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This is the fourth and last session in this series under the title “Who Am I?” We’ve been examining the nature of man from creation onwards, through the fall and through recreation. And we’ve seen, in essence, what you can see illustrated in that rather crude diagram, that man is a triune being created in the likeness of a triune God: spirit, soul and body. That is total man revealed in the mirror of God’s word.
And in our session yesterday we answered the question why you have a body. I will briefly recapitulate that. God has a total commitment to dwell with man. To me that’s one of the most astonishing facts of the Bible, that the Almighty God, the Creator, wants to dwell with man. And all through the Bible He is planning it and arranging it. In the Greek of the New Testament there’s one particular word which means primarily a dwelling of God, and that’s the word that comes more and more as we go into the New Testament. God had various temporary dwelling places. The tabernacle of Moses, the temple of Solomon which was, I think, the most exquisite and glorious and costly building that has ever been erected in the history of man. And although it was so beautiful, it stood only a few brief years and it was destroyed because of the sin of the people.
In the New Testament, the revelation is this, that God is building a temple of living stones, and every believer is a stone in that temple. And that God dwells in that temple collectively by His Holy Spirit. But that He also desires to dwell in the individual temple of the body of every believer. And Paul says do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. And so that’s the reason why we have a body. And God planned it all from eternity. He actually arranged for the material that was to be made into the body, it was wondrously made in the depths of the earth before it came to be there as soil on the ground.
Now, we talked about God’s provision for our body and I suggested very simply it’s twofold. His Spirit dwells in our mortal bodies, Romans 8:11, to impart life to them. His life. The same power that raised the dead body of Jesus from the tomb dwells in our physical bodies right now. His second provision is His word. God sent His word and healed them. His words are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh. If you put those two together, the word and the Spirit, you have all God’s creative ability because Psalm 33:6 says:
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and all the hosts of them by the Spirit of his mouth.”
It only took God’s word and God’s Spirit to bring the whole universe into being. And the same creative power is available to us because His word and His spirit are available to us.
And then I talked about our responsibilities as believers. I mentioned five responsibilities which I’ll briefly recapitulate. First, we have to offer our body as a living sacrifice on the altar of God’s service. Second, we need to present out body individually to the Lord to receive the Holy Spirit individually. Collectively the temple is already indwelt, we have an obligation to provide the Lord with an individual, personal temple. Third, we are responsible to present our members, the parts of our bodies, to God as instruments of righteousness. Where the English says instruments, the Greek says weapons. It’s rather interesting. Our body, our members are to be weapons that God can use in the war against sin and Satan. And then we have an obligation to keep the temple holy. And the Bible specifically warns against fornication or sexual immorality. It says the person who indulges in that is harming his own body. And finally I suggested very briefly in closing we owe it to ourselves to do some maintenance on the body. I suggested that a lot of Christians are more faithful to maintain their car than they are to maintain their body. This is a subject I’d like to go into but I think the Lord cut me off because He didn’t want me to get involved in that.
Before we go on I think I’m going to ask Ruth to come up and we are going to make a confession that we made last night after the session closed. Some of you will remember it. It’s on a card which you can get for free. The condition for getting the card for free is that you pray for us, you’ll see on the other side. I think we’ll let you say it after us. Some of you did it last night. If you believe the Bible, you believe what we are saying. Okay? We’ll do it phrase by phrase. This is not just a ceremony, this has tremendous spiritual significance. In the unseen world you’re doing something. Are you ready?
“My body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, redeemed, cleansed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus. My members, the parts of my body, are instruments of righteousness yielded to God for His service, and for His glory. The devil has no place in me, no power over me, no unsettled claims against me. All has been settled by the blood of Jesus. I overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of my testimony, and I love not my life unto the death. My body is for the Lord and the Lord is for my body.”
If you really believe that, you have to thank Him. There’s nothing else you can do.
The title of this closing session is “The Climax of Life’s Destiny.” First of all, I want to say God is not the god of the anticlimax. This age is not going to end with an anticlimax, unlike some people’s thinking. As a student of Eton and Cambridge, I was a great admirer of the British poet T. S. Eliott. Who, incidentally, later became a very devout Anglican. One of his poems called “The Wasteland” contains these lines:
“The ages move to their end like old women gathering fuel in vacant lots.”
