THE RELEASE OF THE MATERIAL CREATION
Copyright © 1990 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Lord God of Heaven created the material realm, including the bodies of human beings. The material creation was “very good” when it was made (Genesis 1:31) and it still is very good. The weakness of Eden did not come from the material creation itself. The problem had to do with the fact there was not found in man a spirit capable of governing the paradise which the Lord God had placed upon the earth.
One of the main purposes of God in Christ is to develop ruling spirits who will be able to bring order and eternal life into the material creation. The Kingdom of God is the governing of the material creation by righteous and holy spirits who are perfectly obedient to the Father in Heaven.
Table of Contents
The Development of Ruling Spirits
Clothing God with a Material Form
What It Means “To Overcome”
Adam and Eve
The Inner Spiritual Nature and the Material Form
The Perfected Spiritual Nature Will Govern the Material Realm
Spiritual Development and Material Expression
The Resurrection of the Dead
Eating of the Tree of Life
THE RELEASE OF THE MATERIAL CREATION
because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)
The Lord God of Heaven created the material realm, including the bodies of human beings. The material creation was “very good” when it was made (Genesis 1:31) and it still is very good.
The problem of Eden did not come from the material creation itself. The problem had to do with the fact there was not found in man a spirit capable of governing the paradise that the Lord God had placed on the earth.
Adam and Eve merely were people of flesh and blood. Their spiritual nature was weak and inexperienced. Therefore, as always will happen, stronger and more experienced spirits took control. In this instance the stronger spirits were rebellious and wicked.
The Development of Ruling Spirits
One of the main purposes of God in Christ is to develop ruling spirits who will be able to bring order and eternal life into the material creation. The Kingdom of God is the ruling of the material creation by righteous and holy spirits who are in perfect obedience to the Father in Heaven.
We understand, therefore, that God is interested in bringing forth “overcomers”—human beings who, through the Lord Jesus Christ, are successful in gaining victory over the various forces that come against them.
Notice the rewards Christ holds out to those who finish their course, who endure to the end, who keep victory through Him:
- A crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:8).
- To eat of the tree of life (Revelation 2:7).
- A crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
- Not to be hurt of the second death (Revelation 2:11).
- To eat of the hidden manna; to be given a white stone, and in the stone a new name written that no man knows except he who receives it (Revelation 2:17).
- Power over the nations (Revelation 2:26).
- The morning star (Revelation 2:28).
A consideration of these, as well as the other rewards set forth in Revelation, Chapters Two and Three and other passages of the New Testament, suggest that our rewards will be in the areas of life, rulership, and relationship to God and Christ. It is possible that some of these rewards are increments of personality and are being given to us as we overcome now.
In the Day of the Lord, Christ will appear with His ruling, perfected spirits, His victorious saints (Hebrews 12:23). They, with Him and through Him, will take over the rulership of the material creation (Daniel 7:22).
The rewards to the overcomer may be increments of eternal life given to those who, through the Lord Jesus, emerge victorious in the Christian warfare. He who overcomes, who conquers, inherits all things, because what God desires—the performing of His will in the earth as it is in Heaven—depends for its success on the availability of those who are able to rule in obedience to God (Revelation 21:7).
The Kingdom of God is the ruling of the material realm by the Lord God through Christ through the saints. It is the governing and enjoying of the material realm by righteous spirits. In the coming Kingdom only the righteous will govern. The sceptre of Christ’s Kingdom is a sceptre of righteousness (Hebrews 1:8).
Clothing God with a Material Form
The Kingdom of God is the clothing of God with a material form. The revealing of the invisible God in material form began with Christ, will continue with the resurrection of the overcomers, then with all Israel (all of God’s elect), then with the nations of saved people, until finally the entire material creation is one glorious expression of God.
The only material form of God in the present hour is the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Kingdom of God has been completed, all the material creation will reveal God through Christ, to some extent. However, Christ always will reveal God most completely; and next to Jesus in perfection of the manifestation of God will be the Bride of the Lamb.
Some will reveal God thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold.
There was a tragic rebellion among the angelic lords of the heavenlies. Therefore God has created man to govern the works of God’s hands. Man was created to rule, to have dominion over all things (Hebrews 2:6-8).
The Kingdom of God is neither solely spiritual nor solely material. The Kingdom of God is material in outward form while its life is the Life of Christ.
God does not consider man to be man apart from his material body. The Scriptures have little to say about the condition of man during the interval of time between his physical death and the resurrection of his body from the grave. There is much Christian tradition concerning how marvelous the spirit realm is and how happy the saints are who have died. But the Scriptures do not have much to say concerning the state of the dead. This is because man, unlike angelic beings, has a material form, and he is not “man” again until he is raised from the dead.
The human form was made subject to pain, loss of function, and decay. God’s love for His children moved Him to subject our material form to corruption and decay. Were our body not subject to decay it would be necessary that God condemn us, as He has the fallen angels, without hope of reprieve (Romans 8:20). God did not subject us to pain and death because it gave Him pleasure to do so but in the hope that one day He may be able to restore to us our body—and Paradise on the earth.
God always deals with man with the physical body in mind. At the last day all men will be raised. People will be rewarded in their bodies and punished in their bodies. Because of the temporary nature of physical death it sometimes is referred to in the Scriptures as “sleep” (see Daniel 12:2; John 5:28,29).
God has determined man will rule the works of God’s hands. Through Christ the spiritual nature of man will rule the material realm in righteousness, and he is made ready to rule by the tribulations and lessons he experiences during his lifetime. Therefore the New Testament Scriptures warn of chastisement when referring to those who neglect the development of spiritual righteousness and holiness, of those who continue in spiritual slothfulness, remaining in bondage to their flesh and soul.
The Scriptures speak of outer darkness, of weeping and gnashing of teeth, of not escaping the anger of God. Expressions of displeasure and anger are directed toward the Lord’s servants who do not do His will. The admonitions of the Gospels and the Epistles are not directed toward the unsaved, toward those who know little or nothing of the Lord, but toward the elect.
The New Testament is a book of spiritual warfare, and the Lord Jesus requires that His soldiers be under the strictest discipline as He Himself is totally obedient to the Father.
The entire Scriptures are directed toward the Seed of Abraham, toward those who have been called out of the world in order to become a holy nation to God—a royal priesthood that will rule the material creation.
The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world so that to mankind may be restored all the glory of Paradise—in particular, access to the tree of life. Access to the tree of life prevents death from entering the material realm and causing it to decay. Also, immeasurable glory is to be added to mankind. Eden was but the faintest shadow of what God has in mind for His offspring, for the persons who have been created in His image.
