by Rayola Kelley
Faith has proved to be one of the most popular subjects among Christians through the years. Genuine faith is motivated, inspired, and guided by the character of God. It has a sure confidence that He will never step outside of who He is. It has assurance that the Lord will not change His mind about a matter nor adjust His will or ways to placate someone else. Even though God does not do things in the manner in which our finite and perverted understanding can grasp, as believers, we must always choose to know that He is trustworthy in every way, true to His holy nature, and just in His dealings.
As already pointed out in last month’s newsletter, righteousness finds its origins in God. In Christ we are placed in an upright state, but we must also be established in righteousness by faith. However, being right before God and being upright in the Lord are two different things.
Job learned this when the Lord began to question him about his involvement in creation (Job 38-41). For example, was he there when He created the very foundation of the world? Each question or statement God leveled at Job revealed His greatness and Job’s smallness. Even though Job had done right before God, he realized that the Lord had provided everything that pertains to life and godliness so that his upright acts could be counted as righteous (2 Peter 1:3). It was He alone that established Job in righteousness.
This brings us back to faith being a popular subject in Christendom. Perhaps, it is because the idea of faith gives us some hope that we can indeed affect or change the circumstances confronting our lives. Surely, if through faith waters have parted, walls have fallen, victories have been secured, kingdoms subdued, righteousness wrought in the midst of wickedness, promises obtained, and lions rendered harmless, we as believers in America should be able to accomplish incredible feats as well.
However, for today’s American Christians, we find ourselves in a similar struggle as Gideon. This struggle was recorded in Judges 6:13, “And Gideon said unto him, O my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where are all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? But now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”
As we live during the times of evil unmasking its contorted and perverted face as never before in this present generation, we ask where is the power to overcome? Where are the miracles that silence the enemies? Where is the expectation of deliverance? Although I have seen God’s miraculous deliverances on our part in the past, I have to honestly face the days we live in. The faith needed to face the present challenges will never find its needed resolve because of past experiences. The beauty about faith is that it will actively rise up on the wings of confidence in God in order to soar on the currents of expectation in light of present challenges. It is in expectation that hope is able to embrace the promises of God in light of eternity regardless of the circumstances. The splendor about the walk of faith is that it is not earthbound by the false promises of the world; rather, it is heaven bound by the glorious hope of eternal glory.
Clearly, we are living in insane times that will call for the extraordinary to inspire, lead, and shape our lives in order to stand and endure the darkness engulfing the world. The idea that we can maintain the same type of Christianity today that we enjoyed in days past is unrealistic. If believers do not honestly face the days we are living in, they will fail to possess the type of faith that was recorded in Hebrews 11. The living faith of the great cloud of witness referred to in Hebrews 12:1 enabled these individuals to endure through the unfolding darkness of their time to witness the ultimate victory of heaven. In the end, they were able to claim and secure the many glorious promises of God.
What many Christians fail to keep in mind is that genuine faith does not produce the means that moves mountains; rather, it produces the endurance to walk within the frightening shadows of darkness until God moves the mountain. Faith is not flexed like muscles; rather, it is exercised and enlarged in relationship to the steps of obedience that needs to be taken, the unknown path that must be walked upon, and the race that must ultimately be run until the finish line is crossed.
The Bible is clear that as we get closer to Jesus’ Second Advent, the battle between light and darkness will become more blatant. People will be forced to choose which side they will stand on. In some cases it will appear that evil will ultimately win out as the darkness of sorrow, despair, and death takes center stage. As evil rages against the resolve of believers to remain faithful to Jesus and His truth, they must dig deep into the recesses of their souls to make the necessary resolution of faith towards God to remain standing regardless of the darkness or the losses that may be incurred around them.
I have to admit, one of the things that concerns me is that it seems some Christians are asleep as to the days in which we live. Whether this sleep is due to a false security, a belief that they will not be personally touched by the encroaching darkness, or that they will be spared from tasting the bitterness of the times we are living in would be speculation on my part. However, I sometimes feel that many in the Church are about to have a Jonah experience.
Remember Jonah? He was the prophet who did not care if the people of Nineveh perished in their sins. After all, he was a Jew, a servant of Jehovah God. He had nothing to worry about because judgment was not about to fall on him or the people of Israel. He ran away from the responsibility of doing God’s bidding to warn the people of Nineveh. He knew that if these enemies of Israel repented, God could withhold His judgment and actually show mercy on these uncircumcised heathen. Heaven forbid such a thought!
