THE OLD TESTAMENT HOUSE OF THE LORD: TWENTY-ONE (EXCERPT OF THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION)
“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Twenty-One” is taken from The Tabernacle of the Congregation, copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
Righteousness by Faith Means God Overlooks SinHoliness and the Day of the Lord
Holiness Consists of Do this and Don’t Do That
Creating Holiness by Human Will Power
Godly Living and the Day of the Lord
The Overcoming Requirement
The Victorious Saints
The Holiness of the Holy City
There are at least three “traps” in which the Christian can be caught in the important area of personal holiness.
Righteousness by Faith Means God Overlooks Sin
The first trap is the concept that righteousness by faith means the sins of the Christian are overlooked because of his profession of faith in Christ. When the overlooked concept is emphasized, the creation of righteousness in the believer, which is the essential act and meaning of salvation, is left to chance.
Grace then becomes an empty form. The main doctrine of several of the books of the New Testament is destroyed. A verse such as the following loses its importance:
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:8)
Holiness Consists of Do this and Don’t Do That
The second trap is defining holiness as external observances of some kind or another. These may include such items as the wearing of old-fashioned clothes; special dietary regulations such as abstinence from pork, tea, coffee; the keeping of special days. All such religious observances are significant to those who practice them and are entwined in their faith toward God.
If we ourselves believe we are not obligated to observe such regulations we ought to refrain from criticizing Christians who do keep them, and when we are with them to follow their customs insofar as it is necessary to help them maintain their faith toward God. Many Christians are too loose rather than too strict in their religious observances.
True new covenant holiness is concerned with spiritual cleanliness—cleanliness from the influences of evil spirits. The motives, thoughts, imaginations, acts, and words that God views as unclean (unholy) are those of lust, perversion, murder, hatred, lying, stealing, spiritism, jealousy, gossiping, backbiting, spite, envy, denominational pride, revenge, boasting, coveting, idolatry, excesses of eating and drinking, fearfulness, timidity, greed, reveling, haughtiness, immoderate ambition, slothfulness, rebellion against God, unbelief, reliance on education and intellectual ability instead of the Spirit of God, to name a few uncleannesses prevalent in the Body of Christ.
These are the things that defile a man. These are the spiritual uncleannesses and bondages that Christ came to destroy so people may find rest in the Presence of God.
Lust, murder, covetousness, and lying are the nature of Satan and his followers.
Attending a performance of some kind, vacationing at the beach or at a national park, drinking coffee or tea, are holy or unholy in God’s sight depending on the particular situation. But lewdness, perversion, hatred, spite, gossiping, criticism, covetousness, always are an abomination to God. They abound in the churches. God sends judgment on the doers of them whether or not they are Christians.
We church members, with regard to holiness, need to be careful that we do not swallow camels while we are straining out gnats. There are some of us who would die before we would be seen at the beach or inside a moving picture theater. Yet, we harbor an unforgiving spirit in our heart. We are stubborn and unyielding over injustices that we have suffered or fancy we have suffered. We respond with malice when we cannot have our own way.
The truth in this case is upside down. The theater and beach are of little consequence from the Divine viewpoint. They may be good or evil depending on the circumstances.
But unforgiveness! stubbornness! malice!—these are wicked spirits, the brood of Satan. So are all forms of lust and perversion, hatred, sorcery, idolatry, and pride. Personal ambition, envy, strife, and the willingness to follow personal loyalties (I am of Paul; I am of Peter) have destroyed thousands of Christian fellowships.
Creating Holiness by Human Will Power
The third trap in which Christians get caught is the attempt to create heart holiness by using human energy. A believer can destroy his spiritual rest and poise by attempting to manufacture love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.
The above virtues are the “fruit of the Holy Spirit,” not the fruit of the Christian. They grow out from and characterize the Spirit of God, not the human spirit. They will grow out from and characterize the Christian provided the Spirit of Christ is prevailing in the Christian’s life. They are the natural, expected outcomes of abiding in Christ.
