PERFECTING THE CHURCH
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The term church means “called out from.” Each true saint has been called out from among the peoples of the earth in order that he or she may become, through the Lord Jesus, a priest of God, representing God to the nations of saved people.
The Christian Church is destined to become perfect and perfectly united in Christ in God. It is possible that Christ will employ a “firstfruits” of the Church to bring about the completeness and perfection He requires of His whole Body.
PERFECTING THE CHURCH
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (Ephesians 4:13)
And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (Hebrews 8:11)
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)
The Christian Church is the elect of God. It is not of the world. It consists of people who were chosen in Christ before the creation of the world. It is the true Israel of God. There are many people in the Church who were born of the race of physical Israel. There also are many who were born of Gentile parents.
The term church means called out from. Each true saint has been called out from among the peoples of the earth in order that he or she may become, through the Lord Jesus Christ, the priest of God, representing God to the nations of the saved.
We have not been called, justified, and glorified so we may sit up in Heaven and enjoy the scenery. We have been chosen by the Lord so God may have a living temple in which He can live among men, ruling them, teaching them, and blessing them with His Glory (Revelation 21:3).
We have spoken in a previous article (The Church and the World) of the relationship of the Church of Christ, which is the Wife of the Lamb, to the nations of saved peoples of the earth. Let us review this concept before we move on to the program by which God will perfect the entire Church.
The perfected and unified Church is destined to serve forever as the holy dwelling place of the God of Heaven, and also as the eternal ruler of the nations of the saved peoples of the earth (Revelation 21:24; 22:5).
The common understanding of the Kingdom of God is that there will be two primary groups of people throughout the ages to come: the saved, and the lost. But the Hebrew Prophets proclaim, as do the Apostles of the Lamb, that there will be not two but three primary groups of people throughout the ages to come: the Church, the nations of the saved, and the lost.
If the believer does not understand that Christ is preparing His Church to govern eternally the nations of the saved peoples of the earth, how, then, will he understand the Book of Isaiah? How will he comprehend the Kingdom of God?
What sense will he make of such statements as “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”; “and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father”; “but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years”? (I Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 20:6).
As soon as the Church, the Israel of God, has been perfected, God will use the Church as His instrument for delivering, blessing, teaching, judging, and ruling the nations of saved peoples of the earth.
The design of the Tabernacle of the Congregation portrays the relationship of the Church to the nations of the saved of the earth.
Outside the linen fence surrounding the Courtyard lies outer darkness. The outer darkness is reserved for those who are not accepted by the Lord.
Inside the area marked off by the linen fence abides every person who will be permitted to enter the new heaven and earth reign of Christ—every person who is saved from the Divine wrath.
Placed in the Courtyard, in the area of the saved, is the Tabernacle tent, consisting of the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The Tabernacle tent represents the Church, the new Jerusalem, the Wife of the Lamb, the eternal Temple of God, the governing city of the Kingdom of God.
The Tabernacle tent, being divided into the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, reveals in its design the two parts of the Church: the firstfruits of the Church, and then the remainder of the elect who did not press forward to the ranks of the firstfruits. This is our understanding in the present hour, and it fits the type of David and his mighty men (firstfruits) who were a part of all Israel.
There is a firstfruits to God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:4).
We see, therefore, that the Church will be placed among the nations of the earth so the nations may walk in the Presence and blessing of God, being ruled by the Lord God in Christ in the saints. The Book of Revelation declares that the “tabernacle of God,” that is, the Church, will abide “with” men, with the saved peoples of the earth (Revelation 21:3).
The new Jerusalem, which is the Church, the light of the world, will be established for eternity on a “great and high mountain” of the new earth. The nations of the saved will walk in the light of it and bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. This is taught in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Those persons who, after all the work of Christ and His saints, still refuse to allow Christ to rule in their personalities, will have their permanent abode in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
The Courtyard of the Tabernacle represents, as we have said, the nations of those who are saved but who are not members of the Church, the Body of Christ.
