ATTAINING TO ETERNAL LIFE
Copyright © 2017 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.
Table of Contents
The Small Gate and Narrow Road
Abiding in Christ
The Lamb on Mount Zion
The First Resurrection
The Water To Swim In
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)
Psalm 91 contains some marvelous promises that I believe we are going to need to rely on in the days to come. But there is a condition, isn’t there? It is that we dwell in the shelter of the Most High. What does this mean? It obviously is important because the inference is that if we do not dwell in the shelter of the Most High, the promises are not to us.
Lately I have been giving some thought to the three kinds of life we can lead. The original adamic life; the life of delusion; and the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are several passages of the Bible that portray a life filled with Christ—more so than is true of most Christians, it appears. But I have not heard them preached very often.
I think what has happened is that the current overemphasis on “grace,” making grace an alternative to obeying the commands of Christ and His Apostles, has had a “leveling” effect on our aspirations. If we are saved by our belief alone, whether or not we press forward in the Divine redemption, then everyone receives the same reward. If this is true, why should we emulate the Apostle Paul and set aside everything that we may come to know Christ?
Did you ever hear anyone preach on few people finding the road to life? Perhaps not. Neither did I, unless the topic was “getting saved.” I do not believe the passage above is referring to “accepting Christ.” I believe it goes beyond that to what Jesus was referring to when He commanded us to dwell in Him.
Are there any passages of the Bible that suggest there are degrees of eternal life to be had by the diligent seeker? Yes, there are. Quite a few, in fact. Why then do we not hear them preached, like the thirty, sixty, and hundredfold reaping? I don’t know. Perhaps they do not stress them in the seminaries.
Anyway, most of us may be lazy and we want to get to Heaven in the quickest, easiest way possible.
But what if eternal life rather than getting a mansion in Heaven is the goal of our redemption? If that is true, then perhaps we should examine the Scriptures to see if there is more to salvation than accepting Christ and going to Heaven. The truth is, and this can be verified easily from the Scriptures, residence in Heaven is not the Biblical goal of redemption. Our goal is to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, that is, to live in Christ as though we were living in a house.
The Lord Jesus thinks, speaks, and acts as the Father thinks, speaks, and acts. We, on our part, are to think, speak, and act, as our Lord Jesus thinks, speaks, and acts.
That is our goal, and we must pursue it every day by continually looking to Jesus for His thoughts that they may be our thoughts; for His words that they may be our words; and His actions that they may be our actions.
We must be totally immersed in Christ at all times. The Apostle Paul called this immersion “attaining to the resurrection.” This is because we must become part of Christ if we are to receive a body like His. Doesn’t that makes sense?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
The above is not the average Christian life, but it certainly is the true resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus worked out in a human being.
Notice that Paul did not become Jesus. Paul was still Paul. Yet Christ lives in Paul. This is to be true of you and me. Paul says he (Paul) no longer lives. Yet he does. He says that Christ lives in his body. Where then is Paul? Paul is crucified with Christ. Now Paul lives by the resurrection Life of Christ. This is the only valid Christian life, that which I term “the third kind of life.”
It appears that this kind of Christian life is not taught very often, and I have not heard Christians talk about it. But it is believers who are crucified with Christ and living by His Life who will be gathered to Him when He appears.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
If Christ is our life, we will appear with Him. If He comes while we still are living on the earth, we will be gathered to Him, be changed in our body (resurrected), and then appear along with Him as part of His appearing.
But if we have “accepted Christ” in the traditional manner, but are still living in our old nature, we will not be gathered to Him when He comes. We will not be changed in our body. We will not appear with Him.
Some may claim, “Once we ‘accept Christ’ He then is our life.” I agree with that, providing we receive Christ in all that we do every day and night. Then we can say that Christ is our Life.
Now we understand why the Apostle Paul was striving to attain to the resurrection, the first resurrection that shall occur when the Lord returns. Now we understand that only a small percentage of professing Christians are ready for Christ’s appearing. Now we understand that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
The promises of Psalm 91 will hold true throughout the worst days of the Divine judgment that is to fall on America and the rest of the world. But only for those who are living by His Life.
