I do not ask the question posed in this blog title to be sarcastic or mocking. I truly mean it as a legitimate question. If we, as the Body of Christ, do not rightly understand the process we can be in serious jeopardy of missing out on our inheritance in Heaven because we did not achieve the fullness of our salvation experience. I know that is a controversial statement to many Christians, but allow me to amplify what I am trying to say...
Those words .... justification, sanctification, and glorification .... are biblical doctrines that are important to our understanding of God's plan of redemption for man. But I would hazard a guess that if you asked Christians to explain their significance, only a handful would be able to give us a concise definition. And how many would truly understand how these doctrines are manifested in a believer's journey? I will be honest and tell you that for the longest time when I was a new Christian, I never heard anyone in my church adequately explain these terms. They got preached in sermons, and Sunday School teachers certainly used them a lot, but usually in the accepted abbreviated definitions: God sees me "just as if" I'd never sinned (justification); I am "set apart for a purpose" unto God (sanctification); and "Giving honor and praise to God" and "the final removal of our sin at the Rapture" (glorification). But none of it told me about the process of how I was to live my life once I "got saved".
The entirety of the Bible, from Exodus to Revelation, presents us with many examples of these important principles of our faith. But do we see them as the ingredients, if you will, that result in the fullness of our salvation, which is the intention of their existence? I believe God wants us to see the "big picture" of who He is, who we are meant to be, and the journey this life must take us on to achieve what was written in our Book of Life from the foundation of the world.
If I may, I'd like to try to begin expanding our understanding of these fundamental concepts by giving you an illustration of them, and then I'll build on that. Before we can be justified, we must answer the call of God on our life. So, for example, in the Old Testament, the 12 tribes of Israel had continuously rebelled against their God and their sins culminated in bondage and slavery. We can see justification as the calling of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, the coming under the blood of the Passover lamb, and passing through the Red Sea [as a type of baptism]. This transaction between God and the nation of Israel resulted because Israel trusted God to deliver them into the Promised Land. Their agreement to trust and follow YHWH made them acceptable in His sight. We, in the New Covenant, engage in a spiritual transaction where God declares that those who trust in Christ and what He has done for them on the Cross are counted as acceptable before Him.
Glorification would be the picture of the Israelites finally passing through the Jordan River and Moses receiving the instruction to allot the land to the tribes as their inheritance. "And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it to you for a heritage: I am the Lord" (Exodus 6:8). They received the promise that God pledged to them. Our glorification will be realized when we receive our inheritance in the Millennial Kingdom; after finishing our life on earth, we will stand before the Lord and receive our rewards for how we represented Him, and what we did in His Name; all during our sanctification journey and the process of our salvation.
And that brings me to the heart of of this blog. I think it is very crucial that we understand the part sanctification plays between justification and our ultimate glorification. Think of it this way: Israel did not immediately go into the Promised Land and receive their inheritance after escaping slavery and crossing the Red Sea. It took them 40 long years of being coached and disciplined by God, with a lot of episodes of back-sliding. The concept of sanctification unto salvation did not exist in the Old Testament as it does in our New Testament covenant. Yes, Israel was, and still is, God's Chosen people; called to lead the rest of the world to Him. But God did not send the Holy Spirit to live in them so that they could be convicted of their sin and be forgiven for eternity. Instead, their experiences are left to us as a record in the Bible, so that we might understand the purpose of God, be humbled to learn from their mistakes, and come to understand the need for Jesus to come as the Son of God, to offer permanent salvation by His blood, not the blood of animal sacrifices. NOTE: Please understand that there will be a remnant of that ancient Israel, gathered from the four corners of the earth in these End Times, who will be the ones to declare praise and honor and glory for YHWH to the world. They will be justified, sanctified, and glorified; receiving their eternal inheritance in the Millennial Kingdom! Praise, Jesus!
