THE ORCHESTRA AND THE AUDIENCE
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. 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.
The Body of Christ is the orchestra. The world is the audience. Today we speak of a pastor and congregation. A congregation is an audience. This concept defeats the Lord’s intention concerning His Body. The Lord wants every member of His Body to be active, as the Holy Spirit leads, not just part of an audience.
The Body of Christ is as an orchestra. If we expect to remain in the Body of Christ we must learn to “play” the instrument the Holy Spirit gives us.
Table of Contents
What the Ministries of the Body Are Not
Natural abilitiesWhat the Ministries of the Body Are
Confined to a “sacred” setting
Our daily work
The result of our “type of personality”
The First Objective—Finding, Developing, and Using our Ministry
The Second Objective—Attaining the Image of Christ and Union With the Person and Will of God
The Third Objective—Performing the Roles and Tasks of the Kingdom of God
The Fourth Objective—Living in Righteousness, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit
THE ORCHESTRA AND THE AUDIENCE
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:7)
Jesus Christ is the Head of the Body. The Head cannot do the work of the Father except through the numerous faculties which we are.
If God’s Kingdom is to be established on the earth, all the faculties must be operating. This is why we no longer are to regard ourselves merely as members of a congregation, an audience. We absolutely must discover our role in the Body of Christ and begin to function.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Corinthians 12:27)
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22,23)
The Body of Christ is the orchestra. The world is the audience. Today we speak of a pastor and congregation. This concept defeats the Lord’s intention. The Lord wants every member of His Body to be active, as the Holy Spirit leads.
We are not saying there is to be no leadership in the house of God. There absolutely must be. In America, at least, the role of pastor, administrator, senior elder, whatever you wish to term it, is necessary at the present time for a number of reasons. Otherwise there will be unnecessary chaos. It is the change in the role of the members of the church that is required.
A congregation is an audience. The Body of Christ is an orchestra. If we expect to remain in the Body of Christ we must learn to “play” the instrument the Holy Spirit gives us.
Imagine an orchestra! Let us suppose the conductor noticed a new person sitting in the third row of the orchestra, a man not holding an instrument.
Suppose further the conductor inquired of the gentleman:
“Sir, what is your name?”
“My name is George Thomas.”
“George, where is your instrument?”
“Sir, I do not play an instrument. I came to listen to the music.”
The conductor replied, “George, you must go around to the front and buy a ticket so you can sit in the audience. The chair where you are sitting is reserved for a member of the orchestra.”
I know no one would be so foolish as to come in and sit down on a chair in the midst of a symphony orchestra. But this is exactly how most believers come to church. They have no idea they are supposed to be contributing to the building of the Body of Christ. They have no idea what their particular ministry is. They were taught to be the member of a congregation, of an audience, not a participant in the work of building the members of the Body of Christ to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
The congregation model is dead! Finished! Christ is moving forward in the plan for establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth. The congregation model of the church service is vestigial. It soon will disappear, for God’s will no longer can be performed where most of the people in the service are an audience.
Some years ago a well-known evangelist had a vision. He saw a giant lying on the ground, perhaps asleep, or even dead. As he looked the giant began to stir. The Spirit advised him that this was the Body of Christ who was to come alive in our day.
I don’t know if we realize it or not, but for the most part the Body of Christ is not operating. The members are not functioning—and with reason! They are not expected to function, except to attend the services, contribute their money, and perform church tasks when they are called on to serve.
The Christian churches are a valley of very dry bones.
We commonly speak of “the congregation.” This is not a new-covenant concept. The new-covenant concept is that of a body made up of numerous operating parts.
We can think of Christ, Christ who is to come, as an exalted Head and a body.
We know from human experience that a head cannot operate apart from a body. A head can think, plan, imagine, remember, understand, and make judgments. But a head can do little apart from an attached body.
Christ has chosen to make Himself dependent on us. He cannot perform the work of the Father unless there is a person through whom He can perform His will.
The gifts and ministries from the ascended Christ, given to us by the Spirit of God, are faculties through which Christ can work. Therefore it is of supreme importance that in our day the congregations change into functioning members of the great Body of Christ, part of which is in Heaven and part on the earth.
Why is it so important that the members begin to function? It is because the Scriptures teach that Christ will come to full stature in His Body in the last days, just prior to His return in the clouds. However, Christ cannot come to full stature in His Body except as the members of the Body exercise their gifts and ministries.
For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. (Psalms 102:16)
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15,16)
It is the will of the Spirit that each Christian rearrange the priorities of his or her life so finding, developing, and utilizing the ministries the Spirit has given him or her are in first place.
When does the Spirit give us ministries? He gives us ministries when we are baptized into the Body of Christ.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (I Corinthians 12:13)
If a congregation desires to change into a unit of the Body of Christ each member must begin to seek God. Our priorities must be rearranged. Whereas our first priority (in America) has been to earn money, we must change our thinking until finding, developing, and using our ministry becomes the first priority.
This does not mean we quit our job. The Apostle Paul is our example as he toiled away at his tentmaking. But the first priority of the Apostle Paul was that of exercising the ministry given to him by the Holy Spirit.
What the Ministries of the Body Are Not
It is easy to get our ministry in the body confused with various roles and responsibilities that we exercise and attend to.
Natural abilities. Each of us is born with natural abilities, perhaps some of which are inherited. Examples of these natural abilities are intellectual giftedness, musical or artistic talents, mechanical aptitude, the ability to sell. During our lifetime we may acquire special skills.
However, these are not what is meant by gifts and ministries of the Spirit of God. Our natural abilities are part of our adamic nature. They are not of the new creation unless they have been crucified and renewed in Christ.
We may have an inherited musical talent. The Holy Spirit may choose to anoint our performance during a service. Otherwise such a gift may assist in the worship service but it will not form Christ in the believer, which is the objective of spiritual ministries and gifts.
Church tasks. Every pastor knows there are a multitude of tasks that must be performed if a church is to operate successfully. There are faithful people who perform these tasks year after year. They should perform them and they will be blessed for doing so.
However, these may not be their actual function in the Body of Christ.
We have faithful greeters in our church. Yet I do not believe the performance of the task of greeting people at the entrance to the church necessarily constitutes their ministry in the universal Body of Christ. It may be that if they will seek the Lord with all their heart, presenting their body a living sacrifice, they may discover God has more in store for them than they have dreamed.
I do not wish to draw too firm a line between tasks and ministries, because there are helps of various kinds that indeed are true ministries.
Dorcas, of Joppa, is a New Testament example of a diligent seamstress whose several helpful activities very well may have been a true ministry of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, Stephen, the deacon, waited on tables because there was a need. It is doubtful that waiting on tables truly was Stephen’s ministry in the Body of Christ. Stephen performed great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Perhaps these signs and wonders came closer to being Stephen’s true ministry in the Body than was true of his providing food for the widows.
We may have been a faithful worker in our church for many years. It may be true that we still are not aware of our actual ministry in the Body of Christ.
All of the gifts and ministries of the Body of Christ will operate anywhere in God’s creation. Their use is not confined to a local assembly. A believer who has been entrusted with the word of wisdom can serve wherever and whenever there is a need. A task, however, is part of the operation of a local church.
Confined to a “sacred” setting. The ministries of the Body of Christ serve to build up the members of the Body. However, this does not mean they will operate only during a church service. They will function wherever there is a need in the Body.
Our present pattern of pastor-congregation “services” are not always conducive to the receiving, developing, and utilizing the various ministries the Spirit places in the Body. Smaller home groups may provide a more effective environment.
Our daily work. You will hear believers say they are called to be a scientist, or artist, or author. This usually is not the case. Our profession or vocation is one matter. Our ministry in the Body of Christ is another matter.
Tentmaking was not the ministry of the Apostle Paul.
The result of our “type of personality.” Here is another confusing idea. We might say that this person has a teacher’s personality, or that individual is a prophetic type. It may be true that a believer has an adamic nature that seems to be like that of a teacher, or a prophet, or a healer. But this is not the same as the Spirit-given role of teacher or prophet or healer.
Our adamic nature is bound with sin and is to be replaced with the Nature of Christ.
We are given certain abilities when we are born from our mother. We are given other abilities when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. The second set of abilities is distinct in kind from the first set. One does not flow into the other.
