THE PURSUIT OF LIFE
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Mankind lost eternal life in the Garden of Eden. The Lord Jesus Christ came in order to help us regain eternal life. Eternal life is not the same as eternal existence, rather it is a kind of life. Eternal life is the incorruptible Life of God. How much of it we attain depends on how we follow Christ in the present world.
Table of Contents
Our Goal Is a Transformation of Personality
Two Aspects of Resurrection
The Law of Cause and Effect
The Struggle To Attain to Eternal Life
Salvation Will Come in the Future
The Firstfruits of the Holy Spirit
THE PURSUIT OF LIFE
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10—NIV)
Current Christian teaching and preaching associates eternal life with going to Heaven to live forever. The truth is, eternal life has nothing to do with going to Heaven. Eternal life is a kind of life by which we live. Heaven is a place.
Salvation is not a plan to move us from one place to another. Salvation is a program that changes us from what we are so we can be acceptable to God wherever we are.
In the beginning Adam and Eve were flesh and blood creatures. The life of flesh and blood was never meant to be eternal. This type of life was intended to be a beginning, temporary form of the creation of man. True human life is life lived in the Spirit of God.
The Lord placed the Tree of Life in Eden so man might have the opportunity to bring eternal life into his personality. Many of the elements of Eden were allegorical. The serpent stands for Satan. The dust the serpent was condemned to eat was human flesh. Satan was forced down from his high place in Heaven onto his belly on the earth.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the eternal moral law of God. The Tree of Life is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Had Adam and Eve partaken of the eternal Life of Christ while the condemnation of sin was upon them they would have lived forever in a state of alienation from God. God in His mercy drove them from the garden so He might restore them at a later time.
Since that moment our flesh has been increasingly contaminated with sin. We are born in sin. There is a law of sin in our body. The expression “living in the flesh” found several times in the New Testament does not mean inhabiting a flesh and bone body, for when we are raised from the dead we still will have a flesh and bone body. Rather living in the flesh means living in the sinful inclinations that have become part of life as a human.
In order to save us from our body of sin and death the Lord Jesus Christ shed the blood of atonement on the cross. This step was necessary in order to give us access to God in Heaven, to remove the condemnation resting on mankind, on all the children of Adam and Eve.
But forgiveness of sin is the merest beginning of our salvation, as essential as it is. If our sin were forgiven but we were forced to remain in sinful flesh, we indeed would be condemned to a miserable existence.
From the first century Satan has influenced Christian thinking. Satan has advised the churches that God has forgiven our sins so we can leave the earth and go to the spirit realm to live forever. Eternal residence in Heaven has become the supposed goal of redemption. Lately there has been added to this the concept of a “rapture” to bring people to Heaven more quickly, that is, before they die.
This is not the Divine program. The Divine program has as its purpose the removing of sin from the inward nature of man, and then, at the return of the Lord, the raising of the flesh and bone of man and the clothing of his frame with a body of eternal life.
Once man has been raised he is able to live once more on the earth. Also a kingdom is being perfected, a kingdom that will govern man so he does not fall into sin again.
The main purpose of the two thousand years of the Christian Era has been the developing of a Body for Christ. Christ, Head and Body, is the Kingdom of God, the royal priesthood that will come from Heaven and install the rule of God on the earth. When all the creation has been made subject to Christ, Christ will turn over the Kingdom to the Father and God will be everywhere in His creation, all things having been gathered together in Christ.
To be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:10—NIV)
The reason Satan has fought so hard to convince Christian people that their goal is to go to Heaven is that Satan views the entire physical realm, including the bodies of all people, Christians as well, as his proper, rightful domain. As long as we go to Heaven, Satan maintains control over his “dust.” But when we attempt to gain control over our body, or any other part of the earth, Satan will fight fiercely. Satan and all the wicked will fight against Jesus Christ and His saints when they return to install the rule of Christ over the earth.
