JESUS’ ILLUSTRATION OF MAN’S ETERNAL NATURE

“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46).

Where do men go immediately after they die?  Solomon declares: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).  Jesus informed us of what happened to the rich man and Lazarus immediately after they died (Luke 16:19-31).  “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23).  The word translated “hell” is the Greek word ‘hades,’ which is literally “unseen.”  The rich man woke up in the ‘unseen’ world.  This account of Lazarus and the rich man is not just a parable.  He mentions ‘certain’ people and names one of them.   Individuals are not named in parables.  Even if someone insists that it is a parable, parables are not fairy tales.  They are true to life.  This event actually happened.

The rich man’s mind and heart went with him to torment.  The rich man’s body is buried in the earth, but the rich man himself, woke up in torments (Luke 16:23).  When he arrived in torment the rich man had another ‘body,’ or something that could see (Abraham and Lazarus), speak (so as to relate with Abraham), and feel pain (of the flames around him).  It is plain that the rich man had the identical memory that he had when he was on earth.  He clearly remembered Lazarus, his brothers, and his past life (Luke 16:23-28).  This is part of his eternal nature. He had the same heart toward Lazarus after he arrived in torment that he had when he was still in this world.  On earth, the rich man had no compassion in his heart for Lazarus at all.  The most Lazarus received were crumbs from the rich man.  He received no compassion in the form of medical help from the rich man.  Dogs were kind enough to lick his sores but the rich man would not help him.  We see his heart in torment, when “. . . he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame (Luke 16:24).  He showed the same flagrant disregard for Lazarus’ well-being.  He expected to use him as a slave by directing Abraham to send him into the flames – to give him water.  He further expected Lazarus to suffer more by returning to earth in order to warn his brothers.  He continued to love his brothers so much that he would rather have them not to be with him forever if they could enter paradise (Luke 16:27, 28).

While he was on earth he did not respond to the Lord’s encouragement to be good.  There is no indication he will have an opportunity to change his heart in torment.  In fact, Jesus testifies that on judgment day at least some of these souls in torment will still not understand what they have done wrong that caused them to be in torment.  Jesus testified that: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt. 7:22).  They will argue that they were serving him with his authority, when in fact Jesus never knew them (Matt. 7:21-23).  Thus Jesus described man’s mind, heart and soul – his real eternal nature – after he leaves this earthly form.

God uses the earth to form man’s heart and mind.  This is his concern.  This is where his purpose or goal for man is centered.  There is no indication that God is forming hearts in the next world.   The mind and heart leave this earth and enter the unseen world.

What is the rich man’s heart like today?  There is no indication he is any different now than he was 2,000 years ago when he entered torment.  “Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).  That is a present tense verb.  There is no indication the minds and hearts of the men who had lived in Sodom are any different now than they were on earth.  Fifteen hundred years after Moses died on Mount Nebo, he returned to speak with Christ on the mount of transfiguration.  Which Moses spoke with Christ?  We know it was not the child in the bull rushes.  It was not the Moses who killed a man when he was 40 years old; nor was it the the most humble man in the world whom God called to lead his people out of Egypt at 80 years old (Num. 12:1).  The marvelously humble 120 year old Moses who had wrestled faithfully and almost flawlessly with a rebellious and disobedient people for 40 years in a wilderness is the being who spoke to Jesus on the mountain (Heb. 5:1-5).  The point is this.  We arrive on the earth as babies whose hearts and minds know very little.  By the time we die, our hearts are very solidly formed.  God uses this earth to form hearts.  This is an integral part of God’s eternal plan.  His plan is described in more detail in what has been called the Great Commission.

PART 2: MAN’S ETERNAL NATURE IN GOD’S PLAN

Man’s Dual Nature in God’s Eternal Purpose

Similarly, God’s aim, purpose and goal for our race is based in a being who is eternal in nature.  Man himself has both the eternal nature and the temporary nature.

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  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. 4:16-18).

Man has an inner nature and outer nature.  His outer nature is temporary.  His inner unseen nature is eternal.  The Pharisees were blind to the eternal inner nature of man.  No doubt they knew the inner man existed, but they were blind to its eternal importance.  Jesus rebuked them for their blindness saying: “Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?” (Luke 11:40).  They had made their outward man, their actions, righteous.  Inside they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity.  Jesus told them that they (like some today) had it backwards.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.  Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Matt. 23:24-28).

Man’s Eternal Nature

God’s plan for man is centered in the greatest command: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:36-38).  Man’s inner nature is comprised of at least three separate parts: a heart, a soul and a mind. They are unseen and thus eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).  What is the heart of man?  How does the mind of man differ from his heart?  Some do not discern the difference between the heart and the mind.  The Lord’s command is not redundant; he does not command us to love him with all of the heart, the heart and the heart.  They are three distinct parts of man’s unseen nature. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit…”  (Heb. 4:12).  The New Testament scriptures can discern the different parts of the inner nature of man (1 Cor. 14:24, 25).

Because the Pharisees were spiritually blind they did not value the spiritual things which God wants us to have in our spiritual mind and heart.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Matt. 23:23).

