by Rayola Kelley
Last month we considered the Blessed Hope in light of the doctrine of resurrection. Such an emphasis may seem immaterial, but it is important to understand that doctrine involves attitude as much as conduct and practice. If the attitude is not right about a spiritual matter, the conduct will not be honorable, and the practice will be considered profane or defiled to God (Titus 3:15-16).
So much of what Christians claim they believe has no impact on their attitude, conduct or practices. This proves that what they hold to is an intellectual concurrence with a matter, but not a spiritual agreement that establishes them more on the foundation of who Jesus is, lines them up to the cornerstone of Jesus’ examples, teachings and ways, and establishes them in the faith that was first delivered to the saints. Don’t get me wrong, I have my own opinions about the end days, but they are opinions. I may believe these opinions are right because of how Scripture has been presented to me, but this does not mean that I really know all about a matter.
Knowing about a subject and having an opinion about a subject are poles apart. Knowing is related to truth. Truth can withstand the winds of time because it will never change. However, my opinions may be based on strong feelings, ideas, concepts, or images of the ways things should be, but they do not, nor are they trustworthy, to be considered the absolute truth. If I put my confidence in something based on my concepts, I may believe a matter is right, but that does not mean I can be assured that it is right. I have learned that there is a clear difference between the strong reasoning of my opinions and the immovable truths of God. This is why Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds me that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 warns me that my opinions may be nothing more than vain imaginations that exalt themselves against the real knowledge of God.
The Bible talks about knowing that a matter is true because it has been clearly confirmed by the witnesses of heaven: the Godhead, His Written Word, and His covenant that was established by the shedding of blood (1 John 5:7-8). If I am to know a matter, it must be unveiled by God, confirmed by His Word, and be in agreement with His covenant. What God has said about the Blessed Hope is that no one can be sure when Jesus is coming (Matthew 24:36, 50). God must first fulfill those aspects of His plan to ensure that His covenant with man is fulfilled. Therefore, mere man will not exactly know the timeframe.
Knowing also points to the fact that since it is truth, we will see a matter completed. There are three very important points brought out in the Old Testament about the hope of resurrection that every saint will experience. One such point is found in Job 19:25-27: “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, Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
Job is talking about seeing the fullness of God in his new glorified body. It is at the resurrection that the saints will realize the promises of God as they truly behold Jesus from this glorious vantage point. Keep in mind that we get glimpses of God with the eyes of our heart, for the pure in heart shall see God. We also know that if we die in Christ, our spirit will be present with Him (2 Corinthians 2:8). However, Job’s words imply that there is a mystery that is still attached to the glory that we will experience in our glorified bodies. We will not discover the fullness of this mystery until we are brought forth in resurrection power.
In light of this mystery, it is time to come back to what we can know about the Blessed Hope. Clearly, we must consider this event in light of resurrection, which brings us back to the Gospel. The Gospel is about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul talks about becoming identified with Jesus in His death, so we can be brought forth in new life (Romans 6:3-4). Consider what the apostle said in Romans 6:5: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”
This brings us to the second point that is brought out about resurrection in the Old Testament. King David brings this aspect out in Psalm 17:15: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake, with thy likeness.” David knew that it was only in righteousness that he would see the Lord. “Awake” in this Scripture has to do with the physical death where the physical body, although it is decaying away as it digresses back to dust, ashes or the remains of the earth, represents a form of sleep or rest for the believer whose soul is now present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). This blessed state will last until the spirit and soul are reunited with a new body. When Jesus comes for His Body, the resurrection power within the saints will raise them up in the likeness of Christ in a new body. David declared that he will be satisfied when he awakes with such likeness.
As you consider the Gospel, you will realize that Jesus’ life is to be worked out in us through death to our self-life. As we walk through the barren wilderness of the grave of the world, we leave more and more of this present age behind us, as we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). In other words, we are taking on His likeness. This brings us to one of the promises. As the old life is left behind, we press towards the ultimate prize.
The Apostle Paul makes this statement in Ephesians 1:13-14: “In whom ye also trusted, after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” According to the apostle, we have not yet fully realized our redemption. In the Gospel message, we begin with Jesus’ redemption of being bought back from the claims of sin upon our lives, but this redemption will be fully realized in our resurrection.