God delights in taking an individual and making him new. Then God gives him or her a new name. The Kingdom of God is not composed of children of Adam who have been refurbished. The Kingdom of God consists of that which has died and been resurrected in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What the Ministries of the Body Are
We will set forth the ministries and gifts of the Body of Christ. However, we are not suggesting these are the only ministries of the Body. No doubt there are numerous ministries not listed here. God is a Creator and is ready to surprise us with wonderful endowments which we cannot imagine.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, (Ephesians 4:11)
To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, To another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, To another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, or languages and to still another the interpretation of tongues. or languages (I Corinthians 12:8-10)
The gifts and ministries are:
- Given by the Holy Spirit.
- Administrated by the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Empowered by God the Father.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (I Corinthians 12:4-6)
These are the faculties through which the great Head must act as He does the work of the Father. They flow from the ascended Christ. They all are part of His Substance and Nature. It is the Holy Spirit who takes of these parts of Christ and assigns them to believers as He will.
Yet, we are commanded to eagerly desire them.
The gifts are our possession and are subject to us once they have been given to us. However, we ourselves always are to be subject to the Lord Jesus Christ, for He, and He alone, is God’s King and Administrator. We never are to perceive a need and then run to fill it without going to the Lord to find out if this is what He wants us to do.
To attempt to use our ministry apart from the direct supervision of the Head is to enter the spirit of the False Prophet.
The First Objective—Finding, Developing, and Using our Ministry
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1,2)
The most dependable way to test and approve God’s will for our life and ministry is to present our body a living sacrifice. This means we look to the Lord Jesus for every decision we make throughout the day and night.
Each one of us, if he chooses to pass from the audience to the orchestra, must set aside every other goal and seek the Lord. He must present his body as a living sacrifice. He must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord Jesus.
He must ask, seek, and knock until he hears from God.
So I say to you: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9,10)
If, while we are seeking to know our ministry, the Spirit shows us sin in our life, then we must confess it, denounce it, renounce it, and draw near to God for the wisdom and strength to keep from continuing in this particular sin.
We may not hear from God the first time we pray. We must keep on seeking, keep on asking, keep on knocking.
We do not quit our job or neglect our family responsibilities while we are seeking the Lord with such determination. If we pray, God will help us fulfill all necessary obligations cheerfully, and yet be able to find the time and strength to learn what our ministry is in the Body of Christ.
After we determine what it is God wants us to do, we are to make certain our calling is nourished each day. We do this by praying and reading our Bible each day, meeting on a consistent basis with fervent disciples (if we can find any), and particularly by looking ceaselessly to the Lord Jesus to guide and strengthen us at every moment.
Then we are to ask the Lord to give us an opportunity to use the ministry He has given us. We need wisdom and strength if we are to properly exercise our ministry in the Body of Christ.
We are to eagerly desire the greater gifts.
But eagerly desire the greater gifts. (I Corinthians 12:31)
We are to fan into flame the gift of God that is in us.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (II Timothy 1:6)
We are to use our gifts and ministries according to the measure of faith God has given us.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:4)
As we earnestly look to the Lord He will begin to reveal to us what our role is in the Body of Christ. Then we are to be faithful in the exercise of that role.
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; If it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4-8)
Learning to minister is an art. It is possible to hang back when we ought to be up and about the Master’s business. It also is possible to rush forward in presumption.
People who are skilled in the use of their ministry have learned how to listen to the Lord so they always are prepared to do what the Head is commanding. We do not learn such skill overnight.
We are going to make mistakes. There is no problem here unless we do not learn from our mistakes.
When we are learning to prophesy we do not commence with the same power and accuracy as Isaiah.
It is not possible to steer a ship when it lies at anchor in the harbor. Sometimes we have to just sail out in some direction and then look to the Lord constantly for His direction. On other occasions He impresses us to wait until we know what we are doing, or until some personal word He has given us comes to pass.
The point is, no believer is merely someone who congregates in a building. He or she is a vital member of the Body of Christ. If we do not make the effort to find and use the abilities given to us, they will be taken from us, given to another, and we ourselves will be placed in spiritual darkness. The Lord does not admire lazy, careless servants.
The Second Objective—Attaining the Image of Christ and Union With the Person and Will of God
All of the gifts and ministries are given to us that we might build up the Body of Christ.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, To prepare God’s people for works of service, so the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:11,12)
Christ gives to believers the gifts of apostleship, prophetic anointing, evangelistic ability, the grace needed if we are to be a pastor or teacher, the working of miracles, the ability to speak in foreign languages, and numerous other powers. The purpose of all of them is to build the Body of Christ to full maturity.
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)
There are two objectives of the ministries of the Body of Christ. They are equal in importance. Neither is complete without the other.
To conform us to the image of Christ in spirit, soul, and—when He appears—in body.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
To bring us into perfect union with God’s Person and will.
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 the world may believe 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 you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:21-23)
How do we measure progress toward our change into the moral image of Christ?
By the way we behave. If we are becoming more like Jesus in our behavior, if the fruit of the Spirit is being revealed in our personality and conduct, then we are growing into maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.
How do we measure progress toward entering perfect union with God’s Person and will?
By our ever-increasing love for God and His will. As Christ grows in us we delight to do God’s will. We are at rest only when we know God is perfectly pleased with all we are doing. Although numerous Christians do not realize such a position of perfect rest in God is possible, the fact is that such rest in God and His will is the only normal and acceptable Christian state of being.
Satan has convinced the Christian churches that it is impossible to do God’s will, that God never can be pleased with us no matter how hard we try. The truth is, it is Satan who never can be pleased with us no matter how hard we try.
God requires of us only a few things each day, and there always is grace to do what God is commanding. When we just flow with God and do what He is commanding, God counts us perfectly righteous. This is all there is to the life of victory in Jesus.
How sad it is that so many Christians never know the joy of walking with God in perfect peace.
The end result of following God obediently is the state in which God’s chief desire for us is our chief desire. Then, and only then, do we find perfect peace and joy in the Spirit of God.
Our first objective is to find and use our own ministry in the Body of Christ. As we use our ministry we accomplish the second objective in ourselves and in our fellow members of the Body of Christ. The second objective is change into the image of Christ, and entrance into untroubled rest in the Person and will of God.
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so we may present everyone perfect in Christ. (Colossians 1:27,28)
Present everyone perfect in Christ!
The working of our ministries eventually will include a redeemed body, which will be ours at the coming of the Lord.
Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:21)
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)
Paul stated his objective (the following are taken from Philippians 3:8-14):
- To know Christ Jesus my Lord.
- To gain Christ and be found in him.
- To gain the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
- To know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
- To attain to the out-resurrection from the dead.
Notice that to this point in our discussion the people of the world have received no help. We have been speaking only of the members of the Body of Christ. Yet it is the role of the entire Church, the Body of Christ, to bring God’s Presence and justice to the nations of the earth. God loves the world, not just the members of His Church.
We might think of the entire Christ, Head and Body, as being the Lampstand of God. The various gifts and ministries placed in the members of the Body of Christ build the Lampstand. When the Lampstand has been built it will serve as the light of the world.
To put it simply, as we ourselves are brought into the image of Christ and enter God’s Person and will, we are better able to be of use to unsaved people. The Lord Jesus Christ was perfect morally and perfectly at rest in His Father’s will. Therefore He was of the greatest possible benefit to mankind.
The Third Objective—Performing the Roles and Tasks of the Kingdom of God
God desires to bring righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit to the nations who live on the earth. God is going to accomplish His desire by installing a kingdom, the Kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the great Head of the Kingdom of God.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, (Romans 14:17)
In order for the Kingdom of God to operate successfully there are roles and tasks that must be performed. The reason we must be brought into Christ’s image and enter untroubled rest in God’s will is so we can perform the roles and tasks necessary for the installing of the Kingdom of God on the earth. The roles and tasks include being a brother of the Lord Jesus; being a member of the wife of the Lamb; being a living stone in the eternal Temple of God; being a soldier in the army of the Lord. And there are many other roles and tasks.
Since we must be brought into Christ’s image and enter untroubled rest in God’s will in order to fulfill the roles and tasks of the Kingdom, and since we are brought into image and union by the exercise of the various gifts and ministries given to the members of the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, it is imperative that each of us change from being merely a part of the audience and find our place in the orchestra.
The first objective is to find and learn to use our ministry in the Body of Christ. Until we do this we are part of the audience, not part of the orchestra. In other words, we are not as yet a part of the royal priesthood.
The second objective is to be brought into the image of Christ and into union with God.
The reason we must be brought into the image of Christ and into union with God is so we may be qualified and competent to accomplish the third objective, which is to perform the roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God.
The eighteen roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God apply only to those believers who are being changed into the moral image of Christ and who are fervently doing God’s will as it is revealed to them, that is, to saints who are walking in victory in Jesus. The lukewarm Christian is neither authorized nor competent to perform these roles and tasks.
