“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God:” (Heb. 12: 1, 2).
The Epistle to the Hebrews is a
book in which the author continually draws his spiritual lessons from the Old
Testament Scriptures. And this is a book
which deals primarily, not with the [eternal] salvation we presently possess, but with the [future] salvation of
the soul. The author of this book, rather than
directing his main focus upon the events of Calvary, focuses instead upon that
Man has been saved for a purpose, and this purpose is the same as the purpose for his creation almost 6,000 years ago. Man was created to “have dominion” (Gen. 1: 26-28), and man has been saved with this same dominion in view. It is this, rather than the message concerning eternal salvation itself, which forms the crux of that which the writer of Hebrews presents in his epistle. There is a repeated look back to Calvary (1: 3; 2: 9; 7: 27; 9: 12, 26; 10: 12; 11: 4, 17-19), for everything is based on the Son’s finished work of redemption (cf. Gen. 3: 15). But this is not where the author of this epistle places the emphasis. He places the emphasis upon the purpose for man’s redemption, which involves possessing dominion in complete accord with the opening verses of Genesis.
This is really what the whole of Scripture is about - God providing redemption for fallen man, with a purpose in view. This is why the writer of Hebrews could reach back into the Old Testament and call attention to numerous verses and sections of Scripture in order to teach deep spiritual truths surrounding the reason for man’s redemption.
The matter could be looked upon within the same framework as Christ drawing from the Old Testament Scriptures in Luke 24: 27-31 to reveal numerous truths surrounding His person and work to the two disciples on the Emmaus road. Beginning “at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 27; cf. vv. 44, 45). He could do this because all of the Old Testament Scriptures were about Him.
And since the Son is the “appointed heir of all things” (cf. Gen. 24: 36; 25: 5; Psa. 2: 8; 110: 1ff; Dan. 7: 13, 14; Luke 19: 12), the Old Testament Scriptures, dealing with the Son, likewise deal with the Son’s inheritance. Thus, the writer of Hebrews could derive teachings from Old Testament Scriptures concerning the Son’s inheritance (Heb. 1: 2) - an inheritance having to do with dominion (Heb. 1: 5; cf. Psa. 2: 7, 8) - in order to deal with the purpose for man’s salvation, which has to do with this same inheritance and dominion (cf. Heb. 1: 9; 3: 14).
A number of Messianic passages are quoted in Hebrews, chapter one, and the writer then immediately leads into the thought of an inheritance set before Christians (1: 14). This is called “so great Salvation” in Heb. 2: 3 and is connected in verses five and ten with dominion over the [this] earth as “sons,” exercising the rights of primogeniture.
The main purpose for the present dispensation is given in what could be looked upon as the key verse in the Book of Hebrews: “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many* sons unto glory ...” (2: 10). The great burden of Hebrews is not that of rescuing the unsaved from the lake of fire but that of delivering the ones already so rescued safely through their present pilgrim journey to the goal of their calling.
[* NOTE. The Scripture here says that, “many sons” will qualify for the coming “glory”; not ‘every son,’ as multitudes erroneously suppose: there is a personal standard of righteousness required for qualification, (Matt. 5: 20)!]
Rather than the book being a call unto salvation for the unsaved, it is a call unto Christ’s “kingdom and glory” for the saved (cf. 1 Thess. 2: 12). Its message is directed to those who are already the “children of God”; and this message, built around five major warnings in the book, centers around the Christians’ present pilgrim journey in view of the coming manifestation of the “Sons of God” (Rom. 8: 19), when Christ will bring the “many sons” of Heb. 2: 10 “unto glory” (cf. Rom. 8: 18, 23). These “many sons” will exercise the rights of the firstborn as co-heirs with Christ during the coming Messianic Era.
Beyond chapter two, the Book of Hebrews continues its teaching, as before, through constant reference to the Old Testament Scriptures. Chapter three begins by referring to the Christians’ calling, which is “heavenly”; and the author takes all of one chapter (ch. 3) and part of another (ch. 4) to call attention to the journey of the Israelites as they left Egypt under Moses and headed toward an inheritance reserved for them in another land. This is set forth as a type of the Christians’ present journey toward an inheritance. … And that which befell the Israelites on their pilgrim journey can also befall Christians on their pilgrim journey. This is the warning which the Spirit of God goes to great lengths to clearly set forth through the author of this book, not only in chapters three and four but also in chapter six (vv. 4-6).
The latter part of chapter four moves into teachings concerning the present high priestly ministry of Christ (which is patterned after the order of Aaron), and then in chapter five the book moves into a discussion of things concerning the future ministry of Christ when He will be the great King-Priest (which will be patterned after the order of Melchizedek).
Then in chapters six through ten both the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods are in view, placing the emphasis not only upon Christ’s present ministry on our behalf in the heavenly sanctuary but also upon His future ministry when the results of His present ministry will be realized - that [millennial] day when he will rule the earth as the great King-Priest after the order of Melchizedek.
This entire section in Hebrews terminates with a warning concerning the “wilful sin” (10: 26), which, contextually, could only have to do with Christians sinning, with the high priestly ministry of Christ in view (10:19ff). There is no sacrifice for a wilful sin. Instead, only judgment [both present and future] awaits the perpetrators.
The sins of Christians … can be forgiven today because of Christ’s present ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, on the basis of His shed blood (Heb. 9: 11, 12; 1 John 1: 7; 2: 1, 2). Thus, contextually, sinning wilfully in Heb. 10: 26, appearing at the end of the lengthy section in Hebrews dealing with Christ as High Priest, can only be a refusal to avail oneself of Christ’s present high priestly ministry. If a Christian refuses the sacrifice which Christ has provided (His Own blood on the mercy seat), “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” “A certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation” is all that can await a sinning Christian who refuses to avail himself of Christ’s present high priestly ministry (10: 27-31).
Then, closing out the chapter, attention is called to the “great recompense of reward,” “the promise,” Christ’s return, the necessity of Christians living “by faith,” and “the saving of the soul” (10: 35-39).
This then leads naturally into chapter eleven which records numerous accounts of faithful servants of the Lord in the Old Testament. Over and over these individuals are said to have acted, “By faith.” That is, they believed what God had to say about the matter, resulting in their acting accordingly.
Chapter eleven forms a climax to all which has preceded. Individuals in the Old Testament pleased God one way – “By faith.” And the necessity of exercising faith in order to please God is just as true today as it was then. An individual coming to God “must believe [exercise faith] that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (11: 6). There is no other way.
Individuals in chapter eleven were moved to do certain things because of their faith, because they believed God. Such actions (works) emanated out of faith and brought faith to its proper goal, which is spoken of in 1 Peter 1: 9 as the [future] salvation of one’s soul (cf. Eph. 2: 10). And this is the same salvation upon which the author of Hebrews focuses his readers’ attention. Works emanating out of faith which, in turn, result in faith being brought to its proper goal - the salvation of one’s soul - is exactly what is in view in Hebrews, chapter eleven. The verse leading into this chapter refers to the saving of the soul (10: 39), and then, beginning in chapter eleven, the same thing is taught as in 1 Peter 1: 4-9.
Chapter twelve then forms the capstone to the whole matter. The writer’s exhortations and instructions in the first two verses reflect, in a broad sense, back on everything which he has previously said. Christians are in a race (cf. 1 Cor. 9: 24-27; 2 Tim. 4: 7, 8); and the writer’s exhortations and instructions, based on what has previously been said, outline for Christians exactly how to run the race after the fashion necessary to win the prize.