Do not think for one moment that you cannot attain to living by the Life of Christ. You can accomplish this kind of dedication by asking help from the Lord Jesus, and making up your mind that your former personality is crucified with the Lord Jesus and now you are going to live your Life with Him.
The Small Gate and Narrow Road
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14)
Can you see that the goal of our redemption is “life”? Contrary to much Christian preaching, the Lord Jesus did not descend from Heaven to earth in order to bring us to Heaven to live. Jesus came so we would not perish but have immortality in our body. Adam and Eve forfeited immortality, access to the Tree of Life, when they disobeyed God. Christ came to redeem us from the curse so we would have access to the Tree of Life, and live on the earth (or wherever) in an incorruptible body.
Isn’t that marvelous? It certainly is better than living in a spirit body with the angels in Heaven.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
Where does it say in the Bible, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to go to Heaven and live there forever”?
Actually our goal should be to attain to the resurrection in which our corruptible body becomes incorruptible. To do this we must “overcome,” as it says in the verse above. At some point, everyone who has died, Christian or not, will be brought back to life in the body. But the kind of body people receive depends on their behavior while on the earth. We cannot assume that just because we have “accepted Christ” we will receive a body like His. Our resurrected spirit will be clothed with a body that reveals what kind of person we have become as a result of our sojourn on the earth.
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
Now the following verse takes on more significance to us:
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14)
Escaping the torments of the Lake of Fire is one matter. But shining as a star in the firmament is something else again.
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 12:3)
Can you see from the verse above that a resurrection that results in our shining like the stars for ever and ever is not the result of “grace” but of leading many people to righteous behavior?
I think we of today are in a revival of the knowledge of the Bible. Up to the present there has been a spiritual blindness that has prevented us from seeing what actually is written.
“Grace” will not govern the kind of resurrection we have. It is our behavior that will shape our heavenly body!
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
Do you know it is taught today that the passage above does not apply to those who are saved by grace? Isn’t that terrible? That points out to us that we are in a dreadful apostasy. Each person, Christian or not, will receive in the resurrection what is due us for the things we have done, whether we have done good things or bad things.
We can pass through the Judgment Seat of Christ today if we will count ourselves as dead and risen with Christ. We can ask the Lord to judge us and help us turn from what we have done that is bad. Then we will not need to answer for our bad behavior when we are brought before Him.
But to claim that because we are saved by grace this passage does not apply to us is totally inappropriate. Consider the context! Paul obviously is writing to the believers, and he is referring to the body with which we will be clothed.
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)
So there is a road that leads to a glorious immortality, and few people find it. Does this mean, then, that everyone else goes to Hell or to the Lake of Fire? I do not believe this is the case. But it does signify that there is a reward for serving the Lord. Those who lead a righteous life, as Christ helps, and thus inspire others to live righteously, will be clothed upon with a body that shines like a star.
Then there are the sixtyfold and thirtyfold who do not receive a resurrection of this quality.
Divine grace forgives us and releases us from the Law of Moses provided we are making some headway in cleansing ourselves from sin, as Jesus guides and helps us. But if we choose instead to live in the old adamic life, committing one sin after another, this will be revealed when we are resurrected. The Bible means exactly what it says when it emphasizes that the rewards of life and glory are given to those who through our Lord Jesus gain victory over the temptations Satan places before them.
And we cannot claim the protection offered by Psalm 91 if we do not live under the shelter of the Most High by not continuing to abide in Christ.
Abiding in Christ
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4)
To remain in Christ is to be conscious at all times, day and night, that He is present with us. We are to listen continually for His guidance, calling on Him for strength when we have a need.
What is the “fruit” that we are to bear? It is Christ’s likeness, the image of God in our behavior. As the Lord stated, we cannot experience such change in our thinking, speaking, and behavior unless we are living in Him.
