Before we move on to exploring some of the deeper truths of God’s word on the subject of Christ’s return, we need to realize that the history and origins of a doctrine only goes so far in validating its authenticity as a “scriptural” teaching. Just because a teaching is old, doesn’t make it true. There were all sorts of unscriptural heresies believed by early Christian congregations – some of them even found their way into Christendom’s most foundational creeds. Many Jewish teachers at the time of Christ had forsaken their own scriptures for their OWN teachings and even incorporated foreign beliefs and pagan concepts into their theology. Much of Jesus’ ministry was spent attacking the plethora of carnal man-made doctrines upheld by the Jewish theologians of the day – not to mention the abuses of their self appointed positions.
So how do we ascertain what is true teaching, and what is tradition? Well firstly, the context in which scripture is written is vital to our understanding. And secondly, what it meant to the target audience at the time of writing is crucial for sound interpretation! Our last study proved outright that “futurism” is little more than a modern fallacy, dreamed up by men driven by worldly ambition! What a carnally minded affair it was too – and what a shameful lack of discernment! The Reformation Fathers would be turning in their graves at the thought of their labours coming so readily undone via the Jesuit pen! They bled and suffered for their beliefs – ideas the modern church has readily abandoned for modern fables! Yet what did early church believers understand regarding their Lord and Saviours promise to return to them? What expectations did they have of the coming kingdom and indeed their role within it?
Remember, the early church was devoid of the New Testament cannon that we rely on today. They had the Old Testament Scriptures, but as far as New Covenant teaching was concerned, they relied upon the meagre correspondence of the Apostles and word of mouth for their doctrine. Different cities clung to certain gospels, some of which aren’t even included in our modern Biblical cannon. It would take a supernatural intervention (namely the gift of tongues/languages and prophecy) to unify the early Christian congregations into anything resembling a cohesive belief system. Many early believers were forced into meeting in secret – a number of Roman Emperors encouraged persecution and hostility towards the new Christian threat. As far as teaching went, Paul so implored the early believers to cleave to the doctrines of the Apostles, stating emphatically that;
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4.4-6).
He was all too aware of the lure of popular religions and false gods, not to mention those within the church who would seek to pollute the revelation of New Covenant truth with “old wine.” History records the early schisms between Jewish and Gentile teachers particularly on customary observances and ordinances. If you know your early church history, you’ll be well aware that there never was a unified Christian faith! Paul saw it coming of course;
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
It would be upon a long and windy road that this new “faith” would finally transcend the plethora of traditions of old gods and religions of the ancient world for to come into its own. Even today, there exist countless denominations, innumerable schisms and an unending tidal wave of new trends and fads - all claiming to be “the truth,” all claiming to be “Spirit inspired” revelation from God! So what did the authors of the New Testament texts believe about Christ’s promised return?
In order to answer that question, we need to understand the times in which the New Testament was written. You see, the time of Christ and the several decades that followed, were extraordinarily turbulent times for the Jews. In 70AD the Jewish temple would be utterly destroyed ushering in a climatic era of apocalyptic woe and suffering – a time smack bang in the middle of the classical Jewish apocryphal period (that ran from about 200 BC through to about 200 AD.) Under the oppressive Seleucids and now Rome, the Jewish need for a Messiah was desperate! The atmosphere was palpable, Jewish resentments grew under foreign rule and rebellion simmered, awaiting the inevitable battle cry.
Yes, these trying times were the backdrop to the apostolic writings we are so familiar with today. In the period extending roughly from AD 50 to 150, a number of documents began to circulate among the churches, including epistles, gospel accounts, memoirs, prophecies, homilies, and collections of teachings. While some of these documents were apostolic in origin, others drew upon the tradition the apostles and ministers of the word had utilized in their individual missions. Still others represented a summation of the teaching entrusted to a particular church centre. Several of these writings sought to extend, interpret, and apply apostolic teaching to meet the needs of Christians in a given locality. Certain cities clung to certain apostolic teachings and traditions – early Christianity was eclectic at best. Christians would take their encouragement from whatever source they could - orthodoxy was not a luxury they could afford. Evidence of this exists today.
In general, among Christian denominations, the New Testament canon is an agreed-upon list of 27 books, although book order can vary. The book order is the same in the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant tradition. Yet the Slavonic, Armenian and Ethiopian traditions for example, have different New Testament book Orders - also, some books are given pre-eminence over others. There also exists numerous early 1st - 2nd century texts (left out of the Bible cannon) proving just how diverse early Christian teachings had become by the 2nd century.
Despite these variances, the canonical writings we are familiar with today were motivated by their environment. Precisely because of the incendiary times in which they lived, many Bible scholars have come to regard the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus as eschatological and apocalyptic. - meaning that they were people who expected an abrupt and decisive change! The idea of the “kingdom of Heaven” is a definitively a New Testament term. Some scholars will quarrel as to whether “apocalyptic” is quite the right word for them, but they at least had that much in common with most apocalyptic literature, that they expected an overturning of the old system. The fact is that there were many religious denominations in Palestine in the first century or around the turn of the era, who expected upheaval, who expected massive change - even despite the fact that within that umbrella, they might have disagreed most vehemently with each other on theological issues.
The coming Messiah
All could agree however, that the need for redemption was nigh. And just how would a Jewish nation be redeemed from the persecutions of their political oppressors? Well, the theocratic ideological ideal of salvation being close at hand, had always been clear and present necessity. Any future governance of a cohesive Jewish nation (one that had suffered successive moral defeats and the exile of its governing classes due to Babylonian conquest) would be sustained only by the rallying cry of an anointed saviour!
It is an intriguing concept – the need for a Jewish “saviour,” an anointed leader! This construct lay at the beating heart of Jewish theology, ever since the Babylonian exile. Its effects were profound - being adopted even by those “priests of God” who assumed power, but were merely a care taker theocracy by Jesus’ day. It would take someone with significant clout, someone who fulfilled the prophetic aspirations of the ruling elite, to rally the Jews to victory! What was needed was nothing less than a MESSIAH!
Strongs 4899: “mashiach” - “anointed”
Original Word: מָשִׁ֫יחַ
Phonetic Spelling: (maw-shee'-akh)
Short Definition: “anointed”
Now, the Hebrew word “messiah” embodies all the qualities of this long awaited leader. It literally means “anointed one” – yet scripturally, it is not strictly a designation pertaining only to Christ. This honorary title implicates Jewish priests, prophets and kings. During the sixth century BC, the exiled Jews in Babylonia started to hope for a special “Anointed One” who was to bring them home; several written prophecies were fulfilled when the Persian king Cyrus the Great did in fact allow them to return. In the second century BC, the Jews were again suffering from repression, and the old prophecies became relevant again.
Some people were looking forward to a military leader who would defeat the Seleucid or Roman enemies and establish an independent Jewish kingdom; others, like the author of the Psalms of Solomon, stated that the Messiah was a charismatic teacher who gave the correct interpretation of Mosaic Law, was to restore Israel and would judge mankind. Jesus of Nazareth was considered THE Messiah by some; yet a century later, Simon bar Kochba (leader of what is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 AD, who established an independent Jewish state which he ruled for three years as "Prince") was a clear candidate in the eyes of his followers. Each Jewish generation assuredly hoped that the fulfilment of the scriptures might come to pass in their lifetimes! It is an intriguing story, how historical events shaped and enforced the prophetic Biblical requisite.
ROOTS OF THE MESSIAH CONCEPT: JOSIAH
In 612 BCE, the Babylonians and Medes defeated and subjected the Assyrians - their capitals Aššur and Nineveh all but destroyed. This sudden calamitous fall of a regional super power created a power vacuum in the west: who was the new master of former Assyrian possessions like Aram, Israel and towns like Gaza, Ashkalon, Tyre and Sidon? Well, the Old Testament records with some proclamation, the good King Josiah of Judah. This sixteenth-generation lineal descendant of the legendary king David had become king of the southern kingdom in 639 BCE, and his reign was marked by the religious renaissance and the renewal of the Covenant he is well known for. In his eighteenth regnal year (622), the high-priest Hilkiah had discovered a hitherto unknown text that described forgotten religious practices and ordinances. Modern scholars identify this scroll with the book Deuteronomy and state that (as was tradition with many Old Testament texts) it was re-edited for a new audience.
With Assyria doomed, Judah prepared for the conquest of Israel. Some scholars maintain that major re-editing of the Old Testament texts (Joshua, Judges, Samuel 1 and 2, Kings 1 and 2) is evident during this time. And why? Well - in the light of this open goal political chessboard - maybe the royal scribes were hoping to usher in a “golden era” of their own? In these texts, several prophecies can be found that describe how one day a Davidic king will rise, purify the religious order and restore Israel.
“One day, Jeroboam was standing at the altar in Bethel, ready to make an offering. Suddenly one of God's prophets arrived from Judah and shouted:The Lord sent me with a message about this altar. A child named Josiah will be born into David's family. He will sacrifice on this altar the priests who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on it.” (1 Kings 13.1-2)
Another important prediction accredited to the legendary prophet Balaam. The story can be found in the book of Numbers: Balaam is invited by king Balak of Moab to curse the wandering Hebrews who threatened his kingdom, but instead of cursing the invaders, Balaam blessed the Hebrews several times. The third blessing contained the following, very important line:
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter will rise out of Israel. It shall crush the foreheads of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed.” (Num 24.17-19)
This is a very interesting text. In the first place, it must be noted that in the eighth and seventh century, there was a large temple in Moab (excavated at Deir 'All) where oracles were given in the name of Balaam. Moab had once been a vassal kingdom of Israel but had become independent. It is very plausible that the oracle had once cursed the two Jewish kingdoms, and that the story in Numbers was intended as a correction of these curses.
In the second place, the one who was to crush the foreheads of Moab, break down the (otherwise unknown) sons of Sheth and dispossess Edom, was clearly Josiah. Several scholars have assumed that the prophecy refers to king David, but this is improbable, because - to the best of our archaeological knowledge - the kingdoms of Edom and Moab did not exist in the eleventh century BCE!
With a comparatively large army and armed with sacred texts that proved his historical rights, Josiah set out to conquer Israel. As 'predicted', he took Bethel, where he had the bones of the pagan priests excavated and burnt on the altar. However, this was the last of his successes as he was not the only one who wanted to conquer Israel - The Egyptian king Necho II had the same plan! Of course the two kings clashed at Megiddo in northern Israel, and Josiah was killed.
To the Jews who had believed in the ancient prophecies, this caused great problems. After all, the sacred books now contained many prophecies about the coming of an anointed king from the house of David who would purify the cult, restore Israel, crush the foreheads of Moab and dispossess Edom. Micah had also announced the coming of this Davidic ruler. It was obvious that Josiah was not the one whose coming had been predicted!
ROOTS OF THE MESSIAH CONCEPT: EZEKIEL
When the Babylonians had made an end to the last Assyrian resistance, they started to conquer the former Assyrian possessions in the west. In 597, they attacked Jerusalem for the first time and captured the city (16 March). Many Jews were taken captive and exiled. One of them was Ezekiel, who tried to comfort the Jews after they had heard that Jerusalem was finally captured in July 587. (There is some debate whether the text really belongs to the early sixth century, but this discussion is irrelevant for our purposes.)Like Micah and Isaiah, Ezekiel predicted that Israel and Judah would be restored, reunited and ruled by a new David. God had said:
“I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations......So shall they be My people, and I will be their God.....And I will place them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for ever more.” (Eze 37.22-26)
Now, the word “Messiah” is not used in this text, but we hear about a king from the family of David who will restore Israel. The restoration is to be complete: not only will the old, undivided kingdom be restored, but the true cult for the one God will be restored too. The ideas are, therefore, elaborations of the prophecies of Micah and Isaiah and are well in line with the ideas that were current in the days of Josiah. There is one difference, however: the son of David of Micah and the 'shoot of Jesse' of Isaiah were connected with military victories, an element that is conspicuously absent from Ezekiel's prophecy.
There is one new element: the king is called nasi or 'prince'. It is not likely that Ezekiel introduced this word to have some linguistic variety: he had used the word 'king' several times already, but not in the preceding lines. It is likely (but not proven) that the word had already become a title for an idealized king. In later centuries, this was certainly the case.
ROOTS OF THE MESSIAH CONEPT: CYRUS
And so it was, that during their exile in Babylon (just as early Christians did under the yoke of the roman emperors) the Jews started to reconsider their beliefs. Under these difficult circumstances, a prophet announced that God would anoint the Persian king Cyrus the Great, who would destroy the Babylonian empire and liberate the Jews:
“Thus says the Lord to His anointed (Messiah) to Cyrus [...] to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut: 'I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, so that you may know that I, the Lord, Who call you by your name, am the God of Israel....” (Isaiah 45)
Cyrus was indeed a “messiah.” He defeated the Babylonians and took their capital in October 539 BCE. The Jews were allowed 'a second Exodus' and returned home, where they rebuilt the Temple. It is remarkable that in his own propaganda, Cyrus wrote that he was chosen by the supreme god - probably his own god Ahuramazda - and that he allowed all exiles - not just the Jews - to return home. However, the Messiah whose coming was predicted is not simply identical to Cyrus. The prophet predicts more than just a historical event of great importance: he links a special person to the start of an age in which 'salvation would be brought forward and righteousness would spring up'. This reminds one of Isaiah's words about the 'shoot of Jesse', which had continued with a description of a harmonious future world where a child could play near the hole of the cobra.
Isaiah speaks about the special child “Immanuel” and about a descendant of David's father Jesse; but Cyrus was certainly not a member of the house of David! These themes would be reconnected when in later centuries messianic speculation was further renewed.
THE MESSIAH CONCEPT EVOLVES
Anyway. Why on earth are we going on about Old Testament Kings and their aspirations of conquest and glory? Aren’t we doing a study on “the rapture?” Well, there’s a very good reason why we are covering these Old Testament texts. You see, just as Christian leaders today continue to press forward in establishing new theories on Christ’s return, so too did the Charismatics of the 19th Century before them, as did the reformers before them, and the early church congregations before them, all of them reinterpreting the scriptures to ascertain “the facts” of Christ’s return to Earth! Honest scholars will tell you, the Old Testament scribes did EXACTLY the same thing regarding the coming “messiah!” They too were constantly re shuffling the deck of interpretation in order to ascertain the truth of the coming “anointed one.” After Josiah’s death, the predictions had to be reinterpreted. From now on, they referred to a future ruler and the idea that an anointed king, a Messiah, would come to restore Israel belonged to the Jewish heritage. We could say then, that Messianism was invented in the years after the death of Josiah, at the end of the seventh century BCE.
All future prophetic interpretation was now directed to the purely Jewish messiah - who was to be a leader anointed by God, physically descended from the Davidic line, who would rule the united tribes of Israel and herald the Messianic Age of global peace. Yet just as Christians look for the physical return of Christ today, so too the Jews were looking for a saviour that would physically redeem them from the yoke of their foreign oppressors. The translation of the Hebrew word Mašíaḥ as Χριστός (Khristós, from whence the term Christ comes) in the Greek Septuagint became the accepted Christian designation and title of Jesus of Nazareth. Those who have the spiritual eyes to see it, know full well that the prophecies in the Hebrew Bible (especially Isaiah) refer to a spiritual saviour!
Ever since Christ’s physical departure from this Earth to the heavens, Christians have dutifully stood and waited for his physical return. For centuries they have done this. For centuries various antichrists have come and gone, and learned men have pored over the scriptures so as to divine the moment of His glorious return. All have gone to their graves disappointed.
Few believers today realize that current Christian end time eschatology echoes the Islamic tradition that Jesus, the son of Mary (the promised Prophet and Masîḥ (Messiah) sent to the Israelites) will return to Earth at the end of times, along with the Mahdi, and defeat al-Masih ad-Dajjal, the "false Messiah" or Antichrist.
In Jewish eschatology, the Messiah is not considered to be God or a pre-existent divine Son of God. He is considered to be a great political leader that has descended from King David. That is why he is referred to as Messiah ben David which means “Messiah, son of David.” The Messiah, in Judaism, is considered to be a great, charismatic leader that is well oriented with the laws that are followed in Judaism. He will be the one who will not “judge by what his eyes see” or “decide by what his ears hear.” (Isa. 11:3-4) In fact, a common modern rabbinic interpretation is that there is a potential “messiah” in every generation.
Early church views
It must be understood then, that for those Christians in the first century that had grown up with the historical eschatological beliefs of their Fathers - the “new wine” of Christ’s teachings were diametrically opposed to hundreds of years of Jewish tradition. Jesus was no less than a bonafide radical! So where did this leave the early church in regards to their understanding of Christ’s (the Messiah) return?
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Mat 3:11-12)
As far as Bible scholarship goes, there can be no clearer message of apocalyptic anticipation than John the Baptists imminent prophecy of the coming Jewish Messiah. The texts that have survived in Christian scripture certainly present John as viewing Christ as the figure who will bring on “the kingdom,” who will be the anointed figure that brings about the glorious moment of transformation. Textually, there are certainly passages in the Gospels that echo Jewish historical sentiment, anticipating an imminent moment of apocalypse. Certainly the earliest Christians took away from the message the belief that Jesus’ return would occur in their own life time.
“…so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Mat 24:33-35)
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (Mat 16:28)
tell you, all this will come on this generation.” (Mat 23:36)
Now to the spiritually unconverted (as all Christ’s followers were until they received the Spirit of Truth at Pentecost) these statements were EXPLICIT promises! Bible sceptics will read these texts as proof of the catastrophic failure of Jesus’ prophetic ability – that this is proof positive that he was a fraud, a “false messiah” who went to his grave like every other man. We need only to remind ourselves that Jesus NEVER
SPOKE LITERALLY to his followers!
“All these things spoke Jesus unto the multitude in PARABLES; and without a parable spoke He not unto them.” (Matt 13:34)
“But without a PARABLE spoke He not unto them…” (Mark 4:34)
“This PARABLE spoke Jesus unto them; but they understood not what things they were which He spoke unto them.” (John 10:6)
As we have mentioned before, even Jesus’ own disciples had to have these parables explained to them. But He often did that by telling them - another Parable! Why would Jesus do that? Because God’s plan involves calling MANY, but choosing only a FEW – at least in this eon.
“(The) MANY (meaning – ALL) are called, but FEW are chosen.” (Matt 22:14)
Jesus said, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” (John 15:16)
The shocking truth is that Jesus hid the meaning of His teachings from the masses. The word Parable (Parabole in Greek: #3850 in Strong’s Concordance) means a similitude or (symbolically) fictitious narrative that conveyed a moral truth. The word Proverb (Paroimia in Greek: #3942 in Strong’s Concordance) means essentially the same thing – a fictitious illustration. That is why secular Bible scholars and Church leaders today will NEVER understand Jesus’ teachings regarding His return! We shall delve into this later in the study.