All depends on the development of ruling spirits whom God can trust to maintain the observance of His laws, the doing of His will in the earth. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
The rewards to the overcomers, as set forth in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, seem to be increments in the development of eternal life in our personality so we can serve God effectively as the overseers of a released creation.
The “seven churches that are in Asia” (Revelation 1:11), to whom the Lord Jesus spoke, represent the Christian churches on the earth.
The Word of Christ to the seven churches serves to divide the believers into those who are members of the true Church, of the Body of Christ, of the ruling priesthood, and those believers who are members of the Christian assemblies but who are failing to grasp that for which they have been grasped by the Lord.
The overcomers will prove to be a firstfruits of the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only they who, in the present hour, are on their way toward becoming the spiritual life of the Kingdom of God.
We think the overcomers are the firstfruits of the true Church, the true Bride of the Lamb, because of what the Scriptures state concerning the Bride of the Lamb and because of what is written concerning those who do not overcome but who themselves are overcome.
We are not contrasting people who are outside the Christian assemblies with those who are inside. We are discussing only those who are part of the golden lampstands of the Lord.
First of all, what does the Scripture state with respect to the Bride of the Lamb?
My dove, my perfect one, is the only one, the only one of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her. The daughters saw her and called her blessed, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her. (Song of Solomon 6:9)
that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)
It is apparent that the Wife of the Lamb is to be perfect in every respect. There will be no blemish in her.
Those who “overcome” the world, Satan, and their own lusts and self-will are given rewards that are in keeping with the righteousness, holiness, and glory of the Wife of the Lamb.
What about those who do not overcome but rather are overcome, as the Apostle says:
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. (II Peter 2:20)
There are many expressions of displeasure and anger toward the sinful, disobedient, and slothful servants of the Lord to be found from the Gospels through to the Book of Revelation.
There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when the children of the Kingdom see the beauty and glory of the Kingdom and realize they themselves cannot enter because of their sinfulness, slothfulness, disobedience, fear, and unbelief.
Let us think for a moment about the spiritual condition of the nonovercomer and see if it coincides with what we would expect to be true of the Church, the unblemished Wife of the Lamb. The believer in Christ should consider the following carefully, because the incorrect Christian doctrine of our day is asserting that every Christian will receive the fullness of the inheritance on the basis of his or her statement of faith in Christ.
- Will not be given a crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:8).
- Will suffer the removal of his lampstand from its place, the removal of the witnessing power of the Holy Spirit (Revelation 2:5). Perhaps this is speaking of the loss of the ability to bear witness of Christ on the part of the entire assembly rather than in the case of one unrepentant individual. However, it no doubt is true of the individual believer also.
- Will not have access to the tree of life (Revelation 2:7).
- Will not be given a crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
- Will be hurt of the second death (Revelation 2:11).
- Will have Christ fight against him with the sword of His mouth (Revelation 2:16).
- Will not be given of the hidden manna; not be given a white stone (Revelation 2:17).
- Will be cast into great tribulation (Revelation 2:22).
- Will be rewarded according to his evil works (Revelation 2:23).
- Will not be given power over the nations (Revelation 2:26).
- Will not be given the morning star (Revelation 2:28).
- Will have Christ come upon him as a thief (Revelation 3:3).
- Will not walk with Christ in white (Revelation 3:4).
- Will not be clothed in white raiment; will have his name blotted out of the Book of Life; will not have his name confessed before Christ’s Father or before the Father’s angels (Revelation 3:5).
- Will not be kept (guarded) from the hour of temptation (Revelation 3:10).
- Will not be made a pillar in the temple of Christ’s God; will not have written on him the name of Christ’s God, or the name of the city of Christ’s God, or the new name of Christ (Revelation 3:12).
- Will be vomited out of Christ’s mouth (Revelation 3:16).
- Will continue to be poor, and blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17,18).
- Will not have Christ enter him nor dine with him nor he with Christ (Revelation 3:20).
- Will not sit with Christ in His throne (Revelation 3:21).
- Will not inherit all things; will not have God be his God, and will not be God’s son (Revelation 21:7).
How much of the above proves to be true of an individual nonovercomer depends on the judgment of Christ when the believer stands before His Judgment Seat (or even today!).
The wise person will keep in mind that Christ is a judge, the Scriptures are a book of law, and by inference and direct statement it is possible that a nonovercomer may experience every one of these penalties—including the loss of his very salvation. The maximum penalty always is possible in a court of law, and to Christ alone remains the decision. God has assigned the authority of judgment to Him.
The goodness of God has been emphasized in our day, but not His severity. We are ignorant of spiritual realities!
Given the description of the Christian Church as the unblemished Bride of the Lamb, and considering the spiritual condition of those who do not overcome, we have arrived at the conclusion that it is the overcomers who make up, at least in the present hour, the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We cannot state what the destiny of any particular nonovercomer will be. But the Christian should be warned the New Testament has much to say that is cause for terror, with respect to the future state of the member of the Lord’s elect who neglects the salvation that has been offered to him.
All the spiritual benefits we associate with the Church, the Body of Christ, are set forth in the New Testament as the reward for overcoming. God is establishing a ruling priesthood that will bring release and joy to the entire material creation. The Christian who does not pay attention to the lessons of overcoming, who does not respond to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in overcoming sin and self-will, is as salt that has lost its flavor. He is of no use to God or man. He will be cut out of the Vine, out of the Church, out of the Body of Christ.
What It Means “To Overcome”
The term overcomer is not found in the Scriptures. The Scriptures refer only to “him who overcomes.” Any saint who is living in victory at a given moment is an “overcomer.” It is possible to be winning at one time and losing at the next. Overcoming is a dynamic state.
To overcome is not to attain a state of moral excellence. It is not to meet the criteria of a set of standards that are located somewhere. An overcomer is judged only by what God is requiring of him as an individual at a given moment, not by his own or by anyone else’s model of a perfect Christian.
Many (perhaps most) believers, until they understand thoroughly the preceding paragraph, will not attempt to be an overcomer. They will give up before they start because they believe the overcomers are a group of super-Christians whom the ordinary individual never could imitate.
Such is not the case. Overcoming is the normal Christian life of victory. It is the life of nonovercoming that is the unusual (subnormal) condition, for to be a nonovercomer means we have not been able to gain victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. Somehow His all-powerful grace is not working effectively in us.
Each believer is surrounded with problems most of the time. There may be a problem in the family with the children, or a problem with money, or with one’s job, or sickness, or moral temptation, or trouble in the assembly of believers, or with believing in God, or with relinquishing one’s personal ambitions in favor of what is perceived to be God’s will, or with fear, or with excessive demands and pressures.
How the Christian responds to the challenges and hurdles set before him determines whether or not he or she is classed as “him who overcomes.”
