PURSUING THE HEAVENLY
PURSUING THE HEAVENLY Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
We are entering the conflict of the ages. The next few years may see substantial change in the way we understand Christianity. Spiritual warfare will accelerate rapidly. The new generation of believers will have an opportunity to occupy the thrones of the Kingdom of God.
All that has gone before has brought us to the brink of Jordan, as it were. The young people and children of the present hour will be enabled to press into a position in Christ occupied by only a handful of the saints of history.
Table of Contents
PURSUING THE HEAVENLY
The only correct orientation to the Christian salvation is that the believer has been crucified with Christ, has been raised from the dead with Christ, and has ascended with Christ to the right hand of God, the right hand of power. We have discussed this orientation in a previous essay titled The Necessary Orientation.
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4—NIV)
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3—NIV)
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6—NIV)
How high we have been raised, to what position of authority and power, can be seen in a previous verse in Ephesians.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, And his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, Which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:18-23—NIV)
"Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."
I invite the reader to consider these facts carefully: We have been crucified with Christ. We have been raised from the dead with Christ.
We have ascended to the right hand of God, to the highest throne there is, to the highest level of authority and power.
This is not to take place in the future, it has happened already to our new born-again nature in Christ. It is a fact now if we have been truly born again.
We already have come to Mount Zion in Heaven, to an innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect.
If we are to orient ourselves properly to the changes in the world that are at hand, the fact of our death, resurrection, and ascension must be repeated again and again in the churches until our position in Christ is as familiar to us, as solidly entrenched in our faith, as is true of the forgiveness of our sins and the return of the Lord from Heaven.
If part of our personality is in Heaven at the present time, if we have been raised up with Christ and are seated with Him in the heavenly realms, and the Bible clearly states this to be an accomplished fact, then a duality exists in our personality.
Part of us is seated with Christ, waiting with Him until His (and our) enemies have been made His footstool. This is a very real part of our life.
Part of us is living on the earth. Our human body, physical brain, and soul are on the earth. This also is a very real part of our life. This is the only life most people in the world understand to be possible, including perhaps the majority of those who attend Christian churches, even though they may profess belief in Jesus Christ.
The battle is for our mind. Either our mind is in the heavenlies with Christ, or our mind is down here focusing on the passions of our body and soul. The battle being waged today by Antichrist, the spirit that is in the world, is for our mind. This is why there is such a flood of attractions and information in all forms of the media: radio, newspapers, magazines, television presentations and commercials, personal computers, and the Internet.
Satan is calling us down, down, down to the earth. Jesus Christ is inviting us up, up, up to the right hand of God. Our struggle to respond to Christ is the good fight of faith that must be fought today. It may be a bit late for most of the older Christians. We have regarded salvation as having to do with the reformation of our earthly nature. The new generation will understand the entire earthly nature and everything associated with it are to be kept on the cross. Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God. He is our life. He and we will appear together at His coming.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4NIV)
And so a duality exists. Part of us, our new born-again nature, is with Christ on the highest throne. Part of us, our earthly, sensual nature, is on the earth.
It seems likely to me that this duality will exist after our physical death. Our new born-again nature will remain with Christ on the highest throne. Our body and physical brain will return to the ground to await the day of resurrection. Our conscious soul will enter the spirit realm and be assigned to whatever environment it is suited for.
I do not think our personality will be integrated again until the Day of Resurrection. At that time what we have sown in the heavens, including our heavenly body, will return with the Lord Jesus. Our soul will be reunited with our born-again nature. Our heavenly body will raise our dead physical body and brain from the ground and then clothe them with incorruptible resurrection life.
I may be incorrect about some of the details here, but this is the way I view what will take place in the Day of the Lord.
How we respond to the fact that part of our personality is at the right hand of God and part on the earth will determine our eternal destiny. As we have suggested previously, the older Christians may not be able to respond. They have believed for so long that God plans to save our first personality, and that grace covers our lack of moral transformation, they may not be able to make the leap of faith required for complete victory over the world, the flesh, and self-will. Those who do reach forward in faith will be Joshuas and Calebs who will encourage and guide the younger, giving the benefit of their experience and wisdom.
