GETTING "THERE" NOW!

GETTING "THERE" NOW

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.

The hope of many religions, including Christianity, is that some day we will get "there," meaning Heaven. By the same token we hope not to go to the other place, Hell. But Christianity is different from other religions. We get "there" now, in the spiritual sense, and our final destination is a tangible, probably physical in a transcendent sense, city that will be located on a new earth.

GETTING "THERE" NOW!

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)

For so long we have thought of Heaven as the goal of salvation that to believe otherwise is quite difficult—almost impossible. Even though the Bible does not teach that Heaven is the goal of salvation, we maintain consistently that God gave His Son to die on the cross so whoever chooses to believe in Him may escape Hell and obtain eternal residence in Heaven.

When we get "there" we will gather at the river with our harps and praise God forever.

When we get "there"!

However, this is not what the New Testament teaches. The New Testament does hold out a "place" as a destination. That place is the new Jerusalem, which is destined to be established on the new earth.

Surprisingly, we seldom hear any preacher state God gave His Son that we might find our place in the new Jerusalem. I wonder why this is, when it is clear the new Jerusalem, not the spirit Heaven, is our goal.

It is just as well that the new Jerusalem is not emphasized as our goal, for we would have the same problem we have today—emphasizing our destination rather than our state of being. The New Testament unfailingly emphasizes our state of being; seldom or never our destination.

For example:

God gave His Son that we might not perish but have eternal life. Nothing is said about going to a place. What is emphasized is a state of being—eternal life.

The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life. Nothing is said about going to a place. What is emphasized is a state of being.

If we sow to the Spirit we will reap eternal life. If we sow to our sinful nature we will reap destruction. Nothing is said about going to a place. What is emphasized is a state of being.

Those who behave according to the desires of their fleshly nature will not inherit the Kingdom of God. We might think of the Kingdom of God as being a place. Actually, the Kingdom of God is a state of being. It is the development and dwelling of Christ in us.

We see from the above paragraphs that we need to revise our thinking about the salvation presented in the New Testament. It is quite different from what we are teaching.

The new covenant, for example, has nothing to do with going to a place. It is the writing of the eternal moral law of God in our mind and heart.

Yet we keep on teaching that if we take "the four steps of salvation" we will go to Heaven when we die. We continue to state this without a shred of Scripture to support our announcement.

The truth of the matter is that if we are willing to follow the Holy Spirit as He deals with our sinful nature, crucifies us, and forms Christ in us, we automatically will end up as members of the new Jerusalem.

If we, Christian or not, are not willing to follow the Holy Spirit in doing away with our sinful nature, in our crucifixion, and in the forming of Christ in us, but continue in our sinful, self-centered way, then our eternal destination will be Hell, or the Lake of Fire, or the outer darkness. We will be driven from the Presence of God.

If we will focus our attention on obeying the Holy Spirit, our destination will take care of itself. But if we focus our attention on our destination, thinking we have a pass out of Hell and into Paradise, and do not obey the Holy Spirit as He seeks to transform our personality, we then will be placed where we belong—with others who still are moved by their self-will and their sinful passions and lusts.

But doesn’t "accepting Christ" change all this? Doesn’t He give us sinners eternal life with no effort on our part?

No, He does not. The last verse of the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans tells us that the gift of God is eternal life. But the preceding verses explain that our receiving the gift of eternal life depends on our becoming the slave of righteousness.

But aren’t we saved by grace rather than by works of righteousness we have done?

Absolutely. This is what Paul taught. But Paul meant by this that we are saved by receiving and following Christ as His disciple rather than by attempting to obey the precepts of Moses in our own strength.

The title of the present essay is "Getting 'There’ Now." Let me explain.

As Christians, we have two objectives. The first, and most important, is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He conforms us to the image of Christ and brings us into the rest of God.

The second objective is to grasp our place in the Kingdom of God, notably a position in the new Jerusalem as a member of the royal priesthood.

Why is conformation to the image of Christ and resting in God’s will more important than finding our position in the new Jerusalem as a member of the royal priesthood?

