PRESSING FORWARD INTO ETERNAL LIFE
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
When we read the third chapter of the Book of Philippians we realize what is being preached today as the Christian Gospel is not the same message presented by the Apostle Paul. We of today treat belief in Christ as a ticket that ensures our entrance into Heaven when we die. Paul treated belief in Christ as a lifelong struggle to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Obviously, there is a critical difference between the two plans of salvation.
PRESSING FORWARD INTO ETERNAL LIFE
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8—NIV)
Paul was a seasoned Christian when writing the above words. He had written several epistles and had founded many churches. He was in prison at the time. Yet, in this chapter he is striving toward a greater knowledge of Christ. He was seeking to gain Christ.
When we compare Paul’s attitude with the current Christian teaching we note that the two approaches to salvation are quite different. What we present today is a kind of ticket. The idea is to confess that we are a sinner, we cannot save ourselves, Christ died for us, and if we accept Him as our personal Savior we will go to Heaven when we die.
The “ticket” approach is compatible with the background of theology that it often represents: the individual has been saved by a sovereign action of God independently of his subsequent behavior and therefore can never be denied admittance to Heaven when he dies.
Salvation is seen as deliverance from Hell and acceptance into Heaven.
When we read the third chapter of Philippians, and then think about the “four steps of salvation” that today are considered to be the way to be “saved,” we can see that we really have wandered from the truth.
Before God saw fit to reach down from Heaven and reveal Christ to Paul, Paul had been a Jew of the Jews. He had achieved a high status as a Pharisee. His goal in life was to be righteous in the sight of God. For this reason we Gentiles have a difficult time interpreting Paul correctly. We think of the Gospel as a ticket to Heaven. Paul thought of the Gospel as God’s way of making him righteous apart from a strict observance of the Law of Moses. There is enough difference here to prevent our perceiving what Paul was teaching.
Paul never presented the Gospel as a means of going to Heaven. Paul’s message had to do with attaining to the resurrection of the righteous, and with inheriting the Kingdom of God. Until we keep Paul’s goal firmly in mind we will not understand his letters to the churches.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7—NIV)
The above statement reveals that Paul had renounced his original, adamic nature as being worthless. Whatever good had accrued to Paul as a result of his extensive religious background as a Pharisee he now viewed as loss. It was loss because it had not been gained through Christ. Every disciple of Jesus Christ should consider that all he has gained or will gain as a person that has not been gained through prayer, waiting on the Lord, and strict obedience to the Spirit of God, is loss for Christ, loss for himself or herself, and loss for those to whom he ministers the Gospel. The flesh profits nothing!
Compare this attitude with the current teaching that if we have faith in Christ we can get anything we want! How immature we are in the things of the Kingdom of God!
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8—NIV)
Can you and I say this—that we consider every aspect of our life as loss when compared to the greatness of knowing Christ? Isn’t it true today that if we have taken the “four steps of salvation” twenty years ago and have attended church since that time we now think we know Christ and are ready to go to Heaven?
Do we, as Paul, view coming to know Christ as a lifelong fight, a race, a struggle against forces determined to keep us ignorant of Christ and His ways?
Have we lost all things because of our pursuit of Christ? Do we count what we have lost for the Gospel as being garbage?
Are we leaving all that we may “gain Christ”?
Gain Christ? What does it mean to gain Christ? Haven’t we gained Christ as a result of making a profession of faith?
Evidently not! What are we to do then? We are to immediately ask God to give us the same attitude as the Apostle Paul.
No, we do not know Christ. No, we have not gained Christ even though we have been a Christian for many years.
Christ has to be known! Christ has to be gained! There is a fight to be fought each day if we would know and gain Christ.
There is a race to be run each day if we would know and gain Christ. There is a struggle to be engaged in each day if we would know and gain Christ.
The drums of Hell are beating to the attack in our day. Moral evil is pressing down on the people of the United States as a dark, heavy blanket. To not, in the present hour, turn aside from all else and seek to know and gain Christ is to slip backward into the darkness. This is true for each one of us whether or not we profess to be “saved.”
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. (Philippians 3:9—NIV)
Look carefully at the above verse. In the light of our present teaching this means our Christian life should be one of believing the facts about Christ, about the atonement, and then we will be righteous even though our behavior is not godly. We are righteous by faith alone without actually behaving righteously.
This is not at all what Paul is saying. Paul is not comparing godliness of character with belief in Christ. Paul is comparing gaining righteousness by keeping the Law of Moses with gaining righteousness by faith in Christ. “A righteousness of my own that comes from the law.”