Well, that is not how it’s going to be. It’s not going to drift to a dreary anticlimax, it’s going to come to a tremendous climax. If you consider the Bible, God has a tremendous sense of theater. I mean, you think of the dramatic things in the Bible, think of Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal, the God that answers by fire, let him be the God. And the prophets of Baal spent all day with all their occult practices and get no results. Then in the evening Elijah moves forward, straightens up the altar, pours water over it three times to make sure it’s totally inflammable and then down comes the fire. And all the people fall on their faces. That’s drama. That’s not an anticlimax.
And then you think of some of the scenes in the ministry of Jesus. When he stood in front of the tomb of Lazarus who had been dead four days and said, “Lazarus, come out.” And a moment later, this what was previously a corpse still with the grave clothes around his face and his body, shuffled out. Can you think of anything more dramatic than that?
And then you think of the resurrection. The women had gone to the tomb and found it empty. And all of them had left but Mary Magdalene. I think Mary must have been the one who, in a way, loved the Lord the deepest. And she couldn’t tear herself away. I can never think of this without weeping. She turned and saw a figure, didn’t bother to look, she thought he was the gardener. She said, “If you’ve taken him away, tell me where you’ve laid him.” And he said, “Mary.” She said, “Rabboni.” It always blesses me that He hadn’t even ascended to the Father at that time. He knew that terrible agony in her heart and waited to comfort her before He even ascended to the Father.
The Bible is just full of drama. Believe me, God is going to bring this present age to a dramatic conclusion. It’s going to be orchestrated, all heaven and earth are going to be involved. When it comes to the marriage supper of the Lamb, it says everybody in heaven and on earth was singing Hallelujah, because the marriage supper of the Lamb has come.
Ruth and I had an exciting wedding. I can’t go into it. We intended to get married very quietly, just a few members of the family, about forty people. Well, it got out of hand. We just couldn’t keep people away and the wedding party was forty people. We had more than 600 people and it was a combined Jewish/Christian ceremony. And there was a lot of drama in that. You’re probably not aware, most of you, but in a Jewish wedding ceremony, at a certain moment the bridegroom gives a cup of wine to the bride and then he drinks it, they drain it and then he puts the glass under his foot and crushes it. When I did that, the whole place burst into applause. I mean, utterly spontaneous. See? So, God is not dull. He’s not inactive. If you think the age is going to be dull when it ends, you’re going to be in for a surprise.
When God brings the age to a close and man’s redemption is complete, all three elements will be complete: spirit, soul and body. And man’s redemption is not complete, it’s not worked out until the body has been redeemed. You see, the end of the Christian life is not to get to heaven. That’s where most Christians stop in their thinking. Heaven is only a stage in the process. The end of the Christian life is for the spirit, soul and body to be reunited in a totally new body. That’s the end, that’s what we’re looking forward to. If you’re just looking forward to getting to heaven, you’ve not seen to the end of the journey.
I want to read some pitiful words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8 and following. I think these are some of the most glorious words in the New Testament. I never read them without being inspired and challenged. Philippians 3, beginning at verse 8:
“But indeed I also count all things lost for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him not having my own righteousness which is from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. That I may know him, the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death. If by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead, not that I have already attained or am already perfected, but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
What was Paul’s objective? There’s not a word about going to heaven. You see, your spirit and your soul will go to heaven but your body will be laid in a tomb or grave of some sort. That’s not the end. The end is when your body’s redemption is complete. Your spirit, your soul and your body are united again in a perfect body. So Paul says in verse 11, “if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” What was his objective, what was his goal? Not heaven but resurrection.
The word that’s used there is only used in that one place in the New Testament. Let’s put it up on the board. I get too much involved in words but I’ll put it up in English. How many of you know there’s a ship called the Anastasis? All right, this is the word. That word is resurrection, normally. The word that Paul uses here is exanastasis, ex is out of. So this is the resurrection out of the dead, it’s not the resurrection of all the dead, it’s a preliminary resurrection of only the righteous dead, the true believers. And that is Paul’s objective, that I may attain to that resurrection.
Let’s look now in Revelation 20 for a moment. There are going to be two main resurrections. One has already taken place, the resurrection of Jesus. There remain two, the resurrection of true believers and then subsequently the resurrection of the remaining dead. Paul is talking about the out resurrection, the resurrection that doesn’t include all the dead but is a resurrection of the true believers out from among the dead. And it says in Revelation 20:5–6:
“But the rest of the dead did not live [did not come to life again] until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection [the people who were resurrected at the beginning of the thousand years]. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.”
