Why are we here? What is the reason for our presence in a divinely created realm? These are not trite questions. Whole bodies of theology have been formulated in answer to them. As well, philosophies that attempt to reply to these interrogations dominate society. A brief analysis of some of these views is profitable.
NO REASON: ESTABLISH ONE
Many believe man is an accident attributable to evolution. If this is the case, there can be no standard for our existence. This is, of course, a convenient view to those seeking justification for their behavior.
Every person, therefore, is on their own, to choose the focus that best meets their desires. Reasons range from crime to monastic living, and from making money to achieving power over men. If this view is correct, whatever the individual does is really all right.
In our society, this is widely accepted. "Having fun" is the accepted philosophy of everyone from beer manufacturers to church youth groups. Fleshly satisfaction in all of its varied forms has been exalted to the throne of the heart. We are told by the media that we only go around once. Our quest, therefore, ought to be to obtain as much true enjoyment as we can. It is unfortunate that this view has now permeated the professed church. Much religious activity is now being sanctified because it is "fun." Pleasantness is seen as an end of itself, and is therefore exalted to a place of preeminence.
Some live for the gratification of their fleshly appetites. This is hedonism, and it runs rampant in our society. Those caught in this web are not confined to irreligious people. Legion is the name of preachers and teachers that have elected to disgrace the name of Jesus to satisfy their own lusts. The drunk, drug addict, murderer, adulterer, and sodomite have fulfilled their perverted desires, descending into the pit of immorality. None of these views are acceptable. They all postulate man as an end in himself. According to these perceptions, man has no determined origin, is answerable to no one greater than himself, and expects no existence beyond this world.
NARROWING OUR FOCUS
When we enter the religious realm, the issues are narrowed. Why are men translated into the kingdom of God's Son (Col. 1:13)? What is the purpose that constrained God to redeem us (Tit. 2:14), join us to Himself (1 Cor. 6:18), and shed forth His Spirit on us abundantly (Tit. 3:5)? What should be our emphasis in preaching and teaching?
SAVE US FROM THE WRATH TO COME
Some suppose the primary purpose served by our salvation is deliverance from hell. Settle it in your mind; this is involved in our deliverance from sin, and, at some time, it will probably appeared primary. The Word of God declares, "ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10). Clearly, God "God hath not appointed us to wrath" (1 Thess. 5:9). I do not question the reality of this proclamation, and neither should you. I am asking if this is the primary reason for our salvation.
EVANGELIZE THE WORLD
Others affirm that the principal reason for our involvement with God is the evangelization of the world. This has a ring of truth to it, and has been "creedalized" by most of the evangelistic community. Again, this is involved in our redemption. Jesus Himself said, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Mat 28:19-20). In an unparalleled mandate, He said to His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).
EXPERIENCE THE MIRACULOUS
Another segment of the religious world emphasizes our participation in the miraculous. The acme of religious experience comes, according to this view, when you "get your miracle," or, perchance, actually "perform" one. In justification of their view, an appeal is made to texts like Mark 16:17: "And these signs shall follow them that believe . . . " They do not bother telling the people, however, that the Holy Spirit never appealed to these words in their exhortation to the churches. This does not mean they are not true: it does mean that they are not a proper emphasis.
Some are persuaded that the primary activity of man is the worship of God. Worship, according to this view, is the spring from which all valid actions spring. Some contemporary choruses emphasize this point. One of them states, "All I want to do is worship you." It sounds holy, and to oppose it will surely incur the indignation of many. Yet, we are admonished to "try the spirits to see whether they are of God," and we intend to do so. If it is true that worship is the fundamental duty of man, then we will have a clear statement in Scripture affirming this to be the case. If, however, this is not affirmed in the Word of God, no individual is justified in doing so!
There is a place for each of these--but it is not the dominant place. To many, this sounds like heresy--but that is because they have subjected their minds to the opinions of men rather than the God that created and redeemed them. I am careful to say that this is not to be construed as a criticism or denunciation of these activities. There are few enough people engaged in them. We are, therefore, careful not to inordinately oppose them.
