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The Christian "race"

Query for the Month

of

April 2017

Next up-date: May 1st 2017 (God willing).

Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.

 

This article is available as a PDF file here.    Or as a WORD doc.

Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
Click here to find out!
 

Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download and share amongst your friends.   It's called "Light through Darkness" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read! 

In the meantime, try this site.   

 

Here's another great site on the character of God written in a way that's very easy to understand.

In this reply the old-fashioned words of the KJV have been modernised, and in some instances, the man-made punctuation has been altered for greater understanding.  Some of the comments are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.  All the ideas expressed in this article, right or wrong, are my own.   


Query:

    1 Corinthians 9:

24 Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but [only] one receives the prize?  So run, that you may obtain.

 When Paul refers to the Christian “race” what does he mean?  And who is going to be the winner?

 

My Response:

When Paul was led to refer to the Christian experience as a “race” he opened up a marvellous sub-section of the Bible for us. 

 We all know how the Olympic Games work and how the athletes practice for years before they compete in activities in which they strive to be the best in the world, so let’s take a deeper look at what we, as Christians, should do in our competition. 

 And right there is our first difference, our race is NOT a competition although many seem to think that it is, for they have minds which dwell on the things of earth and read their Bibles from that angle.

  The whole text is:

      1 Corinthians 9:

24 Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but [only] one receives the prize?  So run [the Christian race], that you may obtain. [What?]

 25 And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. 

Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown [of leaves]; but we an incorruptible [an unchanging what?].

 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air [shadow boxing].  27 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 a castaway. [What does that mean?]

 In the natural world the athletes line up with as many imposed handicaps as are considered necessary to theoretically bring them over the winning line all at the same time.  Then the only way to win is to make an effort which has not been seen before, and eliminate all the others.  Very seldom is the second past the post remembered!  That way it is a competition.

 But the Christian race is the opposite of that. 

 The participants do not line up together at the starting line, for the beginning of our race is when we are converted and that occurs at different times and ages for the living, and has been and gone for the dead!  Then there are those of the future who cannot even be there until after they are born.  Some have earthly handicaps and some have none!

 So, from the view of the world, it is an uneven (and sometimes unfair) race.

 But if it is not a competition, then what is it?

 As Paul said, only one can win an earthly race, but that implies that all can win the Christian one.  How can that be?  If it is not a competition then it must be a comparison race!  And that is what it is.  But not to compare the winner as men see it, but as God sees it.  And what is He looking for? 

 Some one to sit close to Him.

 The “crown” of Christianity is to share His throne:  “To him that overcomes [himself or herself and their worldly desires] 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 [His place of identification]”.  Revelation 3:21.

 

In a reference to the “race”, Matthew tells us that Christ has promised all of us a winning place in the “event” and that some of us would even humble ourselves to be able to sit on thrones with God! 

     Matthew 19:

27 Then answered Peter and said to Him, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed You; what shall we have therefore?” [What is our reward?]

 28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, That you which have followed Me, in the regeneration [the new world] when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging [leading by example] the twelve tribes of Israel.

 29 “And every one that has forsaken houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundred times, and shall inherit everlasting life.

 30 “But many that are first [now] shall be last; and the last shall be first”. [Take note of this.]

 An Old Testament prophet tells us how:

     Micah 6:

6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God?  Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? [Humble yourself and come down to His level!!]

 We have a picture of what will happen “in the regeneration” in the last book of the Bible. 

     Revelation 4:

2 And immediately I was in the spirit [in a vision]: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. 3 And He that sat [God the Father] was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone [all John could see was coloured lights]: and there was a rainbow round about [above] the throne, in sight like to an emerald [basically green].[1]

 4 And round about the throne were twenty-four seats [other thrones]: and upon the seats I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold [they were kings] . . .

 10 The twenty-four elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that lives for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “You are worthy, O LORD, to receive glory and honour and power: for You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created” . . .

 Chapter 5:

6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts [living creatures], and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had [just] been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. 7 And He came and took the Book [of Future History as recorded in chapters 6:1 – 11:19] out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.