Until we are conformed to the image of Christ, and are dwelling in untroubled rest in the Father through Jesus Christ, we are neither authorized nor competent to perform the many offices and tasks of the Kingdom of God. Thus our destination will not be a position in the new Jerusalem as a member of the royal priesthood.

So we see when we speak of getting "there" we are referring to two distinct goals. The first goal is change into the image of Christ and rest in the center of God’s Person and will. The second goal, or "there," is the new Jerusalem.

The first "there" is a state of being. The second "there" is an actual place.

Now, here is an important, practical consequence of there being two "theres."

The "there" that is a state of being is entered now—today. Instead of waiting until we die to get "there," we enter and keep on entering "there" right now.

The "there" that is an eternal destination, that is, eternal residence in the holy city, will be arrived at after we are raised from the dead, after the present earth and sky flee from the Presence of God.

But what about after we die and before the Day of Resurrection? Not much is said about this period in our life. Daniel was told he would rest and then at the end of the days rise to receive his allotted inheritance. Job said much the same thing. So it appears for many of us, after we die we will enter rest until the Day of the Lord. This sounds good to me.

Now we said the first "there," our state of being, is pursued right now. Instead of drifting about, waiting until we die to get "there," we are getting "there" now by entering the state of being into which the Spirit of God is leading us.

Let us examine a few passages that emphasize the fact that we already are pressing into the first "there."

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)

But you have come to Mount Zion.

Notice the tense of the verb. We have come. We already have come "there." Now our task is to make certain no one takes our crown, our authority to govern as a member of the royal priesthood.

Satan, the world spirit, and our own sinful nature battle unceasingly to tear us down from our high place in God.

Notice that we have not come to Heaven or to Paradise. We have come to Mount Zion, to the place from which the law of God will go to the saved nations.

Notice also that since we have not moved bodily to Mount Zion we are speaking of a spiritual state of being.

To the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.

But haven’t we thought of the new Jerusalem as the place that is our destination, our final "there"?

Yes, we have. So we see that while our arrival at the new Jerusalem in one sense will take place after the resurrection from the dead, in another sense it is a reality now. It appears God gives us everything to begin with, and now our task is to maintain what was given us originally.

You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.

We already have come into the midst of a tremendous gathering of angels. We cannot see them now, but they are present. We are in their midst. The gathering is joyous because of the prospect of the removal of all sin and rebellion from the creation and the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth. These wonderful changes will be administered through human beings, and the angels realize this.

To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.

The Firstborn is the Lord Jesus Christ. Other sons of God are to be born and are being born. Their names are written in Heaven. They are God’s predestined saints and are called to be changed into the image of Jesus Christ so they may be His brothers.

You have come to God, the judge of all men.

We have come to the Judge. As Peter stated, judgment has begun in the household of God.

This judgment is taking place on the earth and in the spirit realm at the same time. The saints in the spirit realm, the deceased saints, are being judged as though they were alive on the earth.

Since our judgment consists of fiery trials that burn away our sins, in this manner saving us, it appears to be scriptural and logical that the same is true of the saints in the spirit realm.

We usually do not think of the saints in the spirit realm going through the Day of Atonement as we are; of being baptized with the fire of Divine judgment. But if this is not so, how then can we all come to perfection together? How can the entire Bride of the Lamb be purified from all spots and wrinkles?

Notice carefully what Peter tells us concerning this:

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)

To the spirits of righteous men made perfect.

Our spirits already are with Christ in the heavenly Jerusalem. But we are being perfected on the earth through various Divine dealings. Also, because we yet are on the earth, we are experiencing severe tests of our obedience. All of God’s rulers must be perfected in obedience to God, and it appears such obedience must be formed in the earth. Even the Lord Jesus Christ, the supreme Ruler, learned obedience through suffering on the earth.

To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.

We don’t hear the new covenant preached or taught very much in our day. Usually the emphasis is on letting Christ into your heart, or on being born again.

However, the new covenant is the writing of the eternal law of God in our mind and heart. The eternal law of God includes all that was foreshadowed by the Ten Commandments and expands these earlier commandments until we are in the image of Christ.

