The Prize of the Call Above












[PART 1]



The third chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians contains teaching of the most profound moment regarding the resurrection of believers.  It is doubtful if its full significance has come to any of us, for some elements are not easily understood in view of the Apostle’s declarations elsewhere.  Not understood at all, we think, save as we bear in mind the time when the Epistle was written, the dispensational break at Acts 28: 25-28, and the special revelations given to Paul concerning the church of this age.



Our readers are familiar with the chapter, which opens by recounting the things which to Paul were “gains,” and which he “counted loss for Christ  Advancing, he counted all things but refuse, “that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith  The same [imputed] righteousness which he had long before announced in Rom. 1: 17, &c.  Rising further - “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming conformed to His death (cf. Rom. 6: 5); if by any means I may attain to the resurrection out from the dead ones.” (Greek)



We need not say that this resurrection from the dead is other than the resurrection of the dead.  The latter doctrine was well-known to the Jews, who themselves had the hope of this [general] resurrection (Acts 24: 15); it was the resurrection from the dead which offended them (Acts 4: 2) and especially because it was “Proclaimed in [and by] Jesus* In Dan. 12: 2 we have the distinct promise of a resurrection, that one of the just and unjust, to which the Apostle [John] referred.**


[* “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced though one out of dead should rise” (Luke 16: 31. See Greek).  And again: “He [Jesus] commanded them [Peter, James and John] that they should relate to no one what they saw [on the Mount of Transfiguration], except when the Son of man out of dead ones should be raised.  And they kept the word to themselves, arguing, what is that out of dead ones to be raised” (Mark 9: 9, 10, see Greek text,).  This appears to be the first time the three heard the Lord speak about a select resurrection of one Person only - even the resurrection of our Lord Himself, - “three days and three nights” after His death.


** See Rev. 20: 13, 15, - “… death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them … And if anyone was not found written on the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire]



Paul continues – “Not that I have already obtained or am already made perfect, but I press on” (notice the strong word dioko, used in many passages to express (“persecute”), “if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended that for which I was apprehended by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended  The word apprehended is the Greek katalambano, and in this connection its other occurrences are worthy of study.



The Apostle now goes on to the climax, “But one thing, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on” (again “dioko”) “toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus  Literally, of the above, or upward (ano) call of God.  The word ano, an adverb of place, has reference not to the exalted nature of the believer’s calling (that is a “heavenly,” a “holy calling”), but to the place to which God shall summon him, or from which the call comes (as Syriac).  The primary sense of klesis is a call, a summons, a citation.



It may be said that there is nothing in Paul’s words as quoted to hinder the view that this “prize” which he so earnestly desired was a special reward to himself personally, but the words which follow, as well as what he wrote to Timothy, indicate that all believers have the same “prize” before them.  For he adds, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded,” which is inclusive in its terms.  The succeeding words are most remarkable, “and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you  What is “this,” which God would reveal to him?



The “prize” and the “call above” are one, kleseos being in the Genitive of Apposition.  This “prize” must be something other than life eternal, which is a free gift, and for which no pressing on or striving after was needed by the devoted Apostle.  We have seen that it seems to be set before as many as be perfect, and thus is the special exanastasis, the out-resurrection from among the dead, to be realized by the church of this age, the earlier resurrection of the elect of Eph. 1: 3-14, &c.  It is a call from above, or a call upwards, to which Paul pressed on.  And thus the teaching is confirmed that the church now, occupying an interval, is not to be found in the book of Revelation, being called upwards before the unveiling (Revelation) of the Lord Jesus Christ.



In John 5: 29, universality is apparent, and in John 6: 39, 40, 44, all believers are referred to.  “Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11: 24).  Writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15: 50, and on), Paul told them “a mystery” something which had then previously been revealed; “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment,” &c.  There is no trace of any of these passages of any pressing on unto a “prize,” unto a “call above  The universality of the change (1 Cor. 15: 51) upon all believers is manifest; there is nothing of earnest desire, “if my any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead  The difference calls for attention from us who have the full Record before us.  Earlier yet, in one of the first written Epistles, and prior to the revelation made to the Apostle respecting the Church which is His body universality [at the end of the Great Tribulation (“we that are alive, that are left”)] is implied (1 Thess. 4: 17), whatever may be the scope of the “we” and “them