A Christian is an individual who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, who prays, studies the Scriptures, assembles with fervent believers, gives as he is able, and continues to grow in righteous, holy behavior. When he is convicted of sin he confesses the sin to God, repents of it, and through the Lord’s grace ceases practicing it.
He presents his body a living sacrifice to the Father. He forsakes the world, takes up his cross, and follows the Lord Jesus each day. He has received by faith the blood atonement made by Christ, has been baptized in water, and has been born again of the Spirit of God.
The “overcomer” merely is a victorious Christian—nothing more nor less.
To be a victorious Christian means that at the present moment we are doing God’s will to the best of our knowledge. That is all there is to it.
The nonovercomer is the Christian who is not doing the Lord’s will. He is not learning to rule with and through the Lord Jesus.
The nonovercomer does not pray and seek the Lord sufficiently to keep ahead of his problems. The Lord has impressed him to forgive someone, or to cease criticizing others, or to give of his means, or to stop practicing some form of sin, or to go to Bible school, or whatever. But he is too involved in his own pursuits to take the time to seek the Lord to the point that he retains a clear conscience. He is losing the fight against the world, Satan, and his own sins and self-will.
To be losing the fight against the enemies of our soul is a subnormal condition for those who are called to be more than conquerors through Christ. Defeat is not expected. There is no need for defeat because of the abundance of Divine Virtue and power available to us. He who neglects his salvation will not escape the judgment of God.
He is lukewarm and will be vomited from Christ’s mouth.
The overcomer is the true Christian, the victorious saint, the dedicated believer. All the inheritance we associate with being a Christian goes to him. The destiny of the nonovercomer is filled with lashes and outer darkness.
One of the principal differences between the spiritual condition of the overcomer and the nonovercomer is the degree of eternal life each possesses.
Eternal life is the “knowledge” of God, in the sense of the “Presence” and “Virtue” of God.
The human soul and spirit can die, meaning they can be separated from the Presence and Virtue of God, from the eternal Life that God is.
A spirit can be “dead” (cut off from God’s Life), or “alive” (in union with the Holy Spirit of God), but never resurrected. An angel or demon never can be resurrected.
It is true that our reborn inner nature has already been united with the resurrection Life of the Lord and has ascended with Him to the right hand of God (Romans, Chapter Six). However, the resurrection taught in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians has to do only with the resurrection of the material body, not with our inward nature.
To resurrect is to restore consciousness and function to the body.
The physical body can be spiritually “alive” (filled with God’s Spirit) or spiritually “dead” (because of sin and the resulting loss of God’s Spirit). It can also be “awake” or “asleep,” referring to physical life or death.
To resurrect the body is to give it consciousness and function, and sometimes (but not always) eternal life. We know this is the case because Jesus spoke of “the resurrection of life” and “the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29).
The degree and kind of life (none, thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or a hundredfold) our body receives after consciousness and function have been restored to it in the day of resurrection depends on the degree and kind of life that have been developed in our spiritual nature as we have patiently borne our cross behind the Lord Jesus.
The spiritually dead body is void of the Presence of God.
To “sleep” physically (in the sense of physical death) is for the body to lose consciousness and cease to function.
The spirit, soul, and body may all ascend to God. But ascension is not an integral part of resurrection. The Lord Jesus Christ lived in resurrection glory in His body several weeks before His ascension. One of the areas of confusion caused by the doctrine of the pre-tribulation “rapture” is that the central hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God has been changed from the victorious resurrection of the body into an ascension of nonvictorious believers to escape tribulation.
The adjective eternal, as it is used in eternal life, is not, according to scriptural usage, defined primarily in terms of chronological time. Every creature of God exists forever. The fallen angels will exist forever but they do not have eternal life. The demons will be conscious forever but they do not possess eternal life (the Life and Virtue of God).
The spirit and soul of man never “sleep.” They never lose consciousness or function. They are not subject to decay. Therefore eternal life or death in the soul and the spirit are not referring to consciousness or function or the loss of them but to the “knowledge” of God and Christ—knowledge in the sense of Life, Virtue, Presence, fellowship, abiding acceptance. “I never knew you,” Jesus says to the lawless, meaning He never has received the lawless to Himself.
However, since the material body is subject to loss of consciousness and function, eternal life in the body has two meanings: (1) eternal consciousness and function; and (2) possession of the Life and Presence of God. Apart from the possession of the Life and Presence of God the resurrection of the body would result only in eternal existence—and a dreadful existence at that!
If Christ is in us, in our inner man, our spiritual nature is alive but our physical body remains dead. It is cut off from the Life and Presence of God and Christ because of the sin dwelling in it.
It will be of benefit to the reader, particularly in understanding the release of the material creation, if he will carefully go over and implant firmly in his mind the above definitions. We are using these definitions consistently in our discussion of the release of the creation. While the Scriptures do not always define life, death, and resurrection with the same degree of consistency we are employing, we believe the reader will find our definitions are not inconsistent with any passage. They merely reflect a common usage by the Scriptures.
Every physical body, both of the wicked and the righteous, will be raised in the last day and will have perpetual consciousness and function restored to it. But the physical body of the wicked will never receive eternal life and glory in the sense of access to the Presence of God. Also, the physical body of the nonovercomer will not receive the fullness of the likeness of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Before we can understand the release of the material creation or the rewards to the overcomer, we must have a grasp on the nature of eternal life and how eternal life is worked out in our spirit, soul, and body.
The goal of the Christian redemption is to acquire eternal life in our spirit, our soul, and our body.
In our Christian tradition, going to Heaven after we die is considered to be the goal of the Christian salvation. This point of view has little scriptural basis. To be on firm scriptural ground we must accept the fact that the goal of the Christian redemption is to gain eternal life.
The New Testament always stresses the gaining of eternal life, never the making of our eternal home in the spiritual Heaven. Adam and Eve lost eternal life through their disobedience. The Lord Jesus, our Redeemer, came to give us the opportunity to gain eternal life.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave us two definitions of eternal life. Neither one of them mentions the making of our eternal home in the spiritual Heaven.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
“And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25,26)
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Let us consider carefully the facts established by these three verses:
- Christ Himself is the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection from the dead includes but is infinitely more than the raising of our dead body from the grave. The resurrection is a Person!
- Christ Himself Is eternal Life. Life is Christ. This is where the preaching of Heaven misses the mark. Our goal is not eternal residence in Heaven. Our goal is to become part of Christ, part of Eternal Life.
There indeed is a spiritual Heaven. Heaven is the present home of God, of Christ, of the saints, and of the elect angels. When they die, the godly go to the spirit Paradise to wait for the Day of Resurrection. However, the personality of the Christian is not, by the Scriptures, considered to be “alive” until his body has received eternal life. The Christian will be made alive at the parousia, the Presence of the Lord (I Corinthians 15:22,23).