Anyway, to the “spiritually unconverted” followers of Christ’s ministry, these sayings were very serious indeed. Because Christ after all said to his disciples, “This generation shall not pass away before all of these things have been fulfilled.” Again, the historical evidence states that the early Christian church was rooted in an intense apocalyptic anticipation - that indeed the end could come, at any moment. Remember, after Pentecost, only THE FEW (Christ’s true followers) would have understood his teachings. THE MANY (those early Christian churches bent on mixing the “old wine” into the mix) would never understand! They would continue (as it does today) to speculate and anticipate Jesus’ return! Thus the conception of false Biblical eschatological interpretation was born - the Orthodox Roman Church would only confound these issues further, followed by the Reformers, right up to today’s futurist doctrines.
THE LONG GAME
Truly, this changing the goal-posts of Biblical Eschatology has given rise the all the schools of prophetic interpretation - be it preterist, historicist or futurist and everything in between for that matter. Literally hundreds of theories and thousands of articles, essays and books later, all have failed to see what Jesus really taught about His coming kingdom. These Christian schools of thought paved the way for the long-game scenario we now commonly call Bible prophecy. So what did those early Christian congregations caught up in the traditional view of a literal conquering Jewish Messiah think in the light of Christ’s promise to come again in their generation? Historians that study the early Christian texts find much evidence for the need to once again reshuffle the deck of interpretation. Those carnal minded Christians would have been left disappointed indeed. After all, when the decades past, and the first generation did pass away and the Second Coming did not occur, Christianity went through a sort of major period of re-assessment.
“..And what emerged was a reinterpretation of these apocalyptic texts, taking a much longer view of things, and in fact the early church as it becomes institutionalized in Rome discourages apocalyptic speculation. They viewed it as dangerous, and basically take the view that Christ's kingdom will gradually unfold over time. There will be a culmination of righteousness at some point in the future. But we don't know the precise details. So you can see a quite dramatic change in Christian theology from the very earliest Christians to the medieval church....” (Paul Boyer: author of “when Time Shall Be No More” Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture)
Some scholars maintain that even the Apostles in their earlier thinking were also caught up in apocalyptic fervour.
“...We have very early letters from Paul. They date from the 50s AD and they're first hand, they're autobiographical. They're undisputed. And they say the most startling things. For example in First Corinthians, which we date about 54 AD, Paul says that it's better not to get married. The end of all things is at hand. In view of the present distress that he thinks is coming on the world, he's actually advising people, "Slaves, remain a slave. Don't try to really change the social order, because everything, very rapidly, is coming to an end." One of his phrases is that "the appointed time has grown very short." It's a phrase right out of the Book of Daniel, about the appointed time, the time of the end. He's our earliest and best evidence. So that tells us that in the 50s, around the Mediterranean world, Christian communities are sprouting up, believing that Jesus is the messiah. That he's going to come again, probably in their lifetime and that they shouldn't really worry too much about their economic and social order, and even their marital state, because the end is coming so soon....”
“...Yet, If you look at some of the later letters of some the New Testament, Second Peter for example, he begins to say something rather amazing. "A day with God is a thousand years, and a thousand years is a day," which is this typical kind of adjustment - it's only been one day, but maybe a day is longer than we think, so how do we really know? Even in the later letters of Paul, which we think were written by a Paulean school actually, Timothy and Titus, you don't find any more waiting for the end, we find Paul talking about his own death and then he says, "And in that day, whenever that might be, I will come before Jesus to be judged." But he's not telling anybody any more "don't get married." He's establishing a system of church government. It looks like the movement is more in for the longer haul. We don't find those sorts of apocalyptic statements in some of the later books.” (Dr. James Tabor:Professor of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina)
“I think that it's impossible to look at the New Testament evidence and read it as a non-apocalyptic text...but if you look at the idea of the Kingdom of God as it functions in the first century, and the Kingdom of God as the phrase is attributed to Jesus in the New Testament text, the way the Kingdom of God is used in the letters of Paul who stands closer to Jesus than the authors of the gospels do, that idea is an apocalyptic idea. Yes, I think Jesus was apocalyptic.
There's a rebellion against Rome in the first century. It breaks out in 66. It finally terminates in 74. And in the course of the revolt against Rome, in the year 70 Jerusalem and the Temple are utterly destroyed. This is a tremendous watershed, not only in the history of Judaism but also in what will become the history of Christianity. The Temple's destruction is something that immediately resonates, if you have a Bible. Because the Roman destruction of Jerusalem immediately sets up a vibration with the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem half a millennium earlier. So once you have those two events, you have the re-articulation of the apocalyptic idea. In the aftermath of the revolt, with the destruction of the Temple, many Jews, including those Jews who were Christian, interpreted the destruction of the second Temple as an apocalyptic signal that the end of time is at hand...
If we take Jesus of Nazareth as the starting point for Christianity, Christianity is apocalyptic in its origin. If we take Paul's letters as the starting point of the New Testament, then the earliest textual level, the kernel, if you will, of the New Testament collection is apocalyptic. If we take the New Testament canon as beginning with Matthew, but ending with Apocalypse, then the entire New Testament canon is apocalyptic. In other words, apocalypticism is Christianity.
Apocalyptic thought is native to Christianity...Nothing will ever end Christian apocalypticism, especially now, with literacy at the high level it is. Where people who were even brought up on non-apocalyptic Christian traditions, like I was, all you have to do now is pick up a bible and read it. And if you're not familiar with the elite reinterpretation of those texts, the proclamation of Jesus' Second Coming is right there, waiting for you. It's the last line in the New Testament. “Come Lord Jesus.” (Paula Fredriksen Ph D - a scholar of the historical Jesus.)
So there we have it. The early church was anticipating the imminent return of their saviour. And even if Secular Bible scholars are right concerning Pauls change of heart as far as his teachings towards the coming Kingdom, certainly his later letters go so far as to prove that his personal revelation of a “spiritual kingdom” being born within - was at the forefront of his teachings. Unfortunately for Paul, his doctrine of “the kingdom within” would largely fall on deaf ears – the FEW indeed would only be given the eyes and ears of understanding. The ostensible church would (like he feared) be ripped apart by “grievous wolves” teaching the doctrines of men and demons. This would be a good place then, to look at the ACTUAL Scriptural establishment of the Gospel message of the “kingdom of God”
The Kingdom Of God
“And he said unto them, Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand” (Mark 4:11-12)
It may come as a shock to most Christians, but if we don’t understand that God never intended for the masses of humanity to understand the Bible, then we won’t understand the idea of God’s “kingdom.” The Bible is not a book written to be understood. Human intellect will not allow you to understand this book. You can learn all the historical facts you like about its formulation and origin, but no-one can just simply “understand” it, until God picks somebody out and says I want you to understand it...and I’ll show you how to understand it. That’s the only way. He’s got to pick you out and open up your mind or you will never understand the Gospel! This book is written in all kinds of symbolism, figurative language, types, figures, images, examples, analogies, parables, metaphors and Far too many Christians think all those things are literal. That is confusion. That’s why the church is confused. That’s why there are supposedly 3000 Christian denominations in the world, because they don’t understand any of this stuff. To you it is given, to them it’s not given. There’s you and there’s them and that’s just the way it is and the way it will be until the close of the age.
Popular T.V. Evangelists teach with fervour how Christ’s glorious bride – the ever increasing holy Christian church will meet him on “that day.” They preach - That‘s all He’ll find is faith, everywhere, in every human being. NO! No, Christ says when He returns will He find faith? He asks the question because He WON’T find faith!
Christ’s reappearing to establish His kingdom on Earth will be the most spectacular event to ever take place in all of history. But what exactly is this “kingdom” and what does it even mean? If the promise of Christ’s redemption of mankind is the Gospel message to the world, then how do we even define the gospel of the kingdom of God?
Well, Gospel means “good news.” The word comes from the Greek euangelion, or “good news.” The gospel was considered the “good news” of the coming Kingdom of Messiah, and of redemption through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, the central Christian message.
THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL
But good news about what? What is the good news? Okay, the single most pat and concise answer you will get in all Christianity, it is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now, Jesus Christ came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, but did he actually go around Judea and Galilee teaching His death, burial and resurrection? Well, no. So what is the gospel? He taught the gospel, He preached the gospel, but He did not go around saying “I’m going to die, you’re going to kill Me and I’m going to come back to life and then I’m going to save you.”
In some places it talks about “the gospel” and in some places “the gospel of the kingdom,” but strange as it might seem, there seems to be no explanation of what these things mean! Seriously – when you read all the verses that talk about the preaching of the gospel, it doesn’t tell you what it is. Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom.
“And Jesus went about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Mat 9:35)
What gospel? What kingdom? It doesn’t say. Mark says, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.
“And after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God draws near Repent, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
Repent and believe the gospel… okay I believe it, but what is it?
“And the gospel must first be published to all nations.” (Mark 13:10)
There are dozens of verses throughout the New Testament that refer to the Gospel and the coming Kingdom – again – NO explanation!
“So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” (Luke 9:6)
“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me; because of this He has anointed Me to proclaim the Gospel to the poor.” (Luke 4:18)
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (Rom 1:1)
Paul was separated until the gospel of God, what was it?
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16)
Well the gospel is the power of salvation. Well that’s good, but what is it?
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor 1:17)
Paul said Christ didn’t call me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. I know what baptism is, but what is the gospel?
“that I abuse not my power in the gospel.” (1Cor 9:18)
Here Paul says I abuse not my power in the gospel.
“But if our gospel is hid, it is hid to those being lost” (2 Cor 4:3)
It says the gospel is hid from those who are lost. Maybe it is hid from some of us that think we are saved. Paul said he was going to make known the mystery of the gospel.
“And pray for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6:19)
Wow, how are we going to know the mystery of the gospel, if we don’t know what the gospel is? We even have fellowship in the gospel.
“for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Php 1:5)
We are doing that today, but maybe you don’t exactly see how it is that we are having fellowship in the gospel.
It talks about the hope of the gospel (Col 1:23)
The truth of the gospel (Gal.2:5, 14; Eph.1:13; Col.1:5)
The glorious gospel of the blessed God (1Tim. 1:11)
Vengeance is on those that obey not the gospel (2Th 1:08)
You have to obey the gospel. Well how do you obey the gospel, if you don’t even know what it is? You got to know what it is, if you’re going to obey it, right. In the book of Revelation we read;
“Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein:” (Rev 1:3)
How are you going to keep the sayings of the prophecy in Revelation, if you don’t even know what it means. Well God chooses people out in every generation to learn these things and hopefully we will learn some of these things!
We read in Gen. 12 about God making promises to Abraham.
“And Jehovah said to Abram, Go out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house into a land that I will show you. And I will make you a great nation. And I will bless you and make your name great. And you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those that bless you and curse the one who curses you. And in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3)
Paul says in Gal.3 that those promises in Gen 12, 18 and 22 was the gospel! That those promises was the gospel, that is what Paul says.
“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, In you all the nations shall be blessed.” (Gal 3:8)
In Revelation 14 we read that an angel or messenger is going to preach the eonian gospel to the whole world.
“And I saw another angel (messenger) flying in mid-heaven, having the everlasting (eonian) gospel to preach to those dwelling on the earth, even to every nation and kindred and tongue and people” (Rev 14:6)
So what is it? It’s called the gospel of God, the gospel of Christ, Paul called it my gospel and it’s our gospel and it’s called the gospel of our salvation. So it behooves us to know what the gospel is and to obey it. Like it says in Eph. 2 it is the gospel of our salvation. It’s an important thing.
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph 1:13)
Isn’t it the oddest thing? Millions of Christians living in hope of the “Gospel of Jesus Christ” – yet how many know what is actually means? Amazing.
The Genesis of the Gospel
In actuality, the root of the “gospel” is found in the very first book of the Bible. Let’s go back and get a prospective on the formulation of the subject. There are two seeds on the earth. In Genesis 3 we read about the seed of the serpent (the seed of Satan) and the seed of the woman, there are the two seeds. Now we are going to see the progression of the gospel. In Genesis 3;
“And I will put enmity between you (serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He (it) will bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen 3:15)
So we have this promise of a Seed back in the garden, the Seed of the woman. Now we come a few generations down the road and God says to Abraham.
“And in your Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen 22:18)
We want to follow the progression of the seed, so look at Galatians 3.
“And to Abraham and to his Seed the promises were spoken. It does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, "And to your Seed," which is Christ.” (Gal 3:16)
So we see just read that in Genesis 22, I’m going to bless all nations, in your seed. Notice “And to your Seed” and He said not and to seeds, with a ‘s’ plural “as of many; but as of one, to your Seed (singular - one Seed), which is Christ.
There it is. So we were promised the Seed through Eve and God said through Abraham I’m going to bless your Seed and then we come to the New Testament and it says Jesus Christ is that Seed. Simply put - What was taught back there was the gospel!
That was the gospel in chapter 3 of Genesis That was the gospel in chapter 12, 18 and 22 of Genesis, to Abraham. Now we come down and we say that this Seed is Christ. So it’s going to come about through Christ, the one Seed. Jesus is the Seed of Abraham - the Seed of the woman, the one Seed by which the whole world is going to be blessed. Paul tells us this is the beginning of the gospel.
Now we have the two seeds. Notice this, here in 1 Peter are the two Seeds.
“For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet 4:17)
You’ve got the Seed of the Serpent and you’ve got the Seed of the woman. The Seed of the woman, through the Seed of Christ, is going to obey the gospel. How are they going to come into obedience, by the way? What is going to bring about this obedience? Judgment! “for judgment to begin at the house of God” that’s how you come into obedience to the gospel.
Paul says what is going to happen to those who don’t obey the gospel of God. We have that answered in 2 Thes. 1:8, with God’s fiery wrath and indignation is going to be poured out on those, who what? Do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ!
“in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thes 1:8)
Keep everything in mind now. We have a good message - a good news message through God to Eve, there is coming a Seed in you and it’s going to do battle against the seed of the serpent. Then God tells Abraham I’m going to bless all nations through your Seed. Paul says Jesus Christ is that Seed. But the two Seeds keep going, the two Seeds are here until the end of time. Those that obey the gospel - those that do not obey the gospel, you are of your father the devil. If you were Abraham’s children, the Seed of the woman, you wouldn’t do that.
So, the gospel has to do with good news about a Seed coming through the woman, being passed on through the genealogy of Abraham, all the way down to Jesus Christ being born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea. He’s the Seed.
THE ELUSIVE KINGDOM
But now we don’t hear about the gospel of the one Seed. Jesus Christ didn’t call His gospel “the gospel of the one Seed” No, He called it the gospel of what? The “kingdom of God.” He preached the gospel of the kingdom of God. In Isaiah 52 we learn about this gospel.
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tiding (good news - gospel), that publishes peace; that brings good tidings of good, that publishes salvation; who says to Zion, Your God reigns!” (Isa 52:7)
That all sounds like pretty good stuff. We have good tidings, we have peace, we have good tidings of good things, publishing - broad casting about - proclaiming salvation and unto Zion, God reigns. This is the good news, this is the gospel! Jesus Christ preached the gospel, Jesus Christ is the Seed, right.
Now the Jews knew that this Scripture was in Isaiah. They knew that a Messiah was going to come and bring good news and publish peace, bring tidings of good things, proclaim salvation and rule out of Zion. Jesus Christ said He was that Messiah. But then He threw them a curve, near the end of His ministry. You know they thought and were all excited… you know those people who were waving palm fronds and “singing Hosanna in the highest,” when Christ was coming into Jerusalem. Why were they so excited? They thought He was the King, He was the Messiah. He was the one that was going to bring about this in Isaiah, He is going to reign. Finally the chosen one to free them from Rome – the New Babylon!
Then a few hours later, well a little more than a few hours, but after Passover evening, they were beating Him, spitting on Him, mocking Him and He doesn’t fight back. How is He going to set up the kingdom? He can walk on water, He can feed 5000 with 2 fishes, He can heal the sick and He can raise the dead, so what is He doing? They are making a mockery out of our king! He doesn’t look like He’s a king at all. When is He going to call down fire out of heaven and destroy all these Roman soldiers and set up the kingdom? He’s not. All that apocalyptic expectation...and then what? They said are you a king? He said, you say I am; Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)
Oh dear - It’s not of this cosmos, not in this system, not in this particular society. So everybody lost confidence. Some of the same ones that were singing Hosanna, were saying crucify Him, He’s nothing but a phony. They mocked Him on the cross, ‘He can save others but He can’t save Himself, He’s a phony.’
So Jesus Christ preached the gospel of the kingdom. What is the kingdom? It doesn’t seem like it’s this kingdom back here in Isaiah 52, where He is going to reign from Zion. They knew where Zion was, it’s in Jerusalem. If that’s not the kingdom and Christ is preaching the gospel of the kingdom, what kingdom is He preaching about? Well there is another kingdom or there is some other facets of this kingdom that is not being revealed here. Here’s another mystery! Remember - Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. “Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Mat 4:17)
Now let’s look at this objectively. If you were actually there in Jerusalem and you heard a man come up and say, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” would you have repented? Would you have known what he meant by the kingdom of heaven? Or would you say, “what are you talking about?” So did everybody where Christ went, repent? No. Some repented at the baptism of John, but you don’t find all these people repenting before Christ. Let’s face it. The few examples were somebody came up and they really wanted to follow him, like the rich man… He said to him, you go a sell everything you have and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21). He said I’m not paying that steep a price!
This might be a shock to some – but Christ did not actually convert ONE SINGLE man during His whole ministry, not one. He never converted a single human being. The last evening of the Passover He said you’ll all forsake me. Peter said, I won’t forsake You Lord, maybe all the rest will, but not me (Matt. 26:33). Jesus said, hush your mouth Peter, the cock won’t crow till you deny me 3 times, this night. He said you’ll all forsake me. Did they all forsake Him? Did Peter deny Him 3 times and curse that same night? Yes he did. Why? Peter wasn’t converted that’s why, he simply was not converted! Here is a rare truth. NO ONE was converted until they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost! Only then were their eyes opened to the mysteries of the “Kingdom of God!”
PARABLES ABOUT THE KINGDOM
And as we have discovered in our previous studies, only those with the “eyes to see” will truly be given the understanding to comprehend the mystery of the kingdom.
“Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11)
What are the mysteries of the kingdom? Bare with us here. But you don’t even know what the kingdom is. Even the kingdom is a mystery. Well here’s what the kingdom is.
The kingdom of God is like a man sowing seed.
“Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: Behold, a sower went out to sow” (Matt 13:3)
Of course it is also like a mustard seed and it’s also like a treasure.
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matt 13:31)
And it’s also like a treasure.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”(Matt 13:44)
The kingdom of God is like a merchant man. Oh really, how is that?
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matt 13:45-46)
The kingdom of God is like a net that got cast into the sea. Then you pull in the net and you separate the fish.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.” (Matt 13:47-48)
The kingdom of God is like a king with his servants. He takes his servants and tells them what to do, some he gives talents to them and he will increase the talents.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man travelling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. (Matt 25:14-15)
The kingdom of God is like a man with his labourers in the vineyard (Matt 20)
The kingdom of God is like a king who is going to have a big wedding feast. (Matt 22) That’s what the kingdom of God is, like a wedding feast, where some don’t show up and others came and even one of those didn’t have a garment. That’s what the kingdom of God is.
The kingdom of God is like 10 virgins, 5 are wise and 5 are foolish. That’s what the kingdom of God is like - wise and foolish virgins. Now you got it, right?
The kingdom of God is like a king who goes on a far away journey. That’s what the kingdom of God is like - and then he returns with the kingdom.
Yeah that is what the kingdom is, but what is this kingdom he returns with? Well that’s what we are trying to answer. But this is good news though. All of this with the fish… the field… the seed… it’s all good news. But what is it?
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt 6:33)
This is all very confusing. Okay we know what righteousness is, that’s doing right, doing good. So do good… but that’s a separate thing, you seek the kingdom and His righteousness. Okay what’s the kingdom? It doesn’t say the kingdom ‘of’ righteousness, but the kingdom ‘and’ His righteousness. The kingdom is more than just righteousness, but again - what is it?
Well, Christ is the King and He’s going to get a kingdom and He's going to return.
“Therefore He said, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive a
kingdom for himself, and to return.” (Luke 19:12)
Maybe that’s what we’re talking about here. A physical kingdom, like a country? After all, we learned about the promise to the woman. The promise through Abraham’s seed… Christ is the Seed. So it looks like God was going to work this thing out historically.
A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS - A HOLY NATION
“And ye (all Israel) shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” (Exo 19:6)
There it is. He is going to bring in this kingdom. He’s going to bring in this blessing to the whole world, right. You’re going to be a nation you’re going to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation and it’s going to conquer the nations, the Gentiles, the heathens and the pagans and fill the whole earth. Guess what? It never happened! He said ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Did He lie? Did He fail? Or is this typical of something else?
You see they never were a holy nation. God said, oh that there would be such a heart in them that they would obey me from the heart.
“Oh that there were such a heart in them that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always” (Deu 5:29)
There was no such heart in them. Israel never obeyed from the heart. There were times when they had some peace, because they had a strong leader and he cracked the whip. People stayed in line for a while, but as a nation they were never holy, never. Yet God said you will be unto me a holy nation and He is talking to Israel. Now this has got to come about right? Israel has to become holy nation, a kingdom of priests. A kingdom implies kingship, royalty implies kingly, so if it’s royal it’s kingly. King… priests… holy nation… Israel. He said it, you shall be, thus says the Lord. It must happen. But it didn’t happen. It never happened historically, never happened.
Isn’t this how Christians caught up in the rapture myth of rebuilt temples and world battles and a Jewish homeland and antichrist and his armies and barcodes and microchips think? It’s ALL physical right? NO. No – all these Old Testament images were simply “types” and “shadows” of a spiritual reality of things to come. And how do we know it’s a type? Well, the Levites are gone, the priests of Aaron are gone, the Tabernacle and in later times the Temple, it’s all gone. They never became a holy nation. Yet the Christian world looks for it to happen yet, over there in Palestine. Some of the most carnal people that ever lived and they say they are going to be that holy nation, that it’s going to happen through them. It will not happen through them. It will happen through God’s “Israel” though, make no mistake about that.
This was a type, the whole Old Testament is a type. Even though the first five books are called the Torah - the Law, the whole Old Testament is also referred to as the Law.
Now Hebrews 10, here we’re not talking about the 10 Commandments, we are talking about the Old Testament - the old covenant - the Law of Moses and everything that went with it, the Law.
“For the Law which has a shadow of good things to come” (Heb 10:1)
There it is. There is your answer. God said Israel, all of you Israelites will be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. It was Paul who tells us that it was indeed a type, a shadow of good things to come, not the very image of the things.
“Not the very image of the things, appearing year by year with the same sacrifices, which they offered year by year continually, make the comers there unto perfect.” (Heb 10:1)
They could not be a holy nation, if you’re holy you’re perfect, they weren’t. The writer of Hebrews says the Old Testament couldn’t bring about this holy nation. It was a shadow of what? Better things to come. Now there is some more of the definition of gospel - good news - better - good things to come. Let’s face it. Nobody knows where the “nation” is anymore. There is a good chance that people who claim to be Jews, may not be Jews by race at all - but rather by religion. There are a lot of Jews in Ethiopia, these are black African people and they are Jews. Ethiopia has a large population of black Jews and that history goes all the way back to the first century, that they have been Jews for example. People have gotten sifted through the countries and the nations for 2000 years. So these people in New York, Chicago, Miami, LA and Jerusalem that claim to be Jews, some of them may have some Jewish blood in them, some may not. So let’s think about it. A pure Jewish holy nation with a rebuilt temple? We think not! Yet this is the mainstream Bible prophecy for modern futurists!
Indeed, there are better things to come. And there is a blatant Scripture in Galatians, ignored by Christian teachers everywhere regarding the “nature” of this kingdom. If Israel is gone and the Levites are gone and the Aaron priesthood is gone and the Temple is gone and God is going to have a holy nation, where are they going to come from? We’re in the book of Galatians, are the Galatians Jews or Gentiles? Galatians are Gentiles.
“And if you (Galatians - Gentiles) are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:29)
How about that! Promised through the woman, through Abraham, through Isaac, through Jacob and then we have the one Seed arrives. Jesus Christ taught all these things. He said, if ye are Christ, the one Seed and you’re Abraham, now you’re into multiple seeds. Now go to the last chapter.
“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” (Gal 6:16)
Seriously, is this referring to the “physical” carnal Pharisees and the Scribes? No. Those that walk according to this rule, this new rule, this being an Israelite without being an Israelite, being circumcised without being circumcised, being a Jew while you’re a Gentile. That’s what this is all about, this is something different. But it’s going to fulfil that promise back in Exodus, He will make a royal nation, a royal priesthood and a holy nation out of who? Israel. What Israel? The REAL ISRAEL of God! Not those who are circumcised in the flesh, no no no.
“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly (he writing to the Gentile Romans here…) circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit (he is the spiritual Jew; the Roman - the Galatian - the Philippian…) not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” (Rom 2:28-29)
So if you are in Christ, you ARE of the Seed of Abraham! Even though there is no bloodline connection. Spirit is thicker than blood! That’s the BIBLICAL TRUTH! See how out of whack, all this physical Israel end-time stuff is? It’s so easy to see how even early Christian congregations under intense religious persecution would be looking for a “physical” way out, the same way Christians hope to be “raptured” out of their problems. As one of the afore mentioned Bible scholars stated – even today, Christianity and apocalyptism go hand in hand – little has changed over 2000 years!
THE ISRAEL OF GOD
But if you think that this is all just some bias “Pauline” type preaching, let’s see what Peter had to say about all this.
“But ye (he is talking to Gentiles) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own peculiar (special) people” (1 Pet 2:9)
Does that sound a little bit like Exodus 19? I will make out of you a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Where do you think Peter got it?
“And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” (Exo 19:6)
A chosen generation, a royal means kingly priesthood, a holy nation. A peculiar people, that comes out of about three different Greek words, the pronoun “his” is in there and peculiar really means “special.” So what this is saying is, you are His - God’s precious people. That’s pretty astounding - you are His precious people! Not the Israel of old, NOT the Israel that came down through the seed of the devil, that was who? The Scribes and the Pharisees - and they personified it! - the leadership of the church and the Temple system, personified the nation. Not that seed, the seed of the devil. Know this. YOU are the seed of Jesus Christ, YOU are of this Israel of God, like Paul talked about in Galatians!
“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God.” (Gal 6:16)
“so that you might speak of the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Pet 2:9)
So the kingdom of God is what? The Israel of God! It’s those who through the faith of Abraham… that is the same faith that God gave to Abraham He gives to us, that’s the faith of Abraham. We become this peculiar, special people to God.
Now get this. Here's what He said we are. He said I will have a nation and I will have a people and it didn’t happen... but it was a type, a shadow of something that WILL happen. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there is an Israel of God, those who are baptized in the Spirit, circumcised in the Spirit and they are now spiritual Israel, Jews. They are the REAL Jews, the ones that are converted in heart and mind and spirit. Then Peter comes right out and says, you are that royal family, that special people, that kingdom of priests, that holy nation, that’s what you are.
So what is it? It’s the gospel of the kingdom. What is the kingdom? YOU - WE are the kingdom! How about that. We are the kingdom. It’s the gospel, the good news of the kingdom. When you are spiritually converted and you are holy and you are circumcised in spirit and mind and soul and heart you are a spiritual Jew. You are the one that He said back there, I’m going to make you a holy nation, Israel, but not that Israel, that was a type. That was a shadow - that was only going to be a nation of people living in a certain land.
And even more importantly -This kingdom is going to what? Bless all the nations! This is a big kingdom and it’s a spiritual kingdom, because the more we do away with the flesh, the more spiritual we get. The more we die to the flesh, the more we grow to the spirit! That’s what’s going to happen to the world! The Old Physical and carnal world we know is going to change! It’s going to be replaced by a NEW “spiritual” kingdom. And that’s not going to come about if the rulers over the nations are raptured off into space somewhere! Is this all starting to make sense?
We will touch on this a little later on, but those of us who are priests and Kings in training are experiencing the kingdom now...the flesh is dying, but hopefully the spirit is growing. Where we were once dead in our spirit and soaring in our flesh, hopefully we are becoming dead in our flesh and soaring in oury spirit. That’s good, that’s the way it should be. Do you see that in your life? You should see the flesh dying.
HEAVEN OF THE HEAVENS
So what is the kingdom? We are the kingdom of God. We are the kingdom of the heavens. Now here’s a seemingly simple question. Most Christians have probably pondered on this question and parroted some generic panoramic vision from some preacher somewhere – but here it is. Where does God reside? In heaven. God resides in heaven, but it is not called the kingdom of heaven in the Greek - you can check Rotherham and all those, it’s kingdom of the heavens, plural. That’s interesting. Why might that be? Well, because the Scriptures are not referring to some cloud heaven of rolling hills and fields of flowers like in the movies – it is referring to somewhere much closer to home – the temple!
And guess what? WE are the TEMPLE of God! God resides in His temple! God resides in heaven! We are the heaven in which God resides, where He dwells. But of course - don’t get to haughty, because the Scriptures say, not even all the heaven of the heavens can contain Him. But isn’t this amazing? What does that do to the eschatological fallacies of modern futurism? Christians everywhere are focusing on the OLD TESTAMENT TYPES for their Bible prophecy!
God dwells in His heavens, we are His heavens, we are His spiritual kingdom. But it does not yet appear what we shall be, we only have the earnest, down payment of His spirit.
“which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1:14)
We have the down payment, but John says we will eventually see Him as He is, because we will be like Him. We will be like Jesus Christ!
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2)
So we are the kingdom of God. Christ is going to return with a kingdom. What does He return with? What is the symbolism of how Christ returns? He returns on, what is He riding? A white horse. Is anybody with Him? An army. Are they walking? They are riding on white horses too.
“And the armies in Heaven followed Him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” (Rev 19:14)
What is that army? The kingdom of God... IT'S US! We are coming with Him, He is going to gather US up. Gather up what? His army, His kingdom! We still have all these parables though. We are the kingdom of God, so what are all these parbles?
The kingdom of God is like… a merchant
The kingdom of God is like… a seed
The kingdom of God is like… a king that goes afar
The kingdom of God is like… workers in a vineyard
Like… like… like…what is it like?
One of the most overlooked statements in all of Christendom has to do with Jesus giving the key to interpreting his many parables. It’s there in plain view but it is an astounding scriptural truth.
“Do you not know this parable? And how then will you know all parables?” (Mark 4:13)
Here we see what ALL the parables are all talking about. Are you ready? They are ALL TALKING ABOUT THE SAME THING! They are NOT a collection of moral stories and quaint sayings. They ALL point to kingdom of God! Ifyou know one parable than you can know them all! That’s why the kingdom of God is like this and also like this and like this and this, etc. Well what is that ‘like,’ like what? Well it’s like Seed. But what is that? What is it saying though? The Seed and the country and the vineyard and the leaven… what is it actually saying? What is it like? What is the ‘like’?
Let’s have a look at the “seed” again. Take the mustard seed. It’s something that is very small and grows into something very strong.
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor 1:26)
The nobodies - the nothings - the mustard seeds. That’s what God calls us. But they grow. Christ is the King who is gone into a far nation. To do what? What does the parable say, what is He going to get there? A kingdom!
Where is Christ now? He is in heaven. But what is He doing on the earth? He’s getting Himself a kingdom. It started with the Apostles - the few. He said to ‘you’ it’s given to understand, you are the few. But to ‘them’ - the many, it is not given, but to the few. Many called - a lot of seeds scattered around, but only some seeds fall on the good ground, the few.
If you cast the net into the sea and you pull in all these fish. But you throw a lot of them away, because only a few are the good ones that you save. That’s what the parable are all about... all of them. God choosing out the few for His kingdom. The kingdom of God is like this, it’s like that, it’s like, it’s like… it’s like US and what God is doing through us.
“And You made US kings and priests to our God, and WE will reign over the earth.” (Rev 5:10)
“And he who overcomes (that’s us) and keeps My works (that should be us) to the end, to him (that’s us) I will give power over the nations.” (Rev 2:26)
This kingdom is going to rule over the nations.
Rev 2:27 And he (that’s us) will rule them…
Remember the us and the them “to you it is given” (Luke 8:10). That’s us, but not to them. The us, the we, are going to rule over the nations, over them.
“To him (that’s us) who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me in My throne” (Rev 3:21)
The throne is over a kingdom and the King of a kingdom… the throne.
“Then we (that’s us - the kingdom) who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (in this case it’s those that were asleep in the earth) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we (that’s us) shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thes 4:17)
“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints,” (Jude 1:14)
“And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect (that’s us) from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Mat 24:31)
Then He comes back and that’s His army. He gathers them and He comes back with them and He rules the nations with a rod of iron…US the kingdom of the heavens.
“And the armies in heaven (that‘s us on white horses), clothed in fine linen” (Rev 19:14)
Fine linen - that‘s righteousness - your doing what is right, which far exceeds the Scribes and the Pharisees or you shall in no wise inherit what? The kingdom of the heavens. So they‘ve got white linen on, because these people are righteous, they do what is right.
“On His vesture and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev 19:16)
You know who the King is, that’s Christ. Who are the kings? The kings are the heavens. We are the heavens. Here is a portion of God’s kingdom made up of heavens. God’s Spirit is dwelling in you - God dwells in heaven, but in plural, heavens. God dwells in the heavens of His kingdom. We are the heavens of His kingdom!
“King of kings, Lord of lords.” Who is Lord? Jesus Christ. Who are the lords, plural? We are the lords.
So what are ALL parables about, concerning the coming kingdom of God – the Gospel message? It’s US (the called and chosen) being the way (through Judgement) for THEM (the world/unchosen) to enter the Kingdom. It’s the US and THEM, the FEW and the MANY, the CALLED and UNCALLED – every one of them – the SAME parable! Simple huh!
The greater work of the Saints
Now, we are going to briefly cover some of the things we learnt’ in the “lake of fire” series here because it is pertinent to this study – but we won’t go on too long. In the concept of the rapture and Christ’s return, the following points are valid. Now notice what Peter says to the Gentiles in chapter 10, but first in Acts 15 Peter tells us it was through him that God first took the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
“And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.” (Acts 15:7)
Now here is Peter, you know the story: God shows him a sheet full of unclean animals and He told him to kill them and eat. Peter said, no Lord I have never eaten anything uncommon. God says don’t call common what I have cleaned. Then he sent some people to come to Joppa and they were to go to Cornelius. Peter still wasn’t quite sure what this was all about. But when he got there he realized what this vision was. God is opening up the gospel to the Gentiles and so he said;
“But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:35)
Peter realized that now. It doesn’t just have to be a Jew, they can be from any nation.
“You know the Word which God sent to the sons of Israel, preaching the gospel of peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all!); that word which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit and with power, and He went about doing good, and healing all those who were oppressed of the Devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. Whom they slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 10:36-39)
This is all part of the gospel. He is teaching this now to Cornelius.
v. 40 but God raised Him up the third day and showed Him openly,
This is part of the gospel. Christ was crucified, was dead, rose from the dead.
v. 41 not to all the people, but to chosen witnesses before by God, even to us (Peter was a witness) who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.
v. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and the dead.
Oops, how did that slip in there? Did you notice that? Did you notice what the gospel is? Jesus Christ is “the judge of the quick and the dead.” That is the gospel. This takes us all the way down to Rev. 22, doesn’t it. It certainly does. This thing of judgment is part of the gospel - “Judge of the quick and the dead."
Now John says that as Christ is, SO ARE WE! As we discovered in our last study - Christ is the judgment. Guess what? So are we!
“Do you not know” (1 Cor 6:2)
Who is the you? Corinthians. Who are the Corinthians? The chosen, these are uncircumcised in flesh, circumcised in the heart, in spirit… Gentiles. They are the kingdom of God, these are the heavens where God’s Spirit dwells and He says unto them.
“ …that the saints shall judge the world?”
That’s the gospel! Jesus Christ was appointed for that thing, to be the judge of the quick and the dead and as Christ is so are we. We are to judge the world! Well of course, we are going to rule them with a rod of iron. That is how we are going to start out in the kingdom of God on this earth, over the nations of the world, in what’s symbolically called the millennium or the thousand year reign. And we should know this following verse by now...
“And we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.” (Rev 8:22)
The whole world! If you have any doubts about that, just turn on the evening news. If it’s not the weather; the hurricanes, the earthquakes, then it’s wars and terrorism. This is always been the condition of the world. They say the history of mankind is a chronicle of wars. Man is either in war, coming out of war or preparing for the next war.
“For the earnest expectation of the creation waits…” (Rom 8:19)
This whole world, this whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain. Is waiting for what?
“…for the manifestation of the sons of God.”