Such virtues cannot be developed or copied by human effort. The more one tries the more fretful and despairing one becomes. Our part is to accept the forgiveness of Christ, to rest in Him, and to be obedient to the Holy Spirit during each moment of our life.
God’s part is to create righteousness in our heart. This is the true grace of God. It cannot be developed or imitated by human nature. Although we must live as righteously as we can in each of these areas, human nature is basically corrupt, whereas the Spirit of God is pure, all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving, all-peaceful, all-joyous.
We must use the self-control we do possess in our own personality. We must say no when we are enticed to do something we know to be wrong. If we are too weak to say no, we should pray for the strength to say no, and then look to God for total victory.
We must resist the devil as well as we are able. We also must recognize that our will power, while it is a vital part of man and related to his will and power of judgment, can never create in us the lasting fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit and is the end result of the abiding of the Spirit of God in the human heart.
Although it is true that holiness does not consist of do this and don’t do that, and that we cannot create holiness by human will power, it still is important that we do what we can to keep our personality pure.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
Social activities, such as going to the beach or to theater, which in time past were wholesome, are now accompanied by so much corruption that in many instances they are not at all suitable for the Christian family. The television, the most prominent source of entertainment and information of our day, projects so much that is satanic that many Christians wisely refuse to have a television receiver in their home.
The Lord will guide us in all such decisions.
Let us emphasize once again that we must obey the commandments of the Apostles to the best of our ability. Since the growth of Christ in us is a slow process, the greater part of our discipleship is conducted as our adamic nature calls on the Spirit of God for assistance. If our natural man does not have integrity, is not willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord, then it is impossible to walk in the path that leads to eternal life.
The Spirit of God always stands ready and willing to assist us as we go to the Throne of God for help in our time of need. But we ourselves must make the decision to serve God at every moment. If we do not, the Life of Christ in us will be aborted. As in the parable of the sower, the Divine Seed will bear no lasting fruit.
Adam permitted Satan to enter the Paradise of God. It is Adam, with the assistance (grace) of Christ, who must be the one to drive Satan from the garden.
Holiness and the Day of the Lord
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:21-25)
James has given us a word that should help offset the pleasure-loving attitude that currently attends the ancient Gospel of Christ:
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
And the next, also to church members:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:8-10)
Peter is of one mind with Paul and James. These words are addressed to Christian people:
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;
but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; (I Peter 1:13-17)
The above passages are addressed to Christian people.
Chapters One through Three of I Peter are exhortations to holy Christian living. Chapter Four reveals that God sends suffering (fiery judgment) on Christians to prepare them for the Day of the Lord.
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2)
When we Christians come into difficult situations we may find them “strange.” We need to consider the following:
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; (I Peter 4:12)
Compare this thought with the proclamation of John the Baptist:
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11,12)
Then back to Peter:
but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (I Peter 4:13)
Here is the correct attitude for the Christian to take toward suffering, and the Day of the Lord. We are being prepared now so we can stand in that Day (Ephesians 6:13). We are being “fireproofed.”
The suffering that comes on the Christian is part of God’s judgment on the earth.
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Now “If the righteous one is scarcely [with difficulty] saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (I Peter 4:17,18)
“And if the righteous is scarcely saved [with difficulty]”!
So much, then, for the pleasure-loving, overconfident attitude in our churches that portrays the grace of God as a screen that conceals from Divine sight the sins of the Christians while permitting the sins of the non-Christians to pass through to judgment and execution of sentence. One sentence that already has been passed on the churches of today is the tragic lack of Divine Presence and revival power.
The churches do not seem to care! Few cry to God day and night for the restoration of His Presence and power among us. We have been “burned” doubly by judgment: first, we have been deprived of the abundance of resurrection life; second, we do not recognize and are not concerned that we have been deprived of Divine Life. We are paying dearly for our sin and coldness toward God.
It may be observed that the Book of First Peter is an exhortation and warning concerning godly Christian behavior. Such an exhortation and warning would be unnecessary if the only benefit of Divine grace were the covering of the sins of the Christians.