Jonah hid in the bottom of the ship he had managed to board while fleeing the abiding convicting presence of God. However, God followed him and sent a storm to wake him from his state of sleep. Not only was his indifference towards Nineveh going to cost every person his or her soul in the city itself, but he was also endangering innocent souls on the ship who were not privy to his disobedience.
I have often wondered how many people are hiding in their churches while the storms of life are raging against the doors of not only their institutions, but their homes. How many are waiting for deliverance while ignoring their Scriptural responsibilities to be prepared and be available to let their light so shine as a witness in the dark world for the lost to see. As the storms rage, how many are asleep in their pews, living in denial that there is danger afoot that could bring their ship down into a watery grave? And, if some in the church are asleep, what kind of “fish” will end up swallowing them, causing them to wake up, only to realize they are now encased by a form of darkness and death? Will they have the mind to call out in repentance to God with the intent of committing and wholly consecrating their lives for His work and glory? It is obvious that any aspect of the church that may be asleep must be quickened by the Spirit and awakened to the ways of righteousness.
These are only questions, but the people of God must truly examine themselves. Although the darkness may be great, the fires of judgment or separation are greatly burning. Such fires will consume, purge, or purify everything in their path. In the end, these fires will test the resolve of God’s people and their source of reliance.
As we read about the victories that abound in Hebrews 11, we must also note the challenges that also confronted these hearty saints. Even though some of these saints witnessed great miracles and deliverance, others were tortured and would not accept deliverance. The reason for not accepting such deliverance was so that they could obtain a better resurrection.
For years I have pondered what it would mean to obtain a better resurrection in regard to the faith walk. I realize that some people of faith would accept the refining fires of adversity to experience a greater resurrection, but what would that mean?
To understand the concept of a better resurrection, we must first come to terms with what it means. The concept of resurrection points to the quickening or rising up of something that is inactive (comatose state) or dead. To be resurrected implies being raised up from one state in order to be quickened or brought forth into another state.
When Jesus talked about resurrection in John 11:25-26, He made a distinction between resurrection and life. In essence, resurrection points to the power to raise someone into a different state or with a new life. Without the presence of power, the new life would never come forth. Jesus said of Himself that He is both the resurrection and the life. Clearly, He possesses the power that can raise one to a new life.
This brings us to the basis of resurrection. We are told in Hebrews 6:1-2 that resurrection is one of the principles that make up the doctrine of Christ. “Principle” in this text implies first or chief. These principle doctrines serve as a type of cornerstone in which all other doctrines must in some way come into accordance with in order to ensure their integrity in the scheme of things. In fact, the second principle in the order of the six doctrines mentioned in Hebrews 6, is faith towards God. First you must repent of all unbelief in order to choose to believe. From the premise of faith comes identification through baptisms, calling and anointing through the laying on of hands, followed by being brought forth in resurrection power in preparation to face eternal judgment or separation. These doctrines have been established in the Old Testament. And, the doctrine of resurrection is no exception. It was clearly brought out in the Old Testament by Job, David, and Daniel.
For Job, resurrection was a declaration of faith in the midst of great adversity. He said, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Job connects resurrection with redemption. Even though his physical body would be decayed away, he had an assurance that he would see his God. This faith was based on redemption.
The Apostle Paul gives us this insight about resurrection that Job spoke of in 1 Corinthians 15:53, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” The apostle also made reference to our bodies being changed in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump in 1 Corinthians 15:52. When Jesus rose from the grave and encountered Mary Magdalene in John 20:17, He instructed her not to touch Him for He had not yet ascended to the Father. It was obvious that Jesus was raised in a new, glorified body that was incorruptible. In fact, Jesus described this new body as being like the angels of God in Matthew 22:30.
King David made reference to resurrection in Psalm 17:15, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake, with thy likeness.” Consider the assurance David had in regard to being raised in newness. His first point of confidence spoke of expectation. Notice how he stated, “I will” behold His face. There is no doubt about what David expected to see when he was raised up from his state of sleep or death. This confidence points to his unfeigned faith.
The next reference David made to resurrection was in regard to the state he would be raised up in—that of righteousness. In other words, there would be no deviation or inconsistencies found in his new state. It would be a state that would be good, acceptable, and perfect before God.
The final statement David made about resurrection is how the new life would manifest itself—that of godliness. He stated that he would be like his Lord. This likeness pointed to the fact that in his new state he would be reflecting his Lord’s glory. The Apostle Paul stated that we have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son of God (Romans 8:29). In 2 Corinthians 3:18, the apostle also stated that we would be changed into the same image as our Lord from glory to glory.