THE GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES
Chapter twelve begins with “Wherefore” in the English text (“Therefore” in a number of translations), which is the translation of a Greek inferential particle (Toigaroun), pointing to the logical conclusion of a matter. The word could perhaps be better translated in this instance, “For that very reason then ...” The reference is a continuation of the thought in the immediately preceding verse, which sums up that which is taught throughout chapter eleven - Certain Old Testament and New Testament saints being “made perfect” together through faith (11: 40).
The word “perfect” in this verse is from the same word in the Greek text translated “perfect” in James 2: 22 (teleioo). In James, “faith” is said to be made perfect through “works,” which is the identical concept taught throughout Hebrews, chapter eleven. In fact, the two examples used in James to illustrate how faith is made perfect through works (brought to completion, brought to its proper goal [as in 1 Peter 1: 9]) are also listed in Hebrews (cf. James 2: 21-25; Heb. 11: 17-19, 31).
Some Old Testament saints, through faith, “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to fight the armies of the aliens.” And certain women “received their dead raised to life again” (Heb. 11: 33-35a).
Others though, through faith, had opposite experiences. They “were tortured ... had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented ... they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb. 11: 35b-38).
Regardless of the experiences which these Old Testament saints were called to enter into, each “obtained a good report through faith [lit., ‘bore a favourable witness through faith’].” The point of the matter though is the fact that not a single one received “the promise” (v. 39) “The recompense of the reward,” the reception of “the promise” (cf. vv. 26, 39), awaits a future day, … [i.e., after the “Better Resurrection” (35b).]
The day when Old Testament saints will received “the promise” is the same day Christians will also receive “the promise,” which is Messianic in its scope of fulfilment. And “the promise” is heavenly, not earthly (Heb. 3: 1; 11: 10-16). The realization of this promise by Old Testament and New Testament saints has to do with both occupying positions in the kingdom of the heavens as co-heirs with Christ during the coming age.
The nation of
Old Testament saints who qualified to occupy positions in the kingdom of the heavens will still realize these positions when the promise is received. … And,, according to Hebrews, chapter eleven, this entire line of thought appears to even go back behind the beginning of the nation of Israel, all the way back to the time of Abel (vv. 4-7). Seemingly, those from Old Testament days who will occupy positions with Christ in the kingdom of the heavens will include not only certain individuals from the seed of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob but certain individuals from the two-thousand-year period preceding Abraham as well (cf. Matt. 8: 11; Luke 13: 28, 29).
The thought in Heb. 11: 40, concluding the chapter dealing with the faith exhibited by numerous Old Testament saints and leading into chapter twelve, is often misunderstood. The thought in this verse is not at all that God has provided something better for Christians than for the Old Testament saints previously mentioned. This verse, in order to properly continue the thought from the preceding verse (concerning Old Testament saints not having received the promise), could perhaps be better translated, “God has foreseen something better [for them], which concerns us, that apart from us they might not be made perfect.”
Certain saints from both Old Testament days and New Testament days, through faith, will inherit the promises together, at the same time, and place. The faith of both will have been made perfect, brought to its proper goal through works (works emanating out of their faith), and this will result in the salvation of their souls. They will be brought to this goal together, which is what God in His omnipotence and omniscience has foreseen and thus revealed in this verse.
(The rulers in the kingdom of the heavens who will occupy the throne as co-heirs with Christ will be comprised of saints from more than just the present dispensation. Even Tribulation martyrs will be included in this group [Rev. 20: 4-6]. There, thus, seems to be a firstfruits, harvest, and gleanings aspect to the matter. …
The great “cloud of witnesses” presently surrounding Christians (Heb. 12: 1), forming an example and encouragement for Christians to exercise faith in their present pilgrim journey, as they exercised faith in their past pilgrim journey, can only be the saints mentioned in the previous chapter. These “witnesses” are not to be thought of as presently viewing Christians as spectators, but rather as ones who bore witness, through faith, at times in the past.
Rather than these witnesses viewing Christians, the thought is actually the opposite. Christians are the ones who view them (through that which has been recorded about their lives in Scripture; and through viewing their walk “by faith” during times past, Christians can derive instruction and encouragement for their own walk “by faith” today.
The word in the Greek text translated “witnesses” is the verb form of the same word translated “having obtained a good report” in Heb. 11: 39. In this verse, those previously mentioned obtained a good report through their actions. That is, they bore witness through faith, which resulted in [good] works. And the same thought is set forth two verses later in Heb. 12: 1.
The great “cloud of witnesses” in Heb. 12: 1 is comprised of those in chapter eleven, set forth as an example for Christians today. Faith resulted in their entering into numerous experiences at different times in the past, being victorious; and faith will result in the same for Christians today. Then, in that future day, all those in view (faithful Old Testament and faithful New Testament saints alike) will be brought to the goal of faith and obtain the promise together.
WEIGHTS WHICH CAN HINDER
The great cloud of witnesses surrounding us finished their pilgrim journey in a victorious manner, and we are exhorted to finish our pilgrim journey after the same fashion. Paul, in the course of his journey, said, “But none of these things move me [bonds, afflictions, other things which should befall him], neither count I my life dear unto myself [cf. Phil. 1: 21], so that I might finish my course with joy ...” (Acts 20: 24). And Christians are to exhibit the same attitude toward their present pilgrim journey, knowing that a “just recompense of reward awaits” (Heb. 12; 11: 26).
Paul pictured himself as being in a race (1 Cor. 9: 24-27), which is the thought Heb. 12: 1, 2 presents. The pilgrim walk is a race which is to be run “by faith”; and Paul’s burning desire was to finish the race in a satisfactory manner. He didn’t want to find himself having to drop out along the way because of exhaustion, or find himself disqualified at the end by not having observed the rules (2 Tim. 2: 5).
And we’re told that Paul succeeded in satisfactorily finishing the race which he had set out to run. Near the end of his life, in 2 Tim. 4: 7, 8, he wrote, “I have fought a [‘the’] good fight, I have finished my course” [Acts 20: 24], “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 that love his appearing.”
Numerous things can hinder a runner in a race, and these things are referred to as weights in Heb. 12: 1. The thought is taken from practices of athletes preparing for the ancient Olympic games. Participants training for a race, would wear weights around their ankles, waist, and wrists in order to help build their muscles and endurance; then “every weight” would be removed prior to actually running the race.
This is a common practice in athletic events today. A baseball player, for example, often swings his bat with weights affixed immediately prior to taking his turn at bat. But no baseball player steps up to the plate with the weights still affixed to his bat. Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes, tells how he trained by running in the sand and running uphill to condition himself. But when it came time to run the race and go for the record, the surface upon which he ran was hard, and the race was run on level ground.
The thought though is not that we are to wear weights as we train for the race, for no Christian trains for the race after this fashion. Every Christian is presently in the race, not training for a race which lies ahead. We cannot choose whether or not we want to enter the race. Every Christian has already been entered. He was entered at the time of his salvation. And, because of this, he is exhorted to lay aside every weight which could impede his successfully running and completing the race.
The Lord brings us through various trials, testings, experiences as we study the Word and run the race, allowing us to progressively grow from immaturity to maturity (James 1: 2-4). This is the only counterpart to the conditioning and training process which an athlete undergoes prior to the race. For Christians, this training and conditioning process occurs during the course of the race; and the better equipped Christians are spiritually (the more they have grown from immaturity to maturity), the better they will be able to run the race in a satisfactory manner.
Weights which Christians are to lay aside as they run the race are not necessarily things sinful in and of themselves. One’s appetite for spiritual things may have the edge removed by indulgence in any number of things, and what may be a weight for one Christian in this realm may not necessarily be a weight for another.