OUR IMMEDIATE THRUST
Our entrance into Christ (Gal. 3:27) is attended by two primary objectives. These are to be our basic thrust while we are in the world. The Spirit puts it this way: "ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:9-10). The first goal is generally acknowledged by believers; the second is virtually unknown.
Observe that turning from vanity was not the objective, but the appointed means to the objective. God rescued us from sin that we might "serve" Him; i.e., enjoy divine employment. Secondly, we are waiting for His Son from heaven. Then, we will embark upon the real work for which we were delivered from sin, and for which we are being prepared. In the service of God, this world is not primary, but preparatory. That is a revolutionary thought! Unless it is heartily embraced by the church, it will spend its time in vain religious pursuits.
It ought to be apparent that serving God and waiting for His Son from heaven is not the end of the matter. The very language of this text implies that these are preparatory for even higher and greater things. Receiving this affirmation constrains one to believe we are being prepared for some high and holy objectives. emphasis can never be this world. It is transitory, and as such, is not worthy of our emphasis. In words of Scripture, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18, NASV).
A SPECTACLE TO ANGELS
The Word of God is clear on this point: the angelic hosts are intrigued by the redemption of humanity. They want to probe the Gospel of salvation (1 Pet. 1:12), and are attendant at our gatherings (1 Cor. 11:10). We do well to remember their interest and presence. Solomon advised that we should carefully speak with their presence in mind (Eccl. 5:6). You can rest assured if we fail to impress angels we will not be capable of impressing the God to Whom they are answerable.
God has graciously revealed His "eternal purpose" to us. It is not often that you hear of it in "church" circles. In fact, some would view this to be foolish. Lest you are tempted to think the same thing, hear the Word of the Lord. "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in Whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him" (Eph 3:8-12).
"The fellowship of the mystery" (KJV) or "the unfathomable riches of Christ" (NASV) The idea here is that men, through the ministry of the Gospel, come into an awareness of the "eternal purpose" of God. Their perception is the result of God sharing His heart with them through their regeneration. Let it be clear to you that there is no more notable involvement than sharing the mind of God. Remember that the "mind of the Lord" can be neither discovered
Our nor plumbed by mere human wisdom. Apart from divine initiative, these are things that cannot be known. The kingdom of God is not one of visible exploits, but of spiritual participation. That is what impresses angels!
"To the intent" There is a grand purpose behind the drama of redemption. This objective has been determined by the Living God. It is something that is not subject to human interpretation. Rather, it requires proclamation.
It is not possible to know this Divine intention part from revelation. The counsel was decided before the foundation of the world, but was concealed from humanity. While evident to the Godhead, it was not apparent to a fallen race. No philosopher, regardless of understanding or ability, can find this purpose. It is undiscoverable!
"The manifold wisdom of God might be made known" God is now impressing, as it were, the angelic host. He is showing them the multifarious nature of His wisdom through the church. This is the college for angels. It is where they come to marvel at the greatness of their God--particularly as revealed in His inscrutable wisdom. It is tragic that so very little is said of this in the contemporary church. It is more tragic still, that so little true wisdom is found in the contemporary church. The church is largely known for its failings,shortsightedness, and dulness.
MAN--CREATED FOR DOMINION
When God created man, He was constrained by objective. This was not an experiment or mere novelty. The revelation of that purpose continues to intrigue the minds of believers. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen 1:26-27). "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." -- Gen 1:28 "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:" -- Psa 8:6
If these affirmations are true, man was not made to serve. It is true that this is the most notable activity in the present world. Whoever is greatest, is to be the "servant of all" (Mark 9:35; 10:44). Our "fallenness" requires that we take the lowest seat in the temporal realm. But it will not be so in the eternal one. Man was made to have dominion, and have it he shall. Between his loss of dominion and the regaining of it lies the new creation: the experience of the new birth and fellowship with God's Son.
