HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Every member of God’s elect is to be a saint, a holy one. What does it mean to be holy unto the Lord? It means to be separated to God for His special purposes. It means to be free from all unclean spirits and filled with the Presence of the Lord.
Table of Contents
The nature of holinessThree Traps
A balanced concept of grace
Grace and works
Christians are held accountable for their actions
The context of Romans 8:1
Admonitions of the Scripture apply primarily to the Church
Righteousness by faith means overlooking sinHoliness and the Day of the Lord
Holiness consists of do this and don’t do that
Creating holiness by human willpower
Apostolic warningsA Final Thought
Godly living and the Day of the Lord
The overcoming requirement
The victorious saints
The holiness of the holy city
The saints administer the judgment
The first resurrection
The relationship of the present to the future
The royal priesthood
HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD
The Necessity for Holy Living
The concept of spiritual progression from least holy to most holy is illustrated by the design of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The Most Holy Place was the location of God’s Presence. We learn from this pattern that the Christian life progresses toward complete sanctification (I Thessalonians 5:23) and that the climax of Christian experience concerns the place of residence of God Himself. The completely sanctified Christian heart is God’s Holy of Holies.
When the Lord gave to Moses the plans for the Tabernacle He began with the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:10,17). These are the holiest of the furnishings of the Tabernacle as shown by the fact that they were located in the Most Holy Place.
So it is that God, during the process of setting up His Kingdom on earth, has started with the Most Holy Place. First came Christ, the Holiest of all. Next, the Body of Christ is being prepared.
When the Body has been completed, or perhaps we should say as the Body is being completed, the work will extend outward toward the perimeter of the Kingdom until the entire earth is filled with the Glory of the Lord (Isaiah 11:9; Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:10; Romans 8:19-21; Revelation 2:26,27).
The nature of holiness. It appears that one of the most important messages that the Tabernacle of the Congregation has for us today is the need for holiness. A holy human heart follows the Lamb wherever He goes. A holy human heart is reserved for God’s use. A holy human heart refuses the influences of unclean spirits.
Holiness is the Presence of God.
It is interesting to note that the Spirit of God is termed the Holy Spirit and that the new Jerusalem is referred to as the holy city.
The holiness of the Tabernacle is emphasized in such verses as the following: Exodus 28:36; 29:33; 30:21; 40:32; Leviticus 10:10; 11:1-15:33; Numbers 6:1-6; Deuteronomy 23:14. It may be accurate to state that Exodus through Deuteronomy, to a great extent, is one long exhortation to holiness. One of the principal themes of the entire Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, is holiness.
Holiness is a personal condition of purity of motives and deeds, a right attitude of the heart toward God. In one way of considering it, holiness means freedom from the influence of evil spirits.
To be holy is to be set apart to God for His exclusive enjoyment and use.
The Old Testament doctrine of unclean food emphasizes the concept of the difference between the clean and the unclean (Leviticus, Chapter 11).
Some spirits are holy and some are not. The only way we can distinguish between the clean and unclean is by the Scriptures combined with everlasting prayer and watchfulness as the Holy Spirit guides us moment by moment.
We must learn to distinguish between good and evil and then to embrace the good and refuse the evil.
The Holy Spirit of God is interested in every motive, imagination, word, and deed of every Christian. We may be in a hurry to do things. The Holy Spirit, who has the power to create galaxies of stars, is more concerned with spiritual cleanliness than He is with our accomplishments. He is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit will gladly take the time to “sit down” with the Christian and rehearse fine points of behavior moment by moment throughout the day. There is no need for haste. It is easy for God to create a star. But holiness of motive and deed in a human—that is a problem!
By teaching the need for holiness we do not mean to create self-tortured, introspective Christians. The constant searching out of motives and deeds can be maintained by the Spirit of God while the Christian is conducting a poised, joyful, fruitful life. Spiritual experience and maturity are required if we are to remain victorious as the Holy Spirit brings sin to our consciousness.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
“Blessed and holy”!
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)
An unholy Christian can have little fellowship with a holy God.
We are saved by calling on the name of the Lord, apart from righteous conduct on our part. We are justified by our faith in the redeeming blood of Christ. But we enter the Kingdom of God as the Holy Spirit enables us to live in a righteous and holy manner.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
Holy behavior. One of the most important ideas revealed in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, which is a type of Christ—Head and Body—is that of holiness to the Lord. The parts of the Tabernacle, and the priestly ministry associated with the Tabernacle, portray the utter holiness of the Lord God Almighty.
Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord! This is what the Tabernacle proclaims in its every dimension. Everyone and everything associated with the Tabernacle had to be holy. So it is today. No liar, no lustful person, no fearful, no murderer, no idolater, has any part in the inheritance of the Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:8; 22:15).
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
The above two verses are addressed to believers, not to the unsaved.
Did not Christ come so that the liars and the fearful might enter the Kingdom of God? Emphatically yes! He surely did! Christ came to deliver us from the ungodliness of the world. The only acceptable response to the love of Christ is to cooperate with Him in the re-creating of our personalities so we no longer live according to the lusts of the world.
We are to be made new creations by the power of Christ working in our lives. If a transformation into holiness of conduct does not occur after a period of time, if our character remains as it was before we were converted to Christ, then the Divine redemption is not taking place in our personality. If we are not experiencing continuously the renewing power of Christ and are not moving forward in the knowledge of Him, then we may need to seek the Lord with increased fervor.
Sometimes it is not evident that Christ is moving in our life and we are required to endure prolonged seasons of dryness and heaviness. Such dryness is part of the normal Christian experience. Plants profit as much from the dry energy radiating from the sun as they do from the moist refreshing of the rain.
But there is a difference between the dry seasons through which the saints must walk at times, and the dryness and deadness of seeking to fulfill the desires of our fleshly nature. The dryness of the victorious spiritual experience leads after a season to increased power and revelation of God. The dryness of walking in the flesh leads to spiritual death. It is wise to ask God for a progress report so we can learn how well we are doing.
Brothers, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Philippians 3:17-19)
Paul is referring (above) to believers who have chosen to walk in the appetites of the adamic nature.
Mortify [put to death] therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence [lust], and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: (Colossians 3:5,6)
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: (I Thessalonians 4:3-5)
We are obeying Christ when we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” God sends strong delusion on people who take pleasure in unrighteousness and who imagine that God takes pleasure in their unrighteousness.
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: (II Thessalonians 2:10-13)
Salvation results from our being set apart by the Spirit of God to holy behavior as we obey the truth set forth by the Apostles of the Lamb. Salvation is not restricted to a momentary experience in which we acknowledge the truth of Christ’s atoning death, triumphant resurrection, and Divine Lordship, but a day by day living in Christ. The Lord Jesus is not a ticket to Heaven. He is the Way of holiness and of eternal life.
A balanced concept of grace. It is very misleading to define grace as meaning only a forgiveness of sins apart from the converted moral behavior of the Christian disciple.
Paul argued that man is saved apart from obeying the laws and statutes of Moses. A careful study of Paul’s writings will show that man cannot achieve righteousness in himself apart from Christ and thus earn the favor of God. This concept is altogether different from the idea that the Christian salvation has little to do with righteous and holy behavior—which is the conclusion of the argument that grace means only forgiveness of sins apart from holiness of deed, word, motive, and imagination.
Paul never intended that his letters be used to teach that Divine grace releases the believer from having to account for his sins of word and deed while the unbelievers are to be brought into judgment for every sin. Paul understood from the Scripture that Jerusalem always receives “double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:2).
The next passage gives a more balanced concept of grace than that which often is presented. Paul helps us understand that grace is much more than a blanket forgiveness of the sins that we commit, although such forgiveness is included as part of the atonement when we first receive Christ and holds true as we learn to walk in the Spirit of God.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people [people for God’s own possession], zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
“Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.”
“We should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
“Purify unto himself a peculiar people [people for God’s own possession], zealous of good works.”
We observe from the above that in Paul’s mind, the next coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is associated with our living a godly life in the present hour.
The reason for this is as follows: the purpose of the grace of God, of salvation, is to preserve us when the wrath of God is poured out at the coming of the Lord. Preservation during the Day of Wrath is the scriptural meaning of the term salvation. God is saving us with the understanding that we will be a people belonging especially to Him, eager to do good works.
