“Then I heard another voice from heaven say: 'Come out of her, my people,' so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” (Rev 18:4)
Those of us that have spent any amount of time scouring the internet for answers to Christendom’s most troublesome doctrines, will have eventually come across the long held separatist catch cry “come out of her my people.” Throughout church history, many revolutionary voices have again and again called out to eager ears;“Come out of Babylon!” And of course by “Babylon,” the voices generally mean the institutional, organized churches. Down through the centuries the voices of reformation have repeatedly tagged the existing order of things with this label. The Reformers in the days of Luther and Calvin saw the Roman church as “Babylon” and the “Come-outers” of every generation since have seen the groups they left as Babylon. And know this. The journey to “come out” and to “come up hither” into the throneroom, is entirely necessary - though of course the spiritual application of this high calling, is far more important than the “physical” act of leaving the church behind as we know it. This in itself is the great spiritual journey of the overcomer – the walk of exodus and exile - from the carnal realm of babes, to the spiritually mature brotherhood of kings and priests, ready to rule and reign with Christ in the Kingdom ages to come.
In recent years the number of church drop-outs has been increasing. Young people especially have become more dissatisfied with established Christian institutions. Youth movements, home prayer groups and underground churches have been increasing rapidly, while attendance at formal worship services has dropped off.
Today, some who emphasize freedom and simplicity say any organized, institutionalized church is part of Babylon. But what does this mean exactly? If it means leaving your church, then sincere Christians in denominations had better get out before the judgment falls, and those outside should even more zealously urge this action upon their brethren!
But what is Babylon really? There of course is something far more important meant by God when He says, “Come out of her my people.” This must be obeyed whole heartedly, but few realize that it is an achievement qualified only in the realm of the Spirit. It is a spiritual mandate and nothing less. Could it be that both denominational and un- (or anti-) denominational Christians are missing the real point?
A careful observation of church history shows us that separatist’s who have dropped out of the existing church structure to begin a new thing in their day; either disintegrated, or in their success formed another institution. Certainly Luther and Calvin did so, although in their case they apparently did so deliberately. Others, such as John Darby and the “Plymouth” Brethren, for all their strong willed intention not to do so, only formed another denomination. Merely saying we are not a denomination (or division) does not make it true! The fact remains that all the marks of a sect or denomination are obvious. The early Pentecostal movement quickly became as sectarian, institutionalized and divisive - if not more so than the rest of Christendom. It seems no matter what the intentions are of those who “come out of Babylon,” they themselves wind up being Babylon for the next generation of come-outers!
What then defines that which we must “come out from?” Well, there have always been throughout history - two churches in existence - from those gathered at Pentecost (the new wine) vs the “temple” (old wine of the covenant under the Law) – and beyond. And truly it was Christ himself who would cry out to state so emphatically that HIS(new wine) Church ONLY would prevail!
I will build MY CHURCH and the gates of hell [hades/ unseen/ grave] shall not prevail [be prevailing] against it” (Matt. 16:18).
What a statement to make. The Pharisees would have seen red in the light of such a blasphemous act of defiance. Remember, the current church of the day (the ecclesia – called out ones) of the Old Covenant - “This is He [Christ, I Cor. 10:4] that was in the church in the wilderness…” (Acts 7:38) – the ruling priesthood and the temple system – WAS the ONLY ordained church of God! Yet this zealous and corrupted house was only Church people knew! The Chief Priests “sat in Moses’ seat” and Jesus’ rebukes were not lost on them.
“And when the chief priests [oh yes, the very chiefest of the clergy was included with the evil Pharisees] and the Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spake of THEM” (Matt. 21:45).
To THIS church Jesus would boldly state: “The kingdom of God shall be TAKEN FROM YOU [you Chief priests and Pharisees].”
As assuredly, as the kingdom of God were taken from them back then, so to shall it be taken from many of the “chief priests and Pharisees” of our day also. There will be many turned away as “workers of inequity!” Jesus couldn’t have been clearer that there was a system in existence that required HIS believers to “come out from!”Yes, it was a spiritual requirement for HIS Disciples back then, and it remains a spiritual requirement for His Disciples today! THEY would be the church that would PREVAIL against physical and spiritual death!
“Prevail” means to be of greater strength, to overcome, or to win out. So clearly from this statement, The Lord is telling us that His church will be under GREAT ATTACK AND ADVERSITY, however these evil forces will not prevail or be victorious in totally defeating His Church or bringing it to naught. In fact the “gates of hell” have been attempting to annihilate the Church of God ever since its inception. It is a sobering spiritual truth, that the majority which make up the Seven Churches of Revelation (the church Christ walks amongst) most assuredly will not, be in the first resurrection to rulership. Only those truly “called out” will receive that honour. Even so, Christ’s own church suffered persecution right from the beginning!
“And Saul [Paul] was consenting unto his [Stephen’s] death. And at that time there was a GREAT PERSECUTION AGAINST THE CHURCH which was at Jerusalem; and they were ALL SCATTERED ABROAD throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles… As for Saul, he made HAVOCK of the church, entering into every house, and hailing men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were SCATTERED ABROAD went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:1,3-4).
Yet through such suffering – CHRIST’S OWN church would spread and take root in the lives of all those called around the world throughout history. From this “many,” the “few” will be chosen for priesthood – and this few MUST “come out” from apostasy into spiritual maturity.
Back to Babylon
Suffice to say – historically and scripturally, the symbol of Babylon was to become a powerful image. 1st Century Jews and Christians certainly saw Rome as a new “Babylon.” The conquest and exile of Judah by Babylon was a ubiquitous analogy of oppression and suffering within numerous apocalyptic works. There were in fact about a dozen apocalyptic texts doing the rounds at the same time of Revelation in the 1st and 2nd Century.
But apart from that, there is more to the symbol of Babylon than the ostensible historical exile and return of God’s people – which is indeed a type. For there is much more to discern about it in regards to the carnality of mans attempts to “build” something as opposed to Christ’s bold statement that HE ALONE would build HIS church. Remember, the origins of Babylon go back way further than the Babylonian captivity. This symbol is introduced back in the eleventh chapter of Genesis as the tower of Babel where the known world was “of one language, and of one speech”
“And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
And they said one to another. Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime hand they for mortar.
And they said, Let us build us a city and a tower whose tope may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men built.
And the Lord said, Behold, the people are one and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained (or withheld) from them, which they have imagined to do.
Let us go down and there confound their language, and that they may not understand one another’s speech.
So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did confound the language of the earth; and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”
Note verses 1 and 5. All the people had one language and one speech. They gathered together in the land of Shinar. God Himself said, “The people are one!” And they began to build a tower “unto heaven.” There was a unity there more profound and complete than any unity mankind since has ever known.
They desired to build a tower whose primary purpose (vs.4) was to preserve this unity! What that tower was is debatable. Some infer from the Hebrew text translated “whose top…unto heaven” that it was the culmination of astrological knowledge of the ancients. The similarity of the signs of the Zodiac the world over, adds support to this theory. Whatever the tower was, it surely demonstrates the advanced degree of civilization at that time, for it contained bricks backed in ovens cemented together with asphalt ("slime"). It clearly dealt with some kind of knowledge, for in order to destroy it God destroyed communication; he confused languages so they could no longer communicate. Whatever its form, it must have been a thing of titanic importance, for God Himself said,“This they begin to do (or "This is only the beginning"): and now nothing will be withheld from them, which they have imagined to do.” (vs.6).
What does all this have to do with carnal Christianity? Well, this is a perfect example of carnal mindedness at work. The carnal man is perfectly capable of being religious - it esteems to be godlike yet is in fact god-less. There have been numerous attempts throughout history to create a utopian society, some even with noble intentions. However, mans attempt to build its heavenly towers have always failed. ALWAYS! It is thought that through secret knowledge and wisdom, that man can achieve perfection. This is the carnal heart at work - By (Without God) the power of the flesh, operating solely by the knowledge of good and the evil – trying to unlock all the secrets of nature, to conquer the earth and achieve the perfect society. This tower was to be the consummation of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil, the highest accomplishment of carnal man! In His wisdom God did not let it happen. He stepped down, confused their language so they could not understand each other, and scattered them over the known world. Acts 17:26 actually tells us he sets the boundaries of the nations so that men cannot join together.
