Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, Oct. 18, 2009.
"And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken" (Isa. 40:5).
This title came from I Cor. 15:51-52: "Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." When I met Lenny, I was still gripped by a familial fear of death. He is 13 years older than I, and since men usually don't live as long as women, it concerned me that he would die and leave me alone. He allayed my fears by saying that he didn't expect to die, EVER! It was certainly a startling statement for which I had no pegs to hang it on, but I wanted to believe it because we were drawn together like two magnets. When The Spirit opened up I Cor. 15:51, I saw it, felt it; and now had some spiritual pegs on which to hang it. I'm not trying to sell it to you, wasn't sure I could buy it myself, but what couldn't be doubted was that he believed it. Moreover, in spite of his physical problems including a constant battle with pain, he still believes it. That is quite a testimony to me because I witness his suffering every day.
Scripture declares that victory over death is ours NOW in Christ. At Lazarus' tomb, Jesus assured Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). Because the promise is for all who believe in Him, I ask all of us the question Jesus asked Martha. Do you believe Him, or do you, like most of us, fall into the "Martha category." At the time I met Lenny, I was in the Martha category, for sure. Jesus told Peter, "On this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). Surely, that is wonderful news for us all, both corporately and individually.
Paul further affirmed that Christ died in order to defeat death. "The death he died he died to sin, once for ALL, but the life he lives he lives to God" (Rom. 6:10). So, you say, "Wake up, Jan, and count the funeral processions. If he died once for ALL, why are Christians still dying every day, no matter how many people pray for them?" That excellent question has kept me on my knees for lo these many years, and in fact, we buried my aunt yesterday, a devoted Christian all her life.
Why am I bringing up victory over death now when I can't prove it experientially, and some would say I could be hit by a bus tomorrow? I want to tie the promise that we will be changed, together with the hope which seized me about 25 years ago now regarding Paul's other assertion that the creation is groaning for "the manifestation (revealing) of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:19). Like many of you, I grabbed hold of this and hung on tight, believing that perhaps these manifested sons would be the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy that "the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." Time rocked on; years rolled by and nothing happened to shore up my beliefs. Not only that, but after God moved us here to the "Bible belt," which abounds with Christians of every stripe, I observed that in spite of their zeal to be "good Christians," church folks here are as flawed and neurotic as anyone out there in the sin warped world. Gradually, I began to despair of ever seeing any sons manifested because we are all so emotionally damaged. When I confessed this to Harry and Jeri Fox recently, Jeri reminded me, "Yes, but we shall all be changed in the twinkling of an eye."
That opened up the subject to me in a most dramatic way. The problem with the currently non-manifested sons is that we bring all our baggage with us into the world, which we have a mandate from Christ Himself to evangelize. These potential converts take a long look, get a big whiff of us, and instead of smelling the sweet fragrance of Christ, they often turn up their noses at the fetid odor of legalism, intolerance, judgment, exclusivity and elitism. Drilling down on it, we ask, where's the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, get the addict sober, rid the neurotic of their fears, phobias, jealousies, anger, anxieties, suspicions, despair, depression, shame and guilt? Where is the "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness" which Paul included in the fruits of the Spirit? (Gal. 5:22). Where are those who truly love their enemies, those whom Jesus called the "sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish" (Luke 6:35)?
According to Paul, all the power and the fruits of the Spirit are ours NOW "in Christ," a phrase found in the New Testament 89 times! We're there now Saints, seated in "heavenly places" (Eph. 2:6), "joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17), partakers in "the immeasurable greatness of His power" (Eph. 1:19), and we are becoming the "righteousness of God" (II Cor. 5:21). So, where is all this power and the fruits of the Spirit in our lives? Stay with me and we'll get there.
These manifested sons of God for whom Paul said the entire creation is groaning must be a mighty special group of folks, really spiritual, truly devoted to Christ their Savior, or are they? While Jeri and I were enjoying the fact that all of us neurotically flawed, baggage laden Saints will be changed in the twinkling of the eye, Harry added the coup d'etat, asserting, "The sons will include everyone." That might explain HOW all flesh shall see His glory together.