A “weight” is simply anything which can impede one’s process in the race of the faith. Anything which deadens or dulls one’s sensitivity to spiritual things can only hinder his maximum efficiency and thus impede his progress in the race, being a weight.
No serious runner in the ancient Olympic games would ever have given any thought at all to running while carrying something which could impede his movement or ability to run. His training weights were put aside, and his long-flowing garment which he normally wore on the street was removed. He, as runners in athletic contests today, wore only that which was absolutely necessary.
(Participants in the original Olympic games actually ran naked, with men being the only spectators present [reflecting on these early games, our word “gymnasium” comes from the Greek word gumnos, meaning “naked”].)
A runner in the ancient Olympic games ran after a fashion which would provide him with the best opportunity to win. And any Christian, serious about also running to win, must run after the same fashion. He must lay aside any encumbrance which could hinder his progress.
In the course of the parable of the Sower in Matt. 13: 3-8 and the explanation which follows (vv. 18-23), the Lord mentioned several weights which could hinder one in the race. In the third part of the parable (vv. 7, 22), the individual sown among thorns (v. 22 should literally read, “He also that was sown among thorns ...”) allowed three things to “choke the word [‘the word of the kingdom’ (v. 19)]” and cause him to become “unfruitful.” He allowed 1) the “care of this world [‘age’],” 2) the “deceitfulness of riches,” and 3) the “pleasures of this life” (see Luke 8: 14) to choke this Word, impeding his progress in the race, resulting in his ultimate failure.
The person sown among thorns was in a position to bring forth fruit, which indicates that the Lord was referring to His dealings with the saved, not the unsaved. Only the saved are in a position to bring forth fruit, or, as the rich young ruler in Matt. 19: 16ff, in a position to accumulate “treasure in heaven.” But the cares of this present age accumulated wealth, and pleasures which the present life afford (an interrelated) can - if one does not properly conduct himself within the framework of each - produce a barren life, resulting in no accumulated treasure in heaven.
Christians today, as possibly never before, are faced with problems in this whole overall realm. The commercial world has been busy providing man with every pleasure and convenience which he can afford, and man has set his sights on monetary gain so that he can live “the good life.” This is the direction which the world has gone, and too often Christians have allowed themselves to be caught up in many of the ways and practices of the world.
The end result of the whole
matter can be easily seen throughout practically any Church across the country
today. The ‘Word
of the Kingdom’ is not being taught from the pulpit, those in the pew
know little to nothing about this message and Christians are so weighed down
with encumbrances that many of them have never been able to even get off the
starting blocks in the race of the faith. It is simply the
Any Christian serious about the race in which he finds himself will run after a manner which will allow him to win. The first order of business is the putting aside of any encumbrance which could impede his progress. A Christian must not allow himself to be caught up in any of the ways and practices of the world after a fashion which could be considered as weights in the race.
There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with certain activities in the world, the possession of wealth, etc. The problem comes when a Christian becomes involved in these areas, or any other area, to the extent that these things become encumbrances and impede his progress in the race. They would then be considered “weights,” necessitating corrective action, for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14: 23).
THE BESETTING SIN
The sin “which doth so easily beset [‘ensnare,’ ‘encircle’] us” as we run the race is not a reference to different sins for different Christians, depending on what may be thought of as a particular Christian’s weakness in a certain realm. This sin is the same for every Christian, and the realm of weakness is also the same for every Christian.
Any Christian’s weakness in any realm can always be traced back to the same central weakness - a weakness really in only one realm. The sin which “doth so easily beset” Christians is a reference to this central weakness. The word “sin” is articular in the Greek text, referring to a specific sin; and, contextually (ch. 11), this sin can only be understood as one thing - a lack of faith.
A lack of faith is responsible for the multitude of problems which surface in the lives of Christians. Spiritual weakness produced by a lack of faith will manifest itself numerous ways, causing Christians to view certain weaknesses after different fashions. One may see himself as being weak in one realm and view something connected with that realm as his besetting sin; another may see himself as being weak in a different realm and view something connected with that realm as his besetting sin. Such though is not the case at all. Problems in both realms stem from the same central problem - a lack of faith on the part of both individuals.
The question, simply put, is, “What has happened to cause you to lose confidence in God?” or “Why have you chosen not to believe God about this matter?” God has made the necessary provision for equipping and training Christians in the race (cf. Eph. 4: 11-13; James 1: 24), He has made certain promises concerning what He will do for Christians as they run the race of the faith (e.g., 1 Cor. 10: 13), and He has provided instructions on how to successfully run the race (Heb. 12: 1, 2). God is very interested in seeing every Christian run in a successful manner. No Christian has been enrolled in the race to fail.
Though all of this is true, numerous Christians pay little attention. Their interest lies elsewhere, and spiritual matters connected with the race are of little moment to them. Such Christians will ultimately fall along the pilgrim pathway, as the Israelites under Moses fell in the wilderness. They will fall on the right side of the blood but on the wrong side of the goal of their calling.
On the other hand, numerous other Christians heed that which God has said. They have a proper respect for “the recompense of reward.” They exercise faith and run the race in a manner which will provide victory. Such Christians, rather than falling along the pilgrim pathway, as the Israelites under Moses fell in the wilderness, will ultimately realize the goal of their calling. They, as Caleb and Joshua, will have believed God, gained the victory, and be allowed to enter into the land of their inheritance. They will come into possession of “so great salvation,” the salvation of their souls (Heb. 2: 3; 10: 39).
* * *
Participation in the Race
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the jpy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12: 1, 2).
Christians are in a race, and the highest of all possible prizes is being extended as an encouragement for them to run the race after a manner which will result in victory. In Heb. 12: 1, 2, the Spirit of God has provided Christians with instructions concerning how this race is to be run, and any Christian running the race after the revealed fashion can be assured that he will finish the contest in a satisfactory manner. On the other hand though, any Christian not so following these provided instructions can, under no circumstances, expect victory in the contest
If ever there was a group of individuals who should be preparing themselves for that which lies ahead, it is Christians. God has set aside an entire dispensation lasting approximately 2,000 years to acquire a bride for His Son, who will rule the earth during the coming age as co-regent with Him. Positions among those who will form the bride are to be earned, not entered into strictly on the basis of one’s eternal salvation. And even among those who eventually enter into these positions, there will be no equality. Rather, there will be numerous gradations of positions held by those occupying the throne as co-regents with Christ in that day.
Christians [who will qualify for entrance into Christ’s millennial kingdom, will receive positions] exactly commensurate with their performance in the race. That is to say, positions with Christ in the coming age will be assigned to household servants in perfect keeping with their faithfulness to delegated responsibility during the present dispensation, for faithfulness after this fashion is how Christians run the race.
There will be “a just recompense of reward” for each and every Christian after the race has been run (Heb. 2: 2; 11: 26), which is the Biblical way of saying that exact payment will be given for services rendered. And such payment will be dispensed at the judgment seat following an evaluation of the services rendered in the house.
The one thing which consumed Paul, governing his every move following the point of his salvation, was being able to successfully complete the race in which he had been entered. Paul knew that he was saved and that he would go to be with the Lord when he died (2 Cor. 5: 6-8; 1 Tim. 1: 15, 16). He spent no time rethinking circumstances surrounding his salvation experience to make certain he was really saved; nor did he live after a certain fashion out of fear that he could possibly one day lose his salvation - something which Paul knew to be an impossibility (Rom. 8: 35-39). Rather, Paul set his eyes on a goal out ahead, a goal which salvation made possible (Phil. 3: 7-14)
The race in which Christians presently find themselves is, in the light of Heb. 11: 1ff and other related Scriptures, a race of the faith (cf. 2 Tim. 4: 7). The “saving of the soul” is in view (Heb. 10: 39), which is what Peter in his first epistle referred to as “the end [goal]” of the Christian’s faith as he runs the race – “Receiving the end [goal] of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1: 9). And the saving or losing of one’s soul has to do with occupying or being denied a position with Christ in His kingdom (cf. Matt. 16: 24-17: 5; 25: 14-30; Luke 19: 12-27).
