The Reward of His Sacrifice
The Book of Revelation
Last week we began a discussion about the bride of Christ as distinguished from those invited to the wedding feast.
Paul also wrote near the end of his life that even after all that he had accomplished, he did not think he had yet attained. Obviously he was not talking about salvation, or eternal life, which he attained the day he believed in the atonement of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
However, Paul saw a calling so high that at that stage of his life he still sought it with such single-mindedness that he said, “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching for what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (see Philippians 3:13-14).
This subject deserves a book, but we can only address it in a cursory way in this study.
It is apparent that the “end of the times of the Gentiles” marks the end of this calling, when the bride is complete and this high calling is closed. Because it seems that we are in this time between the sounding of the sixth and seventh angels, we have no time to waste in running this race.
This is by far the most important event at the end of the age. When this race has been concluded, we can expect the end of the age to be wrapped up quickly.
An important factor in understanding the bride of Christ is that it includes those who have attained from the first disciples on.
Every generation had those who perceived this calling and gave their lives to running the race to attain it. Some believe that the bride is the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation. There are other indications in Scripture that indicates a specific number needed to complete the bride, so this is certainly feasible. When we perceive the qualifications for attaining this high calling, even this seems to be a very high number.
Many believe that it is the bride who sits on the throne with the Lord in Revelation 3. This is in contrast to the “great company” that cannot be numbered that stands before the throne in Revelation 7. This is certainly reasonable.
I was introduced to this truth of the high calling as a young believer, and I have given myself to understanding it. As much as I have learned about the high calling, I am sure there is far more to know about it. It is certainly one of the most compelling subjects to study.
Scripture is clear that there is this high calling; however, few specifics are given about. It seems that specifics are not needed for those running the race. What is obvious is that this is the highest calling in creation and maybe for eternity. Those who just get a glimpse of this high calling are likely to give all that they have to attain this prize.
Why wouldn’t the great Apostle Paul think that he had attained? Certainly he is one of the greatest examples of one who gave all for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It may be that Paul attained this, but his not knowing and continuing to press on is an example of what it takes to run the race to win. The great runners in history do not run for the finish line, but to a mark well past it. Likewise, no one running this race is prone to retire or let up at the end of his or her life. We may have to slow down physically, but that only gives us an opportunity to focus even more spiritually.
It seems that knowing whether we have attained to this high calling is not possible in this life or even necessary. Those who have attained such a high calling would not want to slow down just because they have attained, but they would press on for the sake of Christ and others.
Perhaps this is why those who claim to have attained, or are the manifested sons of God or other such things, come across as pitiful and shallow, full of presumption and self-seeking—characteristics contrary to Christ and the life of the cross that His true disciples live. By the time we have the spiritual stature to have attained this high calling, our attention would not be on ourselves enough to be preoccupied with our position or reward. Rather, we would be consumed with seeing our Savior receive the reward of His sacrifice.
That there are positions to be attained, and higher rewards for eternity, is certainly one thing that should compel any who have eternity in their heart. We are also likely to start out selfishly in pursuit of these, and even arrogant about how much more we do than others. Even so, these traits of the immature will not last long with any who are truly on this path.
It is the path of the cross, of sacrifice, of not living our lives for ourselves, but for Him.