CHANGE IS THE VICTORY APART FROM ASCENSION

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.

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. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "death has been swallowed up in victory." (I Corinthians 15:52-54)

"We will be changed." Notice that when the change occurs, death has been swallowed up in victory. The ascension to Heaven is not mentioned.

This is the resurrection. The resurrection is not a change of where we are but a change of what we are. The expression "the dead will be raised imperishable" does not mean raised from the surface of the earth, but changed from death into life.

Notice there is no mention of an ascension. The "rapture" teaching of our day emphasizes an ascension. An ascension is not a part of the resurrection. An ascension is nothing more than a movement from the earth to the spirit world. It is not a critical part of our redemption. It is an expression of Kingdom power—-nothing more.

The Lord Jesus did not go to Heaven as soon as He was resurrected. Except for the brief period when He sprinkled His blood upon the Mercy Seat, He returned to earth and was here some forty days. Our resurrection will be patterned after His, I believe.

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves;but he entered the Most Holy Placeonce for allby his own blood,thus obtaining eternal redemption. (Hebrews 8:12)

A "rapture," as it is taught today, is not found in the Scriptures. It will not take place as taught currently. There will be no point in history when the Lord Jesus "catches up His waiting Bride to Heaven to escape Antichrist and the Great Tribulation."

The "rapture" teaching has done harm to Christian people. The harm is that the believers are not preparing themselves for the time of trouble that is ahead for us in America, as well as in the rest of the world.

Notice what the Scripture declares:

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 believers are being taught that they have no need to prepare for a day of evil because they will "not be here," that is, not living on the earth when trouble comes. If this is the case, why did th Apostle Paul exhort us to put on the full armor of God so we will be able to stand in Christ in the day of evil?

The "rapture" teaching, along with its handmaidens, the doctrine of lawless grace, "once saved always saved," and the excessive emphasis on evangelism to the neglect of feeding the congregations with any doctrine more advanced than the rudiments of salvation, has resulted in the spiritual immaturity of a large percentage of the Christian people.

Numerous important Christian doctrines, such as that of the Apostle Paul striving to attain to the resurrection; or the thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold development of Christ in us, are seldom heard.

Growth in Christ actually is an increase in our ability to distinguish between good and evil.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13,14)

Have you ever heard that preached?

It may be true that Christian believers are the only religious people in the world who do not know what righteous behavior is, or how it affects the kind of resurrection they will experience.

The central thesis of the Book of Hebrews is the "rest of God." There is no more important teaching in the Scriptures. It is that of abiding in Christ until we are living by every Word of God.

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)

Have you ever heard anyone preach that the way we behave will determine whether we are raised to life or to condemnation? Probably not, because Divine "grace" is preached as an alternative to righteous behavior, rather than what grace actually is—relief from the Law of Moses so we can follow the Lord Jesus into righteous behavior without the distraction of the statutes of Moses.

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 what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)

We will be changed at the last trumpet, that is, when the Spirit of God infuses eternal life into the" two witnesses" and catches them up to Heaven.

The two witnesses will give their testimony at the end of the Church Age. The two witnesses are Christ, and those in whom Christ has been brought to maturity. They will proclaim the soon coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

Please notice that it is the "Gospel of the Kingdom" that is preached, the original Gospel preached by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles of the Lamb.

The gospel of the Kingdom of God coming to the earth is not preached in our day. What is preached is that if we "accept Christ" we will go to Heaven when we die; or if the Lord Jesus appears before we die we will be caught up to Heaven in a "rapture," there to reside forever.

The witness will be overcome by Antichrist in the middle of the prophetic week.

Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. (Revelation 11:7)

Then, at the end of the week, the spirit of Life from God will enter the bodies of the saints who have borne the witness, and they will come to life and be caught up to Heaven.

But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. (Revelation 11:11.12)

This is the first resurrection, the resurrection of the Firstfruits of the Christian Church, according to my understanding. If this is true, then it is the time of the appearing of the Lord Jesus from Heaven.

This means that the saints who come with Jesus will descend with Him and retrieve their bodies from their place of burial. Then they shall be resurrected (changed).

Those of us on earth who are living by every Word of God will be changed at that time and caught up with them to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. Then we all will be caught up to Heaven in preparation for our descent with Him to cleanse the earth of wickedness and govern the nations for one thousand years.

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)

I would like to emphasize that the resurrection has been accomplished as soon as the Spirit of God has entered the bodies of those who have come with the Lord from Heaven and the bodies of the witnesses who had been killed by Antichrist.