The purpose of the salvation that is in Christ Jesus is not to merely deal with the past, but to prepare for the future. However notable our activities here, they are only a prelude to what is to come. No matter how far we advance in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ here, we have, at best, only stood in the vestibule of both truth and experience. What we see now of our blessed Lord is introductory. Our present exploits, no matter how impressive, are only weightless motes in the eternal balances.
When the heavens and earth have passed away, we will lose nothing! When our apparent achievements have paled into insignificance in the light of the glory of God, we will begin to shine as the stars of heaven (Matt. 13:43). We have not been created in Jesus to be the tail, but rather, the head (Deut. 28:13,44). Our destiny is a glorious one The "world to come" iis the focus of divine intention, and it is the center of our attention. The patriarchs of old received commendation from God for seeking another country and a continuing city (Heb. 11:16; 13:14). They did not appear to be dominant here, but they will be obvious rulers there. It is for them that God has prepared a city (Heb. 11:16b). While pygmy theologians shine their lights upon this world, together with its difficulties and achievements, great men of God focus on the world to come.
The clear declaration "For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying, "What is man, that Thou rememberest him? Or the son of man that Thou art concerned about him? Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast appointed him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet" (Heb. 2:5-8).
Observe that the subject under consideration is "the world to come." That is what engages the attention of real men and women of God. The reason for this emphasis is the revealed purpose of God. Upon beholding the wonders of the natural creation, David marveled that God's attention and love had been placed upon man. He seemed so insignificant next to the large and impressive universe. The point of this text, however, is not the perspective of David, but the intention of God. David, the man after God's own heart, knew that God's attention was upon man, not the cosmos. The ecologists, however astute their observations may appear, are wrong. Man is the focus, not "mother earth." The pollution of humanity is the travesty of history, not the pollution of the natural environment.
Man finds his true meaning in the context of "the world to come." There is, after all, a kingdom that "cannot be shaken." That is what we have "received" in Christ (Heb. 12:28), and that is where our attention is to be. True religion is essentially "other-worldly."
However, the "world to come" is not intended to be an object for mere investigation. It is to be the stewardship of the redeemed. It is reserved for them, and them alone. Angels will not govern the new heavens and the new earth. That responsibility is for the saved of the Lord! They will be the co-regents of that world, ruling it with Jesus.
The purpose of salvation is to ready us for that reign. This is the reason for remission. It is also the reason for spiritual power and insight. We are being "unplugged" from this world, in order that we might assume the governorship of the next. Remove this perspective, and the faith-life loses its meaning. In the words of Scripture, "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Cor. 15:19, NASV).
The remarkable absence of this emphasis in contemporary churches is cause for alarm. Men declared to be "great preachers" are rarely known for proclaiming the "world to come." The appointment of man over this world is hardly known by professed believers.
THE UNQUESTIONABLE PROMISE SUFFERING, THEN REIGNING! "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us" (2 Tim 2:12).
This is one of the strongest appeals in Scripture. Those that choose identity with Christ incur the hatred and rejection by this world. Faith costs us the approval of the world. The irony of the situation is seen in this verse. In the world to come, we will reign, whereas in this world we are often relegated to second class citizens. Note that our reign is conditioned upon our suffering here. Our acceptance in heaven is set along side of our rejection by this world. But our labor is not in vain in the Lord, and if we accept suffering, we shall be given rulership!
A BLESSING TO BE ENJOYED "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Rev 20:6). This highly controversial passage must be seen in the context of the rest of Scripture. Interpretations that appeal to our curiosity and incite corrupted views of God's Word are extremely dangerous. In this text, saints that were martyred by the world are said to reign with Christ. The point of the text is not the duration of their reign, but the reality of it. In this world, it appeared that they had no authority at all. They could not even protect their own lives. But after their life here, they commenced a reign superior in both quality and duration to that possible while in yet in their houses of clay.
SITTING IN CHRIST'S THRONE
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Rev 3:21). Here we wage war, there we will reign without opposition. Jesus holds a promise out to those that are willing to "endure hardness as a good soldier" (2 Tim. 2:3). A crown is promised (2 Tim. 4:8), but not merely a crown. Those that maintain their spiritual focus, repelling the efforts of Satan to distract and discourage them, will sit with Jesus in His throne. This is the posture of reigning. We will not be sitting like a child on the knee of its father, but as co-regents of the world to come.