This brings us to what Daniel said about our resurrection: “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 12:2-3). Daniel is giving us a glimpse into the promise that in our new glorified bodies we will shine. No doubt, Jesus’ glory will be completely unveiled in our lives. There is some indication that the extent of this glory will be determined by the life we lived in our fleshly bodies. We know that judgment begins in the house of God, and that fires of judgment will try our works (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:8-10). Only works that are pure, refined and precious will survive the fires. Such works will shine, but they will reflect the work and beauty of our Lord.
Obviously, we will be brought forth in new glorified bodies to meet our Lord, which points to total identification with Him. Resurrection will mark the completion of the work that was done on the cross on our behalf.
Do we understand the full implications of our resurrection? The answer is no, but we must live in this present age with this reality ever before us. We will meet Jesus in power and glory. We will receive new bodies, so that the promises of God will be brought to completion.
This is why we receive the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead by faith. We must presently live in light of being raised up in greater measure. In a sense, resurrection can be considered the ultimate deliverance. But unlike the deliverance taking place in this present world, where people are being delivered from its bondage and destruction, in the resurrection, we will be delivered to the fullness of life where we will experience the fullness of the promises of God. This is what it means to walk in expectation of the Blessed Hope.
The great people of God always walked in this expectation. Abraham walked in expectation of seeing the city of God. Consider it for a moment. Abraham’s vision was not aimed at this world, but beyond it to something that he had not seen, but knew he would experience. He walked in expectation of seeing the city of God (Hebrews 11:10). Every great saint of faith walked in the expectation of experiencing the fullness of something they had not yet seen. Even though many died without receiving the promises in their lifetime, they still knew that in the future, they would experience the completeness of all that God had promised them (Hebrews 11:13-16).
As believers, we do not walk in expectation of a great city, but in light of Jesus coming for us. It is something we have not seen, but we believe. As a result, we live and conduct our life according to this great hope. We live in the comfort of it. We maintain the anchor of abiding joy as we keep our focus on the day when all will be fulfilled for the glory of God. Such expectation allows us to better understand Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
The next question is, how do we live or conduct our lives in light of this glorious hope? Before we can live out this life, we must first develop a proper attitude. Let us now become mindful of the attitude that will manifest itself in light of the Blessed Hope.
Jesus spoke of the attitude that needed to be in place in light of His coming. We need to be faithful as His servants while we occupy in this present world (Luke 19:11-13). To be faithful to our Lord, we must be obedient servants in regard to His kingdom. In order to be faithful servants to Jesus, we must become strangers and sojourners in this world (1 Peter 2:11). This world must not have any real hold on us. However, we must be faithful to what we know is right. Doing what is faithful and right ensures that we will occupy until He comes.
The attitude that must exist can be explained by relating it to selling your house. We have been involved with this process. The best advice we have ever been given is that once you put your house on the market, you must consider it as belonging to someone else from that point on. You are simply keeping it until the rightful owners come to take possession of it. Maintaining the house in an honorable and responsible way would be the same as occupying it.
As Christians, we are simply passing through this present age. We may be entrusted with lands, houses and possessions as we pass through this world, but we must properly serve as keepers of the land, temporary occupants of the houses, and responsible stewards of all possessions. All must be completely consecrated to our Lord for His purpose and glory.
The other aspect of our attitude has to do with the oil. As Christians, we are to possess the oil of the Holy Spirit. We may be chaste in our practices, but we must have the oil of the Holy Spirit to not only guide us through the darkness, but to identify us when the Lord comes. This is clearly brought out in Matthew 13:1-13.
It is the Holy Spirit who prepares us for our Master’s return. He will warn us of things to come. He will sanctify us as vessels, anoint us as servants, and teach us the things of God, so that we can truly be Jesus’ disciples (John 14:25-26; 16:13; 2 Peter 2:19-21; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 2:20, 27). The problem today is that many people think that intellectual understanding of doctrine or scriptural savvy prepares them for what is coming, but the Bible is clear that only the Holy Spirit (oil) will ensure that each of us will be prepared for our Lord’s surprise coming.
In next month’s issue, I will be dealing with the conduct and practices of those who are prepared to meet their Lord. Meanwhile, consider your attitude about the Blessed Hope. Is it upright before the Lord because you are becoming more and more identified with Him in His death and burial, to ensure that you will be brought forth in His likeness in resurrection?