Eighteen Roles and Tasks of the Kingdom of God
To be a member of the Bride of the Lamb.
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9)
The holy city, the new Jerusalem, is the Bride of the Lamb. It is the glorified Christian Church. It will govern forever the nations of saved people living on the earth.
Now that we have come to the end of the Church Age the Lord is showing us there are two groups of people who are to be saved from the wrath of God. The first group consists of God’s elect. The second group consists of people whom God deems worthy of eternal life but who have not been called from the foundation of the world to be part of God’s Israel, His elect, His royal priesthood. These are the sheep from the nations and have been kind to the Lord’s brothers.
Until we understand that the purpose of the Church is to be an orchestra (in terms of our present essay), and the people of the world are the audience, we can perceive neither our own position in the Kingdom of God nor the position of those people who believe and have been baptized but who have not been called to be members of the Bride of the Lamb.
The Bride of the Lamb is the eternal counterpart of the Lamb of God, Lord Jesus Christ. He together with her shall govern the saved people of the world forever. The saved people and the farthest reaches of the earth are His and her inheritance jointly.
The Spirit and the Bride reach out to mankind and invite each person to drink of the water of eternal life. We Christians are to do this today, as God leads. It is an eternal role, beginning now.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)
The Bride is the bride of the Lamb because she is married to Him by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb.
It is not good for a man to be alone. It is not good for the Lamb to be alone. The story of Adam and Eve is a portrayal of the most momentous event of all history—the union of the Lamb and His Wife, the adding of a counterpart to the eternal Word of God.
Because our destiny is to be united with the Lamb for eternity, the demands on us are total. There always is the danger of losing our crown. I think this expression may not indicate we will be thrown into the Lake of Fire but rather that we will fall from our position as a member of the Bride back into the ranks of the nations of saved people. We lose our crown, not necessarily our salvation. However, we may be chastised severely for this lapse. To whom much has been given, of him or her shall much be required.
If the Apostle Paul toward the end of his life claimed he had not arrived at God’s calling on his life but still was pressing forward, it must be true that membership in the Bride is an exceedingly high summons. Many believers will be diligent enough to maintain their high position at the right hand of God in Christ, but others will not endure the level of consecration required.
Until we are willing to follow the Lamb with a perfect heart we are not competent or qualified to fulfill the role of the Bride of the Lamb. We are not able to bring ourselves and those around us to the righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit that God desires for all of His creatures.
The various ministries of the Body of Christ change us into the image of the Lord and bring us into untroubled rest in the Person and will of God. When we are changed into the image of the Lord and are at rest in God’s will, we are able to serve as the Wife of the Lamb. When we are serving as the Wife of the Lamb we bring ourselves and those around us into righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
We can understand from this how necessary it is that the Christian believers change from members of congregations into ministers in the Body of Christ.
To be part of the Temple of God.
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
It seems that God has had some kind of temple in Heaven. But the Scriptures are clear that God is looking for a house.
Why is this? It is because God desires fellowship with man. God desires to tear down the walls and talk with His children as a Father would. This is not the case when God is closed up inside a temple.
This is why there is no temple in the new Jerusalem. The entire city is the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb. God dwells in every member in His fullness. He is not hidden from His elect by the walls of a building or by ecclesiastical ceremony.
To this day it appears most Christians do not understand the mystery of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. They still are picturing walking in Heaven with the Lord. It is so difficult to grasp that the desire of Christ and God is to live in us, to govern and bless mankind from within us. Yet this is the fundamental nature of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in the saints governing all the works of God’s hands.
There are two major aspects of Christ dwelling in us:
- The first aspect is that of Christ being formed in us. Christ is formed in us through the travail of the ministries of the Body of Christ.
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)
- When Christ has been formed in us, the Father and the Son will come and dwell in That which has been formed in us.
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)
The verse above is the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. The reason Satan emphasizes grace apart from works is that the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles cannot take place in us until we obey the teachings of Christ, until we keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. Satan understands that the Christian believer poses no deadly threat to his kingdom on the earth until the Father and the Son make their abode in him or her. Therefore Satan repeats over and over that we are saved by grace and there is no critical need for us to keep the hundreds of commandments found in the New Testament.
The present moral weakness and consequent powerlessness of the Christian churches is due to this misunderstanding of the new covenant.
We desire to build fine church buildings. God desires to live in us and walk in us. Thus we always do err in our hearts.
There is no higher role that anyone can fill than to be a pillar of the Temple of God. But this is not possible for us except as we are conformed to the image of Christ and are brought into untroubled rest in God’s Person and will.
There is no greater joy available to man (and God has called us to fullness of joy!) than to bring forth from our inmost being the water of life wherewith the dead of mankind can come to eternal life in Christ.
To be a member of the Body of Christ.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (I Corinthians 12:12)
The physical body is a unit made of many parts. The Body of Christ is like this. Because this simile is employed by the Holy Spirit, the concept of a “congregation” is unscriptural.
A congregation is an audience. The Body of Christ is a living organism. It can never be a congregation that merely attends a “service.” The members of our body are not an audience that assembles on Sunday and listens to a sermon. The members of our body are continually functioning, performing the directions of the Head.
How could it be otherwise?
The term “Christ” means the One whom God has anointed with the Spirit of God. Christ is anointed with the Spirit of God so He can build up the Lord’s people, the result being that they are able to rebuild that which sin has destroyed over the face of the earth.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4)
It has pleased God to make Christ dependent on us. As the head of a body is unable to perform work apart from the members of the body, so it is true that Christ is unable to perform the work of God apart from the members of His Body.
If Christ were going to set up the Kingdom of God by Himself He would have done so two thousand years ago, and spared mankind the agony endured throughout the two millennia. But God has purposed that the work of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth will be performed by the anointed Head working with and through an anointed Body.
This in no manner diminishes the majesty of Christ, but it does point toward the need for Christian congregations to be changed into ministering faculties in the Body of Christ.
Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit cannot be brought into the earth apart from the functioning of the members of the Body of Christ. As the members function the great Lampstand of God is constructed. When it is finished the Lampstand, which is Christ—Head and Body—will serve for eternity as the Light of the world.
To be the salt of the earth.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. (Matthew 5:13)
Many foods do not taste good without salt. The food may be nourishing. It may be the kind of food the person enjoys. It may be appealing to the eye. But without salt it can be eaten and digested but it is not pleasurable.
God loves the peoples of the earth. The members of the Body of Christ, if they are being formed in the image of Christ and are entering rest in God’s Person and will, cause the inhabitants of the earth to be palatable to God.
Several times in the Scriptures the importance of “salt” is emphasized.
Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings. (Leviticus 2:13)
Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other. (Mark 9:49,50)
Exactly what does God mean by “salt”? Whatever it is, it makes people “taste good” to God.
Probably human experience reveals what is meant by salt. There are people who are religious but they are not pleasant to be around. They need to be flavored with “salt.”
Salt is sodium chloride, if I remember my high-school chemistry.
It seem to me that the “salt” Jesus wants in us is compounded from integrity, sincerity, humility, kindliness, good humor, patience, a ready understanding of people and their problems, concern for the needs of others rather than with one’s self, generosity of heart, and a genuine love for God.
When people lack the above traits they may have many outstanding qualities. They may be brilliant, or beautiful, or talented, or filled with religious zeal. But they are not pleasant to be around. They do not “taste good.”
Perhaps when God visits the earth He does not find many friends. But there are some people who have integrity, who are sincere, who are humble, who are kindly, who are good humored, who are patient, who understand the problems of people, who are concerned with the needs of others, who are generous of heart, and who genuinely love and fear God. God is comfortable with such people. He can accept the whole “field” of the earth because there is a treasure in it, so to speak. He can sit down and dine with His friends in the throne room of their heart.
As King David and Jude pointed out, there are many who count themselves as “Jews,” who have honey in their mouths but in whose hearts there is a drawn sword. They are religious Christians and would be indignant if anyone claimed otherwise.
But the Lord knows those who are His. They have the salt of their God in them. They make the whole earth acceptable to the Lord. Otherwise He would come and put an end to mankind.
If a member of God’s elect ever loses that “salt,” that sincere walk with God, he is worthless to the Kingdom of God. Mankind will recognize that he has turned away from his calling in the earth. The people of the world will throw him out and trample on him. Such are picked up and thrown into the fire, for they have betrayed God and the people whom they were to bring to God.
He who wins souls is wise. His fruit is a tree of life for all to benefit from. He has done the will of God. He has moved from light to light and from vision to vision. His example causes men to glorify God. He is a herald of the perfect day when the Holy Spirit fills the earth as the waters cover the sea. He will be placed as a star in the firmament of God and guide mankind forever.