If we would emphasize the new covenant to a greater extent, and not limit ourselves to an initial "accepting Christ" (which often is little more than an orientation to the plan of salvation), we would see many more believers pursuing the path that leads to the stature of the fullness of Christ.

To the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The sprinkled blood of Christ tells us today that we are forgiven so we may press into God. Christ has made an atonement for the sins of the world. Therefore we can with all confidence follow the Spirit today into the "there" that already is available.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Notice the tense of the verb: we have already been raised with Christ; that is to say, our new, born-again nature already is at the right hand of God in Christ. We already are "there." Now the problem is to keep from being pulled down to earth by the deceptions of Satan.

We are to set our hearts, our affection, our thinking on the area in the highest heavens where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. It is very difficult in the United States of America to keep our minds in the heavenlies with Christ. There are so many attractions, responsibilities, and opportunities that cry for our attention. This is why it is so necessary to maintain a daily regimen of prayer and Bible reading. We already are "there," and it is difficult to stay "there."

Our life already is hidden with Christ in God. We do not go "there" some day. We already are "there." I do not know where the saint goes when he or she dies. But wherever his soul is, his born-again nature will remain hidden with Christ in God, unless he permits the enemy to tear him down beforehand.

Our hidden life will not appear until Christ appears. We will appear with Him for the purpose of establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6)

Notice the tense of the verbs: "raised us up with Christ"; "seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus."

We already are "there," in the spiritual sense.

Now, why is it so important that we understand our first objective is to attain to the "there" that is present now?

In typical Christian preaching, the first "there," the changing of us into the image of Jesus Christ and the establishing of us in the Person and will of God, is treated very lightly indeed, if not ignored altogether.

Only one "there" is presented, and that is Heaven. When we get to Heaven all our troubles will be over.

How do we get to Heaven? By making a profession of the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.

When do we get "there"?

When we die.

What do we do in the meantime?

We wait until we die and do the best we can in the meanwhile.

Now, what is wrong with this approach to the new covenant?

What is wrong is that the first "there," the first objective, that of conforming us in the image of Christ and establishing us in the rest of God, is not attained by most people.

What happens to such when they die? I do not know. But I do know at some time and in some manner their sinful nature must be dealt with, for God will not permit rebellion and sin in His Presence.

I know also that untransformed humans are neither qualified (in terms of the Bible stipulation concerning overcoming) nor competent through intensive judgment and training to perform the numerous tasks and offices of the Kingdom of God, such as being a member of the Bride of the Lamb, or an integral part of the eternal Temple of God.

What will happen to them when the Lord appears, since they have not been careful to maintain their place in Christ at the right hand of God?

I cannot say, but I do know the Lord has stated that He will reward each one of us according to his works.

How about the "there" that is the new Jerusalem?

When there still is rebellion and sin in their personality, people are not authorized by the Scripture to dwell in the holy city.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:14,15)

When the Scripture dictates that people must wash their robes before they are permitted through the gates into the city, it does not mean they merely have professed belief in Christ. Rather it signifies the behaviors listed as "the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood" have been washed from their personalities. It is not referring to imputed righteousness but actual righteousness, for none of us wants people who still are dogs, fornicators, and liars in the holy city of God. I don’t. Do you?

We read in the Book of Matthew, concerning the wheat and the weeds, that in the last days the messengers of the Lord will remove all sin, and then all sinners, from His Kingdom. This tells me that at one point such people have been part of the Kingdom, but now the Kingdom is being purified.

As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:40,41)

This reminds us of the statement of John the Baptist that the Lord would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and then with Divine fire that would purge the Lord’s threshing floor.

I think John was referring to Malachi.

"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, (Malachi 3:1-3)

It is my point of view that the baptism with the fire of Divine judgment has begun today, and it has started with those who are worshiping God at the Altar of Incense, so to speak. The Altar of Incense was placed in front of the Ark of the Covenant, separated from the Ark by the ornate Veil. The symbolic significance is that just before the Lord returns there will be those who are bowing in worship, crying "Not my will but Yours be done."