Thus the race in which Christians are presently engaged is being run with a kingdom in view; and it is being run, more specifically, with a view to proffered positions on the throne with God’s Son in that kingdom. This is what is at stake. And there can be no higher prize than that of one day being elevated from a servant in the Lord’s house on this earth to a co-regent with Christ on His throne in the heavens.
How many Christians though know these things? How many, for that matter, are even interested? Christians talk about being saved and going to heaven, though most don’t have the slightest idea concerning what is involved in saved man’s association with the heavens.
Being saved with a corresponding assurance of heaven is often looked upon as an end in itself. However, if, such is the case, where does the race in which we are presently engaged fit in the Christian life? It doesn’t, for one’s eternal salvation and assurance of heaven are based entirely on Christ’s finished work, completely apart from the race.
One is saved with the race in view, and the race is for a revealed purpose. The teaching so prevalent today which views salvation only in the light of eternal verities - i.e., one’s eternal destiny is either Heaven or Hell [i.e., ‘the lake of fire’], depending on the person’s saved or unsaved status, with that being the end of the matter - is a theology which completely ignores and obscures ‘the Word of the Kingdom’. Teachings concerning the importance of salvation have not been balanced with teachings concerning the purpose of salvation.
If ever there was a group of individuals on the earth with something to live for or something to die for, it is Christians. They are in possession of the highest of all possible callings. But in spite of this, the world has never seen a group quite like those comprising Christendom today - a group of individuals who could profess so much but really profess so little.
The message is there, but Where are the Christians who know and understand these things? The race is presently being run, but Where are the serious contenders? The offer to ascend the throne with Christ has been extended, but Where are those who have fixed their eyes on this goal?
RUN WITH PATIENCE
After one lays aside “every weight” (any encumbrance which could prevent maximum efficiency in the race) and “the sin which doth so easily beset us” (lack of faith [ref. ch. 11]), he is then to run the race “with patience.”
“Patience” is a translation of the Greek word hupomone, which could perhaps be better translated, “patient endurance.” The thought has to do with patiently enduring whatever may come your way (trials, testings) as you run the race and keep your eyes fixed on the goal.
Hupomone is the word used in James 1: 3, 4: “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience [‘patient endurance’]. But let patience [‘patient endurance’] have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Trials and testings are a means which God uses to work patient endurance in the lives of His people; and a person, in turn, is to patiently endure whatever trials and testings the Lord may send his way. Patient endurance is to be exercised at all times, and patient endurance through trials and testings of this nature will gradually result in the person reaching the desired goal in the race of the faith.
One is to allow patient endurance to “have her perfect [end-time] work.” This is not something which occurs overnight or in a short period of time, but this is something which progessively occurs during the entire course of the race. According to Rom. 8: 28, “all things” in the lives of those called according to God’s purpose, in this respect, are working together for good. Nothing happens by accident within God’s sovereign will and purpose for an individual; everything occurs by Divine design. We can see only the present while patiently undergoing trials and testings, but God sees the future along with the present. He sees the outcome of that which is presently occurring, something which we cannot see.
for example, men such as Joseph and Moses. Joseph couldn’t see the end result of God
working in his life while in an Egyptian prison; nor could Moses see the end of
the matter while herding sheep in Midian.
God though ultimately exalted Joseph to a position on the throne in
Patient endurance being allowed to have its end-time work will result in the individual being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” That is, it will result in the individual being brought to the desired goal through the progressive working of the transformation (metamorphosis) in Rom. 12: 2 (a work of the Spirit of God within the life of a Christian as he patiently endures trials and testings, bringing about a progression from immaturity to maturity). The goal of the Spirit of God working in the life of a believer after this fashion is to ultimately produce a mature Christian who lacks nothing.
Thus “patience” and “endurance” are the two inseparable key words in this respect. A Christian is to always exercise patience, and he is to always exercise endurance with his patience. The race in which we are engaged is not one to be run over a short period of time but one to be run over the long haul. It is not a race for sprinters, though one may be called upon to sprint at times in the race. Rather, it is a race for marathon runners, set over a long-distance course. This is the reason one must run with patient endurance.
Sprinting doesn’t really require patience of this nature; nor does it require one to pace himself after the fashion required to be successful in a long-distance race. In sprinting one exerts a maximum burst of speed over a short distance, knowing that his body can endure for the short time required to run the race. However, one has to properly pace himself in the long-distance race in order to endure, exercising patience throughout the course of the race.
If he allows himself to drop below his pace, he will not be continuing to exert the maximum effort his body can endure for the distance required, possibly resulting in defeat in the race. He may come in second or third rather than first, or he may not come in high enough to win a prize at all. Or, on the other hand, if he pushes himself above his pace, he will be placing a strain on his body beyond what it can endure for the distance required, possibly resulting in his having to drop out along the way and not finish the race at all.
The statement is sometimes heard in Christian circles, “I would rather burn out than rust out.” This, of course, is an allusion to how one paces himself in the race of the faith; and those making this statement usually look upon “burn out” as something to be desired. However, there’s a problem with the pace which would be exhibited by either. “Burn out” is something which a person would experience who tried sprinting the long-distance race, and “rust out” is something which a person barely running would experience. Neither would allow the runner to reach the goal.
This whole overall thought is alluded to by Paul in 2 Tim. 2: 12 where he sets forth one requirement for reigning with Christ: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him ...” The word “suffer” in the Greek text is the verb form of the same word translated “patience [‘patient endurance’]” in James 1: 3, 4 and Heb. 12: 1. Thus, 2 Tim. 2: 12 should literally read, “If we patiently endure, we shall also reign with him ...”
Understanding that which the writer of Hebrews teaches about the race in Heb. 12: 1 and that which James teaches about progression in growth from immaturity to maturity in James 1: 24, one can easily see what Paul had in mind when he used the verb form of this same word in 2 Tim. 2: 12. It’s very simple. If we patiently endure in the race of the faith, we’ll be allowed to ascend the throne with Christ, for the one patiently enduring will have run the race after the correct fashion and will have finished his course in a satisfactory manner.
The same word translated “patience” in James 1: 3, 4 also appears in its verb form in James 1: 12 (same as 2 Tim. 2: 12): “Blessed is the man that endureth [‘patiently endureth’] temptation: for when he is tried [‘approved’], he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.” Thus, patient endurance in the race of the faith during the present time, allowing the runner to complete the race after the correct fashion and in a satisfactory manner, will result not only in the runner being approved before the judgment seat [of Christ] but also in his receiving the crown of life.*
[* It should be apparent to all given eyes to see, that ‘the crown of life’ is a REWARD for ‘the runner being approved,’ and not ETERNAL LIFE – ‘the FREE GIFT of God’ (Rom. 6: 23, R.V.). Hence we see the importance of being judged worthy to be amongst those who rise out from the dead in Hades, at the time of “the First Resurrection” (Rev. 20: 6). cf. Luke 20: 35; 14: 14; Phil. 3: 11; Heb. 11: 35b; Rev. 3: 21; 6: 9-11).]
