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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 9

The Process of Becoming Immortal

In our discussion of the biblical truths concerning immortality, it remains for us to set forth, in such measure as the Lord enables, the immortal state which is the destiny of God’s elect and something of the process involved in reaching that destiny.

Earlier, in Chapter 5, we discussed the truth that the gospel is the key to immortality (II Tim. 1:9, 10). God begets children by anointing chosen men to preach his living word. Where that word finds a lodging in believing hearts, children of God are born.

It is very evident, however, that entering into a fully immortal state is not something that happens instantaneously. Even allowing for the vast numbers of those who merely profess salvation without possessing it, we must admit that true believers exhibit all manner of weakness: they sin; they may experience seasons of doubt, discouragement; they often manifest anything but the nature of the God who has begotten them; they get sick; they get old; and they die.

The process of bringing a man from his lost, sinful state to full sonship and immortality is long, involved and without shortcuts. It is a process infinitely beyond our power. That is why our Heavenly Father has provided a perfect Savior who is “able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

The Day of Jesus Christ

Paul expressed his understanding of this truth in Phil. 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Notice carefully the duration of this work — “until the day of Jesus Christ!” Paul was writing to believers who died over 1900 years ago, yet there is some part of Christ’s work in them that is continuing at this moment!

I believe that God’s work in His children is so perfectly planned and scheduled that when Christ comes back they will have all arrived at the place He has ordained for them. Believers who die in various states of ignorance and carnality will find that God has appointed means to finish the work on the other side. None will be left behind. What God starts He will finish, one way or another. Of course, when we speak of God’s work being completed on the other side, we’re not talking about deliverance from sin, but matters of full maturity, knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

Only time and God’s revelation will fully unveil what God has in mind for us as He finishes the work and cuts it short in righteousness (Rom. 9:28). I believe that He has revealed that He intends to restore His remnant church to the power and glory she enjoyed briefly at the beginning.

It is the place of Christ, the Head, to lead and provide for the church which is His body. It is the church’s place to lift her hands in childlike faith and surrender to her Head that He might finish the work the Father has appointed.

We stand upon the very threshold of eternity and God would have His remnant to be made aware of the glory that He has planned and provided through the death of His Son. As a result of the sleep-inducing influence of the spirit of the age and the spiritual lack in dead religious tradition, the relative handful of God’s people in the earth are asleep and need to be awakened. It is midnight and the Bridegroom is coming! It’s time to wake up and get ready.

As we noted earlier, it is evident that Christians sin. Even the most illustrious saint (as we might judge such things) has not passed beyond the experience of coming short while yet in the flesh. There are some who would claim to have entered into such a state, but they are deceived. John wrote (I John 1:8), “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Note that he says “we,” including himself in the statement.

If we are honest, we must admit the presence of sin, not only around us, but also in us. The truth is that, in the wisdom of God, though we have been begotten of God and made new creatures in Christ, yet sin remains present in our bodies which are yet mortal.

Two Natures

Immortality begins deep within as God resurrects our spirits through the gospel. This is the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6). This first resurrection only affects our spirits. Until the day when we die or Christ comes, we must contend with the fact that we have two natures that are in conflict with one another.

One part of us loves God and His ways. It loves God’s word and the fellowship of His people and longs for a full deliverance from this present evil world. The other part loves sin, hates God’s ways and wants unceasingly to live for self.

The story is oft told of a simple Christian brother who expressed this conflict in the following manner: he said that inside of him were two dogs fighting, one white and the other black. When asked which dog prevailed, he answered, “whichever one I feed the most.” This is a simple, yet profound truth that touches us all where we live.

God has purposed that we, in a practical sense, serve Him in spite of the presence of sin both within and without. Many have discovered in frustration and sorrow, as Paul did, the futility of trying to serve God with mere human strength (Rom 7). His anguish reached a climax when he cried, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Paul had to learn, as we must, that only through relying upon God’s power can we serve God and please Him (Rom. 8:1-4).

In the first part of I John 4, John warned believers of attempts by demon-inspired men to lead them astray. In verse 4 he encouraged them (and us!) by saying, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

This is our only hope — the presence of Christ within — not only in order to overcome and serve God, but also of future glory as well. The essence of Paul’s message to the Colossian believers (Col. 1:27) was, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

We are promised his presence with us unto the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). Jesus himself said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

The Reign of Christ

The Captain of our salvation has a commission from the Father to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10) and has received all authority in heaven and earth that he might do just that (Matt. 28:18-20).