National boundaries and thousands of languages still stand as the two most formidable obstacles to world unity. It is not without significance that, despite the many fantastic accomplishments of modern computers, computer language translation has been almost completely abandoned as virtually an impossible task.
Much damage has come as a result of confusion, misunderstanding of speech and national differences. Wars result almost entirely from these roots. Man tends to regard these barriers to unity as a great evil - yet it was God who ordained them! Get that: God ordained the confusion. God scattered the people. God destroyed the unity.
To sum up then: the city of Babel is a symbol of fleshly unity, man’s attempts to be one apart from the Spirit of God. Such attempts at unity God destroys. The confusion which followed was not Babel; it was the result of God’s destruction of Babel. The story of the tower of Babel is a story of God’s destruction of carnality. Many such ‘towers’ exist in the religious minds of men to this day. Many of them are doctrines and teachings which have entrenched themselves into mainstream circles. Is it any wonder that there exist the countless denominations found throughout the world today?
Is this picture of Babylon as representing a false unity borne out by the rest of Scripture? Assuredly yes! In the first chapter of Daniel we see how Babylon was attempting to unite the earth under one great empire. Defeated nations were razed and their cities levelled. The intelligent youths of these nations were re-named with Babylonian names, taught Babylonian science and Babylonian language, and given Babylonian food. It was history’s first world empire, attempting history’s most ambitious project, with an aim to produce a united earth by institutionalized force.
Right down to the book of Revelation we see Babylon as a unifying, building power attempting to set up the kingdom of man. Babylon. And throughout history God has continually stepped in, time and time again, to smash, scatter and destroy a whole succession of Babylon’s. But WHAT HAS ALL THIS TO DO WITH DENOMINATIONS AND OUR COMING OUT? Simply this. As startling as it may seem, denominations in a very important sense are ordained of God! What? Yes, denominational confusion and division, the scattering of Christians over the face of the earth, the theological confusion and contradiction of terminology and language, is all a direct result of God’s will! He caused it! From the end of the First Century, Christians began to try to "protect and preserve the unity of the Body" by fleshly, worldly means: institutions, creeds, laws and official leaders or priests. God still maintains these divisions within the bounds of Christianities attempts of religious Babylon. And why? Because this is the carnal realm from which all the called and chosen are selected!
COMING OUT OF “THE” DIVIDED CHURCH
Yes this Babylon is THE church. It is assuredly not HIS church. It is simply not in the power of man to build HIS Church. Man is not capable of doing the job, and the minute we think we are, we begin to exercise our flesh. Remember, man is not supposed to build the ecclesia. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Gk."ecclesia"). When God sends division, what does He divide? He divides THE churches. HIS church is very different however! The ecclesia is never, has never, and will never be divided. If Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, prayed that we all may be one, then surely God answered and still is answering. God hears His Son. He knows those that are his and HIS sheep know his call.
Division exists only in the flesh. Come out of the flesh, and for you the divisions cease to exist. Enter into real spiritual experience and denominational barriers seem to melt. For in HIS church we are “in one Spirit” - we are all baptized “into one body” (1Cor.12:13). Isn’t that profound? Paul even had to address such works of the flesh, these carnal divisions in his ministry to the early congregations. Just look at the church in Corinth. They were saying, “we are of Paul, we are of Apollo, we are of Cephas, we are of Christ.” Paul replied, “You cannot be divided! Is Christ divided? If you say you are divided, you are being carnal, behaving like ordinary men. You are looking on things with the eyes of the flesh. All of these leaders belong to you all, and together you all belong to Christ.” (1Cor.1:12,13; 2:3,21-23). Unbelievable – the carnal religious mind huh!
THE FELLOWSHIP OF LOVE
What are the doctrines, dogmas and rituals that define the true church of Christ? What kind of clothes should we wear? What kind of church building meets the requirements of the true ecclesia? It is of course all carnal nonsense! Want to know the scriptural answer? Jesus declared that we would be seen and known as His disciples. He said, “By this will all men know that ye are my disciples, (my company of called-out ones, my ecclesia), if ye have love one to another” (Jn.13:35). In Acts the unbelievers said, “Behold how they love one another.” They noticed this: “These men have been with Jesus.” Paul declared in 1 Corinthians that if an unbeliever walked into the Christian meeting he would confess, “God is in your midst.” John, in his first epistle said, “These things declare we unto you that ye may also have fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.”
The ecclesia is made visible and known by two things: the fellowship of love to one another and the fellowship of the present communion with God. Not by meetings, organization, or doctrinal creeds, but by the fellowship of love. Where carnal mindedness is put to the sword, a unity and communion which is unearthly and inimitable springs forth. Sadly, few Christians will ever experience such a phenomena. We may be of different races, different social levels, different educational backgrounds, and different cultures, but in a living way we are manifestly united in the spirit of truth. True onenesss - That’s the ecclesia! The Spirit is like the wind, and it is HEwho unites the ecclesia. When two or three believers get together for fellowship with Jesus, and He meets with them, that’s the ecclesia. An unbeliever, seeing this, senses something real. He senses Someone who is present. That’s the ecclesia. We could build a huge auditorium and gather every Christian in the world, we could all elect the same leaders and recite the same creed, participate in the same kind of worship and what would we have? It would be impressive, but not much more impressive than world Communism today. They have that kind of unity.
The ecclesia is not just the sum total of all believers. It involves the inter-action of those believers through which and by means of which God expresses His life to the world., just as a man expresses his life through the inter-acting members of his body.
In 1 John 4:12, we read, “No man hath seen God at anytime. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us.” In other words, God is seen in our love, and John always understood love as an action (“in deed and in truth”).
In the end, it comes down to our primary motivation. Are we giving ourselves to building a human institution which includes only a portion of the Body of Christ, or are we first of all concerned with the edification in love of the whole Body? Are we furthering a thing, an "it", a tower of Babel., or are we developing a fellowship in spirit? Are we building a synagogue in which men meet, or the temple in which God dwells? To build synagogues is to live in Babylon, but to build the Temple is to truly obey God when He says, “Come out of her my people.” This can only be achieved by Gods call on or lives. It is nowhere within our capability to manifest such a power. Only the called and chosen will ever spiritually enter this throne room experience!
Traversing the Spiritual Landscape
The scriptures are exquisitely ornate in their use of literal symbols and events, pertaining to deep spiritual truths. It’s actually jaw dropping – the intricacy of the Word. Yet it requires the “Spirit of truth” to discern and understand such wisdom. So before we look at the tenuous rise of early church according to the scriptures, let’s look at the deeper spiritual symbolism of “Babylon” and its prominence in the apocalyptic work of Revelation regarding our COMING OUT. The detail of these symbols will amaze you.
“And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God” (Rev. 9:13).
In this particular part of Revelation there are several very significant symbols to notice: the voice from the horns of the golden altar, the order given to the restraining messengers, the great river Euphrates, the army of horsemen, and the unrepentance of man. When the sixth angel sounded the very first thing John heard and saw was “a voice from the four horns of the golden altar” which is before, or in the presence of, God. The golden altar was seen earlier in the visions, in chapter eight. It was on this altar that the prayers of the saints, mixed with much incense, was placed, and from which they were offered unto God by the messenger (High Priest) whose place it was to minister at the golden altar. The golden altar was in the Holy Place, close to the second veil, just in front of the Ark of the Covenant over which the Shekinah Glory shone. We are told in Exodus 30:10 that the golden altar was“most holy unto the Lord.”
The golden altar had the blood of the sin-offering applied to the four horns, or projecting points of it, once a year for the purpose of making a ceremonial or symbolic impartation of the power of redemption into the ministry fulfilled there. The placing of the blood on the four horns indicated the world-wide efficaciousness of the power of redemption! The blood was the basis of all the service presented at that altar. Without the application of the blood, all service rendered there was unavailing. Only after the blood was applied, could the prayers of the saints be offered with the incense and ascend as a sweet-smelling fragrance to God. The altar was a prophecy, a prefiguration of Christ our High Priest by whom, and through whom, the sacrifices of our praise, worship, and prayers are offered unto the Father in heaven (Heb. 13:15).
Of course, the blood is the life of God’s Christ, for “the life is in the blood,” we are told in the book of Leviticus. Apart from the indwelling life of Christ there can be no ministry that is acceptable to God or profitable for man. John hears the voice coming not only from the altar in the presence of God, nor even from the ministry of the altar, but from the four horns of it, those parts to which the blood has been applied. The voice he heard was the voice of the Blood! It was the voice or the word out of the very Redemptive Life of Christ!