The Book of Second Peter also is an exhortation and warning concerning godly Christian living.
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; (II Peter 1:10)
The same “Flee from the wrath to come!,” “Prepare for the Day of Wrath!” exhortation found in I Peter 4 is seen also in II Peter.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? (II Peter 3:10-12)
Chapter Three of Second Peter does not appear to assume the Christian will escape judgment. If Peter were making such an assumption, some evidence of it should be manifest in the third chapter. Here is the type of statement we should be finding:
“The elements shall melt with fervent heat. But the judgment of God shall never touch you, beloved. Now that you have accepted Christ as your personal Savior there in no way in which the Lord’s judgment on sin can possibly affect you.”
“You, beloved of our Lord, shall take your ease with Jesus in the mansions of glory. Therefore, put your minds at rest concerning the Day of God. The grace of God has forgiven all the sins you are practicing and will yet practice. On your profession of faith in Christ you are totally free from sin and the judgment thereof. Though the Day of the Lord will be a time of terror to the unbelievers, you as a Christian can never be brought into judgment concerning your sins.”
“Rejoice in Christ, my brothers, for He will never allow His own to come under the judgment of God.”
The preceding three “passages,” which we have composed from our knowledge of Christian sermons, are in keeping with the doctrine of grace on which millions of Christians are resting their hope. However, the three statements are alien to the teaching of the first-century Apostles.
The Christian churches must prepare for the Day of God!
Godly Living and the Day of the Lord
There is a relationship between godly living and the Day of the Lord.
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; (II Peter 3:14)
We are to live a holy life because we are looking forward to the destruction of the world and the spirit of the world, and to the creation of “new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
The Apostle John has written a letter to us. The main burden of the letter is that of sin in the life of the disciple. John warns us concerning sin:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (I John 1:8)
John states the purpose for his writing:
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (I John 2:1)
The theme of the epistle is emphasized:
He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (I John 2:6)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (I John 2:15)
Again, the expression of the relationship between Christian living and the Day of the Lord:
And everyone who has this hope [of being like Jesus] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (I John 3:3)
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. (I John 3:6)
The concept of purifying himself parallels that expressed in 2:6. Godly living is the true test of faith. It is impossible to have a living faith in our Lord Jesus Christ without an accompanying revolution in character—a revolution toward a holy and blameless life.
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (I John 3:7)
Paul mentions men who “lie in wait to deceive.” Who are the men who deceive? They are Christian teachers who say that a person can serve God acceptably apart from a life of holy consecration. Why do men “lie in wait to deceive”? Because they are seeking personal advantage. They worship their own appetites. “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
Not all that takes place in Christian churches comes from the Lord Jesus. Satan and his angels and demons are religious creatures. They desire the inheritance designated for the sons of God. They are active in all Christian churches. They thoroughly enjoy church activities and attempt to experience the glory and joy they once knew in the heavens. Their joy and their motivation are unclean, perverse, and destructive. They will seek to use believers who are worldly, lustful, or personally ambitious.
When Christ begins to work, the unclean spirits and people influenced by them will rise up and seek to kill Him and those He is using to further his purposes.
The true prophets of the Lord are always denouncing the works of Satan in God’s Church and God’s Church often hates and murders the prophets of God.
When a group of people have begun to expose the false concept of grace, the concept that leaves people with the impression they will experience Paradise after they die even though they have not served Christ with all diligence—when this concept is threatened, as it will be by God’s prophets in our day, we shall see the face of an enraged Satan.
This is because Satan is counting on a pardon from God. He is hoping for escape from the Lake of Fire for himself, and so he puts in the hearts of lukewarm believers a false understanding of mercy and grace, hoping that God will save both them and himself as well. Satan fears the vengeance of God!
The true saints of the Lord, the holy remnant, will be persecuted without mercy in the near future. Some of their fellow Christians may heap scorn on them and seek to silence those who are announcing the true message of the Kingdom of God, the message of righteous and holy behavior and the doing of God’s will in the earth.
