THE GREAT DESIGN
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
In the beginning God spoke four things concerning man:
- He is to be in the image of God.
- He is to be male and female.
- He is to be fruitful, filling the earth with the image of God.
- He is to govern all the works of God’s hands.
This is the great design. All the workings of God are moving toward these goals. The four aspects of man are in a primitive form as yet. They are to be greatly expanded and glorified.
Table of Contents
THE GREAT DESIGN
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He made vegetation, animals, and man. God placed lights in the heavens for signs and seasons. All this was “very good.”
Then God planted a garden on the earth, a paradise in which man was to dwell. Man was placed in the garden to cultivate and maintain it.
Adam was a “son of God,” according to the Scriptures (Luke 3:38).
The Lord God Himself walked in the garden of Eden, revealing His desire to have fellowship with the people whom He had created.
God declared four things concerning man:
- He is to be in the image of God.
- He is to be male and female.
- He is to be fruitful, filling the earth with the image of God.
- He is to govern all the works of God’s hands.
This is the great design. All the working of God are moving toward these goals. Although the four aspects of man are in a primitive form as yet they are to be greatly expanded and glorified.
The blood of the Lord Jesus has redeemed mankind so that all who are found worthy of the Kingdom of God may be brought forward to the new heaven and earth reign of Christ, where God’s intention concerning man may be carried forward.
To be “saved” in the narrow sense means not to be destroyed in the day of God’s wrath, not to be assigned to the Lake of Fire.
To be “saved” in the fullest sense means to inherit all that the Lord God has spoken concerning man.
The physical elements of the creation, including the sky, the earth, and the bodies of people, will be released from the bondage of corruption at the coming of the Lord from Heaven (Romans 8:20,21).
At the conclusion of the thousand-year period (the Kingdom Age), the earth and sky with which we are familiar will pass away with a great noise. God will replace them with a new sky and a new earth. God will make new all the things with which we are familiar, if they are found worthy to be part of the Kingdom of God.
The original design is eternal. The present physical elements are a beginning example of what is in God’s mind.
The study of the original creation enables us to understand much concerning God’s Person, His ways, and His eternal plan in Christ.
The Gospel call is going forth today as never before and multitudes are being saved. At the same time, God is dealing endlessly (it seems) with His elect, His saints, His chosen. Human history is moving toward the perfect and complete expression and glorification of all that is outlined and foretold by the original creation.
The first creation teaches us that God intends for His children to dwell in beautiful surroundings and to enjoy those surroundings. Adam’s assignment to cultivate and maintain the garden was a delightful one. It is only because of the curse that people are compelled to live under such difficult circumstances.
We learn also that it is God’s intention to walk on the earth and to have fellowship with the people whom He has created. The present condition in which God dwells in the invisible spirit realm, not being immediately available to each person for blessing and counsel (although He is available to the praying saint), is not God’s ultimate plan for mankind. It is God’s intention to dwell among people on the earth.
The whole duty of man is to fear God and live uprightly. There is no need for any human being to become great or to achieve anything in the world. The need to become something great or to amass material wealth is a burden the individual places on himself. God does not require such achievement of us.
God’s purposes for us are wholly good, wholly joyous. We destroy ourselves, being driven by the world, Satan, the sin that dwells in our flesh, and our self-will and self-centeredness.
Men spend their lives in the pursuit of wealth, or pleasure, or fame, or power. In the beginning it was not so. Adam and Eve in the garden were a prototype of what God intends for mankind, although the finished creation will be exceedingly greater, exceedingly more glorious.
The eternal state of man is described by the four aspects of the Divine declaration: the image of God, male and female, fruitfulness, and dominion.
The immediate, temporary fulfillment of these four aspects can be seen in Adam and Eve. Each had a soul and spirit, as does God, and a body that resembled the form of God’s body (Ezekiel 1:26). One was male and the other was female. They were the ancestors of all human beings. They were learning to subdue the natural creation and use it for their own purposes.
The eternal fulfillment of the four aspects can be seen in the new heaven and earth reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. The saints are in the image of Christ. The Lamb and His Wife are one as the Father and the Son are One. Through the saints the image of Christ is filling the creation of God. The servants of God have authority over all the works of God’s hands.
The environment of the new world will greatly surpass in beauty the garden of Eden. No longer will there be crying, or sorrow, or pain on the earth. God’s children, being free from the curse of death, will perform delightful, joyous tasks in keeping with their abilities and desires.