We are to “flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7). The scornful of the world have mocked this part of the message of salvation (fleeing from the wrath to come) until the churches have become timid in speaking along this line.
We are wise when we flee from the wrath to come. The grace of God saves us from the wrath to come, not only by providing the means for the forgiveness of our sins but also by teaching and empowering us until we are able to live in the world without the lust, murder, idolatry, drunkenness, and sorcery that are part of the peoples of the earth.
If we are not growing stronger each day in a truly holy pattern of behavior, then it is unlikely we are sharing in the grace of God. By holiness we mean putting off the works of the flesh of Galatians 5:19-21 and putting on the fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22,23. One important aspect of grace is the forgiveness of sins, after the fashion of the thief on the cross (Luke 23:40-43). Another important aspect of the grace of God is the empowering of the Christian to lead a godly life.
To emphasize one of these aspects at the expense of the other is to create moral confusion, to destroy the testimony and power of the Church, to render the work of God ineffectual in one’s life, and to invite delusion concerning our relationship with God.
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. (Hebrews 6:7-9)
The “things that accompany salvation” are the actions of a godly life in Christ. The Book of Hebrews is addressed to backsliding believers—believers who were not pressing forward in the Lord. One of the emphases of the Book of Hebrews is the dedicated Christian life that always is pressing forward in Christ. Read through Hebrews with this in mind.
Meditate on the following passage, remembering that these words are addressed to Christians:
Not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:25-31)
Grace and works. The exhortations and warnings of the Lord Jesus to the seven churches of Asia have to do with works of righteousness.
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not [here is a warning concerning “Christian” teachers who claim to be apostles sent from the Lord Jesus], and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love [not as fervently in love with Jesus as at first]. (Revelation 2:2-4)
The admonition in the above passage does not conform to the interpretation of God’s grace that is often preached.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:22,23)
The exhortation to the Christian people in Thyatira includes ideas that are not part of the current teaching of grace. In fact, the admonition to the believers in Thyatira reminds us of Paul’s reasoning with Felix concerning righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:2-4)
The current doctrine of grace maintains that the only worthiness there is comes from our identification with Christ—a doctrinal position that does not agree with the warning to the believers in Sardis.
Some of the Christians in Sardis were walking in the flesh and others were following Christ in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Are the Christian people of today attempting to use the grace of God to cover impure conduct?
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked [the Christian Church in Laodicea]: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire [Christian character refined by suffering], that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment [a righteous, holy life], that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve [the Spirit of truth], that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (Revelation 3:15-19)
The admonition to the Christians in Laodicea is not at all in harmony with the concept of grace as being only the forgiveness of sins by belief in the name of Jesus.
Paul stressed grace as opposed to works because he was teaching the transition from the Law of Moses to the law of the Spirit of life. Paul was reacting to Jewish teachers who were attempting to mix the Christian redemption and the Law of Moses.
Paul was emphasizing the fact that salvation does not come by keeping the Ten Commandments and observing all the points of the Levitical ordinances. Salvation comes only through Christ.
In some instances we Christians have interpreted Paul to mean there is little need for personal holiness on the part of church people, since we are “saved by grace and not by works.” A little reflection will enable us to understand that Paul never would contrast grace and holiness of behavior. Paul was contrasting salvation by faith in Christ, and attempts to earn eternal life by keeping the Law of Moses.
We are not saved by observing the Levitical statutes. But Paul indeed would be amazed if he were to appear today and hear his teaching concerning the distinction between works and grace being understood to mean that people are saved by professing belief in Christ while they continue in unholy, unrighteous conduct.
One of the principal effects of receiving Christ is the creation of holiness in the heart. There is no salvation apart from the creation of holiness in the heart and life because that is what salvation is. Salvation is deliverance from the power of Satan and the development of union with God through Jesus. If we are not being transformed morally we are not being saved. If we are not becoming healthier we are not being healed. It is as straightforward as that!
Salvation is not a ticket to Heaven, it is a change of personality.
“Not everyone who says to me, Lord! Lord!…”
There is no such thing as an abstract saving faith, a possession of Christ apart from the development of godliness in the personality of the Christian. The only valid test of genuine Christianity is the growth of godly character in the believer (I John 3:6).
Grace is the authority and power of God working in the life of an individual to re-create his nature, delivering him from all satanic influences. This is a different concept from that of grace being a legal maneuver that qualifies an individual for escape from the Day of Wrath and eternal residence in the spirit paradise.
There are situations in which the legal waiving of guilt is, for a season, the only functioning aspect of redemption. However, for most believers most of the time, true grace produces holiness. The major portion of the writings of the Apostles of the new covenant is devoted to the necessity for holy behavior.
Anyone who teaches that a religious belief is of relative importance in the eyes of God when weighed against the development of a pure and holy character is inviting delusion on himself and his hearers. There is no substitute for a Spirit-filled life of holiness to the Lord. There is no other kind of Christian experience that is acceptable to the God of Heaven.
Religious practices come and go and vary from church to church. Some are more edifying than others. But the Word of God is eternal and unchanging, and it is one from Genesis to Revelation: Israel must be HOLINESS TO THE LORD!
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings [insults], evil surmisings [wicked suspicions], Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (I Timothy 6:3-5)
Christians are held accountable for their actions. When we first are saved we bring an entire life of sin to Christ, asking for forgiveness through the blood of Christ. No one is turned away. We receive complete forgiveness.
But what about the sins we continue to commit while we are Christians? Does God bring them into judgment? Indeed He does! The contemporary Christian belief appears to be that a Christian can lie and it is excused while a non-Christian is judged for his lie. This is a misunderstanding of the manner in which the atonement of Christ operates.
The fact is, the lie the Christian tells is of far more serious consequence that the lie of the non-Christian. The Christian is a member of the Body of Christ. Christ is the Judge of the heavens and the earth. God will examine the Christian lie with unusual interest because the Body of Christ, the eternal habitation of God, the fulfillment of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, must be utterly holy.
The Body of Christ is to be righteous and holy in all of it imaginations, motives, words, and deeds. God judges very carefully the motives, words, and deeds that proceed from each Christian.
A glance at the writings of the Christian Apostles reveals that God judges sin whether committed by a Christian or a non-Christian.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
The above passage is referring to Christians.
The context of Romans 8:1.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ, who walk not in the appetites of the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)
The above verse, interpreted in isolation, seems to imply that God treats sin in the life of the Christian in terms of a lesser standard than is true of the unbeliever. But Paul’s logic, beginning with Romans 1:16 and proceeding through 11:36, leads to the true meaning of Romans 8:1. Paul is teaching in Romans 8:1 that the believer who is living in obedience to the Holy Spirit, the overcomer, is free from guilt. He is free from the guilt of the sins committed by the law of sin that dwells in his flesh. If the Christian did not have access to the blood-covering that keeps him guiltless while he is moving forward in the process of salvation he could not have fellowship with God.
The blood-shield over the fleshly tendencies of the overcomer as he or she is learning to follow the Spirit, the shield that covers the lying, foolishness, gossiping, hatred, jealousy, lust, sectarian pride, idolatry, hypocrisy that remain in the saint, is not to be confused with an attitude of favoritism on God’s part toward Christians and their misbehavior.
The belief that God continually overlooks, covers, or ignores the multitude of sins in the churches, on the basis of a profession of belief in the doctrines taught by the churches, has destroyed the testimony of the churches.
During the time that the victorious saint is free from all condemnation through the legal remission (forgiveness) of guilt by means of the blood atonement, the Holy Spirit continues to point out the sins that are proceeding from the law of sin that resides in his body.
The Holy Spirit illumines the sins one by one and helps the saint put them to death. Putting sins to death is a continuing process and is one of the main aspects of the victorious Christian life. The continual destruction of sin under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is commanded as follows:
For if ye live in the appetites of the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)
There is a great gulf between the concept that God overlooks or is lenient toward sins committed by Christians, and the concept that God shields the saint from the guilt of the sinful acts of his fleshly body during the time the Holy Spirit is guiding him in the spiritual warfare against the “deeds of the body.”