After having spent time in Heaven waiting for the Day of Christ, we will be disappointed in that Day if we have not laid up treasures of eternal life. Heaven is a place of rest for the saints, and it is conceivable that some ministry and preparation for the Day of Christ take place there.
But the goal of our Christian discipleship is not to go to Heaven, as marvelous as that experience doubtless will be. The goal is to acquire eternal life so when the Day of the Lord comes we will be filled with an abundance of the true riches, with the fullness of eternal life in spirit, in soul, and in body.
Eternal life comes by believing in Christ.
The Scriptures do not always use the terms “death” and “life” as we do. We know this is true because whoever lives and believes in Christ does die physically. But the Lord Jesus stated that whoever lives and believes in Him will never die. Our biologic, flesh-and-blood life is not true life and the biologic death of our flesh is not true death.
Eternal life is the knowledge of the true God and of Christ whom God has sent. Eternal life is life in the Presence of God and is the Presence of God.
Let us think for a moment about this last point.
Eternal life is to know the true God and to know Christ. We have stated previously that eternal life is the goal of the Christian salvation. Therefore the goal of salvation is to know God and Christ in the sense of possessing Their abiding Presence.
To gain eternal life is to possess God and Christ.
The knowledge that is eternal life is not “knowledge” as we ordinarily employ the term. It is knowledge that goes beyond knowing about someone or something.
To possess the knowledge that is eternal life is to have fellowship with God; to be in the closest personal contact with God; to be abiding in God and Christ and to have God and Christ abiding in us; to dwell in the Presence of God; to be part of that Life that always is flowing from God; to live and move and have our being in untroubled, complete union with God and Christ.
The true saint always is seeking Christ, striving to please Him in order that he may grow in the knowledge of Christ and possess more of the eternal life that is the Presence of God and Christ.
Death is defined as “separation.” Life is defined as “union.”
True death is separation from God and Christ. True life is union with God and Christ. Eternal death, the second death, is eternal separation from God and Christ. Eternal life is eternal union with God and Christ.
Adam and Eve
The issue from the beginning has been life versus death. Residence in Heaven after we die physically is not the fullness of life for us because our body still is bound by death.
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
It appears that the “breath of life” mentioned here is physical life, the life that operates in association with the bloodstream of man, the life that ceases when we die physically. Mortal life operates as the body cells burn, providing energy for warmth, movement, and bodily functions. When the heart ceases to beat, bringing the bloodstream to a halt, the spirit and soul are separated from the body and the body begins to decay.
The Lord God had warned Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for “in the day you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
In what manner did Adam die? We would suggest that the death announced here was both spiritual and physical. Whereas the spirit, soul, and body of Adam and Eve had enjoyed the knowledge, the Presence of the Lord God, they now were under condemnation and as a result separated from God’s Presence—and there was no redeemer available.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is, as far as we know, the eternal moral law of God. Adam and Eve were not learned in the moral law of God. They did not know that it is a shame to be naked. God did not want them to come to this knowledge until He had prepared a provision for sin.
As the eternal moral law of God is preached today we are convicted of sin. But we do not flee from the Presence of God because God has made provision for our sin. The provision is the blood of the cross of Calvary. As soon as we are made aware of sin in our life we run to the cross, to the sin-cleansing fountain. Immediately our sin is forgiven and cleansed from us and we go on our way rejoicing.
The provision of the blood of the cross was not yet available in the days of Adam and Eve, and so God did not want them to become aware of sin. God knew that the shame of their nakedness would become known to them and there was no remedy as yet.
An important aspect of the death of Adam and Eve was the decay of their bodies (“to dust shall you return”—Genesis 3:19), and the loss of access to the tree of life—to that which would have enabled their bodies to be renewed in consciousness and function forever.
The fact that Adam and Eve did not die physically during the twenty-four hour period during which they sinned probably is not significant. The idea of “the day,” or “that day,” as employed in the Scriptures, does not always indicate the immediate twenty-four hour period. God speaks in timeless, spiritual terms.
Although Adam did not die for many hundreds of years, in the sight of God Adam died physically the moment he sinned against God. His body no longer was worthy of the Presence of God and the processes of decay had commenced.
Adam, through his disobedience, lost the fellowship with God that had been natural to him. In addition, there came into Adam’s soul a spirit of rebellion against God and there came into his body the various lusts that represent enslavement to Satan.
Adam’s physical body, not being renewed by the Life of God, began to breed corruption. After nearly a thousand years of decaying, the marvelous material temple finally failed. The breath of life left Adam’s nostrils. Adam himself did not perish but he was separated from his body. His body returned to the dust to sleep there until the Day it is called forth by the voice of Christ.
The tree of life was in the garden. This was not the type of fruit tree with which we are familiar. The tree of life, which today is in the midst of the Paradise of God, is a representation of the eternal life that is of God and Christ. Or, it may have been true that in the beginning the various fruit trees contained both physical and spiritual nourishment.
The life in the tree of life does not consist of body cells burning in the presence of oxygen. Rather, it is an energy that can animate the material form apart from the bloodstream. Whereas the bloodstream of man is a corruptible source of energy and renewal, the energy and renewal that come from the tree of life are of the incorruptible Life of God. They are not subject to decay. It is our point of view that the Tree of Life is Christ.
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— (Genesis 3:22)
What was God’s concern?
Adam was in a state of condemnation before God. The sentence of physical death had been passed on him. Eating of the tree of life would have brought an eternal source of energy and renewal into Adam’s body while he was in a state of condemnation before the Lord God.
In the tree of life is contained Divine Life—that which is imperishable. If that Divine Life had entered the material bodies of Adam and Eve, transfusing their elements and systems with imperishable life, their bodies would have endured forever without aging—even though their spiritual personalities were separated from God and under the sentence of condemnation. They would have been satanic—powerfully alive but utterly corrupt.
It was God’s goodness that prevented Adam and Eve from receiving imperishable life into their bodies. For if they, being in a state of fear and condemnation because of their disobedience, had received eternal energy and renewal in their material form, they would have been living on the earth in their rebellion and condemnation to the present day. By this time, approximately six thousand years after their creation, they would have become monsters of lawlessness similar to Satan and the fallen lords of the spirit realm.
Therefore by physical death the Lord God separated their spiritual nature, their soul and spirit, from their physical body. He placed their soul and spirit in a waiting area of the spirit realm and gave their bodies back to the dust of the ground. God placed a “heaven” between their spiritual nature and their perishing physical form, just as God divided the waters from the waters with a firmament on the second day of creation.
God does this with the Christian. He raises our reborn inner nature to His right hand in Christ but he leaves our sin-prone mortal body on the earth. Our inner nature is kept separate from our mortal body by a “heaven.”