Do you want to be one of those? Blessed and holy? There’s a lot of questions about that that I’m not competent always to answer, but let’s stick to the main outline and not get involved in some controversial details.
There’s a beautiful picture of the resurrection given—there are several in the Bible, but I think one of the most exciting is in 1 Thessalonians 4. Actually, the resurrection or the coming of the Lord is the theme of both 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 4, beginning in verse 15. Paul is now giving a revelation, something that was made known to him supernaturally by the Spirit of God, something that could not be known just by reasoning or even by studying the Old Testament scriptures. So this it is:
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord [that Greek word there is parousia, the standard Greek word for the coming of the Lord] will be no means precede those who are asleep...”
We will not precede them in resurrection, you understand, or in meeting the Lord. The resurrection is coincidence with the return of the Lord. It’s the Lord Himself and only He who can bring about the resurrection.
Now we come to these dramatic words. Again, I want to emphasize this is not going to be an anticlimax, believe me.
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ [not the rest of the dead but those who died in faith in Jesus] will rise first, then we who are alive [that’s believers who are alive on earth at that time] and remain, shall be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”
The word comfort is from the same word which gives us paraclete which is one of the titles of the Holy Spirit. And it really has two meanings. Comfort doesn’t cover it. It covers one of its meanings but not the other. It is to cheer up but it’s also to stir up. So if people are sad and down, cheer them up. But if they’re lazy and backslidden, you stir them up. It’s a ministry of the Holy Spirit in either way. So the Bible says we’re to cheer one another up and to stir one another up with this revelation.
I would like to ask you a question without going into too many details. How many of you have really been cheered up or stirred up in your church by this message? There’s not one person that’s responded. I think this pinpoints a tremendous lack in the church of Jesus Christ. This tremendous truth which is the great encouragement for Christian living has almost dropped out of preacher’s vocabularies. And the result is very tragic for the church.
Let’s look a little bit at some of the details which are exciting. First of all, the Lord is coming back. Can you say amen to that? He’s coming back in person. It’s not going to be a Messianic age as some forms of Judaism teach, it’s going to be the Messiah himself. Let’s look at three scriptures. Keep your fingers in 1 Thessalonians 4 if you can, because we’ll go back there. Some people complain I don’t leave them enough fingers. But, just turn to John 14:3. These are the words of Jesus Himself. Taking farewell of His disciples He says:
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am there you may be also.”
That’s very simple. Even a child can understand that. I will come again. Do you believe that? I do.
And then there’s the testimony of the angels in Acts 1:9–11. Jesus had just ascended in a cloud and the apostles were standing there, I think, straining their heads upwards to see if they could catch one more glimpse of the Lord. And as they stood there with their heads up, two men in white stood by them who were angels, and said, “Don’t waste any more time looking up because that’s not going to be what happens next.” Then they said in verse 11:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.”
Notice, this same Jesus. Notice the tremendous emphasis on the fact that it’s the Lord in person who’s coming back. And He’s coming back in the same way as He left. Two features which I think are obvious: He went in the clouds, He’s coming back in the clouds. He went from the Mount of Olives, He’s coming back to the Mount of Olives. That’s where His feet will rest on earth.
And then we have this third passage now, go back to 1 Thessalonians 4:16:
“For the Lord himself will descend...”
See? Jesus said “I,” the angels said “this same Jesus,” and Paul says “the Lord himself.” The Bible is very, very careful to emphasize this is not just a different age but this is the personal return of the Son of God in glory and in power.
This dramatic event is going to be accompanied by three noises. The first is the shout of the Lord. How many of you know that God shouts? He doesn’t always speak in a soft voice. There’s quite a lot in Isaiah about the Lord getting angry and shouting.
Second, there’s going to be the proclamation by an archangel.
And third, there’s going to be a trumpet.
So, there’s going to be three sounds: the Lord’s shout, a proclamation by an archangel, and a trumpet. Let’s consider each of them.
Keeping your finger there, turn for a moment to John 5:28–29. Jesus says:
“Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the grave will hear his voice [those who have been actually buried] and will come forth. Those who have done good to the resurrection of life [that’s the first resurrection] and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation [that’s the second subsequent resurrection].”