The tent in the Courtyard portrays God’s elect—the individuals who have been called out from the nations of the earth so they may be the dwelling place of God.
God in Christ, according to His own grace and mercy, has called out of the world people whom He has chosen for His own purposes. He did not call them on the basis of anything they have accomplished but according to His own wisdom and foreknowledge.
There is an impenetrable wall between the people who have been called out, and the people of the world. The wall, which is constructed in the personalities of the saints as they learn to overcome sin through the Holy Spirit, finally will be revealed as the wall that surrounds the new Jerusalem. This is why so much emphasis is placed on the wall in the description given in Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation.
The massive, ornate wall was announced by the Lord Jesus:
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:19)
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)
The Church is the royal priesthood that will govern the nations of the saved forever.
The Tabernacle tent, being placed in the larger area surrounded by the linen fence, represents, as we have stated, the Church. The larger area, the Courtyard, represents those who are saved but who are not members of the royal priesthood. The Church is the center of government of the Kingdom of God. The nations of the saved will be ruled by the greatest government ever to be placed over mankind—the Kingdom of God.
It is obvious that many members of the Christian churches of today have neither the character nor the experience required to rule the nations of the earth. But within the churches on the earth there is a holy priesthood, a remnant close to the heart of Jesus. God first will perfect this chosen remnant, bringing them to maturity and unity and to total union with God through Christ. The godly remnant will experience the indwelling of the Father and the Son through the Spirit.
God will build on the remnant a larger Church until all the elect have experienced the indwelling of God. Then God will enter His perfected tabernacle and from it rule and bless the nations of the saved of the earth. This is the eternal plan and purpose of God.
Let us now examine the Divine program for perfecting the Tabernacle of God that one day will come to dwell among men.
The Tabernacle tent, that which represents the Church, is in two parts: the Most Holy Place, and the Holy Place. In the Most Holy Place was the Ark of the Covenant, with the solid gold Mercy Seat serving as a lid on the Ark. The wings of the two Cherubim of Glory rose up from the sides of the Mercy Seat and overshadowed the Ark.
In the Holy Place were the Altar of Incense, the golden Lampstand, and the Table of Showbread. These portray respectively the prayer and worship of a totally consecrated Church, the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church, and the Presence of Christ in the Church.
It is the writer’s point of view that all the elect of God finally will come to perfection (except those who disobey the Lord and are cut out of the Vine).
Notice the following:
And they [the house of Israel with whom the new covenant is made] shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (Hebrews 8:11)
There indeed shall be a “glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” The Church will attain the “measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” and will be “made perfect” in Christ in God.
But as we look about us we see anything but a glorious Church. Does the Lord God have a plan for perfecting His eternal resting place? We believe He does.
We think the design of the Tabernacle tent reveals to us the pattern for the development of the Church, the Church being the new Jerusalem—the city destined to govern the nations of the saved of the earth forever.
First (in the establishing of the Kingdom of God) came the Lord Jesus Christ and God in Him. This is the Most Holy Place.
Next in order will appear a firstfruits of the Church, a “Gideon’s army,” a group of “mighty men” to employ a figure from the career of King David (I Chronicles, Chapter 12). These also are of the Most Holy Place, we believe. The Lord’s beloved are warriors (Song of Solomon 6:10). We shall have more to say in a moment about the warrior-remnant, the firstfruits of the Church.
After the firstfruits there will be brought forth the remainder of the elect until the Divine perfection has been developed throughout the Body of Christ. The perfected, completed Body is the Church, the new Jerusalem. This is the extension of the Most Holy Place into the Holy Place, the dividing veil then having been removed.
Finally the Lord, having attained His untroubled rest in His eternal tabernacle, will descend from the new heaven to a high mountain of the new earth. God forever will dwell among His creatures, ruling them and blessing them from His abode, His “Zion,” which is the new Jerusalem, the holy city, the Wife of the Lamb, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is the Kingdom of God. Here is the answer to the prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
First the Lord Jesus Christ; then the firstfruits of the Church; after that the remainder of the Church; finally the nations of the saved of the earth. There will be a hundredfold, a sixtyfold, and then a thirtyfold. This is the plan God will follow, we believe, in establishing His Kingdom on the earth.