And what Paul means by faith in Christ is not only belief in the atonement but a life of renouncing the adamic nature and gaining the knowledge and Life of Christ.
In former days Paul had gained righteousness by keeping the Sabbath, observing the kosher laws of diet, doing no work on the Day of Atonement, and obeying all the other injunctions of the Law of Moses. Now Paul was gaining righteousness by seeking to know and gain Christ. This is not the same thing as saying we believe in Christ and therefore do not have to live a godly life, as is taught today in so many churches. Can you see the very great difference? Our current teaching has destroyed the testimony of the Christian churches. It is a tremendous error in doctrine and practice!
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, (Philippians 3:10—NIV)
There is natural, adamic life that we have at the present time. Then there is resurrection life, the Life of God, the Life that raised the Lord Jesus from the dead.
These are two different kinds of life by which a person can live.
The natural adamic life is corrupt, prone to sin, subject to weakness and sickness, and is soon to return to the dust from which it came.
Resurrection life is not corrupt, is not prone to sin, is not subject to weakness and sickness, and grows stronger and fuller for eternity. It is the Life of the Lord God of Heaven expressed through Jesus Christ.
These two forms of life dwell in every true Christian. Eternal life has nothing whatever to do with residence in Heaven. Eternal life is the force by which we are to live. God did not give His Son to the world that we might go to Heaven but that we might change from adamic life, which spiritually is dead, to the eternal Life of God in Christ.
Our discipleship is to be a daily pressing forward into eternal life.
Adamic life was never meant to be our true life as children of God. Our present body is a vehicle to humble us and to test us to see if we are willing to obey God’s commandments.
Every day eternal death and eternal life struggle for mastery over our personality. Every day we either yield to death or we yield to life. When we yield to death we do not move toward the first resurrection from the dead. We remain as a corrupt adamic creature.
When we yield to life, Christ grows in us. The resurrection grows in us.
There are two resurrections. Every human being will participate in one or the other. There is a resurrection to eternal life, and then there is a resurrection to judgment.
This does not mean, as I understand it, that all who attain to the resurrection to life will go to Heaven while all who participate in the resurrection to judgment will go to Hell and then to the Lake of Fire.
The Bible is clear that some people will finally be thrown into the Lake of Fire with the devil and his angels. However, the issue is not Heaven or the Lake of Fire. The issue is attainment to life.
The only way we can attain to the resurrection to life is to turn away from the desires and lusts of our flesh and learn to live by the Life of Jesus Christ. This obviously is what the Apostle Paul was seeking.
If we attain to the resurrection to life, then, when Christ returns, He will raise us to Himself that we always may be with Him.
If we do not attain to the resurrection to life, we will not be raised when the Lord returns. We shall be raised at a later time and then judged. If at that time our name is not found written in the Book of Life, we will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
We understand therefore that attainment to eternal life is one matter, and where we will be placed for eternity may be something quite different.
Notice carefully Paul’s admonition to Timothy:
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:11,12—NIV)
Each Christian has been called to eternal life.
If we are to take hold of the eternal life to which we have been called, we must pursue righteousness. We must pursue godliness. We must pursue faith. We must pursue love. We must pursue endurance. We must pursue gentleness.
We must pursue each of these qualities or they will elude us and we will not be able to take hold of the eternal life to which we have been called.
We must fight the good fight of faith if we are to take hold of eternal life.
We see, then, that eternal life is not a legal state that is given us in its fullness when we profess faith in Jesus Christ. Eternal life is a life force that comes as we choose to embrace righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.
Why is it that we have to fight to gain eternal life?
We have to fight because many pressures in the world strive to keep us in the death of the adamic nature. Not only Satan, the demons, and our own mind, flesh, and soul, but the entire American culture seeks to entice us into the ways of death, of materialism, of idolatry, of lust, of covetousness, of foolishness, of witchcraft. There is no way we can live in America and not have to fight every day in order to press forward into eternal life. The American way, in the present hour, is the way of spiritual death.
Paul says he wants to share in the sufferings of Christ. The sufferings of Christ have to do with the deferral of our desires, with perplexity, frustration, rejection, hostility from others, humiliation, sometimes torture and martyrdom. These are the sufferings of the cross.
Why would mentally and emotionally healthy people desire to suffer as Christ suffered? It is because resurrection proceeds only from crucifixion. We are not raised into eternal life except as our adamic nature is brought down to weakness and death.
If we are not willing to suffer the sufferings of Christ, to be made like Him in His death, we cannot attain to eternal life.
And then Paul makes a statement that simply does not fit our Christian beliefs.
