TWO GOALS OF MATURING CHRISTIANS

Copyright © 2016 Robert B. Thompson. 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.

Two goals of maturing Christians are as follows:

First, to attain to the resurrection unto immortality.

And so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

Second, to serve God for eternity as a governing priest.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:4,5)

Let me set aside for a moment the concept of qualifying for the priesthood and deal with attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

The following verse tells us what the resurrection actually is:

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)

Right away we notice that the resurrection has nothing to do with going to Heaven. Also it is assumed that the Spirit of God is living in us.

The resurrection is a change in our body.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (I Corinthians 15:51,52)

When the Bible says we are raised from the dead, it means raised from our place of burial such that we now are standing on the earth. When Christ rose from the dead on the third day, He came out of the cave of Joseph of Arimathea and stood upright upon the earth.

Notice that all those who returned with the Lord Jesus called forth their bodies from their place of burial so that they stood upon their feet and were clothed with an incorruptible body. After that they all, along with us who had been selected from those who were living on the earth at that time, ascended in their new bodies to the staging area in the air. There they were reunited with the Lord Jesus, with the angel army, and with their stallions.

Since this multitude of saints came from Heaven with the Lord Jesus to experience the resurrection, it is obvious that going to Heaven is not the resurrection.

Please notice that I am implying that not all believers will be drawn to Jesus when He appears. This is not a general call to ascend to Heaven!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (rise from the dead, like the Lord Jesus). After that, we who are still alive (upon the earth) and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (I Thessalonians 4:16,17)

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (II Corinthians 5:4)

This is the first resurrection, taking place one thousand years before the general resurrection of the dead.

Blessed and holy are those who share 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)

Although I Thessalonians 4:17 does not state as much, I think we can assume that those whom Jesus had selected from the earth at the time of His return from Heaven will be clothed upon with their body from Heaven.

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 that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20,21)

I do not believe it is likely that they, who were caught up together with the saints who had returned with the Lord Jesus, would still be in their flesh and blood bodies while their associates had been clothed with incorruption.

It is written that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.

As we ponder these facts we can see that when Jesus returns (see Matthew, Chapter 24) there will be no "rapture" to Heaven of all professors of Christ to escape the Great Tribulation or the rule of Antichrist.

The "rapture," as it is preached commonly, is preventing today's Christian people from preparing themselves to survive during the Divine judgment that is facing America today, and from laying aside all else that they may attain to the resurrection that will occur when the Lord Jesus returns.

The Divine emphasis today is on preparing ourselves to stand throughout the tribulation that is ahead, and on addressing ourselves to the task of attaining to the change in our body that will transform, when Jesus returns, our flesh and blood body.

The Great Tribulation that is ahead will take place before the Lord returns.

Immediately after the distress of those days "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken." (Matthew 24:29)

The Lord Jesus will return after the Great Tribulation.

If we are to survive and help others to survive, both spiritually and physically, we will have to be abiding in Christ to a greater extent than is true of most of us Christians today.

If you say, "The Lord is my refuge," and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. (Psalms 91:9,10)

Exactly how do we make the Lord Jesus our dwelling?

By talking to the Lord all day, and at night when we are not asleep.

We should be speaking to Jesus far more often than we speak to other people.

Immediately upon arising from sleep we should be crying out, "Father, in Jesus' name."

Then as our mind begins to focus, we think of something to praise God for.

Then we rehearse to the Lord the problems facing us.

"Divine grace" is God in Christ ready to meet every need and solve every problem we have. Grace includes the forgiveness of and the deliverance from every sin that has us bound.

When we follow the Lord in all we do, all manner of things work out perfectly. Every time we look to Jesus for guidance and solutions to problems, we save ourselves grief.

Self-love, self-will, and self-confidence are the most virulent poisons there are. The wise individual always looks to Jesus for wisdom and strength in every situation.

Every time I pray to God in Jesus' name I get help. How about you?

So the problem of how to abide in the shelter of the Almighty is solved as we speak to Christ continually throughout the day and night.

Preparation for the day of distress we are heading toward in America is that of dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. That secret Place is the Lord Jesus. We remain in the Lord Jesus by conferring with Him about everything we think; everything we say; and everything we do.

Now when speaking about attaining to the first resurrection, that which is Paul's goal, remember, we are speaking of the change in our body, which is the resurrection unto life. We are not referring at all to going up to Heaven.

The first problem is that of our self-will, self-love, and self-confidence. It is my perception that most Christian people in America live according to their self-love and self-will. How to live according to the Spirit of God, which is a requisite for participation in the first resurrection, is not known to most of us, I believe.

To learn to live by the Spirit of God we have to practice each day looking to the Lord Jesus for everything we think, everything we say, and everything we do. Obviously we are going to have to work at this for quite a while before it becomes second nature, so to speak. We are so accustomed to "doing our own thing" that to "let go and let God" will not take place in us without a concentrated and continuing effort on our part.