For two thousand years Christianity has often been regarded as the plan for bringing the human personality to Heaven. Sometimes the plan is presented as including a certain amount of restraint of the earthly personality. There have been calls for holy behavior, in some quarters. There has been some denunciation of sin. There have been groups who professed the eradication of sin, root and branch, from their personalities.
However there has not always been a clear preaching of the need to put our whole earthly nature on the cross with Jesus and to pursue our new life in the heavenlies.
We are in a condition of apostasy in America today. There is not even a denunciation of sin. What we have now is a manmade grace that overlooks all sin. The untransformed believers are waiting for their immediate flight to Paradise. Of course, this is totally unscriptural.
The only correct response to the dividing of our personality is to live our life so our mind is continually in the heavenlies, reading the Scriptures, praying each day, gathering with fervent saints, turning away from the abundance of secular entertainment, serving, giving. We are to view our earthly life as dead because of the sin that dwells in it, and we are to keep it on the cross with Jesus.
This point of view makes it possible to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He begins to deal with the worldliness, lust, and self-will in our personality. Instead of our moral transformation being a painful drudgery as we strive to maintain as much of our earthly life as possible, our transformation is a mopping-up operation. The victory already was won when we put our old nature on the cross and decided to sow to our heavenly nature. It is just a case of casting the garbage out of our life so our heavenly nature can be expressed increasingly in our life on the earth.
We now are resting at the right hand of Power. If we choose to do so, we can govern our earthly nature from our position in the heavens. Or we can permit our earthly nature to control our behavior. If we permit our earthly nature to control our behavior, we eventually will kill the new heavenly life. We will lose our place in Mount Zion in the heavens.
Read the following verse carefully. The same concept is repeated by the Apostle Paul in several other passages.
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 8:13NIV)
What does Paul mean when he says "if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die"?
Paul does not mean we will die physically, because we will die physically whether or not we live according to our sinful nature. The context of Romans 8:13 is not about physical life and death but about making alive the mortal body in the Day of Resurrection, about the redeeming of the body, the revealing of the sons of God, and the releasing of the material creation into the life of the Spirit of God.
Paul means we will kill our new spiritual life if we keep on living in our lower earthly nature.
This thought is repeated in the parable of the sower, where the Word of God that had germinated was choked out before it bore fruit. Also in Galatians where Paul tells us that if we sow to the flesh we will reap corruption.
So we see that our future lies in our new life in the heavens at the right hand of God in Christ. If we pursue that life we will inherit the Kingdom of God. But if we give only minimal attention to our new spiritual life, choosing instead to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, we will have no eternal life with which to clothe our personality when it is raised from the dead in the Day of the Lord, no firstfruits of the Spirit so we can contribute to the release of the material creation.
It is time now for Antichrist to arise. His new world order will be based on money, education, communication, military power. There may also be a massive increase in occult activity. Antichrist, and Satan in him, will build an earthly kingdom. God will give Antichrist power to ascend in spirit into the heavens and attack the forces of Christ. It will become impossible to pray, to receive Christ. The godly remnant will be driven into the wilderness to await the return of Christ.
The Christian churches as presently conceived and constituted will not nearly be able to cope with such tremendous spiritual wickedness. Satan will deceive them (has already deceived them) until they are dedicating each service to an imminent "rapture." They are preparing for this by jumping up and down next to their pews. Satan wants the Christian churches off this planet and the Christian people are anxious to oblige him!
But here and there the Spirit is speaking to individuals and telling them of the plan Christ has for bearing a true witness of God during the coming age of moral horrors, and for preparing many kings who will return with Him to establish His righteous Kingdom on the earth.
Those believers who are spending the main part of their time and energy on the things of this world, who are not setting their minds on their position in Heaven, will be deceived by Antichrist. They cannot and will not be able to stand when Antichrist receives the authority God is going to give him.
The only Christians who will be able to overcome the deceptions of Antichrist are those who are pursuing their position in Christ at the right hand of God.
God already has kings and priests who are waiting in the spirit realm until the Lord returns to earth.
