A TIME OF TRAVAIL
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The mystery of the Gospel is “Christ in us.” Christ first must be formed in us as a transformation of our personality. Then the Father and Christ will come from Heaven and enter that which has been formed in us. The hour in which we live is one of travail, as the Holy Spirit forms Christ in us in preparation for the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in us.
A TIME OF TRAVAIL
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)
There is a historical Christ and there is an inner Christ. The historical Christ is the One we think about at Christmas and Easter. We consider His birth in the manger and His triumphant resurrection. Such a relationship to Christ is interesting but it is not what God has in mind.
Paul said though he at one time had regarded the Christ who was crucified in Jerusalem, he did so no longer. His attention now was directed to the new creation—to Christ who was being formed in him.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (II Corinthians 5:16,17)
It is one matter to know about the Christ of history and to believe the facts concerning Him. It is quite a different matter to have Christ formed in us. The one is mental assent to a historical record. The other is a re-creation of our personality such that the external Christ, the Christ of history, becomes our personality. the old has gone. The new has come.
Notice in the following account how the Lord Jesus spoke of the change from knowing about Him as an external person to the inner revelation of Himself.
Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’”? (John 16:19)
The Lord Jesus is telling His disciples that while they could see Him now as a Man standing next to them, pretty soon they would not see Him. Then, after a while they would see Him again.
What did He mean by this?
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (John 16:20)
Of course Christ meant that they would be sorrowful because of His crucifixion, but then they would rejoice when they saw Him on the shore eating the honeycomb.
Or is this what He meant?
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (John 16:21)
Why, if the Lord was referring to His resurrection, did He suddenly turn the discussion to the pain a woman feels when she is giving birth, and then the joy that follows what the baby is born?
Is the Lord saying the weeping and mourning of the disciples because of His crucifixion is comparable to a woman travailing in birth, and His appearance after His resurrection was as the joy she feels after the delivery of the child?
I seriously doubt this is the meaning of His illustration. He certainly could have used other illustrations that would have been more closely related, such as the joy one would experience if a mortally wounded person were suddenly healed.
But to compare their pain and then joy to the travail of a woman and then the subsequent birth, is somewhat confusing. After all, they did not travail in order to bring about the resurrection of Christ.
Actually, the Lord is referring to the fact that He would disappear from their sight for a season; and then they would see Him again because He no longer was merely with them, He now was in them. They could not possibly have understood that at the time.
So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22)
“I will see you again.” Where will they see Him? In the throne room of their heart!
“You ask me how I know He lives—He lives within my heart.” We Christians know Christ is alive, not because of a historical record, but because He lives in our heart. Isn’t it so?
In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 16:23)
When Christ is living in us, our prayers will actually be coming from Christ Himself. Therefore the Father will be quick to respond.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24)
We now can ask in His name because we are praying as though it were from Christ Himself.
Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. (16:25)
As soon as Christ has been formed in us we are ready for the Father and the Son to come and make Their abode in us. God will not dwell in Adam. Before God and Christ can dwell in us, Christ has to be formed in us. When Christ has been formed in us, thus transforming our personality, the Father and the Son can come and dwell in that which has been formed in us.
In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (16:26,27)
The Father and the Son are two different Persons. You would not think so to listen to modern teaching. It is as though the Father and the Son are the same Person in two different expressions. This is not true. The Son came to bring us to the Father. The Son is the Way to the Father.
It is true that when we see the Son, and know the Son, we have both seen and known the Father. This is because the Son is the perfect Representation of the Father, and the Father dwells in the Son in His Fullness.
Nevertheless, the Father is a Person in His own right. It is as Jesus said: “No one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son and he to whom the Son reveals Him.
I will tell you this: the more Christ is formed in us the more we become aware behind the Son there is a Father, whom the Son obeys and worships. It is the great joy of the Son to make His and our Father known to us.
The Lord Jesus did not speak of returning to Heaven but returning to the Father. We ourselves ought to be more concerned about going to the Father than we are to going to Heaven. Heaven is a place. The Father is a Person. To go to Heaven is not necessarily to go to the Father. Eternal life is to know the Father, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father. (John 16:19-28)
Our goal in life is to be totally reconciled to the Father, to dwell in the very center of the Father’s Person and will. Christ died to prepare a place for us in God. The Holy Spirit deals with us constantly that we might dwell in untroubled rest in the Father. Such untroubled rest in the Father is the major aspect of our goal, our land of promise.
The reason he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than any of the Prophets of Israel is that no prophet of the old covenant had Christ formed in him. Yet the least member of the Kingdom of God has Christ formed in him and the Father and the Son dwelling in that which has been formed in Him. In fact, it is the Father and the Son dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit that is the Kingdom of God. This is why we must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. It is They who are in us who Themselves are the Kingdom of God.