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)
The purpose of the manifestation of the sons of God is to destroy the works of the devil. It is the manifestation of the sons of God, Christ and His army, that will bring in the Kingdom Age. The Kingdom Age is the period of time when the influence of Satan is removed from our earth for a season.
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (I John 3:9)
We have been so conditioned by the teaching that it is inevitable that Christians sin while they are in the world, and that grace is little more than an excuse for the sins of believers, that I John 3:9 (above) may be incomprehensible to us.
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. (I John 3:10)
The passage just quoted (above) is important because it provides a method of testing the genuineness of Christian experience. It is neither a profession of belief nor some kind of religious behavior that enables us to discriminate between Christians and non-Christians. The test of Christian experience is whether the Holy Spirit is bearing the fruit of godliness in the individual.
When Paul was testifying to Felix, the governor of Caesarea, Paul did not advise Felix to make a profession of “faith,” after which he could continue his life as before. Rather, we find Paul warned Felix concerning the wrath to come:
And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24:24,25)
How many evangelists of “grace,” after the modern definition of the term, have preached that Felix would not make a simple profession of belief, preferring a “convenient season”?
But the Scripture states that the Apostle reasoned of “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” If we of today who claim the name of Christ are to draw back from our adulterous union with the world and to seek Him whose Gospel we claim to teach, then we must proclaim righteous, temperate behavior with a view toward the judgment to come. Righteousness and self-control are essential parts of the Christian Gospel.
We are re-created in righteousness by means of the work of Christ in us. It is through the Gospel that we learn self-control in the use of the world and so escape the riotous living that destroys the bodies and souls of our neighbors.
It is through the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that we learn to fear the Day of Wrath that will dawn in fire, and through that fear turn from the lusts of the world and present our bodies a living sacrifice before God in Christ. It is not surprising that the worldly Felix trembled.
Godly Living and the Day of the Lord
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. (I John 4:17)
Because the grace of God is enabling us to live a godly life now, in this present world, we have no fear of the wrath that will be poured out on mankind at the coming of Christ. We have been “fireproofed” by having been through the fires of judgment with Christ during our Christian experience. We have been chastened and made righteous by the Lord so we will not be condemned with the world.
This is more than a carrying into Heaven while the world is being judged. Rather, it is a “boldness in the day of judgment.” It is a boldness based on an acceptance of the atonement and lordship of Christ and on the possession of a life that has been re-created into the image of God by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit until “as he is, so are we in this world.”
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (I John 5:4,5)
Sometimes the above verse is used to prove that if we merely make a mental assent to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God we have overcome the world and there is little more we need to do.
If this were true, then the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, the part of the Scriptures that addresses the overcomers, would stress our belief. Actually these two chapters emphasize our works.
Also, if a simple assent to the Divinity of the Lord Jesus were all we needed to do to satisfy God’s requirement concerning victorious Christian living, the main thesis of First John, which is that we faithfully keep God’s commandments, Meanwhile purifying ourselves, would be found to be an unnecessary exhortation.
“Faith” must be defined as obedience to God rather than mental assent to the Divinity of Jesus. The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the “faith” chapter of the Scriptures, does not so much as mention belief in doctrine of any kind. Rather the faith of the saints of old was a faith that resulted in obedience to the will of God.
The meaning of I John 5:4,5 is that true faith, true belief that Jesus is the Son of God, results in our overcoming the world. The individual who overcomes the world is the one who has faith in the Lord Jesus—that Christ has come in the flesh and that Christ is the Lord Jesus. This person, because of his sincere adherence to the truth, will be able to overcome the lust that is in the world.
It is not the belief that is of itself the victory. Rather it is that a true belief will always result in victorious living. This concept follows the exhortation to holy living that is found throughout the Book of First John.
It is our task as Christians to overcome the world through the grace that Christ gives so the wicked one (Satan) does not touch us. By referring to the writings of the Apostles we understand we cannot overcome the world by our own strength.