Again that’s us, the sons of God or the kingdom of God. They are the heavens in which the Spirit of God dwells and will rule the nations. Is there an Old Testament witness to this? Yes there is!
“And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau (this is them); and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (Obadiah 1:21)
The “saviours” are going to rule from mount Zion, not over there in that ugly spiritual swill of a city called Jerusalem. But from spiritual mount Zion. He is going to rule “them,” Esau is them, “and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” What kingdom? The kingdom of what, in this context? Kingdom of saviours, plural saviours. Who are these saviours? That’s us, we’re saviours. Well this sounds a little odd, I mean we’re saying we’re going to be the saviours of the world. Well we do have a leader though, King of kings, Lord of lords, Saviour of saviours and Son of sons. We’re sons right, He’s the Son of the sons. He will always have a name superior to every other one. This is getting repetitive we know – but are we getting as this now? Let it all sink in and never forget it!
JESUS CHRIST WENT INTO EVERY SYNAGOGUE
“And Jesus went about all Galilee (that‘s a pretty big area and you remember how He went about all Galilee? He walked), teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.” (Mat 4:23)
Now Syria, depending on who’s drawing the boundary lines, went all the way from the Mediterranean way across the Salt (Dead) Sea and way out into the desert. Everything south of Galilee and north of the Dead Sea, where Sodom and Gomorrah was, that whole area.
Now notice what it says, “and His fame went throughout ALL Syria.” Not only, wherever He went, people were following Him - but His fame went abroad and they came by the droves. You never see this in any of the movies about Christ. Everywhere that man walked, He was mobbed, always. Why? He healed the sick! And everybody knows somebody who was sick, diseased, crippled – especially back in those brutal days.
“Great multitudes followed Him - from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.” (Mat 4:25)
Now notice back in verse 23.
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues” (Mat 4:23)
Now, Bible historians will tell you that the synagogues came about from the times of Babylonian captivity (in which Jews having no Temple due to its destruction) gathered together in homes to practice and keep their religion alive. Actually, the Temple was destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times. So they didn’t have this central Temple place to give their religious homage. So after the exiles returned home - every town and village developed a small community place where they all met, called a synagogue. Jesus Christ went to every synagogue - you’ve got to get that in your mind. He taught all the people, He healed all the sick and He went into every synagogue, from synagogue to synagogue to synagogue. What did He do when He went in the synagogues? Yip, he did it in every synagogue…
“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And, as His custom was, He went in to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16)
“And was delivered to Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And unrolling the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is on Me; because of this He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel…” (Luke 4:17-18)
This is every place He went and He covered a big area. He went into every synagogue and He said bring Me the book of Isaiah, He opened it up and read to them.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me; because of this He has anointed Me to proclaim the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight of the blind, to set at liberty those having been bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Then He sat down.
“And He began to say to them, this day is this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:21)
You can see why he was public enemy number one to the priesthood! This was blasphemy! This man is CRAZY – this man needed to go! Some carpenters son claiming he was the Messiah? REALLY? The rest is history of course. So, He taught that in every synagogue, synagogue after synagogue after synagogue, year after year after year, for 3 ½ years. That’s what He taught, right there. He said this is what I am all about, this is who I represent, this is what I’ve come to do and you are seeing Me do it. Not that the miracles he did actually spiritually converted anyone. He did heal those who were blind, so that they could physically see. He did raise the dead and He did heal the sick, but they all died later. Most of them were not, spiritually, that much better off. Physically they appreciated being rid of diseases and physically they were very happy, they couldn’t see and now they can see, they couldn’t walk now and they can walk. But true conversion takes the Spirit of God!
But just like when God said to Israel, “I’m choosing you,”- it was a shadow. Now Christ came and we say, at last now we have the real thing. That was right, He was the real thing. He was the Seed! The Messiah had come!
So we have now established that part of this gospel involves judging. Peter said it involves judging the quick and the dead. Did Jesus Christ judge the quick and the dead when He was here? Some of this remains and has yet to come to fulfilment and it has to. Now, Jesus Christ told His disciples…
“Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater works than these he shall do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12)
He healed the sick, gave vision to the blind, caused the lame to walk, caused the dead to live…you’re going to do greater things than that. Oh really? And what might that be Lord? We are going to learn something very profound about these “greater works.” Christians for generations have beat themselves and wallowed in remorse for not heeding their masters call – to work greater miracles. Can you walk on water, have you raised the dead, have you???
Now – here is something profound. WE do have the power to do greater things! Which is greater, to raise somebody back to physical life, so that they can physically die again or to raise someone who is spiritually dead to SPIRITUAL LIFE? God is doing greater things through the called, chosen, Elect few of His church, than He did in His own ministry, when He fed 5000, walked on the water, calmed the storm, healed the sick and raised the dead. He said we would do… “greater things,” they are greater. They are not greater if you’ve got a carnal mind, they are not greater then, it sounds like foolishness. That’s what it will sound like to you, unless you have the spiritual mind to see it. Let’s prove this.
“It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63)
But He healed the sick… the flesh profits nothing, but He caused the blind to see… the flesh profits nothing. NOTHING!
“The words that I speak to you are SPIRIT and are life.” Vs 63
You mean these words that He quoted to every village and town and hamlet and city in Jerusalem and Judea and all around Galilee, you mean all these words are Spirit? That’s what He said. These are words of Spirit. He’s not talking about giving sight to the blind, who can’t see the sunset. He talking about giving spiritual sight to those that are spiritually blind! The words of Christ are Spirit, the fulfilment is Spirit.
Christ has a kingdom made up of heavens - people who in their heavens, have God dwelling. This is Spirit! Spirit is more real than physical, because physical is temporary, Paul tells us. This kingdom will last, Daniel says. This kingdom is not going to be over turned in so many years by some more powerful nation. Isn’t this amazing?
The kingdom is at hand!
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
This is a profound statement. It flies in the face of those Christians sitting and waiting for Christ to return and usher in the kingdom. The kingdom of God is at hand, now that should tell us something. How is it at hand? It IS at hand for you!
The kingdom of God is at hand NOW. And here in a nut shell is what this whole series has all been about.
When is the kingdom at hand? WHEN YOU HEAR THE MESSAGE!
That’s when it is at hand for you. This is God telling you, repent the kingdom of God is at hand, right now, while you are sitting there, right now it’s at hand.
How is it at hand? Because Jesus Christ IS, WAS AND WILL BE! It is at hand for us now. It was at hand for them when it was preached back then. It will be at hand if there is generations beyond us, before our Lord returns to rule with a rod of iron. And we know who is the head of the kingdom - Jesus Christ the King. If we are going to be in the kingdom, we have to be like the King. If you are going to be in the kingdom, if you are going to be a king, under the King, you’ve got to be like the King, right. You can’t have some other agenda, you have the same agenda as the King.
Now how do you become like the King? Well you believe the gospel…“Repent, and believe in the gospel.” What is the gospel? The gospel is this message that Jesus Christ is going to raise the dead, heal the spiritually sick, give spiritual sight to the spiritual blind and be a blessing to all nations, all of these things – and we are a part of this blessing!
In the beginning of most books (chapter 1), Paul’s salutations always include the idea of bringing the gospel. But the reality is this. What’s in chapter 2? The gospel! What is chapter 3 of Romans? The gospel. What is chapter 4? The gospel. Chapter 15, chapter 16? The gospel, the gospel, the gospel. Well what is first Corinthians? The gospel. Second Corinthians? The gospel. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians? The gospel. I and II Thessalonians and I and II Timothy? It’s the gospel. In Philemon He shows Onesimus how to apply the principles of… the gospel, if he wants to be in the kingdom of God. Hebrews? It’s all about the gospel… the Old Testament and the Laws and what it couldn’t do and the New Testament and the Spirit and what it can and will do. James, Peter, John, Jude, Revelation it‘s all the gospel!
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles” (Col 1:27)
This is also the gospel. The gospel was preached to the Gentiles and the rest of the verse, v. 27…which is Christ IN you, the hope of glory.
If you want to be this royal nation, this kingdom of priests, this peculiar treasure to God, one of the judges, one of the priests, one of the lords, one of the kings, then you have to have Christ in you. That the hope of glory, Christ in you.
“Whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Col 1:28)
That’s also what the gospel is all about. Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Timothy, these are all teachings on how to bring children - infants in Christ to perfection - maturity. So that we can be elevated… King of kings and Lord of lords!
IN CHRIST - IN SPIRIT
“And you are complete in Christ, who is the Head of all principality and power” (Col 2:10)
This is talking to the Colossians here, these are Gentiles, these are people who are trying to be the kingdom of the heavens.
“in whom also ye (all of you) are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands (no more physical rituals, talking about the real stuff now, in your heart - in your mind - in your soul - in your spirit), in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11)
Physical rituals amount to NOTHING! What about Baptism in water? Oh we have to be baptized alright ....and guess what....we have to be circumcised too! Oh really? Yip, if you want to play that game! We have to partake in the foot washing, we have to keep the Sabbath, we have to partake of the bread and the wine….. but here’s the clincher! Not in action – but IN SPIRIT. Because if you don’t do it in spirit, then forget it. When you go down dry, you’ll come up wet. You will lose some skin and some blood and that’s all. You’ll eat a little piece of wafer and you’ll drink a little grape juice and that’s all. This is the real thing, SPIRITUALLY.
Spiritually you must be circumcised, you must have the foreskin of your heart, (the flesh) cut off. You must be baptized with Christ, that means you have to die. That’s not too popular, that you have to die to the flesh. The flesh doesn’t want to die. The flesh says, here I am look at me, don’t let me die, pay attention to me, puff me up, make me great, make me important, it’s flesh, flesh, flesh. The church is full of the rituals of the flesh of the world! The church of the world is full of trying to be relevant to the world, by making relevant music videos and using relevant software and building relevant cafes and making relevant their love of money and power because that’s how to express your faith, that’s how you show you are blessed – by being richer – which is relevant! How contrary to the Scriptures! True Christianity won’t make you rich or relevant! We have to be crucified with Christ!
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
But this next verse is “buried with Him in baptism.”
buried with Him in baptism… (Col 2:12)
Now listen to this. It doesn’t say buried in water! Where do you see buried in water there? You DON”T see buried in water, it states buried with Him in baptism!
“in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Col 2:12)
That’s what it’s all about isn’t it?’ Paul said in the first chapter of Corinthians, Christ has not called me to baptize.
1Cor 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel,
How different to what the church teaches? This is shocking! He said that’s not my calling, He called me to preach the gospel. This is the gospel. Being baptized in Christ is the gospel and persecuted with Christ, and hated of all nations.
“Then they will deliver you up to be afflicted and will kill you. And you will be hated of all nations for My name's sake.” (Mat 24:9)
Think of the current crop of T.V. evangelists in the world today, with their multi-million dollar ministries and Lear Jets and sprawling campuses. Are any of these ministers of the Word HATED OF all nations? Some of these ministers have every award, citation, and congressional honour that you can get, every accolade availible! – all from the children of the devil! You though, you’ll be hated. Here’s your blessing. Imagine preaching that in a prosperity church!
JUDGMENT MUST BEGIN AT THE HOUSE OF GOD
What did Paul say, “judgment must begin at the house of God.” “Judgment”… persecution is part of that judgment. Overcoming the flesh, this is all part of that judgment. Those fiery trials and so on.
And what is part of the gospel? We are going to bless the whole world, all the nations. How are we going to do that? Christ doesn’t change, I change not, yesterday today and forever. How does He bring about perfection and maturity? “Judgment must begin at the house of God.” JUDGMENT.
And how is the world going to be blessed? In a Lake of FIREY JUDGMENT!
They are to be judged that’s for sure. We are to be judged into perfection first though. Can we see that!
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
So what does that judgment do? It makes you obedient to the gospel. If you are not judged beginning at the house of God and you're not part of that judgment, what are you then? He says, well what will happen to them that obey not the gospel? - those are not being judged now. But they will be and when they are, guess what?
“for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa 26:9)
Yes they will. Even if every Theological seminary on the face of the earth denies it, when God’s judgments are in the earth the inhabitants of the whole world WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS. God does not torture righteous people for all eternity. Most people have never heard the gospel. It’s all in the gospel. It’s actually good news. If it is good news… if it’s good, it’s the gospel.
WORKS TO BE SEEN OF MEN
“except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20)
This is an intimidating scripture at first. Your righteousness must FAR exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. But there is one giant sin that will keep you out of qualifying for kingship. There is one thing that Jesus said about the Pharisees, something about them, the way they always were, they way they operated, the way they did and thought and so on, that He just berated.
“Take heed that ye do not your alms (your good deeds - works) before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. Therefore when you do your alms, sound not a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward. (Mat 6:1-2)
Do not do good to show off, do not do good to be seen of men, do not do good to have your flesh glorified - puffed up - pumped up. God says that you will have no reward! Don’t do your deeds to be seen of men, because then you have your reward – nothing more! A pat on the back? Who needs that! Wouldn’t you rather receive His eternal reward?
Now in Matt. 23, Jesus makes a very profound statement. He mentions this over and over. But here He says something a little stronger yet.
“Then spake Jesus to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. But ALL their works (how many of their good deeds? ALL) they do to be seen of men, They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces (to be seen of men), (Mat 23:1-7)
All their works, Don’t think Christ was lying… ALL their works! Read chapter 3 and ask yourself if any of these people are going to be in the kingdom of God. Some of the works could be good works, it doesn’t matter. If you are doing it to be seen of men, if you are putting back the flesh that you were supposed to have cut off. If you are struggling to come back to the surface of that baptism in Jesus Christ and you say I’ve been down there long enough, I want to come up and dry off, I want some of this flesh back. It’s meaningless! Judge yourself in the light of these heavy scriptures!
This is what God has in store for us. A kingdom of priests, royal, kingly, holy, Godly nation, special precious people unto God. Judges, saviours, sons of God, lords, kings - you don’t get lifted any higher than that in the universe in all eternity ever. That the pinnacle, that’s it that’s the ultimate height. Now notice what James says.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)
But you’ve got to be humble, it’s of paramount importance. We must be careful how we judge people.
“because as He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)
Peter said He left us an example, that we walk and we follow in His footsteps.
“For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps’ (1 Peter 2:21)
We don’t even walk beside or behind Him, but in the same steps.
“But all their works they do to be seen by men.” (Mat 23:5)
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10)
“And Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst, and said, Truly I say to you, except you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heavens. Therefore whoever shall humble himself like this little child, this one is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven. (Mat 18:2-4)
Humility. God loves humility. When we see how weak we are, then God can show how strong He is. But if you are the 99 that don’t need saving, you won’t be saved. Doesn’t that put that portion of scripture into perspective! Christ said…
“For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mat 9:13)
Yet know this - That's tongue and cheek. There ARE NO righteous, just those that think they are righteous! Jesus said…
“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek (Greek; gentle and humble) and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Mat 11:28)
Be humble, be teachable, read it, see it, believe it, do it.
LAODICEAN - LUKEWARM - DECEIVED
The Kingdom as we live it is not for the faint hearted. Christianity is not for light hearted! There is a persuasive myth that runs through Christendom that says we don’t have to do anything because Christ has done it all. The ease in which Christians everywhere stagnate in their carnality is shocking. “Well yes I’m angry” or “Yes I’m Jealous,” or “Yes I’m spiteful,” and arrogant, and filled with lust etc etc “but God loves me just as I am,” is a fallacy! “Well nobody is perfect and I’m not perfect and therefore I’m okay, because nobody is perfect.” Christians the world over believe that they can remain in their carnality and selfishness without consequence! This is the attitudes of Laodiceans, - “Yeah, I’m lukewarm.” Yet what does God say about lukewarmness? “I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
There is either light or darkness with God. Jesus Christ says if you are not for me, you are against me. If you are lukewarm you are totally deceived.
“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, "These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.Because you say, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing (doesn’t that sound like Christianity today); and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind (totally deceived), and naked. (The emperor with no clothes)” (Rev 3:14-17)
“I counsel you to buy from Me gold tried in the fire” (Rev 3:18)
Yes Laodicea – how like the church age we are now in. The true “wealth” of the gospel is a hidden treasure indeed – and few find it! The “gold tried in the fire” is this hidden treasure. Buy it whatever it takes, sell everything you’ve got and buy it. That’s what you NEED - that gold tried in the fire. The dross of carnality boiled away, leaving that which is pure and holy to God. That’s what we REALLY want.
If we don’t grow we are like the man that took his talent and wrapped it in a napkin and hid it, so it can’t grow. Guess what? You will lose the one talent you had. If you had some abilities and you are not growing, guess what? God will take them away. He will take them away and you will lose what you had. He will resist the proud.
“Great peace have they who love Your law (and we know that God‘s Law is spiritual), and nothing (not anything) shall offend them.” (Psalms 119:165)
If you are living in the peace that surpasses understanding, if you are living by God’s spiritual Law, you can’t be offended! God has great things in store for the few, the called, the chosen, the humble. The ones that are like little children, just wanting to do the will of their Father. Kings - lords - priests - a royal nation - a peculiar people - a special people to God. It’s all at hand, that how close it is, it’s at hand!
The SECOND coming?
And know this -The Kingdom being “at hand” has to be one of the most misunderstood concepts in modern Christendom. Most of the differences in scriptural interpretation among Christians today, (especially on Christ’s return) is the result of an incomplete knowledge of the plan and purpose of God. Much of what is taught and believed in Christian circles today is derived from the wrong source - Bible study! Now that statement may astound you. What's wrong with Bible study? Isn't this very article an effort in Bible study? Ah, there is nothing whatever wrong with Bible study IF WE HAVE THE RIGHT TEACHER TEACHING US. Christians gather together in Bible schools, Bible study groups, Sunday schools, etc., to study the Word of God, but the problem with the vast majority of such groups is that they have the wrong teacher - the human, natural, carnal mind! They try to decipher the deep and wondrous and spiritual mysteries of the Word of God with the human intellect, instead of allowing the One whom God sent to be our teacher, the Holy Spirit of Truth, to unveil to pure minds and transformed hearts the hidden mysteries of the Kingdom of God, and His great plan and purpose. If we all have the right teacher we will all be taught the same thing, and what we learn of Him will be the truth. What He teaches is truth; He cannot give us anything else but truth.
Here’s a perfect example of carnal teaching and spiritual truth. It may surprise many of readers to learn that the Bible nowhere speaks of the “second coming” of Christ. Interesting, isn't it - how some of the major and most commonly accepted doctrines of professing Christianity cannot be found in the Bible? Many texts speak of the coming of Christ, the coming of the Son of man, the coming of the Lord or similar phrases. The word “second” never occurs with a word that can be translated “coming.”