We must call to mind that the purpose of the Christian redemption is to do what the Law of Moses could not do—enable the believer to keep the eternal moral Law of God. The current doctrinal confusion has arisen because grace is being defined as the forgiveness of our sins so we can go to Heaven when we die. This tradition is widespread but it is not at all scriptural.
God gave the new covenant to the Jews because they were not able, with human ability, to keep God’s commandments. There is power and authority in the new covenant to enable each of God’s elect to keep God’s commandments. The Law, the Torah, is written in the heart of the true Christian, enabling him to walk in righteousness and holiness. To view the new covenant as a legal maneuver by which the believer goes to Heaven apart from keeping God’s laws is to miss completely the Divine goal and program of redemption.
If the goal of redemption were to bring us to Heaven to live forever in the spirit realm, it is conceivable that forgiveness through the blood of Jesus would be the only grace included in the Divine atonement; although such a limited definition still would not be scriptural.
But because the goal of redemption is to create us in the image of God and bring us into total union with God so we may be able to serve Him throughout His creation, forgiveness alone cannot serve the purpose of God. Divine grace must include all the components necessary for accomplishing the needed transformation.
It is a knowledge of the goal of redemption that will open the meaning of the Scriptures to us. As long as we hold the unscriptural view that the goal of redemption is to bring us to eternal residence in Heaven we cannot understand the Kingdom of God or the redemption that is in Christ.
What do the Apostles of the early Church have to say about sin in the life of the Christian? Do they advise us to forget about righteous, holy living as soon as we accept the Christian faith?
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. (Romans 13:13,14)
These words are addressed to Christians.
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12)
These words are addressed to believers.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (I Corinthians 3:16,17)
This warning is directed toward the followers of Christ.
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. (I Corinthians 5:1)
This tragic affair was found among the tongues-speaking Corinthians. Notice that Paul did not say there was no real problem here because of God’s grace that covers the sins of the believers.
The teachers of today, in order to prove that God does not see the sins Christians commit, will claim the man never was a Christian or he would not have done such a thing. Incorrect on two counts. First, the context of First and Second Corinthians establishes the fact that the man was a member of the assembly, considered to be a brother in the Lord. Second, numerous Christians commit moral sins. This does not signify they never have accepted the Lord, only that they are bound in sin.
But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. (I Corinthians 5:11)
These words are addressed to Christians.
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. (I Corinthians 6:15)
These words are addressed to Christian people.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (I Corinthians 10:12)
These words are addressed to Christians.
We could go on and on, keeping well within the unforced interpretation of the exhortations of the Apostles of the early Church.
The following is the manner in which God responds to sin in the Christian:
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:32)
God indeed does bring the Christian to strict account for all of his motives, thoughts, words, and deeds. If the Christian is living in the Spirit he will judge himself (I Corinthians 11:13).
The Holy Spirit will lead the Christian in a successful program of putting to death the deeds of his body (Romans 8:13,14). The Christian will be baptized with fire from time to time in order to make him “fireproof” in preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus in the blazing fire of Divine wrath.
The Christian is made “fireproof” by having all the sin of his personality burned out of him in advance. When the fireproofing has been completed the Christian will be ready to stand and minister before God in that Day (Isaiah 33:14). This is one way in which we are “delivered from the wrath to come.”
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (I Thessalonians 1:10)
Admonitions of the Scripture apply primarily to the Church. It is difficult for us to understand the New Testament passages concerning sin because we have for so long a time applied such rebukes to the unsaved. Yet, the setting and text of the New Testament writings show that the exhortations to godly behavior are addressed to the Church.
Current teaching implies that God overlooks the sins of the believers and then pours out frightful afflictions on other people who are doing no worse than we. What kind of righteousness would that be? Would God look at two people performing some lustful deed, visit one with wrath, and let the other go free because he names the name of Christ or attends a Christian church? Would not God rather chasten His own son and be more lenient toward the unsaved person because of his ignorance?
Would God destroy one individual because he is full of hate, and pass by another person who also is full of hate but who names the name of Christ? Would this be true of Him of whom it is said: “True and righteous are your judgments” (Revelation 16:7)? Instead, would not God rebuke His own child in advance so he would be prepared for the chastening to come?
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:32)
Let us review a few more of the admonitions from the Apostles that we may understand God’s judgment on sin in the Christian life, and that we may not be confused concerning the manner in which grace operates under the new covenant.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (II Corinthians 6:17)
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness [immorality] idolatry, sorcery, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
How can we, in the light of such words, continue in the concept that God overlooks sin in the Christian because of his profession of belief in Christ?
Concerning Galatians 5:19-21, we of today might exclaim: “Isn’t it wonderful that God doesn’t hold us accountable for such things now that we have found Christ!”
To think or say such things is to be deceived. In contrast, Paul, speaking to the Church, proclaims: Those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Perhaps it is time for us to examine once again the manner in which God deals with sins of motive, thought, word, and deed in the Christian life.
That ye put off concerning the former conversation [former way of life] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
The next passage sums up the apostolic attitude toward the sins of the Christian:
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. (Ephesians 5:3-7)
Consider the following:
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Ephesians 5:14)
Christ gives the Christian man and woman the authority and power to overcome sin and lead a holy life. This a different concept from that of attaching the label of Christ to a human life that continues in unholy behavior, stating that Christ is saving that one by “grace.”
It is the writer’s understanding that God will save multitudes of people from destruction in the Day of Wrath on the basis of their accepting the Gospel of Christ. Many of these may not have lived a victorious life for one reason or another. Only Jesus will decide the fate of each person.
However, it is an extremely dangerous position to trust in God’s mercy to save us if we know the Gospel and are careless in our response to it. There are stern warnings in the Scripture concerning the lazy servant!
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30)
In addition to basic salvation from wrath, it is God’s will that the Church grow in holiness and power until it is a militant, overcoming force in the earth. We must expand our understanding of grace to include the power to move from victory to victory over the impulses of the flesh and fleshly mind.
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)
In the last few pages an emphasis has been placed on personal holiness. There are at least three “traps” in which the Christian can be caught, in the area of the doctrine of holiness.
Righteousness by faith means God overlooks sin. The first trap is the concept that righteousness by faith means that the sins of the Christian are overlooked because of his profession of faith in Christ. When the overlooked concept is emphasized, the creation of righteousness in the believer, which is the essential act and meaning of salvation, is left to chance.
Grace then becomes an empty form. The main doctrine of several of the books of the New Testament is destroyed. A verse such as the following loses its importance:
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:8)
Holiness consists of do this and don’t do that. The second trap is defining holiness as external observances of some kind or another. These may include such items as the wearing of old-fashioned clothes; special dietary regulations such as abstinence from pork, tea, coffee; the keeping of special days. All such religious observances are significant to those who practice them and are entwined in their faith toward God.
If we ourselves believe we are not obligated to observe such regulations we ought to refrain from criticizing Christians who do keep them, and when we are with them to follow their customs insofar as it is necessary to help them maintain their faith toward God. Many Christians are too loose rather than too strict in their religious observances.
True new covenant holiness is concerned with spiritual cleanliness—cleanliness from the influences of evil spirits. The motives, thoughts, imaginations, acts, and words that God views as unclean (unholy) are those of lust, perversion, murder, hatred, lying, stealing, spiritism, jealousy, gossiping, backbiting, spite, envy, denominational pride, revenge, boasting, coveting, idolatry, excesses of eating and drinking, fearfulness, timidity, greed, reveling, haughtiness, immoderate ambition, slothfulness, rebellion against God, unbelief, reliance on education and intellectual ability instead of the Spirit of God, to name a few uncleannesses prevalent in the Body of Christ.
These are the things that defile a man. These are the spiritual uncleannesses and bondages that Christ came to destroy so that people may find rest in the Presence of God.
Lust, murder, covetousness, and lying are the nature of Satan and his followers.
Attending a performance of some kind, vacationing at the beach or at a national park, drinking coffee or tea, are holy or unholy in God’s sight depending on the particular situation. But lewdness, perversion, hatred, spite, gossiping, criticism, covetousness, always are an abomination to God. They abound in the churches. God sends judgment on the doers of them whether or not they are Christians.