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.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:19-24)
If we make no effort, by praying and obeying, to live in Christ, trusting in grace to bring us to Heaven, we will continue to act according to our fleshly desires. Notice that Paul says if we behave in this manner we will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Our goal is not residence in Heaven. Paul does not stipulate that if we behave according to our carnal nature we will not go to Heaven. The issue of redemption is that of inheriting the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is the rule of God expressed in Christ and through Christ in us. When we are born again, the Kingdom, Christ, is born in us. Then it is a matter of crucifying our flesh with its passions and desires.
Can you see how different this is from the concept that we are saved by “grace” independently of how we behave? If we permit our old nature to express itself, it will keep us from entering the Kingdom of God.
What, then, is the grace of God? What does Paul mean when He states that it is “not by works of righteousness we have done but by God’s grace we are saved”? When Paul says this, he is speaking of the Jews keeping the commands of Moses in the hope that God will regard them as righteous and they will prosper because of the blessing that rests on them as a result. Paul is comparing them with the Christians who keep looking to Jesus and obeying Him, continually being forgiven by the blood atonement made by the Lord Jesus.
The Jews who are obeying Moses are earning their righteousness by their obedience to Moses. The Christians are not earning righteousness. Rather they are obeying the Lord, presenting their bodies a living sacrifice in order that the program of redemption, of becoming a new moral creation in Jesus Christ, may be accomplished in them. You can see how different this is from earning the favor of God by obeying the commands of Moses.
If the Christians do not count themselves as crucified with Christ, do not keep looking to the Lord Jesus at all times so they may be obedient to Him in all they are thinking, speaking, and doing, then they are not righteous because of obeying the Law of Moses nor are they righteous because of remaining in Christ. So the Christians of today who are trusting in grace to keep them righteous, who are practicing the sins of the flesh, are not righteous in God’s sight. They have been deceived.
God may send various afflictions on them so they will pray and not abandon themselves to their fleshly nature. In this instance, they are not being created in the image of God (saved) by their trust in grace, but through their prayers and repentance.
Because numerous Christian believers are obeying their fleshly appetites and not making an attempt to please Jesus, our nation, the United States, is facing a dreadful Divine judgment. We are murdering our babies, worshiping money, and accepting sexual perversions. We are oblivious to the wrath that is being stored up in God’s mind. When the judgment falls, there will be chaos. I am persuaded that multitudes will die, from starvation, disease, or atomic fire. America already is losing its place of leadership among the nations of the world. All of this is taking place because the Christian people are living in the sins of the flesh rather than dwelling in Christ. They are not serving as the moral light of the world. America does not have the Divine guidance it would have if the Christians were obeying the Words of the Lord Jesus.
In some instances their pastors are telling them that God wants them to be rich and powerful in the world and have every advantage. So the watchmen on the wall are not warning the believers of the coming judgment. The people will die, and the watchmen will be held accountable for their blood.
I cannot imagine a future worse than that which actually is going to take place in the near future in America. God has blessed our land so bountifully. We have responded by throwing out Christ and the Bible. No nation in the past that has done this has survived. Neither shall we, although I believe God has told me that a remnant of Americans shall survive. But we no longer shall be a leader among the nations.
The Lamb on Mount Zion
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)
I wonder what those who teach that all Christians have the same reward because they are saved by a sovereign grace, think when they read the passage above?
I am not certain that the number 144,000 is literal. It really does not matter. The point of the passage is that these believers are special to the Lamb.
And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
Now, did they do anything special? Was God especially pleased with their actions?
These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. (Revelation 14:4)
Since the Bible says that marriage is honorable and the bed undefiled, and since we know that the Bible never contradicts itself, we conclude that the meaning of the above is that these followers never became so enraptured with money, or politics, or sports, or any other god that is worshiped in the world, that they were not able to follow the Lamb without distraction wherever He goes.
The statement that they were purchased “from among mankind” leaves the impression that God selected them in a special manner. The comment that they were “offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb” means they are considered to be choice, of special quality.
They sing a song that no one else is permitted to learn or is able to learn.