But such a change in the "springs" of our life is absolutely necessary if we are to experience the change in our body that is the resurrection.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)

If the Spirit of God is living in us it is because we are seeking the Presence of Christ in all that we do. We are setting aside time each day to pray and meditate in the Scriptures. In fact, we are uttering a quiet prayer of fellowship with God and Christ throughout the day and night.

Such fellowship may be true of many believers, but I am not sure it indeed is. Yet the idea of being caught away when the Lord comes to the area where the saints from Heaven are regaining and transforming their bodies, is certainly not valid in the case of the worldly believers of today.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:3)

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

It is impossible that the physical body can thus be transformed until the inner nature is filled with the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus.

I believe this inner Life of God is that which the Apostle Paul was seeking—the inner knowledge of God and Christ. Notice this fact in the following:

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 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 on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)

Would you conclude from the passage above that attaining to the resurrection is directly related to our personal relationship with Christ?

Remember, we are speaking of preparing for the return of Christ. We are not saying we can attain to a change in our body in advance of the Lord's return.

What we have written above is of great significance for the Christian believers today. They are not preparing themselves for the "great distress" or for the coming of the Lord by drawing closer to the Lord Jesus. Rather, they are waiting for a sudden uplifting that will bring them to Heaven.

But notice:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (John 17:15)

Such a catching up, such a "rapture," is not found clearly in the Scriptures. It is a myth. It is not going to happen.

How great will be the shrieks of terror when the Christian people discover that they have not drawn closer to Christ when they had the opportunity.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

The passage above does not suggest that we are waiting to be lifted up to Heaven when the day of evil comes, does it? Rather the exhortation is to put on the full armor of God so that after we have prepared ourselves we will be able to stand our ground.

Nowhere in the Bible, to the best of my knowledge, is there any passage of Scripture that puts us to ease by suggesting that we will not be present on the earth when the Day of Evil arrives. Rather, the exhortation is to abide in Christ so that we and our loved ones are protected by the Lord no matter how Satan rages in the earth.

We have discussed the first main problem of attaining to the resurrection, that of not living a Spirit-filled life.

Now let us think about the second main problem that would prevent us from attaining to the resurrection that will take place when Jesus returns to set up His Kingdom—which is, the evil that resides in our flesh.

(After discussing the evil that dwells in our flesh, and the "rest of God," we will take up the second main goal of this essay—that of responding to the work of Christ in us so we can serve God for eternity as a member of the Royal Priesthood.)

The current doctrine of "grace" is not of God when it presents Divine grace as an alternative to obeying Christ in the work of sanctification. It absolutely is not true that God sees us through Christ such that our obedience to the lusts that dwell in us are not regarded as sin.

It must be our love of pleasure that prevents us from noticing the exhortations of the Apostles concerning the deeds that are prompted by the "law of sin" that resides in our body.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24,25)

Different viewpoints have been offered as to what we are to do about the fact that our body is subject to death. But the fact remains, that until we no longer obey the appetites of our body, we shall not experience the change in our metabolism that is termed "the resurrection." We shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.

The acts of the flesh 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)

The teachers of "grace" as an alternative to obeying God's laws are destroying God's intention under the new covenant. They just are following the popular trail. How can they say that the Apostle Paul did not know about "grace" when he wrote the passage above?

After all, it was Paul in the early part of the Book of Romans who advanced the concept that seemingly presents "grace" as taking away the absolute necessity for obedience to God.

So in our day Christian theology is a shambles.

There must come a deliverance from the power of sin before Jesus returns if any of us are going to experience the change in the body. If I am not mistaken, this deliverance from our sinful urges has begun. But we must be looking to the Lord Jesus constantly if we are to cooperate with Him in the breaking of our bondages.

I believe a prayerful consideration of the following verse will assist us at this point.

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

It is obvious that numerous Christian believers follow their sinful impulses and yet live long lives. So the verse above is not speaking about physical death.

In a previous verse the resurrection is defined (Romans 8:11). It is death to this resurrection that is under discussion. If we persist in obeying the impulses of our carnal nature we shall not inherit the Kingdom of God, and we shall not be eligible to go to Jesus when He next appears from Heaven.

Notice also the following:

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:4,5)

Can you see the connection between appearing with Christ and putting to death the lusts of our earthly nature?

If Christ actually is our life, as we have described in the text above, then when He appears we will appear with Him.

Because of our hope of appearing with Christ, we must put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature.

But how do we put these urges to death? When the Spirit of God points out to us one of our behaviors that is not of the image of God, we must confess clearly to Jesus what we have done. Then Jesus is faithful and righteous to forgive us and cleanse us from this unlawful appetite. We refuse to practice it any longer. We resolutely, with Christ's help, turn away from it.

