In my last article, I talked about the typology of Noah’s Ark, and mentioned how that once a person is regenerated, he/she enters into safety with Christ, Who is the antitype of the Ark. True Christians know that once this happens, the entire sphere of one’s daily life shifts from earth to heaven. No longer does the regenerate child of God live his life in pursuit of earthly things, but keeps his hope and aspirations fixed upon heaven (Matt. 6: 19-21). Of course, this doesn’t mean that one is saved for the purpose of retiring from the world, as an anchorite would (see John 17: 15; 1 Corinthians 5: 9-10). The Christian remains in the world, but is not of the world. His new parenthood gives him a new citizenship, which is heavenly in nature (Philippians 3: 20). And such citizenship comes with solemn obligations. The purpose of remaining here is to bear testimony concerning the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4: 2), Who alone can enlighten a world that dwelleth in darkness (see John 8: 12; 9: 4-5; 2 Corinthians 4: 6).
In order to bear the light of the glorious gospel, however, we ourselves must have lamps fed by something other than the earthly oil which the priests of the tabernacle once employed (see Exodus 30: 22-33). It is indeed the pure oil of the Holy Spirit that we require. Entrance into the heavenly “priesthood” (1 Peter 2: 9) implies that we walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1: 7); that is, in the light of the true sanctuary which is heaven itself (Hebrews 9: 24). In fact, heaven is the very standpoint from whence the Christian looks for Christ to return to earth, to bring in the times of the promised kingdom. True, this sounds a bit strange, that one should be reckoned as in heaven already — even if in a hypothetical or “positional” sense. However, when we keep in mind that our “old man” is dead with Christ (Romans 6: 6; Colossians 3: 3), it is only logical to see that the life we now live is centered entirely in the risen life of the “new man.”
Paul put it this way: “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8: 10). He also said: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yea, not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2: 20). And the same truth is illustrated by the ordinance of circumcision. True circumcision is nothing more than the putting off the body of flesh by becoming a “new creature” (Galatians 6: 15; Colossians 2: 11). Hence, it is foolish to think of the “old man” as alive any longer. If our old man is dead, then indeed the only life we can possibly have is that of the new man who is made after the image of God.
Nevertheless, we also know that the “entire person” consists of soul, body, and spirit (1 Thess. 5: 23). And so regeneration is not tantamount to the resurrection of the individual. It is rather the “earnest,” or downpayment of our full salvation (Ephesians 1: 14), which we will receive when our Lord returns the second time. Because Christ died for us on Calvary’s cross, it is no necessity of believers that they MUST physically die. In fact, no Christian should hope for death, but should instead hope for the Lord’s return. Even if we die, however, there is the sure hope that we will be physically resurrected when Christ returns for His bride (1 Thess. 4: 16-17). Then bride and Bridegroom will become “one flesh” (Ephesians 5: 30-32) via physical glorification.
But what keeps our thoughts riveted to heaven and heavenly things? Why faith, obviously. And when that faith looks forward to that which is to come, it becomes HOPE. There is an often overlooked passage in the epistle of Hebrews which give us a glimpse into the full office of hope. Paul has written of the promises of God concerning the future kingdom; and that inheritance in the kingdom will be attained only by those who “show the same diligence to the full assurance unto the end; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who by faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6: 11-12). Regarding the materialization of our hope, which entails placement in the “out-resurrection” (i.e., the first resurrection) of the dead, Paul had believed that his status was as yet uncertain (Philippians 3: 11-13). However, he continued pressing forward, so that at the very close of his ministry he was able to say: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also who love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).
Paul wasn’t talking about superfluous rewards that are entirely above the scope of salvation. He was referring to the final reward which will be one day given by a Judge who will tell him: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25: 21, 23). Paul was also referring to the second coming and those who wait patiently for it. They who are prepared for His coming, and serve Him diligently as if the prospect were to occur in their own lifetimes, are likened unto good stewards; while those who are unprepared will surely be punished (Luke 12: 40-46). Throughout the ages, Satan has tried to pervert this truth, doing everything he can to make professing Christians feel assured of their privileges and rewards, even though they disdain the doctrine of the second advent, and relegate Christ’s coming again to some future epoch so distant that it becomes irrelevant as a motive and incentive to Christian service.
But what saith Paul? He writes that this hope we have “as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 6: 19-20). Hope in our future inheritance serves as an anchor of the soul because it keeps our priorities fixed where they belong: on heaven and heavenly things. It prevents our thoughts and motives from drifting away to the things of earth which are destined to pass away (cf. 1 Cor. 7: 31; 1 John 2: 16-17). In fact, this hope is so essential in the work of salvation, that without it a man cannot possibly consider himself saved.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I have preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15: 1-2).
“In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard…” (Colossians 1: 22-23).
“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3: 14).