This document is still a work in progress, but it has enough substantial content that I'm willing to publish it. The concepts contained within it have really powerfully transformed my life and have formed an integral core of my relationship with God. It has blessed me tremendously, and it is my desire that it will equally impact all who read it.
This is mostly derived from the Shawn Bolz lectures. He didn't go into detail with this stuff, though I get the feeling he probably does in other lectures I haven't heard, so chances are I'm stealing some of his material.
Anyway, the text is 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, but in particular 15:35-38.
When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed... But __God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body.__ (NIV, 37-38)
What does this mean? The standard reading is that "there is a corruptible, human body that is the seed for the glorified, eternal body." But if you look at this more carefully, you see that the body that is raised is depending on WHAT KIND OF SEED IT IS. Essence: What kind of life you live, what kind of person you are, is the seed for your eternal, glorified self. *Every* facet of your life is a seed for a glorified facet of your eternal life.
Now we see in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 a continuation of this premise:
"If any man builds on this foundation (of Christ) using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day (judgment day) will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (NIV)
So this is what we see. This life is a seed for the next life. However, since there can be no rebellion against God's will in heaven, all the worthless things we do in this life are destroyed in God's fire on that Day. This is, of course, assuming one is building on the foundation of Christ. If not, of course, one isn't saved and therefore isn't going to heaven period. But even if you are saved, you can still build things using gold, silver, costly stones, or wood, hay and straw. Some things will be destroyed in the fire, and some things will survive and will be our reward.
This introduces the notion of sand castles. This analogy is from a book by Anna Rountree. But the essence of it is that a lot of people, even christians, spend their lives building sand castles. That is, things that one can build but get washed away by the tide in a matter of hours. Such things cannot last for eternity.
Just yesterday, I was spending time with one of my unsaved friends, and he was showing me some things he had done in an online computer game. Basically, he was spending time carefully, precisely crafting what skills and items and so forth to give his forces in the game, with the full knowledge that he's going back to school in four days. He doesn't have a computer at school, so he will only have this game for those four days. That is, the tide comes in four days. When it does, it will wipe away all the things he has carefully arranged, all his detailed plans for hours and hours of development. He understands that it's totally meaningless because it's going to be just plain GONE in a couple
days, but he builds on. This is a small example of what most people do with their entire lives; building sand castles, often with full knowledge of the tide. Indeed, who builds a sand castle without knowing that the tide is going to wipe it out?
What is building financial security, a good home, lots of material assets, but a gigantic sand castle? What is worldly popularity but a sand castle? This world is going to pass away, nothing we build of this world is going to remain.
You are going to spend your life doing two things: building sand castles or building a structure of gold, silver, and costly stones on the foundation of Christ. God is not going to punish you for building sand castles, but it will be wiped away. Even more, if you build sand castles now, that will be the
prototype for your glorified life. Remember, what we do in this life is a seed for the next life. It's kinda like the OT vs. the NT; the NT is like a glorified OT, and the OT is like a seed for the NT. All the principles and ideas of the NT are contained in the OT, but in a seed form.
It is the same with our life here and with our next life. If we live a life of building up other people, building deep friendships and relationships with others, build a deep relationship with God, build up the traits that God has put in us like music, dance, writing, a love of reading, and all varieties of
godly things, that will be the seed for our next life. Since such things can pass through the fire of God (fire cannot destroy itself; a righteous God cannot destroy righteous things, but only unrighteous things), that will be the seed for our glorified lives. And when you have good seeds, how glorious that
life will be!!!
If you fill your life with self-concern, with temporal things, will any manner of sin or rebellion against God, yet are saved, then such things will be destroyed by the fire of God, and there will be very little to act as a seed for your glorified life, and that is the nature of how your reward will not be
as great. It's not that God will lock you out of heaven, but since such things cannot exist in the presence of God, there is no such thing as glorified sin; it's mutually contradictory, and thusly it simply won't be.
This is the essence of what I learned; going to heaven is not the destruction of the self, but the magnification of the self. Every good thing we do is greatly multiplied in heaven. Do you want to dance and sing in heaven? Why not start now? Do you want to play piano in heaven (I know I do :)? Start now. Do you want to spend millenia playing soccer with your dearest friends? Start by
playing a few hours. Do you love teaching and want to teach for millenia? Do it now. If you want to do it forever, then start by doing it now. Obviously there are some things we want to do in eternity that we can't do now, but we can lay the foundation for such things now. The glorification process is what takes our actions now and magnifies them in heaven so that such things become
possible for us.
This is why our lives now are so important, why we should do what we love and make sure that what we love aligns with what God loves, because such things are the foundation for our next, eternal lives.
If we are obsessed with God now, how great will that obsession be when it is glorified?
On the contrary, if we don't act obsessed with God now, and we say "we have eternity to draw closer to God, I want to live my own life now and I'll surrender to God when I'm done having my own way", that is the seed for our next life, and the vast majority of it will be destroyed by the fire of God;
such people are leaving very little godliness to be glorified for their eternity with God.
So after this, I really started asking the question, "what is it that we can do that will last? What should we do to build towards eternity? What is gold, silver, and precious stones, that we can build on the foundation of Christ and that will pass through the fire of God?"