Best of all, the Throne of God and of the Lamb will be established forever on the new earth. Through the saints in whom He is dwelling the Lord God will be available for counsel and blessing to every creature. This is the eternal design, of which the original creation was a forerunner.
The person who goes through life without Christ, not being changed into God’s image, not seeking to abide in Him, not becoming one with the members of Christ’s Body, not being fruitful in the imparting of the Life of Christ to others, and not learning to overcome the world, Satan, and his own lusts and self-will, has not received the best the present world has to offer.
No matter how great his achievements in the world may prove to be, if one of God’s elect does not follow the Master, Christ, in the fulfillment of the Divine declaration concerning man, coming under the discipline and instruction of the Lord, his or her life has not accomplished its purpose. The individual may be saved in the narrow sense but he has made little progress toward God’s plan for his life.
The Image of God
Each member of God’s elect has been predestined to be changed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the image of God.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be changed into the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
The image of God is the fruit of the Spirit, not of the Christian but of the Spirit. It is only as the believer lives in the Spirit that the image of God appears in his personality.
Love. This is not the human love espoused by the philosophers of the world. It is the love of God—powerful, unconquerable, eternal. The spiritual love of God that is developed in us by the Spirit of God enables us to do good and show mercy to those who are kind to us and to those who are not kind to us. Human love, the love emphasized by the teachers of our day, falls apart when subjected to stress.
Hatred is the image of Satan. The kingdom of Satan is horrible beyond our mind’s ability to imagine because there is no love in it. To dwell among creatures who possess no love, no mercy, no compassion, scarcely can be envisioned by human beings so accustomed to being treated with at least some mercy. But there is no love, no mercy, in Hell.
To be forced to dwell among the inhabitants of Hell is a fate frightful beyond words. Yet, some believers in Christ are heading in that direction because they are not allowing the Holy Spirit to create God’s image of love in them.
They are filled with bitterness and the spirit of revenge. They are spiteful and malicious. They gossip, backbite, and malign. They are not Christ’s servants no matter what church they attend. They are of Satan because they reveal in themselves the image of Satan, their father.
Joy. People today are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. This is true also among Christians. Being spiritual babies we do not know the true joy of the Lord. Our “joy” is the same joy as the peoples of the world. They seek fun and we seek fun—like so many children.
The image of the Father is joy. Christ, who always reveals the Father’s image in Himself, is a Man of joy. He gives His joy to us. The Spirit-filled saint becomes increasingly joyous even though his afflictions are numerous. The elect are accounted as sheep for the slaughter, but they experience more joy in their imprisonments than do the worldly in the height of their prosperity.
Satan is filled with misery. Hell is filled with misery. The Christian who is walking in the flesh rather than in the Spirit is filled with misery because the fires of Hell are burning in his personality. The way of the backslider is hard and he demonstrates this in his life. The servant of the Lord proceeds from joy to joy as he makes his pilgrimage to Mount Zion.
Peace. Peace is the perpetual goal of mankind, but peace cannot be attained apart from the Prince of Peace. Today the world realizes more than ever before the desirability of peace among the nations. But the world is doomed to failure. There can be no peace for the wicked.
The present is filled and the future will be filled with wars and rumors of wars. There is no possibility it can be otherwise. As long as Satan is allowed to work on the earth, as long as men choose Satan over Christ, there will be wars and fighting. War, hatred, revenge, quarreling, bickering, strife, covetousness, jealousy, envy, malice, are all in Satan’s personality.
Light cannot abide in darkness. As we walk in the Spirit of God, the Spirit wars against all of Satan that is in us. Little by little the darkness is driven out of us. As victory is won, peace results. When there is no sin in us we have peace—God’s peace. This is the only true and lasting peace. To have the peace of God rule in our hearts is to possess one of the most priceless of all possessions. Eternal peace is the image of the Lord God of Heaven.
Satan is the personification of hate, misery, and unrest. His servants are hateful, miserable, and frantic. Hell is an area of turmoil, being filled with the screams of the frustrated, the covetous, the murderous, the lecherous, the jealous, the fearful. The Kingdom of God is an area of peace, being filled with love, joy, peace, and righteousness.
Patience. God is patient. The true saint reveals in himself the patience of the Spirit of God. Christ is waiting patiently for His enemies to be made His footstool. The way of the cross, of the Kingdom of God, is the way of patience.
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:3,4)
God waits patiently until His image, which is patience, is developed in us by His Spirit. The reader, as he reflects on his own life at this point, will observe there are areas of pain. He or she is being tested in the area of the patient bearing of pain. It is the case with every true cross-carrying saint of God. God is patient. Those who would bear His image must learn patience.