And James is one of the New Testament epistles which deals more specifically with the salvation of the soul. In James 1: 21, after the author has dealt with patient endurance and the end result of such endurance - i.e., has dealt with how the race is to be run, along with the outcome of satisfactorily running the race - he then refers to “the engrafted word [that Word which is compatible with and natural for the new nature, the living Word of God]” as that “which is able to save your souls.”
The reception of the Word of God is able to bring about the salvation of one’s soul because it is this Word which the Spirit of God uses as He effects the metamorphosis of Rom. 12: 2. And in association with this metamorphosis, the trying of one’s faith in James 1: 3 cannot be done apart from a reception of the Word of God.
Faith “cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17). A Christian receives into his saved human spirit that which is compatible with and natural for his new nature, the living Word of God. The indwelling Spirit of God then takes this living Word and progressively works the metamorphosis in the Christian’s life, progressively moving him from immaturity to maturity. And a Christian passing through this experience correspondingly exercises patient endurance in the trials and testings of his faith, which is the manner in which he is to run and properly pace himself in the race of the faith.
The Christian life, the race in which we are presently engaged, progression from immaturity to maturity, and the goal of faith are all inseparably linked together after this fashion.
LOOKING UNTO JESUS
The writer of Hebrews instructs Christians, in the course of the race, to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. The Greek text though is much more explicit than the English translation. There are two prepositions used in the writer’s instructions concerning “Looking unto Jesus”; and the first preposition, prefixed to the word “Looking,” has not been translated at all. The literal word-for-word rendering from the Greek text reads, “Looking from unto Jesus.” The person looking unto Jesus is to correspondingly look away from anything which could, at any time, result in distraction.
Jesus referred to this same
truth when He said, “No man, having put his hand to the
plough, and looking back, is fit for the
kingdom of God” (Luke 9: 62). Such an individual would have begun after
the correct fashion by putting his hand to the plough. He would be looking straight ahead to a point
at the end of the row he was ploughing, which, in the light of Heb. 12: 2, would presuppose that he had looked away from surrounding
things. Should he though, in the course
of ploughing a row in the field, begin to look around or look back, he would be
taking his eyes off the point toward which he was moving at the end of the
row. He would no longer be looking
away from anything
which could distract and be looking toward the goal. And
Jesus said that a man who could not keep his eyes fixed on the goal was ‘not fit for the
Paul stated the matter in these words in Phil. 3: 13, 14: “…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
And Paul, within this same framework in 1 Cor. 9: 26, said, “I therefore so run [run to obtain an incorruptible crown (vv. 24, 25)], not as uncertainly ...” That is, he didn’t run aimlessly; he didn’t wander back and forth from lane to lane on the track. Rather, he had his eyes fixed on a goal, and he strained every muscle of his being as he moved straight ahead toward this goal. His every action centered around one thing: completing the race in a manner which would allow him to win the ‘prize’.
The race of the faith in which Christians are presently engaged is thus not only to be run with “patient endurance” but the runners are to keep their eyes fixed on the [‘Prize’ the] goal out ahead. And the manner in which the runners are to do this is to look away from anything which could distract as they look unto Jesus.
1. KNOWING CHRIST
In Phil. 3: 10 Paul wrote, “That I may know him …” Paul, of course, “knew” Christ insofar as his eternal salvation was concerned. Thus, he had to be referring to something beyond that which he had already experienced. The remainder of the verse, along with the context, shows that Paul had in mind a progression in spiritual growth from initially knowing Christ to that of coming into possession of a knowledge which afforded him an intimate relationship with Christ; and he counted all things in his life “but loss” to accomplish this end (v. 8).
One comes into a knowledge of and begins to understand different things in life by spending time in the realm where he desires familiarity. And knowledge gained is invariably commensurate with the time invested. This is true in any aspect of life. Christians come into a knowledge of God’s Word through time invested. They begin to understand more and more about God’s plans and purposes through gaining a knowledge of that which God has to say in His revelation to man. There is a rudimentary knowledge of things, gained by investing a limited amount of time; and there are varying degrees of knowledge beyond that, gained by investing varying amounts of time.
A [regenerate] Christian cannot “know” Christ - [in the sense of which Paul wanted to know Him] - without spending time with Christ; and the more time one spends with Christ, the more he will move toward that intimate relationship which Paul, above everything else, sought. This is the reason Christians are to look away from anything which could prove to be a distraction as they look unto Jesus.
Paul sought to know Christ after this fashion in three realms:
A) THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION
Death could not hold the One Who had come to accomplish the will of the Father (John 4: 34; 6: 38). This was the Father’s “beloved Son [the One Who would one day exercise the rights of the firstborn],” in whom the Father was “well pleased” (Matt. 3: 17; cf. Psa. 2: 7; Acts 13: 33, 34). And this was the One Who, at the end of His earthly ministry, could say, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17: 4).
God raised Him [out] from the dead (Acts 13: 30), the Spirit raised Him from the dead (Rom. 8: 11), and Christ raised Himself from the dead (John 10: 17, 18). He then sat down at God’s right hand awaiting a future day - that day when His enemies would be made His “footstool” and He would rule the [this] earth with “a rod of iron” (Psa. 2: 6-9; 110:1ff; Heb. 1: 13-2: 10).
According to Acts 13: 30-34, Christ’s resurrection is inseparably connected with that future day - [a day of ‘a thousand years’ (2 Pet. 3: 8; Rev. 20: 6)] - when He will rule and reign. The quotation in verse thirty-three, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,” refers though, not to Christ’s resurrection per se, but to the purpose for His resurrection. This is a quotation from the second Psalm, which is clearly Messianic (cf. Psa. 2: 6-9); and Christ was raised [out] from the dead in order that God might fulfil His promise to His people (v. 33) by giving to Christ “the sure mercies of David [lit., ‘the holy things of David’]” (v. 34). That is, Christ was raised from the dead in order that God might fulfil His promise concerning a coming Redeemer Who would ascend “the throne of his father David” and “reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1: 32, 33; cf. 2 Sam. 7: 12-16).
“All power” has been delivered into the hands of the Son (Matt. 28: 18), and He has been raised from the dead and positioned at God’s right hand, the hand of power. And in this position, with His Son in possession of all power, God has clearly stated to His Son: “Sit thou at my right hand, until ...” (Psa. 110: l ff).
The Son seated at His Father’s right hand is not presently exercising the power which has been delivered into His hands; nor is He fulfilling the purpose for His resurrection as given in the second and one hundred tenth Psalms. But one day this will all change. A day is coming when the Son will take possession of the kingdom which He has gone away to receive (Luke 19: 12, 15; cf. Dan. 7: 9-14), and He will then come forth as the great King-Priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” exercising power and authority as He sits upon His Own throne (Psa. 110: 2-4; cf. Heb. 5: 6-10; 6: 20-7: 21).
It was these things which Paul had in mind when he said that he wanted to know Christ “in the power of his resurrection.” As Christ was (and still is) seated with His Father on a throne from which power and authority emanates, awaiting the day of His Own power on His Own throne. Paul wanted to be among those who would one day be allowed to ascend the throne with Christ and have a part in the exercise of that power.
B) THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS
Sufferings followed in the wake of Christ’s ministry, and they followed in the wake of Paul’s ministry as well. And sufferings will follow in the wake of anyone’s ministry who seeks to come into an intimate knowledge of Christ.
