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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 10

Immortality!

What will happen on the day Christ returns (that we can say without speculating or guessing!)? What about believers who have died? What about those who remain?

One important passage in this regard is I Thessalonians 4:13-18: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Christ will come in the sky bringing believers who have died with him; their new bodies will come forth from the grave; then, when that is done, the bodies of still living believers will be transformed and they will likewise rise up to meet the Lord in the air.

This will not be a hidden or “secret rapture” as so many teach. It will be open, before all the world. Revelation 1:7 says, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, A-men.”

We know from other scriptures that when Christ comes and believers are gathered to him that the fires of destruction will rain down upon a rebellious world (II Thessalonians 1:7-10).

The question naturally arises in our minds: “When will these things take place?” Paul deals with that in I Thessalonians 5:1-11. He says that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night — totally unexpected — so far as the world is concerned. We are encouraged in verse 4 that that day will not come unexpectedly for believers. What that means precisely in terms of what we’ll know and when, we can’t say now. But I believe that God’s children will be made ready and will be awake and expectant when Christ comes. We can trust the details to him. Our part is to be sober and looking to him.

God Will Prepare Us

Noah was warned and led step by step by God and was safely in the ark when the flood came. Lot was warned and led out of Sodom before its destruction. I believe we can expect the same God to prepare and deliver His people today.

It will be more and more important as time goes by to be in union with God’s people in a practical sense. We are exhorted in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

God revealed Himself to Noah giving him a plan. Noah and his household worked together on God’s plan — not their carnal ideas — and were prepared and delivered. God has a plan today and it is being revealed in Christ’s body through means of His choosing. We need a heart and ears — deaf to religion — but open to God — free to cooperate with Him in the finishing of His work.

Resurrection

Virtually the entire 15th Chapter of I Corinthians is devoted to teaching regarding resurrection. Apparently some at this time were teaching that there was no resurrection, which, if true, meant that they had believed in vain (verses 2, 17). What good would it do to serve God and live a life of self denial only to die in the end with no hope of resurrection?

If there were no resurrection, then, of course, Christ himself was still dead. Paul responded with the eyewitness testimony of many, including himself, who had encountered the risen Christ.

The resurrection of Christ himself, however, was only the beginning, the promise of resurrection and full deliverance for all of God’s children. Verses 22-23 say, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”

Notice that in verse 24, “the end” is clearly identified with the resurrection of believers. This is the climax of the reign of Christ (verses 25 and 26). Christ’s reign is to fully deliver every blood-brought child of God from this present evil world. That will be completely accomplished when He returns.

Paul gets into some discussion of the nature of the body we’ll have. Most of his comments tell what our bodies won’t be like rather than what they will. No doubt this is because we’ll just have to wait and see! We do know, however, that they won’t be like anything we’ve known on earth. Our bodies here are appropriate for our earthly existence. Through our five senses we are able to act and react with relation to our earthly environment. Verse 50 plainly tells us, however, that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

Our earthly bodies are entirely unsuitable — even if they were free of sin — for the life to come. Paul uses several expressions to describe aspects of our new bodies: “incorruption,” “glory,” “power,” “spiritual,” “heavenly.”

From the testimony of those who saw Jesus after his resurrection we know that He was not subject to the limitations we are familiar with. He could appear and disappear (Luke 24:31,36). Walls were obviously no barrier to him. Gravity had no hold upon him. He was entirely ready for the life to come! And so will we be!

Paul concludes his teaching on resurrection with the oft-quoted passage beginning in I Corinthians 15:51-52: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

The Last Trump

Notice that all of this takes place at “the last trump.” In the book of Revelation we are told of seven trumpets to be sounded. It is very interesting to note some of the things that are said about the seventh trumpet — the last.

Revelation 10:7 says, “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”

Notice the word “days.” I believe this scripture is referring to a period of time during which the remnant Church receives the final revelation needed for the completion of God’s work in this age. This revelation is not something that is apart from or that goes beyond the scriptures. Rather it is an opening of our spiritual eyes to see things in the Word hitherto not revealed because it wasn’t God’s time.

Revelation 11:15 says, “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”

Verse 18 continues to describe the scene: “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.” It all fits! It is not for us to pry into and try to unravel things God hasn’t revealed as yet, but He has revealed what we need to know to be about the Master’s business.

Peter certainly confirms what we have said in II Peter 3:10-12, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night: in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”

Heaven

If you were to ask the average church-goer what the destiny of believers is, he would probably say something like, “to live in heaven forever.” This is just one more example of religious tradition! The Bible teaches no such thing!