(this is where I start to walk in more tentative grounds, so I don't hold as firmly to the material below as to the material above. When I did my research, I found numerous verses that have the appearance of contradicting my hypotheses below, and I'm not at this time knowledgable about how to reconcile them. Take as you will.)
I already partially answered this question above, by stating that the things we focus on in a godly way will be the seed for our next life. But, as we all know, there is a righteous way and a sinful way to do many things (cf. luke 14:15-24). So when I asked God how to build with gold, silver, and costly
stones, what He showed me was a seed (kinda like an acorn) morphing into a crown of righteousness. Then He reminded me of one thing that I had prophesied to a friend of mine a while ago, which was a drop of water being a seed (in that case of a rose-looking flower). Water in the NT is a type for the Holy Spirit and for life. So water = seed --> crown of righteousness.
So, this is the essence of the answer; fill yourself with the Spirit of God, especially with the life that God has laid out for you. The more you fill yourself with the Spirit of God and the more closely you follow the desires that God has given you for your life, then all those things will be the seed
for your crown of righteousness in the next life.
I have prayed and asked God for more revelation on this topic, and He has recently given me some more insight into it (and scripture to back up the vision He gave me earlier). So there are three things that we can fill our lives with that are of worth and that will survive the fire of God mentioned in 1 Cor 3: gold, silver, and costly stones. I have what I consider to be very solid, reliable definitions for gold and silver; my grasp of what the costly stones represent is less solid right now, so I'll leave that one out. Proverbs 8:10-11 suggests that costly stones = wisdom. Another interesting scripture is Rev 21:18-21, which mentions both gold and costly stones when describing the future bride of Christ (us, believers). but I don't have any cross-referencing scriptures to back that up or explain it in more detail, so I'm going to leave it at that. Silver is representative of the Word of God in this case; if you build your life on the Word of God, it will survive and count as a reward in the next life. The basis for this is: Psalm 12:6.
"And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times." (NIV)
This is then reinforced by Proverbs 8:10-11:
"Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her."
So in this case, silver is compared to the instruction of Wisdom, which is a personification of God. The instruction of God is given by His Word, and therefore you should choose the silver of God, instead of the silver of this world.
Again in Proverbs 10:20, God says:
"The tongue of the righteous is choice silver..."
So once again silver is being compared to the words or speaking of righteous people. This clearly demonstrates that instruction in the Word of God is what is referenced by 1 Cor 3.
Second, I contend that gold in 1 Cor 3 is a reference to the Holy Spirit of God. That is, building a life using gold is equivalent to saying that one should build their life with the power of the Holy Spirit and to build their life with the goal of being filled to the fullest with the Holy Spirit. How I go about demonstrating this is somewhat more convoluted than my proof that silver = Word of God. Proverbs 8:10 that I reference above compares gold with knowledge, and I'm not sure how to fit that into my analysis yet. Anyway, there are a ton of scriptures that one could use to analyze the biblical meaning of gold, but I've personally been obsessing over Exodus 37:6-9 recently, so I'll use that one. A second scripture that I will use is Revelation 21:18,21.
Ex 37:6-9 says:
"6 He made the atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 7 Then he made two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 8 He made one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; at the two ends he made them of one piece with the cover. 9 The cherubim had their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim faced each other, looking toward the cover."
Rev 21:18,21 says:
18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.
21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
The second reference shows that the new Jerusalem, which is being described in these two verses, is made out of pure gold. Now I am going to claim that the New Jerusalem is a description of the body of Christ, after having been purified and glorified (without discussing the meaning of those terms). But the short of it is, this is the body of Christ after passing through the fire of 1 Cor 3. So gold here is signifying purity and holiness, and also it signifies the born-again believers of God.
I will also assert that in the Exodus passage, the cherubim are symbols for the born-again believer. You can see this because: they are made out of gold, they are priests unto God, which is what we are called as well, they have their hands raised in worship in God's presence, they serve in the Most Holy Place, they are looking towards God, and they are made out of one piece with the mercy seat. Angels are not made of one piece with God, but we are (since our spirit and the Holy Spirit are united in one), so these cherubim must be symbolic for beings united with God's presence, with God's Holy Spirit. So we can see that, having been washed in the blood of Christ (and indeed all the temple objects were sanctified in blood), we are now filled with the Spirit of God and that is why everything in the tabernacle/temple was covered in gold, even if it was made out of wood. In the case of the cherubim, they are made out of hammered gold. Here we can see that the mercy seat is made out of pure gold, because God is pure and fully righteous, but we are made out of hammered gold because God has to work on our hearts and change us to make us into what He wants us to be. Nevertheless, we are both made out of the same material. Since God is a spirit being, what He is made out of is the spirit, and therefore gold is a symbol for the Spirit of God (since the mercy seat in this instance is a type for God).
So that's my elongated proof/conjecture. I'm pretty confident it's true. Anyway...
There are a lot of other scriptures that deal with the topic of this life as a seed for the next, and off the top of my head all I can think of is 1 Cor 13:8-13, but I'm not going to analyze it because you're all intelligent people and I could go on forever looking at different scriptures and their analyses on this topic.
I should note that 1 Cor 15 is now one of my favorite chapters. :)
Blessings, and feel free to forward this or copy it as you wish,