To be the light of the world.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)
Christ is the Light of the world. When Christ has been formed in us, and we are resting in God’s Person and will, we are the light of the world.
What is light? John tells us there is Life in Christ, and that that Life is the Light of men.
How can life be light?
In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
Light is that which tells us the truth about things, relationships, and circumstances.
The Lord Jesus Christ is Truth. He does infinitely more than tell us the truth. He Himself is the Truth.
What is truth? Truth does not answer the question of where something is, how much it weighs, what color it is, where it is placed, whether it is solid or hollow, whether it is rigid or flexible.
Truth does not tell us the facts about a thing, or a circumstance, or a relationship.
Truth does not answer the question what, when, where, or how. Truth answers the question “why?” “What is the meaning of this?” “What should I do about this?”
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Truth of God. As Christ is formed in us we understand why a thing is present, or why a relationship is or is not working smoothly, or why a circumstance is occurring.
Christ causes us to know the meaning of the thing, circumstance, or relationship.
Christ tells us what to do about the thing, the circumstance, or the relationship.
In Him is Life, and that Life is our Light. As Christ comes to maturity in us we understand why things are as they are and we know what to do about the problems and dilemmas that arise.
The world is in darkness. Science is measuring things, relationships, and circumstances. The investigators are gathering data. But they do not understand what the data signify.
Governments are managed by self-seeking individuals who attempt to conceal their motives and their actions. Thus darkness flows from their communications.
Scientists often mean well, but in their pursuit of knowledge they sometimes override ethical questions. The latest issue is that of cloning humans. The scientist wants to know if it is possible to clone a human being. He may assume that to do so would be a good thing. But he doesn’t know what Pandora’s box of evil he will open. He knows one kind of truth but not the real truth. Do the developers of the atom bomb have regrets?
Archaeologists hope to read the records found in the earth. But these do not give us truth because they do not reveal the meaning of history.
Sometimes theologians dissect the Hebrew and Greek texts in the hope of discovering truth. It is like cutting up the corpse of Beethoven to discover the secret of his music. But they don’t always look up to Christ so that truth is formed in them.
Mankind dwells on the earth but does not understand how to use the elements thereof so that all people are provided for. Intellectuals learn continually but never come to the knowledge of the truth. Savants and political leaders earnestly seek peace and the solution to the problems of people, but wars continue.
Money is not the answer. Education is not the answer. Science is not the answer. Political maneuvering is not the answer.
Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ brings truth.
The greatest problem in the world is in the area of relationships. The Ten Commandments have to do with relationships. The greatest of all commandments, to love God and our neighbor, addresses the issue of relationships.
Only Jesus Christ can produce desirable relationships. Whenever two people are coming into the image of Christ and are entering perfect rest in the Person and will of God, they are in perfect harmony one with the other. As long as they are not so foolish as to quarrel about doctrine, but rest in the love of Christ, they will enter a heavenly unity of spirit. They are one in Christ and in the Father, and consequently with each other.
There absolutely is no other solution to the problem of relationships. The most fervent love affair on earth will founder eventually if it encounters enough stress. But the love that abides among the saints of God will never founder. It endures for eternity.
We must discover, develop, and use our unique ministry. In doing so we build ourselves and others into the image of Christ and guide ourselves and those who hear us into God’s perfect rest.
As we are changed into Christ’s image and enter God’s rest we can serve as the light of the world. We can provide the truth that will set the creation free from the bondages of sin and self-seeking.
We can speak the truth. In fact, we can do more than speak the truth. We can be the truth, the light of the world. As people see our good works, our love, our joy, our peace, our patience, our gentleness, our goodness of behavior, our faithfulness, our teachableness, our self-control, our willingness to serve and take the lowest place, they will glorify God. They have beheld the light, the light that has been created in us as we have been built up in Christ.
To be part of the vehicle for the end-time revival.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. (Isaiah 60:1,2)
If I am correct, the burden of the two thousand years of the Christian Era has been to call out from mankind an elect, a remnant both of Jews and Gentiles. These are a firstfruits of mankind. Meanwhile, whoever calls on the Lord Jesus will not be destroyed in the Day of Christ.
All the ministries and gifts of the Body of Christ are for the purpose of bringing the elect, the firstfruits, to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
God deals with His elect night and day, prodding them to turn away from the world and fix their attention on the Lord Jesus. The Lord cannot return to earth until the remnant God has chosen have been brought to maturity; for He will return with them and establish His Kingdom on the earth.
When the elect have become one in God in Christ, the Glory of God will come on them. Then the nations will realize that it is God who has sent Christ. Also, that God loves His saints as He loves Christ.
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. (John 17:21-23)
Seeing the Divine Glory, the peoples of the earth will come to the saints to be blessed and taught of the Lord.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. (Isaiah 60:1-4)
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2,3)
It is obvious that we must be conformed to the image of Christ and be at rest in the will of God if we are to bring the Divine Glory to people in this manner.
Because it is written that God will pour out such glory in the last days, and because it is not possible for this to take place until the saints have been properly prepared, it appears that we must turn our attention to the growth of the believers to maturity. If we pray, the Lord Jesus will show us how to do this; what steps must be taken.
One major step is that of changing the congregations (the audiences) into functioning members of the Body of Christ so through their mutual interaction each believer may grow in the Head.
To be a restorer of Paradise on the earth.
That the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)
The Christian Church is a firstfruits of mankind.
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:18)
Too often, I think, the churches have regarded themselves as groups of saved people whose destiny is to lie for eternity on couches in mansions in Heaven. Everyone else is destined to burn in the Lake of Fire for eternity.
Such is not the case.
The Church is like the firstborn of a Jewish household. To the Church has been given the keys of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is being developed so one day the members of the nations may be released from sin and live in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
This does not mean everyone will be saved, for some will turn away from the Lord and refuse the Life that is in Him. How then can they enter righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit?
The price of redemption for all mankind was paid on the cross of Calvary. We make the decision whether to go God’s way or our own way. It is as simple as that.
The earth in the present hour is as a great prison of frustration. The people clutch the rags of their impoverished existence, terrified that what they have will be taken from them. Sometimes the poorest of people cannot find it in their hearts to allow Christ to have His way in their life. So they continue in their pitiful hovel.
God is raising sons who will return with Christ and bring justice to the nations. God’s sons have the firstfruits of His Spirit. This means they have the Holy Spirit in advance of the members of mankind.
As soon as the sons have made themselves ready by receiving the Divine grace being offered to them, the time of their unveiling will be at hand. When the sons of God are unveiled the material creation will be released from the spiritual death in which it is imprisoned.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:18-22)
Paradise shall be restored to the earth. That which was forfeited in the Garden of Eden will return. But it will not drop down from Heaven. It will issue from the personalities of the sons of God. This is better than having a sovereign outpouring of God’s Spirit because the Divine Glory will be controlled by saints who have learned iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.
Ours is a day in which to be revived. To be revived means to press into that which already is available. The downpour of the harvest rain is at hand. This future rain of the Spirit may result in the majority of earth’s people turning to Christ. However the current pressing into Christ is more significant. Those who turn to Christ during a downpour of the Spirit may or may not endure when problems arise. But those who of their own will press into Christ during the dry season are more consistent, more faithful, more dependable. They bear fruit out of season and are blessed by the Lord.
To be a source of eternal life and healing for the nations.
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (I Corinthians 15:45)
The nations of the earth are spiritually dead. The Holy Spirit is not in them. They are as intelligent dust.
God’s solution to the dead condition of the nations is to draw out some people, fill them with His Spirit, and then bring them to the image of Christ and to untroubled rest in His Person and will.
When Christ has been formed in these, who are God’s called-out from the nations (the meaning of the word “church”), the Father and Christ will settle down to rest in them. Thus they will become the very Throne of God.
The water of eternal life always flows from the Throne of God. As soon as a person has become the Throne of God, the water of eternal life will flow from him or her.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:1-4)
The Spirit and the Bride will invite whoever will to come and drink of the eternal life that is flowing from their inner being.
Our first personality was a living soul. Our second personality, that which is born of Christ and filled with Christ, is a life-giving spirit.
It is God’s will that every one of His saints, His holy ones, become a tree of life by which the peoples of the earth can be healed and live in God’s Presence forever.
But if we are to be a tree of life we must be judged and then filled with the Spirit; judged and then filled with the Spirit; judged and then filled with the Spirit until we are swimming in the uncrossable river of God’s eternal life.
As soon as this is true we find ourselves a tree on the bank of the River of Life.