“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall [not might, but ‘shall’] suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3: 12). Persecution is the natural outcome of living godly lives. And the “fellowship” of Christ’s sufferings has to do with being like-minded concerning our sufferings, looking upon our sufferings the same way Christ looked upon His sufferings. Christ, looking at “the joy that was set before him [the day when He would rule and reign] endured the cross, despising the shame [considering it to be a thing of little consequence in comparison] ...” (Heb. 12: 2).
The apostles in the early Church rejoiced that “they were counted worthy to suffer shame” for Christ’s name. Why? Because they knew what lay beyond the sufferings.
1) Godliness, 2) Sufferings, and 3) Glory constitute the unchangeable order. This was true in the life of Christ (Luke 24: 25, 26; John 17: 4, 5), and it will be equally true in the lives of His [faithful and obedient] followers (Matt. 10:24; Acts 14: 22; 1 Peter 4: 12, 13).
C) BEING MADE CONFORMABLE UNTO HIS DEATH
The Creek word which Jesus used relative to laying down His life (John 10: 15, 17) is psuche in the Greek text. This is the same word translated “soul” numerous places throughout the New Testament. This is the word used in Matt. 16: 25, 26, translated “life” twice in verse twenty-five and “soul” twice in verse twenty-six. “Soul” and “life” are used interchangeably in this respect. Christ laid his life down in order that He might “take it again” (John 10: 17), which is essentially the same truth taught in Matt. 16: 25, 26 – “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”*
[* NOTE. This is not an open invitation for misguided and enthusiastic Christians, who deliberately seek sufferings in the energy of the flesh! Sufferings, for speaking the truths which Christ taught, will automatically come through the circumstances which divine providence will place us: but God will not allow us to suffer more than what we are able to bear; He will always make a way for us to escape without compromising His truth.
“The honour of our Master and the interests of His Kingdom are far more seriously imperilled by that which is un-Christly in the bearing and behaviour of His followers, than by what may be defective in their doctrines. A doctrine is a truth set in words. But it is set in words as a means to an end. It is set there that it may be planted in men’s hearts, and may be written out a living force in their lives.” (J. B. Wylie.)]
“Conformable” in the text is the translation of a Greek word which means to take on the same form. A Christian is to conduct his life after the same fashion Christ conducted His life, which moves toward death rather than life, for a purpose (cf. John 12: 24). He is to take the same form as Christ in this respect in order that through losing his life during the present day he might gain his life during that coming day. And the entire matter is in connection with Christ coming “in the glory of his Father with his angels,” rewarding “every man according to his works,” and reigning in the “kingdom” which follows (Matt. 16: 24-17: 5).
2. ATTAINING TO THE COAL
Paul sought to “know” Christ in the “power of his resurrection,” “the fellowship of his sufferings,” and through conformity to “his death” for a purpose, expressed in verse eleven: “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [‘out-resurrection’] of the dead,” which has to do with “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (v. 14).
The word “resurrection” (v. 11) is a translation of the Greek word, exanastasis. This is the same word used in the preceding verse relative to Christ, but with the preposition ek prefixed to the word (ex is the form this preposition takes when prefixed to words beginning with a vowel - thus, exanastasis). The preposition ek means “out of,” and this is where the translation “out-resurrection” is derived from the use of exanastasis in verse eleven.
The compound word, anastasis (“resurrection” [v. 10]), literally means “to stand up” (ana means “up,” and stasis means “to stand”). When referring to the dead, it means “to stand up” from the place of death (“to be resurrected”). Exanastasis, on the other hand, means “to stand up out of”; and if a deceased person were in view, the word would have to refer to that person standing up out (“being resurrected out,” an “out-resurrection”) from among others not raised from the dead [to bodily life]. …*
[* NOTE. This “out-resurrection, ” ‘from among others not raised from the dead,’ is what the Apostle Paul - “by any means” - wanted to “attain” unto! It is a resurrection of REWARD for those who will be “accounted worthy to attain [i.e., ‘gain by effort’] to that world [‘age’]” Luke 20: 35. cf. Heb. 11: 35b; Rev. 20: 6.]
THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER
OF THE FAITH
“Faith” in Heb. 12: 2 is not “our faith,” as in the English translation but “the faith” (note that “our” is in italics [KJV], indicating that it has been supplied by the translators). The word is articular in the Greek text and is a reference to the same faith seen in both 1 Tim. 6: 12 and Jude 3.
1 Tim. 6: 12 reads, “Fight the good fight of [the] faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called ...” This verse could be better translated, “Strive in the good contest [the race] of the faith; lay hold on life for the age, whereunto thou art also called ...” The word “strive” in the latter rendering is a translation of the Greek word, agonizomai, from which we derive our English word, “agonize”; and the word “contest” is from the Greek word agon, the noun equivalent of the verb agonizomai.
Then Jude 3 reads, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith ...” The words “earnestly contend” are a translation of the Greek word epagonizomai, an intensified form of the word agonizomai used in 1 Tim. 6: 12. This part of the verse could be better translated, “earnestly strive for the faith”; and understanding this passage in the light of 1 Tim. 6: 12, earnestly striving for the faith is not defending the faith, as some expositors suggest, but a striving with respect to the faith. Such a striving has to do with remaining faithful to one’s calling within the house, properly running the race, i.e., earnestly striving in the race of the faith.
Christ is both the “author [the Originator, Founder]” and “finisher [the One Who carries through to completion]” of “the faith.” He is the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending ...” (Rev. 1: 8). And we are to fix our eyes upon Him, as we look away from anything which could distract, and run the race with patient endurance.
* * *
Goal of the Race
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12: 1, 2).
The race in which Christians find themselves is not something optional in the Christian life. Rather, it is a race in which all Christians have been automatically enrolled. Christians enter the race at the moment of belief, at the moment of [initial] salvation.
Thus, there is nothing which a Christian can do about entering or not entering the race. He has no choice concerning the matter. He has been entered in the race, with an ultimate God-ordained goal in view.
He though does have a choice concerning how he runs the race. He can follow provided instructions and run the race after a fashion which will allow him to win, or he can ignore the provided instructions and run the race after a different fashion, one which can only result in loss.
And not only are instructions given for properly running the race, but information is also given concerning why the race is being run and exactly what awaits all Christians, all runners, after the race is over.
The race is being run in order to afford Christians the highest of all possible privileges - that of qualifying to occupy positions on the throne as co-heirs with Christ during the coming age. Awards having to do with [entrance into (Matt. 5: 20)] positions of honour and glory in the Son’s [millennial] kingdom await the successful competitors, and the denial of awards, resulting in shame and disgrace in relation to the Son’s kingdom, awaits the unsuccessful competitors.
Understanding these things will
allow an individual to view both evangelism and the Christian life which
follows within a proper interrelated Biblical perspective. Man has been saved for a purpose which has to
do with the coming [millennial]
[* NOTE. ‘An assurance of heaven’ will, sooner or later, be realised by all the regenerate. There will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21: 1), after Death and Hades gives up the dead that are in them. – (Presumably this will include some regenerate believers, who did not rise from amongst the dead in Hades at the time of the First Resurrection!) - “when the thousand years are finished” (Rev. 20: 7).]
God is taking an entire dispensation, lasting approximately 2,000 years, to acquire the rulers who will ascend the throne and rule in the numerous positions of power and authority as co-heirs with His Son. These individuals will form the bride who will reign as consort queen with God’s Son. And the numerous rulers, forming the bride, will be taken from those running and finishing the race in a satisfactory manner.
Salvation removes man from one realm (one in which he cannot run the race) and places him in another (one in which he automatically finds himself in the race). Redeemed man has been removed from a realm associated with darkness (with the lake of fire as his ultimate destiny), and he has been placed in a realm associated with light (with heaven now his ultimate destiny). And he finds himself in the race only after this transference has occurred, for the revealed purpose surrounding God’s reason for the present dispensation.