The Pharisees could see the value of material things, but they could not see the value of spiritual things of the spiritual heart.

Many powers can, and do abide inside the spiritual heart.  The Lord calls it the treasure of the heart – evil and good (Matt. 12:35).  It is from the abundance of what is inside of the spiritual heart that our mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34).  Faith abides inside the spiritual heart.   “For with the heart man believeth…” (Rom. 10:9). The capacity to understand is the heart. Jesus said that he spoke in parables “. . . lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matt. 13:15).  Many evil powers can abide in the heart, like “. . . evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).  The heart of man is truly an eternal reality.  These evil works listed here come from what abides in the heart.  Though what is in the heart may not manifest itself at all times, it remains in the heart and does manifest itself in our actions in the different situations.   If we put these evil things to death (Col. 3:5) they will be permanently removed from the heart.  If we put on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering,” etc. our hearts will be filled with the eternal good ways of God (Col. 3:12).  “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).  We do this by putting off the evil things out of our hearts (Col. 3:8).  How many today, like the Pharisees, can not see the power of the heart?

WHAT IF I DIE BEFORE I WIN THE RACE?

The thought of running a race to win the crown is discouraging to some.  One of the most faithful congregations in the New Testament were commanded to “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).  These Phillipians had been delivered from the power of darkness (Col 1:13) and from their past sins (Ac 22:16), but they were still given this command.  If they already had the guarantee of their salvation, why would the Lord have told them to work it out with fear and trembling?  The Lord commanded the early Christians to “…pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” (1 Pe 1:17).  Pressing toward the mark requires a strong motive.  In this case, our Lord provides fear.  Did Paul not have that mind of fear?  He said: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be acastaway” (1 Cor 9:27).  But what if we die before we reach the goal?  The Thessalonians no doubt wondered the same thing.  The Lord wrote through Paul to allay their doubts.

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1Thes 4:13-18)

The Lord describes his children as being “in Christ,” while all those who are lost are “without Christ.”  Those outside of Christ are “. . . aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).  However, all those who are in Christ have hope (Eph 2:13). The Thessalonians were apparently sorrowing as those who had no hope.  They were not to sorrow like that.  The Thessalonians were in Christ.  They had hope.  It is unlikely that these brethren had finished the race.  They had been converted on Paul’s second missionary journey only three years or less before.  They still had hope.  It took Paul about 30 years after his conversion to state that he had finished the course.  About six years before Paul died he said:

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: 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. (Phil 3:11-14)

Paul nor the Philippians had finished the race when he wrote this letter, but in the same letter he was confident that “…the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).  He fully trusted God to watch over him as he ran.  The Corinthians were converted a few months or even weeks after the Thessalonians on the same journey.  They had not finished the race and told to run to win (1 Cor 9:24-26).  Peter wrote to brethren who were still babes (1 Pe 2:2) but he told them: “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Pet 4:19).  The Thessalonians who had died had hope even though they had not finished the race.

Why was the one talent man an unfaithful steward?  “Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:  And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine” (Mt 25:24,25). He feared that he would not be able to fulfill his master’s command and so he refused to try.  He went and hid his talent.  How are we different if we fear that we will not finish the race and so refuse to obey the command of God to run?  We must be found running faithfully when we die, even if we are taken out of the race before we finish it.  To those running the race faithfully, he says: “. . . sorrow not, even as others which have no hope there is no need to sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thes 4:13).  (If we refuse to run according to the command of God, we need to sorrow like the others in the world who refuse to obey him.) He says “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Pe 4:19).  He says “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (He 13:5) as long as we do not deny him (2 Tim 2:12).  He says “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:” (Heb 12:25).  Those who claim that the race is mere figurative language with no real race to run, ignore the fact that God has commanded us to run the race he has set before us (He 12:1-3).  There is no difference between running the race with patience and running in Jesus’ steps. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1Pe 2:21).  He ran that race ahead of us (Heb 12:2). We can not be faithful to God and reject his command to run the race because of our unbelief, doubts and fears.

Some claim that hope and promise are the same thing.  Thus, if they had hope of eternal life, they had the promise of eternal life.  This definition is false.  We all know that we must endure to the end to be saved (Mt 10;22, Jas 1:12).  Laodicea had the same promises and hope that we have, but they did not endure to the end and were going to be spewed out of Jesus’ mouth.  He wants us to abound in hope (Ro 15:13), which tells us that there are degrees of hope just as there are degrees of love.

GOD HAS SET THE RACE BEFORE US

“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” (Heb. 12:1)

God sets his race course before every soul he receives and commands us to run that race with patience.  This may be a new thought to some.  It may seem like one of God’s non-essential commands (if there were such an entity).  The doubter may ask: Why should we run a race when we already have the crown of  eternal life?  This concept is not biblical. The Lord says, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor. 9:24-25).

These are words that will judge us on the last great day!  Some simply ignore what does not sound pleasant.  That is a very dangerous attitude.  It would behoove us to know and to love all of God’s truth, the words that will eternally judge us.