He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. (Ezekiel 47:6,7)
Now we discover that the Lord’s attention has turned toward the dead sea of mankind. Our role then will be to serve as the source of life and healing for the nations, for it is the expressed will of God that the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord cover the earth as the waters of eternal life cover the dead sea of mankind.
The inheritance of Jesus and us is the nations and the furthest reaches of the earth. As soon as we have passed through various judgments and blessings we will be ready to descend with the Lord and install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
However, we are neither qualified nor competent to perform this role in the Kingdom of God until we are in the image of Christ and are living in God’s Person and will. And the only way we will be brought to such maturity is by the working together of all the parts of the one great Body of Christ.
To be a member of the royal priesthood.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9)
I wonder if Christian people understand their high calling as members of the royal priesthood.
At one time it was the descendants of Jacob who constituted the holy nation.
‘“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:5,6)
There has been some confusion about the relationship of the Christian Church to the physical people and land of Israel. There need not be. The Jews after the flesh were the original royal priesthood, the holy nation. When Jesus came, God chose a remnant of Jews and a remnant of Gentiles to continue as the olive tree, the royal priesthood.
Paul taught us that when the full number of Gentiles has been made part of the one olive tree, God once again will turn to the physical land and people of Israel. At that time the Jerusalem that today is in Heaven will be brought down and will clothe the physical land and people of Israel with Divine Glory. Thus all Israel, all who have been chosen of God, will be saved in the Lord Jesus.
All the promises of the Scripture, except those dealing directly with the physical people and land of Israel, are directed toward Christ and those who belong to Christ. These are the true Seed of Abraham. There never has been and never shall be another Seed of Abraham. The physical Jews were of the Seed of Abraham because God chose them. Then, when the Lord Jesus came, God expanded the call to include the elect Gentiles. This is the true and only olive tree. This is the true and only royal priesthood.
Every member of the royal priesthood is a saint, a holy one. This means God has drawn the individual closer to Himself than is true of the remainder of mankind. It is God who selects the members of the governing priesthood.
God’s priests shall rule the creation of God, bringing the laws of God, the blessing of God, the Presence of God to all of God’s creatures.
Being a member of the royal priesthood is such a high calling that the Apostle Paul was pursuing it throughout his lifetime.
Other people can occupy themselves with the things of the present world but the members of the royal priesthood cannot. Their role is to lift up holy hands continually, praising God, beholding His Glory that always fills the earth.
Other people can think what they will. God’s priests are to set their attention on things above where Christ sits on the right hand of God.
Other people can dream their dreams and imagine what they will. The very thoughts of the members of the priesthood are to be brought under the control of the Spirit of God. We must bring every decision before Christ in order that His wisdom may be exercised. It takes a period of time before we arrive at the place where every decision of life is brought before the Lord, but the result is well worth the effort we make to bring Jesus into every area of our personality and behavior.
We did not chose Christ. Christ chose us and ordained us as priests that we might bring forth fruit. The fruit we are to bring forth is the image of Christ. The world is not waiting to see us but to see Jesus. When the world sees Jesus, then they behold the Person, will, way, and eternal purpose of God in Christ. This is the true witness.
We of today need to understand that being “saved” is not just an experience we have at some point in time. Being saved is in the past, in the present, and in the future. We are working out our salvation today. We finally will be saved if we endure to the end.
When we understand that each of us is being fashioned so he can bring God to specific members of mankind, each one of us being assigned in advance to people, some of whom have not been born as yet, we are encouraged to bear with the endless dealings of God. God is making us bread for other people so they too can share the Life of Christ. We are losing our self-focus and are looking continually toward the needs of God and the needs of other people. Such change of focus is healthy and is bringing us toward perfect joy and fulfillment of the role for which we have been created.
To be a witness of God.
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so you may know and believe me and understand I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” (Isaiah 43:10)
We Christians often speak of “witnessing.” I think we have witnessing mixed up with preaching and with other aspects of ministry. In America we have a great deal of preaching and much ministry of various kinds. But the light of the witness has about gone out.
What is the difference between witnessing and ministering?
There can be a very great difference. The ability to minister is a gift, often given to people who hardly know the Lord and who are behaving according to their fleshly impulses.
Being able to witness is not a gift. A witness is someone who has seen God, or heard God, or directly experienced an action of God. He declares that which he has seen and heard with the Lord.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:1-3)
God makes witnesses. God makes fishers of men. We pass through many fires, many waters, before we begin to learn a little of the Person and way of the Fire of Israel.
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so you may know and believe me and understand I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” (Isaiah 43:10)
Think about the above verse. Why does God choose us? So we may know and believe God and understand that He and He alone is the eternal Sovereign. It requires many experiences—some of them painful—before we understand the love of God, the faithfulness of God, the integrity of God, the fact that God is bringing us to joy.
The people of the world have a very confused picture of God. They are not certain God can be trusted. They are not certain that the Lord Jesus Christ came from God. They are not certain that there is only one God.
The Christian people of today do not, in numerous instances, present a clear picture of God. Some of the modern preaching sounds as though God is the same as Santa Claus, or else He is a butler who is waiting on the desires of His saints. God often is described as someone who will do good but certainly not anything that would hurt people. (The God of Noah must have vanished somewhere.)
Today we hear that God wants us to be wealthy and have every benefit in this present world. Perhaps the Christians who were given to the lions in the arenas of Rome would have wondered at such teaching.
The Divine witness in America is at a low ebb.
God wants witnesses today, people who have walked with God and have discovered how loving and faithful He is. They understand also that when we disobey our punishment may continue for many years—and it can be severe!
God desires that we live in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. God has the power to bring us into such a state. The only question is whether we are willing to present our body a living sacrifice and follow Christ patiently through every joy and every suffering; every freedom and every imprisonment; every understanding and every confusion; in times of abundance and in times of distress. We must be sternly obedient to God if we expect to receive the fullness of the inheritance.
To be a son of God.
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7)
The above is an extraordinary verse, to say the least.
What about those who do not overcome? Do they not inherit the splendor of the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ? Is God not their God? Are they not God’s sons?
I think it is about time we started paying attention to the Bible.
We are very soft in America. Our people for the most part are not tough. If someone preaches the demands of discipleship the believers exclaim: “It is too hard! It is too hard!”
The preachers agree with them. Everyone seems to want God to be “nice.” But the God of the Bible is not “nice.” There is no “beautiful Jesus.” The Bible is a record of human anguish, particularly concerning the instances where people have disobeyed God.
There are the curses of Mount Ebal!
So if I were to say, “If we do not live a victorious Christian life we will not inherit the splendor of the new Jerusalem, God will not be our God, and we will not be God’s son,” it may be true that there are not many who would be willing to go this far.
But what can we do? This is what the Scripture states by inference!
People will not accept the fact that the second chapter of the Book of Revelation implies that if we do not live a victorious life in Christ we may be subject to the sufferings of the Lake of Fire.
People will not accept the fact that the third chapter of the Book of Revelation suggests the possibility that the name of a Christian may be blotted from the Book of Life.
People will not accept the fact that if we do not bear the fruit of Christ’s image in our personality and behavior we will be removed from the Vine, from Christ.
The problem is, whether we will accept the sternness of the New Testament or not, we will find in the future that every word of the Scriptures will come to pass in fullness—every detail!
But don’t God’s love and mercy waive the statements of the Scripture? What do you think? Is the Scripture true or not?
I think it is Satan who is hoping to convince mankind that God is not as harsh as the Scripture teaches. Perhaps Satan is hoping that by stressing the mercy of God, Satan himself will escape the Lake of Fire. Do you believe Satan will escape the Lake of Fire? I do not. Furthermore, I do not believe God wants His statements “balanced” by love and mercy such that the statements no longer are true.
Where does all this lead us? It leads us to the fact that unless we pursue the life of victory in Christ we cannot be certain of our state in the Day of Christ.
Well then, what does it mean to live a victorious life in Christ?
Actually, it is the normal Christian life. We are to deny ourselves, take up our personal cross, and follow the Lord Jesus Christ at each moment of each day and each night.
That is all there is to it. We maintain our faith and obedience. Christ brings us the victory.
It seems to me that most American Christians are not living the normal Christian life. They are trusting in an unscriptural “grace” to shield from God’s sight their love of the world, their sinful practices, and their self-will. They love to have Jesus as their Savior but they certainly have no intention of making Jesus their personal Lord.
We Christians in America are, for the most part, ignorant of the demands of discipleship. We are attempting to use Jesus as a means of pursuing our materialistic way of life. We are greatly deceived!