In fact, the “church age” as we often refer to it can aptly be titled “The Reign of Christ.” Christ’s reign began with His death, burial, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father. This is the basis of the glorious words in Rev. 12:7-11:

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

“And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Satan was utterly defeated at the cross. The practical outworking of that accomplished fact is, however, a process. That is why Paul in I Cor. 15:24-26 speaks of an ongoing reign that will reach its climax when death itself is abolished.

We experience that reign as Christ works in us through his indwelling presence, through the fellowship of believers and especially through the ministry of his living word that instructs, encourages, corrects and energizes our faith.

Paul exhorts us to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and has professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (I Tim. 6:12).

We are told that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” II Cor. 10:3-4.

The Way of Suffering

Christians must realize that the pathway to full immortality is one of suffering and overcoming whatever challenges to faith a loving Heavenly Father appoints.

There are but two races of men: those in Adam and those in Christ. It is the destiny of everyone in Adam’s race to die. It is the destiny of those in Christ to be made alive (I Cor. 15:22).

In Matt. 16:24-26, Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Those of Adam’s race seek at all costs to save their natural lives, blinded to their corrupted condition, willingly ignorant of their end.

To follow Christ, however, means to die that we might live; to crucify the life we received from Adam through our natural birth that we might have God’s life.

The Judgment of This World

Christ’s own death is the pattern: He literally laid down his own natural life on the cross. Though He personally was not corrupted by sin, yet he willingly took on himself the sin of the world. All the sin and guilt of humanity was heaped upon him and he died, as it were, as the representative of Adam’s race. In judging him, the Father was passing sentence on a corrupted race.

Shortly before the cross Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” (John 12:31).

When he died, Adam’s race died. When he arose in victory over sin, death and the grave, “Christ’s race” rose with him. All of history from that time till the end of the age represents the outworking of those facts.

What God did in Christ cannot be undone. No man can rise up in rebellion and cause Adam’s race to live. No devil in hell can stop God from saving His elect with a full and complete deliverance. These are facts that God wants us to reckon on.

We express our faith in what God has done when we enter into true apostolic baptism. We, by faith, lay down our lives in a watery grave and then rise up to newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). That faith commitment is the beginning of a life of death and life as God works in us.

Conformed to His Image

It is God’s plan to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Christ is spoken of in Col. 1:15 as “the image of the invisible God.” Jesus himself said to Philip, the disciple, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” John 14:9. Hence, in reality, we are to be conformed to the image of the Father Himself. This is not a physical resemblance, of course, since God is Spirit, but is rather a likeness of character.

In most human beings we see the expression of Adam’s nature manifest through their words, attitudes and actions. God has purposed that His children be brought to the place where, like Christ, they manifest His divine nature. This is a process.

This process is not, however, just an individual thing. When Christ comes it will be for a “glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing; but ... holy and without blemish.” Eph. 5:27. The word that He sends and anoints will do the job. That is why Eph. 5:26 speaks of “the washing of water by the word.”

As the remnant church is restored to the faith and order it once enjoyed I believe we will see the fulfillment of Eph. 4:11-13: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

A Complete Expression of Christ

It is not that we will individually measure up to Christ; rather, the life of Christ will be fully expressed through his body, properly joined together and looking to him as head. In the same passage (Eph. 4:7), Paul says, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Each member will express, in union with the whole, his divinely appointed measure of the whole. Together, the expression of Christ will be complete.

We serve a God who is well able to do what He has promised, to finish what he has begun. I believe that God is looking in this hour for a people who simply believe Him. I don’t mean a mere head faith, but a heart faith produced by the living word that causes people to seek Him, to long for the fulfillment of His word, to willingly do His will as He makes it known, and especially to be joined to Christ’s body as it is formed.

The last item is necessary to emphasize because we live in an age that glorifies independence and self will. These characteristics, which spring from the Adamic nature, are everywhere evident in religion and affect God’s remnant who are scattered therein.

Repenting of Religion

I believe that God’s people in this hour need not only to repent of what we call sin, but also to repent of our religion, however sincere. Paul was undoubtedly one of the most sincere practitioners of religion the world has known, but when the revelation of Christ came, he repented and turned his back on his proud religious heritage, counting it as “manure” (Phil. 3:8). From then on his life became one of dying to his old nature that the life of Christ might be manifest in his flesh. II Cor. 4:10.

