at all of rising to meet the Lord when He appears, unless they repent of their disobedience and carelessness toward their great salvation.
The door will be shut in the face of the foolish virgins.
In the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel we are told how the little horn will be permitted to reach up and tear down part of the host of the saints. How can this be?
It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. (Daniel 8:10-12—NIV)
I don't know what you get out of the above passage, but to me it means when God shakes the heavens and the earth in the last days the saints are going to be challenged to get rid of their rebellion, their self-will. Those who maintain their own way, even thought they have received the blood atonement and the Holy Spirit of God, will be torn down from their position at the right hand of God and will be trampled on by Satan.
We have seen in our own day some exalted Christian leaders torn down from their heavenly position and trampled on. Some have repented marvelously.
What else can we get from the passage? It is pretty plain. It may not conform to our traditions, but what does that matter?
When I was first saved I came under the influence of the Navigators. I even heard Dawson Trotman himself speak over in Hawaii during World War Two.
What was impressed on me by the Navigators was the inviolability of the Word of God. We are to trust the Word of God implicitly, memorizing it and standing on it.
I have tried to do this to the present hour. But I find that Christians sometimes refuse to believe what the Bible clearly states, so wedded are they to their traditions.
This certainly is the case with the so-called "pre-tribulation rapture." This doctrine is so manifestly unscriptural that one would suppose it would never be accepted by God's people. Yet multitudes of believers cling to the hope any moment now the Lord is going to catch them up to Heaven to live in their mansions.
I am glad to hear that David Wilkerson is warning the American believers to prepare themselves for the trouble that is coming. Maybe they will forget about the unscriptural "rapture" for now and prepare themselves to stand in the evil day, as the Bible exhorts us to do.
I think all of us Christians had better get back to the teaching of the Navigators—that we are to trust in the written Word of God and memorize passages of it as we are able. We are entering an age of moral horrors. Our traditions will be burned away by the frightful events of the future. But the Word of God, the written Word, will stand.
We need to go back and test every one of our traditions against the written Word. If we cannot find what we believe stated clearly in context, and in more than one place in the Bible, without having to cut and paste verses to support our axioms, if we cannot just read a chapter or two and just let truth stand in plain sight, then we need to think carefully about the wisdom of clinging to our traditions.
I think the most damaging tradition of all is the concept that God sees us through Christ. The inference is that God does not observe our behavior because the righteousness of Christ clothes us in such a manner as to make our actual conduct invisible to God.
Perhaps this concept came from the idea that when we place our faith in Christ and follow the Spirit of God the righteousness of Christ is ascribed to us. This is true, but it does not mean if we turn away from the Spirit and walk in the flesh, as is the custom in the American churches it appears, that the righteousness of Christ still is ascribed to us.
There is no verse in the New Testament that states or implies God does not see our behavior. In fact, numerous passages warn us that if we continue to sin we will kill our new spiritual life.
It would be impossible to even estimate the damage that has been done to the work of God by the erroneous teaching that Divine grace covers the believer who is living according to his bodily passions, that grace is an apology for his misbehavior and an alternative to righteous conduct.
Christianity is not a set of beliefs we embrace. Our beliefs are useful only as they bring us to the living Lord Jesus. God is looking for righteous, holy, obedient conduct on the part of His people. Such conduct is produced only as we abide in Christ.
So the answer to all we have written in this brief article, and all we have written in other places, is union with the Lord Jesus Christ in all that He is. If we strive to really know Christ, forgetting all else, we will live in God's Presence now and after we die. To continue in union with Jesus we must be absolutely obedient in all we know to be God's will for us. Also we must make our physical body our slave. If we do not, our body will make us its slave.
It is time for the Christians in America to repent, to turn from our wicked ways, to humble ourselves before the Lord. If we do this God will heal our land.
But if we continue in our grace-rapture-Heaven, grace-rapture-Heaven, foolishness, not laying down our life, not denying ourselves, not taking up our cross and following the Lord Jesus, not remaining patiently in the prison where God has placed us, then we can be certain we are looking forward to weeping and gnashing of teeth, whether in this present life or in the life to come.