But notice what brings them out of the tomb? What is it? It’s the voice of the Lord. He’s the only one who can call the dead back out of the tomb. He raised three people from death in His ministry and in each case He was very careful to specify who was to come back. Because who knows what would have happened if He hadn’t named the person? So when he raised the little daughter of Jairus, He said, “Young girl, I’m talking to you, you come back.” And immediately she came back. Then he met the widow of Nain coming out of the city with her son, her only son on the bier. He stopped the bier and He said, “Young man, I say to you arise.” And he rose. And then as he stood outside the tomb of Lazarus He said, “Lazarus, come out.” If he hadn’t said Lazarus, all the dead would have walked out! He’s the only one who has the authority to raise the dead. It’s His voice that can bring the dead out of the tomb. And when He comes, I don’t know what He’s going to say but He’s going to say, “My redeemed people,” something like that. “My true believers, you come out.” And they will come out.
And then the proclamation of an archangel. Most Bible commentators believe the archangel will be Gabriel simply because it seems to be his job to proclaim interventions of God in human history.
And then the trumpet. I find I get kind of shudders when I think about that trumpet. To me, a trumpet is a very special instrument. I mean it kind of blasts you out of your complacency. It’s a rather military musical instrument. Paul talks about the trumpet, too, I believe, some people don’t understand it that way, but as one of my friends says, “How can I help it if I’m right?” 1 Corinthians 15:51–52. This chapter is dealing with the resurrection, one of the longest chapters of the New Testament. Paul says:
“Behold, I tell you a mystery [a hidden truth which is now revealed], we shall not all sleep [that is in death]...”
You see, the believer sleeps when he dies because he’s going to wake up again. It’s not permanent. That word is never used of unbelievers in death but only of believers.
“...but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye...”
Do you know what that means? As long as it takes to blink, that’s it. Do you know why you’ll blink? Because there will be such a brilliant light striking your eyes, you won’t be able to keep your eyelids open. And He’ll go like that and you’ll turn and look at the person next to you and the person next to you will be totally different. We’ll come back to that but there’s going to be an instant total change of the physical body of every believer.
And then Paul says, going on in verse 52:
“For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
That’s exactly in line with 1 Thessalonians 4.
Revelation talks about the number of trumpets, but I think this has to be the last trumpet, I can’t think of anything that will follow this in the way of trumpets. I maybe wrong, but that seems to be logical. That’s one of my problems, I believe in logic.
Now, this is commonly referred to as rapture. Nelda, would you do your ministry on the left hand, not on the right? A lot of clever people have been telling us that there’s no such word as rapture in the New Testament. I find that rather naive because the New Testament was not written in English. You don’t find any English words in the New Testament. It’s a question of what translation is used. The word we’re talking about, the Greek word—I’ve never used so much Greek before in a talk, but anyhow, written in English letter is like that, ?harpazo?. And it means to snatch, to grab, to pull up. There’s no English word formed from that verb. But, there’s a Latin verb that’s used to translate it in Latin which is this word, ?rapido?, which means exactly the same as ?harpazo?. And there’s a noun formed, or a verb, either, from it which is rapture. So you see that in actual fact it’s a perfectly accurate way to describe what Paul is talking about. I think there’s a certain prejudice in some quarters against the rapture because some people can’t believe that things like will really happen. But I believe it.
Just to make this clear, this word ?harpazo? up there is used probably at least a dozen times in the New Testament. I want to show you some of the places where it’s used so that you can form your own opinion as to what it really means. We’ll turn, first of all, to Matthew 13:19. This is the parable of the sower and its interpretation. Jesus says:
“Concerning the seed that’s sown by the wayside, when anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.”
Guess what the word is for snatch away? ?Harpazo?, that’s right.
John 10:12, this is the parable of the good shepherd.
“But he who is a hireling [a hired man, not the shepherd, one who does not own sheep] sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep, and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.”
Guess what it is to catch the sheep? ?Harpazo?. It’s quick, it’s forceful and it changes the total situation instantly.
Acts 8:39, this is Philip after he baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.
“Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away so that the eunuch saw him no more.”