“For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Mat. 24:27).
Many of the Biblical texts, include the English word “coming,” but most preachers, always ADD the word “second” to each one, and proceed to preach on “the second coming of Christ!” They invariably add the word “second” to every “coming” in the New Testament, and then add the “second coming of Christ” to nearly every chapter in the Bible - even in the Old Testament.
How much we miss out on by violating the Biblical truth!
Jesus did not say, “the second coming of the Son of man.” James did not say, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the second coming of the Lord.” Peter did not ask, “Where is the promise of His second coming?” Paul did not say, “Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall ... destroy with the brightness of His second coming.” There is no justification whatever for adding “second” to any of these inspired passages!
In fact you will have to rewrite the entire New Testament to support the doctrine of the “second coming” of the Lord. This is the simple and plain and incontrovertible truth, and this fact is elementary and basic to a correct understanding of the coming of the Lord!
Now, you might argue: Cannot the expression “second coming” be justified by the closing verse of the ninth chapter of Hebrews? The passage reads, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear THE SECOND TIME without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28). Yet this verse can be rightly divided only when taken within the context of the verses preceding it. The writer says,
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world has He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:24-26).
Some have tried to find three “appearings” in these verses, but there are only two. And the words are taken by carnal teachers as though “appear the second time,” or “second appearing” were somehow the equivalent of, or a synonym for, the “second coming.” But this is merely playing on the language of our English version. The two “appearing” in this passage do not even refer to the so-called “first coming” of the Christ in Bethlehem's manger, or to His “second coming” from heaven at the end of this age. As we shall see later, the Lord has had MANY APPEARINGS on this earth. And here TWO of those many appearings are contrasted, the one with the other, so that one is “first,” and the other “second.” Here we have His “first” appearing: IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD FOR US. “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands ... but into heaven itself, now to APPEAR IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD FOR US.” These appearings here are contrasted, but let’s face it, they are certainly NOT His first appearing unto men!
And anyway - Jesus manifested Himself to Paul in the form of light to commission him to the work of the gospel. And the Lord said., “Rise, and stand upon your feet: for I have APPEARED unto you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of these things which you have seen, and of those things in the which I WILL APPEAR unto you” (Acts 26:16). Does this mean that Christ’s appearing at the end of the age is Paul’s 3rd coming? Silly isn’t it!
“And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62)
How prone we are to view Jesus’ appearance on Earth as two events, separated by a vast span of time. Our conception is of Jesus sitting upon the right hand of God for a couple thousand years, at the end of which time He leaves His throne to “come in the clouds of heaven.” But guess what? And this is a Gem of a truth that Christian teachers have NO idea about! – There’s no waiting!
“HEREAFTER you will see...” So runs the King James version, translates a Greek phrase which signifies unequivocally “from now on” - or literally, HENCEFORTH. It is safe to say that the average reader, reading from the Authorized version, generally understands it to mean something very different - not “HENCEFORTH shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven,” but “in the hereafter,” (at some point in the indefinite future) you will see the Son of man “sitting” and then “coming.”
This is profound! The correct thought is, “FROM NOW ON you will see the Son of man sitting... and coming.” These two events, the sitting and the coming, are simultaneous. They are co-extensive. They transpire at the same time. And they both happen “from now on.” He sits AND He comes. He sits upon the throne of heavenly power and He comes in the clouds of heaven! He sits as our great High Priest and He comes as our transforming Saviour. He doesn't sit and then come, He comes while He sits. It is not two separate, independent actions, but a two-fold, interdependent action.
THE COMINGS OF THE LORD
Has that sunk in! Has He not come to us in mighty saving power even as He sits upon the throne on High? Is it not true that He has power to save completely just BECAUSE He is seated upon the throne? It never was a future event of Jesus crashing down through the skies - it is, rather, Christ our High Priest on the throne of the Majesty on High who is able to save us to the uttermost, seeing HE EVER LIVES TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR US. Christ is fully able to sit and to come at the same time! It is high time for all of God's elect saints to learn that Jesus is both High Priest and Saviour at the same instant. He sits and He comes. He has appeared once and for all before the Father in heaven as our sin-offering, and now He sits there continually as the High Priest of that mighty life. And unto all who LOOK FOR HIM He will APPEAR A SECOND TIME UNTO SALVATION. He has appeared in the presence of God FOR US, and now He will appear a second time UNTO US. The subject is not His “second coming,” but His glorious saving PRIESTHOOD! What does this do to 2000 years of Bible eschatology? Amazing huh!
“But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth unto Me who is to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
Even here in this Old Testament passage we see His purpose unfold - His “goings forth” is plural. The goings forth of the Lord speak about the Lord Jesus Christ! Now, the idea of “goings” has to do with the onward marching of God - the unfolding of the purpose of God, step by step. This is what is indicated here. This is what history is all about, the progressive revelation of Jesus Christ, the marching forward of God, the ever-increasing unveiling of Himself to man. The unfolding of end-time events and God's order for the ages to come, which are the main contents of the last book of the Bible, are called “the Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The pages of the Old Testament are literally sprinkled with the accounts of the Lord's comings, beginning in Eden's Garden and continuing through all generations of old. On the very day that man sinned he “heard the voice of the Lord God WALKING IN THE GARDEN in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). The casual way in which this is stated indicates that this was a normal event, perhaps a daily appointed time at which the Lord manifested His presence to communicate with the man He had placed on this planet. The Lord still walked among men even after Adam was banished from the Garden, for Cain, after he slew Abel, “went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod” (Gen. 4:16).
Think about it. In Gen. 17:1 we find that “The Lord appeared unto Abraham.” In Gen. 17:22 it says, “God left off talking to Abraham, and WENT UP FROM HIM.” Interesting, isn't it, that the Mount of Olives was not the first time or place where the Lord ASCENDED! In Gen. 18:1 we read, “And the Lord appeared unto him.” In Gen. 18:33, “The Lord went His way, as soon as He left communing with Abraham” etc etc account after account! After Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt Christ walked among them in mighty manifestation of power and glory and provision, “for they drank of that spiritual Rock which followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (I Cor. 10:4).
Seriously, how much have we missed in our Christian upbringing in the church! Incredible isn’t it? We simply cannot lose sight of the fact that our Lord has already had many comings, many appearings. We have limited the comings of Jesus strictly to two because of our unscriptural terms “first coming” and “second coming,” but the truth is that He came; He continued to come; He comes; He continues to come; He will come; and He will continue to come! There are numerous “comings” and “appearing” of the Lord in the New Testament. BUT THEY DO NOT ALL REFER TO THE SAME EVENT. The reality is, that the word “coming” is used in the scriptures - of a visitation or manifestation of the Lord to judge or bless or accomplish some aspect of His plan and purpose among His people and in the earth.
Rev. 2:5 tells of a COMING of our Lord. “Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I WILL COME unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place, except you repent.”
In fact the book of Revelation furnishes us with a sequential overview of the comings of the Lord. Its inspired title is found in the first verse – “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word for “revelation” is APOKALUPSIS meaning “unveiling, uncovering,” and hence, “revealing.”
This is expressed in Rev. 1:7, “EVERY EYE shall SEE Him: The error of the carnaled mind is that it immediately assumes that every eye must see Him at the same time and in the same manner. But the multitudinous ways in which the Lord comes and comes and comes throughout the scriptures indicates the progressive revelation of Jesus Christ, the many-faceted and many-splendored appearing of the Lord from one degree of glory to another until, when all is finished, every creature in heaven, earth and hell shall have had a revelation of the Son of God (Rev. 5:13).
With what divine genius does the Holy Spirit on the pages of God's Word portray the living Son of God coming and standing in the midst of the seven churches! This is an earthly scene. The risen and glorified Christ was present in and among the churches. Jesus had promised to come back, and according to chapters two and three of Revelation He HAD come back! Then follows swiftly the tragic scene of Jesus Christ, the blessed Saviour, standing at the end of this age COMPLETELY OUTSIDE the Laodicean church! No longer is He dealing with the apostate CHURCH SYSTEM, but knocking, knocking, knocking at heart's door of INDIVIDUAL MEN AND WOMEN, saying to them, “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if ANY MAN hear my voice and open the door, I WILL COME in to him, and will sup with HIM, and HE with ME” (Rev. 3:20). This passage can only refer to a spiritual presence coming to any INDIVIDUAL, to ANY MAN who will open his heart's door to intimacy of fellowship and vital union with the Christ of God.
When did Christ come back to the disciples after he left their vision? On the day of Pentecost Christ came again as the Comforter.
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of Truth: whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but you know Him; for He DWELLS WITH YOU, and shall be IN YOU. I will not leave you comfortless (orphans): I WILL COME UNTO YOU. Yet A little while, and the world sees me no more; but YOU SEE ME: because I live, you shall live also. At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I IN YOU” (Jn. 14:16-20).
How did we miss this! It just makes so much sense now. And if you are in any doubt, here’s an amazing truth. According to Christian theology – this COMFORTER is nothing but the third God of a trinity? Let us see Who this Comforter really is! Didn’t you ever wonder why this Comforter could not come until Christ departed? The comforter does not come until Christ departs to the Father, because the comforter IS THE SON returning in the form of “spirit,” “holy spirit.” Jesus is saying to him,
“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one is coming to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
“Now, whenever the consoler [comforter] which I shall be sending you from the Father...”
“Yet whenever that may be coming - the spirit of truth [Jesus said that HE is the Truth] - it will be guiding you in to all the truth, for it will NOT be speaking from itself [it is NOT A GOD], but whatsoever it should be hearing [from Whom sent it] will it be speaking, and of what is coming will it be informing you. That will be glorifying ME, seeing that of MINE will it be getting, and informing you. All, whatever the Father has, is MINE. THEREFORE I said to you that OF MINE IS IT GETTING, AND WILL BE INFORMING YOU.” (John 16:13-15).
This is not hard to understand. The spirit of Truth is Christ. The comforter is Christ. The spirit will be speaking TO the disciples THROUGH Christ’s spirit which is His because the Father gave this spirit TO HIM!
“I will NOT leave you bereaved [comfortless], I am coming to you [in the form of the comforter and spirit of truth]” (Jn 14:18).
“IN THAT DAY [the day when the comforter comes] you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I IN YOU” (Jn 14:20).
“Now the consoler [comforter], THE HOLY SPIRIT, which the Father will be sending IN MY NAME, that will be teaching you all, and reminding you of all that I said to you” (Jn 14:26).
“I am going, and I AM COMING TO YOU” (Jn. 14:27).
Now, in the Greek, the “comforter” or consoler is translated from parakleetos. Now, is there any Scriptural proof that Jesus Christ is called “parakleetos?” Yes there is. In I John 2:1 we read:
“And if anyone should be sinning, we have an Entreater with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just.”
In the King James it says we have an “advocate” [with a small "a"]. King James ALWAYS capitalizes the Greek word “parakleetos,” so why don’t they capitalize it here? You see, “advocate” or a better translation “Entreater” is translated from the GREEK WORD “parakleetos!”
Isn’t is just amazing what we can learn when we just read and truth of God’s Word instead of the strange and unscriptural teaching of theologians? Yes Jesus has come and continues to come MANY TIMES! Read with new understanding...
In Mk. 13:26 He comes with CLOUDS. In Mat. 24:27 He comes as LIGHTNING. In Rev. 16:15 He comes as a THIEF. In Mat. 25:6 He comes as the BRIDEGROOM. In Rev. 22:16 and 2:28 He comes as the MORNING STAR. In Mal. 4:2 He comes as the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ARISING. In Phil. 3:20-21 He comes in RESURRECTION POWER. In II Thes. 1:7-8 He comes in FLAMING FIRE. In Mal. 3:1-3 He comes to His priesthood company as REFINER'S FIRE and FULLER'S SOAP. In I Thes. 4:16-17 He comes IN THE AIR. In Hos. 6:3 and James 5:7-8 He comes as the RAIN. In Rev. 19:11 & 14 He comes on a WHITE HORSE. In Mat. 25:31-34 He comes as KING. In I Pet. 5:4 He comes as the CHIEF SHEPHERD. In Mat. 16:27 He comes WITH HIS ANGELS. In Jude 14 He comes WITH HIS SAINTS. In Jn. 14:18 He comes TO HIS SAINTS. In II Thes. 1:10 He comes IN HIS SAINTS. In Jude 14 & 15 He comes in JUDGMENT. In Rev. 22:12 He comes WITH REWARDS. And time and space fail me to tell of how He comes with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God; He comes to the Mount of Olives; He comes to His temple; He comes in glory; He comes as Lord; He comes in His Kingdom; He comes as seasons of refreshing, etc., etc., etc.
Like a choir of many voices and as the sound of many waters, the testimony of the Word of God resounds with abundant and stunning and inescapable evidence that the coming of Christ is not a single event, but includes many different manifestations.
These are not contradictions. They are word pictures to help our finite minds comprehend more clearly some of the great factors involved in the coming of Christ and what His coming means to the whole creation. When we put all these together and add to them all the other illustrations of the Bible pertaining to Christ's coming, we begin to understand that what we are to look for is not a human being coming down through the literal clouds, setting fire to the earth and toppling over the mountains, but mighty manifestations of the risen and glorified and ascended Lord of heaven and earth, leading to the transformation of mankind from selfishness and hate to compassion and love; from war and destruction to peace and reconstruction; from dead in trespasses and sins to alive in Christ; from the carnal mind to the precious mind that was in Christ Jesus; from sickness and death to health and life; from funeral processions to the quickening power of His resurrection!
Regarding His comings, truly not very many know when or how the Lord comes in any of His manifestations therefore, they cannot know how to MEET HIM! No, the coming of the Lord is not the simplistic event that many have made it. This explains why so very few Christians have really scriptural thoughts about the coming of the Lord. They are looking into prophecy for the church's hope.
Defining many Comings
Now, there is far too much information out there for one concise article on this subject, but in our next upcoming series, we shall look at the symbols of what are commonly acquainted with traditional Bible prophecy – and what they really mean. For now, we shall continue through some important concepts regarding Christ’s many comings - in order to prepare us.
“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (I Cor. 16:22).
What strange words. This is a prime example of Paul’s own certainty regarding Christ’s coming. Without doubt Paul knew by the Spirit that all of the problems that existed in the Corinthian church, which were manifold, would not be solved by anything other than a sincere and intimate and intense love of Jesus Christ in the hearts of the believers.
The word ANATHEMA means devoted to the wrath of God; it means to be lifted up to the wrath of God; it means to be accursed. It is the word found so often in the Old Testament of the accursed thing - that which had been devoted to the curse of God. If anyone love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be devoted to the wrath of God; offered up unto the withering curse of the Almighty, to be duly processed by His judgments. The result of a lack of love for Christ is the ANATHEMA, the curse of God. It begins right here in this life with the withering of the soul, with the withering of its capacity to love those things which are good and true and beautiful and noble.
Paul concludes with a second strange word: MARANATHA! In the King James version that is part of the same sentence. It makes little sense that way, however. Linguistic scholars have concluded that it is properly a separate sentence; that Paul stopped after the word ANATHEMA (accursed), and lifted his pen only to place it down again to write a new sentence composed of two words in the Aramaic language, that form of Hebrew which was the lingua franca of Palestine at that time: Maran-atha. The words mean “the Lord is at hand.” The Jews of that time frequently had upon their lips the word “mara” which means “Lord.” It was a plea, a prayer, “Lord, come.” They looked for the Messiah. But those who rejected the Messiah that came continued to cry out, “Maran! Maran!” looking for the Lord to come, having rejected Him who had already come. And so the Christians took upon their lips the words “maranatha.” It can have several shades of meaning. It can mean “the Lord hath come.”
“THE LORD IS AT HAND. MARANATHA.” Finally, it calls us to a remembrance that Christ will come again, and even that is at hand. The Lord is on His way. His coming is imminent. He has come and continues to come. He comes and He shall come and shall continue to come. He will come in as many and varied ways and manners as there are needs in your life and mine and in the whole world of men and movements and nations. MARANATHA! JESUS IS COMING! THE LORD IS AT HAND! Gee, we
missed that one didn’t we!
YAHWEH - THE COMING ONE
That glorious Name by which God is known in the Old Testament, "Yahweh," is a name which indicates a Coming God. This is neither the time nor place to enter into a lengthy technical and linguistical study, but the word Yahweh, the greatest rabbis will tell you, means the Coming One. Herein lies one of the most profound things we can ever learn in the scriptures and it throws modern Bible eschatology right out the window!
How graphically this grand truth is expressed in the introduction to the book of Revelation with these words, “Him Who is, and Who was, and Who is coming” (Rev. 1:4). And again, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who WAS, and Who NOW BEING, and Who is the COMING ONE” (Rev. 4:8). The trilogy of holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, refers to the threefold time, past, present and future. The holy One Who was from eternity, the holy One NOW BEING, and the ever COMING ONE. The Lord God Almighty is not someone to come sometime in the distant future. He is the One Who WAS coming, Who IS coming, and Who shall CONTINUE to come, manifesting Himself to His people in blessing and judgment and redemption until every eye has beheld Him and every heart has acknowledged Him, Lord of all.
In the Hebrew Scriptures salvation is of Yahweh. No other name is given which His own people could invoke for help. Even when the Messiah came in flesh in order to be the Saviour there was no real change, because in Hebrew HE IS YAHWEH-SAVIOUR, which is the meaning of the name Jesus. Peter could assure the Jews that “there is salvation in no other: for there is NONE OTHER NAME under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Does this deny that there is salvation in YAHWEH? Quite the opposite! It insists that Jesus IS the Yahweh in Whom salvation is. So that, as a matter of fact, the name Yahweh occurs every time that we find the personal name of our Lord. Salvation is united with the Name in a compound. It is no longer Yahweh, but Yahweh-Saviour Jesus.
How few realize the fullness which is in our Lord's redemptive name! Yahweh is the ever-coming One. The Coming One is my Lord and my God. Various Yahweh combinations or compound names are used in the scriptures, each indicating how He comes to us:
YAHWEH-TSIDKENU, the Coming One, thy Righteousness.
YAHWEH-JIREH, the Coming One, thy Provider.
YAHWEH-ROPHI, the Coming One, thy Healer.
YAHWEH-NISSI, the Coming One, thy Banner.
YAHWEH-MEKADDISHKEN, the Coming One, thy Sanctifier.
YAHWEH-SHALOM, the Coming One, thy Peace.
YAHWEH-SABAOTH, the Coming One, thy Warrior.
YAHWEH-SHAMMAH, the Coming One, Present with thee.
YAHWEH-ELYON, the Coming One, Most High.
YAHWEH-RA-AH, the Coming One, thy Shepherd.