Contrary to the doom and gloom end time merchants, the symbolic plagues and death which come as a result of this voice cannot be, as many teach, the vindictive judgment and unrelenting wrath of God against sinful humanity. It’s not in God’s interest to torture mankind! Let’s think about it for one second - As though the voice of the Son of God who gave His life for the world at Calvary is now commanding that mankind pay horribly for their sins! And that this voice of condemnation and wrath would come from the very altar of prayer, worship, and praise! Believe it or not - this is a redemptive, life-giving, delivering, transforming voice; in keeping with the symbol it can be nothing else! Death to self on the surface sounds despicable – but the spiritual fruit it produces is beautiful.
Now, the golden altar upon which incense offerings were made signifies the ministry of prayer, worship, and praise. By the four horns of that altar the power of that spiritual ministry is signified! Horns in the scripture are always significant of power, authority, and kingship. In Habakkuk 3:4 we are told that God is seen as having “horns coming out of His hand: and there was the hiding of His power.” The horns on the animals are their source and instrument of strength, power, defence, and victory (Gen. 22:13). Interestingly, the number Four is the number of that which is world-wide, universal, and all-inclusive. The fact that we have four horns here points to the truth that all power is now given to God’s Christ in the heavens and in the earth. The power of “Christ within” is the power of the horns of the altar within our hearts! In this case the power lies in that which is spoken out of that realm, for John heard a voice from the four horns of the altar saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, “Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.” It is the altar itself which speaks through the four horns.
So the voice emanates from the spiritual ministry of prayer, worship, and praise of the altar. Furthermore, the voice out of the horns of the golden altar must be speaking just at the right time, in advance of the loosing of the“four angels.” It must now be noted that this voice is a prophetic voice proclaiming the loosing of the “four angels.” Such a voice from the four altar horns symbolizes a great cry out of the Spirit, and from God’s anointed remnant, full of strength and power, the power pictured by the “four horns.” They now pray and travail mightily in spirit, not for four literal angels in the invisible spirit realm to be released, but for a release within themselves of something which has been bound, keeping them there on the border of BABYLON.
The deep spiritual meaning of all this is that when the prayers of the chosen are offered by the quickening of the spirit and power of God, nothing can keep those prayers from their destination, and nothing can prevent them from being answered! There is such power in the true spiritual praise, worship, and prayer of God’s elect, that there comes forth from it in this significant hour a prophetic word of authority commanding the loosing of the “four angels” bound in the great river Euphrates, at the border of Babylon, who are four messengers, or a four-fold word that is bound or restrained at the boundary between religious Babylon and our spiritual land of inheritance in Christ. The elect of God pray according to the pattern and according to the spirit. When we pray in God’s will – truly we see God’s power manifested!
BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON
“And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates” (Rev. 9:13-14).
Now this is where the symbolism of COMING OUT gets interesting. The Euphrates River is mentioned twice in the Revelation — here, and in chapter sixteen, verse twelve. The epithet “great” is used in both instances: “The great river Euphrates.” Now, the literal Euphrates River begins in the Armenian Mountains and is about 1780 miles in length, by far the longest and most important river of western Asia. It is famous in Bible history and prophecy.
And what a rich symbol it is! This region was the site of the inception of human sin; here the first lie was told, the first effort of man’s own “religious works” was performed, the first murder committed, the first grave was dug, and the first confederacy for the purpose of war was assembled. It was here the vast system of Babylonian idolatry originated. Israel’s great progenitor, Abram, came from its other side into the land of Canaan. The rivers Nile and Euphrates are prophetically designated as the southern and northern boundaries of the promised land (Gen. 15:18). The region of Euphrates was the scene of the long years in which the children of Israel dragged out the wearisome days of their Babylonian captivity.
The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah all speak to a time in history when a remnant of the people of Israel came out from their captivity beyond the Euphrates to return to the promised land of Israel and build again the city of Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord. Notice that THE REMNANT of Israel came out from Babylon. The physical captivity Israel experienced in Babylon symbolizes the spiritual captivity of the Lord’s spiritual people to the carnal church systems of man with their false doctrines and confusion. Just as Israel came out of Babylon, and therefore across the Euphrates, we too have been called of God to come out of the ignorance and bondage of man’s carnal religious systems, control, rituals, ceremonies, programs, doctrines, and confusion. Amazing huh?
Furthermore, the four angels bound in the river Euphrates signify a word and a ministry that is bound at the borders of our inheritance in Christ. This word, this ministry is no longer in the full captivity of religious Babylon, but neither has it been released to enter into the full inheritance of the land of promise. Though these can no longer function within the man-made systems of religious Babylon, or the old order church systems, neither have they attained to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That this is the truth signified by these symbols no man can suspect or understand unless it has been given him to know what is meant by the great river Euphrates, and by the four “angels” bound there.
The Euphrates river bordered Babylon and was that which had to be crossed either to enter Babylon or to leave Babylon in the direction of Canaan. Sometimes it stood for Babylon itself, sometimes for the land of Canaan, but most often as a border or separation between the two. The prophet Jeremiah revealed how the Euphrates represents Babylon when he said,
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labor in vain…and they shall be weary. The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah…when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah into (captivity in) Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even all these words which are written against Babylon. And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words; thou shalt say, O Lord, Thou has spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever. And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: and thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her” (Jer. 51:58-64).
So, the Euphrates river stands for a separation between the kingdom of Babylon and the promised land of Canaan just as the Red Sea was the border and boundary of Egypt and must be crossed before the children of Israel could begin their journey to the promised land, and just as the Jordan river flowed at Canaan’s border and had to be crossed in order for the Israelites to possess the land. Religious Babylon appears prominently in John’s visions in later chapters of the Revelation, but here we are given a view of a word and a ministry that has arisen and departed from Babylon, beginning the journey to their spiritual land and inheritance in Canaan, which is the fullness of Christ; but they have not fully entered into their inheritance, being bound or restrained at the very borders of Babylon.
Isn’t this symbolism amazing? Furthermore, that the river of Egypt, the Nile, and the river of Babylon, the Euphrates, were the divinely determined boundaries of the land of Canaan, is stated plainly by the Lord when He gave Abraham the promise, “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt (the Nile) unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18).
Again in Deuteronomy 1:7 we read that the children of Israel received the command:
“Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto…the great river, the river Euphrates.”
The same we read in Deuteronomy 11:24 and Joshua 1:4. We find that the promise was realized in a literal way in the time of Solomon, for of him we read that he ruled over all the kingdoms from the river (that is, Euphrates) unto the land of the Philistines (I Kings 4:21). A number of other passages allude to this river as the boundary of the land of promise, and therefore in its spiritual sense the river Euphrates represents the ideal and real boundary line between the spiritual and heavenly kingdom of God and the carnal and earthly kingdom of religious Babylon. That is the mystery!
Crossing the River to the Promised Land
Few believers will ever understand how profoundly rich the scriptures speak of the inheritance to come and the great traverse that is required to “come out,” in order to claim it. Only the “chosen” will ever be privy to these truths. We will understand this great truth when we see by the spirit of wisdom and revelation that the symbolic “four angels” bound in the river Euphrates are the Lord’s elect, His firstfruits company! Not that all of us are still bound there, though the MANY will indeed be. See, none of us can testify that we have now entered into the fullness of our inheritance in Christ! Not one of us can claim absolute perfection and maturity, nor have any of us put on bodily immortality and been manifest as sons of God, delivering creation from the bondage of corruption. We have truly received the call to sonship, we are now on our way into the full stature of the firstborn Son of God; each of us has attained to our present standing in Christ. Many of us are yet bound in the great river Euphrates!
This is part of the journey experience. To first hear the cry of the Spirit to “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).
Again – physically, this was pre-figured by Israel. They had been carried away captives into Babylon because of their departure from the ways of the Lord. When the call of God came to those in Babylon’s captivity, it was this same call, “Come out of her so that you may escape her punishment!” Oh, yes! God was about to judge Babylon, and it was time for the Lord’s people to come out from her, not only to escape the judgment, but also to enter into all the glory of their own land of inheritance.