And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11—NIV)
That Paul is speaking here of literal resurrection, of being raised from the dead, is suggested by the fact that at the end of the same chapter Paul mentions the bodily resurrection.
Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:21—NIV)
Seldom do Christian preachers emphasize that the resurrection to eternal life, the resurrection that will occur when the Lord returns, must be attained. Consider also Paul’s previous words in the third chapter of Philippians. The aged Apostle was laying everything aside that he might attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul did not mean he could attain to the resurrection of his mortal body prior to the sounding of the last trumpet. Paul is showing us rather that we cannot take for granted that we shall join the ranks of those who will descend with Jesus and install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Today, in Christian preaching, the impression is left that every person who “accepts Christ as his personal Savior” will rise to meet the Lord when He appears. In fact, we have hastened the Day of Resurrection by referring to it as an any-moment “rapture” that will save us from suffering during the great tribulation.
This doctrine is, of course, without any foundation whatever in the Scriptures. The hope of the pre-tribulation “rapture” is the desire of the adamic man to escape trouble—nothing more than this. It has nothing to do with the pursuit of righteousness or eternal life.
The doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture ignores the emphasis on laying hold on eternal life, on gaining the resurrection. It sets forth a totally unscriptural flight to Heaven of all who profess Christ regardless of their actual spiritual condition. A wider departure from the intent of the new covenant can scarcely be imagined.
If we desire to attain to the first resurrection from the dead, the resurrection to life of the members of the royal priesthood, then we must set ourselves as did the Apostle Paul to put everything aside that we might grow in the knowledge of Christ and gain Christ. We must learn to live by His resurrection power. We must accept the actions of the Holy Spirit that bring us down to the death of the cross.
Gaining eternal life means we have overcome the forces of spiritual death that are striving against us. Participation in the first resurrection is the result of pressing forward into the eternal Life that is revealed in Jesus Christ.
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—NIV)
We can see from the above that the standard of true Christianity is quite different from that practiced in our country. We are in a condition of apostasy. Every believer who hopes to be raised by the Lord when He returns must today learn to live by His Life as He lives by the Father’s Life.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57—NIV)
Feeding on Jesus means we are partaking each day of His body and blood. We partake of His body and blood each time we choose to turn away from our own desires and do what God is directing us to do. Also we must keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles that are found in the New Testament. If we do not keep these many commandments we have no hope of being raised when the Lord appears.
Only those who are living by the Life of Jesus, who are abiding in Him at all times, have a valid hope of being raised by Him when He appears. This is the message of the parable of the ten virgins, found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew.
Amazingly, the Apostle Paul did not believe he had obtained the full knowledge of Christ, the full possession of Christ, or, consequently the resurrection from the dead. He had not as yet attained to the perfection to which he had been called by the Lord.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12—NIV)
It appears that the true Christian discipleship is one of pressing on! pressing on! pressing on! There is no retirement from the fight, from the race for eternal life.
Paul was pressing toward that to which Jesus Christ had called him. Christ had taken hold of Paul for perfection, for the resurrection to eternal life, for the full knowledge of Christ, for the full possession of Christ.
Christ has chosen each true Christian for a specific destiny. We are not to look at the mark set before other people, only the mark set before us as an individual.
All the Lord requires is that we give ourselves wholly to the pursuit of that to which we have been called. If we do this our reward shall be great in the Kingdom of God. But if we do not give ourselves wholly to the pursuit of that to which we have been called, choosing instead to be drawn away by the enticements of the world, we will not attain to the resurrection to eternal life. In this case we will not be raised when the Lord appears but must wait until the end of the Kingdom Age, at which time the dead will be raised and judged according to their works.
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13,14—NIV)
“Straining toward what is ahead.” This is the point of the present article. It is being taught today that there is nothing we are to do except believe the facts concerning Jesus Christ. There is not always an emphasis on the vigor, the diligence, the single-mindedness of purpose that are required if we are to attain the full knowledge of Christ, if we are to gain Christ, if we are to live by His resurrection Life, if we are to participate in His sufferings, if we are to attain to the resurrection to eternal Life.
It appears the current preaching is causing passivity, a feeling everything is fine and we all will be caught up to Heaven in the near future. But I do not think this is what the Spirit of God is saying. I think He is warning us to turn away from the world and bring ourselves and our family members (as possible) to the place where we are seeking the Lord diligently every day. The sword of judgment is poised above our nation. The believers who are not truly seeking the Lord are going to experience torment as all they trust in is swept away and the spiritual oppression is so intense they are unable to pray or sense the Presence of the Lord.
