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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica. Used by permission.
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Romans 2:7)
But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (II Timothy 1:10)
Eternal life and immortality.
Eternal life refers to our thinking, speaking, and acting. Our activities as a person proceed from our adamic nature, our original self; or else they proceed from Christ. Christ is eternal Life. He Himself is the Resurrection and the Life!
Immortality has to do with our body, the house in which our eternal life resides.
It may be true that often Christian people think eternal life refers to living forever. Rather, it is immortality that refers to living forever. It was immortality, as well as eternal life, that was available in the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. God drove the two human beings from the Garden. God did not want them to live forever while they were cut off from God spiritually.
God did not want them to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because they were shamefully naked. God had not clothed them as yet. It is the same for us. God does not want us to realize how sinful we actually are until He has shown us a way to deal with our sin and be clothed with righteousness.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
Eternal life is the Presence of God and Christ in our inner nature.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Eternal life includes eternal righteousness, love, joy, and peace as well as the personal knowledge of God and Christ. Of such is the Kingdom of God. Sometimes the believers are under the impression that eternal righteousness, love, joy, and peace, are found in Heaven. There is no scriptural basis for this. These blessings are found only in the Lord Jesus Christ. In His Presence there is fullness of joy; not in Heaven as such.
The famous John 3:16 is not referring to Heaven or Hell. It is speaking of eternal life and not perishing. Not perishing has to do with our body, not with our spirit. Spirits do not perish, but bodies do.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (I Corinthians 15:53)
Immortality follows and is the result of eternal Divine Life. This is why the Apostle Paul was striving to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Paul constantly was turning aside from the things of the flesh and the world and laying hold on eternal life.
And so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11)
Paul was speaking of the first resurrection from the dead, that which will take place when the Lord Jesus returns to raise His army. At that time Christ’s firstfruits, the dead in Christ, the most diligent of His Church, His Royal Priesthood, will be raised from the dead and then clothed with immortality.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (I Thessalonians 4:16,17)
The members of the Royal Priesthood who are living on the earth at the time of the Lord’s return will be clothed with immortality and join with the firstfruits who have returned with the Lord. These also who have returned with the Lord will be clothed with immortality after they have been raised from the dead.
Then all shall be caught up together to meet the Commander in Chief in the air. This is the immortal human army who, together with the army of angels, shall descend with Christ and establish the Kingdom of God, the rule of God, on the earth.
Why would you gaze on the Shulammite as on the dance of Mahanaim? (Song of Solomon 6:13)
Mahanaim means two camps or two armies. It refers to the army of angels and the army of victorious saints. When we live victoriously in Christ we are part of an immortal dance—the victors dancing with the angels. Such is the rest of God.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (I Corinthians 15:51,52)
Those who have returned with the Lord will be raised imperishable, that is, to immortality. At the same time, we who are alive on the earth will be changed. Our mortal body will be transformed by the Spirit of God, thus becoming immortal.
The title of this essay is “Pursuing Immortality.” This is what the Apostle Paul was pursuing. The third chapter of the Book of Philippians shows us to what length the apostle was going that he might attain to immortality. Paul was counting all else in the world as futile and of little worth that he might attain to this resurrection of the Royal Priests, with the accompanying immortality.
The Christian people throughout the ages have been misdirected, with God’s permission, because the time for the fullness of redemption had not arrived. It is here now. The hope of the believers to this point has been directed toward eternal residence in Heaven. This is not the scriptural hope. The scriptural hope has to do with the nature of our resurrection from the dead. Will we be faced with immortality at that time; or will we be faced with corruption?
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)
Now we can understand why the Apostle Paul was leaving all else that he might attain to the resurrection. First there must be the inner transformation from the adamic nature to the life-giving spirit. That is eternal life. Then the transformed inner nature is authorized and competent to be clothed with immortality.
As I have said, to this point in time the attention of the believers has been pointed toward residence in Heaven as the goal of salvation. Our actual hope, however, has to do with what we will receive when our body is raised from the dead—or transformed if we are alive on earth at the time.
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:2,3)
Some will awaken to life and immortality. Others will awaken to shame and everlasting contempt.
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 what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
Can you see what I mean when I say our goal is not residence in Heaven? Our goal is to attain to a better resurrection, that is, to eternal life and immortality. This should be the aim that drives what we do every day of our life.
Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:35)
Where we are located after we have gained life and immortality will be determined by the Lord Jesus, whether on the earth, in Heaven, or somewhere else. But wherever we are placed will be wonderful because we always will be with the Lord Jesus.
But if we are raised to shame and everlasting contempt, wherever we are placed will be dreadful.
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (Isaiah 66:22-24)
“Look on the dead bodies.” So our body plays a greater role in our redemption than commonly is understood!
We need to think clearly about our goal. To go to a better place, such as Heaven, seems to be what we would desire. But what if we ourselves are not changed? What if we did not receive a superior body and immortality? Would the novelties of the spirit world bring us eternal righteousness and joy if our body were not changed in some manner?
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:42-44)
Perhaps we think that if we die and go to Heaven we automatically will be given a powerful spiritual body. But there is no scriptural basis for this. If we automatically were going to be raised in a superior body, why would the Apostle Paul be striving so hard to attain to the resurrection from the dead?
Unlike many of us Gentiles, Paul, the Jew, was greatly concerned with his sinful bondages. He wanted his sinful flesh to be redeemed so that he would be a son of God in truth, behaving as a son of God should.
But I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:23,24)
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, 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 they already have? (Romans 8:23,24)
Notice that our adoption to sonship is the redemption of our body, that is, the changing of our body from the corruption of sin to its new state as a life-giving spirit.
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (I Corinthians 15:45)
This hope, that we one day will be free from the corruption of the flesh, produces salvation. The hope of dying and going to Heaven does not save us, because it is a hope merely of being free from trouble. The hope of the redemption of the body is the hope of being set free from sin; being a son of God; and being an immortal, life-giving spirit.
This hope saves us because it provokes us—as it did the Apostle Paul—to press forward in Christ at all times, making Christ the highest priority of our life.
In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. (Proverbs 12:28)
(“Pursuing Immortality”, 3915-2)