. . . .and this mortal must put on immortality.
A necessary transformation!
For we must all be changed!
This mortal must put on immortality!
The reason for this necessity is to be found, on the one hand, in the purpose of God that His own are to inherit the kingdom of God; and, on the other hand, in the fact that we are, in our present state, flesh and blood, and that, too, corrupt flesh and blood, in the midst of death.
And flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
Neither is it possible that corruption inherits incorruption.
That kingdom of God is the kingdom of heaven, the glorious economy of all things that is to be revealed at the coming of the Lord in all His power and glory the Father has given Him. It is the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth never away. It is the new creation, united in Christ as the head over all things, in which the tabernacle of God shall be with men. In that kingdom God shall be with us, and we shall be His people, and God shall forever be our God. He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, for the glory of that kingdom shall be so great that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with it; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things shall have completely passed away.
That kingdom is different from any state of things that ever was or is in this present world.
It is not an extension of the original economy of things in the first paradise. Even though that first kingdom was an image of the kingdom of God that was to come, and the first man Adam was an image of the last Adam, the final state of glory cannot be conceived as a further, or even as the highest possible development of that original state.
Between the alpha and the omega, between the first man Adam, who was made a living soul, and the last Adam, who was made a quickening Spirit, lies the wonder of grace, the revelation of God in Christ, the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection. And between our present state and our present world, and the kingdom of God lies the parousia, the wonder of His parousia, when the present things shall pass away, all things shall be changed, and we must be changed with them.
That first kingdom, over which the first Adam had dominion as a living soul, was “natural” the kingdom of God that is to come, over which the Son of God as a quickening Spirit shall reign forever, is “spiritual”. The former was earthy, the latter is heavenly. In the former, even the knowledge of God was mediated through an earthly revelation; in the latter, we shall see face to face. The former had its center in the heart of a living soul, the latter is centered in the heart of the risen Lord, the glorified Son of God in human nature, Immanuel, God with us. The former was lapsable, perishable, corruptible; the latter is everlasting, incorruptible: it shall stand forever. The former was only the beginning of the blessed covenant with God, its revelation on an earthly plane; the latter is the highest possible revelation of God’s fellowship of friendship with men, embracing all things, on the heavenly plane.
That kingdom the children of God must inherit.
For it is their Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom.
In that kingdom they must be able to exist and to live. They must be in a condition to possess it, to see and to hear, to taste and to touch the spiritual, heavenly things of that kingdom. They must be capable of seeing God, His face, in the face of Jesus
Christ, the risen Lord; not as, in those wonderful forty days, before His ascension into heaven, the disciples saw Him, occasionally, and as He appeared to the earthly senses; but they must see Him as He is, in the fullness of His resurrection-glory, and that, too, not occasionally, but constantly, always and everywhere. They must be able to inherit all things, in earth and in heaven, and, in fellowship even with the holy angels, to function as servants of the living God, and to serve Him day and night in His holy temple.
Hence, we must be changed.
For flesh and blood cannot inherit that kingdom.
And we are “flesh and blood.”
And let us not make the mistake to think that we became flesh and blood through our willful disobedience in the first paradise, so that “flesh and blood” is applicable only to our sinful nature, weak and in dishonor, corrupt and lying in the midst of the death. On the contrary, flesh and blood we were created. The term characterizes our earthly nature.
For the first man is of the earth earthy.
And the image of that first man we bear.
Through our body of flesh and blood we stand related to, and are, at the same time strictly limited to earthly things. In our present flesh and blood we inherit earthly things, we see, and hear, and taste, and touch, and smell the things of our present, earthly world only. We cannot perceive the things of the kingdom of God. We are bound to the earth with a thousand ties. On the earth we are dependent for our subsistence. In earthy things we rejoice. The knowledge of the things of the kingdom of God can come to those, that are children of the kingdom in principle, only by the wonder of revelation in Christ, and even then we can conceive of them only in a figure, in earthly forms, and through the means of earthly realities.
And in our present flesh and blood we are mortal.
The kingdom of God is “spiritual,” but we are “natural”, psychical, living souls.
The kingdom of God is everlasting, glorious, transcendent over death; but we are mortal.
The kingdom of God is heavenly; but we are earthy.
As we are, we cannot inherit the kingdom.
We must be changed!
This mortal must put on immortality!
Such is the transformation that is called “resurrection from the dead”!
It is a change of form, but it remains the same essence, the same nature, the same person.
Resurrection is not a new creation. It is not a calling of the things that are not as if they were, but a quickening of the dead.
The seed that is planted in the earth dies, but it is not destroyed. In dying in the earth, it does not lose its identity, nor its essence, nor even its life; it only puts off its form. After the seed has died in the earth, you cannot find it again in its original form. But while it shed its form, there was, in it, a living germ, and that living germ, through death, puts on a new form, a new body. It is transformed.
The same is true of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.
He has assumed flesh and blood from the virgin Mary, He, the eternal Son of God, the only begotten, our Lord. Hence, that incarnated Son of God, who became like unto His brethren in all things, sin excepted, is the life and the resurrection. He is the life, for He is God of God, Who alone has immortality. And He is the resurrection, because, as the Life, He can plunge Himself into the midst of death, pass through its very depth, without being swallowed up of death, even in His human nature. He is the Seed that is cast into the earth, passes through death in His human nature, in order to appear again in the glory of His resurrection.
His “flesh and blood” was not destroyed.