Who are the true sons of God? The true sons of God are those who are led by the Spirit of God. What does the Spirit of God lead them to do? The Spirit of God leads them to put to death their sinful deeds; to sow each day to the Spirit of God instead of to their sinful nature.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13,14)
Perhaps in the near future many Christians will understand that if the members of the Body of Christ are to come to maturity, all believers will have to seek God until they receive the ministry that is theirs to operate. In this process of seeking, the Lord may reveal to them that their consecration needs to be strengthened. Perhaps Christ will point out their worldliness, lusts, and self-seeking. Then they may be willing to confess, denounce, and renounce their sins until they are successful in finding, developing, and using their unique ministry.
If many Christians would pursue Christ to this extent we would have a significant, lasting reviving of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
To be a brother of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
Did you ever think much about the above verse? There is an awful lot to it, isn’t there?
God’s predestining activities are mentioned. And notice that the predestining is not to salvation. The elect are predestined to be conformed; to be changed. Predestined to be changed! That right there warrants a tremendous amount of contemplation.
God did not predestine us to be saved from wrath but to be changed into the likeness of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This makes Christ a pattern that God is using as He changes us.
Then there is the concept of the brothers of Christ. I don’t think in over fifty years as a Christian I have heard even one sermon devoted to the fact, or that even mentioned the fact, that God is raising up brothers of Jesus Christ.
We all know the preceding verse, that all things work together for good to those who are called according to God’s purpose. But we supposed that the verse meant God will keep us from harm and trouble. The truth is, every thing, circumstance, and relationship of past, present, and future history is working for good, but that good is the changing of us into the image of Christ that we might be His brothers.
Now, if we are going to be brothers of Christ we are going to have to be like Him. That does not mean that our personalities will be exactly the same, it means that we will dwell in righteousness, peace, and joy as Christ dwells in righteousness, peace, and joy. It means also that we will be sternly obedient to the Father as Christ is sternly obedient to His Father and our Father.
Christ lives in iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father. Therefore we also must live in iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.
When the members of the Body of Christ are functioning in their ministries, we will be brought into this image of Jesus Christ.
What will it mean to be a brother of Jesus Christ? It will mean that we will share the inheritance with Him. What is His inheritance from God? It is all the works of God’s hands, particularly the nations of the earth and the farthest reaches of the earth.
God is our Father. Christ is our Brother. What more could we want?
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. (Hebrews 2:11)
We have been born of God. We have been raised in Christ to the right hand of God. Now we have to fight the good fight of faith in order to maintain our high position in Christ; for there are numerous enemies and forces that continually are seeking to get our attention off Christ and onto the various problems and temptations of the world.
To the victors go the spoils. Christ will divide the spoils with the strong.
I have been reading the writings of some of the early Christian mystics. Their seeking of God was highly introspective as they perfected their ability to contemplate God.
Today something is different! I think it is the nearness of the Kingdom of God. The burden is to prepare ourselves to descend with Christ and install the Kingdom of God on the earth. We are gaining an increasing love for people, recognizing that the inheritance of Christ and us is people.
God is our inheritance and our first love. But now it seems that God’s love in Christ is being directed toward people, and toward the reality of the resurrection and of our governing the earth.
Yes, we are sons of God and brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ in the fullest sense of the Word. But we have to guard ourselves carefully, for Satan will turn us aside if he can so that, as Paul says, we disqualify ourselves.
He who pursues the life of victory to the end of his days will inherit the works of God’s hands. God will be His God and His Father. The Lord Jesus Christ will be His Brother. And all of this for eternity!
To be an overcomer of the accuser.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11)
You may have noticed while studying the eighteen roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God that some of the roles are eternal, such as our being a member of the Wife of the Lamb. Others have to do with specific events. The role of an overcomer of the accuser has to do with a specific event.
In the present hour Satan, although having been cast down from his former role as a guardian cherub stationed by the Throne of God in Heaven, remains in the air above us. He is termed the “ruler of the kingdom of the air.”
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:1,2)
According to Paul there is a “kingdom of the air.” This is why when we are caught up to meet the Lord at His return, we meet Him in the air. The earth is governed from thrones located in the air above us.
In the last days there will be a company of saints who will overcome Satan, the accuser of the Lord’s brothers. They will overcome the accuser by trusting in the atoning authority of the blood of the Lamb; by bearing a true witness of the Person, will, way, and eternal purpose of God in Christ; and by loving not their own life to the point of death.
I think the third factor, loving not our life to the death, is at issue today. How many of the believers are willing to follow Christ to the point of death? Not just physical death. That is relatively easy. It is death to our will that is so extremely difficult to undergo. Those who have died to their will have had their heads cut off, to speak in a figure; for the will often has to do with the reasonings and imaginations of our rebellious mind.
At some point the obedience of these saints will cause God to empower Michael and his angels. They then will throw Satan down from the heavens to the earth. This marks the end of the wrestling match we all endure.
The effect of the removal of Satan from his vantage point in the heavens is of epochal significance.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (Revelation 12:10-12)
Overcoming the accuser brings salvation, the power and kingdom of God, and the authority of Christ. All of this is accomplished through the faithfulness of this group of saints. It is the heavens and those who dwell in them that benefit. But big trouble is ahead for the earth and the sea (probably referring to the nations as “the sea”).
It is obvious there will have to be considerable interaction on the part of the members of the Body of Christ if a remnant is to be developed who will satisfy God to the extent that He issues the final authority and power to Michael. But think what it will mean for some to be able to participate in the task of casting down the ancient accuser of the brothers!
As we ponder the good to Heaven and earth that will come from throwing down the accuser from his throne in the air, we are inspired to press forward in the work of bringing the believers into the image of Christ and into untroubled rest in the Person and will of God.
To be a governor of the nations.
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery—just as I have received authority from my Father. (Revelation 2:26,27)
I wonder how much thought we have given to the biblical stress on the role of the saints as rulers of the nations of the earth.
I reason I wonder about this is that such rulership does not seem to fit our vision of the future. The traditional vision is that we are destined to make our eternal home in Heaven where we will reside in a splendid mansion.
Did you ever wonder what we will do for eternity, what kinds of roles and tasks will occupy us while we are dwelling in our mansion?
If such is our destiny, what is the Lord talking about when He states that whoever lives the life of victory will rule the nations with an iron scepter? How does this tie in with our life in a mansion in Heaven?
Does this mean nations in Heaven or nations on the earth? The following verse answers this question:
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10)
Maybe it is Jews who will reign on the earth. Perhaps we Gentiles will lie on our couches in our mansions in Heaven.
But what about the following?
And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
It looks like it will not be only the Jews who will reign on the earth.
I don’t know about you, but I have trouble reconciling the idea of living in a mansion for eternity, and ruling on the earth. Since the Bible does not teach that we will lie on a couch in a mansion in Heaven for eternity, and the Bible does teach that the victorious saints will govern the nations, I am going to say that our tradition is incorrect.
Now, it makes quite a difference in our Christian life if we are preparing ourselves to lie on a couch in a mansion in Heaven, or if we are preparing ourselves to govern nations on the earth.
If we are going to Heaven by grace, and when we get there we will do nothing of significance except enjoy ourselves, then we had better make the most of this life because we never are going to see the earth again. And no radical change in us is necessary if we are going to do nothing of significance for eternity except enjoy ourselves.
But if we are to govern nations of people—this is quite a different matter!
I notice that God goes to great lengths to change us from our adamic nature into a personality regarded as a life-giving spirit. It seems to me that such change is in preparation for a life of service on the earth, not for an eternity of lounging about in Heaven.
It appears we who are Christian leaders have some serious thinking to do. Maybe what we are preaching is unscriptural and needs to be brought into line with the Scriptures.
The Scriptures, Old and New Testament, speak clearly of a kingdom that is to come to the earth and bring justice to the meek. Without a doubt our Lord Jesus Christ will be the King of this kingdom and will govern from the throne of David in Jerusalem.
The Bible states we will be forever with the Lord. If we are forever with the Lord, we will be on the earth with Him. The destiny of Christ is to be King of the kingdoms of the world.
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
Jesus Christ will rule on the earth and those who have pursued the life of victory in Christ will govern with Him.
What does this mean to us? It means that we had better learn to obey Christ and to follow Him precisely as He leads us. If we cannot learn to obey His leadership, how can we expect people to follow ours?
By the way, if you do not really want to sit as a king and hit people on the head with a rod of iron, don’t worry. All that the Scripture means is wherever God places you, you will be able to exert your will. And believe me—when you see the people, or children, or babies, that God assigns to you, you will be filled with praise and rejoicing.