The Jews who were captives in Babylon had become so situated in this foreign land, that they became insensitive to the Spirit’s call. They had their priests and their laws, and carried on their religion as best they could right there in Babylon. Very few were tuned into God’s purpose, they cared not that God had chosen Jerusalem, that the temple was the centre of His presence, nor that Zion was without a ruling king. They had mingled the word of the Lord with the superstitions and ways of Babylon, had become a reproach among the nations, and lost their purpose in God to be His chosen ones as a peculiar nation. Is this not the most poignant image of Christianity today?
After all, only a few, a remnant, returned to the land in answer to God’s call. What happened to the remainder? They became partakers of the promises of God against Babylon! When Babylon was defeated and spoiled, those who remained with her were again put to the sword and carried further into captivity by the beast nations. There is absolutely no place of compromise! If we do not have the desire to be in the presence of God (Spirit), or in His house (temple — ye are the temple), or in His government (New Jerusalem), or as a reigning king (Zion, sonship), we will remain a captive in the spiritual Babylon. And if we have come out of Babylon, but are now bound on the borders of your true and glorious inheritance in the nature, glory, and power of God’s Christ, then we MUST hear today the voice from the four horns of the golden altar, sounding as a trumpet in the land, proclaiming, “Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates!”
POSSESSING THE LAND
It’s uncomfortable traversing the wilderness. Those of us inspired to separate ourselves to the truth are yet to fully inherit our “new Jerusalem.” Instead we find ourselves wandering the desert – and in doing so, we are confronted to die. That generation within us - that old system - must die in order that we inherit the new land. Though we seek to separate from our previous entanglements in the worldly church systems, and separate from many of the more glaring errors taught by them, we have to receive the full revelation of the high calling of God in Christ and the deep purgings, processings, and dealings necessary to bring us into our full inheritance as manifest sons of our Father.
We have come out this far but still we have to press on to possess our inheritance in our new promised land! Oh, yes! It was there that we are “bound” in our word, in our vision, in our experience, in our ministry, in that great river Euphrates, at the boundary between religious Babylon and the spiritual and heavenly mount Zion!
Unfortunately many today – even in U.R circles - have come out to the border of the land and feel that they have gone far enough. Talk about the inheritance beyond the River in the hills and mountains of Canaan, in the courts of the temple of God, and the kingly splendour of mount Zion, and it is thought to be “far-out” teaching. What we have is good. Why be concerned about anything more beyond the River? Let us just camp right here at the fertile valley of the Euphrates, and seek an enlargement of what we have already received. We speak in tongues, we have gifts of the Spirit, we prophesy, we dance in the Spirit, we have beautiful singing and worship, and some healings and miracles. Why get excited about things “far-out” beyond the Euphrates? Why seek after perfection, the mind of Christ, incorruption and immortality, the glory of manifest sonship, or reigning with Christ in the kingdom and delivering creation from the bondage of corruption? This is a fearful trap is it not? No – we have to press on.
The Euphrates is the spiritual borderland between the world of darkness and the glories of Eden; between flesh and spirit; between half-heartedness and abandonment to God; between childishness and maturity; between carnality and spirituality; between the carnal mind and the mind of Christ; between the realm of death and the fullness of His incorruptible life. It is not enough to have revelation of the high calling of God in Christ. It is not enough to have visions of the life of sonship to God. It is not enough to see by the spirit a realm of perfection and glory where the carnal mind is exchanged for the mind of Christ and death is swallowed up of His life. Revelations and visions are not possession; and though they may be from God, they are only given to encourage us to hasten our footsteps that we may enter in! It is not enough for us to leave the world and religious Babylon and begin the journey; we must hasten on to the end, follow all the way, and finish our course even to the last step.
How many who start on the journey, settle down at the great river Euphrates! How many settle for something better than what God has called them out of, but less than what they have been called to! Ah, yes, this borderland is an alluring place, a subtle experience, a crafty and cunning temptation. It is the territory between Babylon and mount Zion where are felt the powers of both, but in the mixture neither are fully experienced. Those who abide here settle down comfortably in some “New Testament Church” order, with shepherds, worship teams, and gifts of the Spirit - and fail to GO ON! These concern themselves with the “first principles” of the doctrine of Christ, of repentance from dead works, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, a future resurrection and eternal judgment (Heb. 6:1-2), and lay these foundations again and again, refusing to leave them in order to go on to perfection!
The borderlands are a dangerous place for all who settle there. If they are not drowned in that swift and terrible river, they eventually retrace their steps and are found in the world from whence they came, for it is so very close, and so very comfortable, and there is no treacherous journey and no battle to possess it. It is needful that we pass through them, but pass we must! The vision of a distant land of beauty and fruitfulness and glory does not feed nor satisfy the one who sees it. It must be experienced! It has to be entered into, possessed! The apostle James put it so succinctly: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).
Yes, The Holy Spirit imparts revelation on how much the institutional religious system is a part of the present day Babylon, and then He whispers in our hearts, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” So, painful as the process has been at times, we come out - to walk day by day as the Holy Spirit would lead. Yet we find that that word is not finished with its work in us - for then it must purge out all the traits of Babylon that are in us. It is one thing to be called out of Babylon, it is quite another to have all of Babylon purged out of you. BUT THE WORD WENT FORTH, He spoke it in our being, and when THE WORD HAS FINISHED ITS INWORKING, you will be free of Babylon, inside and out, because His word will not return unto Him void, it will have prospered in all that He sent it to do! Isn’t that profound? No, you’re not alone in this painful process.
And know this - Coming out is a process, wrought by degrees, as He strips away the old, and prepares us for the new. Many think they have come out - perhaps they have physically, but often their mind is still in the clutches of the old traditions. So wrapped in the cocoons of creed and doctrine, there is a long process of coming out, just as there is also a long process of entering in to the new. There is a long process to where we truly worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, untainted by any of these other things. Holiness is a separation, not only from, but also unto -presenting ourselves unto the Lord, placing ourselves before Him for His sovereign disposal.
PHYSICAL THEN SPIRITUAL
So, the reason for the loosing of the four angels which are bound in the river Euphrates is that they may enter on in to their full inheritance. The inheritance was the land that stretched all the way from the world of Babylon, beyond the Euphrates river, on to the borders of the land of Egypt. While there are many beautiful spiritual types in Israel’s entrance into and possession of the promised land, the fact remains that throughout the Old Testament one reads the history of a physical people receiving natural blessings in an earthly land. In the Old Testament the Lord always referred to an earthly land. How many times from the twelfth chapter of Genesis to the end of Malachi the Lord stressed the land again and again. The land…the land..the land I promised to thy fathers; the land I promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the land I promised you; I will bring you into the land; I will give you the land; I will bless you in the land. It was the land, the land, always the LAND! Yet, the whole expanse of that which God promised Abraham and his seed could not be found in that natural plane of things that he explored, for it spoke of greater things - that which is spiritual! Christians caught up in the “end time” politics and intrigue of Land of Israel today have NO idea what the scriptures are talking about. NO idea at all! Least of all that they themselves are “spiritual Israel” – the only “Israel” that counts!
So if we know the scriptures and have light from God, we will realize what is meant by “the land.” In the hidden language of the Spirit, the symbol of “land” has the meaning of “inheritance.” Many scriptures speak of the fact that all the inheritance of Israel was in the land! But the New Testament teaches us something deeper. Land is not the destination. Being in a sacred space does not guarantee that one will act more nobly. History is also replete with examples - the rebellious Israelites at mount Sinai, right at the very holy mount of God; the marauding, plundering, ravaging armies of the Crusades, and the suicide bombers of today - all show that you can be physically in a so - called “holy place” and still not be holy! One would think that after possessing their land the children of Israel would be ready to fulfil their destiny in God. Moments of triumph do fill the record - the lightning conquest of the land, the new capital in Jerusalem, the magnificent holy temple, and under Solomon a brief blazing empire across the Fertile Crescent. But the overall feeling of the Old Testament books is disillusionment - the judges fail, the kings fail, the priests fail, the people fail, even the temple fails. Because of these failures God flushes the people from the land He promised them. He exiles them.