We church members, with regard to holiness, need to be careful that we do not swallow camels while we are straining out gnats. There are some of us who would die before we would be seen at the beach or inside a moving picture theater. Yet, we harbor an unforgiving spirit in our heart. We are stubborn and unyielding over injustices that we have suffered or think we have suffered. We respond with malice when we cannot have our own way.
The truth in this case is upside down. The theater and beach are of little consequence from the Divine viewpoint. They may be good or evil depending on the circumstances.
But unforgiveness! stubbornness! malice!—these are wicked spirits, the brood of Satan. So are all forms of lust and perversion, hatred, sorcery, idolatry, and pride. Personal ambition, envy, strife, and the willingness to follow personal loyalties (I am of Paul; I am of Peter) have destroyed thousands of Christian fellowships.
Creating holiness by human will power. The third trap in which Christians get caught is the attempt to create heart holiness by using human energy. A believer can destroy his spiritual rest and poise by attempting to manufacture love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.
The above virtues are the “fruit of the Holy Spirit,” not the fruit of the Christian. They grow out from and characterize the Spirit of God, not the human spirit. They will grow out from and characterize the Christian provided the Spirit of Christ is prevailing in the Christian’s life. They are the natural, expected outcomes of abiding in Christ.
Such virtues cannot be developed or copied by human effort. The more one tries the more fretful and despairing one becomes. Our part is to accept the forgiveness of Christ, to rest in Him, and to be obedient to the Holy Spirit during each moment of our life.
God’s part is to create righteousness in our heart. This is the true grace of God. It cannot be developed or imitated by human nature. Although we must live as righteously as we can in each of these areas, human nature is basically corrupt, whereas the Spirit of God is pure, all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving, all-peaceful, all-joyous.
We must use the self-control we do possess in our own personality. We must say no when we are enticed to do something we know to be wrong. If we are too weak to say no, we should pray for the strength to say no, and then look to God for total victory.
We must resist the devil as well as we are able. We also must recognize that our will power, while it is a vital part of man and related to his will and power of judgment, can never create in us the lasting fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit and is the end result of the abiding of the Spirit of God in the human heart.
Although it is true that holiness does not consist of do this and don’t do that, and that we cannot create holiness by human will power, it still is important that we do what we can to keep our personality pure.
Social activities, such as going to the beach or to theater, which in time past were wholesome, are now accompanied by so much corruption that in many instances they are not at all suitable for the Christian family. The television, the most prominent source of entertainment and information of our day, projects so much that is satanic that many Christians wisely refuse to have a television receiver in their home.
The Lord will guide us in all such decisions.
Let us emphasize once again that we must obey the commandments of the Apostles to the best of our ability. Since the growth of Christ in us is a slow process, the greater part of our discipleship is conducted as our adamic nature calls on the Spirit of God for assistance. If our natural man does not have integrity, is not willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord, then it is impossible to walk in the path that leads to eternal life.
The Spirit of God always stands ready and willing to assist us as we go to the Throne of God for help in our time of need. But we ourselves must make the decision to serve God at every moment. If we do not, the Life of Christ in us will be aborted. As in the parable of the sower, the Divine Seed will bear no lasting fruit.
Adam permitted Satan to enter the Paradise of God. It is Adam, with the assistance (grace) of Christ, who must be the one to drive Satan from the garden.
Holiness and the Day of the Lord
James has given us a word that should help offset the pleasure-loving attitude that currently attends the ancient Gospel of Christ:
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:21-25)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
And the next, also to church members:
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:8-10)
Peter is of one mind with Paul and James. These words are addressed to Christian people:
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [in all your behavior]; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: (I Peter 1:13-17)
The above passages are addressed to Christian people.
Chapters One through Three of I Peter are exhortations to holy Christian living. Chapter Four reveals that God sends suffering (fiery judgment) on Christians to prepare them for the Day of the Lord.
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2)
When we Christians come into difficult situations we may find them “strange.” We need to consider the following:
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (I Peter 4:12)
Compare this thought with the proclamation of John the Baptist:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is more powerful than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:11,12)
Then back to Peter:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (I Peter 4:13)
Here is the correct attitude for the Christian to take toward suffering, and the Day of the Lord. We are being prepared now so we can stand in that Day (Ephesians 6:13). We are being “fireproofed.”
The suffering that comes on the Christian is part of God’s judgment on the earth.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved [is saved with difficulty], where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (I Peter 4:17,18)
“And if the righteous is saved with difficulty”!
So much, then, for the pleasure-loving, overconfident attitude in our churches that portrays the grace of God as a screen that conceals from Divine sight the sins of the Christians while permitting the sins of the non-Christians to pass through to judgment and execution of sentence. One sentence that already has been passed on the churches of today is the tragic lack of Divine Presence and revival power.
The churches do not seem to care! Few cry to God day and night for the restoration of His Presence and power among us. We have been “burned” doubly by judgment: first, we have been deprived of the abundance of resurrection life; second, we do not recognize and are not concerned that we have been deprived of Divine Life. We are paying dearly for our sin and coldness toward God.
It may be observed that the Book of First Peter is an exhortation and warning concerning godly Christian behavior. Such an exhortation and warning would be unnecessary if the only benefit of Divine grace were the covering of the sins of the Christians.
The Book of Second Peter also is an exhortation and warning concerning godly Christian living.
Wherefore the rather, brothers, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things [develop godly characteristics], ye shall never fall: (II Peter 1:10)
The same “Flee from the wrath to come!,” “Prepare for the Day of Wrath!” exhortation found in I Peter 4 is seen also in II Peter.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation [conduct] and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto [hastening] the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (II Peter 3:10-12)
Chapter Three of Second Peter does not appear to assume that the Christian will escape judgment. If Peter were making such an assumption, some evidence of it should be manifest in the third chapter. Here is the type of statement we should be finding:
“The elements shall melt with fervent heat. But the judgment of God shall never touch you, beloved. Now that you have accepted Christ as your personal Savior there is no way in which the Lord’s judgment on sin can possibly affect you.”
“You, beloved of our Lord, shall take your ease with Jesus in the mansions of glory. Therefore, put your minds at rest concerning the Day of God. The grace of God has forgiven all the sins you are practicing and will yet practice. On your profession of faith in Christ you are totally free from sin and the judgment thereof. Though the Day of the Lord will be a time of terror to the unbelievers, you as a Christian can never be brought into judgment concerning your sins.”
“Rejoice in Christ, my brothers, for He will never allow His own to come under the judgment of God.”
The preceding three “passages,” which we have composed from our knowledge of Christian sermons, are in keeping with the doctrine of grace on which millions of Christians are resting their hope. However, the three statements are alien to the teaching of the first-century Apostles.
The Christian churches must prepare for the Day of God!
Godly living and the Day of the Lord. There is a relationship between godly living and the Day of the Lord.
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. (II Peter 3:14)
We are to live a holy life because we are looking forward to the destruction of the world and the spirit of the world, and to the creation of “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.”
The Apostle John has written a letter to us. The main burden of the letter is the overcoming of sin in the life of the disciple. John warns us concerning sin:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (I John 1:8)
John states the purpose for his writing:
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (I John 2:1)
The theme of the epistle is emphasized:
He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. (I John 2:6)
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (I John 2:15)
Again, the expression of the relationship between Christian living and the Day of the Lord:
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure [this thought parallels that expressed in 2:6]. (I John 3:3)
And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whoever abideth in him sinneth not: whoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. (I John 3:6)2
Godly living is the true test of faith. It is impossible to have a living faith in our Lord Jesus Christ without an accompanying transformation of character—a transformation into a holy and blameless life.
Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. (I John 3:7)
Paul mentions men who “lie in wait to deceive.” Who are the men who deceive? They are Christian teachers who say that a person can serve God acceptably apart from a life of holy consecration. Why do men “lie in wait to deceive”? Because they are seeking personal advantage. They worship their own appetites. “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
Not all that takes place in Christian churches comes from the Lord Jesus. Satan and his angels and demons are religious creatures. They desire the inheritance designated for the sons of God. They are active in all Christian churches. They thoroughly enjoy church activities and attempt to experience the glory and joy they once knew in the heavens. Their joy and their motivation are unclean, perverse, and destructive. They will seek to use believers who are worldly, lustful, or personally ambitious. When Christ begins to work, the unclean spirits and people influence by them will rise up and seek to kill Him and those He is using to further his purposes.