The Corinthians Did Not Have the Crown

The Corinthians had been in the body of Christ for about ten years when this scripture was written.  They did not have the crown at this point.  He told the Corinthians that they were to run like there was only one runner who would win (1 Cor. 9:24).  The prize is the incorruptible crown.  Paul testifies that he himself did not have the crown at this time.   He also was running to obtain the incorruptible crown.  “…Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptibleI therefore so run, not as uncertainly…” (1 Cor. 9:25-26).  The point here is that neither the Corinthians nor Paul had the crown.  They were required to run swiftly so they could win the prize.  Faithful New Testament Christians will listen wisely and carefully to their Lord’s direction.

Can We Earn the Crown?

Some insist that either eternal life is free or we have to earn it.  Neither of these doctrines are found in the scriptures.  The Lord gives us his pathwayWe can not earn eternal life.  We all know this truth (Rom. 4:4).  Similarly, if salvation were absolutely free then everyone would have it.  Who would refuse it?  Ah, but we are told that: ‘Only those who are willing to receive it, will receive the free gift.’  Sadly enough, this doctrine is highly contradictory.  We are told that ‘there is absolutely nothing you can do to get salvation.’  Immediately on the heels of that statement, they further clarify – there is something everyone who receives it must do!  He must be willing to receive it.  It may be something intellectual that he must do, but who is going to do it for him?  Teaching us that there is nothing you can do to receive salvation and then tell what each one must do to receive it is blindness and folly.  All of the personal illustrations about receiving a gift, etc. do not negate the fact.  Each person must make his own decision. It is something that each must do.  The doctrine that there is ‘nothing that we can do’ in our salvation is false.  The Lord informs us of what we must do to attain the crown.  “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (2 Tim. 2:5).  It is a fact.  We would be wise to listen to all of the rules in order to be able to comply so that God will give us the crown of life.

The Lord describes his pathway as a race.  We know that the crown is neither earned nor given without any effort at all.  The prize must be won.  The prize is not in direct proportion to the effort expended.  The Lord’s scriptures teach us that we can win the crown.

The language of the Christian race is found throughout the New Testament.  It is taught as a part of the first principles of the gospel.  The Galatians were running that race (Gal. 5:7).  The Corinthians were commanded to run as described above. Paul was running that race (Gal. 2:2), and was seeking to win the incorruptible crown (1 Cor. 9:26).  He finished the race several months before he died (2 Tim. 4:7,8).  Some imagine that everyone naturally finishes the race when they die.  That principle or rule has not been true for any fight or race.  Death does not cause anyone to win a crown.  If death were the finish line Paul would not have said “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7,8) several months before he died.  No, death can not be the finish line.  The brethren in Smyrna were encouraged to press on until they were killed so they could win the crown (Rev. 2:10).  The Philadelphians had already won the crown and were warned: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Rev. 3:11).  They had not died but they, like Paul several months before he died, had finished the course.  Timothy was charged to remind the faithful brethren in Ephesus that: “…if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” (2 Tim. 2:5).  The brethren scattered abroad were encouraged to remember that only those who endure to finish the trials and overcome will receive the crown (James 1:12).  The early Christians thought in terms of running to win. We are commanded to “be thus minded” also (Phil. 3:14, 15).  Are we obeying that command?  Under what guise can faithful children of God ignore this command?  We need to obey.  We should faithfully seek to understand and run this race that God has set before us.  We should further determine to run it with patience.  The promise of the crown of life is to those who arrive at the finish line. This is not earning the crown; it is obeying the command to win it.

PART 1: GOD’S ETERNAL PLAN

Our Father has an eternal plan for his children.  An overall picture of that plan will help us to better understand.  (1) God created this world with his own purpose in mind (Eph. 1:5-11). It belongs to him and he is fulfilling his own purpose for making man.  (2) he has revealed his complete purpose to man in the scriptures.  (3) the great commission gives an overview of this purpose.  (4) He shows us a pathway that will fulfill his purpose.  (5) he shows us the entrance to the pathway.  (6) he reveals the specific steps of the pathway that lead to the goal, his ultimate purpose for man (1 Pet. 2:21). God has a right to make the rules for man to live by because He is the creator and thus total owner and says: “the world is mine, and the fulness thereof of the world and everything in it”  (Psa. 50:12). Contrary to popular thought, he did not create this world simply so that man could enjoy it.  Man’s plans are temporary, but God has a marvelous eternal plan for his creation.

Addendum:

God has never said that the gospel is simple.  The closest we can come to a ‘simple’ gospel is in 2 Corinthians 11:3.  The word ‘simplicity’ is literally singleness (not folded), which is ‘sincerity.’  There are first principles in the gospel for babies (Heb. 5:11-14) but there are second principles of the gospel which are not easy to be understood (2 Pet. 3:15,16).  God hid this wisdom of the gospel from the foundation of the world so that no prophet or anyone else ever imagined what it is (2 Cor. 2:6-11).  He tells plainly that he revealed these things in wisdom.  God’s wisdom is not simple.  Paul preached the gospel in all wisdom (Col. 2:28).  The gospel makes disciples (Matt. 28:19), baptizes those who have been made disciples, and then teaches them all Jesus taught them – the complete truth (John 16:13).  This is not simple.