We have seen thus far that Christ can be with us in the beginning. But His desire is that He be both in and with us, with the inner Presence being the Kingdom of God.
We have noticed also that we must pass through a travail before we “see Him again.”
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)
Why did Paul say this? It was because the saints in Galatia were being taught that even though they had professed faith in Christ they had to be circumcised and return to the Law of Moses. Paul knew they were vulnerable to false teaching until Christ, the Morning Star, had been formed in them.
Notice also that Christ is formed in the saints by means of the travail of the ministries of the Church.
The Book of Revelation contains a picture of the travail of the Church. If my understanding, this travail is taking place today and is of supreme importance.
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. (Revelation 12:1,2)
My understanding is a follows: The woman is the Church. The Sun represents the righteous Christ. The moon speaks of the works of God’s hands, which are under the authority of the Christ-clothed Church. The twelve stars portray the victorious saints, God’s witnesses of all ages.
The woman, the Church, is travailing to bring forth Christ in the saints.
Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so he might devour her child the moment it was born. (Revelation 12:3,4)
The dragon, Satan, is standing in front of the Church, seeking to devour Christ the moment He is brought forth. Satan does not fear the Church. But Satan does fear Christ. Satan would be content if the Christian churches would continue with their religious programs. But when a believer decides to set aside his life that Christ might be formed in him, Satan becomes concerned.
She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. (Revelation 12:5)
The woman is the Church. The Son is Christ formed in the saints, as I understand the symbolism.
As Christ is formed in us He immediately is caught up to God’s Throne. A few years ago there was an emphasis on the fact that now that Christ is in us we ought to be able to do mighty works. It is true rather that the revealing of Christ in the saints will not occur until the Lord returns. Until that time, the ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit will continued to operate.
I believe some of us, at least, are experiencing a travail today as we seek to overcome the spirit of the world, the lusts and passions of our flesh, and our self-will. As we are successful in overcoming these areas of darkness, Christ is formed in us and immediately caught up to God. Consequently, our presence at God’s right hand is increasing. We are laying up treasures in Heaven, as the Lord Jesus advised us to do.
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:7-9)
The birth and catching up of Christ, as He is formed in the saints, will cause war to occur in the heavenlies. It appears the birth of the Son in the believers finally will result in the removal of Satan and his angels from their vantage points in the heavens.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” (Revelation 12:10)
Our being willing to set aside our own life that Christ might be formed in us will result in Satan being hurled down to the earth. An end shall have been put to the wrestling match. This fact should encourage us to be utterly faithful to God.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11)
It seems to me that we overcome Satan at the point of the birth of Christ in us. This is the crucial occasion. Satan shall attack us when Christ is about to come forth. It is then that we have to place our trust in the blood of the Lamb; make certain our testimony is in perfect accordance with the written and revealed Word of God; and love not our life to the point of death. If we are faithful in these three efforts, Satan will not be able to devour the Son before He is caught up to God’s Throne.
Hear that uproar from the city, hear that noise from the temple! It is the sound of the LORD repaying his enemies all they deserve. (Isaiah 66:6)
The travail of the Church to bring forth Christ in the saints is associated with the Lord exercising vengeance on His enemies.
Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. (Isaiah 66:7)
There was no travail of Zion, the Church, when the historical Christ was born.
Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:8)
When Zion, the Church, travails, she gives birth to Christ in the saints.
Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. (Isaiah 66:9)
Those of us who have been struggling against sin, seeking to live the life of victory in Christ, can be assured that God will not bring to the moment of birth and then not bring forth the ruling Son.
As for Zion being the Church:
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)
Then there is another passage that speaks of the travail to bring forth Christ in the saints.
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. (Micah 5:2,3)
We know out of Bethlehem came the Lord Jesus Christ, the Ruler over Israel.
She who is in labor is the Church, travailing until Christ comes forth in the saints.
I believe “the rest of His brothers” refers to those in whom He has been formed. I think the idea is that the elect of physical Israel are Christ’s brothers. The “rest of His brothers” would then be those whom God has predestined to be conformed to Christ’s image that He might be the Firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).
It reminds us of Jacob and his descendants coming in wagons from Canaan to Egypt. There they were joined by Joseph, and Ephraim and Manasseh—boys who were half-Jewish and half-Gentile.
I wonder if the present urge among so many Christians to return to the land of Israel is not evidence that the prophecy of Micah is about to come to pass. I myself have been to Israel several times; and the drawing is strong!
It seems clear to me that one of the important issues of our day—if not the most important—is the bringing forth of Christ in the saints. After all, the rest is just religion, isn’t it? How do you feel about this?
(“A Time of Travail”, 3960-1)