Then Jesus came! He came and revealed the great mystery that the “land” was merely a symbol of everything the people of Israel were longing for. He introduced the people to something higher: an understanding of the nonphysical dimensions of God, our Father who is in heaven, God who is spirit and can be worshiped only “in spirit and in truth.” Then with the coming of the Holy Spirit the essence of the land was transferred to a higher, spiritual plane. The question might be asked, Then why does God promise land to Abraham at the very beginning? Because God relates to man on two levels - the plane of the physical and the plane of the spiritual. As a nation, the people needed land. But in their spiritual life, they did not need land. The firstborn Son of God came into the world to reveal the great truth that physical land, political power, even a temple made with hands, are not the ends for God’s people. FELLOWSHIP AND UNION WITH GOD IS THE END! You do not need land, laws, priesthoods, rituals, or temples in order to experience and know God. In fact, those things detract from knowing union with Him! Therefore, the land is but a figure of CHRIST AS OUR ALL IN ALL!
Come out of the Shadow
In the Old Testament the descendants of Abraham were brought into the land, first from Egypt and the wilderness, and again from Babylon. In the New Covenant those born of the Spirit are brought into Christ. We must realize that Christ is now the territory of our lives? Christ is the land! The inheritance is in the land, and Christ is the land!
“…that He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him: IN WHOM WE HAVE OBTAINED AN INHERITANCE, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him…” (Eph. 1:10-11).
So many glorious realities are ours in Christ! You may feel today that you are living on this earth, compassed about, hedged in, and shut up by the myriad problems, pressures, frustrations, and limitations of this world. But you must realize that this earth, nor any part of it, including the land of Israel, Great Britain, America, or any other place, is not your real land; nothing of this world is your sphere of living!
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3).
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light…and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:12-13).
The old land is but a type of Christ as everything to us! By virtue of the new birth we now have the ground to enjoy all the riches of God in Christ! God gave us this ground. It is greater than any ground in Israel, Great Britain, America, or anywhere else! We have an inheritance, not in Israel, not in America, not in the earth, not even in the heavens alone; but rather IN HIM. This ground is our land and we may enter in and fully possess all its glories by faith!
Most of the Lord’s people are still living in the old land - the “shadow” - and have discovered but little of the true land, the substance of which is Christ. What a vast difference there is between the shadow of an object and the object itself! Shadows can be beautiful, as when, for instance, a day draws toward late afternoon and the mountains cast long shadows, creating wonderful illusions, but with no substance to them. Sadly multitudes of Christians are today contenting themselves with the shadow instead of the substance.
Paul sure understood this concept – and only the Holy Spirit can make this real to us. One of the most significant utterances ever made by the apostle Paul is found in his epistle to the Ephesians.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST” (Eph. 1:3).
The source of all blessing is God who is Spirit. “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).
However, the blessings and benefits which make up our “inheritance in Christ” are not primarily temporal, physical, or natural blessings for the outer-earth-man. They are not mere creature comforts. Oh, no! They are spiritual blessings bestowed upon the inner-new-creation-man. These spiritual blessings are received and experienced only “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” They are in Him and are communicated from the high and holy realm in which He dwells. These are the blessings of the life of sonship, and when you have appropriated all the blessings of this new and heavenly land which is Christ, you will be a manifest son of God. That is the richness of this land!
The mark of a son is when he asks for spiritual blessings instead of temporal blessings. One will know that he is no longer numbered among the lusty throng who “dwell upon the earth” when, in all his seeking, he seeks only and always those things which are “above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God.”
The words of the inspired apostle Paul come ringing like a trumpet through the centuries, the truth falling like dew upon the spiritual ear of each called and chosen member of God’s Christ.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17).
“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:6-7).
An heirship always implies an inheritance. But there is a truth deeper and more wonderful than this! As the ocean includes the seas, the bays, the straits, which, though known by separate names, are parts of its majestic and all-embracing fullness, so is there a dimension of HIS INHERITANCE that encompasses ALL that is ours in Christ.
The most important thing we
can seek God for in this life is the value of our inheritance in Christ - and
it’s waiting to be claimed! As this vision is birthed in our hearts, we begin
to hear the voice from the four horns of the golden altar saying to the sixth
angel which has the trumpet, “LOOSE THE FOUR ANGELS WHICH ARE BOUND IN THE
GREAT RIVER EUPHRATES!” Ah, yes, there is a loosing,
a release within us to arise from that place where we now are, to press forward
into the land of our inheritance. Truly this is the sound of the sixth trumpet!
It speaks of God’s mighty work in His elect to bring us into the fullness of
Christ as sons of the living God! Here we are nearing the end of our journey,
for; “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel when he shall begin
to sound, the mystery of God (Christ in you) should be FINISHED, as He hath
declared to His servants the prophets” (Rev. 10:7).Amazing!
The Called and not called
Did you ever think how profoundly the scriptures spoke of our spiritual journey from apostasy to the light of truth – to our promised inheritance? Who would have thought that thousands of years of Old Testament history would speak with such resounding clarity, about the THE church from which we are called out from. After all, we have established, during Jesus’ ministry, He spoke of THE church and MY church. For fifteen centuries God established Israel as a church:
“This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, ‘A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear.’ This is HE, that was in the CHURCH in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers who received the lively oracles to give unto us: To whom our fathers WOULD NOT OBEY, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt” (Acts 7:37-39).
We could of course, technically trace the church back through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, back to Noah, and indeed, back to Adam – as those “called out” by God. But how do we define church? Just what is a “church?” Let’s look at it again.
Strong’s Greek Dictionary, #1570. ekklesia, a calling out. (1b) Ekklesia, from ek, "out of," and klesis, "a calling…"
So the church is those whom God has CALLED OUT to be His “called out ones,” hence, Jesus said, “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last” (Mat 20:16) and “for many be called, but few chosen” (Mat 22:14) These are emphatic statements. Notice that the “called” and the “chosen” cannot be the same group, as one is “many” and the other is “few.” God has given us a general statement as to whom He has called and whom He has not called. We already know the number of those called is “many.” Now we will see the two general classifications of those called:
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many [some, but not many] wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
But God has chosen the foolish things [many translations do not insert the word "things" in these verses] of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And the base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence” (I Cor. 1:26-29).
So we see that God calls MOSTLY those who are: weak, base, despised, nothings! That God is going to build a SPIRITUAL ARMY of Sons and Daughters by which He will conquer and SAVE THE WORLD is hard to believe. There is a great deal of work to be done with and to these “nothings of the world” whom God is calling to such a formidable, once-in-an-eternity task!
And of the “many called,” we are told, “few are chosen” (Matt. 20:16). Why is that? God has intended it to be such. We are given the parable of the sower of the seed” where much of the seed fell by the side of the tilled soil, and the birds ate it; some had no depth and withered in the sun; still more fell among thorns and were chocked, but some fell upon good soil and produced much fruit. Many seed are sown, but few seed produce good fruit. “Seed” we see everywhere in the Church; “fruit’ of God’s spirit is more rare. These few have the added designation of:
“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14).
These are the “very elect” who cannot be deceived any longer by the Great Whore, “Mystery Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots, and the Abominations of the earth.” One more important verse regarding our calling, is translated better in the Concordant Literal New Testament because the Greek aorist tense properly, whereas the King James uses the past tense:
“Now we are aware that GOD [it is unfortunate that the King James leaves out "God" even though it is in the manuscripts. Most translations do put "God" in this opening phrase. Things don’t just ‘work’ together without GOD doing the ‘working’] is working all together for the good of those who are loving God, who are [being] called according to the purpose that, whom Heforeknew, He designates beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be Firstborn among many brethren. Now whom He designates beforehand, these He calls [not ‘called’ as all are NOT YET called, it is the aorist tense] also, and whom He calls, these He justifies, also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies also” (Rom. 8:28:30).
It’s amazing that the church so tenaciously clings to the pervasive myth of freewill in the relation to men “choosing” their salvation. This makes a mockery of God’s sovereignty and His intelligence. We have to pay attention: All which God FOREKNEW, He then designates beforehand (He hand-picks them, if you will). And therefore, since He has already designated them beforehand, when they are born in whatever generation God designates; He then calls them. Now it is true that God calls MANY OTHERS whom He has NOT designated to be “conformed to the image of His Son” AT THE TIME that each generation appears in history.
And there are many more “called” in each generation than are actually, “chosen” to be conformed to the image of His Son at that time. All that are not chosen will be in the second resurrection/white throne judgment/lake of fire. These will go the “broad way into destruction” from which they will await judgment at the great white throne. But, those which God foreknows and designates beforehand, He definitely does call, and these designated ones GO ON to be JUSTIFIED AND GLORIFIED. They are not just the “called,” but the “called AND CHOSEN” which will go on to glorification in service with Christ, as the manifested Sons and Daughters of God, in the Kingdom of God, to bring the rest of heaven and earth to SALVATION!