We overcome the world by means of prayer, submitting to God, resisting the devil, reading the Word, being exposed to the manifestation of the Spirit, walking in strict obedience to the prompting of the Spirit of God, enjoying Christian fellowship, avoiding temptation, confessing our sins, praying for one another, obeying the elders, exercising faith, presenting our body a living sacrifice, putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and doing whatever else is necessary to prevent Satan from touching us or having any part in us whatever.
Overcoming is overcoming! It is the conquering of a cunning adversary. Christ overcame Satan by perfect obedience to the Father during His life, and during His death on the cross.
Christ destroyed completely the legal claims of Satan on those who receive Christ by faith. But the Christian also must overcome. The believer must overcome the resistance of the world, the flesh, and the devil each day of his sojourn on earth. The believer does this by availing himself by faith of the grace and equipment offered to him by the Spirit of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Revelation, Chapters Two and Three teach us the meaning of the term overcome. These chapters are addressed to believers. It is the Christians who must overcome, not the unsaved.
The test of Christian experience is as follows:
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. (III John 1:11)
The Book of Jude is an exhortation and warning to Christians concerning godly living and judgment to come. The Christian life is portrayed as one of resisting sin through prayer, and of daily growth in actual holiness and practical godliness.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, (Jude 1:20)
We are not to be just saying prayers but wrestling in the Spirit against the world, the flesh, and Satan—wrestling in the strength and wisdom of the Spirit as the Spirit leads. Otherwise we wear ourselves out battling in our own wisdom and strength.
keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 1:21)
Keeping yourself in the love of God is an active spiritual battle rather than a mental assent to a doctrinal position. It is true that we have eternal life upon the acceptance of Christ. But it is true also eternal life is the reward of holding fast to Christ throughout one’s life on earth (Hebrews 3:6,14; I Peter 1:5).
The Book of Revelation has much to say about the victorious Christian life and the Day of the Lord. The stage is set for the concept of godly behavior, and judgment to come, by the appearance of Christ.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (Revelation 1:14)
When Jesus returns to earth He will examine every creature, searching out and destroying sin and the works of the devil. All ungodliness will be exposed to the white heat of the purity of the Godhead.
All fleshly motives, words, thoughts, deeds, will be consumed by Divine fire. This is the day of fire. This is the great Day, the Day of Christ, the Day of the Lord, the Day of God, the Day of Judgment, held in terrifying remembrance by every demon. The attention of God’s creatures is directed continually by the Spirit, by the Scriptures, and by conscience toward That Day!
The Overcoming Requirement
Of particular importance to our doctrine concerning the relationship of godly Christian living to the Day of the Lord are the expressions concerning overcoming found in Revelation, Chapters Two and Three. From our point of view, the concept of the victorious Christian has not received nearly enough emphasis by Christian teachers.
The New Testament writings teach consistently that the promises of God concerning rulership and priesthood in the age to come are for him who overcomes. It appears that this concept has been ignored. We have gotten around the overcoming requirement by defining “he who overcomes” as he who makes a profession of the Christian faith.
“Overcoming,” in the New Testament sense, is victorious living in Christ. The overcomer is the Christian who, at each point in time, prays and obeys through every temptation and trial set before him or her.
This is not to say that an overcoming Christian cannot stumble or be deceived. He can, assuredly. But stumbling and deception are exceptional periods in his life.
When the overcomer makes mistakes he corrects them, under the supervision of the Holy Spirit of God, and fights on. He is a Caleb, a Joshua. By faith he lays hold on the promises of God and is not discouraged easily.
He recovers from setbacks and proceeds with his life of dedication to and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. He withholds nothing—absolutely nothing—from God. (It is impossible to overcome when there is an idol in the heart.) His life actually is a living sacrifice.
Through the blood of Christ and the word of his testimony, continually stating his trust in the faithfulness of God, the victorious Christian emerges as a conqueror in the wrestling match against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Each day he says a final no! to the world, the flesh, and Satan.