These will be the first to experience the baptism with fire, that is, the spiritual counterpart of the Jewish Day of Atonement.

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, "Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there." (Revelation 11:1)

Because we may have arrived at the hour when the eternal judgment of God is to be emphasized, it is of the utmost importance that the Lord’s people become thoroughly acquainted with the fact that there is an objective, a "there," that is to be addressed now.

If we do not seek the Lord diligently concerning the "there" we are to enter now, the "there" which includes the removal of sin and rebellion from us, then we will not be a candidate for some of the wonderful "theres" that will be presented in the future.

It is my opinion that current Christian teaching contains much that is scriptural but also much that is unscriptural. The unscriptural doctrines are deadly in terms of God’s will for the present hour.

The philosophy of Dispensationalism, with its Gentile Church, its pre-tribulation rapture, its splitting off the Christian Church from the writings of the Hebrew Prophets, its unscriptural "state of grace," is, as I see it, a bomb set to explode when the Lord Jesus is ready to brings His Church into the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement.

If we truly were in a new dispensation in which it is not critical how we behave, in which righteous behavior is not an integral aspect of our salvation, then there is no "there," no present objective consisting of change into the image of Christ and establishment in the Person and will of God. None of this is necessary or available in the supposed "new dispensation."

The problem with the doctrine of the "rapture," whether pre-or post-tribulation, is that it focuses the attention of God’s people on a flight to another place instead of on the inner development of the Kingdom of God.

The problem with splitting off the Christian Church from the writings of the Hebrew Prophets is that the Christians are left with no clear vision of their destiny. Consequently they envision only the mythological Heaven in which they will live in mansions and play harps. The believers do not see themselves as members of the Servant of the Lord who will bring justice to the nations.

The problem with the unscriptural "state of grace" is that Christians enter a schizophrenic state in which they are unaware of the sinfulness of their own actions. They read the commandments of Christ and His Apostles and assume the commandments found in the New Testament have no authority over Christian behavior.

Now that it is time for us to move past the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Pentecost and into the spiritual fulfillment of the last three feasts of the Lord, our doctrine prevents our hearing what the Spirit is saying.

For example: the Spirit of God is warning us Christians in America that we must repent or our nation will suffer severe judgments.

But our doctrine works against our repenting. Of what are we to repent? If God sees us in a state of grace, if we already are perfect in Christ, if God does not see our sinfulness because He sees us only through Christ, if all there is to overcoming is making an initial profession of Christ, then who is going to become serious about repenting?

Of what are we to repent? Of Christ’s own righteousness with which we supposedly are clothed?

It seems to me that there can be no lasting revival, no matter how powerfully the Spirit of God presses us, until Christian teachers and preachers throw out the destructive errors of the nineteenth century philosophy of Dispensationalism. This philosophy has destroyed the moral strength of the Christians in America.

The call today is to discipleship. The believer is to deny himself, take up his personal cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. By denying himself I mean he is to look to the Lord Jesus instead of to his own wisdom and strength for every decision he makes throughout the day and night.

He will never think clearly until he throws off the current lawless-grace-rapture-Heaven error. As long as he holds to such error most of the Bible will be incomprehensible to Him. Most of the commandments of Christ and His Apostles will appear meaningless and irrelevant.

There is a present "there" and future "there." Regardless of grace and mercy, we are going to reap in the future what we are sowing today. If we lay hold on the present "there," then we will be in the center of God’s will for the present. If we keep on pressing forward in Christ, we will be in the center of God’s will when the future "there" is available.

Finally we will arrive at the destination. We will be "there" as a member of the royal priesthood, as a pillar in the eternal Temple of God, as an integral part of the new Jerusalem, and as an heir of all that the Lord God has made new.

This final destination will prove to be but the beginning of an eternity of the fullness of the Presence of God and the Lamb; which means the fullness of love, joy, and peace.

There may prove to be "theres" on the horizon after that. But by then we will be so accustomed to marching along with the Lord that we will be there when that "there" becomes a Divine reality.