 8 And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials [censers] full of odours [incense], which are the prayers of saints. [Revelation 8:3-4.]

 9 And they [beasts and elders] sung a new song [of their experiences], saying, “You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for You were slain [crucified], and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

 10 and have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth [made new].

 In their song they tell us that they are the ones who were resurrected at the resurrection of Jesus.  They are, and have been, in heaven since that time. 

 There are twenty-four thrones, for they are and will be filled by twelve elders from the Old Testament and twelve from the New Testament times.  I say, “will be”, for at the moment they are occupied by those of the redeemed who are closest to God right now.  Being humble persons they will give up their positions in the kingdom for the rightful owners when all is over, for the “last shall be first”.

     The Great Controversy, Page 665.

Now Christ again appears to the view of His enemies [at the Third Advent]. Far above the city, upon a foundation of burnished gold, is a throne, high and lifted up. Upon this throne sits the Son of God, and around Him are the subjects of His kingdom. The power and majesty of Christ no language can describe, no pen portray. The glory of the Eternal Father is enshrouding His Son. The brightness of His presence fills the City of God, and flows out beyond the gates, flooding the whole earth with its radiance.

 Nearest the throne are those who were once zealous in the cause of Satan, but who, plucked as brands from the burning, have followed their Saviour with deep, intense devotion. [The twenty-four elders.]

 Next are those who perfected Christian characters in the midst of falsehood and infidelity, those who honored the law of God when the Christian world declared it void, [the 144,000]

 and the millions, of all ages, who were martyred for their faith.

 And beyond is the “great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues . . . before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” Revelation 7:9.

 Their warfare is ended, their victory won.

They have run the race and reached the prize.

 The palm branch in their hands is a symbol of their triumph, the white robe an emblem of the spotless righteousness of Christ which now is theirs [permanently].

 Here we see plainly the order that is heaven.  Likeness to God is the prize and the result of it is the ability to sit near to Him and His Son and to think like they do.  That’s why it cannot be given until the end of the controversy and all the positions in the race are seen at that one time.  But we are told;

     Hebrews 12:

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the [Christian] race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him [of the many to be redeemed] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 3 For consider Him that endured such contradiction [opposition] of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.

 4 You have not yet resisted to blood, striving against [the temptation to] sin [as He did]. 

In these texts the Holy Spirit led Paul to compare the sporting events of the times (the Olympics etc.), and apply their conditions to the Christian “race”.  There is great preparation made for these events and this normally covers the whole life-style.  The runners put aside every indulgence they think will affect or weaken their physical state and train much harder that they expect the actual race to be.  And that applies to us too:  “Every man [or woman] that strives for the mastery,” he declared, “is temperate in all things”. 1 Corinthians 9:25.  

 Reason (under the guidance of the Spirit) becomes the coach.

 In the games each athlete puts forward greater effort as the winning post draws near, and so should we. “They do it,” Paul declares, “to obtain a corruptible crown [of leaves]; but we an incorruptible [one of people who have accepted salvation though our example]”.  Ibid.  How much more careful should be our striving, how much more willing our sacrifice and self-denial! 

 In the letter to the Hebrew Christians is pointed out the single-hearted purpose that should characterize the Christian's “race” for a better eternal Life. (The Life itself is a gift from our Father, but the character of the Life is ours to determine.  We are to be “kings” by gift, not by effort, but we can choose to be good kings or bad ones.)

 The blessing of heaven cannot attend any man or woman who is violating the eternal principles of right, which is why Jesus says, that we must “cut off” anything might cause us to stumble. 

 He is not here advocating self-surgery, but that we come to our heavenly “Surgeon” and ask Him to do that for us.

 “Know you not,” Paul asked, “that they which run in a race run all, but [only] one receives the prize?”  1 Corinthians 9:24.  Only one can win an earthly prize, but it is not so in the heavenly stakes.  Such is not the case in the Christian warfare against self.  Not one who complies with the conditions will be disappointed at the end of the race.  Not one who is earnest and persevering will fail of success.  The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. 