Guess what it is to catch Philip away? ?Harpazo?. Does that still happen today? Let me tell you of two instances known to me, not occurred in my life. One is Brother David Duplessis, he is now with the Lord. I heard him say once that in South Africa in a certain city he came out of a meeting and he realized that he ought to be in another meeting on the other side of the city at that time. He closed his eyes to pray and when he opened his eyes he was outside the place of the meeting.
The other is even more remarkable, it’s a missionary couple that Ruth and I know well in Zambia. Tremendously faithful servants of the Lord who have really worked themselves to the bone in the cause of Christ. They were driving in a car pulling a trailer along the very dusty uneven roads of Zambia, and it was at night. They were very tired and they recognized the place on the road and they knew they had twenty-five more miles to go to get where they were going. So, they closed their eyes and prayed just briefly. And when they opened them, they, the car and the trailer were all at the place. So, don’t underestimate what God can do. That’s called translation power.
A lady who’d been a missionary in India many, many years told me—I didn’t witness it—she said in a certain meeting [it was the Salvation Army] the captain who was leading the meeting without realizing it, got elevated to the place where his feet were level with the top of the piano. See, God just gives us a little glimpse of what He can do.
Going on with these scriptures, 2 Corinthians 12:2–4. Paul is talking about a certain man who had a marvelous supernatural experience. And he says:
“I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago, whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows, such a one was caught up to the third heaven. [And then he says in verse 4] I know how he was caught up into paradise.”
Guess what it is to be caught up? ?Harpazo?, that’s right. See, it’s consistent all the way through.
And then in Jude 23, talking about people who’ve been believers and got themselves into very dangerous spiritual situations, the writer says:
“Save them with fear, pulling them out of the fire...”
What do you think the word is? ?Harpazo?, you understand? It’s consistent, it’s to reach out, grab something and pull it to yourself. It’s quick, it’s sudden, it’s forceful and it totally changes the situation. That’s what rapture is.
One more example from the book of Revelation, chapter 12, verse 5, about the woman in the wilderness. Revelation 12:5:
“She bore a male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and her child was caught up to God and to his throne.”
Guess what was to be caught up? ?Harpazo?.
I think you will agree with me it has one consistent meaning all the way through the New Testament. So when Paul says we shall be caught up, there is no scriptural reason to doubt what it means. It will be sudden, it will be swift, it will be extremely powerful and it will totally change our situation. Praise God.
Just let me mention something that’s interesting. We have a friend in Israel, an Israeli girl who has worked for us for five years now, who is a bird watcher. A very professional bird watcher. At certain seasons of the year when the birds migrate through Israel—do you know there are fifteen million birds that fly south and north once each year in Israel. They come from Russia, from Europe, from Western Europe. They all meet and fly down. They can’t make it all the way to Africa so somewhere near Eilat they land and the bird watchers catch them, put rings on their legs and let them go so that people can check where those birds end up.
But anyhow, some of the birds that land there are called raptors. It’s a bird family. Do you know what a raptor is? It’s a bird that swoops down over it’s prey, picks it up with its claws or its beak and carries it off. So it’s absolutely consistent. To say that rapture is the wrong word honestly is to display ignorance.
Let’s look at the change that’s going to take place. 1 Corinthians 15:42 and following. Paul is talking about the resurrection of the dead, he’s answering the question, “What kind of a body will we have?” And he says, 42–44:
“So also is the resurrection of the dead, the body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; 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.”
There is a natural body and you remember what natural was? There is a soulish body and there is a spiritual body. Nelda, would you do your stuff on the board because I’m going to need it again. Congratulations to those of you who’ve really got a good memory.
Then we go on just a little further, verses 50–54:
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption.”
In other words, this body that we’re used to is not going to be able to survive in God’s kingdom. Do you understand? This is wonderfully illustrated now because when we send a man into space even a few miles away from the earth’s surface, he can’t survive unless he’s in a special capsule that reproduces earth’s atmosphere. His body is incapable of surviving out there. And Paul says much more when it comes to the kingdom of heaven, we’re going to need more than a space capsule. We’re going to need a totally different body. So he says:
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep in death, but we shall all be changed...”
I’d like you all to say that. “We shall all be changed.” All right.
“...in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible body has put on incorruption, and this mortal body has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY.’”
See, death is the last enemy. The book of Revelation tells us here’s the almost final defeat of death. There’s something still to come because death is going to be cast into the lake of fire.