Our goal as a Christian is eternal life. What we have now is a deposit on the salvation, the fullness of life that is to come. We have been sealed by the Lord to indicate He has set us aside to the day of redemption, the day when the Lord Jesus returns with our reward of eternal life.
We are spiritually alive now, but we will be truly alive, spirit, soul, and body, when the Lord returns—provided we have chosen to live in the Spirit of God rather than in the fleshly pursuits of our body.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (I Corinthians 15:22,23—NIV)
Those who belong to Jesus Christ will be made alive when He comes. This means their body will be redeemed by being filled with the Holy Spirit of Life.
Because our goal is eternal life, spirit, soul, and body, our objective actually is the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection from the dead is the “blessed hope” of the Christian life, the hope we shall not perish but have eternal life.
Our Goal Is a Transformation of Personality
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16—NIV)
Adam and Eve perished because of their sin. Christ came that we should not perish but have eternal life, especially including immortality in the body.
Our Christian tradition has corrupted this verse to read: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not go to Hell but go to Heaven.
But isn’t this the same thing? Not at all! If that is what God meant, that is what God would have said.
There is a Hell and there is a Heaven, make not mistake. But salvation has to do with the restoration of what was lost in Eden. The concept of Hell and Heaven may seem suitable but it actually has a deadly effect when applied as the goal of redemption. For the believers are under the impression that even if they are not changed morally they still will go to Heaven by grace. Therefore many of them lead mediocre Christian lives.
But if they realized the goal of their salvation is not residence in Heaven but the transformation of what they are; and that wherever they are, they are going to be in personality that which they have sown while living on the earth, they would not be so careless.
If they have continued to live in the flesh while a Christian, they are going to reap corruption in the day of resurrection. Should they be admitted to the new world of righteousness, they will be there in their corrupt state. I don’t think this is what they are envisioning.
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:2,3—NIV)
Can you see from the above passage that what is important is not where you are but what you are?
- Some will rise to everlasting life—a state of being, not a place.
- Some will rise to shame and everlasting contempt—a state of being, not a place.
- Some will rise to incredible glory—a state of being not a place.
Our goal as a Christian is not to go to another place but to be transformed in spirit, in soul, and finally—at the Lord’s return—in body.
Two Aspects of Resurrection
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29—NIV)
But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, And they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. (Luke 20:35,36—NIV)
Look carefully at the above two passages. Do you see the incongruity here? The same incongruity appears elsewhere also.
John 5:28 states that all who are in their graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth. It is our belief that only the physical body is in the grave, the soul and spirit being somewhere in the spirit realm. I think most Christian people believe this.
So Jesus is saying the body of every person who has lived and died on the earth shall one day hear His voice and come forth from wherever he or she has been interred. This seems clear to me.
But Luke 20:35,36 appears to contradict this. Jesus said here that only those considered worthy will take part in the resurrection from the dead.
The same concept of being found worthy to attain to the resurrection from the dead appears also in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians, where we find the Apostle Paul, toward the end of his career, striving with all his might to gain Christ, especially that he might participate in the resurrection (Greek: out-resurrection) from the dead.
In John, Christ is saying all shall be brought forth from the tomb. In Luke, Christ is saying only those considered worthy will be resurrected.
It is evident there are two aspects of resurrection. There is no truth more vital to the understanding of American Christians than the fact that the resurrection from the dead has two distinctly different aspects.
The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and the doctrine of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth have both been lost to us since the first century. They are being restored today because of the closeness of the end of the Church Age.
You and I will one day be raised from the dead. This is a fact and it cannot be changed in any manner. Whether we like it or not, our physical flesh and bones are going to be brought forth to stand once again on the earth.
The power that operates in assembling the parts of our dead body and animating them so they stand on the earth is not, according to my understanding, the eternal Life of God; because extremely wicked men will be raised from the dead and they will never experience the eternal Life of God.