The ascension is a different matter. Their going up to Heaven and returning to the earth is an act of Kingdom power. It is not a part of redemption. It will not change the participants in any manner.

The Apostle Paul was sorrowful because his physical body was dead because of the sin in it. Then he brought to mind that his body would be redeemed, that is, made alive because the sin had been removed and he would become a son of God by adoption.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

Did you ever hear anyone groan for the coming of the rapture so they could overcome sin? Or did they just want to escape the problems of life on the earth?

When the seventh and last trumpet sounds, we will be changed. Our physical body will be clothed with imperishability. All tiredness, sickness, the desire to sin, the processes of elimination, all handicaps, and so forth, with vanish abruptly.

But this may not be true of all the Christian people with whom we are associating. Rather the change will come to those who are living by the wisdom and power of God, not by those who have merely "accepted Christ."

Following is a description of those who are changed at the last trumpet:

(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This (the change we are speaking of) is 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 20:5,6)

That "the second death has no power over them" means that through Christ they have overcome the seven behaviors over which the Father has given authority to the Lake of Fire.

"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)

One of the damages wrought by the teaching that "all who have accepted Christ" will be caught up in a "rapture" is that it makes no provision for a Firstfruits of the Church, for those who are more spiritually developed than is true of the remainder of God's people.

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 14:5)

The overemphasis on "grace" as a substitute for godly character has done away with the "hundredfold" development that the Lord Jesus announced. "Redemption is a sovereign act of God," it is proclaimed, the idea being that "we all are saved by grace and there is no difference among us. We all will go to Heaven regardless of how we have lived the Christian discipleship."

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matthew 13:8)

The current view of redemption makes the Apostle Paul, with his total consecration, seem foolish.

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. (Philippians 3:8,9)

No doubt the Apostle Paul had "accepted Christ" previously. So what is this striving all about? Is there actually more to the Christian discipleship than being "saved by grace"?

It appears from the passage above that "faith" is more than mental assent to the facts of theology.

It is noteworthy that some are claiming that the Book of Hebrews, with its stern warning about godly behavior, must have been written only to the Jews, because we Gentiles are saved by "grace," not by living a godly life.

An outstanding Christian teacher of years ago stated that Hebrews is a book of warning. And so it is. The belief on the part of some that because Hebrews threatens those who do not bear the fruit of the image of Christ with being cursed and cast into the fire, it must be written to someone other than Gentiles who are "saved by grace. Such a belief should be a warning to us that somehow Divine grace is being presented as something other than what it is.

For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 4)

It appears from Jude that it is possible to turn the Divine grace into "a license for immorality."

The current teaching of grace effectively makes of no effect the teaching of the New Testament that we must put to death the sinful compulsions that reside in out flesh if we are to inherit the Kingdom of God; if we are to attain to the resurrection, that is, unto the filling of our body with Divine life.

The idea of the universal "rapture" of all believers in Christ, for example, is a destructive error in Christian thinking. It is based on the belief in "lawless grace." However, there are passages of Scripture that indicate our resurrection, our change into imperishability, will be affected by our behavior during our lifetime on the earth.

For example:

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)

If I am not mistaken, it is taught that the verse above does not apply to Christian people because we are saved by grace.

Is there any evidence that Paul is addressing Christian people in Second Corinthians 5:10?

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, and Timotheus the brother, to the assembly of God that is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia. (II Corinthians 1:1)

Now let's see what is addressed to the assembly of God that is in Corinth, and to all the saints in Achaia:

"Each may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body."

I would suggest Paul is speaking to Christian people.

We can notice that leading up to verse ten, Paul is speaking about our being clothed with the body from Heaven.

In the preceding chapter, Chapter Four, Paul is telling that our numerous pressures and afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our momentary troubles.

Paul then proceeds, in Chapter Five, to discuss the body (the eternal glory) that will clothe us in the Day of Resurrection:

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)

Moving forward a few verses:

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)

It seems to me logical that in II Corinthians, Chapters Four and Five, Paul is teaching that when we appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, we are going to receive a body from Heaven that reflects what we have done while living in our physical body on the earth.

We may see at once that an overemphasis on grace as an alternative to godly behavior may result in our receiving a resurrection body that is not to our liking.

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 what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)

"Those who have done." It is what we have done in the body that is at issue. To then claim that grace does away with this is not a defensible attitude to take toward the Bible.

I realize that some are teaching that from the Book of Acts forward everything has changed. We are in a whole new "dispensation." The prior emphasis on righteous behavior no longer applies.