You see, death is Satan’s greatest triumph, did you ever realize that? He’s proud of every death that takes place, he chalks that up as a victory for himself. But here his victory is going to be turned into defeat.
There are five changes that will take place in the body. I’m going to write them up because they’re not altogether easy to remember.
Change number one, from corruptible to incorruptible. Do you know what corruptible is? It’s subject to decay. So our present bodies are subject to decay. Even if we never get sick, they’re still decaying. When you get to my age you have a few wrinkles. Praise God I have all my teeth. But you know, there are changes that take place inevitably. All right. From corruptible to incorruptible.
From dishonor to glory.
From weakness to power. Actually, power is more powerful than strength and glory is more exciting than honor. Paul chooses the top line in each case.
From soulish to—to those of you who have not been here for previous meetings, that’s a little bit hard for you to take, but you can get the tapes—to spiritual. And you remember the difference. Those of you who were here, the soulish body, the spirit has to work through the soul to activate the body. But I believe, this is my opinion, in the spiritual body the spirit will just get the body to do whatever it wants without having to go through the soul. I don’t know exactly what will happen to the soul, I’ll just mention something interesting. The Bible says the soul is in the blood. So, some people believe we’ll have a bloodless body because they think Jesus when He rose from the dead had flesh and bone but nothing is said about His blood. That’s speculation but it will be interesting to find out, won’t it?
Finally, from mortal to immortal. Isn’t that exciting! I think it would be good if we were to say it together. All right? “From corruptible to incorruptible. From dishonor to glory. From weakness to power. From soulish to spiritual. From mortal to immortal.” Praise the Lord. Don’t you feel good when you say that? If you don’t, I’m sorry for you, I do.
The change is summed up at the end of Philippians 3, which is the chapter we began with. At the end of Philippians 3, Paul says in verses 20–21:
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself.”
So, we are temporarily residents in the United States or who knows, the Philippines or China or Japan or Canada. But that’s not our permanent citizenship. Our permanent citizenship is in heaven. That’s where we really belong. And Paul says it’s from heaven that we’re eagerly waiting for the savior. Are you eagerly waiting? I hope you are.
And then it says when he comes he’s going to change our lowly body to be like his glorious body. But what the Greek actually says is the body of our humiliation, to be like the body of his glory. And you need to bear in mind that we are currently living in a body of humiliation. You realize that. Why? Because we rebelled against God. So God has ordained that we live in a body that continually reminds us we’re being humiliated. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, you can live on the most expensive and well prepared food and drink the most delicious drinks. But you know perfectly well you’re going to have to go to the bathroom. Is that right? For British, toilet, okay? I’m bilingual. And let me ask you has anybody ever been dignified in the bathroom? So, every time that happens you’re reminded you’re in a body of humiliation.
Or, you can dress in the most elegant clothes, perfume yourself, do your hair up. But you have to walk very fast because you’re a little bit late and it’s hot. And what happens? You begin to perspire if you’re that kind of person or sweat if you’re just the other kind of person. Once again you’re reminded you’re in a body of humiliation.
And it’s a good thing for us to be reminded. I find a lot of contemporary culture is really trying to evade that issue, arrange the way that we are not reminded of the humiliation of our body. But you can’t do it. But we’re going to be changed. When we see Jesus we’re going to be instantly changed and we’ll get a body like his. He can change us.
Let’s look for a moment in 1 John 3, just verse 2.
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that he is revealed [when we see him with our eyes] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
That’s when we’ll be changed.
Now, I want to deal with this for a little while in a very practical way. I believe the excited anticipation of the Lord’s return is an essential part of New Testament Christianity. Our Christianity is not in harmony with the New Testament if we are not excitedly expecting the Lord to come back. Let me give you quickly some scriptures without dwelling on them. 1 Corinthians 1:7–8. Paul is in the middle of a sentence. Paul is writing to the Corinthian church. He says:
“...come short in no gift [charisma], eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So he expected them to be eagerly waiting for the revelation in glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Incidentally, it’s pretty good evidence that God did not intend to withdraw the Charismatic gifts. He says I want you to be lacking in no charismatic gift as you eagerly wait for the coming of the Lord.
And then in Titus 2:11–13:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age.”