In line with the design of the Tabernacle tent we are dividing the Body of Christ into two parts: the firstfruits, and then the remainder of the Body.
Because this concept can lead to error, to the fostering of unrealistic pride among little groups of inexperienced, undisciplined believers, let us present two ideas for balance: (1) the concept of the elder brother; and (2) the temporary nature of the division of the body into a firstfruits and a remainder—a Most Holy Place and a Holy Place.
The oldest son of a Jewish household was given a double portion of the inheritance, we are told. We see this in the case of Esau who, although only a few minutes older than his brother, Jacob, was the lawful heir of the Messianic inheritance.
But receiving the inheritance was not so the oldest could consider himself to be an important person. Rather it was the assigning of responsibility. The oldest son was not free to squander, according to his own notions and impulses, what he had received. He was obligated to administer wisely, and for the benefit of the whole family, what he had received from his father.
So it is with the firstfruits of the Church. The Lord’s strong, victorious saints are not to be a mystical group of super-Christians who consider themselves to be superior to all other persons. Rather they are believers whom the Lord has given a hunger for righteousness. Having been blessed of the Lord with this hunger they always are responsible, as the Lord leads and enables, to strengthen their weaker brothers and sisters until the entire Body of Christ comes to perfect unity and maturity in God.
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (Luke 22:32)
“Strengthen your brothers”!
The more grace we receive from the Lord Jesus the more responsible we become to strengthen our brothers and sisters, to feed the Lord’s sheep.
The second idea to be kept in mind is that the division of the Body into a firstfruits and a remainder is a temporary provision. Whenever Gideon, or Samson, or David, who are types of God’s “stars,” won a victory, all Israel joined in and benefited. The conquering saints are not separate from the Church. They are the warriors, the strength of the one Church.
God does not give an individual a hunger for the Lord so the blessed person can exist separately from the Church. No human being possesses anything of value unless he receives it from God; and what we receive from God is for the benefit of all God’s elect and ultimately for the entire creation, including the nations of the saved. The more we receive from God the more responsible to God’s creatures we become.
Although we never lose our identity we do lose our individuality, our self-centeredness and self-seeking, as we become part of Christ’s Body, which is His Church.
The emergence of the firstfruits is a temporary measure until all know the Lord, “from the least to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:11).
This does not mean the overcomers ever lose the inheritance, the closeness to God, the authority, the opportunities for service, the strength of character they have gained by being faithful to the Lord’s calling on them. There is a firstfruits company.
These are they which were not defiled with women [with involvement in other relationships, things, or circumstances]; for they are virgins [their spirits are pure before the Lord]. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. (Revelation 14:4)
No doubt the Lord’s faithful ones will follow him closely throughout eternity just as David’s mighty men remained close to him. The point is, all Israel profits from the victories won by the Lord and those who have been chosen to be close to Him. The conquerors are not a select group of saints who no longer are an integral part of Israel.
Although there are several portrayals in the Old Testament of the “firstfruits” of the Church of Christ, let us commence with the presenting of the Bride in the New Testament. The Bride is presented twice in the Book of Revelation: once at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age and once at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
But what an extraordinary change has taken place during the thousand years (such change being, no doubt, the purpose for the thousand-year Kingdom Age)!
Let us see how the Bride (or as we teach, the firstfruits of the Bride) looks at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age:
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. (Revelation 19:8)
And then at the end of the Kingdom Age:
… Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; (Revelation 21:9-11)
There indeed is a contrast presented here. First the Bride is shown arrayed in fine linen, which is the righteous deeds of the saints. Then we see her as the most exalted of all cities, filled with the Divine Glory of God and the Lamb, surrounded by a wall of impregnable strength and spectacular beauty.
It is our point of view that the Bride at the beginning is the firstfruits of the Bride, while the Bride at the end of the thousand years is the finished Tabernacle of God, the entire company of the elect.