The process of death and life that worked in Paul is what enabled him to be an effective servant of Christ, not only ministering to his own generation, but, through his inspired writings, all generations to follow.

Jesus Learned Obedience

Denying the flesh involves suffering, whether our flesh suffers a simple denial of its will or actual physical suffering. Even Jesus had to learn obedience by the things he suffered (Heb. 5:8). We are exhorted in I Peter 4:1 to arm ourselves with the same mind. God wants His children to be able to recognize His work in them that they might cooperate and be thankful instead of resisting and complaining. If we understand these things it does indeed provide an “armor” for our minds that enables us to withstand Satan’s attacks during times of trial and difficulty. God even gives grace to “glory in tribulations” (Rom. 5:3)! For that to happen requires grace, doesn’t it!

For us to be overcomers, we must overcome! A lot of folks would like to be thought of as “overcomers” who don’t even recognize the enemy’s attacks, let alone overcome them. Paul exhorted us to “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Eph. 6:11-12.

There is an old hymn that expresses this truth:

Am I a soldier of the cross?
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause?
Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies
On flow’ry beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend of grace
To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word.

Is It Possible?

As we behold the present condition of what is called Christianity it seems absurd and impossible to suppose that the Church can be restored. Let us remember, however, that it is not “religion” that will somehow be changed: in fact the condition of religion will get much worse as darkness takes full control of those in Adam. The restoration promised will only affect the Remnant Church, God’s elect, that tiny minority of believers actually begotten of God. They will be delivered from the bondage of religion and made one with Christ and each other.

Do you suppose that Jesus prayed in vain that believers would be made perfect in one as He and the Father were one? (John 17:20-23). What would be the need for such a prayer if it were only to be realized in Heaven?

We serve a God who calls those things that are not as though they were (Rom. 4:17). He can do that because He is God and has the power to do what He wants. We have all heard the old joke that poses the question, “Where does a 500 lb. gorilla sit?” The answer, is, of course, “Anywhere he wants!” How much more can God do whatever He wants. Who is able to stop Him? As Paul said, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

As He reveals His promises to us and creates in us the faith to believe and as we exercise that faith, daily crying out to Him for their fulfillment, we will see God do what our unbelief would tell us cannot be done.

He Can Do It Again!

What God has done once, He can do again! Those who experienced the power and glory the church briefly enjoyed after Pentecost were “men of like passions as we are.” They were made of the same stuff, they had the same flesh we do. What is different is the time and purpose of God. He provided the means for the church to begin in a blaze of glory in spite of the weakness of human flesh. At the appointed time and through the appointed means He not only can, but will do what He has promised. We need to be praying, “Lord, fulfill your word, and help me to be part of it.”

As the darkness of satanic power fills the earth and totally possesses the minds of lost mankind, so is the light growing for those whose hearts are turned heavenward. Note that we must turn to God from our hearts. As we do so, whatever veil there may be that hinders us from seeing His glory and being changed into the same image will be removed (II Cor. 3:16-18).

God will have no respect for any who honor Him with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him (Matt. 15:8-9).

The Christian Life

Paul’s understanding of the life of a Christian is eloquently expressed in Phil. 3. We have already referred to the fact that Paul regarded everything of his old life as a natural man, including his completely sincere practice of religion, as manure, something to be utterly cast away.

He was able to do this because God had revealed Christ to Him. There is no point in trying to get people to “serve God” who haven’t had Christ revealed to them. Anything less than a revelation of Christ through the anointed word can only produce religious hypocrites. God is not interested in people “trying to be Christians” through their own efforts. He wants to make new creatures out of them (II Cor. 5:17). He said, “I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.” Heb. 10:16.

Paul saw as a matter of spiritual revelation that his call was to be fully identified and made one with Christ as he expresses in Phil. 3:10: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable unto his death.”

He saw clearly that there was a life to be given up and also a life to be gained, not just as a matter of legal standing before God, but as an ongoing process of more and more fully being enabled to express the life of Christ in his mortal flesh. He saw in Christ the power to bring this about.