Rather, the power that assembles and animates our flesh and bones will be the same power of God that operates the universe, that created the galaxies. The eternal, incorruptible resurrection Life of God is another matter. This is Life issuing from the Person of God through Jesus Christ. It is not just power it is the Presence of God. It is the full experience of this life that is our goal, not just the power that operates the universe.
There is nothing we can do about the beginning, primary aspect of the resurrection. What is at issue is what happens after the assembling and animating of our flesh and bones. If we have cooperated with the Spirit of God in the transformation of our personality; if we have denied ourselves, taken up our cross, and followed Jesus Christ throughout our discipleship; if we have presented our body a living sacrifice to God as our act of worship; then our flesh and bones will be clothed with a degree of eternal life in proportion to the faithfulness with which we have served the Lord.
I do not think all believers will receive the same amount of eternal life at the coming of the Lord. It may be true that the degree of life we shall receive depends on our willingness to be pruned, to lay down our life. Christ will give to each according to his or her work, according to my understanding. An abundance of eternal life is a prize well worth striving for.
If, on the other hand, we as a Christian have not cooperated with the Spirit of God in the transformation of our personality; if we have not denied ourselves, have not taken up our cross and followed Jesus Christ during our lifetime on the earth; have not presented our body a living sacrifice to God as our act of worship; then our flesh and bones will be clothed with a spotted garment that reveals the corruption in our inward nature.
In the day of resurrection our body will reveal what is in our inward nature.
Can you see what I mean when I say the knowledge of the two facets of the resurrection is vital to our understanding?
The Law of Cause and Effect
There are two sets of outcomes of our behavior. One set comprises outcomes of place. The other set comprises outcomes of state of being.
The two outcomes of place are Paradise, and torment. The two outcomes of state of being are the fullness of eternal life, and a diminished degree of eternal life all the way down to total corruption of personality, especially regarding the body.
In the New Testament, the people who will be sent to torment are the goat nations, Antichrist, the False Prophet, those whose names are not found in the Book of Life, and those who have personalities described in Revelation 21:8.
The people who will experience a diminished degree of eternal life, all the way down to total corruption of personality, are the believers who chose to not obey the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19—NIV)
I know modern Christian teaching sets aside such verses as Matthew 5:19 as not applying to Christians. This is a terrible error in thinking. It has made the teachings of Christ invalid. The modern philosophy of Dispensationalism and all of its tenets and assumptions should be discarded immediately, for they are destructive of God’s plan of restoration.
Also, if Jesus is not speaking (in Matthew 5:19) of the Kingdom that we must be born again to enter, of what kingdom is He speaking? Are there two kingdoms? This is nothing but confusion. There is only the one Kingdom of God and it comes from Heaven. There is no other kingdom, and to teach that there is, is to adopt a misleading private interpretation, thus departing from the mainstream of the Scripture.
We understand, most of us, that the wicked belong in the Lake of Fire. Revelation tells us of the personalities that shall find their home in the Lake of Fire along with Satan and his angels.
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—NIV)
The Lake of Fire is an outcome of place.
But when the Apostle Paul speaks of the believer who continues to walk in the appetites and desires of the flesh and soul he never speaks of Hell or the Lake of Fire. Rather the consequence of living in the flesh instead of following the Spirit of God each day is set forth as not inheriting the Kingdom of God, or spiritual death, or destruction.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21—NIV)
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13—NIV)
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8—NIV)
Now I understand numerous Christian teachers will not accept that these warnings apply to Christian people, protesting that we are “saved by grace.” But it is obvious from the contexts of the three passages that Paul is speaking to Christians. To say otherwise is to demonstrate questionable scholarship, a bias not worthy of a sincere investigator.
But stop and think. If the Apostle Paul, writing in the name of Jesus Christ, states that if we continue to live in the sins of the flesh we will not inherit the Kingdom of God, we will die spiritually, we will reap destruction, shouldn’t we take heed to the warnings and not attempt to gainsay them or pretend they are not in the Bible?