This transformation of the Bride reminds us of a portion of the Song of Solomon:
If she [the little sister] be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar. (Song of Solomon 8:9)
“We will build on her”; “we will enclose her.”
Who are the “we”?
It is the writer’s opinion that the “we” are the Lord’s firstfruits. They are charged with “building” and “inclosing” the “little sisters,” whom we hold to be the less fruitful, weaker members of God’s elect.
We believe further that all of us ought to help our brothers and sisters as much as we can today, but that the main work of transforming the Church will be accomplished during the thousand-year Kingdom Age and is one of the central purposes for the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
… I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. (Luke 13:32)
Whatever immediate meaning the above verse may have, we believe it is speaking figuratively of the fact that the Church will cast out devils and heal the sick for two thousand years; but the Church itself will be brought to perfection during the third thousand-year period—the Kingdom Age. This would account for the startling change in the Bride by the end of the Kingdom Age.
Hosea agrees with this concept:
After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. (Hosea 6:2)
The volume of the Holy Place was 2,000 cubic cubits (the 2,000 years of the Church Age), while the volume of the Most Holy Place was 1,000 cubic cubits (the 1,000 years of the Kingdom Age).
In the eighth chapter of the Song of Solomon we see the Lord’s firstfruits—majestic in dominion and fruitfulness:
I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour. (Song of Solomon 8:10)
Then there are the weaker sisters: a “sixtyfold” who, although not as strong and fruitful as the firstfruits company, are a “wall” against sin; and then a “thirtyfold” member of the elect who must be “inclosed” by stronger members of the Body of Christ.
The weaker ones are “little,” they are less mature than the firstfruits. There is not as much of Christ in them. But they are sisters of the Bride. Therefore it is God’s will that each be built up and enclosed. We think it is the stronger saints who will build up and enclose the weaker. It is always proper for the stronger saints to assist the weaker.
If we are correct, there will be a firstfruits of the Bride. These will be arrayed in the fine white linen of their righteous conduct at the time of the Lord’s return to earth. They will work with the Lord throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age, building and perfecting the remainder of the Church, as well as the peoples of the nations of the saved.
Only the firstfruits will receive back their bodies when the Lord Jesus appears in the clouds. The rest of the dead will not be given back their bodies until the end of the thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6). The firstfruits are warriors. They will be raised at the coming of the Lord so they may fight with Him against the forces of wickedness in the earth.
The only individuals who will be given back their bodies and permitted to resume life on the earth, who are “saved” in that total sense, are those whose obedience to Christ has met God’s standard.
The firstfruits will have met the Divine standard in preparation for the Lord’s return in the clouds of heaven. It is our opinion that the remainder of the saved will be retained in the world of spirits until they are ready to walk worthy of the Lord, whether they are members of the elect or of the nations of the saved.
Please keep in mind that no one will be brought back to life on the earth on the basis of “grace,” as the term is employed currently. The judgment leading to the resumption of life on the earth always is based on behavior, never on a righteousness imputed (assigned legally) to us.
What good is legally assigned righteousness in Paradise if there is no righteousness and obedience of behavior? The resurrection to life must be attained by serving the Lord. This is taught consistently throughout the New Testament (John 5:29; Romans 2:7; Romans 8:13; Galatians 6:8; Philippians 3:11; Revelation 20:6; and so forth).
Whether it requires a thousand years or a thousand times a thousand years, only the meek will inherit the earth. This is true of the elect as well as of the members of the nations of the saved. No person will be permitted to come back to life on the earth until he is ready to serve Christ and to keep the laws of the Kingdom of God. There will be no more “sea,” no group of people who move around without Christ in a disorderly manner, following their own will and desires.
Each individual will be judged and reconciled to God through Jesus before being permitted to return to life on the earth in an immortal body.