When Jesus says that,
“Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord… Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Matt. 722-23),
Iniquity! That’s a strong statement. Iniquity is deep seated unrighteousness and lack of fairness or justice. These transgressions prove that the carnal mind is still outworking its anger, lusts, jealousy and selfishness in the hearts of many believers. And He’s is not speaking of a minority but a majority. The “many” NEVER means the minority! We see it conclusively proved from God’s Word that the majority in the Church today are going the “broad way,” and not the “straight and narrow way.” And we are not just preaching to the choir when we say that only a “FEW” will be in the first resurrection and rule and reign with Christ. No - these aren’t the “soft” words that tickle people’s ears – they are the hard saying of the Scriptures, the hard truths. Jesus Christ Himself said that “THE MANY” must “DEPART from Me.” Jesus doesn’t “know” the many, in a spiritual relationship, because they are too carnal to be spiritual. This is tough stuff to take in. Most Christians can’t make sense of these scriptures because they don’t understand the process of election and of the salvation of mankind.
Yes there is an order in the process of being called to Sonship. First you are called, and then you are chosen from among the called. And we have already learned that the “chosen” are also the “few.” Quite frankly, not unlike a casting call. Many are called to come to the casting rehearsal, but only a relative few will be chosen for the actual performance. We are all confronted with dozens of Scriptures by which we can JUDGE OURSELVES by the aid of God’s Spirit. Yes we have to most certainly come out from THE church and into HIS church. Of course, Jesus himself even spent time in THE church. He even taught in it! Yet he would be the one to tear the temple curtain in half and usher in the new wine - the true path of righteousness.
Jesus and HIS Church
So let us understand that as Jesus was growing up in His father’s carpentry shop, there already existed a Church of God in Judea, headquartered at the temple in Jerusalem. The church headquarters in the wilderness was a portable Tabernacle. When they settled the promised land, it was given to Solomon to build a fabulous permanent temple in Jerusalem. It went through various reconstructions, one of which was by King Herod. It was Herod’s temple that existed at the time of Jesus’ ministry. And as we have already clearly seen, Jesus Christ did not speak many kind words toward the leaders of the church of God headquartered in Herod’s temple, in Jerusalem, in the first century AD. Now, the first time that something is mentioned in Scripture, is often very instructive. Although it was the habit of Jesus to attend local synagogues during His life, the first time the Scriptures mention Jesus going to the temple as an adult is in Matt. 21:12. Mark shows us the beginnings of Christ’s unique take on the “church” as follows...
“And they came to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to CAST OUT them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And He taught, saying unto them, ‘Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the House of Prayer? But ye have made it a DEN OF THIEVES [Gk: ‘burglars’ cave’].’ And the SCRIBES and CHIEF PRIESTS heard it, and sought how they might DESTROY HIM: for they feared Him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine” (Mark 11:15-18).
Well now. What a revelation of the church of God we have in these three verses! Jesus was so angry with the leaders at the temple for turning it into a money-making flea market, that he:
1. "cast out them that sold and bought in the temple"
2. "overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and seats of them that sold doves"
3. "suffered no one to carry vessels [of merchandise] through the temple"
Jesus said that they “made the House of Prayer a DEN OF THIEVES!”
But this is gripe is all ancient history, isn’t it? The modern Church of God has not been turned into a “den of thieves” has it? Were the High priests and Scribes, going against the law of either their own religious beliefs or of Rome? No. No, they weren’t. So they were not “thieves” according to the Church or the Roman government. But were they thieves, nonetheless? Yes, they were, Jesus Christ SAID THEY WERE THIEVES, a whole “DEN OF THIEVES!”
At least the modern Church of God is not a “den of thieves,” is it? Just turn on Christian T.V. from time to time – there’s your answer! We must always remember, that one of the major factors in the Reformation was the disdain over the practice of the Church selling INDULGENCES.
The American Heritage College Dictionary, "indulgence n. 6. Roman Catholic Church The remission of temporal punishment still due for a sin that has been sacramentally absolved."
Make no mistake about it:
“For the love of money is the [Gk. ‘a’] root of all evil” (I Tim. 6:10).
Before the Reformation, it was thought by some that one could practically “buy” one’s salvation! But understand, Jesus didn’t have a problem with money. He Himself used money in his ministry (but he never sold in the temple, neither did He ever collect a penny in tithe money). After Jesus THREW OUT those who “bought and sold” in the temple, did they ever return? Not only did they return to the temple after Christ’s resurrection, but they also came into the very Church, which Jesus said HE WOULD BUILD. The whole temple system in Jerusalem was so utterly corrupt that they corrupted the people of Jerusalem and Judea as well.
In and around 70 AD the armies of Titus surrounded Jerusalem and there was an awful slaughter. You can read of these horrible events in the writings of Josephus. But even before the temple with its corrupt religious system was demolished, it had already spread its ugly tentacles into the Church which Jesus built. Are we now beginning to understand a little about the nature of that carnality which we must “come out of?” The religious spirit is indeed an ugly one! No wonder Jesus made that vital distinction between “the church” and HIS CHURCH!”
Remember - Jesus Christ said,
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [a movable stone], and upon this rock [Christ, the immovable boulder] I will build MY CHURCH; and the gates of hell [Greek: hades, the unseen realm of the dead] shall NOT prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
And yes, history shows that the “hell” of carnal religion would make its assault upon this new wine Church of Christ’s. Yet what did Jesus mean that the “gates of hades would not prevail against it?” This word “prevail” was translated from the Greek word katischuo and it means, “to overpower.” It is used but one other time in Scripture and here we shall see exactly what this word means:
“And they [the chief priests] were instant with loud voices, requiring that He [Jesus] might be crucified. And the voices of them of the chief priests prevailed… And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they CRUCIFIED Him…” (Luke 23:23 & 33). The chief priests “prevailed” [katischuo] by putting Jesus Christ TO DEATH. But Jesus said that the “gates of hades [realm of the DEAD]will not prevail [katischuo] against it.” In other words, His Church would NEVER be overpowered to death. And so, the remnant Church that Jesus Christ built is still around today.
THE SEAL OF APPROVAL
And just what seal of approval would be placed upon HIS church to prove they were Gods TRUE ordained church? The Holy Spirit! Yes, what rapturist Christians today completely miss is Jesus’ promise to RETURN again. If you are familiar with our Rapture studies, you will know full well that on Pentecost, Jesus Christ came back to His disciples just as He said He would! He came back as the “Comforter.” Jesus said that they absolutely could NOT receive the Comforter until He went away. Why? Because Jesus Christ IS THE COMFORTER, but not in the flesh, but in THE SPIRIT! This is the precious truth that so many Christians neglect to grasp! Christ is come...IN US – dare we believe it! It was on Pentecost that the first members of the Church of Christ received the Holy Spirit Comforter, just as He symbolized to them when He blew on them, showing that He Himself would come to them in spirit by the will of God. Now for the first time, His disciples were truly converted, baptized in Holy Spirit, possessing the mind of Christ, lead into all Truth (Jesus) by the Comforter—Jesus was NOW BUILDING HIS CHURCH!
“But the Comforter [Greek, parakletos, also called the Consoler, and in I John 2:1, Advocate in KJV, and Entreater in the CLNT] which IS the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
The Advocate or Entreater in I John 2:1 IS the parakletos, The Comforter or Consoler of John 14:26 IS the parakletos,. and we are told that it is Jesus Christ Himself. Furthermore, the "Holy Spirit" that is said to come AS the Comforter is also Jesus Christ,
“Now the Lord IS that Spirit: and where the Spirit OF THE Lord [Jesus Christ] is, there is liberty” (II Cor. 3:17)
Amazing stuff! And boy did that Spirit led church testify to His “coming.” Because in the next mention of the Church that Christ said He would build in Acts 2:46-47 says this:
“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord ADDED to the church DAILY [3000 in one day, Ver. 41] such as should be saved” (Acts 2:46-47).
In fact this new CULT as it was deemed by some historians would grow so quickly that it would threaten the social order!
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:11).
Ironically, those are the words were spoken by Paul, and he should know, HE WAS THE CHURCH’S BIGGEST PERSECUTOR!