Was Paul speaking only of his own special consecration to the Lord, or is the same diligence expected of 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. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:15,16—NIV)
It is clear from the above passage that Paul’s daily pressing into the Life of Christ is expected of all of us, if we have the hope of being raised by the Lord when He returns.
Paul expresses His heavenly hope as follows:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20,21—NIV)
Paul shows us here the right attitude to take toward Heaven. Our citizenship is in Heaven. But our goal, our hope, has to do with that which will come to us from Heaven.
That which is to come to us from Heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ. His first action will not be to bring us up to meet Him in the air but to transform our body so it will be like His body.
This concept is extremely important to grasp. Our hope is not to go to Heaven, it is that Jesus will come and change our animal body until it is like His own body.
The reason this concept is important is that our hope of going to Heaven does not require our attaining to eternal life now. Our personality is transferred to Heaven and there we shall dwell forever. This is our tradition but it is not scriptural.
The scriptural hope is that Jesus will come and transform our body, not so we can go to Heaven but so we can work with Him in installing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
The verses that precede 20 and 21 above are significant:
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. (Philippians 3:17-19—NIV)
I think we can assume Paul is speaking here of believers, not of the unsaved. He is referring to members of the churches who were living as enemies of the cross of Christ, their god being their stomach; their glory being their shame; their mind being on earthly things.
Their destiny is destruction. The idea here is that when the Lord returns they will not receive the desired transformation in their body.
Paul says much the same thing in Romans.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13—NIV)
Paul, speaking to Christians, warns them that if they live according to the desires of their body, soul, and fleshly mind, they will die. Paul does not mean die physically, he means die spiritually. Paul means they will not attain to the resurrection to eternal life.
Two verses prior Paul states:
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11—NIV)
The idea is, if we as a Christian choose to live in the flesh, in the elements and enticements of the present world, not pressing toward the knowledge and possession of Christ, we will kill the Divine Life within us that is to give life to our mortal body when the Lord returns. We slay our own resurrection to life when our god is our stomach, even though we have professed faith in Jesus Christ.
Are we saying we are saved by works?
We are saying rather that the Christian salvation is a plan for regaining the eternal life that was lost in the Garden of Eden. The plan of salvation absolutely must we worked out, as Paul indicates. We have to choose to turn away from the attractions of the world and pursue Christ, pursue righteousness, pursue godliness. We have to fight the good fight of faith. We have to run the race. We have to gain, through Christ, the upper hand over the desires of our body.
We have a goal. Our goal is to attain to the resurrection to eternal life, the resurrection that will include the changing of our body into the likeness of the body of Jesus Christ.
Once we gain the redemption of our body we can live on the earth or in Heaven, just as is true of the Lord Jesus.
But our inheritance is on the earth. It is here, on this planet, that the nations live to whom we are to bring the knowledge of the Lord. It is here that the world of nature to which we are accustomed exists.
It is here on the earth that Jesus Christ will govern as King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He will be crowned King in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. The Deliverer shall come from Zion and turn away ungodliness from the people and land of Israel. Then the Apostles will sit on thrones governing the twelve tribes of Israel.
The sons of God will go throughout the earth, driving out all influences of Satan and lifting the curse. They will bring justice and the knowledge of the Lord to the saved nations until the whole earth is filled with God’s Glory.
Such marvels await those who have chosen to deny themselves, to take up their cross and follow the Lord Jesus.
But lashes and the outer darkness are the destiny of the Lord’s servants who neglected their salvation; who did not cease from their own works and press into rest in the center of God’s will. There shall be the weeping of intense remorse and the gnashing of teeth in rage when those who thought Christ would never punish them for their carelessness are kept in the outer darkness, away from the light and glory of the Lamb and His saints.
A time of severe judgment is soon to come to the United States, if I am hearing correctly from the Lord. Moral evil is on the increase. The cackling of fools fills the situation comedies on the television. The political leaders seek their own advantage, it appears. The psychologists and other social leaders view Christianity as a carry over from the Dark Ages—a hindrance to the progress of mankind in the twenty-first century.
All of this shall be swept away with the broom of destruction. God will not tolerate for long the destruction of His creation.
It is time for you and me and our families to follow the teaching and example of the Apostle Paul, to set aside our own life in order that we might gain Christ. If we will do this, then, no matter what takes place in America in the coming days, we will be kept safe in the hands of Jesus. In fact, He will set a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
If we or our loved ones should be killed, there is no problem. When the Lord returns He will bring us with Him and we shall be changed and brought into His glorious Kingdom.
It is right now, this very minute, that we are determining by our actions what the future will hold for us and our loved ones.
Let us without delay press forward into eternal life.
(“Pressing Forward Into Eternal Life”, 3731-1)