At the time when Christ returns to earth, the firstfruits of the Bride will be arrayed in the fine white linen of their righteous conduct, a righteous conduct created in them as the Substance and Nature of Christ have been formed in them (Galatians 4:19). They will work with the Lord throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age, building and perfecting the remainder of the Church, as we understand the plan.
Those who are called out today by the Lord to be part of the firstfruits of the Wife of the Lamb are receiving a marvelous opportunity as well as a burden of responsibility. Also, they can expect the Lord to deal endlessly with every aspect of their lives.
Other Christians may waste time, dabble in sin, and pursue their own way. Assuredly they will be judged thoroughly and punished severely for their carelessness in spiritual matters, some being cast into outer darkness.
But the Lord’s firstfruits are guided continually in the smallest areas of motive and behavior. Their entire life must be sternly, consistently devoted to one goal—laying hold on the high calling for which they have been grasped by the Lord.
Much will be required of those to whom much has been entrusted.
Perhaps the strongest of the Old Testament types that point toward the temporary division of the one Church into a firstfruits, and then a less mature group who are not part of the firstfruits, is the removing of the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
Most readers may be aware that the Ark of the Covenant originally was located in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
The Most Holy Place housed the Ark of the Covenant. But during the time of the Judges, the two wicked sons of Eli, the high priest, contrary to the Law of Moses, brought the Ark to the Israelite camp at Ebenezer. The Philistines, against whom the Israelites were fighting, won the battle and captured the Ark.
The Ark of the Covenant was removed from the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle tent. If the Tabernacle tent typifies the Church of Christ, then we have a strong portrayal of a division of the one Church. The part bearing the Glory of God was separated from the remainder of the Church.
When David became king one of his first actions was to bring the Ark, which by that time was in Kirjath-Jearim of Israel, to Zion, the city of David.
David did not return the Ark to its proper abode in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. This is surprising because David, like Abraham and Moses, was a man of strict obedience to the Lord. But David held the key of the Kingdom of God and God honored the decisions he made.
While the Ark was absent, perhaps for more than fifty years, the Tabernacle of the Congregation (with its empty Holy of Holies) had been moved from Shiloh to the “high place” at Gibeon. The high places had been centers of demon worship for the Philistines. Like the Christian churches of today, the Israelites apparently were attempting to make their worship understandable and acceptable to the nations around them.
David especially favored a suburb of Jerusalem named Zion. Zion had been a fortress of the Jebusites, from whom David captured Jerusalem.
Zion, the fortress, gradually came to mean all Jerusalem. So it is that the Lord’s victorious saints will be one with all Israel as soon as Israel’s “warfare has been accomplished” (Isaiah 40:2).
David did not bring the Ark of the Covenant up to the high place at Gibeon and put it in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. Rather, David pitched a tent for the Ark in his city of Zion. Then he assigned priests and singers to the Ark in Zion, and also to the remainder of the Tabernacle in Gibeon (I Chronicles 16:37-42).
The Ark never was restored to the Tabernacle during David’s lifetime. The Ark in its tent in Zion is termed in the Scriptures “the tabernacle of David” (Acts 15:16).
As soon as Solomon completed the construction of the Temple he directed that both the Ark and the remainder of the Tabernacle of the Congregation be placed in the Temple (I Kings 8:1-6). The Ark and the Tabernacle tent were reunited and “swallowed up” in the larger, more ornate Temple.
The reuniting of the Ark with the remainder of the tent signifies that during the new heaven and earth reign of Christ the firstfruits company, which had been separated from the remainder of the Church in order to achieve certain Kingdom purposes, particularly the building of the Church into the holy city, will be joined to all the Lord’s elect so there will be one tabernacle of God. The strength of Zion will be imparted to all Israel until there is one new Jerusalem (Romans 11:26).
We believe the reign of David typifies the thousand-year period of warfare, the rule of a rod of iron, while the reign of Solomon typifies the new heaven and earth reign of Christ, the time of peace and glory.