Notice, in the following verse, how the Lord God associated Adam with his physical body—not with his inner spiritual nature but with his material form:
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
Contemporary Christian teaching does not place nearly enough emphasis on the physical body as being an integral part of the personality of man. Many of today’s teachers treat the physical body, in accordance with some of the religions of the East, as an evil that will be discarded when we “go to Heaven.”
God told Adam and Eve they were “dust,” saying nothing about their “immortal souls,” which is the Eastern philosophy being emphasized today in the churches of Christ. The fact is, the physical body is important in the plan of God and is central to the topic of this present booklet.
It is important to note that Christ has come “in the flesh” (I John 4:2).
“he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. (Acts 2:31)
We never will understand the release of the material creation or the rewards to the overcomer until we appreciate the role of the material body in the eternal purpose of God. The release of the creation has to do with the clothing of the invisible God with a material form. Our material bodies are the rooms of the house of God (John 14:2). Our bodies are the temples of the Spirit of God.
The Inner Spiritual Nature and the Material Form
The love of God has placed the eternal spiritual nature of man in a corruptible body. God’s plan is that through Christ human beings can gain the knowledge, the Presence of God, bringing the eternal Life of God into their spiritual nature.
The spiritual nature of human beings is eternal to begin with, meaning their spiritual consciousness, form, and function cannot be destroyed. But the eternal life that Christ brings to our spiritual nature is infinitely more than eternal existence. It is the Life and Presence of God, the personal knowledge of God. Our spiritual nature has eternal life in the sense of enduring forever, and through the Lord Jesus Christ we can gain eternal life and glory in the sense of living in the Presence and Life of Almighty God.
Our material body is dead because of sin. Our body is dead while we are alive biologically because its lusts prevent it from living in the Presence and Life of God.
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit [spirit; inner man] is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
God will not accept our physical body until we are willing to come out from all uncleanness. God will not have fellowship with sin.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
Our body is cut off from the Life of God because of the law of sin dwelling in it, and is dead in that sense. Also, the body perishes when biologic life leaves it, whether through sickness, accident, or old age.
The unsaved have a spiritual nature that will endure for eternity: a spiritual nature that is dead because it is cut off from the Presence of God; a material form that is dead because it is cut off from the Presence of God; and a material form that one day will lose its union with the spiritual nature and return to the dust of the ground in physical death.
The saved have a spiritual nature that will endure for eternity. The saved are seeking, through Christ, to overcome the forces of darkness and to gain an ever-increasing degree of union with God. The saved have a material form that is dead because it is cut off from the Presence of God, and a material form that one day will lose its union with their spiritual nature and return to the dust of the ground in physical death.
The difference between the unsaved and the saved is that the saved, if they are living in victory, are seeking, through Christ, to gain the eternal Life that is the Presence and Person of God and His Son, Christ.
The Scriptures deal almost exclusively with life in the body, whether during our days on the earth or at the return of the Lord from Heaven. By being “alive” the Scripture means alive in the body.
All our religious talk about a glorious life after we die physically is almost entirely conjectural. There indeed may be a wonderful spiritual existence after we die physically and before Jesus returns. But the Scriptures do not emphasize it.
Notice, for example, how the following passage defines being “made alive”:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (I Corinthians 15:22,23)
We can see the term “made alive” is referring, in this context, to the resurrection of our body from the grave. The entire fifteenth chapter of the Book of First Corinthians reveals to us the significance of the reunion of our material form with our spiritual personality.
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
It is obvious, from the context of the above clause, that the expression “they lived” means their material bodies were raised from the grave. These holy saints certainly had been alive spiritually previous to this time. “They lived” means their material forms had been restored to them.
In terms of the Scriptures, man is not considered to be redeemed or alive until his soul and spirit have been filled with the Presence of God and his material form has been changed from corruptible life to incorruptible life.
Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)
The Perfected Spiritual Nature Will Govern the Material Realm
Let us consider what went wrong in Eden.
Adam and Eve were relatively simple creatures (we say relatively because man is a complex creation in any case) in that their spiritual nature was undeveloped. There was no ruling spiritual inner man in them, no Life of Christ, no experience in resisting the temptation to rebel against God or to break God’s moral laws, no resurrection from the dead. They were neither a wall of resistance against sin nor a door of access to God.
Adam and Eve merely were flesh-and-blood beings, more intelligent than the animals, having a spirit in them capable of communication with God and a soul capable of moral judgment. Apparently their outer material form to a very limited degree resembled the spiritual form of the Lord God of Heaven (Ezekiel 1:26).
They were relatively uncomplicated creatures compared with what God envisions for man when he has been born again and grows to maturity in Christ!
Adam and Eve were given Paradise. But since there was no ruling spiritual nature in them they were not able to possess what they had been given, although the challenge to their possession was elementary. (Compare the testing of Adam and Eve with the testing of Abraham, for example.)
God knew in advance that what He had given to Adam and Eve they would not be able to hold.
Before any human being can possess and govern Paradise he must be perfected in his inner spiritual nature. It is the inner spiritual nature that is to govern the material form of man and all his environment and circumstances. When man is governed by his material form or by his soulish, natural life, he cannot please God. He cannot possess and govern Paradise.
This is why the current doctrines of lawless grace and the pre-tribulation “rapture” of the believers are so harmful and opposed to the Kingdom of God. For in these doctrines there is contained the concept that God, because of His merciful Nature, intends to give Paradise to human beings in whom there has not been perfected a governing spiritual nature. If God were, through “grace,” to give Paradise to believers in whom no governing spiritual nature had been developed, the tragedy of Eden would be repeated again and again.
The doctrine of lawless grace (the teaching that grace is a covering for our sin and disobedience), and the doctrine of the removal of untransformed believers from the earth and the placing of them in Paradise, are not found in the Scriptures. They are not found in the Scriptures because they are not of God. God has not spoken them; neither do they accomplish the eternal purpose of God.
The eternal purpose of God is to create a kingdom that is material in outward form and governed by the spirits of righteous people made perfect—saints who, through the grace of God in Christ, have overcome every force that would invite them to walk in unrighteousness, spiritual uncleanness, or disobedience to the Father in any other form.
If God, because of His mercy, does admit people into His Kingdom who do not have a perfected spiritual nature, they will be governed by those who do have a perfected spiritual nature. Otherwise there would continue to be chaos in the creation of God.
There must be an appropriate and satisfactory development of the spiritual nature of the believer before he can be given his inheritance as man.
Spiritual Development and Material Expression
The rewards to the overcomer, as we understand them, are given as increments in the development of a ruling spiritual nature in us. The rewards to the overcomer may be considered additions of eternal life, authority, power, glory, union with God through Christ, and opportunities for service—spiritual additions that will express themselves in our material form in the Day of Christ.