The true prophets of the Lord are always denouncing the works of Satan in God’s Church and God’s Church often hates and murders the prophets of God.
When a group of people have begun to expose the false concept of grace, the concept that leaves people with the impression they will experience Paradise after they die even though they have not served Christ with all diligence—when this concept is threatened, as it shall be by God’s prophets in our day, we will see the face of an enraged Satan. This is because Satan is counting on a pardon from God. He is hoping for escape from the Lake of Fire for himself, and so he puts in the hearts of lukewarm believers a false understanding of mercy and grace, hoping that God will save both them and himself as well. Satan fears the vengeance of God!
The true saints of the Lord, the holy remnant, will be persecuted without mercy in the near future. Some of their fellow Christians may heap scorn on them and seek to silence those who are announcing the true message of the Kingdom of God, the message of righteous and holy behavior and the doing of God’s will in the earth.
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)
The purpose of the manifestation of the sons of God is to destroy the works of the devil. It is the manifestation of the sons of God, Christ and His army, that will bring in the Kingdom Age. The Kingdom Age is the period of time when the influence of Satan is removed from our earth for a season.
Whoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his [God’s] seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (I John 3:9)
We have been so conditioned by the teaching that it is inevitable that Christians sin while they are in the world, and that grace is little more than an excuse for the sins of believers, that I John 3:9 (above) may be incomprehensible to us.
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. (I John 3:10)
The passage just quoted (above) is important because it provides a method of testing the genuineness of Christian experience. It is neither a profession of belief nor some kind of religious behavior that enables us to discriminate between Christians and non-Christians. The test of Christian experience is whether the Holy Spirit is bearing the fruit of godliness in the individual.
When Paul was testifying to Felix, the governor of Caesarea, Paul did not advise Felix to make a profession of “faith,” after which he could continue his life as before. Rather, we find that Paul warned Felix concerning the wrath to come:
And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. (Acts 24:24,25)
How many evangelists of “grace,” after the modern definition of the term, have preached that Felix would not make a simple profession of belief, preferring a “convenient season”?
But the Scripture states that the Apostle reasoned of “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” If we of today who claim the name of Christ are to draw back from our adulterous union with the world and to seek Him whose Gospel we claim to teach, then we must proclaim righteous, temperate behavior with a view toward the judgment to come. Righteousness and self-control are essential parts of the Christian Gospel.
We are re-created in righteousness by means of the work of Christ in us. It is through the Gospel that we learn self-control in the use of the world and so escape the riotous living that destroys the bodies and souls of our neighbors.
It is through the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that we learn to fear the Day of Wrath that will dawn in fire, and through that fear turn from the lusts of the world and present our bodies a living sacrifice before God in Christ. It is not surprising that the worldly Felix trembled.
Godly Christian living is related to the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (I John 4:17)
Because the grace of God is enabling us to live a godly life now, in this present world, we have no fear of the wrath that will be poured out on mankind at the coming of Christ. We have been “fireproofed” by having been through the fires of judgment with Christ during our Christian experience. We have been chastened and made righteous by the Lord so that we will not be condemned with the world.
This is more than a carrying into Heaven while the world is being judged. Rather, it is a “boldness in the day of judgment.” It is a boldness based on an acceptance of the atonement and lordship of Christ and on the possession of a life that has been re-created into the image of God by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit until “as he is, so are we in this world.”
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (I John 5:4,5)
Sometimes the above verse is used to prove that if we merely make a mental assent to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God we have overcome the world and there is little more we need to do.
If this were true, then the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, the part of the Scriptures that addresses the overcomers, would stress our belief. Actually, these two chapters emphasize our works.
Also, if a simple assent to the Divinity of the Lord Jesus were all we needed to do to satisfy God’s requirement concerning victorious Christian living, the main thesis of First John, which is that we faithfully keep God’s commandments, Meanwhile purifying ourselves, would be found to be an unnecessary exhortation.
“Faith” must be defined as obedience to God rather than mental assent to the Divinity of Jesus. The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the “faith” chapter of the Scriptures, does not so much as mention belief in doctrine of any kind. Rather the faith of the saints of old was a faith that resulted in obedience to the will of God.
The meaning of I John 5:4,5 is that true faith, true belief that Jesus is the Son of God, results in our overcoming the world. The individual who overcomes the world is the one who has faith in the Lord Jesus—that Christ has come in the flesh, and that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One who came to earth and will come again in the future. This person, because of his sincere adherence to the truth, will be able to overcome the lust that is in the world.
It is not the belief that is of itself the victory. Rather it is that a true belief will always result in victorious living. This concept is consistent with the exhortation to holy living that is found throughout the Book of First John.
It is our task as Christians to overcome the world through the grace that Christ gives so that the wicked one (Satan) does not touch us. By referring to the writings of the Apostles we understand we cannot overcome the world by our own strength.
We overcome the world by means of prayer, submitting to God, resisting the devil, reading the Word, being exposed to the manifestation of the Spirit, walking in strict obedience to the prompting of the Spirit of God, enjoying Christian fellowship, avoiding temptation, confessing our sins, praying for one another, obeying the elders, exercising faith, presenting our body a living sacrifice, putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and doing whatever else is necessary to prevent Satan from touching us or having any part in us whatever.
Overcoming is overcoming! It is the conquering of a cunning adversary. Christ overcame Satan by perfect obedience to the Father during His life, and during His death on the cross.
Christ destroyed completely the legal claims of Satan on those who receive Christ by faith. But the Christian also must overcome. The believer must overcome the resistance of the world, the flesh, and the devil each day of his sojourn on earth. The believer does this by availing himself by faith of the grace and equipment offered to him by the Spirit of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Revelation, Chapters Two and Three teach us the meaning of the term overcome. These chapters are addressed to believers. It is the Christians who must overcome, not the unsaved.
The test of Christian experience is as follows:
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. (III John 1:11)
The Book of Jude is an exhortation and warning to Christians concerning godly living and judgment to come. The Christian life is portrayed as one of resisting sin through prayer, and of daily growth in actual holiness and practical godliness.
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, (Jude 1:20)
We are not to be just saying prayers but wrestling in the Spirit against the world, the flesh, and Satan—wrestling in the strength and wisdom of the Spirit as the Spirit leads. Otherwise we wear ourselves out battling in our own wisdom and strength.
Keep yourselves in the love of God [this is an active spiritual battle rather than a mental assent to a doctrinal position], looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 1:21)
It is true that we have eternal life upon the acceptance of Christ. But it is true also that eternal life is the reward of holding fast to Christ throughout one’s life on earth (Hebrews 3:6,14; I Peter 1:5).
The Book of Revelation has much to say about the victorious Christian life and the Day of the Lord. The stage is set for the concept of godly behavior, and judgment to come, by the appearance of Christ.
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; (Revelation 1:14)
When Jesus returns to earth He will examine every creature, searching out and destroying sin and the works of the devil. All ungodliness will be exposed to the white heat of the purity of the Godhead.
All fleshly motives, words, thoughts, deeds, will be consumed by Divine fire. This is the day of fire. This is the great Day, the Day of Christ, the Day of the Lord, the Day of God, the Day of Judgment, held in terrifying remembrance by every demon. The attention of God’s creatures is directed continually by the Spirit, by the Scriptures, and by conscience toward That Day!
The overcoming requirement. Of particular importance to our doctrine concerning the relationship of godly Christian living to the Day of the Lord are the expressions concerning overcoming found in Revelation, Chapters Two and Three. From our point of view, the concept of the victorious Christian has not received nearly enough emphasis by Christian teachers.
The New Testament writings teach consistently that the promises of God concerning rulership and priesthood in the age to come are for him who overcomes. It appears that this concept has been ignored. We have gotten around the overcoming requirement by defining “he who overcomes” as he who makes a profession of the Christian faith.
Overcoming, in the New Testament sense, is victorious living in Christ. The overcomer is the Christian who, at each point in time, prays and obeys through every temptation and trial set before him or her.
This is not to say that an overcoming Christian cannot stumble or be deceived. He can, assuredly. But stumbling and deception are exceptional periods in his life.