If Adam and Eve had waited patiently for God they eventually would have been given to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for the knowledge of good and evil is the mark of maturity (Hebrews 5:14).
The persons who bear Satan’s image are impatient. War, murder, confusion, and every other evil work spring from impatience. Satan is impatient, being filled always with pain and frustration. Satan’s followers also reveal in themselves this same murderous impatience. “Give me what I want now,” they scream.
The true saint bears his cross without complaining, waiting patiently for God to grant his desires.
As Antichrist is growing in the earth his doctrines are appearing among the Christian church people. Satan always works among the sons of God, as far as he is permitted. The recent “faith” and “prosperity” teachings are examples of Satan’s penetration of the Christian ministry. In these doctrines the emphasis is on now. “Get what you want by faith. Find what God has promised and demand it now, as the prodigal son did. God is required to do what you say if you have faith.”
The “get it now by faith” is the opposite of the way of the cross, the way of patience. There may be a kernel of truth in the faith and prosperity doctrines, but the way they work out in the lives of the believers definitely is not in keeping with the image of God. It is the way of Satan, the way of self-centeredness.
Gentleness. God is gentle. Christ is gentle. The Spirit-filled saint is learning gentleness. Gentleness is the image of God.
Church history does not always depict gentleness in God’s people. In many instances the churches sought to establish the Christian faith by harshness, by torturing those who were “heretics.” Even today there are instances where Christians seek to enforce their beliefs by harming people. This is not the way of the Lord.
Satan is not gentle, he is harsh and violent. When a Christian seeks to exercise his will by harsh, hurtful means, he is not revealing the image of Christ. In the Kingdom of God, the ends do not justify the means. If God’s “will” is accomplished by harsh, hurtful methods, forcing people and circumstances to conform to our thinking, all is worthless. God never shall accept that sacrifice. God hates “robbery for burnt offering.”
When the Christian accomplishes his goals by forcing other people he is portraying the image of Satan. Satan does as he will with complete disregard for the feelings and welfare of others. No harsh, hurtful person has any inheritance in the Kingdom of God.
The following passage often is used by those who advise the use of force in accomplishing the work of the Gospel.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)
The preceding text appears to teach we should be violent so we can take the Kingdom of God. We know this is not the case because it is the meek who inherit the earth. The people of the Kingdom are strong because of the obstacles they have overcome through Christ. They are forceful and diligent in their seeking of the Lord and His will. But they also are gentle, they are not violent.
Perhaps the Lord was referring to the fact that Herod had put John in prison. From that day to the present, violent, forceful men have pushed themselves and their programs. Great cathedrals have been constructed. Large “Christian” organizations have been formed that have spread the Gospel to many parts of the world, sometimes in a militant manner.
It seems the violent have been successful.
But this is not the way of the servant of the Lord. The servant of the Lord does not strive. The gentleness of God’s Lamb dwells in God’s servant and is demonstrated in the servant’s words and actions.
Those who have spread the Gospel by violent, self-seeking methods have disqualified themselves from participation in the Kingdom of God. The violent builders of the Kingdom have their reward—perhaps in the present world. But the gentle children of the Kingdom are embraced in the heart of the Father. God Himself is their inheritance.
Although the Spirit of God has made use of the products of violent people as they have fought one another to accomplish their own ends (all for the Glory of God, as they would claim), the true members of the Body of Christ have learned the kindness and gentleness of the Lord.
Goodness. In comparison with all other persons, God alone is good. Christ reveals in Himself the goodness, the compassion, the generosity, the goodwill of God. Those in whom the Spirit of God is dwelling are beginning to show this same hospitable, generous attitude toward others, being willing that all should enjoy the blessings of the Lord.
In a day filled with hatred, violence, perversity, it is difficult for the believer to maintain a good attitude. In spite of our best efforts the darkness poisons us. We fight evil with evil. Satan is the master of such fire and we always get burned.
Evil can be overcome only with good. Not our good, it must be the good that comes from God. It is only the Divine good that contains enough power to overcome the perversity in the world.
Goodness is the ability to do good to others, even to those of whom we do not approve. The goodness of God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. This is so difficult for us to do! But the Spirit of God is more powerful than all.
Satan always projects evil and discord from himself. Those who are filled with Satan’s spirit give forth this same badness, this foulness of attitude. The presence of the true saint turns the bitter waters to sweet, bringing showers of blessing. The saint brings order out of confusion, harmony out of discord. He or she is a peacemaker. This is the way of Heaven and the image of God.