His resurrection did not mean that His “flesh and blood” was left to corrupt in the sepulcher of Joseph, and that now a new body was created for Him, the “spiritual” body of the resurrection. On the contrary, the same Jesus that died on the accursed tree arose on the third day. He, the risen Lord, is the same Person. His human nature is the same in essence as before His death. The grave was vacant: “come, see the place where the Lord lay.” The imprints of His suffering are still in His hands and feet: the unmistakable identification marks of the Lamb that was slain.
The same is true of the resurrection of all that are in Him.
We must be changed. This corruption must put on incorruption. This mortal must put on immortality.
Through all the process of death and resurrection, spiritual and physical, the identity of our person, the essence of our being, and the individuality of our nature remain: the form only is changed.
It is I that die, and this mortal I, through death and the resurrection, puts on immortality. Just as, in this present life, I put on many different forms, since the day I was born: the form of babyhood, of boyhood, of adolescence, of manhood, yet my person retained its identity, and I am clearly conscious of the fact that the boy that, years ago, received his first spelling lesson in school, is the same as he that now sits at the typewriter to compose this meditation; so it will be the same I that presently passes through the process of temporal death, and that will forever close his eyes upon all earthly scenes, that will experience the glory of the resurrection and open his eyes upon the eternal realities of heaven.
I live now in the midst of death, I will presently pass through death, I will put on immortality in the final resurrection.
And so, even as through all the forms my earthly being assumed and may yet assume, during the brief span of this present mortal existence, my being remained the same; so it is the same human being that; passes through death into the glory of the resurrection. The human nature, body and soul, as it was originally adapted to bear the image of God, will not be destroyed in death, neither will it be replaced in the resurrection by something essentially different: it will be preserved, and put on immortality.
And just as, through all the earthly transformations, which my nature underwent, and may still undergo, in the process of time, the individual form of my nature, by which I am distinguished from all other forms in the same human nature, remained, and will remain, so, in death, that individuality will not be destroyed; nor will it be obliterated through the resurrection: it will be transformed, glorified.
For we must all be changed, yet it is we that are changed.
Flesh and blood is only a present, mortal, corruptible form of the human nature.
It cannot inherit the kingdom of God!
This corruptible must put on incorruption!
And this mortal immortality!
O, blessed, glorious hope!
This mortal must put on immortality!
And beware, lest, you adopt the term immortality from philosophy rather than from Scripture, and thus deprive it of all the blessed glory for the denotation of which it is used exclusively in Holy Writ.
Alas! this has been, and still is, done but too frequently.
Immortality is a mystery, that is, it refers to an eternal, a spiritual, a heavenly state, of which man knows nothing of himself. It belongs to the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have ever arisen in the heart of man. We can speak of it, obtain a glimpse of its blessedness, see it afar off, only by revelation through the Spirit of Christ!
Yet, philosophy, mere man, earthly, carnal, sold under sin, walking in darkness, and lying in the midst of death, also dreams of immortality. It stands before the fearful reality of death, which encompasses our present existence on all sides, and from which there is no way out. And, not knowing the Spirit of Christ, and despising the light of revelation, it confronts the question, nonetheless, whether there be a “beyond”, an existence after death, an “hereafter”. And sometimes it has answered that question in the affirmative. It knows nothing of eternal life, nothing of the glorious resurrection, nothing of the real meaning of immortality; yet, of immortality it speaks, meaning thereby some vague, “beyond”, or ‘’hereafter”.
And, alas, the Church was tempted to adopt the term immortality from philosophy, and speak of it, as if it referred merely to continued existence after death.
Is it not in this sense that many speak of man’s “immortal soul”, in distinction from this mortal body?
And, to be sure, man, both the righteous and the wicked, shall continue to exist after death.
But this is not what Scripture means by immortality.
We are, by nature, mortal, die-able, earthly, corruptible. And this mortality concerns, not only the body, but also the soul. We have a mortal nature, a mortal body, and a mortal soul. And what is more, through sin, we also lie in the midst of death, with our entire nature, body and soul. For we have died the spiritual death, and our bodies are under the power and in the clutches of death. And this mortal nature, soul and body, passes through temporal death; the body is corrupted so that it returns to the dust, the soul is unclothed, and forever separated from all earthly contact and relations. And, apart from Christ, and from the resurrection, this mortal nature will forever pass into eternal death, both as to body and spirit.
That is the mortality of our present existence!
But immortality, according to the Scriptures, is the glory of life eternal, both as to body and soul. It is resurrection life! It is the life of the glorified Son of God in our nature, who died and was raised from the dead, and over whom death hath no more dominion. It is not merely an endless extension of our present existence, nor is it an everlasting extension of the life Adam had in the first paradise; it is life eternal, and this is life eternal, that we may know God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent; that we may dwell in His tabernacle, body and soul, enjoy His blessed friendship, taste His goodness, see Him face to face, and serve Him day and night in His holy temple! . . . .
This mortal must put on immortality!
The beginning of this glorious transformation is the moment of our regeneration. It is resurrection from the dead.
And when this regenerated believer dies the temporal death, his death is like the seed that falls into the earth: the new principle of life in Christ that is in him can never die; all that is of “this mortal” passes away!
And the perfection of it all will come in the “last moment”.
Then, whether we belong to the quick or to the dead, we shall be changed!
Death shall be swallowed in victory!
Blessed hope of immortality!