God is not going to give you something you do not want. In His Presence is fullness of joy. At His right hand there are pleasures for eternity. In order to have fullness of joy and pleasures for eternity you will have to have received that which you desire more than anything else.
God will faithfully place in you an intense desire for that which He is going to give you.
Remember, however, to fulfill the role of a or of the nations you must have been changed into Christ’s image and have entered untroubled rest in God’s Person and will. There will be no governors of God’s nations who are sinful and self-centered. This is no place for the seeking of personal glory or disobedience to God.
In God’s economy, those with greater love always govern those with lesser love. God will have it no other way… ever!
But how does all this love agree with the rod of iron? Simply this. The nations will still have a rebellious nature, as we notice at the end of the thousand-year kingdom age. They will not always do what you desire. Then force must be exerted—enough force to compel obedience.
God loves us greatly—more than we imagine. Yet He uses enough force to compel our obedience, because God knows if He does not do this we will destroy ourselves.
So there are times when love must punish to the point of removing that which we cherish greatly. But all works for our eternal good if we will repent and obey God. So the rulers of the nations will possess the love of Christ for the people. But they will retain the power to enforce obedience when necessary.
To be a soldier in the army of the Lord.
The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)
Some have maintained that the second chapter of the Book of Joel is referring only to locusts. However, the language appears to be too strong to be referring primarily to locusts. In any case, it doesn’t matter. There are other passages in the Old and New Testaments that speak of the army of the Lord. But I like the second chapter of Joel because there are statements in this chapter that describe the soldiers of the Lord, such as, each one marches in his rank. We need to learn this today!
What is your vision of the Day of Christ? The Day of Christ includes the raising of the dead, in some cases followed by judgment.
One of the noteworthy events of the Day of Christ is the coming of the Lord followed by His army of saints. This is a tremendous company of people whose task is to bring judgment on the world. Part of this judgment will fall on the sinners in the Christian churches.
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:14,15)
Our traditional vision of dying, and then the day of resurrection, does not ordinarily include the thought of a powerful army bent on destroying the works of wickedness in the earth. Although such an army is mentioned several times, our tradition about Heaven and mansions prevents us from perceiving what actually is written in the Bible.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. (Revelation 19:13-15)
There are two armies: the army of saints, who are judges, and the army of angels, who do the actual fighting.
“Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 4:3)
There are several such passages.
It appears our current vision of rising to Heaven in order to escape the problems of earth is pure mythology. There is no basis in Scripture for the hope of leaving the earth in order to attain the bliss of Paradise. In fact, Paradise is to return to earth, from where it originated.
Can you see them in imagination—the Lord and His kings coming from the east, from the rising of the sun of the Day of the Lord? On their shields is the rampant Lion of Judah. The sword of the Spirit is in one hand. The rod of iron in the other. Woe to the hypocrites in the churches in that day!
These are God’s untouchables. Even the prophets will tremble at their appearing.
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. (Habakkuk 3:16—KJV)
It seems that not all Christians will be raised in the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place at the next appearing of Christ. It will be a Gideon’s army, a small remnant. Having been judged previously, they will be raised from the dead. Then they will be transformed and rise to meet the Lord in the air, in the area where the thrones that govern the earth are located.
They will be mounted on the white war stallions. Then, with the Lord Jesus at their head, they will hurtle downward to the battle line where Antichrist has occupied Jerusalem. The result has been foretold. The armies of Antichrist will be destroyed, and the restoration of the earth will commence.
This is the biblical vision of the Day of Christ. Because participation as a soldier in the army of the Lord requires intense, prolonged preparation on our part, it is important that all unscriptural visions be removed from Christian thinking and replaced by the true, scriptural vision of the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
We Christians of today are not prepared for the awful conflict that is ahead of us.
To be a judge of men and angels.
Do you not know the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (I Corinthians 6:2,3)
To be a judge of the creatures of God is one of the primary roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God.
At some point in eons past there was a rebellion against God. Sin was conceived when Satan, a guardian cherub, declared his intention to usurp the place of God. All of the usurpers from that time, such as Korah and Absalom, have reflected the original usurpation of duly constituted authority.
All sin proceeds from the self-will of Satan.
It is possible there was no need for judgment to be exercised prior to Satan’s presumption. However, God Himself knew the difference between good and evil.
The creation of man is God’s answer to the prior rebellion. For eternity, man is to be the arbiter of good and evil.
Adamic man, the first creation, is not competent to serve as the judge of the creation, nor did God ever intend he would be competent. God knew that the first race of man would serve as stock onto which Christ would be grafted.
First, Christ had to be proven in the arena of good and evil. Christ emerged supremely triumphant. Now His body and blood are being formed in us and we are undergoing training. When we have been formed in His image, and are at rest in God’s Person and will, the Father and the Son will establish Their throne in us. That throne is the seat of government, of judgment.
There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David. (Psalms 122:5)
So that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:30)
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
These throne are in the air above the earth, apparently. Presently they are occupied by Satan and his lords. In the Day of Christ the victorious saints will take their places here, according to our present understanding.
There were two trees in the garden in Eden. As far as I can tell, both of these trees are the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Tree of Life. He is also the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for He is the Word of God.
Adam and Eve ate of the trees in the wrong order. If they had eaten of Christ and gained the Life of God in themselves, the day would have come when they would have been spiritually competent to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
In our day we begin by eating of Christ, of the Tree of Life.
Then the Holy Spirit guides us into the knowledge of good and evil, and gives us the willingness and strength to embrace the good and vehemently denounce and renounce the evil. To grow in Christ is to grow in the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and to choose the good and reject the evil.
Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13,14)
To the present hour the Christian churches have been occupied with eating from the Tree of Life, from Christ. Now it is time for us to grow up in Christ. To grow up in Christ is to be able to distinguish between good and evil, and to always choose to embrace the good and reject the evil. Until we are able to do this we are not competent to sit on the thrones of judgment.
Those who pursue the life of victory in the Lord Jesus will rule with Him as members of the royal priesthood. They will judge and govern the creation of God forever. As such they must be trained thoroughly in the way of righteousness.
This is the burden of our time. Every member of the Body of Christ must come alive, find his or her ministry, develop it, and learn to obey Christ in the use of it. Only through this means can the members of the Body mature in Christ until they are qualified and competent to serve God in His Kingdom as His judges. When they do, all the creatures of God will be brought to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit of God.
To be a wall of defense around the Glory of God.
The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:14)
Notice that the names of the apostles will be inscribed on the foundations of the wall of the new Jerusalem.
It is my point of view that the new Jerusalem is an actual city. However, it seems clear that the aspects of the city presented in the last two chapters of the Book of Revelation symbolize the character that has been wrought in the saints. Thus the Apostles of the Lamb, whose names are on the foundations of the wall, are part of the Divine resistance to sin.
The city itself is described as the “wife of the Lamb.”
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9)
This fact alone suggests that while there is a city, it nevertheless is at the same time the glorified Christian Church.
In spite of the fact that there are many features of the new Jerusalem and varied activities taking place therein that we would enjoy reading about, a large part of the two brief chapters is devoted to the wall and its highly decorated foundations.
Why such an emphasis on the wall and its twelve foundations? What is God telling us?
God is telling us that sin and rebellion shall never again enter His Presence or the presence of His beloved sons.
But no wall, no matter how high and thick, could ever prevent sin from entering a city. Sin comes from within the heart. Therefore the wall must be created in our heart.
That wall represents the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Divine Wall against sin.
If the Wall, which is Christ, had been constructed in the personalities of Adam and Eve, Satan could never have been able to enter the garden in Eden. Alas—Adam and Eve were unwalled cities!
The Christian churches of today, to a great extent, are unwalled cities. Many of us are babies when it comes to walling out the works of Satan.
Satan has access to the thinking of Christian people. The greatest lie that has infiltrated Christian thinking is the concept of Divine grace as an alternative to righteous, holy, obedient behavior. “Salvation by faith alone!” is the devastating lie that leaves the Christian defenseless against the suggestions of Satan.
Truly, the walls and gates of Jerusalem have been burned with fire.
They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3)
The events of the Book of Nehemiah actually took place. In addition, they are an allegory of the restoration of the Christian Church in the closing days of the Church Age. The wall and gates must be rebuilt, stone by stone, bar by bar, lock by lock.
God knew in advance that the Christian Church could not retain the glory and revelation given in the first century. God realized that all would be lost and we would have to rebuild, in the midst of our enemies, that which had been so freely given.
Here we are in the twenty-first century. The task before us is to rebuild the wall against sin in the members of the Body of Christ.