The special resurrection of a unique class is identified in Rev. 14: 1-5.  Equally so in Rev. 20: 4-6, and there is nothing in Scripture to bar the belief that the resurrection of all the saved may not happen at the same hour.  There may be intervals.  Those who attain to eternal life, rendered according to their works (Rom. 2: 6, 7; Rev. 20: 12) are not raised at the same time as those who are changed (1 Cor. 15: 51, 52), or those “caught up in the clouds” (1 Thess. 4: 17), least of all at the same time as those on whom is bestowed “the prize of the call above of God in Christ Jesus  These are they of whom Paul wrote (Eph. 3: 10), “to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenlies might be made known through THE CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God, according to the purpose of the ages which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord  The election of this church - [i.e., of “of the firstborn”] - to fill a special place according to the good pleasure of God is completed by the particular [out]- resurrection of Phil. 3: [11] - 19.



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[PART 2]














We can know nothing of this subject, except from the Word, and we must “rightly divide” it, and compare one part with another.



In John 5: 29, our Lord speaks of two resurrections.  In Rev. 20: 5, there is a resurrection spoken of as “the first resurrection;” and the 13th.verse speaks of the sea and death and hell [Gk. “Hades”] giving up their dead at a period at least a thousand years later; and so we must call that too a resurrection, and generally it is taken as the second resurrection.  If nothing more were told us than what is in the Revelation we should have to leave the matter alone, and in confusion.  For in Rev. 20: 12-15, there are some judged to obtain life, others sentenced to death in the lake of fire.  Since at this time of resurrection all are not condemned to death, our Lord’s words in John 5: 29 do not of themselves mean that all holy [or all regenerate] ones are raised at one time and all evil ones at another: for at the second resurrection of Rev. 20: 12-15, both holy and evil are raised together; but other Scriptures show that while holy ones are raised at different points of the first resurrection; and some holy ones with some evil ones at the second: no Scripture shows that any evil ones are raised except at [the time of] the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20: 11-15), and that takes place after the Millennium.  So there remain to be considered these questions:-



(1) Does Scripture teach us that holy, saved men are raised all at one time?  Evidently not, seeing what we have just learned from Rev. 20: 12-15.



(2) What is “the first resurrection” of Rev. 20: 5?  Are all the other holy ones then raised, and who are the holy ones raised at the time of the great white throne?



First, let us see if the general idea that during the Millennium there is no dying is warranted by Scripture.  Now we must remember that the Millennium is a period of a thousand years during which the Lord Jesus Christ will reign on this present earth; and that the “new heavens and new earth” of Rev. 21 - 22: 6, are quite distinct from and come after the burning up of the present heavens and earth; which is of course after the Millennium is closed.  Will then men die or not die during the Millennial reign of the Lord Jesus on earth?



Now in Isa. 65: 20 we read that in the time when Jerusalem shall be restored, and the wolf and lamb and lion and the ox shall be at peace in the holy mountain (11: 6-9), there “shall be no more then an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed  That means, a man of a hundred years shall be accounted quite young still, nevertheless he may die at that age; and old men, that have filled their days will die.  Thus both good and bad will be dying during the Millennium; but a sinner will be cut off most assuredly though still reckoned young.  Life will be lived under better conditions during the Lord’s [kingdom] reign, but it will be a life on [this] earth.  Death, we have just seen, will occur, and there will be marriages and births (Zech. 8: 4, 5).



The Lord Jesus in His just, holy rule, will be seen of all.  Men will then be walking by sight, not by faith.



Ps. 2: 9 shows how sharp and instant punishment will fall on wrong doers; men will be kept in subjection to a great extent by fear.  See Psalms 9: 7-20; 18: 42-45; 21.; 45: 1-5; 46: 6-11; 59: 12, 13; 66: 7; 101: 4-8; 110: 2, 5, 6; 149: 69; and many places in the prophets.  So we see how [those born] in the Millennial reign [of Messiah-Jesus] good men will die, and also many evil men.  Here are [some] the ones whose names will be found written in the book of life (Rev. 20: 12); who could not be raised before the Millennium because they were alive then, or were born during its course.  The sinner dying in the Millennium will add to the number of all sinners from Adam’s day to the great white throne day, whose names are not found written in the “book of life” (Rev. 20: 15).  For, as I have pointed out before, Scripture speaks of but [more than] one resurrection*; and that at the Great White Throne, for all the sinners of all the ages.