And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9,10NIV)
But there are many thrones yet to be filled. These will be taken by those who, in the closing days of the Church Age, keep on pursuing their new born-again life at the right hand of Power. We see therefore that we are in days of awesome danger and awesome opportunity. Everything depends on whether we choose to live in the heavenlies with the Lord Jesus or whether we choose to follow the dictates of our flesh and carnal mind. The choice clearly is ours. The stakes are unbelievably high.
The Book of Hebrews contains a mystery. The primary thesis of Hebrews is the exhortation to seasoned Christians to not drift away from Christ but to press forward to the rest of God. The secondary thesis of Hebrews is that the new covenant is superior to the old because it removes sin instead of just forgiving it. We see therefore that the secondary thesis is related to the primary thesis in that both are an exhortation to overcome sin, to not die in the wilderness of disobedience and unbelief.
Hebrews keeps exhorting us to press forward to perfection, to the rest of God, to the land of promise. But then it does not define clearly what the land of promise is.
The answer to this mystery concerning what perfection is, what the rest of God is, what the land of promise is, is found in the second chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
The first chapter of Hebrews tells of the exalted position of the Lord Jesus Christ. The second chapter informs us that to man has been assigned rulership over all the works of God's hands, that man has been made lower than the angels but yet shall be crowned with glory and honor. We see that the Lord Jesus (not to detract in any manner from His Divinity and Lordship) is representative man. We notice also that Christ, having been made perfect through suffering, is the Head of a company of sonssons who are His brothers because they have the same Father as He.
This answer to the question "What Is Man?" seems to be unrelated to the main thesis of the Book of Hebrews. In actuality, the setting forth of man as the ruler of all the works of God's hands is the answer to the mystery of the identity of the rest of God, perfection, the land of promise. God has brought us to His right hand that we might be part of the Kingdom that will govern all the works of His hands.
The Book of Hebrews exhorts experienced Christians, believers who have been saved, filled with God's Spirit, who have experienced the power of the age to come, who have coped joyously with the confiscation of their property, to not stop with these rudiments of salvation but to press forward to maturity and the consequent rulership of the creation.
The rest of God is found when our new life in Christ is governing our whole personality. God's will has become our will.
Perfection is found when we have established our position in Christ, no longer going up and down as we decide whether to save our life in the world or lose it in Christ.
The land of promise is found when we are living in the heavenly Zion, agreeing with the Holy Spirit as He calls forth the kings of wickedness that abide in the recesses of our desperately wicked heart. We have to overcome numerous enemies before we can rest in the Presence of God, just as the Jews had to overcome numerous enemies before they could rest in the land of Canaan.
I think many of my generation will occupy themselves with their retirement plans and their vacation trailers until they wither and die, never having laid hold on the Divine Glory available today.
Perhaps our hope lies in the younger peoplethat they will claim and possess the treasures in Heaven and, through the Holy Spirit, put to death their old earthly nature with its appetites and passions, its endless reasonings, its refusal to deny itself what it wants, its unwillingness to forsake its own ways and desires that Christ might live.
Look very carefully at the following verse, for it reveals the essential aspect of our life at the right hand of God.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4NIV)
When Christ who is your life. Our life!
Here is the key. Christ must be our life. Paul said it was not he who was living but Christ who was living in him.
How do we change from the Adamic nature being our life to Christ being our life? For if Christ is not our life, then we have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God. All depends on Christ being our life, especially in the case of the governing priesthood that has its position at the right hand of God.
Each day we make a multitude of decisions, most of them minor. Occasionally a major choice is required. If we are to maintain and strengthen our position in Christ at the right hand of God we must keep on holding our decisions before the Lord. No decision is too small for His attention: what we eat; when we eat; how often we brush our teeth; what we read; how fast we drive; and so on and on. All are to be held before the Lord. This is not as difficult as it may seem. When we set our mind to do it, it soon becomes a lifelong habit.
Each day we are faced with a portion of evil, something we have to overcome. Each day Divine grace is given to enable us to overcome the evil.
Let us say someone cheats us. We then have a decision. We can act in our adamic nature and become furious, raving and ranting, anxious for revenge.
Or we can sit down and pray and ask the Lord for wisdom.
Do you see that we are choosing between the life of Adam and the life of Christ?
If we yield to our old, malicious nature, Adam will be strengthened. If we look to the Lord, keeping our mind in the heavenlies where it belongs, then Christ becomes our life to a greater extent.