The opening chapter of Colossians touches upon the overall matter within this framework about as well as any place in the New Testament. This chapter reveals both the Christians’ transference from a realm of darkness to one of light and the reason God has brought this change about.
The Christians’ removal from one realm and placement in another is spoken of in verses thirteen and fourteen: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. In whom we have redemption through his blood ...” Man, by means of redemption, has been delivered from one realm and placed in another, for a purpose; and that purpose is outlined in verses both preceding and following the statement surrounding this fact.
Redemption is mentioned again in verses twenty and twenty-one, but all the remaining verses in this chapter - verses both preceding and following those dealing with man’s redemption - relate to the purpose for redemption. And nothing is said in these verses about one’s eternal destiny. Rather, because one has been saved and his eternal destiny is now a settled matter, because he has been removed from one realm and placed in another, a “hope” and an “inheritance” come into view, (cf. vv. 5, 12, 23, 27). And the chapter concerns itself primarily with this hope and inheritance, which are in connection with the present race of the faith and have to do with positions of honour and glory in the future kingdom of Christ.
The words “hath translated” in Col. 1: 13 - “hath translated us” - are from a word in the Greek text which means to be removed from one place and positioned in another. When the First Man, the First Adam, fell, he found himself transferred in an opposite sense to that given in Col. 1: 13. Adam found himself separated from God; and since Adam fell as the federal head of the human race and his progeny (the unredeemed) today find themselves in the sphere described in Col. 1: 13 as “the power of darkness,” this would have to be the place in which Adam also found himself following the fall. Adam’s fall resulted in his removal from the realm where he could realize the reason for his creation and his placement in a realm where he could not.
Adam’s subsequent redemption though (Gen. 3: 15, 21) allowed God to place him back in the position for which he had been created. Redemption allowed God to remove him from the realm into which he had fallen and place him in an entirely different realm. But his redemption and removal from the realm into which he had fallen did not do away with the sin problem. Adam was not redeemed as the federal head of the human race in the same sense that he had fallen as the federal head. The old sin nature which he possessed following the fall remained unchanged (cf. Gen. 1: 24). Adam, as redeemed man today, was still a fallen being; and all his progeny beyond that point were begotten after his fallen image and likeness rather than after his previous unfallen image and likeness (cf. Gen. 3: 21; 5: 3).
And the purpose surrounding the redemption of Adam’s progeny, as in Adam’s case, is no different. Redemption is for the purpose of placing man back in the position for which he was originally created. The second Man, the Last Adam, has “reconciled” man “to God,” He has “made peace through the blood of his cross” (Rom. 5: 10; Col. 1: 20, 21). That which was lost through Adam’s fall has been regained through Christ’s redemptive work: “For by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5: 19).
power of darkness” and “the kingdom of his dear Son” in Col. 1: 13 point to places diametrically opposed to one another, but these
places must be looked upon in the sense that both have to do with the same
thing. Both have to do
with kingdoms - the present
Satan is the present world
ruler, and “the whole world lieth in wickedness
[‘in the wicked one’],” i.e., in the
Both kingdoms are actually looked upon as one kingdom in Rev. 11: 15 – “the kingdom of the world,” which will one day become “the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ” (ASV). Viewing matters in this respect, man, at any point in his existence, has never been separated from the kingdom in which he is destined to one day rule. Man was created to rule in the kingdom; and in his fallen state, no longer in a position to rule, he still finds himself associated with the kingdom, though under Satan’s control and dominion. Unredeemed man finds himself in the present “kingdom of the world” (called in Col. 1:13, “the power of darkness”), and redeemed man finds himself actually in “the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ,” though Christ is not yet occupying the throne (called in Col. 1: 13. “the kingdom of his dear Son”).
The “kingdom of his dear Son” in Col. 1:13 should thus not be thought of in
some spiritual sense. The
The whole act should be understood in the same framework as our being raised up together and made to sit together “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 13; 16). The key words are “in Christ.” Positionally we are in the heavenlies “in Christ,” the Second Man, the Last Adam (completely separated from Satan’s kingdom), even though actually here and now we still reside in this body of death in Satan’s kingdom. Spiritual values are involved, but these spiritual values cannot ignore a literal fact: We reside exactly where Eph. 1: 3; 2: 6 and Col. 1: 13 state that we reside, removed from “the power of darkness” and placed in “the kingdom of his dear Son.”
(Viewing matters relative to the place Christians reside in relation to “the kingdom of the world” will settle the matter once and for all as to what part, if any, a Christian should have in the political structure of the present world system. In the light of Col. 1: 13 and related Scripture, the matter can only be viewed one way: Christians involving themselves; after any fashion, on any level, in the politics of the present world system, [in the politics of world government as it presently exists] are delving into the affairs of a kingdom from which they have been delivered.)
Not only would the first part of
Col. 1: 13 necessitate that “the kingdom of his dear Son” be
looked upon as a present reference to the literal coming
Our salvation thus involves the transference from one kingdom into another, but the purpose for our salvation involves something beyond that transference. It involves the kingdom in which we now find ourselves. And the race is associated with the latter, not the former.
We are presently running to win awards, and these awards all have to do with the same thing - positions of honour and glory in “the kingdom of his dear Son” in that future day when Christ and His co-heirs ascend the throne together.
THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM
The “author and finisher of our [‘the’]
faith,” the One we are to look
unto as we look away from anything which could cause distraction, is described in Heb. 12: 2 as One Who had His eyes fixed on “the joy that was set before him” as He
bore “our sins in his own body on the tree”
(1 Peter 2: 24). Christ viewed Calvary within the framework of
that which lay beyond
The ignominious shame and
indescribable sufferings of
Following His resurrection, when Christ confronted the two disciples on the Emmaus road and other disciples later in Jerusalem, He called attention to a constant theme throughout the Old Testament Scriptures: Israel’s Messiah was going to first suffer these things [events surrounding Calvary] and then enter into His glory (Luke 24: 25-27, 44, 45).
Joseph, a type of Christ, first suffered prior to finding himself seated on Pharaoh’s throne ruling “over all the land of Egypt” (Gen. 37: 20ff; 39: 20ff; 41: 40ff). Moses, another type of Christ, first suffered rejection at the hands of his people before being accepted by them. Rejection was followed by his experiences in Midian, and acceptance was followed by the people of Israel being led out of Egypt to be established in a theocracy in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. 2: 11ff; 3: 1ff; 12: 40, 41).
Passages such as Psa. 22-24 or Isa. 53: 1ff (
Peter, James, and John on the
Mount with Christ during the time of His earthly ministry “saw his glory” (Luke 9: 32), and
Peter, years later, associated the “glory” which
they had seen at this time with “the
power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2
Peter 1: 16-18). Christ’s “glory” thus has to do with that day when He
will occupy the throne and rule the earth (as Joseph on the throne ruling
In Heb. 12: 2, the wording is slightly different. In this passage we’re told that Christ’s “sufferings” preceded “the joy [rather than ‘the glory’]” set before Him. This though, in complete keeping with Old Testament prophecy, is clearly a reference to “sufferings” preceding Christ’s “glory” and to Christ looking beyond the sufferings to the time when he would enter into His glory.
In the parable of the talents in Matt. 25: 14ff, Christ referred to individuals who would enter into positions of power and authority with Him as entering “into the joy of thy Lord” (vv. 21, 23; cf. Luke 19: 16-19). Thus, the “sufferings” and “joy” of Heb. 12: 2 follow the same order and refer to the same two things as the “sufferings” and “glory” found elsewhere in Scripture.