Vast multitudes of Christians leave heard of these wonderful covenant names of God and thrill to the things they hear, but their hearts cannot comprehend nor understand the vital truth and reality of the message. They “listen to the music, but never hear the song.” They say they understand, but their spirit has not grasped the truth. They will talk long and loud about “Christ IN YOU the hope of glory,” “the Kingdom of God is WITHIN you,” “Ye are the BODY of Christ,” and then turn around and with the next breath say that the “coming” of the Lord is still a distant, singular, future event.
When men profess that they have seen this truth of the ever-coming Christ and confess that the Christ is their Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer, Baptizer, Provider, etc., and then wistfully add, “and my soon-coming King,” Guess what – they haven’t seen it!
So many people wonder, Will Jesus come in my lifetime? Will I live to see the return of the Lord? Well, start living and allow Jesus to come again in your lifetime! How many lifetimes do you have? You have only this one lifetime - let Jesus come in your lifetime! Then you can cease gazing up into the skies wondering when Jesus is going to come, and you can step into the NOW of God and begin your progression back into God where He is all-in-all in your life. NOW is always the best time to live. TODAY is always the best time to walk with God. THE PRESENT is always the best time to see and know the Lord. It is always NOW. God is NOW. Get into TODAY, into God's NOW and begin living - JESUS HAS COME! This is what the scriptures ACTUALLY TEACH!
God's elect must know assuredly and understand thoroughly that Christ is always coming again, and each new quickening of the eternal Word, and each fresh inworking of His grace brings Christ upon the earth. Christ always comes to hearts that are opened to receive Him. The glory that fills our expectant souls today is born of the knowledge that the hour of His manifestation is at hand - the hour when the Christ shall come in fullness to be revealed IN HIS SAINTS, and they shall reign over the earth.
Down through the pages of the Bible and the ages of time God revealed Himself to various men and women in their times. The principles were always the same, but the manifestation of His appearing was different in each case. He appeared to Moses as a burning bush; to Israel as a cloud and pillar of fire; to Gideon as the Angel of the Lord; to Isaiah as the glorious One high and exalted upon a throne; to Ezekiel as a wheel in the middle of a wheel; to His disciples as a mortal Man, the Lamb of God; to Mary as the gardener; to Saul of Tarsus as a blinding Light brighter than the noonday sun; to John the Revelator as One standing in the midst of the candlesticks with hair white like wool, feet like brass burning in a furnace, and a sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of His mouth.
As God revealed Himself in different ways in the Old Testament times, so in the New Testament times He is still revealing Himself in higher heights and deeper depths through the glorified Christ Jesus. As Luke points out in Acts, chapter one, Jesus BEGAN to minister when He walked in a body of flesh on the earth, until He ascended back to the Father. Then as you read on in the book of Acts, you find that He BEGAN to minister through now, not just a single body of flesh, but through a corporate body of believers as the Body of Christ came to birth on the earth. He is even now moving and manifesting and appearing in OUR LIVES in a new and fresh unveiling of HIMSELF! A new manifestation and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ is coming in the midst of His apprehended ones. Truly we are living in the dawn of another and greater and more glorious appearing of our Lord. Praise HIS wonderful name!
MISSING HIS COMING
As we have mentioned, at the time Jesus was born on earth, the Jews had fallen into such slumber and inertia, although outwardly they were religious and self-satisfied, that they did not know the Word of God when He was made flesh and came and dwelt among them. When their Messiah came, for whom they had been looking for centuries, they neither knew Him nor received Him. Because He was born in a stable, and His body, the tent in which He tabernacled when upon earth, was poor and without comeliness; because He did not come in pomp and worldly power and glory, the Jews knew Him not.
At that time the Jewish people were expecting the Messiah. They were students of the prophecies, and were acquainted with those predictions which indicated the time of the Messiah's coming. They knew that the 483 years of the Messianic prophecy of Daniel (Dan. 9:20-27) which were to elapse between the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the Messianic Prince, were expired. The time was fulfilled, and hence they were looking for the Messiah to appear, and eagerly expecting His appearance. But while they were right regarding the time, they misunderstood the character and work of the Messiah. They were looking for a deliverer, not from sin and self, but from political bondage. They wanted a military genius who would save them from the tyranny of the Roman yoke, and had no interest in a Saviour who would save them from sin and from themselves.
“In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (Jn. 1:4,9-10).
Truly a great light shined in the darkness, the greatest light that has ever been upon the face of the earth and yet, to this day, they are dwelling and walking in darkness. There was light all around - the light of God's Christ. The very glory of the Father was revealed to them as the scripture said it would be. All God ever could be or ever shall be was manifested in Jesus Christ. No greater light could have shown unto them than that light, because the Light of lights was there to see. Most of them did not recognize Him, neither did they know that the Lord of glory was in the midst of them, their very God.
Because Christ was not in person, purpose and work what the Jews thought He should be; because He was not the conquering Lion of Judah, but instead He came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world; therefore they are still waiting for One to come who will fulfil their earthly-minded desires and carnal concepts and worldly ambitions. How strange it is that one generation will not learn from the mistakes of their predecessors! Practically the whole body of evangelical churches today is looking forward with that same intense watching for a rapture or a kingdom that will deliver them from the world's bondage and establish them on temporal thrones of political power and authority in the earth. True, there shall come a day when the sons of God shall be manifested, when God's King-Priest company shall arise in power and authority, when the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, when ALL nations and kindreds shall serve Him, when ALL THINGS in heaven and in earth shall be subdued unto Him; but this marvellous work shall be wrought, not by worldly political or military might - but by dynamic SPIRITUAL POWER!
“SECOND COMING” ERRORS
The false teaching that the “second coming” of Christ is one singular event limited to a specific date in the future when Jesus Christ will come in a single body of flesh, with wounds in His hands, feet, and side, and that He will flash through the skies, snatching away His faithful followers, carrying them with Him to some far-off heaven somewhere, has given rise to innumerable speculations, predictions, calculations, prophecies and projected dates concerning when this stupendous event is supposed to transpire. Various dates have been set for the “rapture” or for the “end of the-world.” History and the Bible have been so interpreted that this or that ruler or dictator or pope or statesman has been called “The Antichrist” who would hasten the return of Christ and the commencement of the “Great Tribulation.” The inspiring promises about our Lord's coming have too often been an issue of sensationalism. Men have quarrelled and quibbled and fought over a most precious assurance, and have missed altogether the wonderful blessing and the glorious reality. Because of the distorted understanding of this blessed truth many ridiculous theories have been spawned about the “time” and “manner” of the coming of Christ.
Remember - emphasis on the nearness of Christ's “second coming,” so strong in many Christian circles today, is nothing new. In the early church dates were set for the Lord's return again and again through the first two or three centuries even! Augustine set the date for the end of the world at A.D. 1000. History tells us that a general belief prevailed In Europe towards the close of the tenth century that the year 1000 would witness the coming of Christ, the day of judgment, and the end of the world. On the basis of the interpretation which some of the early Church Fathers (Augustine, etc.) gave of Rev. 20:4, the conviction gradually gained popularity in the church that at the end of the first thousand years of the church's existence the second coming of the Lord would take place. It was supposed to be the time when the church would be perfected and the natural life of men would come to an end.
As the time drew near, a general panic seized the minds of men. Many pious people reasoned that since the present order was ending it would be folly to further attempt to satisfy their temporal ambitions or fulfil their earthly goals. They simply ceased working, sold or abandoned their homes, farms and businesses, and bought a little plot of ground near some church building or monastery, and not a few moved to the Holy Land, there to await on holy ground the glorious appearance of their blessed Saviour and Lord. So vast and intense was this movement that the whole course of ordinary life was violently disturbed and deranged for an entire generation!
In the Middle Ages Joachim of Floris, an Italian monk strongly inclined to mysticism and ecstasy, pondered deeply on the hidden plan of God. He spoke of three dispensations: the first that of the law or the Father, the second that of the gospel or the Son, and the third that of the Holy Spirit. According to his reckoning, the first dispensation belonged to the past, the second was approaching the end since the church had become very worldly, and the age of the Spirit was destined to begin in the year 1260 A.D. Then the church would be purified; Jews and Gentiles would be converted in great masses; a final conflict would be waged against the evil forces of the world; and then the new order would begin under the blessed reign of Jesus Christ. But these hopes were also dashed to the ground.
At the time of the Reformation some of the Anabaptists raised the cry of the speedy return of Jesus Christ. They established their headquarters at Muenster, set up their own government under the alleged direction of the Holy Spirit, and thus founded the New Zion in anticipation of the momentary return of Jesus Christ as their King. The city became the scene of unrestrained fanaticism that knew no bounds, and which was finally forcibly suppressed by the government.
Even Martin Luther at one time taught that Christ would come in the year A.D. 1530. The Puritans looked for Jesus to set up His Fifth World Empire in the seventeenth century. Daniel DeFoe tells us in his JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR that, in the midst of the Great Plague in London, England in 1665, a woman on a square gained a hearing for her prognostications that the Coming of the Lord was right near; a few gathered, then many, then a crowd, as she pointed excitedly toward the heavens to “A Horseman in the Sky.” The Son of Man was coming; could they not see Him? Some thought that they could. And during the Napoleonic wars, when the Man of Destiny was bestriding Europe and the Near East like a colossus, what a hey-day the prophecy-mongers in England had, with the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation in one hand, and the latest mail from Egypt in the other! They were all cocksure that the Antichrist had come, and some of them actually prophesied what Napoleon would do next, just as the same excitable souls today are eyeing world leaders and speculating!
During the second quarter of the nineteenth century William Miller, who became the founder of the Millerite sect, traveled through New England, New York, New Jersey, and Canada, with the announcement that Christ would return in 1843. He thought he saw, plainly, the time indicated, in the scriptures, when our Lord would return. Being a signally gifted and scholarly man, he led thousands to adopt his views. The burden of his preaching was: Christ will soon be here; are you ready to meet Him? There were many conversions born of fear in view of the imminent appearance of the coming Judge. The meetings of the people were often scenes of wild confusion; emotion was aroused, people fell down crying, men shouted and women fainted. Despite all the opposition of the churches to this unbounded sensationalism, Miller continued his crusade with great persistence and assurance.
As the predicted day drew near many took their horses and fodder for two or three days, and went out into the woods, expecting to be all the more likely to see all that was to be seen when once away from the crowded city. All over the States there were people who had made ascension-gowns in which to soar into the air in proper costume. They waited, and they waited, yet no text could have been more appropriate for them than this, “Ye men of America, why stand ye here gazing up into heaven?” Nothing came of it; and yet there are tens of thousands in America and elsewhere even today who have an insatiable “need” for a fanatical leader to run to in their insane folly! The desire to know the date of Christ's return is a craze with many poor folk whose insanity runs in that particular groove. Every occurrence is a “sign of the times”: a sign which they do not understand. But when the year 1843 passed by without any unusual occurrence, Miller had to resort to the subterfuge that Christ had indeed come but remained in hiding temporarily because the people had not yet repented sufficiently; and when the year 1844 also passed by in the ordinary way, he finally had to admit that his calculations, based on Daniel chapter eight, had been mistaken.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century there was another group, an entire American Colony in the city of Jerusalem, who gathered there to await the imminent return of the Lord. These sincere, and in many cases brilliant, believers would go out to the Mount of Olives by night to wait for the Lord's return. They justified their action by the words, “His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east” (Zech. 14:4). One saintly lady would take a cup of cold water ready to present it to the Lord “in the name of a disciple” upon His arrival.
The notorious Pastor Russell, the spiritual father of Jehovah's Witnesses, boldly proclaimed that the Lord would return in the year A.D. 1914. When that year passed by without the expected appearance of the Lord and marked instead the beginning of the first World War, to save face, followed the example of Miller. He maintained that the Lord had indeed come, but was now in hiding because of the wickedness of the people. In due time He was bound to show Himself. Russell's successor, the eloquent Judge Rutherford, kept alive the expectation of the speedy transformation of the living saints. The burden of his message, which was spread over billboards, shouted over the radio, and blazoned to the world in paid advertisements was “Millions now living will never die.” It was a rather daring assertion, seeing that it could be so easily proved, or disproved. A leading laundry, which had more humour than reverence, adopted the slogan as its own, making it read in this fashion: “We do the dyeing for the millions now living.”
The error of these delusions is manifest in their repeated failure. Every attempt that has been made to fix a date, even approximately, has brought the truth into discredit, and has dishonored God’s Word.Eespecially in view of the fact that many predictions have been made, and then changed with startling craftiness, in order that the date might still further be postponed, in view of the previous mistakes. These failures point out not merely that these men are mistaken about the TIME of Christ's return; they prove further that their WHOLE CONCEPT OF THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST IS FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED - they know not WHEN He comes; they perceive not the PURPOSE of His coming; and they understand not HOW He comes! The “orthodox” teaching on the “second coming” of Christ gets people into many unexplainable predicaments, out of which they cannot extricate themselves honourably and logically. The system will not work. It will not work because it is a lie. There is not one scripture in the whole Bible to uphold the popular theory. But there are many to prove it false, and much precious and extremely vital truth which the preachers and churches have totally missed.
THANK GOD that He delivers us from all this fantastic nonsense! And in its place he directs our attention to what HE is doing, yes, that which HE IS BECOMING and FULFILLING in His elect. We look, indeed, for HIS GLORIOUS APPEARING, and rejoice with joy unspeakable in that wherein He has appeared unto us, and in the glory in which He shall yet appear in surpassing splendor, praise HIS wonderful name!
The coming of Christ in the Feasts!
Yes, it’s all there in “the gospel of heaven” if we have the eyes to see it! In fact the coming of the Lord is carefully established and explicitly revealed through the Old Testament Feasts of the Lord. There is a simple order which God has established relative to the unfolding of truth and the progression of His purposes, and it is this:
“Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (I Cor. 15:46).
This principle is evident everywhere in the scriptures. First the old creation, then the New. First Adam, the man of earth, then the Last Adam, the Man from heaven. First the Passover, with its lamb slain in Israel, then the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. First the law, and then Grace. First the temple in Jerusalem built of stone, then the temple of God which you are, composed of living stones built up an habitation of God through the Spirit. And the wonder of it all is this, that the end of the Old is the beginning of the New: and out of that which is destined to pass away there cometh forth that which is destined to remain.
While men speak of the “first coming” and the “second coming” of Christ, God's program is in THREES. God has promised to meet with man in THREE DIMENSIONS.
“THREE TIMES in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which HE shall choose; in the feast of UNLEAVENED BREAD (Passover), and in the feast of WEEKS (Pentecost), and in the feast of TABERNACLES: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty” (Deut. 16:16).
God says that He will meet with man THREE times - in the three great Feasts of the Lord! “THREE TIMES in a year shall all your males appear before the Lord.” To “appear before the Lord” designates not only an action on your part, but a reciprocal action on God's part. Not only must you appear, but HE MUST APPEAR! It is a joint-meeting in which YOU APPEAR BEFORE HIM! or as the apostle has so eloquently explained, “When Christ, who is our life, SHALL APPEAR, then shall YE ALSO APPEAR WITH HIM in glory” (Col. 3:4). Funny how the scriptures testify and bear witness to the truth!
The Feasts of Yahweh were but types and shadows of those things which were yet to come. These Feasts portrayed in their typology God's plan for man even to the very end of the ages. They bring to us the unfolding purpose of God for us from the foundation of the world. An Old Testament type is literally a word picture or living example that prefigures that which is to come. In another sense, it is an exact shadow of that which does not yet exist. The apostle Paul in speaking of those things which happened to Israel in their wilderness journey stated,
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (examples, object lessons), and they are written for OUR ADMONITION, UPON WHOM THE ENDS OF THE WORLD (AGE) ARE COME” (I Cor. 10:11).
The apostle Paul again explains to us, “For the law HAVING A SHADOW OF GOOD THINGS TO COME, and not the very image of the things...” (Heb. 10:1).
The shadows of the law were but school-masters to bring us to Christ. The greater work of a SPIRITUAL NATURE was still to be accomplished to fulfil these Old Testament types and shadows of which the three Feasts of Yahweh are a major part.
The three primary Feasts given to Israel were the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Two of these Feasts have now been fulfilled and are still being fulfilled in the body of Christ today. The last Feast still waits a future fulfilment that will begin at the completion and maturity of the Christ-body at the end of this age. Because of their typical nature, the Feasts have many times been overlooked as to their great significance in the proper interpretation of Bible prophecy. The Bible is full of such great truths that have been given for our enrichment and instruction, it is up to those who “follow ON to know the Lord” to diligently dig out those truths that will lead us into greater depths in the Lord. Let us consider these Feasts in the light of our forward walk in God.
When God meets man in the first dimension, He meets us in the Feast of Passover. Jesus appears to us, He comes to us as SAVIOUR in that realm. “When I see the blood, I will pass-over you!” (Ex. 12:13). Every reader of these lines has passed through that Feast, has met and seen and experienced the Lord in that realm. “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7). Jesus is the Lamb of God. The Old Paschal Feast is gone forever. We no longer need a Paschal Feast of the old type, we no longer need to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem in the Old Feast, for HE HAS APPEARED unto us as the Lamb of God and has cleansed us with His precious blood. Has God met with you for the first time? Has Christ come to you in the first dimension? Has He appeared to you as the Lamb of God? Have you eaten the Lamb? If so, the Lamb is WITHIN you!
The Feast of Pentecost was a separate Feast and the Pentecostal experience is a separate experience. Has God met with you a second time? Has Christ come to you in a second dimension of His presence and life and glory? Has He come from heaven as a rushing mighty wind and filled your house with power and glory? Has He appeared to you as Baptizer with the Holy Ghost and fire? Have you appeared before Him in the spiritual Feast of Pentecost? Then you are blessed indeed! But God does not stop at Pentecost and the second Feast is but the “earnest” and the “firstfruits” of the final Feast! In Israel the Feast of Pentecost was “the feast of harvest, the FIRSTFRUITS of thy labours” (Deut. 16:9-12). Under New Testament economy this is the FIRSTFRUITS OF THE SPIRIT. “And not only they, but ourselves also which have the FIRSTFRUITS of the Spirit...” (Rom. 8:23).