Those who do not overcome the resistance that comes against them, who do not permit the Holy Spirit to create the ruling nature of Christ in them, will not receive the rewards “by grace.”
The Kingdom laws of cause and effect, of sowing and reaping, hold true. The fullness of what was promised to man in the beginning will be given only to those in whom the ruling spiritual nature has been developed.
Gaining the rewards offered to the overcomer occurs in two stages:
- Receiving the rewards in our spiritual nature now as we continue gaining victory through Christ over all creatures, forces, and things coming against us.
- Receiving the rewards in our material body when Christ summons our body from the grave.
Receiving the rewards now establishes the development in our personality of a ruling spiritual nature.
Receiving the rewards in our material body in the Day of Resurrection establishes a material expression of the ruling spiritual nature that has been developed in our personality.
There is an important practical application of what has just been stated. It is that in the Day of Christ our material body will be raised from the dead and then transformed according to our state of spiritual development at that time. The current concept that we will be given bodies like the body of Jesus even though we are spiritually immature is a misleading, destructive idea.
If, in the Day of Resurrection, our material form were to become more full of Divine Life than is true of our spiritual nature (which would have been the case with Adam and Eve), or less full of Divine Life than is true of our spiritual nature, there would be chaos in the Kingdom of God. New wine must be put in new wineskins.
If our material form were to become more full of Divine Life than is true of our spiritual nature, we would have an example of what would have been true in Eden if Adam and Eve, in their undeveloped and condemned spiritual state, had eaten of the tree of life.
If, in the Day of Resurrection, our material form were to be less full of life than is true of our spiritual nature, we would experience a continuation of what is true today—a victorious, Christ-filled spiritual personality in an imprisoning body, a body that is a dead weight we drag around as we serve the Lord.
The perfect gift of the Day of the Lord is a resurrected material form that expresses completely and perfectly our spiritual nature.
The believer in Christ who does not press forward as a victorious saint will suffer incomprehensible loss in the Day of the Lord. His body will reflect what he is in spiritual personality. His spiritual nakedness will be revealed in the nakedness of his material form. He will not reveal in his resurrected body the life, the glory, the authority, the union with God and Christ that are true of the overcomer. His body will be as weak as his spirit, as far from Christ as his spirit, as lacking in glory as his spirit. As we sow, so shall we reap.
Let us think about what will be true when the physical body is raised from the dead.
The Resurrection of the Dead
There are four classes of persons who will be raised from the dead. Hopefully our analysis will be of some aid in understanding what is to be the most important event of our lives:
- The overcomers, the victorious saints.
- Those who are of Israel, of the royal priesthood, of the elect, but who are immature in spiritual development.
- The members of the nations of saved peoples of the earth.
- The lost.
Our first point of understanding is, every person who has been born of woman will be raised from the dead. His or her body will be raised from the dead. One would imagine this to be an impossibility given the various kind of death people die, but we must consider the greatness of God. God is well able to re-create the molecular structure of every person who has ever been born. So great is our God!
By being “raised from the dead” we mean the physical body, whether of an infant or of an aged person, whether having passed away in bed or disintegrated by an atomic blast, will be restructured and will come and stand before the Lord Jesus—the Judge of all men and angels.
By being raised from the dead we do not mean the spirit is raised from somewhere. According to our understanding, the spirit is separated from the body at the time of physical death. The body returns to dust, as the Lord said. The spirit goes to the area of the spirit realm where it belongs according to the judgment of Christ.
The soul and spirit of the rich man were in Hell, not in the grave with his dead body.
The spirits to whom Jesus preached before His resurrection were in “prison,” not rotting in the ground or in the seas and oceans with their dead bodies (I Peter 3:19).
It is possible that in some instances the spirit of the person is chained to the location of his dead body. It is not unlikely that the punishment of some spirits is in the form of being chained to the material locations and consequences of their deeds. Whether or not this is the case, the Scripture is clear that every physical body will be restructured and will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:28,29).
The term resurrection, as we have stated previously, applies primarily to the body of man. The spirit and soul are not resurrected from the dead, except in the sense that they are made alive when they come in contact with the Lord Jesus and then can ascend into the Presence of God in Heaven.
We do not know of all the places where the Spirit and Soul of Christ went after His death on the cross. But we do know of the place and time of His resurrection, of the coming forth of His flesh-and-bone body from the cave of Joseph of Arimathea.
We believe the spirit of the born-again saint is in the heavenlies with Jesus, and when he dies his soul goes to Paradise in Heaven, according to his spiritual development. But this is not his resurrection.
He enjoyed a spiritual “resurrection,” so to speak, when he first received Christ. But, according to the Apostle Paul, the Day of Resurrection is yet ahead of us. Therefore, the spiritual “resurrection” of the born-again believers throughout history is not what is meant by the scriptural resurrection of the dead.
The resurrection of the dead, in its primary sense, has to do with the body. Until that is clear to us it is impossible to understand the resurrection of the dead and the release of the material creation.
In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of First Corinthians the Apostle Paul discusses the resurrection from the dead of Christ, and also the resurrection of the bodies of the Christians. We do not find any flavor whatever in this chapter of the current Christian emphasis on a pre-tribulation ascension of the believer to escape Antichrist and the great tribulation. First Corinthians, Chapter 15 describes the resurrection of the body at the sounding of the last trumpet, the seventh trumpet of the Book of Revelation (Chapter 11).
The believers in the so-called “rapture” are not clear whether the “rapture” is of the spirit or of the body—or precisely what role the body plays, if any, in the rapture. This unscriptural doctrine has confused the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead. Yet the resurrection to life of the body of the believer in Christ is the fundamental goal and hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
The resurrection of the body of the Lord Jesus was (and is) of the most extraordinary consequence. Paul claims that if the body of the Lord Jesus were not raised, “they also that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (I Corinthians 15:18). Why such a stress on the body of the Lord? And by “perished,” Paul is implying a singular lack of faith in the benefit of having died in Christ apart from the prospect of being raised again in the body.
How different from our current viewpoint! We are stressing today that the important thing is to die and go to the spirit Paradise. But Paul ignores this unscriptural emphasis and points to the resurrection of the body in the Day of the Lord.
Why was it not sufficient that Christ gain the victory of having His Spirit and Soul raised from the depths of spiritual darkness? Why did it matter that His body did not experience decay (Acts 2:27,31)?
Why did the Apostle Paul treat the resurrection of the body as though it is this that is salvation and eternal life?
Why did the Apostle Paul speak of the redemption of our mortal bodies as being our adoption as God’s sons? (Romans 8:23).
The fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians reminds us of a fact we observed earlier, that when God condemned Adam and Eve to return to the dust of the ground He gave the impression this would be the end of them—as though their body were their entire personality. There was an ignoring of their spirit and soul (Genesis 3:19).