In keeping with the theme of Hebrews though, there’s really more to the expression, “the joy that was set before him,” than just a general foreview of Christ’s coming glory. The thought here is much more specific Note in the parable of the talents that “the joy of thy Lord” is associated with Christ’s co-heirs entering into positions on the throne with him and the key thought throughout Hebrews is that of Christ “bringing many sons unto glory” (2: 10)
This is what Christ had His eyes
fixed upon when He endured the humiliation, shame, and sufferings of
1. ENDURED THE CROSS
Note something, and note it
well. It is because of
Christ viewed the events
And being more specific, Christ,
through His work at
Christ “endured the cross,” knowing these things, with His
eyes accordingly fixed on “the joy that was set before
him”; and man today, viewing
2. DESPISED THE SHAME
Christ, “for the joy that was set before him,” not
only endured the Cross but He despised the shame. The word
“for” in this verse - “for the joy” - is a translation of the Greek
word anti, which refers to setting one thing over
against another. The “joy” was set over against the “shame.”
Christ considered the ignominious “shame”
that coming day when He and His bride would ascend the throne together so far
outweighed events of the present day that Christ considered being spat upon,
beaten, and humiliated to the point of being arrayed as a mock King things of
comparatively little consequence. He
then went to
Christian should view present persecution, humiliation, and shame after the
same fashion Christ viewed these things at
The Epistles of 1, 2 Peter have been written to encourage Christians who are being tested and tried; and this encouragement is accomplished through offering compensation for the sufferings which one endures during the present time. And this compensation - rewards having to do with [an entrance and] positions of honour and glory in the Son’s kingdom - will be exactly commensurate with present sufferings (1 Peter 1: 6, 7; 4: 12, 13; Cf. Matt. 16: 27).
(Note that the “sufferings” in 1, 2 Peter, resulting in future rewards, appear in connection with an inheritance “reserved in heaven” and a [future] salvation “ready to be revealed “in the last time,” which is “the salvation of your souls” [1 Peter 1: 4, 5, 9])
the example which Christ set at
SAT DOWN AT GOD’S RIGHT HAND
Following His death and subsequent resurrection, Christ spent forty days with His followers, presenting “many infallible proofs” concerning His resurrection and instructing them in “things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1: 3; cf. Luke 24: 25-48; 1 Cor. 15: 3-7). He was then taken up into heaven. With His arms outstretched, blessing His disciples, “a cloud,” the Shekinah Glory, received Him out of their sight (cf. Luke 24: 50, 51; Acts 1: 9; 1 Tim. 3: 16).
Then, even before the disciples had removed their eyes from that point in the heavens where Christ disappeared from their sight, two messengers who had been dispatched from heaven stood by them and said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1: 11).
Two things are certain from the words of these messengers: 1) Christ will one day return, and 2) His return will be in the same manner as His departure.
Christ ascended in a body of flesh and bones, and He will return in this same body (Zech. 12: 10; 11: 6); Christ ascended from the land of Israel, from the midst of His people, and He will return to this same land, to His people (Zech. 14: 4); Christ was blessing those in His midst at the time He was taken into heaven, and Christ will bless Israel at the time of His return (Joel 2: 23-27; cf. Gen. 14: 18, 19; Matt. 26: 26-29); Christ was “received up into glory,” and He will return “in the glory of his Father with his angels” (Matt. 16: 27; 1 Tim. 3: 16).
During the time between His ascension and His return - a period lasting approximately 2,000 years - Christ has been invited to sit at His Father’s right hand, upon His Father’s throne (Psa. 110: 1; Rev. 3: 21). Christ was told by His Father, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psa. 110:1).
The “right hand” points to the hand of power, and universal rule emanates from this throne. Though the Son occupies a position denoting power and is seated upon a throne from which universal rule emanates, the Son is not exercising power and authority after a kingly fashion with, His Father today. Rather, He is [presently] occupying the office of Priest, awaiting the day of His power as King. He is to sit on His Father’s throne until that day when the Father will cause all things to be brought in subjection to the Son. Then, and only then, will Christ leave His Father’s throne and come forth to reign upon His Own throne as the great King-Priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (Psa. 110: 2-4).
1. MY THRONE, MY FATHER’S THRONE
In Revelation, chapters two and three, there are seven messages to seven Churches, and each of the seven messages contains an overcomers’ promise. These are promises to overcoming Christians, and all seven are millennial in their scope of fulfilment. All seven will be realized during the one-thousand-year period when Christ and His co-heirs rule the earth. …
The last of the overcomers’ promises has to do with Christians one day being allowed to ascend the throne with Christ, and this forms the pinnacle toward which all the overcomers’ promises move.
“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).
The analogy in this verse has to do with Christians patterning their lives after Christ’s life, with overcoming and the throne in view. Christ overcame and is presently occupying a position with the Father on His throne, and Christians who overcome are to one day occupy a position with the Son on His throne.
Note the exact wording of the text: “to him that overcometh ... even as I also overcame ...” - A conflict ending in victory is in view first, and then the throne comes into view. The latter is not attained without the former.
Christ’s overcoming is associated with His sufferings during the time of His shame, reproach, and rejection; and Scripture makes it very clear that overcoming for Christians is to be no different. Christ has suffered for us, “leaving us an example ...” (1 Peter 2: 21). But beyond the sufferings lies the glory, as the night in the Biblical reckoning of time is always followed by the day (cf. Gen. 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).
In Revelation, chapters two and three, overcoming is with a view to the throne; and in portions of Scripture such as the Books of 1, 2 Peter, suffering is with a view to glory. Thus, overcoming is inseparably associated with suffering, as is the throne with glory,
2. A RULE WITH A ROD OF IRON
The Father has not only invited the Son to sit at His right hand, awaiting the day of His power on His Own throne, but He has told the Son certain things about that coming day, things which He has also seen fit to reveal to man in His Word. Portions of the second Psalm provide one example of this:
“Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen [Gentiles] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (vv. 8, 9).
Then a portion of these words of the Father to the Son have been repeated by the Son in His words to the Church in Thyatira, forming the fourth of the seven overcomers’ promises in Revelation, chapters two and three.
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Rev. 2: 26, 27).
For one thousand years Christ and His co-heirs are going to rule the earth with a rod of iron. They are going to rule the earth after this fashion to produce perfect order where disorder had previously existed, to produce a cosmos where a chaos had previously existed. And at the end of the thousand years, after perfect order has been restored, the kingdom will be turned back over to God the Father so that “God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15: 24-28).
Co-heirship with God’s Son, participation in the activities attendant the bride, being seated on the throne with Christ for one thousand years; ruling the earth with a rod of iron - events which will occur once, never to be repeated - await those who run the present race of the faith after a manner which will allow them to win.
This is what lies ahead for
those who, as Moses, possess a proper respect for “the recompense
of the reward.” Moses looked beyond present circumstances and, “by faith,” considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in
Christians must look away from anything
which could distract as they look unto Jesus, “the
author and finisher of our [‘the’] faith.” They must keep their eyes fixed on the goal,
looking beyond present circumstances to that which lies ahead. They must centre their attention on the “joy” which lies ahead rather than upon present “sufferings,” viewing both the “joy” and “sufferings” within
the same framework which Christ viewed them at
Runners who heed Christ’s instructions and follow the example which He has set will win. They will realize the goal of their calling.
Those though who fail to so govern their actions in the race cannot win. They can only fall by the wayside, short of the goal of their calling.
“So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Cor. 9: 24).