The prophet Daniel spoke of a time of trouble as never before, but that those who were found written in the book would be delivered. It is at this point he made this statement in Daniel 12:2-3, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.”
Daniel is not only giving us insight into resurrection, but also into eternal judgment. All will be raised from the grave to face their eternal destination. Some will be raised to experience the glory of heaven, while others will be raised to face the shame of damnation. Once again, we are reminded that the matters of a glorious resurrection or damnation rests with what we do with Jesus.
Jesus mentioned this same reality about resurrection in John 5:25-29. He stated the hour was coming that the dead shall hear His voice, and they shall once again live, for the Father had not only given Him life to give, but also the authority to execute all judgment. He instructed us not to marvel that all who are in the graves will hear His voice. He went on to say this, “And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
As I pondered the idea of a better resurrection, it is obvious that we want to be part of the first resurrection where we are called forth from the grave to receive the fullness of our redemption (Revelation 20:6). Once again, is there more to obtaining a better resurrection? H. A. Ironside stated in his commentary on Hebrews that it means that such a person would receive a greater reward. The fact that Jesus mentioned good works in relationship to the believer’s resurrection could imply that a better resurrection points to a time where believers who have been faithful with all that they have been entrusted with will receive greater rewards. We have reference to this fact in Matthew 25:14-30.
In his commentary, Matthew Henry related the concept of a better resurrection as obtaining deliverance upon more honorable terms. In Hebrews the concept of better resurrection was in correlation to suffering. We are told that if we live godly, we will suffer persecution. We are warned that if the world actually speaks well of us, “Woe unto us!” There are great advantages to being persecuted for the sake of righteousness. One of the benefits is that we will actually inherit the kingdom of heaven. Jesus also tells us there are rewards attached to such affliction (Matthew 10-12; Luke 6:26; 2 Timothy 3:12).
Suffering not only points to identification with Jesus, but it is a type of purging of the old or profane in order to possess that which is new and holy. It is said of Jesus’ suffering that had come by way of obedience to the cross that He was actually perfected in His humanity by it, thereby, making Him the author of salvation (Hebrews 5:8-9). As one becomes less and less entangled with the enslaving ways of the world, he or she becomes more aware of the eternal. The less a person fits in this present world, the more he or she is prepared to come into his or her own place in the next. As the Apostle Paul stated, those who suffer for His sake, shall also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12).
As I pondered the possibility of obtaining a better resurrection on more honorable terms, I once again had to go back to that great cloud of witnesses. It is true that by faith they secured much in their present ages, but there were those individuals who chose to refuse deliverance in their plight in order to possess more of the next world. The faith they had to possess in order to endure the persecution of the present so as to embrace a greater awareness of the next world had to be unfeigned, patient, and enduring.
It is true that I can complicate the simplicity of God’s truth. The idea of obtaining a greater resurrection may just be about receiving greater rewards. However, I believe there is more. Perhaps receiving rewards was something that did not enter these people’s minds. It certainly does not enter mine. When I think of obtaining something better it has to do with reaching the heights of excellence to experience that which is far superior to what I already know. Obtaining something better would not allow me to simply get by or accept what is mediocre in regard to the matter. It would cause me to do all that I could do to discover the fullness of it, in order to know the satisfaction of it as indicated by King David in Psalm 17:15.
Maybe the answer to my question about obtaining a better resurrection rests in this verse in Psalms. David’s satisfaction was based on the fact that when he awoke, he would do so with the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. As I thought about it, I acknowledged that my greatest satisfaction would be realized if I truly was raised with an incredible likeness of my Lord. The prophet Daniel confirmed this concept when he stated that those who are wise will, “shine like the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.” Unfeigned faith is not just about receiving the life of Christ, but gaining the life of Christ as it is worked in us by His Spirit. The more the ways of self are purged, the more Christ can be unveiled in our lives.
The conclusion I had to draw after much personal examination as to what is really important to me in light of heaven is that the glorious reality I could hope for in resurrection is that when I awake, all that remains and can be seen is a complete likeness of my Lord. For each of us to freely mirror our Lord’s glory would represent the prize that could be obtained, the point of excellence that could be realized, and the ultimate reward that each of us could cast before His feet. Can you imagine what glory and honor it would bring Him to look into our faces and see His glorious image?