Let us say we are faced with a powerful temptation in the flesh. We want to leave our wife or husband and run off with someone else. In the meanwhile Satan is attempting to inject deception into our mind.
We can give in to our flesh, making all kinds of excuses why we are doing the right thing in forsaking our partner and children. Or we can pray until we gain the strength to reject the satanic temptation and do what is honorable and godly.
If we yield to our flesh, Adam is strengthened. If we overcome the temptation, Christ becomes our life to a greater extent.
We can choose to fill our day with pleasure, plans to make more money, lust, the acquiring of material goods, entertainment, and so forth. Or we can make certain we spend time each day waiting on God and meditating in the Scriptures.
We can attend church once in a while or we can meet regularly with fervent disciples, building up one another in the Lord. In our day in America it sometimes is difficult to find fervent disciples. Then we need to pray for Christian fellowship.
We can set our mind on things above where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Or we can dwell constantly on matters concerning our life on earth.
Believe me, Satan will do everything in his power to keep us concerned about life on earth. He will threaten us, tempt us, put ideas and plans in our head, bring us into unusual situations either pleasurable or frightening, and keep on with this night and day until we spend little time in prayer, little time meditating on the Lord and looking to Him.
I know one couple who are just about to sell their business. For the last twenty years they have been just about to sell their business so they will have some time during the day to serve the Lord. Every time they start to sell, something happens that causes them to hold on until that problem clears up.
I do not expect it ever will be true of them that Christ is their life. Now the man is dead.
We will serve the Lord after we sell our business. We will serve the Lord after Christmas. We will serve the Lord after Easter. We will serve the Lord as soon as the summer is over. We will serve the Lord after Thanksgiving. We will serve the Lord as soon as we retire. We will serve the Lord as soon as our company returns home. On and on it goes, and Christ never becomes our life.
Christ is calling us to the throne of glory, the throne of all authority and power. Such a position in the universe will not go to those who have so little determination, so little courage they are unable to push aside the uproar of the flesh and lay hold on the heavenly calling.
We will never establish our position at the right hand of God until we seek His face with a determination of steel. It is true we are raised to the highest throne when we are first born again of the Spirit of God. But our position will be challenged every moment of every day until we either secure our position, having grasped that for which we have been grasped, or we allow the things of the present world to choke out our spiritual life. In this case we will reap destruction.
It is entirely possible to start out in Christ and then to draw back and reap destruction, to die in the wilderness and never reach the land of promise, the perfection of God.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:39NIV)
From the context of the Book of Hebrews we know the above verse is not referring to Jewish people who refuse to accept Christ but Jewish believers who are in danger of falling away from the faith.
Our life must be Christ if we are to appear with Him. Today and every following day we decide whether to look to the flesh as our life or Christ as our life. The decision is ours to make. The consequences of our daily decisions are beyond the ability of the English language to convey. Their importance and significance to us as an individual are staggering. Were we to gain the whole world and not have Christ become our life, we would be the most miserable, the most pitiable of all God's creatures.
At stake is the rulership of all the works of God's hands. For what earthly pleasure or possession would we give this in trade? Esau traded his inheritance for lentil stew because he was hungry at the time. He never got it back!
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7NIV)
Note carefully the verse above.
What does it mean to overcome, to conquer? It means to press through the distractions of earth and to secure our place at the right hand of God in Christ.
The term "overcome" implies there are adversaries, there are challenges, there are obstacles that would prevent our gaining the throne. Indeed there are! It is a fight every inch of the way, every second of the day.
When we speak of the Throne of Almighty God we are referring to a position once held by Satan. The Scripture suggests Satan was one of the two cherubim that overshadowed the Throne with their wings.
Now, how do you think Satan feels about you, a despised creature fashioned from the dust of the ground, enjoying a closeness to God that once had been true of him? Needless to say, Satan is driven with envy and rage to make certain you never enjoy that privilege. He will do everything in his power to keep you acting out your ludicrous existence on the earth, playing the clown for the demonsyou who have been called to be an heir of all things!