When the overcomer makes mistakes he corrects them, under the supervision of the Holy Spirit of God, and fights on. He is a Caleb, a Joshua. By faith he lays hold on the promises of God and is not discouraged easily.
He recovers from setbacks and proceeds with his life of dedication to and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. He withholds nothing—absolutely nothing—from God. (It is impossible to overcome when there is an idol in the heart.) His life actually is a living sacrifice.
Through the blood of Christ and the word of his testimony, continually stating his trust in the faithfulness of God, the victorious Christian emerges as a conqueror in the wrestling match against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Each day he says a final no! to the world, the flesh, and Satan.
The victorious Christian life is not referring to a bearded prophet working out an extraordinary consecration while hidden away in a cave in the wilderness. Perfect, complete obedience to God is our “reasonable service.” No believer should be entertaining ideas about ruling with Christ or receiving the rewards of the overcomer unless he is consecrated absolutely to Christ. There is no middle ground, no place of compromise.
Either our heart is married to Christ or it is not. Either we are lusting after the things of the world or we are not. This does not mean we are to flee from earthly responsibility or perform our tasks in the world halfheartedly. We are to work in the world as to the Lord. It is our heart that is the problem. Our heart must be so devoted to Christ that there is no question as to where our treasures are.
If this is not the case with you, if you cannot find the spiritual strength to say an eternal yes to Jesus, do not despair. Do not faint. Tell Jesus about it. Tell Him out loud with your mouth that you need more strength for consecration. Or just cry, Help! If you really want to be an overcomer, God is willing to give you the necessary strength. God Himself will strengthen your asking and your receiving until you can say, “I love Jesus above all.”
What, then, of the nonovercoming Christian, the defeated believer? We cannot say. There is a basis in the Scripture, such as the story of Lot, for the belief that some people will be saved by fire apart from any inheritance in the Lord. On the other hand, there are warnings in the New Testament that the lazy, the careless, the lukewarm, will be dealt with very harshly by the Lord. Do not let the spiritually lazy, the careless, the lukewarm imagine that their experience after death will be pleasant because of God’s love, mercy, or grace. It will not be pleasant!
The Scripture is emphatic on one point: the promises of God concerning priesthood and rulership in the age to come, the Day of the Lord, are reserved for the victorious saints. Christians who do not press through to victory in the Lord Jesus have no scriptural hope of ruling with Christ or of being in the first resurrection (Philippians 3:10-14; Revelation 20:6).
Let us glance at some of the verses of Revelation that pertain to the promises to the overcomer. Remember, the term overcome must be defined as “maintaining continually through Christ victory over the world, the lust of the flesh, Satan, and our self-will.”
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of [be harmed by] the second death. (Revelation 2:11)
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. (Revelation 2:26-28)
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:21) (Compare Revelation 20:4; Daniel 7:22)
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:11)
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:7)
To understand the meaning of the word overcome one must consider carefully the second and third chapters of Revelation and also take into account all that the Apostles of the new covenant have written about the victorious Christian life. Any concept that is addressed so pointedly and repeatedly is worthy of the disciple’s strict attention.
To overcome is to emerge victorious in a struggle. The world, the fleshly nature, and Satan are set against the Christian, attempting to prevent him from obtaining his inheritance in Christ; attempting to prevent him from entering the rest of God; attempting to deceive him into disobeying God; attempting to seduce him into spending his days in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
He who overcomes shall inherit all the promises of God, particularly the promises concerning fruitfulness and rulership. Overcoming is an intensely personal condition of the heart and has to do with the life of prayer and dedication on the part of the disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.
Divine grace is not restricted to the forgiveness of sins, although forgiveness is a vital part of God’s grace in Christ. Divine grace includes also a change in our character that causes us to be continually obedient to the Spirit of Christ, to be a holy servant of the Lord God of Heaven, just as was true of the priests of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
Grace means not only the hiding of the sins of Christians from God’s eyes but also the Divine working in the believer that re-creates his moral nature until he is able to serve God with increasing success. Grace works legally (de jure) in providing remission (forgiveness) of guilt, and then actually (de facto) in purging sinful deeds from the Christian. There is power in Christ to save people from sin, that is, to deliver them from the power of the devil.
The victorious saints. We can observe the victorious saints now—here in the earth. They are given over wholly to Christ. The strings of their heart are tied hard to Christ. Christ is All in all to them. They have left the “weak and beggarly” elements of the world so they may know Christ. They are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
God is their life and their life is God. They are the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth and they have given all to Him. They follow Him wherever He goes. They love Jesus with their whole mind, soul, and strength. They look to the Lord twenty-four hours of every day—at home, on the job, at school, and assembled with fellow Christians. They cannot get enough of Christ. It is Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
Does this kind of attitude sound like something you desire? If so, tell the Lord about it right now. Do not let another hour go by. At first it is difficult to make such a total consecration. In fact, it is impossible in our natural strength.
But every person can desire to be consecrated totally. God can use our desire to accomplish His will in us. If you are weak, say, “Lord, help me. Help me give my life to you without reservation. Strengthen my desire to love Jesus. Blow my flickering flame into a roaring bonfire of love—a single-minded pursuit of Christ.”
Then praise God for the answer. Use the amount of will power that you have and believe that God will increase your zeal each day. You must use what you have no matter how small an amount it is. Bring your feeble discipleship to Christ and ask Him to bless and multiply it as He did the loaves and fish.
Ask in faith and do not waver. God will turn your desires toward Himself until He and you are satisfied. Then determine to keep your will as strong as steel in Christ toward God every moment of every day of your life. There is no other way to obtain the fullness of the inheritance God has for us. We must forsake the world and its lusts, our fleshly desires, the devil and his enticements, and our self-love and self-seeking.
Cleave to Christ with every ounce of your personality. Do it now—right now! This is the best and only time you ever will have. Today is the day of salvation. Today is your day to be married to Christ. Tomorrow very well may be too late.
The victorious saints are diligent in earthly responsibilities but there is no mistaking the completeness of their consecration to Christ. When there is doubt at any point, God puts the doubtful area to the test of fire. They are the victorious saints—the archenemies of the spirit of the world.
The heroes of Scripture were cut from this cloth. We can see the nature of the overcomer in Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, John. They could not rest until the will of God was wrought fully in their life. It is equally true today. Nothing is different. Faith is not belief in doctrine. Faith is the response of the individual to the calling of God on his life. Faith is the same in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
There is no hiding our head in the sand, hoping that some miracle will occur at the coming of the Lord in which a worldly, indifferent church member is transformed into God’s holy dwelling place. The Gospel of Christ is ancient—unchanged from the day Abraham led Isaac to the altar; Shadrach was thrown into the oven; Elijah prayed on Mount Carmel; Stephen was stoned.
The holiness of the holy city. The new Jerusalem will be holy because the people who serve as a wall around the new Jerusalem will be God’s victorious saints of every age. Christ has driven the rebellion and idolatry from their heart.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and sulfur: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7,8)
The emphasis in the preceding passage is on the necessity for conquering sin and self-will, on holiness of heart and actions, not just a profession of faith in Christ.
Paul says, “They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). But today’s gospel is, “Those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God unless they believe in Christ.” We have made the Word of God of none effect by our traditions. What good is the grace of God in Christ unless it converts us until we no longer do these things?
Imperfection of doctrine will not put a person in the lake of burning sulfur. But fear will! Unbelief will! Depravity will! Murder will! Adultery will! Spiritism will! Idolatry will! Lying will!
Let us place emphasis where God places emphasis. Satan will divert us, if he can, from the necessity for righteous conduct.
And there shall in no wise enter it [the holy city, the Church, the Body of Christ] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 21:27)
We understand that a person is written in the Book of Life on the basis of his confession of faith in Christ. However, the individual must live a victorious Christian life if he is to maintain his place in the Book of Life.
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)
“I will not blot out his name out of the book of life.” It is possible to have one’s name blotted from the Book of Life.
Salvation is the reconstruction of the human being according to the pattern of God’s image. Without such transformation grace can become an empty form, an excuse for sinful behavior, a license to practice immorality. If the life is not noticeably being reconstructed, how do we know that the person actually has come to Christ? By his words? The Christian testimony consists of more than words.