We Christians may not like the idea of some people being special to the Lord, but when we read the Bible, it is clear that God indeed does choose certain people for places of honor in His Kingdom. However, we see, as in the case of Abraham and Isaac, those chosen for preeminence may be tested with a severity that many of us would find difficult to cope with.
Perhaps the bottom line is: each of us has a calling in the Kingdom of God. God then deals with us according to the calling He has placed upon us. If we then faithfully obey Christ in all matters, God will love us just as much as He does someone whom He has assigned to great preeminence.
Isn’t that all that matters?
The First Resurrection
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)
As is true of the other promises in the Bible, the above also depends on the actions of the recipients.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
I have preached a great deal about the first resurrection. This is the time when Christ next appears. Notice that the people who were joined to Christ had not worshiped the beast, or otherwise participated in the culture of their day. They actually did something to warrant the great blessing that came to them. They were proven worthy of the Kingdom of God.
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)
I have spoken quite a bit to our church about the coming of the Lord. It will not be as currently presented. All of the believers are not going to fly up to Heaven in a “rapture.” The return of Christ is the time of the first resurrection of the believers. I think this is the resurrection the Apostle Paul was seeking to attain to.
Notice the expression “they came to life.” This tells us that from the viewpoint of God, we are not alive until we experience resurrection. When Jesus appears, the Christians who are prepared will receive their incorruptible bodies, will be caught up together with those believers who have returned with Him from the spirit world, and then will be mounted on white war-stallions so they may participate in the establishing of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
The Apostle Paul gives us some idea of the intensity of dedication required if we are to attain to this early resurrection (“early” as compared with the general resurrection that will take place when Satan has been thrown into the Lake of Fire).
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 3:10,11)
Compare this with “grace Christians” who are waiting until Christ carries them off to playland so they can rest at their ease while Antichrist is persecuting those who are keeping the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.
Unless we are dwelling in Christ, living by His body and blood as we go from victory to victory in Him, we absolutely will not be gathered to Him when He appears; we will not receive the change in the body; we will not be caught up to the staging area in the sky; and we will not descend with Him and participate in the installation of the Kingdom of God on the earth.
We would be neither qualified nor competent to help with the task of governing the nations and bringing justice to them.
The Lord Jesus has given us the present time to learn to abide in Him. If we make a practice of thinking, speaking, and acting with Him, we will stand and help others to stand during the unimaginable chaos that is approaching the United States and other nations of the world.
But if we dawdle, thinking that nothing can change our life of ease in America, not addressing ourselves to the work of attaining to the first resurrection, we will be unprepared to cope with the coming disasters and will be of no help to ourselves or to anyone else. We will perish along with the people around us. Then, when we stand before the Lord Jesus in the spirit world, and He asks us why we did not press into Him when we had the opportunity, how will we respond?
The Water To Swim In
He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. (Ezekiel 47:5)
Ezekiel’s river is a portrayal of growth in the Spirit of God. We begin with water to the ankles, proceed to water to the knees, then water to the hips, finally water to swim in.
As I stated previously, our goal is not eternal residence in Heaven, it is to be filled with the Spirit of God.
“Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The pursuit of life is equivalent to the pursuit of Christ, because He is the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever has Christ has the best God has to offer.
Mankind has been dead spiritually since the days of Adam and Eve. Into this graveyard strode the eternal Life of God. Whoever receives Him passes from death into life.
It was immortality in the body that was lost in Eden. Christ came to restore immortality to us. But we must dwell continually in Christ, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, which is the image of God, so we may be qualified to receive incorruption when our time comes.
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:42-44)
If we are eligible, then when the time comes, we will be filled with the Spirit of God in our inward nature and our body. Can you think of anything more wonderful than that? Sin will not be able to keep its grip on us any longer. We will have been transformed from a living soul to a life-giving spirit. We will be in the image of God. The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. Whoever desires to do so may come to us and drink of the water of eternal life.
There are multitudes of people who will be our inheritance from the Lord. There is no limit to the amount of Life we can attain to in the Lord. We then will share that life with mankind.
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)
(“Attaining to Eternal Life”, 4285-2, proofed 20210807)