In II Peter 3:13, Peter tells us what he and other believers of his time were looking for: “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

In an earlier chapter we referred to Revelation 21:1-4 which clearly confirms this: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away: and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Do I believe in heaven? Most certainly! Paul knew that to be absent from the body meant to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8). But even what we call “heaven,” as beautiful and wonderful as I believe it is, is not our final resting place. Even now believers who have passed over to its blessed shores are being prepared, as we here are, for a new creation far beyond our present power to comprehend.

All the beauty we find here in this world is but a dim reflection of what is to come. When the new creation is here we won’t even remember this one! Isaiah 65:17.

Isaiah 51:6 says, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.” What a glorious hope! It makes a big difference if we are able to see beyond this evil world to what God is preparing. All that we experience here is designed by an all-wise Heavenly Father to prepare us for another world.

Indeed the new creation is already underway and has been for a long time. Paul said in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new.” The word “creature” is “creation.” The new life that is begotten in a believer through God’s living word is part of the new creation.

Our Destiny

What is to be our place in the new world? Where do we fit in? A look back to the beginning is in order. Genesis 1:26-27 says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.”

God already had a Son, by whom He made all things (Heb. 1:2), who became our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe it was the Father speaking to His Son who said, “Let us make man in our image.”

Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), “the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3), “the image of God” (II Cor. 4:4). See also John 14:9, Col. 2:9, John 1:14.

While Jesus will always have the preeminence (Col. 1:18), and be God’s heir (Heb. 1:2), God has purposed that many sons be brought to glory (Heb. 2:10), conformed to the image of His son (Rom. 8:29), themselves counted as heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17).

In the beginning man was placed in paradise and given dominion over the works of God’s hands. However, Adam and Eve rebelled and fell under the dominion of Satan and sin, plunging mankind and this present creation into a state of death and decay.

God has not, however, abandoned His original intention. In Heb. 2:5 the writer says, “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” If angels are not destined to rule in the new world, who is?

The writer continues with a quotation from Psa. 8 concerning the purpose of man’s creation. Verses 6-8 say, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.”

Even though man’s destiny is to rule over the works of God’s hands, it is evident that that destiny is yet to be fulfilled. What we see (that is, the elect see, by revelation) is Jesus who became a man that He might through His own suffering and death bring many sons to glory (verse 10).

By virtue of His becoming a man and overcoming, He is truly our elder brother and a faithful high priest able to deliver us fully from sin and death (verses 11-18, Heb. 7:24-25).

Male and Female

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.” I believe that all of the positive qualities associated with males and females — from strength to tender nurturing — originate in God and are part of His character. Though we speak of God as “Father” and “Him,” He can relate as easily to godly women as He can to men. One of His names in the Old Testament is El Shaddai, “the breasted one” — reflecting His compassion, nurturing love, and readiness to supply needs.

At first Adam was alone and, I believe, possessed all of these qualities. Then God, in His wisdom, brought forth Eve from Adam’s side to be a help and companion to him. That is the order of things for this present age.

In Luke 20, Jesus was asked a hypothetical question by some religious people who didn’t believe in the resurrection or life after death. It was the custom in Israel that if a man died leaving a wife but not having an heir, that his brother was obligated to take her to wife that she might bear a son to be the dead brother’s heir. This was a way to preserve family names and inheritances and speaks to us of God’s concern for the least of His elect that their inheritance is to be preserved (I Pet. 1:4).

They imagined a situation in which seven brothers in turn married the same woman and died. No children were produced and then she died as well. They wanted to know whose wife she would be in the resurrection.

Jesus’ answer is contained in verses 34-36: “And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”

Sex and marriage pertain only to this world. That fact will undoubtedly make some sad and some glad, but I don’t believe that anyone who “obtains that world” will be disappointed for even a moment in what they find there!

Note that Jesus didn’t say we would be angels, but that we would be equal to them. We will be God’s children, immortal, beyond any need for marriage.

Adoption

Paul uses a word not used by others to describe what God does for His elect: adoption. Eph. 1:5 says, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”

There were various customs relating to adoption in the Gentile world Paul was sent to. In general, adoption was a means by which a man could bring one not born to him into his family — even a slave if he so chose — ultimately investing him with full legal rights of sonship including inheritance.

That truly is a picture of what God does. The elect are first born into Adam’s family, slaves to sin and death and Satan. God, who has known His elect from the foundation of the world, begins by the Spirit to prepare their hearts to receive the word when it comes.

Peter refers to this as “sanctification of the Spirit” (I Pet. 1:2). To sanctify means to set apart. What God does in our hearts sets us apart from other men — not that we deserve it or because of any virtue in us — but because of His own purpose and grace. II Tim:1:9; Titus 3:5; Eph. 3:8-10.