The Scriptures do not teach or imply that such a change has taken place. From the beginning of the creation extending to eternity it always has been true that to please God we must practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

This was true of Adam and Eve. This was true of Cain. This was true of Judas, and of Ananias and Sapphira. This is true today. This will be true a thousand years from now. Those who are teaching we are in a new dispensation in which the previous expectations of God concerning our behavior no longer apply, are teaching error. They do not understand the Nature of God.

Righteousness always is righteousness. Mercy always is mercy. Walking humbly with God always is walking humbly with God.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Those who teach otherwise do not know the Lord!

Please keep in mind that the verbs "come out" and "rise" are not speaking of ascending from the earth to Heaven but of rising from the dead, just as our Lord rose on the third day. It is the change in the body that is mentioned here.

To be resurrected means to pass from death to some kind of life in the body, whether we rise to live or rise to condemnation.

Can you see how this agrees with Second Corinthians 5:10?

"Each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

Now notice:

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)

"Those who lead many to righteousness" will shine like the stars. This shows us that all Christians do not have the same reward because of "grace." Our actions have eternal consequences.

The fifteenth chapter of the Book of First Corinthians might be termed "The Resurrection Chapter." Not many chapters of the Bible have such a single focus, showing us that resurrection is an unusually important topic. We might think of attaining to the first resurrection as being an important goal for all of us.

I do not know anywhere in the Bible where an ascension from earth to Heaven is pointed out as an act of redemption.

How do we attain to the first resurrection? By looking to the Lord Jesus for guidance and enablement for every decision we make throughout the day and night. This is a good habit to acquire, because when we die and pass into the spirit world we will continue to make our decisions by looking to the Lord Jesus—-for eternity!

But getting back to First Corinthians, Fifteen:

Do you see any emphasis, in the "Resurrection Chapter, on a catching up to Heaven?

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:22)

The Bible regards us as dead, even though we physically are alive. The Holy Spirit that we receive when we are saved is our guarantee that one day we will be made alive.

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)

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest (down payment) on our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13,14—KJV)

Can you see that the resurrection, the change or redemption of our body, has nothing to do with living forever in Heaven? It is not a change in where we are but of what we are. "The redemption of the purchased possession means a change in our body from mortality to immortality."

Is it clear that this is a reversal of what occurred in the Garden of Eden?

After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

In fact, the well known John 3:16 is not speaking of going to Heaven (which is preached universally, I believe), but of restoring immortality in the body to everyone who believes in Christ.

The reason this understanding is so important is that multitudes of Christian believers are waiting to be carried to Heaven; and this will be even more true as they see chaos approaching.

However, we ought to be emphasizing attaining to the first resurrection instead of looking forward to being carried up to Heaven in our sinful body. By this I mean concentrating on living in Jesus until all we think, say, and do are wrought in Him. Isn't it true that today is the Day of salvation?

But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (I Corinthians 15:23)

"Those who belong to Him" means much more than those who have "accepted Christ," or the believers who meet each Sunday in a Christian Church. And really, this is why I am writing this essay. Those who belong to Him means those who are abiding in Him and bringing forth in their personalities the image of Christ.

This distinction is so extremely important! Once the seventh trumpet sounds, the die is cast, so to speak. We may wail at the door like the foolish virgins, but the change already will be taking place in the bodies of those who belong to the Lord Jesus.

What about those who are not changed, who have not put to death the sins residing in their flesh, who do not receive the transforming Spirit of God in their bodies when the last trumpet blows? I suppose they will continue with life on earth as usual. Perhaps the Lord will send saints among them who will comfort and guide them.

What about those who are changed into immortality when the seventh trumpet sounds? They are accustomed to being guided by the Lord Jesus. They will be gathered together with those who returned with the Lord from Heaven, and who just now have been raised from the dead to stand upon their feet in the fullness of resurrection life.

Then the entire group, those who have returned with the Lord Jesus, and those who have been changed into immortality while still living on the earth, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

What will they experience after that? There is a verse in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation that suggests the whole group, after meeting the Lord Jesus in the air, will then be caught up to Heaven. If this is so, then their war stallions will be waiting for them there, along with the army of angels. For this is the time when the kingdom of the world becomes the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (I Corinthians 15:26)

Physical death is our enemy. The change that is coming will reverse that curse, if we prepare ourselves for it. When God created mankind He did not intend they should die physically. We die because of the activities of Satan. The Lord Jesus Christ was sent to us by the Father that we might partake of Him and receive immortality in our body.

Christ is the Tree of Life. However we must overcome the enemy by calling upon Christ for assistance if we are to gain access to the Tree of Life, and eat and live forever in our body.