It is necessary that a person confess with his mouth that Christ is his Lord because by the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
But a life that is undergoing a transformation from the works of the flesh to the fruit of the Holy Spirit—that is more than mere words. That is visible proof that the Son of God is dwelling in the heart. Let us not be deceived. Christians can be identified by the moral fruit they bear.
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. (Revelation 22:11)
Consider, in the preceding verse, how a person’s moral nature is brought forward unchanged to the Day of the Lord. It is vain to hope for miracles of character transformation at the appearing of Christ. What there shall be is weeping and gnashing of teeth as people realize they have been deceived by Satan.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:12)
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)
No one who is not holy in heart and actions can pass through the gates of the new Jerusalem. The emphasis is on doing His commandments.
For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:15)
The last verse quoted is an accurate description of the world in which we live. The only escape from this polluted atmosphere is by means of the transforming power of Christ in the human heart.
We have “blown the trumpet.” The alarm has been sounded in the Christian camp. Let the reader examine his own spirit.
Then whoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. (Ezekiel 33:4,5)
The new Jerusalem is the fulfillment of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. We find that under no circumstances will uncleanness of motive, imagination, word, or deed be allowed to enter the new Jerusalem.
Sin originated in Heaven with the rebellion of the creatures there. But sin shall never enter the new Jerusalem.
Sin cannot enter or exist in the new Jerusalem because the holy city is the Church, the Body of Christ, and is filled with the spirit of the victorious saints. Sin shall be driven from the Church, and finally from the remainder of the creation by means of God through Christ through the Holy Spirit working in and through the saints of the Lord.
Christian people are to overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and by the fact that they are willing to love not their lives to the death.
The “blood of the Lamb” refers to the legal work of atonement and remission (forgiveness) of sins accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. Whenever Satan attempts to accuse a victorious saint of some past sin, the saint is to place his trust in the blood of the Lamb and believe that the sin has been forgiven by the Lord. Concerning present sin, the believer is to confess the sin and forsake it. In both past and present sin the blood of the Lamb washes away the guilt and the power provided the saint turns away from the sin and follows the Lamb.
The “word of their testimony” refers to the steadfast confession of the believer that God is true and faithful and His Word is true and faithful. No matter into what dungeon of oppression he is cast the saint keeps on expressing his hope and trust that God finally will bring him into perfect love, joy, and peace.
We are to love not our lives to the death, meaning we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the death of our first personality until it is “crucified with Christ.” We cannot hold back from the Lord one piece of our self life. All must go, as the Lord leads. We must be perfectly obedient to the Father. Also, we are to accept physical martyrdom if it becomes necessary.
The holy city, the new Jerusalem, is the Body of Christ. It is the will of Christ that all sin in the members of His Body be put to death by the Holy Spirit.
The Church will demonstrate the grace of God here on earth while it yet is in a mortal body (Ephesians 5:27). If it were not possible for God to create righteousness in the earth, how could the Kingdom of God be established? God indeed can create righteousness and praise in His people while they yet are in the earth, and He is in the process of doing so.
… so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
The Christian Church is the new Jerusalem. In the Day of the Lord, the Church will be set up on the earth as the holy Tabernacle of God.
God will create holiness in the firstfruits of the Church while the members are on the earth in mortal bodies. God will bring in the worldwide Kingdom Age by first creating an individual “kingdom age” (destruction of Satan’s power) in the members of the Church. The victorious Christian has the essential environment of the Kingdom Age in him. The actual, historical thousand-year Kingdom Age will commence at the coming of our Lord and Savior, Christ.
The Church is being refined by the working of the several parts of salvation, of which Calvary is central in importance. When the Christian people are ready, having been made so by the careful workmanship of the Holy Spirit of God, then the Glory of God will come upon the Church, “splitting the earthen vessels” of the members just as the pitchers of Gideon’s men were broken open.
The saints administer the judgment.
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?… (I Corinthians 6:2)
Know ye not that we will judge angels?… (I Corinthians 6:3)
The coming of our Lord Jesus to the earth is described in the Book of Revelation. The saints will be with Him during the judgment on the earth. The saints will be involved in the administration of the judgment of God (Psalms 149). This is the manifestation of the sons of God; Joel’s “army”; Habakkuk’s “troops”; Jude’s “ten thousands of his saints”; Daniel’s “time that the saints possessed the kingdom”; Paul’s “resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:11).
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness [righteous deeds] of saints. (Revelation 19:7,8)
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (I John 3:3)
The above (Revelation 19:7,8) describes the point at which the physical body is clothed with the body from Heaven. A covering of righteousness will be granted to the saints at this time.
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:5)
In one sense we are saved now. In another true, scriptural sense a major part of our salvation is ahead of us.
Paul is referring to the future salvation when he teaches:
And not only they [the material creation], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)
The redeeming (buying back; ransoming) of the physical body is an important part of the Christian salvation. Christian grace includes the redemption of the physical body from the power and penalty of sin.
Keeping the redemption of the physical body in mind, we suspect that Revelation 19:8 refers to the putting on of increased eternal life by the saints, and that the putting on of righteousness is Peter’s “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” and Paul’s “prize of the high calling of God in Christ.”
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness [righteous deeds] of saints. (Revelation 19:8)
In fact, the saints will be clothed with their own godly response to their afflictions (II Corinthians 4:17:5:4) If they have sown to eternal life they will put on increased incorruptible life at that time. This is the “crown of life.”
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. (Revelation 19:11)
“Judge and make war”! This is the true nature of God’s actions through the warrior Son. How could it be otherwise when the presence and work of unclean spirits abound in the earth?
Here is the return of God’s King, Christ, and the time when Jesus takes to Himself the rulership of the earth. Here is the Lord Jesus receiving the reward of His tremendous patience—the nations for His inheritance and the farthest reaches of the earth for His possession.
But He must establish His ownership by judgment and war against evil spirits, just as we must establish our inheritance by judgment and war against evil spirits.
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14)
We believe that these armies are the believers who attain the first resurrection. They are “caught up” to be ever “with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:14-17) so they may fight by His side as He drives all wickedness from the earth.
There is an emphasis on the fine linen (righteous behavior). There will be no liars in that army, no lustful, no boasters, no ambitious, no haters, no gossipers, no fearful, no murderers. The word righteousness in Revelation 19:8 is more accurately translated “righteousnesses” or “righteous deeds.”
The saints will have been made holy by the power of the grace of God—holy in thought, word, deed, and motivation. They are holy warriors. Because they themselves have been judged and made righteous by repeated fiery trials, testings, temptations, and have overcome them all through Christ, they now are able to work with the Lord in judging and making war on the unholy spirits in the earth.
Judging, warring against, and destroying evil in the earth will bring about the righteous period we refer to as the Kingdom Age (Millennium).
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. (Revelation 19:15)
Christ is the Word of God made flesh. We are the flesh being made the Word. We are being made the Word of God by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in us. Day by day the Word of God tests us, purging away little by little the fleshly nature and replacing it with the Divine Nature. The sharp sword proceeding from the mouth of Jesus is the Word of God in judgment.
In that day no one will stand who cannot bear up under the judging force of the Word of God. It is Christ and His army who execute the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. We see, then, that grace must result in a transformed moral nature.
A legal state of forgiveness, while it is the all-important first step in the program of redemption in Christ, is not sufficient to enable the Christian to live, fight, and work with boldness alongside of Christ during the Day of the Lord.
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. (Revelation 19:19)
The earth belongs to Christ—Head and Body. But the earth cannot be taken without a fight. The battle is kingdom against kingdom—the Kingdom of God against the nations of the earth that are governed by Satan and his kingdom.
When the Lord Jesus appears with His army, the nations of the earth, being driven by Satan, actually will attempt to resist with force His coming (see Revelation 19:19 above). The heads of state will unite in the struggle to prevent the Lord Jesus from ruling over His earth. They shall be totally destroyed. The outcome of the war is described in the last verses of the Revelation, Chapter 19.
The first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
It appears that the above is the resurrection about which Paul was so concerned (Philippians 3:8-14), a resurrection that is not to be taken for granted on the basis of assent to Christian doctrine.
