TWO THOUGHTS ABOUT OVERCOMING (EXCERPT OF WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE LORD)
Taken from “The Salvation of Our Spirit”; and “God’s Battle Against Rebellion and Sin”, excerpts from, What I Have Learned From the Lord. Copyright © 2012, by Robert B. Thompson.)
Copyright © 2012 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Table of Contents
The Salvation of Our Spirit
I never have understood the difference between the soul and the spirit of man, as the terms are used in the Bible. I know God has a Soul, a Spirit, and, in Jesus, a Body. This is not to say that Jesus and God are the same Person. They are not. In fact, using Jesus as a model, God is making many more bodies, we might say. We Christians are living stones in the eternal Tabernacle of God.
We know what our present, temporary body is, and that we will get an improved version in the Day of Resurrection. This will be true if we have attained to the required inward transformation, through Christ having been formed in us.
I think our soul is where our judgment, conscience, and will are located. Our soul will be saved if we obey God in all matters.
It may be true that when we are thinking about overcoming, or being defeated, our spirit plays an important role.
Consider carefully the following verses, and notice the word “spirit”:
I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 5:5—NASB)
To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
I do not wish to get too detailed about the salvation of the spirit, but I think there are some general points that might be helpful to our thinking.
Notice that the Apostle Paul was concerned about the salvation of the spirit of the man in Corinth who had been sinning. This passage has bothered me through the years, since I think it should say, “that his soul may be saved.”
I have found that when there is something unusual about a scriptural expression there usually is a good reason. And I do not like the way the NIV smooths out these wrinkles, although I do use the NIV most of the time. It is not a good idea to change the Greek text even though we think it might be more palatable or understandable to the reader.
What got me started on the subject of the salvation of our spirit was the question in my mind concerning the destiny of the believer who does not choose to overcome through Christ his or her sinful nature. Do they all go to Hell and later to the Lake of Fire, after they die? If this were the case, most of the American believers of today are going to end up in the fire.
And how about all the people who never have heard of Christ and who die while never having conquered their sinful nature? Are all they destined for the fire?
I know the current teaching is that if someone has not “accepted Christ,” even if he or she has never heard of Christ, his or her destiny is the fire. As far as I am concerned, this teaching is neither scriptural, nor righteous, nor even sensible.
There are many people who have “accepted Christ” who are heading toward the fire because they basically are wicked!
So where are we? We know the destiny of the victorious Christian, but how about the remainder of mankind, including the Christian who has led a defeated life as far as sinful behavior is concerned? And we can’t hide behind the current “grace” teaching. Grace is not a scriptural alternative to the victorious life.
Let’s consider for just a moment the eight categories of sinful people. Remember, each of these is a category and includes many symptoms and branches:
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
Notice that it is the cowardly person, not just an individual who displayed cowardice on some occasion. The same is true for the other seven categories. These are believers (Revelation is written to believers) who did not overcome the spirit of cowardice living in their flesh. They yielded to the spirit of cowardice until their own spirit became cowardly.
Then, when they died, and the spirit of cowardice fled from their putrefying body, they themselves were now a cowardly person.
Their human body was part of their land of promise. The enemy “cowardice” was dwelling in their flesh. They neglected to conquer it, and so they themselves became cowardly.
The Father has given the Lake of Fire authority over all cowardly people, and “accepting Christ” does not change this unless accepting Christ causes us to gain victory over cowardice. Just as simple and straightforward as that.
There are believers who, through the power of the Kingdom of God, have overcome cowardice. But no cowardly individual remains in the Kingdom!
Let us say a believer has become a mean spirit, a mean person. Many believers act at times in a mean manner, whether there is a mean spirit dwelling in their flesh, or they have given way to it until they themselves are a mean spirit, a mean person.
A mean person comes under the category of “murderers.” How many church people murder with their tongue and their actions? Pastors live in dread of their producing roots of bitterness that inflame many of their fellow believers.
What happens when the mean believer dies? He or she passes into the spirit world, not into Heaven. Heaven is Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. Heaven is filled with righteous people whose spirits have been made perfect. There are no mean people in Heaven.
To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)
But can we enter the spirit world (not Heaven, of course) if we are mean but believe in Christ. Will we still be mean? Would being in the spirit world change us?
Think about Adam and Eve in Paradise on the earth. God was with them in the garden. There was no sin dwelling in their flesh. There were no demons in the atmosphere. This is how we think of Heaven, isn’t it? Adam and Eve were free to choose sin or to choose righteousness while they were in Paradise.
Then Satan entered. Why did they sin, not having a sinful nature? They sinned because they were a blank slate, so to speak. They did not have a righteous nature. They had an innocent nature, but not a righteous, obedient nature.
When a mean Christian dies, the sins that dwell in his flesh will be left behind to find some other person on the earth to inhabit. But the newly deceased has a mean spirit. What then?
He assuredly will not enter Heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem. Rather he will be placed with mean spirits like himself. This much I know, because God does not like mixtures. “Let the filthy be filthy still.”