Speaking of the resurrection of the body:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:22)
For you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will you allow your Holy One to see corruption. (Acts 2:27)
“he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. (Acts 2:31)
The soul of Christ went to Hades while His body remained in a state of incorruption in the cave of Joseph of Arimathea.
Also, it appears from the above that there is a connection between the soul and body of man. In order for us, after we die physically, to regain what we were as a human being, our body must be raised from the dead.
The kind of resurrection of the body experienced by the human being is important in the Kingdom of God. The resurrection of the body is not an afterthought but is central to salvation, to eternal life.
The current stress on the raising of the soul and spirit to Heaven, whether in a “rapture” or however else, is not scriptural. It is not of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
By the term resurrection of the dead, or resurrection from the dead, is meant the restructuring and reviving of the physical body of the human being.
The Scriptures do not always use the term resurrection this precisely, sometimes adding to it the endowments of life and glory that are the inheritance of the overcomer. But we think we are correct when we state that the meaning of the term resurrection, as it is used in the Scriptures, is the restructuring and reviving of the physical body without reference to its destiny, whether glorious or disgraceful.
The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is found in the Old Testament:
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
Notice the expression, “sleep in the dust of the earth.”
This is speaking of the resurrection of the physical body. Neither our spirit nor our soul sleeps in the dust of the earth, as we understand the Scriptures.
But it is not unusual for the Scriptures to refer to physical death as “sleep”—the sleep of the mortal body in the grave.
There is an important concept in Daniel 12:2. It is that both the righteous and the wicked are raised from the grave.
The term resurrection is not restricted to the righteous. Resurrection signifies neither good nor evil consequences. It is what we are resurrected to that is of such tremendous importance.
All human beings will be raised from the dead, some to eternal joy and glory in the flesh, and others to eternal suffering (also in the flesh, as far as we can determine from the Scriptures).
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
“and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28,29)
The body of each human being will, at one time or another, hear the voice of Christ and come from the place where the body was buried, or slain in some fashion.
We notice also that there is a resurrection to life and a resurrection to judgment. Therefore it is not that we are resurrected that is of concern but the kind of resurrection we experience, whether to life because of righteous behavior or to judgment because of our evil deeds.
Some might claim that if we believe in the Lord Jesus we cannot be raised to face Divine judgment. If that were the case, if John 5:28,29 were speaking to those who do not believe in the Lord, then we would have to accept that those who do good outside of Jesus will be raised to eternal life. Most Christian teachers would not accept this.
The truth of God is, those who are righteous in behavior will be raised to eternal life and those who are wicked in behavior will be raised to judgment. The Word of God shall stand! However, if we have heard the Gospel, we cannot reject the Lord Jesus and enter life on the basis of good works. But if we accept the Lord, and then practice wickedness, we will face Divine judgment when we are raised from the dead.
If God raises the wicked, what force restores consciousness and function to their bodies? If being raised from the dead does not mean, in their case, the entrance of God’s Substance and Presence into their bodies, what power will animate them?
How can the physical body become immortal, stand before God and be judged, and then experience punishment, apart from the Life of the Holy Spirit—that eternal glory that is the portion of the righteous? What force animates the bodies of the wicked? What is the appearance of their bodies?
Precisely what kind of life lifts up the resurrected body of the righteous before it receives the Life of God?
It is our point of view that neither the righteous nor the wicked will be raised to flesh-and-blood (mortal) life but to spirit life.
It is not too difficult to conceive of spiritual energy animating the flesh and bones of man, a spirit (nonmortal) life that is not part of the Glory of Christ. The fallen angels and the demons have a life force that is not part of the righteous Life of Christ. The wicked spirits exhibit spiritual energies that are not holy. The power of Christ governs the stars in their courses, but that energy is not necessarily part of the holy Presence of God. Divine energy is revealed in earth’s lightning and thunder, but these may not be of the holy Substance and Nature of God.
Such being the case, we may assume, given the statement of the Scriptures that some will be resurrected to judgment, that God will restore to the wicked their spirit and soul and provide enough spiritual energy to restructure and give consciousness and function to the body.
We mentioned before the four kinds of persons that will be resurrected: the overcomers, the elect who are not of the spiritual maturity of the victorious saints, the members of the nations of the saved, and the wicked. All these will stand once more on the earth. Each of these groups will present to Christ a different quality of life.
The overcomers will bring personalities filled with eternal Life, glory, authority, power, the Presence of God and Christ.
The members of the elect who are not of the spiritual stature of the victorious saints will bring personalities that have varying qualities of life. Many of these will receive lashes because of their carelessness in the things of the Kingdom. Some will be cast into outer darkness. The elect will be judged strictly, and there may be those who are lost forever, as we understand the Scriptures. The man or woman, boy or girl, whom God has called, but who does not answer the call diligently, will face an angry Christ.
The concept that once we “accept” Christ we can never experience the judgment or wrath of God is deeply entrenched in Christian thinking. But the Scripture does not teach this. It is the greatest lie ever told. It has destroyed the moral vigor of the Christian churches.
The members of the nations of the saved will bring personalities that have just a touch of God’s Life.
The wicked will bring personalities varying in darkness and horror. There will be spiritual monsters and ghouls in this category, so depraved that it is nearly impossible to conceive of them as human beings.
But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, (II Peter 2:12)
It is important to note that the above verse is speaking of evil people who have entered the assemblies of the saints.
and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, (II Peter 2:13)
At the Judgment Seat of Christ, those who are righteous and who have turned others to righteousness will be radiant—shining as the sun in the Glory of Christ.
Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3)
Here is a description of the ruling personalities. They have been clothed with a material form that reflects what they are in spiritual being. They will “shine as the brightness of the firmament.” Think of it! They will be as stars in God’s Heaven. We could not, in the highest reaches of our imagination, conceive of the glory, the authority, the power, the honor, the fullness of the Presence of God and Christ that will be revealed in the resurrected bodies of those who have followed the Lord Jesus with a perfect heart.
These are the ones who were not defiled with women [not married to the world], for they are virgins [spirits are pure]. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. (Revelation 14:4)
The Lord’s firstfruits have overcome the world and have received in their spiritual personalities the rewards to the overcomer. Now, in the Day of Christ, their resurrected bodies will receive the material counterparts of those rewards. They are God’s kings and priests and will reign with Him to the ages of ages.
But what about the bodies of the wicked? What happens to them when their bodies are raised from the sleep of the grave?
The bodies of the wicked will reflect the corruption and death that are in their inner nature. The ugliness and horror in their hearts will be revealed in their material forms.