“And Saul [Paul] was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was A GREAT PERSECUTION AGAINST THE CHURCH which was at Jerusalem, and they were ALL scattered abroad through the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1).
And just who was behind this persecuting of the Church of God? Answer: The other Church of God that was also headquartered in Jerusalem!!!
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter [murder] against the disciples of the Lord [that would be Christ’s Church], went unto the HIGH PRIEST [of the OTHER Church of God, in the TEMPLE—remember back in Acts 2:46 where the Church of Christ was ‘continuing daily with one accord?’ Yes, that temple!] And [Saul] desired of him LETTERS [letters of authorization from the highest level of God’s Church—the HIGH PRIEST] to Damascus…” - Letters for the purpose of continuing his persecution and slaughter of Christ’s New Church. It’s not a pretty picture.
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his OWN HOUSEHOLD” (Matt. 10:34-36).
Do you think that maybe a man’s foes could even be of his OWN CHURCH?
But Jesus Christ, being the Masterful Genius of EVERYTHING THAT HE DOES, chose His GREATEST ENEMY (Saul), to become His GREATEST APOSTLE (Paul), and to save time, He converted Paul in about two-and-a-half seconds. ONE FLASH OF BLINDING LIGHT! And today’s Church doesn’t think that Jesus can convert such mediocre persecutors such as Hitler in a trillion centuries. Just wait until Jesus puts humanity’s most vile UNDER THE SAME LIGHT! How then, after getting rid of the greatest sinner and persecutor and turning him into a great apostle, does the church fare?
THE APOSTLE TO ISRAEL AND THE NATIONS
“But the Lord said unto him [Ananias], Go thy way: for he [Paul] is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before theGentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how GREAT THINGS HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME’S SAKE” (Acts 9:15-16).
“Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that HE IS THE SON OF GOD. But they were all AMAZED… But Saul increased the more in strength and CONFOUNDED the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, PROVING THAT THIS IS THE VERY CHRIST” (Acts 9:19-22).
Paul taught BOLDLY in the synagogues of the Jews:
From Damascus, going in and coming out of Jerusalem, down to Caesarea, to Tarsus, throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, to Antioch, unto Seleucia, to Cyprus, at Salamis, the isle, unto Paphos, to Perga in Pamphylia, to Antioch in Pisidia, unto Iconium, unto Lystra, and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lies round about, Pisidia, to Pamphylia, Perga, into Attalia, and back to Antioch, and up to Jerusalem again, then back to Antioch, through Syria and Cilicia, to Derbe and Lystra, Iconium, throughout Phyrgia, the region of Galatia, to Mysia, into Macedonia, from Troas, to Samothracia, to Neapolis, to Philippi, through Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica, at Berea, unto Athens, to Corinth.
“Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I WILL GO UNTO THE GENTILES” (Acts 18:6).
“And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and MANY of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spoke the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with you, and no man shall set on you to hurt you: for I have MUCH PEOPLE in this city. And he continued there a year and six months…” (Acts 18:8-10).
Paul continues teaching among the Gentiles, Sailing into Syria, to Ephesus, at Caesarea, down to Antioch, over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia, to Achaia, back to Ephesus, and all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought SPECIAL MIRALCES BY THE HANDS OF PAUL. Paul called unto him the disciples [in Ephesus], and departed for to go into Macedonia, and when he had gone over those parts, he came into Greece, into Asia, Troas, from Philippi, to Troas, unto Assos, to Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogylium, Miletus, unto Coos, unto Rhodes, unto Patara, Phenicia, Cyprus, into Syria,Tyre, to Ptolemais, unto Caesarea where Paul said, ‘for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus, and after those days he went up to Jerusalem, for the last time.
Living by faith like Paul is not a walk for the faint hearted. We cannot white-wash the difficulties in walking the walk of faith with our Lord. Hopefully we will not all have to endure everything that the Apostle Paul endured, but rest assured, that if you begin your walk with Christ in earnest, you will have to endure considerable hardships and persecutions.
“Yea, and ALL that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12).
But always remember that there is a promise attached to this suffering:
“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also REIGN WITH HIM…” (II Tim. 2:11-12).
“onfirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through MUCH TRIBULATION enter into the kingdom of God”(Acts 14:22).
And this tribulation comes with a promise also:
“any are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord DELIVERS HIM OUT OF THEM ALL” (Psalm 34:19).
Twenty-five years Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Too well did Paul say,
“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren: In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which comes upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (II Cor. 11:23-28).
Remember that Paul was “chief [preeminent] of sinners.” God predetermined that Paul was to suffer much, and many things for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul never complained. He rejoiced in his weakness because that is when God used him mightily.
So here it is in a nutshell. This then is the perfect example that shows that the walk to freedom involves coming out of the old church and into the new! Paul knew that much of his labour in the gospel would fail to bring most of the saints to spiritual maturity. Yet when Paul came out of the Great Whore Church, the Mother Church of Judaism, he knew that the Church of Jesus Christ would likewise become corrupted and commit spiritual fornication with the world. And so, just as Paul came out of religious Babylon, everyone reared in the daughter harlot churches, must likewise, “Come out of her My people.”
The Writing on the Wall
Church leaders and historians seldom like to admit it, but Paul knew full well that this new faith for which he tirelessly laboured, would come under fire from opponents both within and outside the church. Only a few years into Paul’s ministry, he told the Corinthian Congregation of the corruption already in existence:
“For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (II Cor. 2:17).
This this verse tells us much more than the King James translators present in this verse however. Let’s read a few other translations of this same verse:
“For we are not, as THE MANY, driving a PETTY TRADE with the word of God…” (A New Translation, By J. B. Rotherham).
“For we are not as the MAJORITY, who are PEDDLING the word of God…” (Concordant Literal New Testament).
“For I seek not PROFIT [LIKE MOST] by setting the word of God TO SALE…” (The Epistles of Paul, By Conybeare).
“Unlike MANY PEOPLE, we are not in the habit of MAKING PROFIT out of God’s Message” (The Twentieth Century New Testament).
Does anyone have any doubts now, as to what this verse is saying? Yet there is still more in this verse that does not meet the eye of understanding unless we check the Greek. The word from which “corrupt,” “profit,” “peddling,” and “trafficking” was taken, is the Greek word kapeleou, and it means much more than simply selling for a profit:
Strong’s Greek Dictionary of The New Testament: #2585.kpeleuo (a huckster); to retail, i.e. (by impl.) to adulterate.
This word means to be a retailer, to peddle, to hucksterize; hence, intentionally to get base gain by dealing in anything, to do anything for sordid personal advantage." (P. 128). WOW! But wait … here’s one more definition:
From Greek-English Keyword Concordance, "peddle [kapeleu’o], sell at retail, with the insinuation of improper profit, either by overcharging or adulterating"(P. 220).
Can you even begin to understand and believe what you are reading? Paul said that it was the MAJORITY that were retailing, selling, peddling, huckstering, an adulterated version of God’s word by overcharging improper profits far beyond rational living expenses for their own base gain and sordid personal advantage! Not only was this practice CORRUPT, but, it was being done by “THE MANY,” “THE MAJORITY!” Can we not see this being done in the church today? Isn’t that amazing – that the scriptures actually speak that emphatically about widespread corruption within the early apostolic Church?
Nothing has changed! Turn on the TV. The majority are selling, peddling, hucksterizing an adulterated version of God’s word for improper profit and personal gain! We hear sermons on such subjects as, “Planting Seed,” or “Seedtime and Harvest,” or “Making a Financial Covenant with God,” or “Becoming a Faith Partner,” or “Tithing on the Gross,” or “Your Welfare Check Belongs to God,” or “At What Age Should One Tithe?” or “Tithing Your Way to Financial Freedom,” or best of all, “Will a Man ROB God?” etc., etc., etc.
At various times during the show, we are offered: BOOKS, TAPES, PAMPHLETS, VIDEOS, STATUES, PINS, TRINKETS, MEMBERSHIP CARDS, PLAQUES, CANDLES, CERTIFICATES (always suitable for framing), COMMEMORATIVE COINS, BAGS OF SALT, VIALS OF OIL, DIRT FROM THE HOLY LAND, WATER FROM THE SEA OF GALILEE, AND EVERY CONCEIVABLE PIECE OF RELIGIOUS JUNK AND PARAPHERNALIA IMAGINABLE, all for big bucks, (plus shipping and handling)!!