There is another consideration. Those who maintain their position at the right hand of God will descend with Jesus Christ and drive Satan from the earth. He understands this. In the days which we are entering, Satan will receive authority from God to attack the forces of Christ in the heavens. Wherever Satan can find any self-will, any rebellion, he will work his deceptions until that saint is cast down from his high place in God.
We have seen this happen in our own day when exalted Christian leaders have succumbed to sexual lust or have fallen because of a desire to become rich. The arena of temptation will very greatly increase. Numerous Christian leaders and people of the congregations will yield to the pornography on the Internet, and also to the desire to become rich. Attractions of this kind will keep them so fastened to the earth they will lose their position in the heavens. They will be hurled to the ground by the tail of the dragon. He will trample them down with his feet.
It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. (Daniel 8:10NIV)
Don't think this cannot happen to you or me. The minute we grow careless or distracted Satan will look for an opportunity to deceive us.
Ours is a terrible day, a wonderful day. The danger of being deceived is terrible. The opportunity to become established in Christ at the right hand of God in Heaven is wonderful.
The seals are being removed from the Scriptures. The plan of God to bring forth Christ in the saints, to dwell in the saints and make them His throne, His eternal tabernacle, is becoming increasingly clear.
For two thousand years the Christian churches to a great extent have wrestled with the problem of getting people ready for Heaven. Now we see there is an even greater challenge presentedit is getting people ready to appear with Christ and govern the nations of saved people of the earth.
We have not seen Christianity in this light before. I think it will be the young people and the children who finally will be able to turn their back on the corruption that is in the world and lay hold of their new life in Heaven with Jesus Christ.
The Lord told the chief priests that they would see Him return at the right hand of Power.
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matthew 26:64NIV)
He did not tell them that in addition to Himself they would see a myriad of saints returning at the right hand of Powersaints who in many cases had been tortured, murdered, cast out as evil, by the religious organizations. Those same Jewish leaders, before whom Jesus stood, were to murder in the coming days some of God's heroes who will return with Jesus.
If Christ is our life, we will return with Him. Then God will deal with those who have rejected us. Evil will be driven from the earth. The people who have feared God and sought to live righteously, the meek of the nations, will rejoice because the Lord and His nobles will bring justice to the poor.
See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. (Isaiah 32:1NIV)
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power On the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (II Thessalonians 1:8-10NIV)
Let us who are older serve as an example and guide for the younger people as they respond to the call of God on their lives and hasten toward the heavenly calling. Our world will be filled increasingly with the works of Satan. A mere taking of the "four steps of salvation" will not be sufficient to resist the pressure of moral darkness that will be present in the major cities of the earth.
Great revival is at hand and multitudes will be brought into the Kingdom. After that there will an apostasy greater than any seen previously on the earth. It will be during this period of spiritual darkness that the products of the revival will be sifted. Then those who really want Jesus will become the throne of God. They will be kept through the reign of Antichrist until the Lord comes. At that time they will be so strong in the Lord and the power of His might that they will be able to sustain the transformation from flesh-and-blood life to Holy-Spirit life. Then they will be caught up with the victorious saints of all ages to meet the Commander-in-Chief in the air.
I don't believe the Christians of today who are expecting a "rapture" are nearly mature enough to experience being resurrected while on their feet, of sustaining a change from flesh-and-blood life to Holy-Spirit life. I think they would panic as they felt the adamic life flow out of them and they realized they no longer will be human in the familiar sense. I think they would look back, like Lot's wife, and that would be their undoing. There has to be a change from our familiar life to spiritual life, you know, before the saints are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
This is the long-awaited coming of the Kingdom of God. Many who are last in time will be first in the Kingdom. Why don't you and I set aside all else and press into the fullness that God has for us in the present hour?
All things will be inherited by the conquerors, by those who choose their life in the heavens. They will be God's sons. The new sky and the new earth will be theirs along with the nations of saved people. All they have known that is worthy of eternal life, that will bring them endless, untroubled joy, will be theirs, made new in Christ.
If we live our life in the appetites of the flesh we will not inherit the Kingdom of God, Paul warns us. But if we live with our mind and affections set on the right hand of God in Heaven, putting aside all that would pull us down to the earth, then we shall inherit glory that has not, in the present hour, entered into the heart of man to imagine.
Let's you and me claim the inheritance and then go forth to possess it.