THE CHURCH IS THE REVELATION OF GOD
(from Roles and Tasks of the Kingdom of God)
Copyright © 2012 by Robert B Thompson. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
God is invisible to us. I rather suspect He is invisible also to people in the Spirit world—perhaps also to those who reside in Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem.
It appears likely that the four living creatures, the cherubim, portray in external form the Nature of God, with their four faces—the lion, the ox, the eagle, and the man. I believe the following passage gives us some insight:
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (I Timothy 3:16)
The “body” is that of the Lord Jesus Christ. I suppose that many would deduce from this passage that God is one Person in three manifestations—as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While a certain part of this understanding is true, in that God is in all Three, yet it is clear enough from the New Testament that there are three distinct Persons, three wills, in the Godhead. “Not My will but Yours be done.” If we do not perceive that there are three Persons in the Godhead, we will not understand God’s plan to increase the revelation of Himself in the saints.
In John chapter 17, Christ discusses the fact that the Church is separate from the rest of mankind. It appears this separation began when God called out Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees. The separation in its final form is the great wall that separates the new Jerusalem from the rest of the world.
It seems difficult for members of the Christian churches to really understand they no longer are part of the world. Once Christ has come to us and given us eternal life, we no longer are part of the world. This may appear undemocratic. But if it were not so, the churches would be nothing more than local social institutions.
The Christian Church is the Bride of the Lamb, the Body of Christ. It is anointed with the Holy Spirit of God because the Church is holy. The Church is sanctified by the Spirit, and is able to bring deliverance to those of mankind who are oppressed because it is anointed by the Spirit for that purpose. In fact, the physical body of the saint is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Because numerous churches in the Western nations are organized much like businesses, the fact that the churches are Lampstands—the prophets of God in the local neighborhoods—is not always made clear. That the members of the congregations actually are members of the Body of Christ, while the Christian people would not deny that title, is not a present truth that materially affects the thinking and attitudes of many who attend the services.
Perhaps in the day in which we live, we pastors should impress upon the people that we are more than clubs of well-intentioned people. We are an integral part of the revelation of the invisible God in that we are members of Christ’s Body.
How we view ourselves affects how we treat our discipleship. If we consider ourselves to be nothing more than members of a social group, then exhortations to holiness of person and behavior are little more than a nuisance to us. But if we picture ourselves as revelations of the invisible God, we realize that holiness of person and behavior are of first importance.
In John chapter 17, Jesus prayed that we Christians would be one—and not only one, but one in Christ in God. For this to be true, our attitude toward denominational divisions and loyalties must undergo some change. The world will never believe that it is God who has sent Christ into the world until we are more one in Christ than is true today.
I think there is a general awareness that we are entering an era of change. There certainly is political unrest. Also, the sins of the flesh seem to be abounding, particularly in the United States. There is a cynicism in the writings of the news columnists that certainly is not sympathetic to anyone who desires to bring God into a discussion of the problems of the world. I wonder if this attitude prevailed in Sodom prior to its destruction.
Having been a Christian for more than 65 years, God and Christ are very real to me. Yet, when I read and listen to the current media, it seems as though I am living on a planet remote from the remainder of mankind. But I have lived long enough to know that the Bible is true, and what God says shall happen, shall happen, no matter how the scoffers scoff!
Based on the prayer of the Lord Jesus in John 17, I would not be surprised if before too long the true disciples of Jesus become one, and one revelation of God. I believe this is God’s intention. God certainly is not revealed in a multitude of competing denominations who, it appears to me, often do not trust one another.
I am not pointing toward a giant Christian organization. There will be such an organization, but the Spirit of God will not be in it. To the contrary, the true saints will remain as they always have been—a persecuted minority of humble individuals who are not organized, except possibly for arrangements made by apostles and prophets. Such a change of Christian structure must occur if the prophecy of the Lord Jesus is to be fulfilled.
Notice in the following passages the wall that separates the Church from the world:
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:9)
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. (John 17:14)
To what extent is the Lord Jesus Christ not of the world? Christ is of God. He is an integral part of God. He is the Servant of the Lord whom God has chosen. Christ was in the beginning with God, and through Him God made everything that exists.
While we are not as elevated as Christ is, yet we are not of the world any more than He is of the world. This is what Jesus said, although we may find it difficult to believe.
We are wary of exalting ourselves, and that is normal and praiseworthy. However, we are not worthy of praise when we do not believe everything the Lord Jesus has stated. Of course, we wish to be humble. But if God has chosen us to be part of the revelation of Himself, then we are not to decide we are not worthy and hold off in unbelief.
The truth is, we have been elected by the Lord to be members of the very Body of Christ, the Body of the One who has been anointed by the God of Heaven to bring into being the Kingdom of God. We are called “saints” (holy ones) because God has set us aside for His special purposes.