 All may win who, through the power of divine grace, bring their lives into conformity to the will of Christ, for this establishes their position in the kingdom of heaven. 

 The practice of the principles laid down in God's word in the details of life is too often looked upon as unimportant — a matter too trivial to demand our attention.  But in view of the issues at stake, nothing is small that will help or hinder.  Every act casts its weight into the scale that determines the Life's position in heaven.  And the reward given to those who win will be in proportion to the energy and earnestness with which they have striven.

 The words, “I keep under my body” (1 Corinthians 9:27), literally mean to beat back by severe discipline the desires, impulses, and passions.  Not in our own strength, no indeed, but in the strength and power of He “who is mighty to save”.  Isaiah 63:1.  Discipline is actually our determinedness to seek help, for that will govern our position in the “race” in the end.

     Early Writings, Pages 16-17

Then Jesus’ silver trumpet sounded, as He descended [to the earth at the Second Coming] on the cloud, wrapped in flames of fire. He gazed on the graves of the sleeping saints, then raised His eyes and hands to heaven, and cried, “Awake! awake! awake!  you that sleep in the dust, and arise.”  [Consider Job 7:21.] Then there was a mighty earthquake.

 The graves opened, and the dead came up clothed with immortality. The 144,000 shouted, “Alleluia!” as they recognized their friends who had been torn from them by death, and in the same moment we were changed and caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.

 We all entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending to the sea of glass  [Revelation 15:2], when Jesus brought the crowns, and with His own right hand placed them on our heads. He gave us harps of gold and palms of victory.

 Here on the sea of glass the 144,000 stood in a perfect square.

 Some of them had very bright crowns, others not so bright. Some crowns appeared heavy with stars, while others had but few. All were perfectly satisfied with their crowns [for they illustrated their help for others].

 And they were all clothed with a glorious white mantle from their shoulders to their feet. Angels were all about us as we marched over the sea of glass to the gate of the city [which one?  Ezekiel 48:31]. Jesus raised His mighty, glorious arm, laid hold of the pearly gate, swung it back on its glittering hinges, and said to us, “You have washed your robes in My blood, stood stiffly for My truth, enter in.” We all marched in and felt that we had a perfect right in the city.

 Thus to “strive” to be one of the 144,000 (or indeed in any position in heaven) is to “strive” to be come like God, “meek and lowly”.  It is the opposite of the earthly desire, which is to be the most important.  The normal diagram of the kingdom which shows God on top with Christ next in line, followed underneath by the angels, and then the other creatures including humans, is actually the opposite of the truth.  God and Christ are really on the bottom of the diagram holding everything up.  Those who have learned to help Them the most are just above Him, and those who are being served are on the top.

 Thus it is written:

        Matthew 23:

Neither be you called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is great among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exaltedWhat about the reward?   “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward”. 2 John 1:8.

 To be a castaway means to reject the salvation of the LORD and cast yourself adrift, and so Paul was warning his readers that this was a possibility!

    Hebrews 6:

1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of

 repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands,

and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

3 And this will we do, if God permit.

 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

5 and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 if they shall fall away, [it is impossible] to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh [personally], and put Him to an open shame.

 And Peter adds:

    2 Peter 2:

20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.

 22 But it is happened to them according to the true proverb, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire”.

 

Conclusion:

Our position in the Christian “race” is determined by the progress we make in coming close to God after our conversion  [as we are sanctified`], and the “race” is brought about by the fact that from that moment on we are subject to many diversions between temptations and mistakes, and are killing ourselves off by our living habits. 

 So the race is to decide where in the scheme of things we belong when we die.

 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.

 

Next query. To be discussed from May 1st 2017.

 

Revelation 1:7:

Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.  Even so, Amen. 

 What does “they also which pierced Him” mean?

 

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[1] Jasper stones came in various colours, while sardine stones (from Sardius) were blood-red, like our red carnelian.

 

 


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