[* Judgment in “Hades” (immediately after Death Heb. 9: 27; Acts 2: 34ff; Rev. 6: 9-11) - must be distinguished from the judgment after the thousand years at The Great White Throne.


The resurrection for reward, (Luke 14: 14); the inheritance in Messiah’s coming “kingdom” (Luke 22: 29, 30. cf. 1 Cor. 6: 9; Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5: 5) and “Better Resurrection” (Heb. 11: 35b), all take place before the establishment of Messiah’s Millennial Reign.]



So far, I have answered that part of the question (2) which relates to holy ones raised at the time of the great white throne.  There remain to be answered question (1), and the first part of question (2): We may combine these points in one question and call it (3).  Are all saved ones who are raised before the Millennium, raised at the same moment, or are these stages in the first resurrection?  For myself I am convinced that there are separate stages in the first resurrection.  Take Rev. 20: 4.  It speaks of certain people who did not worship the beast, nor his image, and had not received his mark, and of people beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and of these special people being raised and reigning with Christ a thousand years.  But the Beast, the Antichrist, has not come yet, so the people described as refusing to have anything to do with him are either yet alive, or may even in large numbers be not yet born.  But they will be in the first resurrection; so that raises the thought that the first resurrection includes different stages; or, so to speak, scenes in one great Act of the Great Drama of “the Day of the Lord,” which is a lengthened period.



Heb. 11: 7 tells of Noah who became “heir of the righteousness which is by faith,” and verses 8-16 speak of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, “who all died in faith not having received the promises … but embraced them … they seek a country … a better country … wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared a city for them  So they must be raised [out from the dead], in order to occupy that city.  But they lived many centuries ago, long before Antichrist who has not yet come; so they cannot be amongst those described in Rev. 20: 4, 5, because they would not have anything to do with Antichrist.  With them must be many more millions of those who served God through the ages before the Lord Jesus was born on earth; e.g., Moses, David, Hezekiah, Ezra, and hosts of others; and other faithful ones, like Melchizedek; and many known only to God, as the 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.  All of these will be raised just before the millennium, and stand in their “lot at the end of the days,” as shall Daniel (ch. 12: 13).



Then with them will be raised John the Baptist, and Simeon, and Anna, and all who believed in [and waited for] the Lamb of God, the Christ, before the Church of the present dispensation; a dispensation stretching from a few years after the Ascension of the Lord till his return in the air, as Head of His Body, the Church.  That Body is quite distinct [in time,] from all others; whether those that preceded it or that shall follow it.



Then there is the resurrection of the two special witnesses who during the Day of the Lord will be slain in Jerusalem and rise to life three days and a half later.  (Rev. 11: 3-12).



The coming of the Son of Man (Matt. 24: 29-31) is when He comes to the earth for the destruction of Israel’s enemies, and to restore His own people Israel.  It is the same time as referred to in Zech. 14: 1-9, especially verse 4, Isa. 63: 1-9, Ezekiel 38 and 39, and Rev. 19: 11-21.  That coming is during the Day of the Lord, which is a day of wrath, terror, plagues and war, all ending in bringing in the Millennium (see Joel 2: 1-11; Amos 5: 18-20; Zeph. 1: 14-18), extends over at least seven years.  The Coming of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, for His Body the Church, will be into the air (not on earth) and it will be taken up [by a Pre-Tribulation Rapture] to be forever with Him its Head.  Those who are [described in Scripture as] sleeping [in Death] will [afterwards] awake, and then they [the resurrected dead] and the living ones [that are left] will be caught up together (1 Thess. 4: 13-18); and this “coming” and “taking up” are quite distinct from that spoken of in 2 Thess. 1: 7 to 2: 12, and 1 Thess. 5: 1-4 speaks of the same event as 2 Thess. 1: 7 to 2: 12.



There is much to be learned by studying the difference in the use of the titles Son of Man and Son of God as applied to the Lord Jesus Christ.