Faithfulness. God clothes Himself with faithfulness as with a garment. God is Faithful. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Faithful and True Witness.
Treachery is common in our day. The lawyers are becoming wealthy because men are not faithful and do not tell the truth. The businessman insists all agreements be put in writing because his customers will cheat him if they can.
Marriages are dissolved because the oaths of people are meaningless. Since people are lovers of pleasure and do not fear God, they will abide by their promise only as long as it is pleasurable and convenient to do so. When they break their word their excuse is that they were not being treated fairly. They expect other people to overlook their treacherous behavior.
Satan is a liar and the father of liars. How many people have ended up in Hell because they believed the lies of Satan? Satan held out to them the promise of a glorious life in the world. Instead, he led them into the flames of torment. Their cries in Hell fall on deaf ears. There is no conscience, no faithfulness in Hell.
Christ is faithful. What He says to us is more certain than the heavens and the earth. One day the earth and heaven will pass away, but the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ will remain true in that hour. God is trustworthy. Christ is trustworthy. We may be weak and unfaithful, but if we will continue to walk in the Spirit, the Spirit will create trustworthiness in us. We will reveal in our personality the faithfulness of God.
God always will keep His part of the covenant He makes with us. It is necessary that we keep our part of the covenant, for two parties must remain faithful if a covenant is to be in force.
Meekness. God is meek and gentle in all His ways. The Lord Jesus Christ is meek and gentle. The saint who is walking in the Spirit is meek and gentle.
To be meek is to be teachable, humble, ready to consider the circumstances, and the opinions and feelings of others. The opposite attitude is that of stubborn, obstinate pride.
Pride is a powerful pitfall in the spirit realm. All knowledge produces pride, but spiritual knowledge is especially productive of pride. It is easy for an individual who is prominent in the Lord’s work to become proud. The Pharisees were so filled with murderous spiritual pride that they crucified Christ.
Moses was a chosen leader but he remained meek. We too will remain meek if we walk in the Spirit, who Himself appears as a dove.
Christ is revealed as the Lamb, as the meekest of all animals. The last revelation of Christ in the Scriptures is that of the Lamb. This is the image the Father prefers.
Yet, God is able to display His wrath to an unimaginable degree. Christ also will appear in a fury that the Christians of today never could associate with Him. Men will cry out to the mountains to fall on them in order to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb.
So it is true of us. We are obliged to learn meekness. The wrath of man does not bring about the righteousness of God. We always must leave our justification, our vengeance, with God. But in the Day of the Lord we will tread the wicked under foot. This too is the image and will of God.
Satan is pride personified. He desires to be as the Most High, to be worshiped by the Lord’s creatures. It is so easy for the unwary Christian to fall into the snare of the devil in the area of spiritual pride! As soon as this happens, the afflicted Christian will not listen to the counsel of the older saints. He has lost his meekness. Now he knows so much he has no need of instruction. Satan has assured him he knows the truth. The downfall of that individual is certain. He will be saved from Hell with difficulty.
Self-control. God is not given to excess but always remains in control of Himself. The Lord Jesus Christ exercises mastery over Himself, always performing the will of God. The Spirit of God teaches self-control to the faithful saint. Apart from self-control there can be no walk in God.
The individual who loses his self-control in the area of lust, or drunkenness, or covetousness, or wrath, may profess belief in Christ; but when he loses his self-control he will reveal in his personality the image of Satan.
The spiritual life is not one of excesses. Christ has given us all good things to enjoy. Our age is one of excesses. People think it is strange we do not abandon ourselves to the flesh as they do. We practice all things in moderation.
Neither are we excessive in our religious practices. We always are ready to receive good things from the hand of God, not being excessively intent on abusing the flesh. There is a balance that must be maintained or the worshiper becomes occupied with practices not productive of the true image of God.
The balanced Christian life usually requires many years for its maturing. Excesses in any direction, whether in the realm of the flesh or the domain of spirits, prevent the full expression of the image of God. It is well to remember it was God who created the material realm, and He pronounced it “very good.”
Satan and his followers abhor the restrictions of moderation. Their way is to practice what seems pleasurable at the moment without regard for the fitness of the action or the consequences of it. If food is good, food ought to be eaten until the spirit of gluttony is satiated. If acquiring money is good, money ought to be acquired until there is ten times what is necessary for the conduct of life. If sexual love is good, it ought to be exploited in every conceivable perversion. This is the image of Satan.