And we do not quit! We keep confessing and resisting this act of the sinful nature until it is gone completely.

There absolutely is no sinful practice that Christ cannot destroy. It is up to us to confess it and turn away from it.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

The present hour is the time in the program of the Divine redemption when Christ is ready to purify His Church from the bondages of sin. Do what I have said and prove to yourself whether or not I am correct!

We simply cannot continue to obey the impulses of our fleshly nature and at the same time believe that Christ is going to change our body to a Divine metabolism, or open to us the mighty gates of the Kingdom of God.

This is what the Bible declares. We can believe it or not.

We have rehearsed the fact that we must learn to live by the Spirit of God, and we must be cleansed from the sins of our flesh, if we are to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

A third dimension of learning to live by the Spirit of God is the "rest of God," mentioned in the Book of Hebrews as an important aspect of our salvation. As the fourth chapter of Hebrews explains, in the sixth day of creation, God finished His work of creating man in His image. He rested on the seventh day.

It is God's will that each one of us enter His seventh-day rest. That is we do not set out to plan our own life by thinking our own thoughts; speaking our own words or performing our own deeds. Rather we look to the Lord Jesus at all times to cause us to think the thoughts, speak the words, that God assigned to us on the sixth day.

God entered His rest on the seventh day. It is our obligation to enter that rest, while the Spirit of God brings our thoughts, words, and actions into compliance with that which God has planned for us.

When we enter God's rest, and act accordingly, we will be in God's image. We then will be qualified to join the army of saints that have returned from Heaven with the Lord Jesus; be clothed with our house from Heaven; and ascend with them to the staging area in the air.

When all have been assembled and mounted on their white war stallions the trumpets will be blown, the drums will beat "charge," and we will descend to the earth to destroy all of the evil principalities, and establish the only lawful King upon His rightful throne in the capital city of Jerusalem.

Our principal work in the present hour is to attain to the inner resurrection so we may receive the clothing of our body with the incorruptible Life of the Lord Jesus when He comes.

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 that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20,21)

Now we will turn to the second goal of the maturing Christian—that of being trained to be a part of the Royal Priesthood.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:4,5)

Blessed and holy are those who share 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)

The supposed goal of our salvation is that when we die we will escape Hell, and go to a mansion in Heaven to live in bliss for eternity. This concept has been in existence for so long a time that I do not see how it ever will be changed.

There are so many passages, particularly in the Old Testament, that speak of our bringing God to the nations of the earth, that I wonder how Christians dispose of these passages.

Perhaps it is because the passages are addressed to Israel that we suppose the destiny of the Gentiles is to live in Heaven while the Jews continue to live on the earth as God's priesthood.

First of all, please let me announce that there only is one true Israel, one true elect of God. The true elect are the Church. The term "Church" means "called out." The members of the Church are a special group that God has called out from the ranks of mankind.

Each member of true Israel is counted as the Seed of Abraham, beginning with the great Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. The members of the Body of Christ, the one Church are drawn from physical Israel as well as from the various Gentile races. Once we are part of Christ we are of true Israel. To make a distinction between Jewish Christians (Messianic Jews) and Gentile Christians is an exercise in folly—complete confusion!

The Church is a governing priesthood, a representative of God, a chariot of God, the Presence of God who will govern and bless His creatures.

The Divine purpose for the period of time from the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, until the present hour, is to call out from mankind the elected members of the priesthood. They will serve as the intermediary between God and His creatures for eternity.

The bringing of Divine Life to the nations will commence as soon as the members of the Church are brought to spiritual maturity.

It appears to me that the Christian institutions are seeking to bring all the people of the world to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. I believe this emphasis is misplaced. According to the Scriptures, the saving knowledge of Christ will be brought to the nations as soon as the Royal Priesthood has been prepared.

Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)

The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. (Revelation 21:24)

If what I am suggesting is so , perhaps we ought to spend some of our money and energy in bringing the members of the Royal Priesthood to the spiritual maturity needed for the role of priest, instead of telling them that they are to go out and bring in more spiritual babies. What do you think of that idea?

My personal opinion is that the two thousand years of the Church Age has been for the purpose of selecting and training the future rulers of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps this is why Satan is laying such stress on the killing of the babies that are being born. As in the case of Herod of old, now is the time when the Divinely-appointed kings are being trained.

Notice how severe the demands on the disciples of the Lord are. We must die to our own desires and follow Jesus wherever He leads.

However, the members of the nations are required only to repent and be baptized. Quite a difference, isn't there?

We of the Church must endure to the end to be saved. We must be called, chosen, and faithful.