The victorious Christian life is not referring to a bearded prophet working out an extraordinary consecration while hidden away in a cave in the wilderness. Perfect, complete obedience to God is our “reasonable service.” No believer should be entertaining ideas about ruling with Christ or receiving the rewards of the overcomer unless he is consecrated absolutely to Christ. There is no middle ground, no place of compromise.
Either our heart is married to Christ or it is not. Either we are lusting after the things of the world or we are not. This does not mean we are to flee from earthly responsibility or perform our tasks in the world halfheartedly. We are to work in the world as to the Lord. It is our heart that is the problem. Our heart must be so devoted to Christ that there is no question as to where our treasures are.
If this is not the case with you, if you cannot find the spiritual strength to say an eternal yes to Jesus, do not despair. Do not faint. Tell Jesus about it. Tell Him out loud with your mouth that you need more strength for consecration. Or just cry, Help! If you really want to be an overcomer, God is willing to give you the necessary strength. God Himself will strengthen your asking and your receiving until you can say, “I love Jesus above all.”
What, then, of the nonovercoming Christian, the defeated believer? We cannot say. There is a basis in the Scripture, such as the story of Lot, for the belief that some people will be saved by fire apart from any inheritance in the Lord. On the other hand, there are warnings in the New Testament that the lazy, the careless, the lukewarm, will be dealt with very harshly by the Lord. Do not let the spiritually lazy, the careless, the lukewarm imagine that their experience after death will be pleasant because of God’s love, mercy, or grace. It will not be pleasant!
The Scripture is emphatic on one point: the promises of God concerning priesthood and rulership in the age to come, the Day of the Lord, are reserved for the victorious saints. Christians who do not press through to victory in the Lord Jesus have no scriptural hope of ruling with Christ or of being in the first resurrection (Philippians 3:10-14; Revelation 20:6).
Let us glance at some of the verses of Revelation that pertain to the promises to the overcomer. Remember, the term overcome must be defined as “maintaining continually through Christ victory over the world, the lust of the flesh, Satan, and our self-will.”
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’ (Revelation 2:7)
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death [lake of fire].”’ (Revelation 2:11)
“And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—
‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father;
“and I will give him the morning star. (Revelation 2:26-28)
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:21)
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. (Revelation 12:11)
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (Revelation 21:7)
Compare Revelation 3:21 with Revelation 20:4 and Daniel 7:22. To understand the meaning of the word overcome one must consider carefully the second and third chapters of Revelation and also take into account all that the Apostles of the new covenant have written about the victorious Christian life. Any concept that is addressed so pointedly and repeatedly is worthy of the disciple’s strict attention.
To overcome is to emerge victorious in a struggle. The world, the fleshly nature, and Satan are set against the Christian, attempting to prevent him from obtaining his inheritance in Christ; attempting to prevent him from entering the rest of God; attempting to deceive him into disobeying God; attempting to seduce him into spending his days in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
He who overcomes shall inherit all the promises of God, particularly the promises concerning fruitfulness and rulership. Overcoming is an intensely personal condition of the heart and has to do with the life of prayer and dedication on the part of the disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.
Divine grace is not restricted to the forgiveness of sins, although forgiveness is a vital part of God’s grace in Christ. Divine grace includes also a change in our character that causes us to be continually obedient to the Spirit of Christ, to be a holy servant of the Lord God of Heaven, just as was true of the priests of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
Grace means not only the hiding of the sins of Christians from God’s eyes but also the Divine working in the believer that re-creates his moral nature until he is able to serve God with increasing success. Grace works legally (de jure)in providing remission (forgiveness) of guilt, and then actually (de facto) in purging sinful deeds from the Christian. There is power in Christ to save people from sin, that is, to deliver them from the power of the devil.
The Victorious Saints
We can observe the victorious saints now—here in the earth. They are given over wholly to Christ. The strings of their heart are tied hard to Christ. Christ is All in all to them. They have left the “weak and beggarly” elements of the world so they may know Christ. They are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
God is their life and their life is God. They are the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth and they have given all to Him. They follow Him wherever He goes. They love Jesus with their whole mind, soul, and strength. They look to the Lord twenty-four hours of every day—at home, on the job, at school, and assembled with fellow Christians. They cannot get enough of Christ. It is Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
Does this kind of attitude sound like something you desire? If so, tell the Lord about it right now. Do not let another hour go by. At first it is difficult to make such a total consecration. In fact, it is impossible in our natural strength.