The fruit of the Spirit is the image of God. The opposite of these nine traits is the image of Satan.
There are other aspects of the image of God, such as His wisdom, His knowledge, His sense of justice, His courage, His majesty, His ability to wage war, His capacity for work, and so forth. These also are to be developed in the human personality according to our unique calling in the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is the common moral image of all who are an integral part of God.
We have stated previously that the ambition of modern man to achieve great things in the world is a self-imposed burden. The acquisition of wealth or status or fame or power is not necessary for a successful life. A successful life is one in which the image of God is created. If the image of God is not created during our pilgrimage in the world, the full benefit of salvation did not come to us.
It is important for the believer to keep in mind that the present world and all its ways are passing away. But the image of God that is being created in us by the Spirit of God is eternal. We are being made the eternal servants of God. This is all that matters in life.
If we receive the necessary transformation of character we have succeeded in the only truly important aspect of our existence; for the image of God is the foundation on which every other dimension of our inheritance is based.
Male and Female
The reason God made man in two parts, male and female, is to cause the individual human to be capable of union with another, and to show the individual that his role in the creation is not possible apart from union with another.
The Father and Christ are One. Neither One works or abides apart from the Other. Now we Christians are being invited into that Oneness—oneness with God and oneness with the members of the Body of Christ.
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)
Jesus invites us to abide in him as He abides in the Father. “Without me ye can do nothing,” Jesus informs us (John 15:5). This means we cannot obtain our inheritance and remain an individual apart from Christ.
Along with the necessity of being in God’s image it is necessary that the member of Christ’s Body relinquish his or her individuality in favor of union—union with God through Christ, and union with other members of the Body of Christ as the Lord leads.
We never lose our identity just as Christ never loses His identity. But we do lose our individuality, as Christ has lost His individuality by becoming One with God and One with us.
When man and woman become one flesh there is a loss of individuality as far as the flesh is concerned. If there were no loss of individuality they would not be “one flesh” by the definition of one.
When we become one with Christ and He becomes One with us there is a loss of individuality as far as our entire personality is concerned. If there is no loss of individuality on the part either of Christ or of us, oneness is an impossibility according to the definition of one.
The doctrine of oneness with Christ and with one another is alien to all that modern man is being taught. Satan-inspired teachers and leaders are stressing self-fulfillment, individuality, the rights of the individual. To be “in control” is advanced as a great good. Satan knows well that the surest way to create a candidate for Hell is to convince the person that he or she is a self-reliant individual, the captain of his own soul and master of his own fate. As such, he or she is useless in the Kingdom of God.
As the branch is dead and useless apart from the vine, so the human being is dead and useless apart from God and apart from those with whom God has called him into union.
The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in the saints ministering the Presence and Life of God to other people. The Life of God is in Christ. That eternal Life is flowing into the elect. The elect then become trees of life through whom others can receive the blessing of God. This is the plan of love that works only in love and through love. Love is the desire of one creature to bring another creature into union with itself.
An individual who is in love with himself is in the image of Satan, for Satan is unable to give of himself to others. Satan does not and cannot give of himself. He strives to create human beings in his own image.
In order to be successful Satan must convince people they should keep to themselves, always fulfilling and improving their individuality. This is contrary to the Nature, desire, and plan of the Lord God of Heaven.
By making us male and female, God is teaching us that we are dependent on others for our inheritance in the Kingdom of God. From this original concept God progresses to the idea of the Lamb and His Wife, of the oneness of the Church with Christ.
Satan desires to be like the Most High but he rejects the concept of dwelling contentedly in the will of God. We see this tendency in the churches of today. The modern philosophies that stress the importance of man and man’s rights have filtered into the thinking of the believers until Christians view the Divine redemption as man-centered. This is paving the way for Antichrist, who no doubt will be a self-centered Christian.
Have you noticed that salvation is being presented as the means God has provided to make man happy and meet his needs? Then, when discipleship is preached, the need for us to give up our life for the sake of the Kingdom of God, we have a problem of inconsistency. We are telling people if they will come to Christ they will be happy. Then we demand of them that they give up all and follow Christ.
The churches of today have been made largely ineffectual by placing man at the center of the plan of God. It is Christ, not man, who is at the center of the plan of God. We live to serve Christ, Christ does not live to serve us. We were created for Christ’s pleasure, He was not created for our pleasure (Revelation 4:11).
The plan of redemption delivers us from sin and also from self-centeredness. There is neither sin nor self-centeredness in the Kingdom of God.