It is our tendency, as I said, to view the local church as a business, and as a social gathering. While this may be true, that is not the essence of what the local church is. It is the Presence of God in the world. It is the witness of God. It is Divine by its calling. And, as the members keep partaking of the body and blood of Christ, it is Divine in Substance.
The local church is the revelation of God among men. While people cannot see the invisible God, it is God’s plan that they can see God in His churches.
In our humanistic, democratic viewpoint, we speak of many roads leading to God. This is not true. Only the Lord Jesus Christ and those who are an integral part of Him are the revelation of the One true God. Such a concept may be despised by many people in our day, but it certainly is the truth!
The following passage may well be the most sublime prayer in the entire Bible:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. (John 17:20-25)
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” To what extent is God in Jesus and Jesus in God? Think carefully about this. We saints have been called to this total oneness.
This oneness is not “unity,” as we often use the word. The oneness spoken of here is total, complete union—the union that is true of God and Jesus. You can see immediately that denominational and ecumenical unity are different in kind from the union that is true of the Father, the Son, and the saints. Human unity depends on mental agreement. Divine union is a coalescing, a fusion, a growing together of personalities until Oneness is obtained. Human marriage is but the dimmest reflection of this union.
Now, here is the point. It is our Lord Jesus Christ who has prayed for this total union, the same union that exists with the Father and Himself. When the union has been perfected, then Christ and we will be both human and Divine. Naturally we resist the idea of our being a partaker of Divinity, and the thought would be sacrilegious were it not of the Scripture. It is useless for us to hem and haw about whether human beings can become part of the Divine Godhead. It is what the Scripture says, and it accomplishes nothing if we stagger about in unbelief.
It is not a case of our vaunting ourselves; it is a matter of obeying what God has determined. Christ Himself did not grasp His heavenly calling, but took upon Himself the form of a servant. In like manner, the thought of our being part of the revelation of God should result in humility, not in arrogance.
Becoming part of Christ indeed will result in humility, if we take such union correctly. We want to be part of Christ rather than just a partner of Christ. And God has His ways of humbling us, doesn’t He?
So we will not trouble ourselves because God has called us to be in His image. If this is what God has spoken and desires, then our part is to say “Amen.” I know you will hold with me on that.
“May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” All of us want the world to believe that it is God who has sent the Lord Jesus Christ to us. Isn’t that so? If that is true, then denominational loyalties can prove to be a hindrance to the world’s perception of Christ.
Each true saint has been called to be one with each other and with Jesus and God. I suspect that the various forms of chaos that the Spirit seems to be indicating are facing us in the future, may be one force that will bring true union to the people of God.
We can spend millions of dollars and untold hours of effort to convince the people of the world of the Divine origin of Jesus Christ. Then we send blindness upon them by exalting our denomination. This should stop, don’t you agree?
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” The troubles in the world will be one force that will bring true union to the members of the one Body of Christ. Another force will be the Glory that God has given Christ. I do not know what form that Glory will take, but I imagine it will be a greatly increased amount of the Presence of Jesus among us, accompanied by mighty signs and wonders.
“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” The true union I have spoken of is not a oneness of doctrinal understanding. It goes far deeper than that! It is a union that results from Christ being in me and Christ being in you. Paul spoke of that oneness:
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
When such maturity has been attained to, then the saints will flow together. As was the case in the building of the Temple of Solomon, the stones have been carved in advance so there was no sound of a hammer or saw at the building site.
People will not need to compromise and adjust their beliefs, as in the case of ecumenical unifying. Christ in one saint will embrace Christ in another saint, and so on and on until the true Church is one. It is my understanding that such union will occur before Jesus returns. It will take place in the saints whom Christ brings with Him, and to those who are alive at the time of His return.
When Christ is in us, then God also is in us. It is one Church, one Body of Christ, one revelation of God in Heaven and upon the earth. While God Himself remains invisible, He can be seen in Christ—Head and Body.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” Jesus prayed that we would be with Him where He is, that is, in the center of God’s Person and will. Jesus said this in John chapter 14. “That they may be with Me where I am.”
It appears to me that people fasten on the “mansions” in John 14. They do not hear what Jesus is saying, when He exclaims, “that they may be with Me where I am.” They don’t seem to care about Jesus, just about the thought of living forever in a mansion in Heaven. Am I mistaken here?
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.” We know that it is God who has sent Jesus. But the world will not know that it indeed is God who has sent the Lord Jesus until we are one in Christ and God and They in us.
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get the feeling that the believers do not realize that Jesus came to bring us to the Father. In fact, the Father does not appear to be real to them. The Lord Jesus did not come to point people to Himself, except as they come to Him in order to come to the Father. The Lord Jesus is not the stopping point. He is the Way to the Father, not to Himself.
He said in another place that He is the only One who knows the Father, as well as those to whom He reveals the Father. I am beginning to wonder whether one of the changes that will occur in this century is that the Christian churches will become more aware of the Father.