Solomon’s peace and glory had been made possible by the bloody wars fought by David and his mighty men. So it is that the peace and glory of the new Jerusalem will be made possible by victorious saints who, in the days in which we are living, will overcome the accuser of the brothers. They will conquer Satan by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and by loving not their lives to the death (Revelation 12:11). When the Lord returns they will be caught up to meet Him in the air so they can continue the work of bringing every creature into subjection to the Lord Jesus.
It is interesting to note also that David was anointed three times:
- While Saul still was in power—I Samuel 16:13.
- Immediately after the death of Saul, when David was anointed king over the house of Judah—II Samuel 2:4.
- When David was installed as king over the entire nation of Israel—II Samuel 5:3.
Following this figure it appears there will be three stages in the “anointing” of the Lord Jesus.
First, Jesus has been anointed King while self-seeking men still are on the thrones of power. If we would join ourselves to Jesus today we must go outside the camp of popularity and bear His reproach, just as discontented Israelites left Saul’s kingdom to join David in the wilderness.
Saul gladly would have murdered David if he could have caught him. Indeed, self-seeking “kings” over the churches always will seek to “murder” Christ whenever He moves through His servants. The exalted churchmen profess to be serving Christ but many of them are using the things of the Lord for their own glorification.
Second, the Lord Jesus will be anointed King over “Judah,” over the firstfruits company of whom we have spoken. This will take place when the Lord appears in the clouds of glory, calling up to Himself His “mighty men.” These are the kings, judges, and priests who will be seated on the thrones of the air, the thrones vacated by Satan and his angels.
David ruled Judah for seven and one-half years before the remainder of Israel came under his scepter. As was true of Judah, the firstfruits company will be governed by the Lord before the remainder of the elect are willing to obey the Lord. Most believers of today are unwilling to obey the Lord to the extent He demands. But some are willing and these will be His firstfruits of the earth.
Finally, Jesus will become the undisputed Lord of all His people and over all the nations of the saved of the earth. One might ask, Isn’t Jesus “Lord” over all the Christian people of today? Definitely not! Most of the believers have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior but have no intention of receiving Him as their personal Lord. Jesus has not been accepted as the Lord of the Christian churches except in word. He is called “Lord,” but He is not Lord in fact.
The believers claim to have given their hearts to Jesus but they haven’t really.
If Jesus were Lord of the churches there would be no denominations. The churches would be one in Christ in the Father. The existence of denominations proves beyond doubt that Jesus is Lord in name only. It is “man” who is sitting on the throne just as King Saul ruled Israel for a season.
But in the churches there is a firstfruits of Christian believers who are accepting the lordship of Jesus over their lives. They are serving and worshiping Jesus while the remainder of the believers still are living in the flesh to a great extent.
These followers of the Lord are “overcomers.” They are victorious Christians. Through the grace of Christ they are gaining victory over the world, Satan, and their own lusts and self-will.
The overcomers will not always be separate from Israel. But now for a season they are much more involved, than is true of the majority of professing Christians, in the Lord’s warfare against Satan. The overcomers are as “Zion.” They are as “Judah.” They are the first members of the Body of Christ to overcome in their personalities all opposition to the rule of God through Christ.
It is not that the overcomers are different from the remainder of the elect; it is true rather that they are gaining victory before the others. It is as though a bound individual were struggling to free himself from ropes with which he had been bound. First he got his hands loose, and then with his hands he untied the rest of his body. The conquering saints are like those hands. After they are loose they will release the remainder of the Body of Christ.
The pattern of strong Israelites leading their brothers to victory, and being singled out for distinction as “mighty men,” is portrayed in the heroes who gathered themselves to David. Those who were close to David were identified in terms of their prowess in battle.
It is interesting to note there were three men who distinguished themselves above all the others: Adino, Eleazar, and Shammah (II Samuel 23:8-11). The Son of David, Christ, took three men with Him to the Mount of Transfiguration: Peter, James, and John.
Gideon’s army was refined until there were three hundred men. God used Gideon and his three hundred to put the enemy to flight. As soon as the three hundred were victorious, all Israel was able to profit from the victory (Judges 8:28).