It is the power of the Holy Spirit that casts out the sin from us. As we confess our sins, repenting of them, the Spirit enables us to put them to death.
Self-centeredness is another matter. The sufferings of the cross are the only antidote for our self-love and self-will. God insists that we turn away not only from what is sinful but also from what is ours by right. He asks us to forsake our life, giving over to Him all we fervently desire.
God knows many devices that will destroy self-centeredness. He employs them with the greatest skill. The process is painful, but the end result is the destruction of self-seeking and the accomplishing of restful union with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Being created in the image of God is the basis for our inheritance. But image apart from union is Antichrist. God is not creating many Christs. There is one Christ, and He is Jesus—the firstborn Son of God. We are being formed as eternally inseparable members of the Body of the one Christ. God is making from the elect Jews and the elect Gentiles one new Man.
The God of Heaven has planted one true Vine. The true Vine is Jesus, the Christ of God. The Vine is spiritual but it is designed to be revealed in the earth.
God desires that the Vine bear fruit. The fruit for which God is looking is His own image: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. The Divine image is found only in Christ and is Christ.
God desires that this fruit be visible and available to the nations of the earth. When the nations eat the fruit of the true Vine they will live spiritually and worship and serve the God of Heaven.
Adam and Eve were in the image of God to a limited extent, as we have stated previously. They were commanded to reproduce this image in the earth.
The Lord Jesus Christ is perfectly in the image of God. It is our role, the role of the members of the Body of Christ, to reproduce the image of Christ in the earth. The image of Christ is the precious fruit of the earth for which God is looking.
It is through the Seed of Abraham, Christ and His Body, that God will bless the nations of the earth. The emphasis in the present hour is on the maturing of the branches of the Vine. When that occurs, the image of God will appear for the nations to behold, and beholding to be saved.
For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth 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)
“Before all the nations.”
God has planted a Vine, and all the creation is waiting for, is dependent on, the bringing forth of the fruit of that Vine. The nations will continue to grope blindly for the light until the only true Light shines from the branches of the Vine.
The believer in Christ in whom the image of God is formed, and who enters restful union with God through Christ, will bear the fruit of the image of God in unnumbered multitudes during the ages to come. His fruit will be as that of Abraham if he chooses to believe God.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman [vinedresser]. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:1,2)
The issue here is not Heaven or Hell. Too much emphasis has been placed on going to Heaven when we die. This is not the biblical emphasis, although we hope to go to a place of peace and joy when we leave this flesh.
Indeed, through Christ we can escape the wrath of God. God has made a way for the sinner to escape destruction. But the emphasis of the majority of the writings of the New Testament is not on our “being saved and going to Heaven.” It is on the godly behavior of those who have been called to be branches in the true Vine.
Jesus did not pray for the nations of the world. He prayed for the elect, for those whom the Father has given Him. As soon as the fruit of righteousness appears in the sight of the world, as soon as the peoples of the earth behold the Glory of God in the saints, the world will believe that God has sent the Lord Jesus Christ.
The believers of today are babes in Christ. Therefore the world continues in darkness.
Jesus did not say if we did not bear fruit we would not go to Heaven. Heaven is not the issue. The issue is that of being allowed to remain as part of the Vine.
If the fruit of God’s image does not appear in our personality, if there is no new creation, we are in danger of being cut out of the Vine.
Believers speak of “eternal security.” What do they mean by that? Do they mean they will remain in the Vine whether or not they bear fruit? If this is what they mean they are contradicting the words of the Lord Jesus.
We are baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. After that we must walk faithfully with Christ as He brings us into God’s image. Each day the Lord presents a new challenge to us. If through His grace we rise to meet that challenge we will continue to abide in Him.
If, however, we neglect prayer, the study of the Word, obedience, the fellowship of the saints, and do not press into Christ each day, we are not continuing to abide in Him. If we continue to abide in Him we bear fruit naturally. But if we do not continue to abide in Him we cannot bear fruit. If we do not bear fruit, God will remove us from the Vine.
There are multitudes in the Christian churches. Among these multitudes there are a few who, through the Spirit of God, overcome every enemy that comes against their abiding in Christ. These few are the true Church, the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, the branches of the one true Vine.
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)
It is written that in the last days the love of the majority (the majority of believers) will grow cold (Matthew 24:12). This is happening in our day. The Christian people of the wealthy nations are succumbing to the lust, drunkenness, ease, and prosperity with which they are surrounded.