Here is what I want to present to you for your consideration: There is a lot that needs to happen between that time we profess faith in Jesus as our Savior, and we die and go to Heaven. Yes, we are pronounced "Saved", but can you discern that Salvation is not a "one and done"? Salvation is a journey and a destination. There is a process that is meant to yield a fullness in our salvation experience. It begins with answering the call on your life, and professing with your mouth that Jesus is your Savior. That's the first step in your salvation process. Then we receive the Holy Spirit and the sanctification process begins -- we are now to look different from the world; and that involves us setting ourselves apart by learning what God desires of us in order to see His will done in our lives, and on the earth. So, that means discerning His Truth -- not the world's, and not our own. To do that we must earnestly study HIM, and that comes from studying His Word. We must all begin our walk of growing into the image of God in order to correctly discern what He desires of us.
Remember, the Israelites spent 40 years on their walk of trying to be what God wanted them to be. For me, I believe the process of my sanctified walk will continue until I am face-to-face with Jesus. Each of our walks will look different as Jesus and Holy Spirit guide us. Some will back-slide like the Israelites, but regain their path. Others will grasp God's Truth and see His plan for their lives quicker and with more clarity than I do. But as long as we stay committed and obedient to doing God's will, we will cross the finish line at our appointed time.
We should all endeavor to be like the Wise Virgins in the Parable, keeping filled with the Holy Spirit and being prepared for Jesus's return at any moment. It was the Wise Virgins who got to experience the fullness of their sanctification-to-salvation journey and enter the Wedding Feast. It's not that the Foolish Virgins weren't saved. They were part of the wedding party, invited to enjoy all of the festivities, but they missed out on the full experience of partying with the Bridegroom and His bride. They were at the wedding [as Saved guests], but there was more to experience and they did not receive the fullness of all that their salvation journey afforded them.
So, what is required of us to receive this "fullness" that I keep emphasizing? It is really simple. In the Bible, Jesus says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of Truth" (John 14:15-16). Every commandment written in the Bible is meant for us to obey. If we choose to obey only the ones that are easy, or the ones that suit our personality, or the ones our Church tells us are "the really important ones", then Jesus won't ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to guide us and show us the Truth of those commandments we chose to ignore. We won't understand the command and will miss out on valuable Truth. Our walk will suffer. We are still "born again" and "Saved", but it will be more difficult to look like Jesus, who obeyed every commandment of His Father. We will still be part of God's Family and enter the Kingdom at Jesus's return. But our walk of sanctification will determine our standing in the Kingdom, as we move from sanctification to glorification. That is the substance of what sanctification is all about.
Every Christian should be aware that when Jesus returns, He is bringing rewards with Him. And our chances of receiving rewards depends on our walk during the sanctification process. Did we grow and mature into the image of Christ? Were we willing to die unto self in order to live in Him? Were we willing to give up everything in this world [including earthly possessions and relationships] to gain everything in the next world? You know those verses about "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"? They don't always mean "hell". That will be the state of those who stand before Jesus and realize they lost rewards in the Millennial Kingdom because they could have done more in their sanctification walk. There will be disappointment that others are given roles of authority to rule and reign with Christ. Who won't want to be part of the saints who are closest to the Lord?
However, it's not just our inheritance that depends on our walk of sanctification. As we end that journey, we enter into the full magnitude of our salvation experience; our glorification as we are resurrected into a new immortal body. We will stand together, praising and worshiping our Great God, in bodies that look like Jesus's glorified body. Our glorification, in turn, glorifies Elohim! How much we reflect the righteousness of Christ in our physical lives will be in direct proportion to the level of glory and inheritance we receive in the Kingdom -- and it is all the result of our sanctification process as we reach towards the fullness of our salvation experience. That is our hope of eternal glory, and a goal that every Christian should be working towards.
Yes, I said "work towards". And, yes, Salvation is not earned, but our faith in the justification, sanctification, and glorification precepts of Salvation [which result in inheritance, rewards, and greater measures of glory] depend on the work we do for the Kingdom while in this life. It is at that point that we will truly realize the fullness of all that our Salvation provides us. It is almost more than I can imagine or hope for! What opportunities are afforded to us as children of God!
Ephesians 3:19 ... and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].