So will it be true in the Kingdom of God. The enemy will be destroyed as God in Christ works through the stronger members of the Body of Christ. The firstfruits always stand on “Zion,” on the fortress area of God’s city (Revelation 14:1).
The distinction between Zion, the fortress, and the remainder of Jerusalem will remain intact through to the end of the thousand-year period. The nations go up against “the camp [fortress] of the saints, and the beloved city [Jerusalem],” which brings down the wrath of God on them (Revelation 20:9).
The entire Church, the elect of God, is a “firstfruits” of mankind (James 1:18). The Lord Jesus Christ is the Firstfruits to God of all men (I Corinthians 15:23).
Those who achieve victory in the present world are a firstfruits of the Church and they will rule with Jesus throughout the thousand-year period (Revelation 2:27; 3:21; 20:4-6). There will be people who sit on Jesus’ right hand and on His left in the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:40).
The firstfruits are anointed with the Spirit of God for the purpose of building up the Lord’s people in the righteous ways of the Lord. When God’s people become “trees of righteousness” they will go through the earth repairing all that has been destroyed by wicked spirits working through human beings.
The sixty-first chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the portion of the Scriptures with which Christ announced His ministry, reveals the program of restoration:
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion [the Lord’s people], to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they [the Lord’s flock] might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)
First, the Body of Christ must be built up in obedience, righteousness, holiness, knowledge, beauty, and joy (Ephesians 4:13). After this has been accomplished the Lord will be glorified in His Body, His Church.
Notice what happens as soon as the members of the Church have become “trees of righteousness”:
And they [the saints] shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:4)
As soon as the saints, the Church, the Body of Christ, have been brought to maturity in righteousness and praise, the Lord God Himself will enter His perfected temple. Now will the Persons of the Godhead shine through the Church. All men will come to the light shining from the temple.
And the Gentiles [nations] shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:3)
The elect will be priests among the nations of the earth. People will look to them for deliverance from the works of Satan. The nations of the saved will be set free from their chains of sin and disobedience and ushered into eternal life.
Because the creature [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)
But before the Church can perform its work of releasing the creation from the bondages of sin and death, the saints themselves must be perfected. Jerusalem must be filled with righteousness.
For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. (Isaiah 62:1)
As soon as the righteousness of the Church, of Jerusalem, goes forth as brightness, the nations of the earth will glorify God.
And the Gentiles [nations] shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. (Isaiah 62:2)
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Having your conversation [behavior] honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (I Peter 2:12)
The Christian Church is destined to become perfect, without spot, wrinkle, or blemish of any kind whatever. Also it will become perfectly united in Christ in God. We believe Christ will employ a firstfruits of the Church to assist in bringing about the completeness and perfection He requires of His whole body.
The stronger saints may be separated for a season from Israel by being raised from the dead in advance of the main body of the elect. They will work with the Lord Jesus in establishing the Kingdom of God.
But at the dawning of eternity there will be only three primary groups of people, as we understand the plan of God: the new Jerusalem, in which God and Christ are dwelling in unconcealed glory and splendor; the nations of saved peoples rejoicing on the new earth; and the lost who are in torment in the lake burning with fire and sulfur.
Thinking once more in terms of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, it is as though the veil dividing the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place is removed and the Glory of God flows from the firstfruits into all Israel. Then the door that leads into the Holy Place is removed and the Glory of God flows out from the tent into the Courtyard, into the nations of the saved of the earth. The Glory of God fills the whole earth and there is no more “sea,” no mass of people in whom Christ is not dwelling and whom He is not governing. Every saved individual will be learning to think, speak, and act in the Spirit of God.
The Tabernacle of the Congregation reveals the Kingdom of God established on the new earth. Every individual has been born again. Every individual has Christ in him to a greater or lesser extent. Christ is central in all persons, all circumstances, and all things. All creatures have been subdued and are in obedience to Christ. Now will Christ be subject to God the Father so God may be All in all (I Corinthians 15:28).
(“Perfecting the Church”, 3778-1)