The last great Feast of the Israelite year was Tabernacles ... and startling as it might seem, this is the Feast that remains to be fulfilled! Tabernacles is called “the Feast of Ingathering, which is in the END OF THE YEAR.” Pentecost is only the firstfruits of the Spirit, but Tabernacles is the full harvest - FULLNESS! And this fullness comes in the END of the year, at the completion of our walk with God. In reality, we have not witnessed such fullness in any save in our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and neither shall we until the very close of this present age, The Feast of Tabernacles could not be celebrated until Israel had left the wilderness behind, and was dwelling in Canaan. Even so, Christ is bringing a great company of apprehended ones, in the END of this age, out of their wilderness wanderings of immaturity, carnality and struggle on into their promised land - the measure of the stature of the FULLNESS OF CHRIST. Oh, yes, God shall surely give unto the elect sons of God the FULLNESS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD of which we, up until this time, have only received the “earnest” or “firstfruits.”
We are still partaking of the Feast of Pentecost. But the good news is that JESUS IS COMING ONCE AGAIN in the Feast of Tabernacles, and BLESSED are they who are called to this great Feast, that which supersedes Pentecost, that which is the balance of the meal of which Passover and Pentecost were merely the first courses. As we leave this Feast in great strength, those who shall represent the Kingdom of God on this planet from that time forth will be abiding in the fullness of HIS RESURRECTION LIFE. It shall mean a new day of hope and deliverance and glory for the whole earth as the Lord COMES AGAIN to meet man in this great and glorious Feast of HIS FULLNESS. This is the coming of the Lord that the churches and television and radio evangelists know nothing about. The “rapture” crowd doesn't actually believe in the “COMING of the Lord” anyway - they believe in the “GOING of the saints!” While we teach the “APPEARING of Jesus” they teach the “DISAPPEARING of the Church.” How much more wonderful and beautiful is the truth! Jesus is COMING! Glory to God!
WHY JESUS WENT AWAY
“Yet a little while am I with you. Ye shall seek Me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you” (Jn. 13:33; 16:7).
Of course, Jesus’ DISSAPPEARING was also met with some confusion on the part of the disciples. Remember how in their unspiritual minds they thought He was getting tired. Peter asks straight out, “Lord, whither goest Thou?” Into the garden? Back to Galilee? It never occurred to one of them that He meant the Unseen Spirit Realm. “Whither I go,” He replies a second time, “Ye cannot follow Me now, but ye shall follow Me afterward.” AFTERWARD! The blow slowly falls. In a dim, bewildering way it begins to dawn upon them. He speaks of separation!
And why did Jesus go away? It’s a reasonable question too. He had too! Yet in reality, He went away to be very near; He ascended far above all heavens THAT HE MIGHT FULFILL ALL THINGS! He went away from being nearby, so that He could return and be closer to us even than the air we breathe, closer than the blood coursing its way through our veins! And remember, Jesus was mobbed from all sides wherever he went – it would be a physical impossibility for him to remain!
Untold millions of Christians have learned nothing of the truth. Almost all are just living for that day when Jesus comes, or they get to heaven, and they can SEE HIS PERSON, bask in His favour, and have PHYSICAL CONTACT with Him. Many picture themselves kneeling in reverence at Jesus' feet, as did Mary of Bethany, kissing His feet, gazing intently into His eyes, strolling hand in hand with Him down Hallelujah Boulevard, or sitting on one of the hillsides of glory for a day, leisurely talking things over with Him, asking all the questions they have always wanted to ask, and unburdening their heart of the many concerns they have so long desired to pour out to Him - personally. There are those among us who, like Thomas of old, want to put their finger on the print of the nails, their hand in His riven side. How the unspiritual hearts of the “many” cry out for that which they know not!
Jesus had to go away to fulfil the scriptures of course. Only in death and resurrection could the vast numbers comprising untold millions of people (Dan. 7:10; Jude 14) be saved by His grace. John saw them in Revelation 7 as “a great multitude which NO MAN CAN NUMBER!” Bringing Christ back in the flesh, to know Him once more after the flesh, would be one gigantic step backward, an outrage of immense proportions, an absurdity! Do we not already KNOW HIM? Are not those who have not seen His earthly form more blessed, according to the words of Jesus, than those who saw and believed? And HOW do we know Him? Why, BY HIS SPIRIT! And it is through the FULNESS OF THIS SAME SPIRIT that we shall ultimately SEE HIM and KNOW HIM “AS HE IS”. There is simply no other way! What could His flesh body ADD to our relationship in Him? If our confidence is in HIS FLESH BODY, then we shall of all men be most miserable.
The simple truth is, that He went away THAT THE COMFORTER MIGHT COME – that HE might come in power and glory in his elect! In fact, this is the consummation for which all other things since the foundation of the world were accomplished. The Word now begins to be fulfilled: “Behold! the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them!” (Rev. 21:3). Amazing!
Coming with clouds
“They shall see the Son of man coming IN THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN with power and great glory” (Mat. 24:30).
Of course, this image of Christ appearing in the clouds and Christians being teleported up to meet him is one of the most graphic and salient images in all of Christendom. The rapture would not be the doctrine that it is without it. It is in fact the great hope of all Christians awaiting his return! Running out into the garden at the sound of the trumpet – being sucked up into the air to the cloud party.
Of course, we know better. We know that Jesus spoke in abstract imagery throughout his ministry, likewise when he spoke of his return! The picture language of the Bible employs essentially all the created things of God with which we here on earth are acquainted. There are various reasons why God has used so much symbolic language in His Word. The meaning of words change somewhat through use and misuse of course and much has been lost due to translational errors – but God’s Word is consistent in its use of Imagery – they are sound patterns and types, to be discerned spiritually by those who have the eyes to see. God has employed the sun, the moon, the stars, and clouds; and on the earth, oceans, rivers, mountains, valleys, sheep, goats, horses, wheat, tares, fig trees, and so forth throughout His Word, to bring spiritual instruction and understanding. The characteristics of these have not changed throughout the centuries, and when used in the Bible to illustrate the exalted thoughts of God they should have the same meaning to us as they did to the ancients. As signs, they have a spiritual meaning and application.
In the case of “clouds,” the same scriptural application applies. Actually, one of the rabbinical names for the Messiah, based on Daniel 7:13-14, was “The Cloud Man.” Daniel writes:
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like unto the Son of man CAME WITH THE CLOUDS of heaven...”
Christ, of course, is plainly identified as the “One who comes with the clouds” in the Salutation of Rev. 1:7: “Behold, He COMETH WITH CLOUDS; and every eye shall see Him...” Furthermore, when our Lord was adjured by the High Priest to tell whether He was the Messiah or not, Jesus answered with the old equivalent of “Yes!” Then He said, “Ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN” (Mk. 14:62).
Of course, his identification was more than His enemies could bear. And so we read, “Then the High Priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witness? Ye have heard the blasphemy: What think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death” (Mk. 14:63-64).
Why should the High Priest and those assembled, think it such BLASPHEMY for Jesus to say not only that they would see Him sitting on the right hand of Power, but also that they would see Him COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN? The truth is, they knew that our Lord was claiming to be the “Son of the God,” the one who would come in the CLOUD OF GLORY which had once filled the temple at Jerusalem! Furthermore, they clearly understood that the “clouds” upon which Messiah would come were not the fleecy white clouds which scud across a summer sky, but in all reality they would be the blazing Shekinah Cloud which from times of old had veiled the Divine Presence. How well the learned rabbis of Israel understood the true implication of Jesus' words! Throughout the scriptures, God has displayed His glory in the form of a CLOUD. This glory cloud of God has taken different shapes and different sizes on various occasions. When it was time for the children of Israel to begin their exodus out of Egypt, the glory of God took the form of a pillar of fire enshrouded within a cloud.
“And the Lord went before them by day IN A PILLAR OF A CLOUD, to lead them in the way; and by night IN A PILLAR OF FIRE, to give them light, to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Ex. 13:21-22).
When Israel was encamped about the base of mount Sinai, God came down on top of that mount to meet with Moses to give Israel the law, the glory cloud of God in a blazing flame rested on top of that mountain also. What did the glory cloud of God signify every time it appeared? The glory cloud of God signified the unique presence of God. It always told the people of Israel, when it appeared, that Yahweh was uniquely present at this place, at this time, for a special purpose.
On that momentous occasion when the Lord Jesus took Peter, James and John up into the mount and was transfigured before them, suddenly there appeared a BRIGHT CLOUD - a cloud with a light in it. One of the significant facts in connection with the glory cloud of God's presence is that God always SPOKE from the cloud. This began first on Mount Sinai. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may HEAR WHEN I SPEAK with thee... and the Lord came down upon mount Sinai... and the Lord CALLED MOSES...” (Ex. 19:9,20). At a later time God spoke from the same cloud after that it had descended upon the tabernacle. “And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and THE LORD TALKED WITH MOSES” (Ex. 33:9).
What was that BRIGHT CLOUD with the light in it from which the voice of God spoke? It was none other than the pillar of cloud housing the glory fire, the Shekinah glory of God And know this, the Shekinah that once filled the Holy of Holies in the long ago, is the light of Christ that now fills the holy of holies which WE ARE! We must learn that God no longer dwells in a wilderness tabernacle or in temples made with hands. Glorious as were those types and shadows, they were merely frail reflections of a more glorious 'house not made with hands' which was to come. Our Father no longer dwells in a temple in Jerusalem made by the art and wisdom of Solomon or the cunning workmanship of skilled artisans. His temple henceforth is the living temple of His body, which temple we are. The burning truth the Holy Spirit would now reveal is that 'ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.' To the elect saints of the church age Paul dared to say, 'Now ye are THE BODY OF CHRIST and members in particular.' The saints are the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavenlies. They are the FATHER'S HOUSE OF MANY MANSIONS. The body of Christ is made of LIVING STONES, which stones YE ARE. This is the true temple. This is 'My Father's house.' From the radiant glory of its many mansions He will govern the worlds in ages to come, restoring and reconciling all things unto Himself.
CLOUDS – THE SAINTS
“Behold! He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him” (Rev. 1:7).
In the scriptures, the CLOUD is a powerful and personal image.
BEHOLD! This is the word with which John begins his description of what he saw. It always calls for special attention and directs our focus to a truth of unusual importance. The word comes from the Greek IDOU a demonstrative participle. There are four things we should understand about this word. First, it bids the reader or hearer to give attention to what is being said, as if we were to say, “Now listen!” Second, it is used when an event is specified which seems impossible, yet occurs. Third, it is an exclamation of one pointing out something and calling attention to it. Fourth, it means to observe what is about to be said and consider it thoroughly.
Now let us look at the two words that follow: HE COMETH. “Behold! He cometh.” This phrase is from the Greek ERCHOMAI. It is the third person singular, present indicative. This conjunction of verbs first means HE COMES as a present tense reality. The verb is present indicative. He comes. He is in the act of coming. Behold! He is (now) coming! In other words, He has been coming, He is still in the act of coming, and He continues to come. This is extremely important. More than once the coming of the Lord is spoken of in this tense throughout the book of Revelation. The veritable IS WAS AND WILL BE – THE ALPHA AND OMEGA - It's not a future thing, not something that shall happen somewhere down the course of history, but it is something that IS. This is one of the most IMPORTANT scriptural truths that we can ever learn! We shall look at this more closely in an upcoming series.
You see, the Church world is either looking back to an historical Christ, or forward to a futuristic coming of Christ, and they miss this word ERCHOMAI altogether, their spiritual understanding never being quickened to this grand truth that HE COMES, He is coming, He continues to come, He will continue to come. It is something that can happen right now. It can happen in your life right now. It means that He comes from one place to another. He comes out of the realm of spirit to be manifested in flesh, expressed and revealed in a visible, tangible way to the physical creation. ERCHOMAI means to come, to make one's appearance come before the public. It means that He comes and appears before the view of the people round about. And this coming has already happened, it is happening now, and shall continue to happen.
This is the revelation that so captivated the apostle John that he could only exclaim with amazement, “Behold! He comes!” And the Spirit has borne witness for many years now among God's Spirit-led people that soon Christ shall come in the manifestation of Himself on a plane and in a measure never before seen or experienced by men upon this planet. He shall come to be glorified in His saints, manifested in His sons to set creation free from its bondage to corruption - sin and sorrow and death. Yes, He HAS come, and He is STILL TO COME!
There are two more words: WITH CLOUDS. “Behold! He cometh with clouds.” “With” is from the Creek preposition META. It means with, but it also means together with, in the midst of, among, between, in common with, with the help of, and by means of. Behold! He comes WITH clouds, denoting an association. Behold! He comes TOGETHER WITH clouds, denoting a communion. Behold! He comes IN THE MIDST OF clouds, denoting an indwelling. Behold! He comes AMONG clouds, denoting a fellowship. Behold! He comes BETWEEN clouds, denoting a union. Behold! He comes IN COMMON WITH clouds, denoting a participation. Behold! He comes WITH THE HELP OF clouds, denoting an interdependence. Behold! He comes BY MEANS OF clouds, denoting an instrumentality. CLOUDS are the vehicle He uses in this coming.
What is it saying then?
Far from the cloud of his Old Testament glory, suddenly, the one single cloud disappears and we are introduced to a great plurality of CLOUDS! Let us SEE! Christ departed this earth in ONE CLOUD. He comes again in MANY CLOUDS!
“Behold, He cometh with CLOUDS: and every eye shall see Him” (Rev. 1:7).
Daniel in vision beheld Him thus: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like a Son of man CAME WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN ... and there was given unto Him dominion” (Dan. 7:13-14).
Jesus Himself said, “And they shall see the Son of man COMING IN THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN with power and great glory” (Mat. 24: 30).
“Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and COMING IN THE CLOUDS of heaven” (Mat. 26:64).
Finally, the apostle Paul relates this dramatic experience: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them IN THE CLOUDS, to meet the Lord...” (I Thes. 4:17).
In the CLOUDS! Can you see this? More than one cloud. Many clouds. A great company of clouds! What, then, are those clouds with which, and in which, Christ comes again? Why, it’s US! WE ARE THE CLOUDS!
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1)
And so it is that the symbol of CLOUDS is associated throughout scripture as PEOPLE. The apostles Peter and Jude both tell us that FALSE MINISTRIES are “CLOUDS without water ... carried about of winds.” A TRUE ministry then, is a CLOUD with water. A true ministry has life to give, and is willing to empty himself out in order to be a blessing to dry and thirsty souls. Jesus was a bright cloud laden with water, for “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give His life...” (Mat. 20:28).
The one glory has become the multiple glory. The one God has reproduced His life into a many-membered body. The ONE CLOUD of His presence has become MANY CLOUDS of His presence IN HIS PEOPLE. Isaiah foretold of this day:
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the GLORY OF THE LORD IS RISEN UPON T-H-E-E. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and HIS GLORY SHALL BE SEEN UPON THE EARTH” (Isa. 60:1-2).
The “sign” of the coming or presence of Yahweh has always been the Shekinah glory cloud. It was His sign to Moses, and when our Lord comes again in fullness in a many-membered body of saints, it will be IN THE CLOUDS OF HIS PRESENCE.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ WITH ALL HIS SAINTS” (I Thes. 3:13).
Jude says, “And Enoch also ... prophesied ... saying, Behold, the Lord cometh WITH TEN THOUSANDS OF SAINTS” (Jude 14).
The Amplified is helpful, when it reads, “Behold, the Lord comes WITH MYRIADS OF HOLY ONES - ten thousands of His saints.” But the Interlinear reading from the Diaglott translation gives the clearest of all renderings from the Greek text, so we note, “Lo, comes Lord IN HOLY MYRIADS OF HIMSELF.” “Myriads of HIMSELF.” All of them partakers of His divine nature, conformed to His image, filled with His life. Myriads of Himself, of His own kind, born of His seed, a many brethren company of SONS - all His sons. And again we read the testimony: “And the Lord my God shall come, and ALL THE SAINTS WITH THEE” (Zech. 14:5).
John sees this same scene in wonder-filled vision and speaking in prophetical language writes: “Behold, He cometh W-I-T-H CLOUDS; and every eye shall see Him” (Rev. 1:7).
Rom. 8:17 contains a marvellous truth. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also GLORIFIED TOGETHER.” To be GLORIFIED TOGETHER is the hope that springs perennial within the heart of all who have by the spirit beheld HIS GLORY. This wonderful experience of being GLORIFIED TOGETHER is a reference of our union with Christ as members of His body, and speaks of a time to come when this entire company of the sons of God, IN UNION WITH CHRIST THE HEAD, shall be GLORIFIED TOGETHER - IMMERSED INTO THE LIFE OF CHRIST, sharing with Him in the fullness of His glory. This entire company shall be joined to Christ to share with Him in the blessed glorification experience when we shall partake of THE CLOUD OF WITNESSES
And of course, we have the rapturist’s favourite quote. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians of a blessed event wherein “the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them IN THE CLOUDS, to MEET THE LORD in the air” (I Thes. 4:16-17).
This is the great Christian folly! Because teachers have of course supposed that “clouds” signifies the clouds of the atmosphere. But the truth is there is no definite article in the Greek text before the word “clouds” to make it “THE CLOUDS,” so that the sentence literally reads “caught up IN CLOUDS.” Where the identifying article is missing, it speaks of quality, or being used as a descriptive term. The Greek word for “cloud” is often used in the Greek Classics of a large body of individuals, and it is so used in this symbolic way in Heb. 12:1-2 speaking of that great cloud of witnesses which surrounds us.
In it starts with us NOW – in His chosen and elect. From earth's teeming millions of all ages, there is a people arising in the image of Christ. Not yet have we seen a cloud charged with the power of omnipotence and flashing with the incorruptible radiance of the Son of God.. A CLOUD IS FORMING IN THE HEAVENS THAT WILL BE SEEN, THAT WILL BE THE CHARIOT OF HEAVEN'S KING OF GLORY WHEN HE COMES TO REFRESH AND RESTORE AND QUICKEN ALL THINGS. Behold, He comes with CLOUDS!
Coming For, With, And In His Saints
According to the popular teachings of our day, Christ will, at any moment now, come in a secret rapture “FOR His saints,” take them to heaven for seven years, and then come back again “WITH the saints.” The argument is, of course, that since He will come “with” His people (Zech. 14:5; Jude 14; I Thes. 3:12-13), He will have to come earlier “for” the saints. Repeatedly we hear statements like this: “Jesus is coming FOR a church without spot or wrinkle,” or “Soon Jesus will return FOR His Church, to take it out of the world,” or “The Lord comes in the rapture FOR His saints; after the Tribulation period, He comes with His saints.”
Since so many Christians are steadfastly looking for Jesus to come FOR the Church, to whisk it away up to heaven somewhere, to sing and shout and eat for seven years, while the rest of mankind are suffering indescribable agonies, we need to take a closer look at the Word and see if ANYWHERE in the Bible we can find this expression “coming FOR the saints.” This may come as a shock to some but the Bible NOWHERE speaks of Jesus coming “FOR the saints.” What it says is that Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself for it “that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might PRESENT IT TO HIMSELF a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:26-27). In order to “present the Church to Himself” in a holy and blameless condition doesn't necessitate “taking” it anywhere!