The first resurrection is for the blessed and holy priesthood. It is the resurrection to the fullness of eternal life, to ruling with the Lord over the nations of the saved during the thousand-year Kingdom Age. The second resurrection, that which will take place at the end of the thousand years, will include all persons born on the earth, with the exception of the blessed and holy priesthood.
It is generally understood that only the wicked will be raised at the second resurrection. This is not true. The wording of the Scripture indicates that the majority of those raised in the second resurrection will be brought into eternal life in the new world of righteousness (Revelation 20:12-15).
The first resurrection is for the Lord’s victorious saints. The second resurrection is for everyone else.
Forgiveness of sins comes only by faith in the blood atonement made by Christ. Holiness is a pattern of attitude and behavior in the individual Christian. Holiness is perfected in the follower of Jesus as he goes through the school of the Holy Spirit.
Those who would arrive at the first resurrection and rule with Christ must be purified in imagination, motive, word, and deed.
The relationship of the present to the future. The relationship of our Christian experience of the present to the experiences we shall have in the future can be expressed simply. If we do not practice holiness now we will not have a desire for holiness at the appearing of the Lord. At what point would our transformation into holiness take place?
When we die and go to Heaven? Why? Sin originated in Heaven with the rebellion of the angels against God Almighty. Why should our dying and going to Heaven change us from indifferent “believers” into lovers of the Lord Jesus and His ways? If we follow Jesus from far off here we will follow Him from far off there.
When, where, and how would the moral transformation of the Christians take place? In Heaven? At the coming of Christ?
Our places will have been assigned already when we finish our life here on earth. The earth is God’s proving ground, His school for victorious saints. Christ Himself learned obedience on the earth and we learn obedience on the earth. Christ Himself had to overcome while on the earth and we have to overcome while we are yet on the earth. It is on earth that the Christian is shaped and tempered for his role and place of responsibility in God’s Kingdom.
If we desire to know the place of a person in God’s Kingdom to come, all we need to do is to observe him on the earth. If he is responding to the molding and tempering work of the Holy Spirit it is apparent here on earth.
You can see the transformation with your eyes and weigh it objectively. There will be no sudden transformations of character at the coming of the Lord. The change at the coming of the Lord will be primarily in the body. The saints are the saints whether they are here on the earth or at home with the Lord in Heaven.
If we desire to leave all and follow Jesus now we will have a desire to leave all and follow Jesus in Heaven and in the ages to come. If we can be easily led astray here it is possible that we could be easily led astray in the spirit realm and in the ages to come. However, sin shall not be permitted in the Kingdom of God. God in the present hour is perfecting in the hearts of the saints an eternal defense against future sin and rebellion.
Our character as a person will not be changed by our death or by the Lord’s appearing. It is true, however, that it will be much easier to live righteously and obediently when the Lord returns to set up His Kingdom. His Spirit will be poured out on the earth, and the sons of God will be administering justice to the nations.
If we reign diligently, faithfully, and prayerfully over the small “kingdom” that God has given us in this world we will reign diligently, faithfully, and prayerfully over the great kingdom available to us during the Kingdom Age. Now is the time. Now is the day of salvation. Now is the hour to demonstrate how faithful we shall be to Jesus.
Now is the time to learn the lessons of the Holy Spirit. Now is the time to enter rulership with Christ. The emphasis of today is on His will working in us and revealed to us and through us by the Holy Spirit as we present our body a living sacrifice. We do our part and He does His part. He who overcomes in this struggle will inherit the Kingdom of God.
The royal priesthood. Let us who are of the Church, the Body of Christ, the fulfillment of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, now put away all filthiness of the flesh and spirit that we may be a holy temple of the Lord. Let us show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
We must keep in mind always that we have been called to be a kingdom of priests, a people belonging especially to God and set aside to represent Him and to fulfill all His will. We are a called-out group, separate from the nations of the earth. Called-out group is the meaning of the term “church.”
We must make certain that we do not lose our crown but rather that we join the company of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises of God—the promises applied to us because we are part of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of one fact we can be certain: the Christian Church, the spiritual fulfillment of the Tabernacle of the Congregation is always “holiness unto the Lord.” Every person and thing associated with the Tabernacle or with its spiritual fulfillment in Christ must be holy in every aspect.
The holiness that is required consists not only of a righteousness that is imputed (ascribed) by means of the blood of atonement of the Lord Jesus but also of a purity of personality and behavior that is demonstrated in the spiritual and physical realms. There can be no uncleanness in the Body of Christ, for it is the eternal Tabernacle of the Lord God of Heaven.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we will be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we will be like him; for we will see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whoever abideth in him sinneth not: whoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. (I John 3:2-7)
A Final Thought
There were seven major furnishings of the Tabernacle. Of these seven, the Lampstand was number four and the Altar of Incense was number five.
Speaking in terms of the warlike remnant, the firstfruits of the Church that are being called out by the Spirit, we are wrestling in the Lord that we might move past Pentecost, the Lampstand, and press forward until we apprehend all that the Altar of Incense represents.
The future of the Kingdom depends upon the success of the godly remnant of today pressing their way to the Altar of Incense.
The first four furnishings, the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Laver, the Table of Firstfruits, and the Lampstand profit man. Man is forgiven his sins. Man is cleansed in water baptism. Man is born again at the Table of Showbread. Man is filled with God’s Spirit at Pentecost, the Lampstand.
The next step, as typified by the Altar of Incense, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Altar of Incense, has to do with the coming to earth of God’s Kingdom—that which profits God.
There was at one time a colossal rebellion on the part of the angels of God. Since that time God has been desirous of bringing the heavens under His control, forming an eternal bride for His Son, and revealing Himself in a company of sons formed in His image. These are God’s needs and desires.
God wants everlasting righteousness on the part of all of His creatures, new heavens and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness.
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (Daniel 9:24)
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (II Peter 3:13)
Satan understands that the material creation is superior to the spirit Paradise and it is here that he intends to rule. Satan’s rule is not brought to an end in us or in the earth when we are forgiven, baptized in water, born again, or filled with God’s Spirit. Satan’s rule is not threatened until we come to the Altar of Incense, bow before God in stern holiness and obedience, and plead, “Not my will but Yours be done.”
When we bow in stern obedience we make it possible for the Father and the Son to enter us and begin to work through us. The work of the Father and the Son is to put down all disobedience and to bring everlasting righteousness into our personality and actions and then into our surroundings. This is the Kingdom of God.
We understand, therefore, that nothing is actually happening, as far as installing the Kingdom of God in the earth, until God finds people who will love not their own lives unto the death, who will present themselves as the servant of the Lord, taking their place in the great Servant of the Lord, the Body of Christ.
When the Lord Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross an atonement was made for all time. As long as eternity lasts there never again will be made an atonement for sin.
The same is true of the giving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been given to mankind once and for all time.
Each person who would please God must avail himself or herself of the Divine forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. Through the authority of the atoning blood and the wisdom and power of the Spirit of God each person can start on the path that leads to eternal life, that is, to reconciliation to God.
The gate to life is small and the way is filled with obstacles—at least in the present hour. But a hardy remnant of saints will build the highway of holiness so that in the future all who have a willing heart may walk thereon.
The atonement has been made. The Spirit has been given. Now it is our responsibility to enter the program of reconciliation to God. The program of reconciliation is the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament Day of Atonement. The completed reconciliation is the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles.
The “woman,” the Church, is in travail today. The purpose of the travail is to bring forth Christ in the saints. Until Christ comes forth in us, and God in Him, the accuser of the brothers cannot be torn from his place in the heavens and the Kingdom of God cannot enter the earth.
God’s will cannot be done in the earth until it first is performed in the holy remnant whom the Lord is calling out from the churches of our day.
A nation shall be born at once. The nation is the Body of Christ, the Servant of the Lord. The travail has begun. The Lord is at the right hand of His Father, waiting until all of His enemies have been crushed under the feet of His Body.
Are you prepared to give your life so that Christ might live in you and bring the Father’s will to pass in the earth? You show your love to your Lord by making it possible for Him to live in you in place of your worldliness, lust, and self-will.
Are you ready to be “holiness unto the Lord”?
In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness Unto The Lord; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 14:20,21)
(“Holiness Unto the Lord”, 3934-1)