We must realize that, although it is one of our fondest traditions, the New Testament does not teach a state of grace whereby God does not see our sin. Such is not the new covenant. The new covenant is the inscribing of the eternal moral law of God in our mind and heart. It is not an excuse for sin, it is a way out of the bondages of sin.
We have been invaded by the wisdom of darkness and we do not realize it.
Now it is time to return to the New Testament and see what it actually says. The New Testament teaches us that sin will not be permitted in the Kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit stands ready to help each one of us construct a wall against sin in our personality.
“I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 15:20)
Until we have become a wall against sin we are neither qualified nor competent to serve God as a member of His Kingdom. We still are part of the problem. We cannot possibly bring righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit while there still are doors in our personality through which sin can enter.
To be part of the revelation of Himself—God in Christ in the saints.
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. (Revelation 3:12)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the appearing of the invisible God.
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 3:15)
The fact that God was “seen by angels” makes one wonder what Heaven is like. Cannot the angels see God?
I would suggest that Christ is the beginning of a process that originated in the heart and mind of the Father. I think God is tired of being invisible.
God is invisible, to humans at least, to the present hour. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be if we could see God? If God were somewhere on the earth, would you take a trip to see Him? You probably would. I know I would.
But what would He be like?
Suppose God came to San Diego, California. Suppose He set up His throne in a building or on one of the main streets. What would He look like? Probably something like the sun. We would be blinded. Also, the sin in us would be in torment.
The invisible God appeared on earth two thousand years ago. But He was not as a blazing sun. Since we have no recorded comments on how He looked, He must have been of ordinary appearance.
But His behavior, and the miracles He performed, testified that God indeed was walking on the streets of the land of Israel.
So unspeakably wicked and depraved is the human heart that we rejected God our Creator. Can you imagine that? We saw our Creator and rejected Him! Yet, He went about doing good, healing those who were oppressed by the devil.
Why should God make Himself visible to people if He is going to be treated in this manner?
God walked in the garden in Eden. No doubt Adam and Eve could see Him. But it is not recorded that they spent much time with Him. (If they only realized what an opportunity they had! If the people of Jesus’ day only realized what an opportunity they had!)
What would you and I give to spend even one day with the Lord Jesus!
But in order for faith to be created in us we must cope with the invisible God.
However, as we said, the Lord Jesus is the beginning of a process that God has in mind. God desires to reveal Himself in a great multitude of people until every one of His creatures can see God any time he or she desires.
This is what it is all about, you know, the making visible of the invisible God.
God chose the stones of His temple before He created the physical world. He called each of us by name. He said, “You will reveal Me to My creatures. I have selected you for this purpose.”
At the time of God’s choosing we are born physically. At some point in our life the Spirit of God impresses us to come to Christ for salvation. Little do we realize that we are coming to Christ for anything more than to be saved and to be permitted to enter Heaven.
After we are saved we have an opportunity to be diligent with the things of God or else to be careless with the things of God. If we are diligent we pass from the ranks of the called to the smaller company of the chosen.
Now we are put through the trials that determine the extent of our faithfulness. If we prove faithful, God begins to speak to us about His plan to make us a pillar in His eternal temple. It slowly dawns on us that God in Christ desires to use us as a revealing of His Person, His way, His will, and His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.
Along with this understanding, the love of Christ for God and other people is given to us. The intensity of this love makes aware of the motive behind the behavior of God and Christ.
Our pursuit of Christ had been subjective, focused on our escape from sin and self-will and our grasp on Christ. Now there is a difference. We realize that we were not created to be a superior spiritual being but to be the place where God is. Immanuel—God with us.
Our focus turns outward toward God and people. The Ark of the Covenant has vanished, having served its purpose. Now Jerusalem is the Throne of the Lord, and all people can come and receive the blessing and Virtue of God. This is endless joy.
In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the LORD, “men will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. (Jeremiah 3:16,17)
In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9)
What an opportunity lies before us. Also, great danger. The danger is that we will take the gifts of God and try to use them to save the world or to do whatever else we think is important. In this case we will have become the False Prophet.
The opportunity is that of becoming the Presence of God among His creatures. In order to take advantage of such an unspeakable opportunity we have to flee from worldliness, put the sins of our flesh to death through the Spirit of God, and carry our cross of pain and denial until our self-will has been replaced by God’s will.
When we become the Presence of God among people we will bring to them righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. We are destined to become the revelation of the invisible God.
It is no wonder the writer of the Book of Hebrews repeatedly warned his readers of the danger of neglecting such a great salvation.
As the following passage becomes true in your life, you will know that you are entering the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. You will realize you are becoming the Throne of God, the source of eternal life for the creatures of God.
In that day you will say: “I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” (Isaiah 12:1-6)
The Fourth Objective—Living in Righteousness, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit
The full operation of the eighteen roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God leads to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
Each objective leads to the next. Our first objective is to find out what gifts and ministries Christ desires to operate in us, and then to use them.
The operation of our gifts and ministries brings us and all to whom we minister into the image of Christ and into untroubled rest in the Person and will of God, which is the second objective.
Being brought into the image of Christ and untroubled rest in the Person and will of God enables us to perform the eighteen roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God, which is the third objective.
The performance of the eighteen roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God brings every member of the Kingdom of God into the fullness of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, which is the fourth objective.
It is time for the wheat, the Body of Christ, to come to maturity. At the same time the weeds, the offspring of Satan will come to maturity. We are approaching an age of moral horrors.
To the present hour the ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit lie dormant in the Christian believers. They have been taught they are members of a congregation. Most of them make an attempt to attend church, to give of their means, and to help with the tasks of the church.
There are a few who hear the call of the Lord and set themselves aside for a ministry of one sort or another. But this is true only of a small percentage of the entire membership.
The members of the Body of Christ cannot possibly come to maturity until there is a much, much greater participation in ministry on the part of the rank and file of believers.
Because maturity cannot be achieved by a “congregation” set of roles and expectations, the Christian leaders must make every effort to guide the members of the congregations into their unique ministries.
It may be true that the Sunday morning service will have to be supplemented by any number of other activities designed to meet the needs of the believers.
The Lord Jesus cannot return until the Body is joined to the Head and functioning in a normal manner. Once this normal functioning is attained the Head and Body will return and bring righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit into the whole earth. The knowledge of the Glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
If the great Lampstand, the eternal Light of God, is to bring illumination to the nations of the earth, the Christian believers must build up each other in Christ. Christ must be formed in us to a far greater extent than is true today. The ministry must travail until this is accomplished.
This is not to say we cannot serve as God’s lights, His witnesses, today. We can and we must. But the Divine witness must include more than inviting people to church to hear a Gospel message. We ourselves must become the witnesses, showing forth in ourselves the good works produced by Christ who has been formed in us and is dwelling in us.
When unsaved people see our good works they will glorify God. Thus we are a city set on a hill, the new Jerusalem—even today!
So it is onward and upward. The agonizing labors of past Christians have brought us to the present hour. They have established base camps. Today the summit is in sight. Christ is to be brought forth in the Church and then is to return from Heaven.
You and I must do all in our power, from the present hour forward, to find what our ministries are and to use them with all diligence so we and those whom we influence are brought to the stature of the fullness of Christ, and enter untroubled rest in the Person and will of God.
The whole world is waiting to hear the music!
- The First Objective—Finding, Developing, and Using Our Ministry
- The Second Objective—Attaining the Image of Christ and Union With the Person and Will of God
- The Third Objective—Performing the Roles and Tasks of the Kingdom of God
- The Fourth Objective—Living in Righteousness, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit
The Roles and Tasks of the Kingdom of God
- To be a member of the Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9)
- To be part of the Temple of God (Ephesians 2:22)
- To be a member of the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12)
- To be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)
- To be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
- To be part of the vehicle for the end-time revival (Isaiah 60:1,2)
- To be a restorer of Paradise on the earth (Romans 8:21)
- To be a source of eternal life and healing for the nations (I Corinthians 15:45)
- To be a member of the royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9)
- To be a witness of God (Isaiah 43:10)
- To be a son of God (Revelation 21:7)
- To be a brother of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29)
- To be an overcomer of the accuser (Revelation 12:11)
- To be a governor of the nations (Revelation 2:26,27)
- To be a soldier in the army of the Lord (Joel 2:11)
- To be a judge of men and angels (I Corinthians 6:2,3)
- To be a wall of defense around the Glory of God (Revelation 21:14)
- To be part of the revelation of Himself—God in Christ in the saints (Revelation 3:12)
(“The Orchestra and the Audience”, 3280-1)