But every person can desire to be consecrated totally. God can use our desire to accomplish His will in us. If you are weak, say, “Lord, help me. Help me give my life to you without reservation. Strengthen my desire to love Jesus. Blow my flickering flame into a roaring bonfire of love—a single-minded pursuit of Christ.”
Then praise God for the answer. Use the amount of will power that you have and believe God will increase your zeal each day. You must use what you have no matter how small an amount it is. Bring your feeble discipleship to Christ and ask Him to bless and multiply it as He did the loaves and fish.
Ask in faith and do not waver. God will turn your desires toward Himself until He and you are satisfied. Then determine to keep your will as strong as steel in Christ toward God every moment of every day of your life. There is no other way to obtain the fullness of the inheritance God has for us. We must forsake the world and its lusts, our fleshly desires, the devil and his enticements, and our self-love and self-seeking.
Cleave to Christ with every ounce of your personality. Do it now—right now! This is the best and only time you ever will have. Today is the day of salvation. Today is your day to be married to Christ. Tomorrow very well may be too late.
The victorious saints are diligent in earthly responsibilities but there is no mistaking the completeness of their consecration to Christ. When there is doubt at any point, God puts the doubtful area to the test of fire. They are the victorious saints—the archenemies of the spirit of the world.
The heroes of Scripture were cut from this cloth. We can see the nature of the overcomer in Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, John. They could not rest until the will of God was prepared fully in their life. It is equally true today. Nothing is different. Faith is not belief in doctrine. Faith is the response of the individual to the calling of God on his life. Faith is the same in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
There is no hiding our head in the sand, hoping that some miracle will occur at the coming of the Lord in which a worldly, indifferent church member is transformed into God’s holy dwelling place. The Gospel of Christ is ancient—unchanged from the day Abraham led Isaac to the altar; Shadrach was thrown into the oven; Elijah prayed on Mount Carmel; Stephen was stoned.
The Holiness of the Holy City
The new Jerusalem will be holy because the people who serve as a wall around the new Jerusalem will be God’s victorious saints of every age. Christ has driven the rebellion and idolatry from their heart.
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone [burning sulfur], which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:7,8)
The emphasis in the preceding passage is on the necessity for conquering sin and self-will, on holiness of heart and actions, not just a profession of faith in Christ.
Paul says, “They who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). But today’s gospel is, “They who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God unless they believe in Christ.” We have made the Word of God of no effect by our traditions. What good is the grace of God in Christ unless it converts us until we no longer do these things?
Imperfection of doctrine will not put a person in the lake of burning sulfur. But fear will! Unbelief will! Depravity will! Murder will! Adultery will! Spiritism will! Idolatry will! Lying will!
Let us place emphasis where God places emphasis. Satan will divert us, if he can, from the necessity for righteous conduct. Below, the city refers to the holy city, the Church, the Body of Christ.
But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of Life. (Revelation 21:27)
We understand that a person is written in the Book of Life on the basis of his confession of faith in Christ. However, the individual must live a victorious Christian life if he is to maintain his place in the Book of Life.
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Revelation 3:5)
“I will not blot his name out of the book of life.” It is possible to have one’s name blotted from the Book of Life.
Salvation is the reconstruction of the human being according to the pattern of God’s image. Without such transformation grace can become an empty form, an excuse for sinful behavior, a license to practice immorality. If the life is not noticeably being reconstructed, how do we know that the person actually has come to Christ? By his words? The Christian testimony consists of more than words.
It is necessary that a person confess with his mouth that Christ is his Lord because by the mouth confession is made to salvation.