In that Day, the Lord said, we would know more about the Father than we do now. That “Day” is the day in which the Lord alone is exalted. We are approaching that “Day,” but we still are exalting ministers and denominations. This must cease if we are to come to know the Father.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:20)
We of the elect, of the Christian Church, are called to be the brothers of Christ. When you stop to think of it, this is a marvelous promise. How can we be the brothers of Christ? It is because we have been born of the same Father.
Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” (Hebrews 2:11,12)
We may be somewhat amazed at being called the brothers of the Lord. But Jesus is not amazed. He is very happy at the prospect. He has been an only child from before the creation of the world. Now He has brothers, born of the same Father. Isn’t that wonderful?
Of course, we are not as great as He. The Father has given all things into His hands. He has all authority in Heaven and upon the earth. Christ is ready to share His inheritance with us. But He cannot do this until we come to maturity; or, I should say, until He comes to maturity in us. Then what a time of rejoicing there will be as all the brothers, including the Lord, sing praises to their Father.
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17—KJV)
“Go to My brothers.” Isn’t that marvelous? Can’t you just hear the joy in the Lord’s heart? He has gone through a suffering far, far more intense than any suffering we ever will experience. It was not just the scourging and crucifixion, it was the threat that He never again would be with the Father. It was this threat, I am certain, with which He was taunted by the demons.
But now the suffering and danger are past. He has paid the price. He has overcome Satan. The royal Prince has been victorious. Now He is returning to the embrace of His Father, and to the paeans of praise in Heaven.
But more than this, He has paid for a company of brothers: not only the eleven disciples whom He knew so well, but a vast host who were to come after them, bearing their crosses, beginning perhaps with the Apostle Paul.
No athlete who has won a trophy, no musician who has completed successfully a royal performance, no explorer who has erected his country’s flag on new territory, could ever approach in exultation the Lord Jesus as He prepared to ascend to His Father.
However, I believe His greatest joy was in realizing He now had a company of brothers with whom He could share the spoils, the inheritance to be bestowed on Him by His Father.
“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Now, here is a wonderful thought. Jesus has made the Father known to us and will continue to make the Father known to us so that the love God has for Christ may be in us—and that Christ Himself may be in us.
It seems to me that for two thousand years the Christian churches have spoken of Christ being with us. This is true in the celebration of Christmas. It is true also in the celebration of Easter. Christ has come. He has been with us. He has returned to Heaven. He is coming again to be with us.
This is not the mystery of the Gospel. This is not the Gospel of the Kingdom. The central truth of the Gospel is that Christ is to be born in us, to be formed in us, to come to maturity in us. When Christ has been fully formed in us, then Christ and the Father will come and make their eternal home in us. Since the Holy Spirit already is in us, we then will be filled with all the fullness of God.
This is the mystery of the Gospel. This is the Kingdom of God. It is to this that we have been appointed, and is the reason for the struggles we have as we seek to set aside our own lives and live by the Life of Jesus.
If Christ merely were to be with us, that would be a wonder exceeding all other
wonders. But that fact that Christ is to be formed in us, and then the Father and
He are to descend and inhabit what has been formed in us
We of God’s elect, who are called to be part of the Body of Christ, have begun as flesh and blood human beings—not too different from other mammals, except that we are more intelligent, and also have a spiritual nature that responds to God and other spirits. This is not true of any other animal. We are intelligent, flesh and blood, animals. Any doctor will tell you that.
But we are dead spiritually. Then along comes the Prince of Life. He, under the direction of the Father, gives us eternal life, the Life of the Spirit of God, in our inward nature. It is our acceptance of the atonement made on the cross of Calvary that authorizes Him to do this.
Not only is the eternal life of the Spirit of God in us, but a part of Christ Himself has been planted in us. Also, we are raised with Christ to the right hand of the Father.
As we keep wending our way through problems, overcoming through Christ all forces that would tear us down from our high place in God, we are fed in the Spirit the body and blood of Christ. These are resurrection life, which we are fed in anticipation of the day when Christ returns and issues eternal life to our physical bodies.
What is taking place in the intelligent animal? God is being formed in him or her. The Divine Nature is being formed. He no longer is merely an animal. He is growing into a son of God in all that this signifies.
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (II Peter 1:4)
You can understand that this is a profound change in what we are. We still are human beings, but transcendently so. We now are true brothers of Christ, being born of man and born of God.
No man has seen God at any time. But through the Church, the nations will be able to see and be ministered to by God who is dwelling in Christ who is dwelling in us.
Let us not, therefore, be weary and faint as we struggle against sin. The rewards set before us far, far surpass any comprehension of them that we have at this time. But it is God who has promised, and He is utterly faithful to those who are faithful to obey Him in all matters.
(“The Church is the Revelation of God”, 3274-1, proofed 20210929)