He expressed his attitude toward this process in the following words (verses 12-14): “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul used the word “press” in recognition of the fact that his quest had to be undertaken in the face of opposition from his own flesh within and from Satan and the world without.

I believe Satan has greatly influenced and intimidated believers through the centuries, causing them to feel that they are up against an overwhelming enemy and that victory is hopeless. In reality, Satan and all his hosts lost their power at Calvary! Col. 2:15. The only power they have is through lying and deceit. As God continues to restore his living truth by the anointing, His people are going to stop listening to Satan’s lies. As Jesus said in John 8:31-32, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Paul recognizes in Phil. 3:15-16 the fact that we don’t know everything, especially about our own hearts. His exhortation is to steadfastly look to God, keeping any ground we have already gained, in the knowledge that God, who knows our hearts can reveal to us needs we are not aware of.

That is why we can have hope. As Paul says in Phil. 2:12-13, “... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” What God has given us in Christ is to be worked out (not for!) secure in the knowledge that as we do our part, He will faithfully do His.

A Warning

Paul goes on in Phil. 3:17-19 to warn of those who were living to gratify their own earthly, fleshly desires. The end of men like that is destruction.

The life of a Christian is to be lived with heaven in mind. Our purpose for living is not to be swallowed up by this world and its ways but to be prepared for immortality.

Verses 20 & 21 express this: “For our conversation” (manner of life) “is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”

This is our hope! When Christ comes our bodies will be changed: no more pain, sickness, death, weakness, and above all, sin. We will be like Him!

Romans 8:16-19 says, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”

The purpose of God for this present age will reach its full climax on that day when His sons will be manifested. This is the same as “the day of Jesus Christ” referred to in Philippians 1:6. It is the day Christ returns. To “manifest” something is to put it on open display, to remove speculation, ignorance, and questions that may have existed. It is to pull back the curtain to reveal what has been hidden.

Imagine, if you will, that in a certain place a sculptor has been commissioned to make a statue of some important dignitary. Typically this kind of work is carried on in secrecy, hidden from curious eyes. Then at the proper time everyone gathers together for an unveiling ceremony. Someone makes a speech telling what a fine, important fellow the subject of the statue was and that we should all admire and emulate his heroic deeds. Then, as the band plays, the covering over the statue is removed and the previously hidden work of art is “manifested” for all to see.

I really believe that a lot of Christians imagine that one day Christ will come and carnal believers will somehow magically be transformed into full-blown sons of God! This is not so. That would be like the sculptor erecting a block of stone, covering it with a cloth and then without using a single tool removing the cloth to reveal a finished statue! God is the sculptor, through His Son and by His Spirit. There is a work that is being rapidly completed as the end approaches.

It is the work that He has promised to perform until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). It is a work that is “in us.” It is a work to conform us to the image of His Son (Rm. 8:29). Not only is the actual work hidden from the eyes of unbelievers: they are unaware that there is any such thing going on. It will come as a total shock when Christ appears, his elect are “unveiled,” and He says to a perishing world, “Now, let me show you what I’ve been doing. Let me show you what this age has been about. Let me show you what your blindness and rebellion and self-will have caused you to miss.” Remember Paul’s words: “The glory which shall be revealed in us”! This is the same Paul who spoke of the mystery he preached as “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Is it any wonder that there will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Many will cry and scream and beg for another opportunity, but there will be none. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (II Corinthians 6:2).

What Will We Be Like?

There is no purpose in speculating about all of the details as to what we will be like on that day. Even John, who was privileged to receive great revelations didn’t know the answer to that. Hear his words in I John 3:1-3: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons” (little children) “of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

All John could say (and all we can say, therefore) is that “we shall be like him.” That hope is what causes us to purify ourselves (verse 3) and to “press toward the mark” as Paul puts it. If our hope were for a magical transformation from carnality to spirituality there would be no purpose in putting forth such an effort.

I want to add special emphasis to the point that we need to not speculate as to the details of what it means to be brought to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). We all have carnal ideas about “perfection.” There are many doctrines around — most notably many coming under the general heading of manifested sonship — that, I believe, miss the mark. Just as God has not revealed when that day will be, neither has He revealed in detail what we will be like. Let’s walk by faith and leave that to Him.

Always remember that what is needed is not some kind of religious self-effort, but a “fight of faith” that looks to cooperate with the work of God. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus...” (Eph. 2:10).

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