THE SAINTS WILL POSSESS THE KINGDOM!
"But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever . . . Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom . . . And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (Dan 7:18,22,27). Daniel's remarkable prophecy gladdens my heart. The Lord enabled the prophet to speak of things beyond his time. They were written "for our learning," and speak of the appointed outcome of salvation. Admittedly, the "saints" do not appear to possess the kingdom now--but they do! They have been "translated" into it (Col. 1:13), and have "received" it (Heb. 12:22). However, they operate incognito now. Like their Lord, they are hidden from view. But it will not always be this way! The time is coming when the "meek shall inherit the earth, and delight themselves in an abundance of peace" (Psa. 37:11). They are now being cultured for that reign in Christ Jesus.
WE SHALL JUDGE THE WORLD
"Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Imagine the trial of Stephen resuming, with Stephen being the judge! Or Pilate standing before Jesus, and Herod before John the Baptist and James! The tables are going to be turned, and the people of God will occupy the judgement seat under the Headship of Jesus Christ. Paul argues that believers should be able to resolve earthly matters expeditiously (1 Cor. 6:2). They are, after all, the appointed adjudicators of the world to come. Why not handle preliminary judgements in this world in a manner that will glorify God? Some that are weak in the faith remonstrate at this declaration. Supposing that they have understanding, they state that we are not to judge (Matt. 7:1). But Jesus is not speaking of the ACT of judging, but of the ATTITUDE of judgement. Our Lord Himself commanded us to "judge righteous judgement" (John 7:24). Paul challenged us to "judge" what he said, putting it to the test (1 Cor. 10:15). John demanded that we "try the spirits" to determine if they are "of God" (1 John 4:1). The reason for these injunctions is clear. We are being cultured for reigning. God has determined our participation in the judgement of the world. Therefore, our discretionary powers must be exercised here, in preparation for there.
WE SHALL JUDGE ANGELS
"Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?" (1 Cor 6:2,3). Here is a staggering consideration. Angels, in their own persons, are a "little" higher than man. It is written that mankind was made "a little lower than the angels." Yet, this will not be the case in the world to come. There, we will "judge [fallen] angels," exposing the depravity that directed their demise, and seeing to it that God is "justified in all of His sayings" (Rom. 3:4).
JUDGEMENT IS ATTRIBUTED TO GOD
Throughout Scripture, judgement is attributed to God. Having made the world, the world is answerable to Him. Men are in His image, and therefore must give an account of themselves to Him. "And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness." -- Psa 9:8 "Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth." -- Psa 96:13 "Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity." -- Psa 98:9 "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." -- Acts 17:31 "God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?" -- Rom 3:6 These texts do not contradict our premise: that the saints will judge the world. They are a summary view of judgement. As the Architect of the universe, God will judge the world. He will, however, do it through Jesus Christ, His Administrator. Christ, on the other hand, will do it through His body, the church.
HOW ARE WE BEING CULTURED?
It is one thing to say we are being cultured to reign; it is quite another to perceive the truth of it. There is no indication that any rational person can or will enjoy eternity with the Lord who are not prepared in this world to do so! Our preparation involves the development of an appetite for the things of God. It also involves reigning in this world.
What we are going to say here will contradict much of the religious emphases of our time. It is in sharp conflict with the "clergy" system, and with many of the accepted views of discipleship. Any view of life in Christ that makes you dependent upon someone other than Christ is to be, at the very least, carefully examined. The clear declaration of Scripture is that "now" "all things" belong to us. These "all things" include even Apostles like Paul and Peter, and mighty exhorters like Apollos (1 Cor. 3:20-21).
