Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 8/17/03
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10, RSV).
The quest for abundant life is the fuel that drives the engine of Christianity, but what does it mean to have life abundantly? At the very least, it means escaping the human condition, which since Adam's disobedience has been characterized by sin, sickness, and working by the sweat of our brow to eke out an existence amongst the thorns and thistles. It involves deliverance from the lie sold us by Satan and perpetuated by religion, that God separated Himself from us because of our sins and hates us for our impurities. Sometimes the best way to expose a lie is just to tell the truth. God did that for us in the incarnation. Jesus said of Himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6, RSV). Religion has corrupted the truth that Jesus expressed, but by the indwelling Spirit, we will be led into the reality that God has for our lives.
The idea for today's study comes from this verse: "For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life" (II Cor. 5:4, NIV). There are many of us in this hour, groaning in our tents waiting for the next step, which Paul identifies as "the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:23). All else but that is done; the work is finished in Spirit, and now we wait for the culmination to play out in flesh. There is a lot of confusion about the finished work of Christ, ranging from those who think He's not nearly done, to a dear brother who rigorously took me to task this week, saying, "There are those of us who believe in the finished work of Christ, that it's all done. I believe First Corinthians 15 is already a done deal, not a future event. Do you really believe that flesh someday will become immortal? Why? What good will it do mankind. God is spirit, not flesh. We would be separated from God forever if we became immortal flesh."
To repeat what I've said previously, the work of Christ IS done, finished, made complete on the cross and sealed by the resurrection, but the final fulfillment in flesh is not yet complete. If we were to assume that our flesh is as good as it will ever get, this brother's assertion, then Paul would not have said, "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:22,23, RSV). Likewise, if our flesh will always be mortal and fallible, then the Apostle's evocative picture of human kind groaning in our tents waiting for our mortality to be swallowed up by immortality would be mean spirited.
Jesus is our example, God's pattern for us all. Had there been no redemption of flesh in God's heart, there would have been no need for Jesus to leave the portals of glory and clothe Himself with mortal, corruptible flesh. God could have just waited until the flesh died and then dealt with us in the spirit world. Or better yet, He could have worked it out with us in Spirit while we were with Him before the foundation of the world, thus sparing us the agony and expense of living in flesh. He did neither of those two things. Instead, He became flesh and dwelt among us.
They killed His body and put it in a tomb. If there is nothing good ever to be worked out in flesh, then why did His body come forth from the tomb? Lenny has pointed out that He came forth in a resurrected body, much as Lazarus did when Jesus called him from the realm of the dead. Later, He had a glorified body as these passages show. He said to Mary outside the tomb, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17, RSV). Later, when he had returned from being glorified, He appeared before them, and said to Thomas, who had doubted the resurrection, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing" (John 20:27). If this were not the original body that had been glorified, then those holes from the nails and the spear would not have been visible. It was his physical body, now glorified, that Thomas could touch and feel. Jesus ate with them, appeared behind closed doors in their midst, and stayed with them 40 days before ascending into heaven.
Paul describes this glorified body as a "building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands" (II Co. 5:2, NIV). He speaks of our being "clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life" (Vs. 2-4, NIV). This is a beautiful culmination of what he shared in I Corinthians 15, which this brother I quoted asserts is completed in us now. I don't think so, and neither do a great many bible scholars more astute in the subject than I.
In that chapter, Paul said of the flesh: "What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (I Cor. 15:42-45, RSV). Right now, our physical bodies are perishable, lacking in honor, and weak. The hope of the resurrection is that they will be raised imperishable, glorified, and powerful, as Jesus' body was after He was glorified. The disciples didn't get the difference between mortal flesh and glorified flesh until after the resurrection. Only after He had ascended to the Father and returned to be with them, did they understand: "... but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him" (John 12:16, RSV). Paul makes it clear why our mortal flesh must be swallowed up by immortality: "I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (Vs. 50, RSV).
In Spirit, we dwell in the kingdom now, lacking only the FULL physical manifestation. Paul affirms that, "The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual" (Vs 46), and then he bursts out in the glorious promise for which we wait: "The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven" (I Cor. 15:47-48). Don't hold it against me, but I do have a degree in English, and as a result can tell you with authority that when the future tense is used (so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven), it means we DO NOT HAVE IT YET! Please don't take my word for this. Check out for yourselves the many scriptures which affirm a future manifestation in flesh.