But a life that is undergoing a transformation from the works of the flesh to the fruit of the Holy Spirit—that is more than mere words. That is visible proof that the Son of God is dwelling in the heart. Let us not be deceived. Christians can be identified by the moral fruit they bear.
“He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” (Revelation 22:11)
Consider, in the preceding verse, how a person’s moral nature is brought forward unchanged to the Day of the Lord. It is vain to hope for miracles of character transformation at the appearing of Christ. What there shall be is weeping and gnashing of teeth as people realize they have been deceived by Satan and false teachers in the churches.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. (Revelation 22:12)
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)
No one who is not holy in heart and actions can pass through the gates of the new Jerusalem. The emphasis is on doing His commandments.
But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. (Revelation 22:15)
The last verse quoted is an accurate description of the world in which we live. The only escape from this polluted atmosphere is by means of the transforming power of Christ in the human heart.
We have been discussing, in the last few pages, the attitude of God toward the moral character of Christians, toward the sins we commit after we have accepted Christ. The definition of grace, and the relationship of grace to holy, righteous conduct, have been examined.
We have attempted to show that God judges sin as sin whether committed by Christians or by non-Christians and that the Christians who are not victorious saints cannot expect to receive the rewards promised to the victorious saints.
We have “blown the trumpet.” The alarm has been sounded in the Christian camp. Let the reader examine his own spirit.
‘then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head.
‘He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. (Ezekiel 33:4,5)
The new Jerusalem is the fulfillment of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. We find under no circumstances will uncleanness of motive, imagination, word, or deed be allowed to enter the new Jerusalem.
Sin originated in Heaven with the rebellion of the creatures there. But sin shall never enter the new Jerusalem.
Sin cannot enter or exist in the new Jerusalem because the holy city is the Church, the Body of Christ, and is filled with the spirit of the victorious saints. Sin shall be driven from the Church and finally from the remainder of the creation by means of God through Christ through the Holy Spirit working in and through the saints of the Lord.
Christian people are to overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and by the fact that they are willing to love not their lives to the death.
The “blood of the Lamb” refers to the legal work of atonement and remission (forgiveness) of sins accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. Whenever Satan attempts to accuse a victorious saint of some past sin, the saint is to place his trust in the blood of the Lamb and believe the sin has been forgiven by the Lord.
The “word of their testimony” refers to the steadfast confession of the believer that God is true and faithful and His Word is true and faithful. No matter what into dungeon of oppression he is cast the saint keeps on expressing his hope and trust that God finally will bring him into perfect love, joy, and peace.
We are to love not our lives to the death, meaning we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the death of our first personality until it is “crucified with Christ.” We cannot hold back from the Lord one piece of our self life. All must go, as the Lord leads. We must be perfectly obedient to the Father. Also, we are to accept physical martyrdom if it becomes necessary.
The holy city, the new Jerusalem, is the Body of Christ. It is the will of Christ that all sin in the members of His Body be put to death by the Holy Spirit.
The Church will demonstrate the grace of God here on earth while it yet is in a mortal body (Ephesians 5:27). If it were not possible for God to create righteousness in the earth, how could the Kingdom of God be established? God indeed can create righteousness and praise in His people while they yet are in the earth, and He is in the process of doing so.
For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
The Christian Church is the new Jerusalem. In the Day of the Lord, the Church will be set up on the earth as the holy Tabernacle of God.
God will create holiness in the firstfruits of the Church while the members are on the earth in mortal bodies. God will bring in the worldwide Kingdom Age by first creating an individual “kingdom age” (destruction of Satan’s power) in the members of the Church. The victorious Christian has the essential environment of the Kingdom Age in him. The actual, historical thousand-year Kingdom Age will commence at the coming of our Lord and Savior, Christ.
The Church is being refined by the working of the several parts of salvation, of which Calvary is central in importance. When the Christian people are ready, having been made so by the careful workmanship of the Holy Spirit of God, then the Glory of God will come upon the Church, “splitting the earthen vessels” of the members just as the pitchers of Gideon’s men were broken open.
(“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Twenty-one”, 3728-1)