The “cold” do not bear the fruit of God’s image in their lives. Therefore they shall be cut out of the Vine. They never will be part of the Wife of the Lamb. They will not be heirs of the nations of the earth. Whether or not they will be saved in the Day of Wrath is known to God alone.
Only those who bear the fruit of the image of God, bearing it in themselves and in those with whom they come in contact, will be allowed to remain in the Vine. We may desire to go to Paradise. But God’s desire is that righteousness and praise spring forth in the sight of the nations of the earth.
God has planted a Vine. If we are fruitful in the world, when we die God will continue to minister to us so throughout eternity we may bear the fruit He desires. If we waste our days on the earth, when we die we will face an angry God. God will deal with us according to our laziness and disobedience.
If we are not faithful in small responsibilities we will not be given a greater opportunity and responsibility in the Kingdom of God.
Christ is the only true Vine. Our task is to continue to abide in Him each day. Each day, abiding in Him is more difficult than it was on the preceding day because He steps up to a higher level. The Master is setting us free from all sin and all self-centeredness and bringing us into union with Himself. It requires all the consecration of which we are capable in order to keep up with the daily lessons and challenges.
We do not have to strive to bear fruit. We do have to strive to be found in Christ. As long as we continue abiding in Christ we will continue to bear fruit naturally. The world, Satan, and our sin and self-will are always attempting to prevent our abiding in Christ. We battle against these enemies by the wisdom and power of the Spirit of God.
We must continue in prayer, in the Word, and in diligent devotion to Jesus if we expect to have the strength to continue abiding in the Vine. The rewards go to the victors.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16)
Every member of the Seed of Abraham was known to God before the creation of the world. We have been chosen to bear fruit. We have been ordained to bear in ourselves the righteous, holy, obedient image of Christ.
Christians today are seeking power from God. Power is not our goal, our goal is image, union, and fruitfulness. If we are fruitful, God will answer our prayers. Then we will have power and dominion.
Image makes union possible. Union makes fruitfulness possible. Fruitfulness makes dominion possible. When we possess image, union, fruitfulness, and dominion we are ready to inhabit and maintain Paradise and to bring Paradise wherever we go. The name of the city of God will be imprinted on us. This is the calling and destiny of each member of God’s elect, of the Seed of Abraham, of the members of the Body of Christ.
What is man that You are mindful of Him?—that You visit him?
Man is created to be the throne of almighty God.
Man is destined to be the ruler over all the works of God’s hands. We still are under tutors and governors but the hour will come when the Kingdom is given to us. First, however, we must be in the image of God, we must be in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, and we must be bearing fruit. To bear fruit in the Kingdom of God is to produce righteousness and praise, to bring about the performing of God’s will in the earth.
The Lord Jesus is what God means by “man.” Jesus is in the image of God. He is in absolute union with God. He is bringing about righteousness and praise, the performing of God’s will, in the earth (as well as in the heavenlies). Therefore the Lord Jesus has received all authority and all power in Heaven and on the earth. Jesus sits on the highest throne of the universe.
We have been called to that same throne, to the place of dominion over all the works of God’s hands.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
Revelation 3:21 (above) reveals that the saints are called to the position of supreme power over the works of God’s hands. The power of Christ’s throne is beyond imagination. It is to this supreme majesty that we have been assigned by the Lord. Whether or not we attain such a high mark depends on our willingness to lay aside all else and follow Jesus to complete victory over all that would compete for our worship and service.
People are not rulers today. We are ruled by the world, by the lusts of our flesh, by Satan and his demons, and by our self-love. Men and women in the so-called “free” nations enjoy thinking they are free, but they are not. Whoever commits sin is the slave of sin.
When an individual believes in Christ and attempts to cease sinning he discovers quickly that he is not in control of his own personality. His imaginations, motives, words, and deeds are being directed by forces that have become deeply entrenched in him. He may know what is the godly thing to think and to do, but the performing of righteousness, the doing of God’s will, is difficult—sometimes extremely difficult.
We are the slaves of the world, of Satan, of sin, and of self-love.
When we believe in Christ and are baptized in water we are given by the Lord the authority to serve righteousness. Because of Calvary we are legally free from servitude to the kingdom of darkness. From this point forward we must continue choosing to serve righteousness. But it requires the help of the grace of God if we are to live righteously in obedience to the will of God.
The receiving of our inheritance in the Kingdom of God depends on our success in overcoming the forces arrayed against us. We can overcome if we place our complete confidence in the Lord Jesus and seek His wisdom and power in every detail of our life.