We have mentioned previously our conviction that the bodies of the wicked will be raised and that the wicked will be punished in their bodies. The following passages of the Scriptures indicate this, as we understand them:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29)
How can our body be cast into the fiery Gehenna?
There will come a merging of the spiritual and material realms. Such a dual state is evident in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis where we have a “tree” of life, a “tree” of the knowledge of good and evil, a talking serpent, and so forth. There was light for three days before the sun, moon, and stars were created.
The normal state of the creation is spiritual-material. In the present hour spiritual life is absent from the creation because the creation is under a curse. The body of the Lord Jesus Christ after His resurrection exhibited a spiritual-material state of being in that He was able to eat the broiled fish and the honeycomb.
“And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24)
Here we behold a scene of the greatest terror. Those who have transgressed against the Lord are confined to an area of continual corruption and torment. Their bodies always are suffering decay and yet never are destroyed. Those who have been saved are permitted to come and witness the result of disobedience to the Father, and are repulsed by what they see.
It does not state that the saved will witness the torment of the spirits of the transgressors but the torment of their bodies.
Notice also the fate of the Beast and the False Prophet:
Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone [burning sulfur]. (Revelation 19:20)
Since neither the Beast nor the False Prophet possess eternal life, the expression “were cast alive” must refer to their being cast into the Lake of Fire in their bodies. Here is another example of the merging of the material and spirit realms. Their bodies are material, while the Lake of Fire no doubt is at least partly spiritual in nature in that it is the eternal home of Satan and his angels, who have no material forms.
We think we have support in the Scriptures for our teaching that both the righteous and the wicked will experience in their material bodies the consequences of their behavior in the present world.
For we [Christians and everyone else] must all appear [be revealed, manifest] before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
“Must all be manifested.” “Receive the things done in the body.” “Whether good or bad.”
Eating of the Tree of Life
Eating of the tree of life brings the eternal life of God into the spiritual nature, and then into the body as God permits.
The tree of life was in the midst of the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9) and today is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).
During the new heaven and earth reign of Christ the tree of life will be located in the midst of the street of the new Jerusalem and on either side of the river of water of life. The tree will bear twelve kinds of fruit and yield fruit every month. The leaves of the tree will be for the healing of the people of the saved nations of the earth (Revelation 22:2).
Only those who keep the commandments of God have a right to enter through the gates of the new Jerusalem and partake of the tree of life (Revelation 22:14).
We believe the life that is in the tree of life is the same eternal Life that our Lord Jesus Christ Is:
“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)
Why, then, did God not permit Adam and Eve to eat of the Divine Life in Christ?
They certainly could have eaten if they had wanted to because the tree of life was in the center of the garden. But they chose instead to eat of the forbidden tree. They chose to sin against God.
The key to understanding the eating of the tree of life is found in the Book of Revelation. We must keep the commandments of God in order to have access to the tree of life.
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)
God will not have fellowship with sin. When we sin, the eternal Life that Christ is leaves us, as declared in the following verse:
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
The Apostle obviously is not speaking of dying physically, for all die physically whether or not they live in the appetites and lusts of the flesh. The point is, if we Christians live according to the lusts of our body we will reap spiritual death. The Life of Christ will not abound in those who are walking in sin and disobedience to God.
If, on the other hand, we, through the Holy Spirit of God, put to death the lusts of our flesh, overcoming sin by the Spirit of God, the Lord Jesus will feed us with His own body and blood. We will live by Him as He lives by the Father, growing spiritually strong and filled with Divine Life—Life that in the Day of Resurrection will make alive our mortal body.
Since all human beings were born in sin, none of us ever can gain access to the tree of life. But because of the blood of the Lamb of God, by faith in His blood, our sins are forgiven and we are authorized to partake of the eternal Life that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
But it is not enough to taste briefly of the Life that Christ Is. We must continue eating every day. In order to do this we must follow the Holy Spirit as He leads us out of the world, out of sin, and into keeping the Lord’s commandments.
As we come out of the world, out of sin, the Lord feeds us with the tree of life—with His own flesh and blood, His own Life. This is the meaning of the expression, “To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).
“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)
As we have stated, Adam and Eve were welcome to eat of the tree of life. But the moment they sinned they no longer were eligible to partake of the Life of God.
The marvelous love of God was demonstrated at that moment. God brought decay on their human bodies and drove His two children out of the garden, posting a sentry to guard the way of the tree of life. God did this with the intention of providing a Redeemer who could reverse the damage done by Satan.
The creation was made subject to corruption and futility against its will. It was God who subjected the creation to decay in the hope that one day the material creation can be released into the liberty of the glory of the children of God (see Romans 8:20,21).
The material creation remains bound in prison. Its spiritual life is gone. The creation is waiting for the revelation of the sons of God, for those who, through Christ, have obtained release themselves and can bring that release to all who call on the name of the Lord.
The sons of God cannot be released themselves until through the Lord Jesus Christ a ruling spiritual personality has been developed in them; a personality that is righteous with the righteousness of God’s own Nature, holy with the holiness of God’s own Nature, and obedient to God with the very obedience that is in the Person of Christ. Iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father are created in us as we, through the Spirit of God, follow Christ and learn our necessary lessons.
As soon as the sons of God have been perfected, Christ will come and raise their bodies. Their bodies will receive glory in terms of their spiritual development. Then the sons of God will be permitted to go through the material creation, setting it free according to the wisdom of God that is in them. Then the morning stars will sing together once more. Then the sons of God will shout for joy again.
At that time Paradise will return to the earth.
That will be the time of restoration, of redemption, spoken of by the Prophets, the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
When we began our Christian walk the Lord Jesus raised us up into the heavenlies. Our life now is hidden with Christ in God. But it is an embryonic life, a foretaste of what will come if we continue in Christ.
We have been grasped for the fullness of life and glory. Whether we attain that for which we have been grasped depends on our perseverance in Christ.
Every aspect of redemption is an opportunity, not an assured accomplishment.
The crown of life and glory has been set before us. In order to establish what Christ so freely and lovingly has given us we must respond by turning from the world, laying down our life, taking up our cross, and following the Lord Jesus. If we will do this there is no authority or power in Heaven, on the earth, or under the earth, that can prevent us from attaining the fullness of our inheritance as a son of God.
But if we do not turn away from the world, do not lay down our life, do not take up our cross, do not follow the Lord Jesus, choosing instead to follow our own path, then our talent, our crown, will be given to another who has been more faithful to Christ. We will not escape the anger of Christ if we neglect our salvation, our inheritance.
The birthright was Esau’s by the right of the firstborn, but Esau sold his birthright for food, for that which satisfies the immediate demands of the body.
Let us not sell our inheritance for immediate satisfaction, as did Esau but rather press forward to our own release—and then on to the release of the entire material creation.
(“The Release of the Material Creation”, 3866-1)