Why should we live soberly, righteously and godly? What’s the motivation? The next verse tells us:
“Looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our savior, Jesus Christ.”
And notice he’s not only our savior, He’s the great God. If you have any difficulty saying that Jesus is God, you have a problem because He’s the great God and our savior. But what is our motivation for living in a holy way now? Because we’re waiting, looking for His return.
And then in 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul says:
“I’ve fought the good fight, I’ve kept the faith, I’ve finished the race; finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge will give me on that day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
There is a crown, a special crown, for those who’ve loved his appearing. The Greek word for love there is the same word from which we get agape, it’s a very strong word. I think the New International Version says “those who long for his appearing.” So, God has His eye on those who are longing for His appearing.
And then in Hebrews 9:27–28, the writer of Hebrews says:
“It is appointed for men to die once, but after that the judgment.”
There’s two appointments we can’t miss. Do you understand that? We can miss every appointment on earth but there’s two we will not miss. Death and judgment.
“So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for him, he will appear a second time apart from sin for salvation.”
To whom will He appear? To those who eagerly wait for Him. Okay? Are you in that category? Praise God.
I suggest to you, and this is something you can check for yourself, the excited anticipation of the Lord’s return is the main motive given in the New Testament for holy living. You can check it yourself. Almost every place where it speaks about holiness, it’s linked to the Lord’s return. My conclusion is this, that if the church is not confronted regularly with the expectation of the Lord’s return, the level of holiness in the church will be lower than it ought to be. Is that logical? Also, is it true to experience?
Brothers and sisters, I don’t think we have any idea of how hard the church is below the standard of God’s holiness. I heard about a lady in a meeting of John Wimber where they were praying for one another. She was from a Catholic background, she said, “I want to know how Jesus feels about the church.” So they prayed for her. After that, every time the word church was mentioned, she burst into tears.
Now, people say again that the early church was wrong in expecting the return of the Lord because He didn’t come. I’d have to say I’d rather be wrong with the early church and get the results they got than be right with those theologians and get the results they get. But, I don’t think those critics are right. I was a professional philosopher. One of the interesting subjects that philosophers and physicists deal with is time. It’s a very difficult subject. I want to suggest to you this, that at death your spiritual part and your soul, the non material part of you, will go to be in heaven. Praise God. Your body will be consigned in some way or other to the grave. When you pass out of time into heaven, you pass out of time into eternity. Time no longer applies. That’s hard for the human mind to understand.
It’s an interesting fact. Physicists have computed if you could get into a spacecraft and travel with tremendous speed, go off to some distant star and come back in two weeks, the people in the spacecraft would feel that two weeks have elapsed. But they would come back to find the third generation on earth, because that much time would have been passed on earth. Do you understand? Time is complicated.
What I’m trying to say is that after death, time is no longer. So, it’s not a question of I’ve been dead 1900 years. That’s true in the earthly sense, it’s not true in the eternal sense. When I lie down in death and my eyes close and my spirit and soul pass out of time, what’s the next thing that’s going to happen to me as a true believer in time? The resurrection. And when these eyes of mine open again, what’s the first thing I’m going to see? The Lord, that’s right. So they weren’t wrong, you see? The coming of the Lord is no further away than your death in time. Follow that. Okay, now we’ve set the record straight.
I just want to point out that this is a challenge to holiness—and a very needed one.
Now I think we should close this session by repeating 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24. Ruth will come up and join me. Now I’m sure many of you can say it with us this time. Remember to make it personal. Are you with us, are you ready?
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify us completely and may our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls us is faithful who also will do it. Amen.”
Now, thank you. I asked you at the beginning if you had any ideas what it would mean for your body to be preserved blameless at the coming of the Lord. And I offer you these two thoughts to close with out of what our previous sessions were. First of all, your body should be sanctified by the altar on which you have laid it. Okay? Do you remember we are required to present our bodies to God as sacrifices on His altar. And the altar sanctifies the offering. So, your body can be sanctified because you’ve presented it to the Lord.
Second, we are required to yield every member to the Lord for His service. So, if you have sincerely presented your whole body to the Lord, taken your hands off and said, “God, it’s your body, you do what you want with it,” and if you have sincerely committed every member to the Lord for Him to control, I think you’ve come a long way. I’m not sure whether there’s more but let me recommend that you start with that.