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 42-44)

Observe (above) the changes that will take place in our body at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. But be sure to keep in mind that if we expect such a change to take place in our body when the trumpet sounds, we must be living, moving, and having our being in Christ at all times. His appearing may happen suddenly and unexpectedly, so we always must be prepared!

"In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet."

The Lord Jesus often does surprising things, so do not assume anything.

He just might change us one at a time while congratulating us for being a faithful servant!

As I stressed previously, the term "raised" does not mean raised from the surface of the earth but changed from death to eternal life in the body.

So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (I Corinthians 15:45-49)

The above is a passage to which we should give our full attention.

The first man Adam became a living being (soul); the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. So great is the change! So great is the resurrection! Since our Lord Jesus Christ is the Firstborn from the dead, He also must have changed from a living being, literally "soul," to a life-giving Spirit.

Perhaps He was referring to the death of His Soul when in Gethsemane He cried out in prayer that His Soul was sorrowful unto death.

Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." (Matthew 26:38)

So it is with us. Our soul is the center of our will. Perhaps in some manner our soul also must die so the source of our will is the Lord Jesus, just as the source of His will is the Father. We all must cry to the Father: "Not my will but Yours be done. Your Kingdom come. You will be done on the earth as it is in Heaven." Thus we agree there only is one legitimate will in the universe.

We also are to become life-giving spirits. We are to be planted by the River of Life that flows from the Throne of God. From us the Life of God will flow to the nations of the earth. From us the Life of God will be available to those who live on the new earth. We are to be changed from a living soul to a life-giving spirit. Therefore we must experience some deaths!

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10.)

Look what takes place when we attain to "waters to swim in":

Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. (Ezekiel 47:7)

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)

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. (John 7:38)

Down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2)

Just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

Each of us who belongs to Christ has been predestined, not just to be saved from wrath, but to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus. He is to be the first born of many brothers (and sisters, possibly).

But as it is written, "flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of God." We must be changed into a life-giving spirit if we are to be the brothers or sisters of our Lord Jesus. Although Christ is so much greater than us in position, authority, and power, yet we have the same Father. Therefore we are true brothers.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29)

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)

Some of us may be alive on the earth when the last trumpet sounds. Whether we are deceased at that time, or living on the earth, we suddenly shall be changed if we have prepared ourselves by attaining to the first resurrection!

It appears that the Lord Jesus has come in the Spirit to us in these last days to prepare us for His coming in the clouds of Heaven. He is telling us to prepare! Prepare! Prepare! To get ready for His appearing!

We prepare ourselves for His appearing by drawing closer to Him each moment. We look to Him for all that we think, say, and do.

If we do not do this, when the last trumpet sounds we will remain unchanged. We will be like the foolish virgins who ran out of oil. When they went and obtained more oil, they came back and wanted to go with the Lord.

But the door was closed! Can you imagine the horror that Christian people will experience when they realize that their friends have been changed and have gone to be with the Lord, and they have been left in their sin and self-seeking!

The time to get ready is now—this very minute! We need to think seriously about how we will feel if we are not changed and gathered to the Lord and His victorious saints when the seventh trumpet sounds.

If my understanding is correct, there are some events that will take place before the last trumpet sounds.

In the present hour the Lord Jesus is ready to remove our sins from us; but we must confess them and, with His help, turn away from them.

At the same time, Christ is being formed in us.

As we repent and turn away from the foolishness of the "rapture," lawless "grace," and "once saved always saved,"and begin to draw close to the Lord Jesus, the Lord will pour out on us the spring rain, that which comes during the barley and wheat harvests in Israel.

As Christ begins to come to maturity in some of the Christians, they will be empowered to bear witness to all the nations of the earth of the soon coming of the Kingdom of God.

When the witness has been completed, God will permit Antichrist to overcome the witness and rise to great power. He will be able to enter where the saints are in Christ at the right hand of the Father and deceive those who are not fully obedient to God, and cast them down to the earth.

It (Antichrist) 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. It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. Because of rebellion, the Lord's people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. (Daniel 8:10-12)

This is the tail of the dragon, mentioned in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation. Some of the saints are rebellious, not committing themselves wholly to God's will. Therefore they will be deceived by Satan and shall be torn down from their place at God's right hand.

We see this today as people who were prominent in the Christian ministry are deceived by Satan into committing immoral deeds. They had been dead and their life hidden with Christ in God. But they allowed their crown of life to be taken from them.