Christ is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, for He said, "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). Paul explained it: "As in Adam all died, so in Christ will all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22). Lenny pointed out that when we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him. Here's the scripture: "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2). Notice that the Apostle John said that we ARE God's children right now! The rest of the promise depends upon God, as does everything else about the Christian life, the power and the fruits themselves. Instead of looking for the manifestation, I should have been looking for the MANIFESTER.
John Gavazzoni said recently that he believes a new reformation is coming to Christianity, one so powerful that the first reformation will pale in comparison. That sparked me because like many of you, I have felt the Spirit's drum beat quicken over time. Twenty Five years ago now, I thought the "change" would come very soon. It still has not, but God is slowly revealing Himself to His children, which will change us all! Only He can "throw the switch" and set the wheels in motion. Whenever the time is fully come, He will act. Lord haste the day.
So if all men are the "sons of God," then who is it who will be groaning for their manifestation? Paul said it is "the creation." We're not going there right now, but think about it. If anything needs to be restored, rehabbed, and revitalized, it is the creation. I don't know for sure what all Paul included in his statement, but I do believe that the sons will do right by mother earth. It would be a splendid "Mother's Day" gift I think.
Job was a prototype of a "good Christian" in his day. In fact, God said of him that he was "perfect." What an accolade from the Most High that was. In spite of getting high marks from God, Job still needed to be dragged through a few more "knotholes," a few more "cactus patches" (my definition of what it means to be one of the "elect"), before he could "get over himself." Yet, in the midst of his pain and suffering, loss and disability, he declared, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God" (Job 19:23-24). And see God he did, up close and personal, after which he confessed, "I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6). Of what did He repent, we wonder? The text does not say, but I believe it was his prejudgment of his creator as well as his failure to evaluate his own powerlessness to be pleasing to God. How wonderful it will be to see Him as He is, because like Moses, we only get a glimpse of His backside from a cleft in the rock. To see Him face to face, our Father and our God, will be our greatest reward.
Job declared that he would see God in his flesh; Isaiah asserted "all flesh" will see Him together; John the Beloved stated that "when we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him." That speaks to me that this grand event, perhaps the culminating event of this age will happen this side of Jordan. Yet, Paul made it clear that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (I Cor. 15:50). Whatever this "change which comes in a twinkling" really is, it will have this result: "this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality" (I Cor. 15:53). Of course, we have no idea how long a "twinkling" actually is.
Dispensationalists have always taken scripture literally and then laid out their vision of the end times, usually including "the great tribulation" which will come, they say, either before, during, or after the thousand year reign, in which Christ Himself will reign on the earth from David's Throne. While of course, I cannot unilaterally rule out that scenario, nevertheless, I no longer believe it is true based on scripture and the Spirit's leading. The only place where the thousand year reign of Christ is mentioned is Revelation 20:2-7. It can't be taken literally, for Peter said, "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (II Pet. 3:8). Jesus revealed to John, that what he saw was not what it was, but a symbol of something else (Rev. 1:20).
A very scary chapter, Matthew 24 is often used to frighten the flock about end time horrors. After describing such events, and warning of "false Christs and false prophets" who will come with lying signs and wonders, He said, "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (Matt. 24:34). After learning about the events of AD 70: the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple by the Roman General Titus, I came to realize that most of what Jesus warned about in Matt. 24, has already happened! If not, there are some VERY old Jews somewhere on the planet. The end of the Jewish age, the Law, occurred in AD 70. We are now in the New Age of grace!
Only God knows how the end times will play out, but clearly, our Father who will never leave us nor forsake us, and who loves us enough to die for us, will hold our hand during the often uncomfortable process of changing us into His image. Because Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades," we will have no fear, for His perfect love has cast it all out.
Father, do whatever it takes to remove the veil from our eyes that we may see You as You are and be like You. Send us forth to the entire creation to manifest Your glory to everything and everyone. In Christ's name, we ask it. Amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)
We Shall All Be Changed, Part II
The Glory Road
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