Paul is not saying we will be thrown in the Lake of Fire if we live in the appetites of the flesh rather than praying, meditating in the Bible, and gathering with the saints. Rather Paul is pointing toward the principle of cause and effect, the unchangeable Kingdom law of sowing and reaping. We Christians are going to reap what we sow.
Where we are placed in the day of resurrection depends on the judgment of Christ. Grace and mercy can intervene here, perhaps, and also the intercession of the godly for their relatives and friends. I say “perhaps” because I know of no clear passage that gives us such assurance.
But one thing I do know beyond all doubt. And that is we are going to reap what we sow. We are going to be clothed with our own conduct, with a robe created from our actions on the earth. If we have spent our days in the appetites and passions of the flesh, doing what Christ and His Apostles have commanded us not to do, then the results will be visible for all to see in the robe handed to us after our flesh and bones have been raised to stand on the earth. We may then be permitted to enter the new world of righteousness. But think how we will feel as we consider the way we appear to those around us—especially in the sight of our disappointed Lord!
Believers sometimes maintain they are “eternally secure” because the Bible says some will be saved as by fire.
First of all, we do not know how hot that fire will be or how long it will burn us.
Second, we are not considering that we will be entering the new world of righteousness with no reward, no glorious body of eternal life, possibly with a stunted appearance or as a child who is beginning life once again. When we see those who have lived a victorious life in Christ and now are great mountains of fire and glory, realizing that such a state could have been true of us, we will understand being saved as by fire was not the best route to take into the Kingdom of God.
Every person will reap what he or she has sown in this present world. There is no grace, no mercy, that will change this Kingdom law. Where we will be placed is another matter. But what we are in personality, our state of being, will reflect what we became during this life.
The Struggle To attain to Eternal Life
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12—NIV)
The Christian faith is a fight until the day we die. The purpose of the fight is to gain eternal life, to lay hold of eternal life. Eternal life is the prize, the goal.
The following verse often is misunderstood.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23—NIV)
This verse is sometimes preached to the unsaved. Paul was not writing to the unsaved but to the Christian church in Rome.
The gift of eternal life is not a gift that is handed to us. This is not what Paul is saying. The context will reveal that Paul was speaking to people who had been baptized in water. Paul was warning them that if they, having received Christ, then choose to be the slave of righteousness and of God, the result will be eternal life. But if they choose instead to be the slave of unrighteousness, the result will be spiritual death.
Consider the verse just prior:
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22—NIV)
Being set free from sin and slavery to God leads to holiness. The result of freedom from sin, slavery to God, and holiness is eternal life.
Eternal life is a result of choosing to be the slave of righteousness
Eternal life is a gift only in the sense that God has made it possible for us to attain to life. The initial portion of God’s Life given to us when we first receive Jesus Christ is intended to enable us to gain more life, and more life, and yet more life, until our inward nature is filled with the fullness of God’s Life in preparation for the redemption of our body.
We must fight the good fight of faith. We must lay hold of eternal life.
The goal of the Apostle Paul was eternal life. As you read the following verses you can see that the aged apostle was single-mindedly pressing toward attaining to the resurrection that is out from among the dead. Paul understood it was not the fact that his flesh and bone would be raised at the coming of the Lord. Rather Paul was intent on what would take place afterward, that is the clothing of his flesh and bones with a glorious robe and crown of eternal life.
Can you see in the following that pursuing eternal life is a fight to the finish?
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8—NIV)
The fact that Paul, toward the end of one of the most fruitful of all Christian lives, was laying everything aside that he might “gain Christ” is an overwhelming indictment of the way the Gospel is preached in our day. Many of us are not preaching the Gospel at all. The Christian message in America in some instances is a Hollywood, Disneyland, frothy, superficial tea party compared to the message and life of the Apostle Paul.