Once a person has the concept in mind that there will be a special coming of the Lord “for” the saints, he then reads about believers being “caught up” and immediately concludes that they will be caught up to “heaven” somewhere. But that is not what the passage in I Thes. 4:16-17 says at all!
Raptuist’s are bound and determined that they will “fly away” in spite of the plain statements of the Word of God. Tradition says otherwise, and tradition takes precedence over what the Word. But if the scriptures speak not of the coming of the Lord “FOR” His saints, WHAT DO THEY SAY then?
COMING WITH HIS SAINTS
The first prerequisite for the coming of the Lord WITH His saints and IN His saints is His coming TO His saints. He cannot come WITH us unless first He has come TO us, and He must come TO us before He can come IN us. The point is HE SHALL COME TO US, and HE SHALL BRING TO US that grace which bespeaks the fullness of our salvation. The testimony is sure:
“If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and WE WILL COME UNTO HIM, and make our abode with him” (Jn. 14:23).
By His Spirit He comes, yes, in ways, and in dimensions far beyond our present comprehension. How we long to be FULLY INDWELT BY HIM till we overflow with His abundant and eternal life. But He can only indwell us in the measure that first He has come TO US.
COMING IN HIS SAINTS
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty messengers, when He shall come to be GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS, and to be admired IN all them that believe in that day” (II Thes. 1:7,10).
Then the moment any man identifies himself with the INDWELLING CHRIST of God he enters into an entirely new realm. He has passed from the limited knowledge of a distant Christ to CHRIST AS HIS LIFE. He has heard the message of the Lord:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man (the individual) hear My voice, and open the door, I WILL COME IN TO HIM, and I will sup with him and
he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).
He comes not to the flesh oriented church of today, the vast multitude of Laodicea’s, but to that “little flock” of footstep followers who have been set aside of the Lord for the most intimate and personal visitation. How wonderful it is when the Christ comes IN to sup with us and us with Him! How blessed we are to have that intimate and sacred communion with the Lord! The Christ that we preach is nigh at hand. “He is not far from every one of us,” In fact the Apostle Paul says.
“Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) But what saith it? The Word (Christ) is NIGH THEE, EVEN IN THY MOUTH, AND IN THY HEART" (Rom. 10:6-8).”
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is right here WITHIN US in every turn of life as really as He was in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, Why would we strain our eyes to pierce the clouds? RAPTURE doctrine anyone? No thanks!
The churches of the age
Yes, the church systems are literally filled today with carnal, earthly-minded Christians who sit back in ease and self-complacency and await a future rapture that will translate them out of the midst of earth's Great Tribulation at the beginning of the Day of the Lord. To this generation of Lukewarm Laodiceans the Spirit speaks in certain tones of warning:
“Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light” (Amos 5:18
“Rapture” is not a biblical word. Religionists debate loud and long about WHEN THE “RAPTURE” IS TO TAKE PLACE. Some believe in the “pre-tribulation rapture.” That means that God's people will be removed from the earth just before the beginning of the tribulation. Thus they will not be here for any of the seven years of plagues, vials, etc. Bumper stickers state: “In case of Rapture, this car will self-destruct.” Tracts for airliners say: “In case the trumpet sounds, be prepared for this plane to crash, your pilot may be a Christian.” These are fear tactics.
Then there are those who teach the “mid-tribulation rapture.” They believe that the Bible teaches that the Church will have to go through the first three and a half years of the tribulation while the Antichrist is warring against the saints, but will be raptured and spared the last three and a half years of the intense wrath and judgment of God.
Finally there are the “post-tribulation” people. They teach that the Church goes through the entire seven years of tribulation, and that only after the tribulation are the saints “caught up,” as according to I Thes. 4:17. They see a Church being empowered by the Spirit of God to survive the worst onslaughts of Satan and pass through victoriously to the other side. This is an admirable concept, and much closer to the truth, but these still embrace the false notion of the rapture.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13).
There is a strange thing happening today, for most Christians are not looking for the “coming” of the Lord - rather, they are expecting the “going” of the saints! It is hard to convince men of the truth when for years their minds have been set in a contrary direction. The truth is that the “blessed hope” is not the rapture; it is the APPEARING of the Lord. The “blessed hope” is not deliverance from the Tribulation; it is HIS GLORIOUS APPEARING in His people. We are not looking for a rapture to take people out of this old world, but we are looking for HIM TO APPEAR out of the innermost being of His sons to transform His elect so that they will be able to change the very courses of this world. This is the time of the appearing of Christ in power and great glory. The Lord has confirmed this fact by appearing to us personally, and to others as well. He is coming and has come to us in His spiritual presence and is uncovering Himself within us to appear through us to the world. With each appearing of our Lord we witness greater growth unto maturity and perfection than we have seen in the past, for the Lord is doing that quick work. This is a very significant hour, an hour of much spiritual activity, accomplished by the arising of HIS LIFE WITHIN.
“But AS THE DAYS OF NOAH WERE, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Mat 24:37-39)
Remember, it was the wicked that were “taken” in Noah's day, and who was left? NOAH! Noah had spent much time and diligence in building an ark in which to “ride out” the storm. Noah went THROUGH the flood, protected by the ark he had prepared and entered into. When the flood waters abated, and the wicked had been taken away, he stepped out of the ark and inherited the purified earth. He and his family now owned the place! Everyone else who had held a deed to a piece of property was GONE, along with the heirs. Noah inherited the earth and there were none to dispute his claim. The previous owners had been “taken” and Noah alone was LEFT to inaugurate the new age. To which fact Jesus adds this significant statement: SO SHALL ALSO THE COMING (PRESENCE) OF THE SON OF MAN BE!
However, this great “type” points to far more than merely the inhabitants of the world being blown off the map and just you and me and a few other elect saints remaining. It points to the way of LIFE instead of DEATH. In this hour God's chosen ones are building an ark of obedience and truth, of wisdom and righteousness, that they might LIVE AND NOT DIE.
Our “hiding place” is in Christ. “Your life is hid with God in Christ” (Col. 3:3). It is the fearful, the faithless, or the wicked, who seek a geographical hiding place. Some want to leave the earth and fly away to heaven, while some cry for the rocks and the mountains to hide them, and yet others are seeking a hiding place in some natural place, a farm, a desert, a wilderness area, etc. But it will not work. It will not work because it is natural, physical, carnal, earthly. You cannot escape from death that way. You can only escape death by LIFE! And you can only find life by sowing to the SPIRIT! It is the life of God in your spirit which will swallow up all death, enabling you to "escape" the things that are coming upon the world.
Those chosen ones who shall be blessed with that promised ESCAPE shall be delivered, not by being removed from the earth, but by a more glorious transformation. They shall escape the things that are coming upon the world by appearing before the Son of man - by standing before the Son of man - by union with Him in the incorruptibleness of His divine life. When anyone among us is blessed to stand before the Son of man we are changed into the same image by seeing Him as He is. But let not any saint of God think that we speak of an outward event, for the Son of man is WITHIN YOU, and it is there that you behold Him, are changed into His image, and stand before Him, your outer man brought into harmony and oneness of life with the inner!
Of course another scripture used to teach the pre-tribulation rapture is Rev. 4:1-2 where John heard a voice “as it were a trumpet talking with me; which said, COME UP HITHER, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and behold a throne was set in heaven...”
They say John was a type here of the Church being caught up off the earth into heaven just prior to the wrath of God falling upon the world in the Great Tribulation. But it says no such thing.
A tremendous revelation was given to John. The seven Churches are saluted by John. He was shown the seven candlesticks “which ARE the seven Churches” (Rev. 1:20). God raised up a prophet that could see and foretell in detail the entire Church age before it could transpire. This is what the messages to the seven Churches in Rev. 2 and 3 are all about.
This prophecy is directed to the seven Churches in Asia as they became the symbolic vehicle by which the Lord quickened a message that is not only to be unto them, but is to be relevant to all Christians throughout the entire Church age. The messages and prophecies that are seemingly directed unto the seven special Churches of Asia actually symbolize and characterize the conditions that have existed in the Church age from the day of Pentecost until now.
Seven is the perfect spiritual number of completeness and these SEVEN CHURCHES embody and characterize all the combined conditions that not only existed then, but have existed in one form or another throughout this entire age and are still in some form or another manifested in the Churches today. John beheld the good and the evil of the Church age. He declared the blessings and the curses of this age. He saw the strength and the weakness of the Church. He saw the Church in its beginnings and in its consummation. He beheld the True Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and he exposed the false church systems, the swaggering harlot of this age with her unholy spirit, doctrines, organization and methods. John shows forth the full revelation of all the fullness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church during the Church age and the ages to come.
So if we want to know what the Church of this age is like, we just need to look at the SEVEN CANDLESTICKS! There you have the divinely inspired portrait of the Church painted in awesome detail by the skillful hand of the Holy Spirit. The outstanding fact is that it is a Church of MIXTURE - imperfect, immature, carnal, idolatrous, lethargic, heretical, adulterous - a realm of mixture and duality. Not only is the Church age an age of mixture, but it is an experience of CONTINUED MIXTURE; as in the parable of the wheat and tares, right up to the end of the harvest the field is a MIXED FIELD; it is a field divided between wheat and tares.
Now, there is neither time nor space to explore the meaning and fulfilment of all the symbols attached to these seven Churches, but these seven Churches perfectly reveal WHAT THE CHURCH REALM IS IN ITS ENTIRETY, and history and personal experience testify conclusively that John was shown aright! The early Church itself was a mixture of flesh and spirit, truth and error, law and grace, spirituality and carnality, Christ and antichrist. ALL CHURCHES HAVE SO BEEN. They are today! ALL of them!
Notice the inspired words; “After this (the vision of the candlesticks) I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, COME UP HITHER, and I will show thee things which must be HEREAFTER. And immediately I was IN THE SPIRIT: and, behold, a THRONE WAS SET IN HEAVEN, and one sat on the throne” (Rev. 4:1-2).
Here, an entrance is given to John into the heavenlies of the Most High. A door is opened unto John into the highest spiritual dimension of the divine eternal domain. At the speaking of the trumpet, the spirit translates John into the higher spiritual and heavenly realm of the THRONE OF GOD.
“AFTER THIS I looked... Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be HEREAFTER.”
HEREARTER! After what? Why, after the CANDLESTICK REALM! The promises have already been given, NOT TO THE CHURCHES, but to a class in the Churches - to HIM THAT OVERCOMETH. It is divinely significant that not one promise was ever given to even one Church in these Churches of mixture - every single promise was made to that Church within the Church - the OVERCOMER - the SONS OF GOD.
“HE THAT OVERCOMETH shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be MY SON” (Rev. 21:7).
Ah, there is a higher realm, the realm of the OVERCOMER. There is no duality, no mixture in this higher realm, no immaturity or imperfection of any kind. And the message sounds forth like the blast of a trumpet: “COME UP HITHER!”
Is it not plain that John is shown TWO REALMS - the candlestick realm and the throne realm? First John is informed about what the candlestick realm is, then he is shown another realm HIGHER THAN THE CANDLESTICK REALM. It is the realm of the overcomer, of the throne (the Lordship realm), of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. The throne denotes the seat of authority, rulership and dominion. It is the realm of HIS LORDSHIP, and ours with Him. Any person who ever enters into that divine realm of the Spirit in the heavenlies must be in complete and total submission unto that Holy One who sits upon that heavenly throne. And “to him that overcometh will I grant to SIT WITH ME IN MY THRONE, even as I overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne” (Rev. 3:21).
It is interesting to note that immediately following this invitation to the throne John is bidden to leave the candlestick realm of the earthlies and ascend IN THE SPIRIT (not a physical "rapture"!) into this HIGHER-THAN-THE-CANDLESTICK-REALM where the Lamb is in the throne.
How tenaciously they cling to the candlestick realm with its five-fold ministry, New Testament Order, with its limitation, imperfection, weakness, immaturity, mixture, structures, methods, etc. Even so-called “Kingdom” preachers have no idea about these grand truths. They preach of a humanist utopia and nothing more! It is a lie.
The truth is just the opposite.
COME UP HITHER! We must leave the candlestick realm and ascend into the higher dimension of the Spirit in order to be son’s of God! The people in the Churches of John's generation refused to leave the candlestick realm and rise to a higher experience in God and within only a few years the great apostasy set in, by the third and fourth centuries the apostasy was complete, followed by a dreadful night of great and terrible darkness. If we would be overcomers, pressing into sonship to God, our ears must hear with joy the challenging call, “Come up hither!”
We must arise and forsake the limitation of the candlestick realm to become related to Christ in that inner union where HIS LORDSHIP SWALLOWS UP OUR LIVES. Oh, yes, the Lord is still out there in the candlestick realm, for as long as that realm endures there is “One like unto the Son of man standing in the midst.”
Amazingly, He is there in the midst of all the delusion, foolishness and carnality. Yes, there are still, by His grace - wondrous things taking place in Churches –His blessings, moving, speaking, saving, baptizing in the Holy Ghost, healing, imparting gifts etc. Yes, He is there all right, in the midst, as the light that remains in Babylon, ministering on that level, blessing by His wonderful grace. But, He is NOT THERE taking men on to perfection, into the incorruptible life, into the fullness of sonship!
The “up hither” realm is where that experience is known. Now, know this - we at THE REMNANT are not opposed to gatherings, meetings and ministry! It is just that all these things must be kept in the perspective of reality as the “in part” realm and not over-rated as the vehicle to bring us into fullness. There’s a huge difference!
So what distinguishes the “dwellers on earth (the church dimension)” and the “dwellers in heaven.”(the throne room)
“Therefore rejoice, YE HEAVENS, and YE THAT DWELL IN THEM. Woe to the INHABITERS OF THE EARTH... for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath...” (Rev. 12:12).
In the thirteenth chapter of Revelation we are told that the “dwellers in heaven” are the tabernacle of God. The tabernacle of God is that blessed company of the overcomers - the sons of God. The dwellers in heaven are the symbolic 144,000 standing on Mount Zion. The dwellers in heaven are the manchild company “caught up to God and His throne.” The dwellers in heaven are the enthroned elders. The dwellers in heaven are the four living creatures in the midst of the throne. The dwellers in heaven are the Kings and Priests after the order of Melchizedek. The dwellers in heaven are the tabernacle of God. The dwellers in heaven are the warriors on white horses who come out of heaven, accompanying the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The dwellers in heaven are the New Jerusalem which comes down from God out of heaven bringing the glory of the celestial Kingdom among men. Yea! and Amen! The more you search the more clear it will become that the “open door” in heaven and the invitation “Come up hither” separates between the candlestick realm in the earthlies, which are the seven Churches, the entire age of Church economy - and the higher realm of HIS LORDSHIP WITHIN, the throne realm!
“Come up hither!” We have stood on the sidelines and said, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and rapture us out of this world.” And He has sat on His throne and said, “Come, My people; enter into my gates, enter into my glory.”
We have said, “Come and get us Lord Jesus,” and He has said, “Come up hither, My people; come up into the realm of My Spirit, of My reality, of My glory and power.”
THE DOOR IS OPEN IN HEAVEN TODAY. We may live in the candlestick or the throne. We may be an earth-dweller or a heaven-dweller. We may be “Christians” or we may be SONS!
Men gaze steadily into the skies looking for Jesus to come flashing across the heavens to snatch them up and carry them away, but their spirits have never been enravished with these enlightening words: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and HATH TRANSLATED US into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13).
What a statement! And while the preachers rant and rave and speculate about a “rapture,” displaying their carnal charts complete with pictures of automobiles wrecking, trains derailing, and airplanes crashing while the bodies of the saints soar away through the atmosphere, there are some humble sons of the Most High God who have EYES TO SEE and have discovered a process NOW TAKING PLACE in every believer who is earnestly pressing on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. From the far distant mountain peaks of revelation the inspired voice of Paul clear as the morning song of the morning dove sounds forth the message:
“Even when we were dead in sin, He HATH QUICKENED US TOGETHER WITH CHRIST, and HATH RAISED US UP TOGETHER, and made us sit together IN HEAVENLY PLACES in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6).
Know this, by His resurrection and ascension we have been raised up and translated. We have passed from the realm where all is earthly and carnal to the realm where all is heavenly and spiritual. Our citizenship in this present age has been revoked and we have obtained a new citizenship in the eternal and undying realm. For this reason Paul wrote, saying, “Your citizenship is in heaven.” We were citizens of another land, a dark land of fear, limitation, sorrow, sin and death. We were of different speech and culture, but we crossed over. We have changed our citizenship and our allegiance from one domain to another. We have renounced our existence on the earth-realm in favour of a new life in the heaven-realm. We have renounced our allegiance to this present world system, its customs, life-style, thought processes, wisdom, knowledge, ways, and religion, to become partakers of a new and heavenly citizenship, speakers of its new language, revelators of the beauty of its customs, culture and life-style, partakers of its higher inspiration, its more noble wisdom and knowledge, and manifestors of the wonders of its truth, and the glory of its endless life. This is challenging stuff huh!
And what does life look like to those overcomers who recognise the unfolding kingdom within? It’s all about perspective! WHAT YOU SEE DEPENDS ON WHERE YOU LIVE. A “catching up” is taking place today. There is a transference to a new kingdom and a new kind of experience which we have not known before.
“If ye then BE RISEN with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).
If there is a “rapture,” believe us, that it is nothing other than a spiritual rapture of those who find that their affections are being set upon heavenly things ABOVE and not on things on the earth. Know this. This can be our experience here and now in this present world. The doom and gloom of world events may all be interesting information but it is for the “earth-dwellers” to concern themselves with. We certainly should have no fear of such things. Only in this sense can anyone be truly “raptured!”
There is of course much, much more that we could say on this extensive subject, but there is more than enough information to digest here. In fact we will look in depth at the scriptures most salient apocalyptic symbology in an upcoming series – the beast, the antichrist, the false prophet and anything else the church claims is “in the future” somewhere. Needless to say, while the church preaches that all this is “out there.” rest assured, the spiritual application ALL lies “in here.”
What we have studied in this series is one of the most challenging paradigm shifts in all of Christendom. Coming out of the candle stick realm church is a fearful process. Thank God we are in the nurturing hands of the living God as we journey from darkness and into the light of his truth. To one and all, including ourselves, we dare to say, “COME UP HITHER!” we are no longer citizens of this world, for we have risen with Christ and are seated with Him in the higher than all heavens far above all principality and power and might and dominion, praise His wonderful name!
Come up hither, in the Son realm, No dragon here abides! Dare we believe it!