One characteristic of God’s elect is an inward fear of God. The scripture calls the fear of God “the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). If he has no Spirit-taught fear of God a man knows nothing.

The elect are taught of God (John 6:45) such things as will enable them to recognize and receive the voice of the Son of God when it comes. They may go on for years in sin and unbelief, but there is a difference on the inside. Though they are lost sheep, they are still sheep. Other men, goats, without the sovereign inward work of preparation refuse to believe. John 10:26; Matt. 15:24; John 8:47; 6:37, 44; Matt. 25:31-32.

At the proper time God arranges for every lost sheep to hear the Word of God — not just the letter of the Word — but that which is preached by the anointing. The anointing — which is Christ — convicts us of our lost and sinful condition and reveals Christ’s full and complete provision for us through the cross.

In time we are brought to true repentance and faith — all of which is a gift of God’s grace. The result is that we are “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). II Cor. 1:22.

The gift of God’s indwelling Spirit is the “earnest” or guarantee of God’s intention to finish the job. It is God saying, “This is my child.” It is when God imparts His immortal life to us. It is what Peter called “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Pet. 1:23).

God’s indwelling Spirit, “Christ in you the hope of glory,” (Col. 1:27), enables us to recognize that God is our Father, that our hope lies in crying “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). He is no longer just some great Being we have heard about called God; a new and personal relationship is formed in which we know Him as Father.

Gal. 4:4-7 says, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

This “Spirit of His Son,” “the Spirit of adoption,” irrevocably sets our feet on the path to God’s eternal kingdom. This, from our point of view, is the point of no return. There is no going back.

Those Who Fall Away

We observe many who appear to be Christians — perhaps even for years — who then fall away from their apparent faith. In reality, in some hidden area there remained an unconquered heart, what Heb. 2:12 calls “an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” Though they tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come (Heb. 6:5) through their exposure to Spirit-anointed truth, they were never brought to surrender. In the end unbelief prevailed.

John says of these, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (I John 2:19). God, “the Father of spirits,” deals with His own as sons, chastening them when they need it that He might bring forth “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:5-11).

Though we may experience weariness and failure along the way, our Father never grows weary or gives up. Is. 40:28-31.

Listen to the words of Psa. 89:28-29 which speak prophetically of Christ: “My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.” Hallelujah!

We can look in faith to Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2), drawing from him the needed grace and strength to finish the race.

Paul specifically identifies “the adoption” with “the redemption of the body” (Rom. 8:23) when the process of bringing us from slavery to full sonship is complete. At that time all vestiges of sin and death will be completely gone from every part of our being. We will be as free to serve God as Jesus Himself. There will be in every part of us a perfect harmony with the Father, His Son, and each other.

In short, we will be fully prepared to assume all of the duties and privileges of a full-grown son in the new creation. It will be ours to rule over and enjoy. God Himself will dwell with us and be our God (Rev. 21:3).

Paradise Regained

Those in Adam, because of sin, are banished from paradise; those in Christ, through His obedience, regain it forever!

Truly, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). II Cor. 4:16-18.

Looking unto Jesus, we can endure our cross, despising the shame, because of the joy that is set before us (Heb. 12:2). Like Peter, because of what God has revealed, we are able to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory (I Pet. 1:6-8).

The scriptures are full of great passages such as Rom. 8:28-39 exhorting and encouraging believers concerning our hope in Christ. I believe two in particular are in order here.

Several years ago I became curious about I Pet. 1:13 and I believe the Lord quickened a slightly clearer translation of it: “Therefore, girding up the loins of your mind, and being sober, remain expectant to the end for the grace that is being brought to you by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

We need that revelation as the Israelites needed the manna. Spiritually, we have been called into the wilderness where we need a miraculous provision of spiritual food. The canned-up manna of the past has become corrupted with worms and will not do. There is a fresh ministry of the Spirit that alone will transmit the revelation of Christ relevant to our day and our needs and God’s ongoing purpose. God has promised that by this means we will be given the grace needed right down to the end.

It needs to be a matter of prayer that God will provide this needed ministry to the scattered remnant Church. This is the hour for the gathering and forming of Christ’s Body and the restoration of the Church. Let’s pray to that end asking for grace to find our place in what He is sovereignly bringing to pass.

Perhaps it is fitting that we conclude by once again quoting Paul’s words to Timothy in II Tim. 1:7-12: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.

“But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

“Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

“That day” is what our lives are about. “That day” is coming soon. I hope to see you on “that day” when we leave this present evil world forever behind and fully enter immortality!

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