Paul was losing all thing that he might gain Christ. That he might gain Christ!
Where does this leave us? Think of it!
And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:9—NIV)
From the context of verse nine we see what the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith really means. It is not just the light mental assent that we of today refer to as saving faith. It is a life sold out to God in every detail. The righteous live by this total reliance on God.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:10—NIV)
Paul was pressing forward to gain a full knowledge of God, of the power of the resurrection of Christ, and to share in the sufferings of Christ, living in conformity with the death of Christ on the cross.
Again we see that the true Christian salvation is a lifelong pressing toward Christ, especially toward experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection and experiencing Christ’s sufferings and the death of the cross.
Paul was pursuing the fullness of eternal life. The land of Canaan, the rest of God, is life lived in the fullness of the Holy Spirit and then the enjoyment of all other aspects of our inheritance. We have to fight our way into such incorruptible life, as the Spirit guides us. The enemy will resist us every inch of the way, because part of our inheritance includes the nations and uttermost parts of the earth—people and territory Satan claims for himself.
Pressing through to the fullness of the inheritance God has for us is a struggle, a battle all along the way, make no mistake about this. But total victory can be ours if we will keep our eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus.
And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11—NIV)
Here is one of the major statements of the entire New Testament for it sets forth the goal of our discipleship. But it simply does not fit our current teaching.
Obviously Paul is not speaking of merely coming back to life for, as we stated previously, this is going to take place in any event. Rather Paul is referring to the first resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of the royal priesthood. The participants in the first resurrection will have been found worthy to be clothed with a glorious robe and crown of eternal life and righteousness.
Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6—NIV)
The kind of resurrection we will have after our flesh and bones have been animated may be, after the forgiveness of our sins through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, the most important event we will experience in all of eternity. It is utterly important for it will determine our rank and opportunities for service in the Kingdom of God.
Now, what was Paul doing in order to attain to the first resurrection from the dead and the accompanying life and glory? Paul was laying aside every part of his life so he might gain Christ, gain the power of His resurrection, gain participation in His sufferings. This is what every believer must do if he expects to attain to the resurrection to life and glory.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12—NIV)
Christ has taken hold of us that we might attain to the resurrection to life and glory. But we have to respond with a single-minded laying hold on the eternal life to which we have been called. Such a response requires our complete attention, patience, diligence, and perseverance. It is, as I have said, a fight to the end.
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13,14—NIV)
I am forgetting what is behind. I am straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize.
The goal, the prize, is the fullness of eternal life, the redemption of the body.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23—NIV)
Paul wanted to be delivered from the body of sin and death. Paul wanted to be able to live a righteous life in God’s sight without having to wrestle continually with a body full of sin. He realized the Lord Jesus has come to do just that—to free us from the sinful body so we can live in a manner pleasing to God.
Notice, in the context of the verses we have just read, that Paul had in mind the redemption of his body, its change into the likeness of the body of Christ.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20,21—NIV)
I think most Christian Christians believe when the Lord comes they will receive a body like His. What they do not understand is that such a change in our body will take place only as we have sought to gain Christ in the same manner as Paul.
The idea that we can take the “four steps of salvation” and then live as an average American, occupied with the idols of money, entertainment, lust, the occult, and violence, spending hours each day watching Hollywood presentations on the television, and then by grace be carried up to Heaven and receive a body like Christ, is very far removed from scriptural reality. To receive a body like Christ requires a life of continual cooperation with the Holy Spirit as He deals with the worldliness, lust, and self-will of our personality.
The standard of Christianity in America is so far below the biblical standard that a vast, comprehensive religious awakening must take place if an entire generation of believers is not to be lost to the purposes of God. I think God is ready and willing to move wonderfully in America, but we must start preaching the commandments of Christ and His Apostles rather than the prevailing grace-rapture-heaven mythology.