What then? Perhaps he and his mean neighbors may be taught by saints or angels how to overcome meanness. I cannot say for certain; but if this is not true there are going to be a multitude of church-goers in Hell.
The Bible does not have much to say about what happens when we die. We have made up a mythologic land of mansions. But this is not scriptural. I think our experience after we die will be much like I am saying here.
It makes sense to me that a group of mean people could be given a chance to learn not to be mean, a better chance, perhaps than they were given on the earth. If one of them repents and learns to be kind, perhaps he of she will be given a chance to be with a group of kind people somewhere in the spirit world. I do not say he will be able at this point to enter the new Jerusalem.
I would imagine if the sinner is willing to be taught, then, in the Day of Resurrection, his name might be in the Book of Life. If it is, he will be granted citizenship in the new world of righteousness.
However, by no means will he ever be a part of the Royal Priesthood. All the promises of the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, plus Revelation 21:7, are for the victorious saints only. This is why our present life is so important. This is our one opportunity to be part of the governing priesthood, or of that special part of the priesthood, the Firstfruits.
There may be some who read my words who interpret me to be saying we have a second chance. This is not true. We have to respond to Christ when He is presented to us, whether in the present world or in the spirit world after we die.
That redemption and spiritual growth continue in the spirit world after we die is evident, in that Paul said the ministries will continue until we all have come to the fullness of the stature of Christ. Also, how could there ever be a Church without spot or wrinkle if we do not grow in godliness after we die?
The point is, we have to respond to Christ when He is presented to us. If He comes to the mean person, while that person still is living on the earth, and that person absolutely refuses to change, then it is settled. His home is the Lake of Fire with the other murderers.
As far as the person who never has heard of Christ during his or her lifetime, which includes most people who have been born on the earth, Christ will deal with that individual in due time. We cannot reject Christ until He has been made plain to us. This is obvious.
At the last resurrection, people will be judged according to their works. Those who have obeyed their conscience and have lived a decent life, will be brought over to citizenship in the new world. The truly wicked will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, whether or not they claim to believe in Christ. Remember, the demons know all about the Holy One, and they never can be saved from the eternal flames.
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. (Romans 2:12-16)
We understand from the passage above that God does not accept people because they know the Law of Moses or, by the same token, know and make a profession of belief in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is a wonder how religion manages to bless people who conform to the ideas of the priests and leaders of the religion, and curse everyone else. We ought to know better than this. But religious leaders so often know nothing of the God of Heaven. They ascribe the most unjust actions to God, and then wonder why so many people are disgusted with their teachings and claims.
God is righteous. God is honorable. The Christian religion and the religion of Islam, as well as the other religions of the earth, speak of how righteous and holy God is, how compassionate. But their actions so often portray Satan himself.
From the passage above we see the true God, not the God of religion.
All who sin apart from the Law of Moses, or the Gospel of Christ, will perish apart from the Law or apart from the Gospel.
All who sin under the Law or the Gospel will be judged by the Law or the Gospel.
It is not those who hear the Law or the Gospel who are righteous in God’s sight, but those who obey the Law or the Gospel who will be declared righteous.
When Gentiles who do not know the Law of the Gospel do by nature the things required by the Law or the Gospel, they are their own law. What the Law and the Gospels state is written in their conscience. Thus their thoughts accuse or defend them.
All the secrets of people will be judged by the Lord before the coming down of the new Jerusalem to rest upon the new earth.
Here is the true God, whom the religious leaders often ignore. But everyone who listens to the living Lord Jesus will understand God’s Heart, and His will and ways are known to them.
God’s Battle Against Rebellion and Sin
When we think about it, there seems to be no reason why God would give us so many things to overcome. God could as quick as a wink remove from before us every hindrance to doing His complete will. Why are we each day confronted with resistance to following Christ?
We know that God wastes nothing. Why, then, did He place us on the earth, fill the earth with problems, and then command us to overcome them?
I think the answer goes back to the original rebellion of Satan and his angels. Satan brought rebellion and sin into God’s Presence. Since God is displeased with rebellion and sin, He is taking steps to remove every form of spiritual darkness from His Presence for eternity. This is why there is a great wall surrounding the new Jerusalem.
God can cast all rebellious, sinful creatures from His Presence and confine them in spiritual prisons. Such removal can be accomplished easily and quickly. The problem is, what if such darkness is caused again by God’s creatures?
I believe an eternal solution to the problem of rebellion and sin is part of the reason God created man. It is clear from the Scriptures that people, and not angels or other spiritual creatures, are to be in charge of the creation.
If human beings are to be the means of removing rebellion and sin from God’s Presence, how must these people be prepared if they are to accomplish God’s goal?
First, they, and the angels as well, must be taught of the consequences of rebellion and sin. So God devised the history of the earth as a portrayal of the consequences of rebellion and sin, and also obedience and righteousness. This portrayal has been seen by God’s creatures.