The elements of the great design were present in the original creation. Man was placed in a beautiful environment and assigned a delightful task to perform. God came down to walk on the earth in fellowship with His children.
Then the eternal declaration was pronounced: let us make man in our image; let us make man male and female; man is to be fruitful, filling the earth with his image; man is to rule the works of God’s hands.
This was an elementary step toward the stupendous program that is in the mind of God.
Man has been called to be perfectly in the image of God. If we are willing and obedient we can make progress toward this image while yet in our fleshly existence. It will require an eternity of eternities before we approach maturity as God’s sons in His image.
Man has been called to union with Christ and union with others of his kind. This union does not consist merely of an agreement in which all work toward the same goal, such as in the building of the Tower of Babel. Rather, the union is identical with that which is true of the Godhead. We have been called to be one in Christ as Christ is One with the Father.
Man has been called to a degree of fruitfulness comparable to that of Abraham. As soon as God’s image has been perfected in us we shall multiply that image throughout eternity—wherever God brings new creations into existence.
Man has been called to govern all the works of God’s hands.
Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. (Hebrews 2:8)
“All things”! Christ-filled man is to be the lord of the creation.
God has not placed the world under the rule of angels but under the rule of man (Hebrews 2:5).
The current understanding, that we receive Christ in order to go to Heaven when we die, there to live in ornate “mansions” and do nothing, is not the Divine design. This vision is based on the traditions of men and the desires of the adamic flesh and soul.
The true vision is that of the Kingdom of God coming to the earth. The elect have been called to serve God now and in the new world that is coming. We must enter the four aspects of the Divine declaration before we are eligible to participate in the roles and tasks assigned to the Seed of Abraham, to the members of the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1).
It is one thing to be saved from the wrath of God and brought over into the new heaven and earth reign of Christ. It is another matter to participate in the roles and tasks delegated to the overcomers. They, being God’s sons, have inherited all things (Revelation 21:7).
Some of the roles and tasks that have been assigned to the members of the true Church, the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, are as follows:
- To bear witness of God’s Person, will, and ways to the nations of the earth.
- To be the eternal House of God, the Temple of God, the place of God’s rest.
- To be the Wife of the Lamb.
- To be the sons of God.
- To be the brothers of Christ.
- To be God’s heirs.
- To be God’s rulers under Christ.
- To be God’s priests.
- To be the Body, the fullness, of Christ.
- To be God’s judges of men and angels.
- To execute the Divine vengeance on sinners and their sin.
- To be God’s deliverers.
- To bring justice to the nations of the earth.
- To teach the nations of the earth.
- To be the eternal servants of the Lord God of Heaven.
- To be trees of life.
- To be the Presence of God throughout His creation.
We are entering some of these roles and tasks today. We are being given some small responsibilities in the Kingdom of God. If we are faithful in our present assignments, two things take place: (1) we ourselves grow in the four aspects of the Divine declaration; and (2) God finds us worthy of His gifts. We will receive many additional gifts and will be assigned a much greater place of service when the Lord returns from Heaven.
If we are not faithful in our present assignment (and every believer has been given a task in the Body of Christ), we will not grow in the four aspects of the Divine declaration and our gifts will be taken from us and given to another. We will not be given a place of responsibility in the Kingdom of God.
We, because of tradition, may be concerned about going to Heaven when we die. God is concerned about our bearing fruit. If we do not bear fruit we will be cut out of the Vine. Our goal is to be a branch in the Vine that is destined to fill the creation of God.
To be an eternal member of the Seed of Abraham, of the elect of God, is the highest calling that can rest on any creature of God. To abide in Christ requires our attention and dedication. Because of the current limited understanding of salvation, multitudes of Christian believers receive Christ and then continue to live in the world in the same manner as before. This is not appropriate because of the Divine expectations concerning every member of the Body of Christ.
To be a Christian is, by definition, to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus. In order for any person to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus, being led into full development in the four aspects of the Divine declaration (image, union, fruitfulness, and dominion), the things of God must receive the greatest concentration and effort of which he or she is capable.
Nothing—absolutely nothing—must be allowed to divide his attention. His eye must be single, the will of Christ being the one goal on which all his decisions are based. His work in the world is not his calling. His daily occupation must never be allowed to become more than his “tentmaking”—that which provides food for himself and for those for whom he is responsible.
To go through life without making progress in eternal image, eternal union, eternal fruitfulness, and eternal dominion, is not to become “man.”
(“The Great Design”, 3779-1)