We will not make our way prosperous or please the Lord, neither will the Lord heal our country, until the Christian people begin to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow the Lord Jesus, praying always for the strength and wisdom to keep His commandments and those of His Apostles.
We must be found worthy of eternal life, worthy of the Kingdom of God.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37,38—NIV)
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4:1—NIV)
All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (II Thessalonians 1:5—NIV)
Salvation Will Come in the Future
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11—NIV)
One of the current imbalances in our teaching today is that of not perceiving salvation as a program. The Bible teaches clearly that there is an initial point of receiving Christ, then there is an outworking of the program of salvation. But the fullness of salvation will come in the future. The fullness of salvation is the redemption of our body, the raising of it from the dead and the filling of it with eternal life.
So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28—NIV)
What we have now is a deposit on eternal life. We have been sealed by the Lord until the day of redemption arrives. The day of redemption is the time when our body is adopted by the Lord. Our body presently is dead because of sin. In the day of redemption it will be made alive by the power of Christ.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30—NIV)
The particular error of today’s teaching is that all we have to do to prepare for the day of redemption, for receiving the fullness of life in our resurrected body, is to make an initial profession of faith in Christ. This is not at all true. In order to receive the bodily redemption we must press toward this goal every day of our discipleship. Even the aged Paul said he had not attained but was pressing toward the mark.
In order to prepare for the full resurrection of the body we must first attain to the inward resurrection. The inward resurrection is attained as we turn away from the world, presenting our body a living sacrifice.
The inward resurrection is attained as we confess our sins and through the spirit of God put them to death.
The inward resurrection is attained as we wait patiently in the imprisoning circumstances in which we are placed, permitting the Lord to deny us—sometimes for many years—the most intense desires we have.
Until we have been resurrected inwardly, living in the Spirit of resurrection, we have no hope of an outward resurrection. God will never place a body like that of the Lord Jesus on a sinful, disobedient inward nature—not by grace, mercy, or any other means.
The resurrection to life must be attained by the most diligent application to the pursuit of Christ of which we, with the Lord’s assistance, are capable. Nothing less will gain the prize of eternal life in the body.
Some may object that we are saying we are saved by works. Of course we are, if by works one means following Christ diligently every day. When Paul was contrasting faith and works he was not contrasting faith in Christ with godly behavior, he was contrasting faith in Christ with the Law of Moses. True faith always is expressed in the right kind of works, which is the diligent pursuit of Christ every day of our discipleship. Apart from such a pursuit of eternal life, there is no genuine faith, only mental assent to the facts surrounding Christ.
We receive Christ at a certain point and our sins are forgiven. Then we are born again of the Spirit of God.
Each day from that point we are to turn away from the world, from the lusts of our flesh, and from self-will. We are to pursue eternal life. If we do not, if we do not bear the fruit of Christ’s moral image that God is looking for, we will be removed from the Vine, from Christ. In this case we will not gain the immortality we are hoping for. We have sown to our fleshly nature and most assuredly shall reap destruction in the day of resurrection.
But the Bible says “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Precisely so. We are to believe in Christ, be baptized in water, and then keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. If we do not we will reap destruction in the Day of the Lord. If we do not keep His commandments we do not truly believe in Christ.
A doctor may be able to heal us, to save us from an early death. But if we do not do what he says we will not be healed. It is as simple as this. Faith that the doctor can heal us is not sufficient. We have to do what he says. So it is with faith in Jesus Christ. He can save us from spiritual death, but only if we do what He says. Merely believing He can save us is not enough; we must keep His commandments. If we do not we neither really believe in Him nor do we love Him.
The salvation that is coming in the future is the redeeming of our body with the eternal Life of the Spirit of God. But in order to gain the prize we must do what Christ and His Apostles have told us. Eternal life is our goal and we must lay hold of it. We must fight the good fight of faith if we expect to arrive at our destination.
Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:5—NIV)
We are at the last time now, and this is why the Lord is making the Scriptures clear to us. He is preparing us for the mighty acts of redemption that will enable us to be more than conquerors throughout the age of moral horrors we are entering.
The Firstfruits of the Holy Spirit
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? (Romans 8:23,24—NIV)
Notice in the above passage that we were saved in the hope of the redemption of our body. This hope indeed is the rightful “blessed hope” of the Christian Church. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. The righteous live in the hope of the redemption to come with the appearing of Jesus.
The expression (above) “the firstfruits of the Spirit” refers to the fact that one day the entire material creation, including those people who are saved, will be released from corruption by the Holy Spirit. We have now a deposit on that which one day will make alive our mortal body and also release the prisoners of the earth.
At one time we were a living soul. Now we are being made a life-giving spirit—not a living spirit but a life-giving spirit.
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (I Corinthians 15:45—NIV)
As we said earlier, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life. We cannot eat of Him and gain immortality except as we overcome the corruption in the world caused by lust. We have to overcome the world, Satan, our fleshly lusts, and our self-will—our fierce desire to maintain our own identity apart from oneness with God through Christ. We desire to save our life, but if we would gain Christ we must lose our life.
When we become an integral part of the Lord Jesus Christ we also become a tree of life, a source of eternal life to other people. The more of Christ we gain the more life we have to give to the dead people around us. When we suffer it is so the Life of Christ can raise us up. Then there is an overflow that reaches others.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17—NIV)
In Ezekiel, the forty-seventh chapter, we find that after we enter waters to swim in, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, we become a tree of life growing on the bank of the River of Life. Then we return to the nations of the earth, and the water coming from us causes that which is dead to live.
Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. (Ezekiel 47:9—NIV)
The promise made to Abraham was that the nations would receive eternal life, and so they shall.
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:14—NIV)
“Out of our inward being will flow rivers of living water,” the Lord promised. But this was not spoken at the feast of Pentecost but on the eighth day of Tabernacles. The twelfth chapter of Isaiah was being chanted at that time:
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3—NIV)
Our inheritance is not only to be filled with the fullness of God, of eternal life, but then to be able to impart that Life to others as the Lord leads us. In fact, one of the main roles of the Christian Church will be to bring release to the saved nations of the earth.
If we are to move past Pentecost to the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles, a necessary step if we are to serve as an eternal source of the water of eternal life, we must permit the Lord to deal with our self-will. The Charismatic move is in danger today of becoming part of the False Prophet. The False Prophet is he who attempts to use the power of Christ while still living according to his own will.
We have a choice to make today. We can attempt to take the things of Christ to a “lost and dying world,” as is said so often today, or we can return to Jesus Christ and wait patiently for Him. We can press into the power of His resurrection and into the patient enduring of tribulation that is part of His sufferings.
Those who run with their gifts may have immediate success and appear to do great things. But eventually they will dry up if they are not being refreshed with the ocean of God’s Spirit.
But those who wait on the Lord will continually renew their strength. They are becoming part of the Lord, part of His Glory. They are not working for Him. Rather they are moving as part of His Life. Thus the River of God in them is always full of water—water that will be needed in the future because death will be everywhere. Only in Mount Zion will there be deliverance, in the remnant whom the Lord is calling to Himself in the days in which we are living.
The goal is before us. It is the fullness of life lived in the Spirit of God—spirit, soul, and body. In order to arrive at the resurrection to life and glory we must, as Paul, set aside every other compelling interest and give ourselves to the pursuit of Jesus Christ.
No tongue could ever describe the incomprehensible authority, power, and joy that have been set before us as our inheritance. Let us not be as the foolish Esau who, being so intent on his immediate desires, sold that which proved to be, as a result of his shortsightedness, forever unattainable.
Let us follow Paul as he marched forward to the attainment to the crown of righteousness and eternal life.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (II Timothy 4:7,8—NIV)
(“The Pursuit of Life”, 3975-1)