Adam and Eve did not have the benefit of seeing this portrayal. They only had God’s Word concerning the consequences of rebellion, and knew nothing about sin.
So now we all are acquainted with the consequences of rebellion and sin. What is next?
A law had to be given which would present in writing God’s demands. The Ten Commandments were engraved in tablets of stone. Angels and people could now understand what was demanded of them.
We were provided with demands which people were unable to keep, because they had sinful impulses dwelling in them. I suppose angels are able to obey or disobey God’s commands without the obstacles that we have to surmount.
Then God provided a sacrifice on Calvary so people could be forgiven and begin a program of redemption that would make it possible for them to serve God for eternity as a governing priesthood, judging people and angels as well.
Two aspects must be considered when the future rulers are to be qualified and competent to govern and judge. They themselves must be delivered completely from all rebellion and sin. Also, they must have within them a rod of iron that compels total obedience to God on all occasions, under every circumstance. They must love righteousness and hate unrighteousness with a fierce, unquenchable passion.
What provisions has God made that we may be delivered completely from all rebellion and sin, and experience a transformation of personality such that we love righteousness and hate unrighteousness with such fervency?
As far as deliverance from rebellion is concerned, God places us in various prisons in which our fervent desires are deferred—sometimes for many years. Or we may be compelled to live in undesirable circumstances for long periods of time.
We cannot escape our prisons without breaking God’s laws. We must, if we would assist in the removal of evil from the creation, remain faithfully in our prisons until God brings us forth. This is how God teaches us obedience, just as He taught His Firstborn Son obedience.
As far as deliverance from sin is concerned. as we follow the Holy Spirit, He brings us into situations which cause the sin that dwells in us to be revealed. When a sin is pointed out to us by the Spirit, we are to confess clearly to the Lord the specific behavior. Then we are to denounce it as evil, and cast it away from us with the help of Christ.
We are to continue this process of confessing and renouncing throughout our lifetime, for our personality is filled with much spiritual darkness.
As we pray and use our will to resist sin, it loses its ability to control us. This is how Christ enables us to conquer the compulsions of sin.
Now, how do we gain the inner strength that embraces righteous behavior and repulses unrighteous behavior?
We have to be born again of God. Christ, the righteous and obedient One, must be conceived in us. Then, we must pray every day and meditate in the Scriptures every day. If we do not have time or opportunity to pray, or do not have a copy of the Scriptures, then we must pray until we have both time, and the Scriptures to study.
Our prayer must be that God will lead us not into temptation but deliver us from Satan. Also, that day by day we will choose to life by the Life of Christ, as He reveals it to us, setting aside our own life. As we continue, year after year, to seek Christ with our whole being, God will create in us a fierce love for His will and for the practice of righteousness. God will be faithful to do this if we will deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ at all time.
To deny ourselves means that when we are confronted with a decision in which we can choose the way of pleasure or choose what is pleasing to the Lord, that we consistently choose what pleases the Lord without compromise of any sort.
We must endure hardness as soldiers of Christ if we are to live the victorious Christian life.
The life of victory in the Lord Jesus Christ is perfectly possible to all Christian believers. The wonderful promises of the Bible are to those who abide in Christ and do His will.
There is, however, a problem with the destiny of those who are not fervent disciples of the Lord Jesus. The Bible is not clear concerning their destiny, except to speak of lashes, loss of their talent, and assignment to the outer darkness.
The preaching and teaching in America is far too soft. The Bible and its plan of salvation is strict, demanding all the obedience, diligence, and attention that we can give to it. The average Gospel preaching in America at this time does not always set forth the rigors of discipleship; the suffering and denial, and sometimes martyrdom that are involved; the need to place every one and everything we love on the altar of God, assigning our treasures to Heaven. We may never see them again until we die.
So, as Paul said, for us to live and to die is gain. Unless we are willing to have the sentence of death in ourselves, as did the Apostle Paul, it is not possible that we can serve God in the removal of evil from the creation.
When believers are faced with the prospect of having to live a victorious life if they are to receive the Divine enablements that are the consequences of such consecration, they do not always realize God’s stake in this. They may be considering only their own welfare, not understanding the cosmic magnitude of the struggle between good and evil.
They may not understand they are part of God’s plan to rid the universe of evil; but they are! Our willingness to resist sin, and to set aside our own life that we may live according to Christ’s will for us, is serving to destroy evil and bring in everlasting righteousness.
Every effort we make to overcome rebellion and sin is tremendously consequential in the eternal scheme. No matter how difficult it is for us, no matter what delayed gratification we experience, the effects of our willingness to share Christ’s suffering reach far, far beyond our understanding.
We understand, then, why God has placed us in a situation in which there are numerous obstacles to our being obedient and righteous. Our life on earth is an obstacle course, a proving ground, on which God can select and train those who will drive spiritual darkness from God’s creation.
I believe with this in mind, we may renew our efforts to please God and His Christ.
Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. (Daniel 9:24)
(“Two Thoughts About Overcoming”, 3941-1)