Every believer has passed from death unto Life. Every believer has this future resurrection life hid in Christ in God. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting our trespasses against us (2 Cor 5:18-19). When we come to Christ, we are reconciled to him (for he is already reconciled to us).From that moment, we have the choice to walk according to the flesh (old nature)or according to the spirit (new nature). We are headed either towards Perfection (maturity) or Perdition (loss).
This is the choice in every age:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age [the mature], even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection [maturity]; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. -Hebrews 5:12-14; 6:1-2
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition [waste/loss]; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul [psychḗ]. -Hebrews 10:38-39
The context here is believing Jews in the Acts Age, but the principle remains and is consistent in all of scripture. Not all who left Egypt entered the land (including Moses). Not all who have an inheritance in the coming kingdom will enjoy it (some will be cast into outer darkness). Not all who sought a place in the New Jerusalem will earn it. Not all who seek to obtain the prize will obtain it.
Not all hopes are available to all men of all ages, but that's another matter for another time. The CONCEPT here is in the idea of running a race. In every age, a believer is running a race. The hopes and rewards and rules may differ, but they all run. We run the race to obtain the prize (for we cannot "obtain" that which is a free gift; reconciliation and resurrection life).
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. -1 Cor 9:24
There are BETTER things available for those who persevere and suffer for the Lord.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. -Hebrews 35:35-40
Each family of God has an inheritance at stake. Again this is not the gift of life of which we speak, it is the right to the inheritance. This is the difference between a "child" and a "son" (don't trust the KJV on this point). We become children by faith, sons by right to an inheritance. A son can forfeit an inheritance. One can be a child and not the heir of an inheritance. We saw this pictured in Moses and Esau. We achieve, win, obtain, and qualify for certain hopes by both unyielding faith and our works.
The works of our hands are the "things that accompany salvation".
For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. -Hebrews 6:7-12
As we've noted in another post there are MANY sins into which a Christian may fall (which we listed). These range from gossip, to greed, to adultery, to murder. One simple sin is to become "sluggish" or "lazy." We have an inward enemy (the flesh) and outward enemy (Satan and the principalities and powers). The world system, our own old nature, and the prince and power of the air work to rob of us reward (for they cannot touch the finished work of Christ).
Instructions and Warnings for This Age
Now let's turn to the our apostle Paul's Epistle to the Philippians. Philippians is a parallel book to Hebrews. Both speak of moving on, not looking back, and striving. Whereas Hebrews addresses Jews and their history (in great detail) and the race that was set before them (and will be again), we find our instructions and hope for the current age in Philippians
Paul is again encouraging striving, never for the free gift, but for maturity in this age wherein are the crowns, rewards, and prize laid out before us. Along with the aforementioned enemies which hider us, Paul warns there are fellow believers who may hinder our race as we strive to reach forward.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction [perdition/waste], whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things...
The world has no choice but to set its mind on earthly things. In this passage, Paul is comparing his walk with the chosen walks of other believers. These are believers who have set their minds on earthly things. The key word here is EARTHLY. This is slightly different than WORLDLY things, but similar.
There are things "of the earth" which were good. The sanctuary was "of the earth." Hebrews 9 speaks of these "earthly" things which reflected other realities, but they were deficient. They had a place, and will have a place, in regard to the earth. But even in the Book of Hebrews, those there are warned not to fall back into the immaturity of these things.
It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect [mature/brought to full fruition] in regard to the conscience— concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. -Hebrews 9:9-10
Even the Jew had to understand the limited and temporary place of the ordinances of the Law (even as he practiced them). We must be even more diligent in this age not to get caught up in earthly ordinances as we have never been given these as a matter of practice. They are particular to Israel and the earthly promises (as we saw in our look at Gentiles and the Law in Israel). In the current age, Paul warns us as well about certain fellow Christians. Note in Paul's warning to Gentile believers that the outward religion (even if holy and good) is insufficient even to deal with the flesh.
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ... So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival [feast day] or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
There are earthly commands for an earthly calling to accomplish God's plan for the land and the earth. These have nothing to do with the heavenly calling. They may make us feel puffed up, but they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. It is a self-imposed, not a God-imposed religion.
Circumcision is given as an example here as in Romans. From Adam, to Abel, to Enoch, to Noah, to Abraham, ALL believed and were redeemed in uncircumcision. The circumcision has to do with the Earth/Land. It has to do with the earthly covenant. It has to do with Israel's promises. It is never commanded of anyone else. As we saw in our last study, only Gentiles in the land, under the terms of the Old Covenant, were subject to things like the Sabbath.
Adam and Eve were given ONE command in the Garden. They knew nothing of any covenants. They had no hope in any particular land or throne. This held true for 2000 years until Abraham. From Abraham through the rest of scripture until the end of the Acts Age, no Gentile is ever seen or spoken of except in context of a Jew.
Jonah (the prophet from Galilee) went to the great nation of Assyria. One Jew opens up a look at the great city of Nineveh. And in that encounter, he preaches nothing of the covenant of Exodus 19 unto them, for it has nothing to do with Nineveh. That wicked nation knew it was wicked. They need to turn from wickedness unto God, not unto the Passover or tabernacle or washings, etc. The King of Nineveh called for all to "turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands" (Jonah 3:8).
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. -Jonah 3:10
How does one, in the matter of one day, turn from not keeping the Passover or the Sabbath? These were unknown in Nineveh. They had what all men have, a conscience. They knew what their works and their ways were evil in the mind and in the flesh. As with the uncircumcised gentile in Matthew 8 (to who it was forbidden to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom), there was a way to life by faith alone.
Again, we looked at this and other examples in our previous study, so we'll leave it there.
Pulling the lens back to our look at Perfection or Perdition, if we want to qualify for the prize that is set before us, we must run the race according to the rules and in light of the inheritance before us in the age in which we live.
We turn again to the obvious and simple example of Noah. Noah's race had nothing to do with the Passover. Nothing to do with the Ten Commandments. Nothing to do with a heavenly calling. Noah obeyed the word of the Lord for his day. He was not concerned with "the promises made to the fathers" (Rom 15:8) or the other ages listed and we are not concerned with following the edicts of his age (or Adam's or Moses' or David's or of the Acts Age, or the promises made to the fathers, etc.).
We must go on to maturity by running the race of this age of a heavenly calling. This is the race which is set before us. We are not to get dragged down into the commands and practices of another inheritance for another people in another age on the earth. This may puff us up, but our end will be perdition (loss, waste).