As we mature in Christ, spiritual discernment becomes more keen. We become less dependent upon rules and regulations because our understanding is brought to maturity. That is the meaning of Hebrews 5:14: "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
CASTING DOWN ARGUMENTS
The weapons of our warfare are "mighty through God" (2 Cor. 10:4). Yet, they are wielded by us. The weapons are in our hands, but they obtain effectiveness through the Lord God.
In the first century, false and corrupting views were introduced into the mainstream of kingdom thought. God did not simply build a spiritual dam, making it impossible for falseness to stream in. Instead, He provided appropriate weaponry for His people, charging them to expose falseness.
The reason for this procedure goes far beyond the simple revelation of lies. The exercise itself is preparing them for reigning with Jesus. The judgement of the world will involve the disclosure of secret motives, and how they conflicted with the purpose of God. It will also clearly vindicate God, showing Him to be true in all things.
It would be refreshing if there were more of this kind of endeavor in the professed church. I understand that some are averse to this type of activity, but they are simply wrong. Jesus and the Apostles exposed the false doctrines of their day, and we must do the same.
DO NOT LET SIN REIGN
One of our greatest responsibilities is the neutralization of the power of sin in our members. It is true that sin "dwells in us" (Rom. 7:17). Yet, we are not to allow it free reign. The solemn injunction of Scripture is, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies" (Rom. 6:12). Employing the "whole armor of God" (Eph. 6:11) and a "sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7), we "keep under our bodies," bringing them into "subjection" (1 Cor. 9:27). This is a kingly duty that involves reigning. It is an activity that prepares us for the world to come. Those that fail in this matter are not apt to participate in the rulership of the world to come.
TRYING THE SPIRITS
John apprises us that "many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). This is not a pleasant situation. Yet, we are not to avoid it, or pretend that the condition does not exist. As we "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18), certain religious doctrines will come into sharp conflict with our thinking. These teachings are appropriately called "doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4:1).
Satan would love for us to simply ignore the existence of these tenets. I am persuaded that a view that minimizes the importance of "doctrine" is authored by the devil himself. He is determined to disarm the body of Christ. Nothing does this better than convincing it that what is said in the name of Jesus is really of no consequence at all.
When someone says they do not emphasize doctrine, or that doctrine is not important, "try the spirits." Use your discretionary powers and determine if what they say is from God. Remember, you are being cultured for a reign. Begin reigning now by not permitting the entrance of flawed views into your thinking processes.
USING THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT
There is only one sword in the believers weaponry: the "sword of the Spirit." The believer handles it, but the Spirit gives it power. We take the sword, but if there were no Spirit, it would be no sword at all! It is the Holy Spirit that makes the Word of God a sword. We are being cultured for a reign, and our use of the Word of God bears directly upon that reign. In Christ, we can become adept in the handling of the Word of God. A Scripture emphasizing this is (2 Tim. 2:15). "Handling aright" the Word of God involves a proper use of it: giving the proper word to the proper people. We bring the Word of God to bear upon contemporary situations. This is kingly act, and is to be taken seriously.
May these things whet your appetite for your coming reign. We will not be negotiators in glory, but kings. We will not make suggestions, but will render judgements. We need to begin now to acquaint ourselves with these holy activities.
The glory that will accrue to our Lord through our coming reign is staggering. Angelic hosts, together with the Cherubim and Seraphim, will behold a people snatched from the fire. Though defiled, their robes were washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Their sins, which were many and deep crimson, were made white as the driven snow. Their past removed all hope of restoration. Yet, the Father undertook to bring "many sons" to glory through His "only begotten Son." He did this without compromising His integrity. Remaining just, He became the Justifier of all that believe in Jesus!
The distinction of this situation lies in the transformation that is effected by salvation. Here is a people whose minds were changed. They were brought to abhor the sin that once dominated them. They were also brought to love the Lord Whom they had offended. Not only that, they were given keen insight, enabling them to see as God sees and judge as God judges. With the heavenly host watching on, we will judge and reign to the glory of God. Be encouraged to begin now to appropriate the resources required to make sound judgements. Remember you are urged to ask for the wisdom you lack, expecting to receive a liberal supply of it from your Father.