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:6-9)

Can you see in these words of the Lord Jesus how the Church and the world are two different groups? Both of these groups, if they obey Christ, are saved from eternal judgment. The task of the Church is to bring the Presence of God to the nations of the world. My opinion is that bringing the eternal Life of God to the people of the world is a far more desirable destiny than lying in a mansion all day doing nothing of significance.

But if we are to minister to the great sea of mankind, we have to pass through the waters of judgment, which is not required of the people of the world so far as I know.

He said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. (Ezekiel 47:8)

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)

The servant of the Lord is, of course, the Christian Church, the Body of the Messiah. God delights in them. Their responsibility is to bring justice to the nations, not to lie around in Heaven for eternity.

In review, we have discussed two goals of the maturing Christian. These are attaining to the first resurrection from the dead, that which will take place when Jesus returns. Also, persevering throughout the numerous trials that are required if we are to serve as a member of the Body of Christ, the new Jerusalem.

We have presented attaining to the first resurrection in two phases. The first phase is the changing of the motivations of our behavior from that of our carnal nature, especially our carnal mind, to the continual directions and assistance of the Lord Jesus. We might think of this as an inner resurrection.

It is a coming to know the Father and Christ to a much greater extent than we have experienced to this point. We are to be in constant communication and fellowship with Them.

The second phase is the destruction of the sinful urges that dwell in our flesh. According to the New Testament, if we do not cooperate with Jesus in the killing of our sinful urges, we neither shall attain to the first resurrection from the dead at the coming of the Lord. Nor shall we enter the Kingdom of God, for there shall be no sin in the Kingdom of God.

Rebellion and sin began in Heaven when Satan decided to take the place of the Father. But no sin or sinners shall remain in the Kingdom of God.

As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his KINGDOM (not out of Heaven) everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)

Our house from Heaven is being formed in the present hour according to the choices we are making. If we are following Christ faithfully in paths of righteousness, then those choices are revealed in our body from Heaven. When we experience the change of metabolism that we term "resurrection," the choices will be manifest for all to see.

A second major goal of the maturing Christian, to be a part of the Royal Priesthood, is accomplished as we follow Christ faithfully. We must set our minds at all times on things above, where we are seated with Christ at the right hand of God.

This mental posture is not always easy to maintain. But it is the proper attitude for those who would be an eternal member of the Body of Christ. There are numerous attractions and distractions while we are living in the present world. But we have been called, chosen, and must remain faithful if we are to finally enter our role as a member of the new Jerusalem, always sending up to the Father the incense of our obedience and worship.

How about you and me? Are we going to make the effort to attain to the change in our body so we can serve mankind as a life-giving spirit? Or are we going to live in the entertainments of the world while the Divine judgment approaches America because of abortion and other sins?

Are we going to continue to serve the Lord regardless of how difficult the way becomes, regardless of the painful transformation that is required if we are to be a royal priest, a chariot of God?

Right now is the time we are being tested and trained. There may not be another chance for us. Let us show the Lord that we desire to do His will at all times and under all circumstances.

Let us place all of our treasures in Heaven that we may survive and help others to survive throughout the fires that are approaching.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Addenda

Religious works are the performance of that which God commanded in time past, such as not working on Saturday or the Great Commission. Such observances are glorified and venerated, and bring honor to those who perform them instead of to God, if they are not careful. These religious works are not anointed, unless God is inspiring them as part of the current work of redemption.

It may be true that an entire religion is built on that which God has done in the past.

The Christian religion began when Jesus ascended to Heaven and men commenced to organize and build tabernacles.

Stern obedience to Christ and the Father is the performance of that which God is commanding right now.

Obedience always is anointed and glorifies God.

A good friend sent me an account of how believers of today are traveling in the Spirit, like Philip; and passing through material barriers as Jesus did when he passed through the mob that was seeking to throw Him off a cliff.

I was inspired by these accounts. As I reflected on them I considered that if this sort of thing began to occur frequently, there is a danger they would detract from God's emphasis today, which is on iron righteousness of behavior; fiery holiness of personality, and stern obedience to God—the image of Christ, in other words.

The Apostle Paul said, "forgetting the things that are behind." This we must do, unless they are part of God's immediate purposes and redemption.

God desires that each Christian be a revelation of His Person and not to come short in anything.

Do you want to be a hundredfold Christian? I do. And we can by building on the faithful lives and works of those who have gone before us. We can clear the final hurdle if we apply ourselves as we should to following and obeying the Lord Jesus!

Some say they are burdened for a "lost and dying world." I am concerned about a disorganized and confused Church that is interpreting God's grace as an alternative to obeying God's commands.

An adamic nature is at home and comfortable with the Christian religion as it customarily is preached. The adamic nature is neither at home or comfortable with the true Gospel of the Kingdom.

The Christian religion often looks to the past for truth and the understanding of God. A more accurate understanding of truth and God occurs as we wrestle with our present redemption, often in the crucible of deferred hope.