And while I am on that topic, let me also say again for the umpteenth time: The HOLY SPIRIT is the one who leads us into all truth, (John 16:13), and if we have an unction from Him, we have no need of any man (or woman) to teach us (I John 2:27). All are on a journey from God, through God and back to Him. The landscape along the way looks different depending on where we are on the path. God is the author of our salvation; Christ is the one who will present us faultless before His throne. We depend on Him to keep our feet from slipping off the narrow way. But even if we do slip, being swallowed up by life, HIS LIFE lived through us (Gal. 2:20), means it would only be a temporary situation at worst. God is perfectly capable of leading His children through the wilderness, through fire, through temptation, through the devil's tricks and any writers' delusions. I write for battle fatigued, dogma scarred Saints who are weary of religion and ready for deliverance by the Spirit of truth, and who understand that only God can lead them into all truth. They take what anyone writes to the Lord, keep what fits their lives, and put the rest on the shelf for another day, if ever, as the Lord leads.
No one can deny that Paul had a Ph.D. in revelation from God. If in fact this flesh is all there is; if we can never escape these corruptible, weak, dying bodies, then surely he would have known about it. And if he knew about it, then it would have been cruel of him to suggest something better was coming. Instead, he expressed it this way: "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (A paradox). For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you" (II Cor. 4:10-12). He said it another way in Romans 8:11: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." God infuses us with life daily as we eat His flesh and drink His blood, which leads the apostle to conclude, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (II Cor. 4:16-18).
In this poignant passage, Paul outlines the dilemma of human flesh. We always tend to look with our natural eyes, beholding only the seen, not the unseen. When we look with our natural eyes, we can see nothing but flesh. "The kingdom comes not with observation," Jesus said, because it is within us (Luke 17:20). Therefore, it cannot be seen, which is the reason that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 15:50). Some Christians, for example, have projected the so-called second coming of Christ (a term NOT found in scripture) into the future, and have put living an overcoming life on hold until He returns. Likewise, they have put kingdom living into that same future realm, when they say Jesus will return to reign from the Throne of David in Jerusalem. Sadly, their theology prevents them from enjoying the glory and majesty and power of the kingdom of heaven on earth, available to us in Spirit, right now, today.
We see through a glass darkly, Paul said, but the time is coming when we will see Him as He is, and then, the Apostle John assures us, we shall be like Him (I John 3:2). In what way will we be like Him that we are not already like Him now? We will have a glorified body! It thrills me to know that Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, meaning God always knew how human kind would fail, and what He would do to restore us to our primal glory, walking and talking with Him. When we are caught up to the throne to see the end from the beginning, we understand that our fall from grace, and the long road back to fellowship with our Father was ordained by Him from the beginning. This is what Paul means by His glorious summation of the gospel: "For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32, RSV). God is the author and finisher of our fall as well as our deliverance from it. All men have sinned because they perceived themselves separated from God, who caused it to happen so that He alone gets the glory for having mercy upon ALL! GLORY!
Christ, who clothed Himself with flesh and dwelt among us, is God's answer to the world's problem. He is LOVE, which is God's first word and His last word! "But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8, RSV). God is the ETERNAL NOW, but He makes concessions for us who live in time. The scripture was written by men and for men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts through Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 5:5). It is getting easier to see through the dark glass as God's Light shines ever brighter in the hearts of His children.
Christ came to us clothed in mortal flesh and returned to the Father clothed in glorified flesh. Thus, we have a God-Man seated at the right hand of the Father. In Him, flesh has been authenticated, validated, cleansed, purified, empowered, and glorified. In our Father's time, according to His plan set forth before the foundation of the world, we will be like Him. We are joint-heirs with Christ and we will have a glorified body just like our elder brother's! Hallelujah!
Presently, however, the creation is still groaning for the manifestation of the Sons of God (Rom. 8:21-23). The heathen still rage and conspire against the Lord's anointed (Ps. 2:1). Iraq and in fact, the entire Middle East, is a classic example of raging heathen, made worse by the attempt to speak peace with military might, rather than with love, grace and provision. Caught up to the throne, Isaiah saw the glorious summation of all things in Spirit, long before Christ walked the earth: "On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken" (Isa. 25:7-8, NIV).
The world is still covered by the shroud of sin and death and Christians continue to pass through physical death to get to the resurrection. John the beloved saw the day when God will change the program. Note that he lived after the cross, after the resurrection, but he still looked to a FUTURE day when, "...the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will (future tense) wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Rev. 7:17, RSV). For us, being clothed upon with life means, "he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4, RSV). Lord, haste the day!
Father, we thank You for Your glorious plan of the ages, manifested in Christ and complete in Him. Take away our angst, our confusion, our carnal conclusions, and replace them with Your glory, Your truth, Your power and majesty. We give You all glory and honor and blessing, now and forever. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 8/15/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last edited on 10/27/08.