We have been warned that God is going to shake the heavens and the earth so the things that are created by people will be removed from His Presence. Only that which has been created by God Himself will remain.

"Holiness" is what God is. Whatever is of God is holy. Whatever is not of God is not holy. The heart of man is deceitful, wicked, and cannot be cured. Whoever partakes of Christ partakes of holiness.

We must never lay our hand on the Ark of God's Presence and glory while it is "coming down the road"!

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:26,27)

This indicates that all that mankind has created in the name of religion, Christian or not, apart from the directions of the Lord Jesus Christ, will be removed from the Presence of God.

These will be terrible days on the earth!

I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat." (Revelation 7:14-16)

When God is satisfied that through Christ He has put down all rebellion against His will, the Lord Jesus will turn the Kingdom back to His Father.

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. (I Corinthians 15:24)

The last trumpet shall be blown, and those who are living in the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be changed.

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." (I Corinthians 15:53-54)

Observe that the victory has been gained when we are changed! No ascension is necessary to the victory.

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:55)

It may be true that most Christian people think of eternal residence in Heaven as being the goal of our redemption. It is not! The goal of our redemption is to attain to the first resurrection: the resurrection to life; the change from mortality to immortality; the change from obeying our fleshly nature to living always in a godly manner; to being the chariot of God, always driven by His guidance and power; to being holiness unto the Lord, always and forever doing His complete will punctually and cheerfully.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:56,57)

Being caught up to Heaven will not change us from sinful to righteous behavior. Where there is no change from sinful to righteous behavior, redemption has not taken place, whether we are residing in Heaven or on the earth. This is why the heroes of faith, although inj Heaven at the present hour, cannot be made perfect apart from us.

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39,40)

Therefore, an ascension to Heaven before we are changed would succeed only in bringing our sinful, self-centered behavior into Paradise.

The faithful in Heaven, and we on the earth, cannot be brought to maturity until the "third day" of redemption, which has begun today, has accomplished the desired goal.

The new Jerusalem is the governing body of the Kingdom of God.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

The new Jerusalem is composed of the members of the Royal Priesthood. It cannot descend to earth and perform its appointed task until each member has been brought to the maturity in Christ that God is requiring.

"The righteous made perfect"!

All of the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem, the Royal Priesthood, the members of the Body of Christ, begin as righteous people. Not only righteous by imputation by having received Christ, but people who basically have a character that honors righteous behavior, as judged by the conscience of most people of the world.

This does not mean they always have behaved according to what they believe to be righteous, but they know in their heart what is right. Such are those who are called to be members of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, this initial righteousness is not sufficient. They must be made perfect. Like their Lord, they must choose to do the will of God to the point of the death of their soul. They always must be declaring to God, "Not my will but Yours be done."

This attitude of uncompromising obedience goes beyond the righteousness of Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

There is a firstfruits to God and the Lamb. I believe these are symbolized by the twenty-four elders who throw down their crowns and worship God and the Lamb continually.

Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. (Revelation 4:4)

It may be true that these are the rulers, under Christ, of the nations throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age. These follow the Lamb wherever He goes, and will be changed when the seventh trumpet sounds. They surround the Throne of God in Heaven, but like their Lord, have the power of multiple presence.

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9,10—KJV)

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)

If I am correct, these are the hundredfold, that Jesus mentioned. Perhaps some of them will be occupied with the task of bringing about the necessary change in the members of the Royal Priesthood who will remain in the Jerusalem in Heaven during the thousand-year Kingdom age.

Notice in the following passage how the firstfruits minister to these less mature priests:

We have a little sister, and her breasts are not yet grown. What shall we do for our sister on the day she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her. If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar. (Song of Solomon 8:8,9)

The next verse tells who the "we" are: So I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers. Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment. (Song of Solomon 8:10)

But my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her. The young women saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines praised her. (Song of Solomon 6:9)

I think it is clear that there is a firstfruits of the Bride of the Lamb, and during the thousand-year Kingdom age she will help the remainder of the "sisters" to come to maturity.

The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary. (Psalms 68:17)

It may be true that the "tens of thousands" are the Firstfruits, while the thousands of thousands are the remainder of the Church, the called-out ones.

In any event, all of the members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are to be chariots of God, receiving their guidance and enablement from the Father through the Lord Jesus.

Three thousand years, three "days," during which the Church, the government of the Kingdom of God, is to be finished. The Body of Christ is to be brought to maturity on the third day. The members of the Body are to be changed, brought to imperishable life, on the third day.

And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. (Luke 13:32—KJV)

After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. (Hosea 6:2)