If you are familiar with our study notes on TITHING, you will know that corruption of the priesthood regarding the Tithe and the Tabernacle system was the subject of one of Gods strongest rebukes! Corruption was always centre court to the narrative of the theme of exodus and exile – the walk of carnal man under the watch of Holy God. Just look at the pattern.
God started the church in the Wilderness by bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt (out of sin).
Only a few entered the Promised Land because of unbelief (they wanted to go back to Egypt, back to sin).
From the Promised Land, God drove both Israel and Judah into captivity by the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively.
Under Ezra and Nehemiah along with priests and Levites, they returned and rebuilt Jerusalem.
Jesus Himself, tells us how utterly corrupt the religious leadership was in His day.
Paul tells us that it was the MAJORITY in his time that were making merchandise out of God’s word, corrupting and selling it for a personal profit!
In 70 AD all of Jerusalem including the whole temple system was totally destroyed, but the Church that Jesus built continued on. The “old wine” of ordinance and ritual simply would not suffice. Today, too many Christians today live out their lives according to the shadow, and in that shadow...the deeds of darkness work themselves into the mindsets of believers who think they are pleasing God.
The Church after Paul
It is simply amazing how many church leaders today simply will not admit to the state of the early New Covenant church and the tumultuous rise of Christianity in the first 3 centuries that followed. The church has ALWAYS been full of carnal inspirations and aspirations! - Paul was all too aware of the potential for human agendas to run amok and stifle the work of the Spirit. While in Miletus, before going to Caesarea and then up to Jerusalem, Paul gave us a profound prophetic statement regarding the direction the church would take immediately after his departure:
“For I have not shunned to declare unto you ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to ALL THE FLOCK [the entire Church of God, and remember that ALL of Paul’s epistles were read and distributed by Peter as well to the Jewish saints, II Pet. 3:16-17], over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed THE CHURCH OF GOD, which He has purchased with His own blood. 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. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day WITH TEARS [Paul knew and could see how horribly deceived the Church of God was to become]. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:27-32).
WOW...Not a pretty picture, is it? It gets worse.
Paul knew that just as he had to come out of religious Babylon, those under his evangelism would also have to one day come out of the New Testament Church of God’s Babylonian practices. Peter witnessed and prophesied of the same conditions in the Church. Listen to Peter’s powerful words of admonition in his last epistle for us:
“But there were false prophets [teachers] also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers AMONG YOU, who privately shall bring in DAMNABLE HERESIES, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And MANY shall follow their pernicious [lascivious, licentious, wanton] ways; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be EVIL spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words MAKE MERCHANDISE OF YOU…” (II Pet. 2:1-3).
Paul again parrots Peter’s warning in his last words to Timothy in the very last epistle he wrote for us:
“But evil men and seducers [in the church] shall wax WORSE AND WORSE, DECEIVING, AND BEING DECEIVED” (II Tim. 3:13).
So Paul didn’t say that the horrible things already in the Church would get better and better, did he? No, he said they would get “worse AND WORSE!” Corrupt spiritual leaders produce even MORE corrupt leaders as well as followers. Didn’t our Lord Prophecy of this very thing:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte [convert], and when he is made, ye make him twofold MORE the child of hell [Gk: ‘Geenna’ the realm of the ‘dead,’ which Jesus here uses to represent the ‘spiritually dead’] than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15).
We shall now see that Jesus, Peter, and Paul certainly did tell the truth that things in the church would get WORSE AND MORE WORSE, or as some translations have it, “from bad to worse.” Peter says there would be false teachers that would bring in DAMNABLE HERESIES. ARE THERE DAMNABLE HERESIES IN THE CHURCH OF GOD? Or did Peter LIE? Paul tells us that evil men and seducers (Gk: wicked men and swindlers) would go from BAD TO WORSE! Did Paul LIE? Notice how bad Jesus Christ said things would become:
“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, [a prophet is also a teacher and prophesying is teaching], and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive THE VERY ELECT” (Matt. 24:24).
WHO ARE THE “FALSE CHRISTS?”
That’s strong stuff! Who are they who almost deceive the VERY ELECT and DECEIVE MANY? We read that they are “false Christs” and “false prophets.” But WHO are these false Christs and false prophets? How will we know them? What IDENTIFIES them as false prophets, liars, and deceivers?
Here are just two Scriptures where Jesus gives us the IDENTIFYING SIGNS of the these false teachers, and deceivers:
Who are the “MANY” today who, (1) Teach and preach in the name of Jesus Christ? (2) Cast out demons in the name of Jesus Christ? (3) Do MANY (not a few, but many) WONDERFUL WORKS (not evils works, but good and wonderful works), in the name of Jesus Christ? Who? The Russians? The Chinese? The Muslims? The Hindus? The Confucianists? The Buddhists? The Shintoists? The Zoroastrians? The Jews? The QUARTER BILLION Ethnic Religionists? The HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION Athiests? Do ANY of these worldwide religions “teach, preach, cast out demons, and do many wonderful works IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST?” No, they don’t!
Well then, WHO ARE THESE “MANY” who do these things?
Do “MANY” of the TWO BILLION CHRISTIANS in the world today, “teach, preach, cast out demons, and do many wonderful works IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST?” Then I would say that we have identified the “many” that Jesus warned us about. It is not enough to preach, teach, heal, and cast out demons in the name of Jesus Christ. One has to also OBEY the commandments and teachings of Jesus Christ. Again, Jesus said that it is the “many” who do good words, but are guilty of “iniquity” or lawlessness.
Next, who are the “MANY” today who say that, “Jesus IS THE CHRIST, THE MESSIAH?” No, don’t be deceived; it is not those few who occasionally claim that they themselves are “Jesus the Christ.” They don’t deceive the “many.” Only some fool would ever be deceived into believing that some carnal idiot really IS the Christ. Besides, there are NOT “many” who make such a claim in the first place.
But there certainly are “MANY” who say and teach that JESUS is the REAL CHRIST! And so it is not only those who “teach and preach and cast out demons and do many wonderful works in the name of Jesus” who are DECEIVING THE MANY, but also there is a large group (many) who teach that “Jesus really IS THE CHRIST” and yet Jesus said it would be these that are also DECEIVING THE MANY!
Millions of Christians have heard these Scriptures quoted all their lives. But, God forbid that they would pause a minute or two to consider WHO REALLY ARE THESE PEOPLE THAT JESUS IS TALKING ABOUT THAT REALLY DO THESE MANY WONDERFUL THINGS AND YET … DECEIVE THE MANY!! Yes – the exodus call of“come out from her my people” doesn’t sound so strange now does it? This is the church age we now live in. This is the age of end time delusion and deception. This is why we need to exile ourselves to the spirit of truth!
The Seven Curches: Gods Final Prophesy To, For and About!
Yes, the church is full of the iniquities of Old....and yep....we’re on to the 7 churches again!
“What you see, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia…” (Rev. 1:11).
Remember, we now know that the Seven Churches represent the whole church down through all generations of this church age. It would be absurd to think that the book of Revelation was written to and for seven churches in Asia that have virtually disappeared off the map. Most modern maps do not show the locations of these ancient church cities. Why print billions of Bibles in virtually every language on earth for people to read of seven churches that haven’t existed for CENTURIES and have no application to our lives today? No, this prophecy contains in symbols the spiritual condition of the entire Church of God all through its history in every generation.
As all of Revelation is a book of symbols, it shouldn’t surprise us that the message to the seven churches is also composed of dozens of symbols. But those symbols represent SPIRITUAL REALITIES. We must compare spiritual with spiritual to determine the meaning of these symbols.
REVELATION IS TO AND FOR THE SEVEN CHURCHES
The book of Revelation is to and for the Seven and Churches—First chapter:
“What you see write in a book and send it unto the seven churches” (Rev. 1:11),
And - Last chapter:
“I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches” (Rev. 22:16).
If you are a professing member of the Church that Jesus built, then you need to know what Jesus has prophesied concerning that very Church.
The words that Jesus spoke were “spirit:”
“…the words that I speak unto you, they are SPIRIT…” (John 6:63).
Jesus taught the multitudes in parables only:
“All these things spoke Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spoke He not unto them” (Matt. 13:34).
All parables have a SPIRITUAL lesson. Not one of Jesus’ parables was to be taken literally.
But to understand spiritual parables, and words of spirit, one must HAVE THE SPIRIT:
“…for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God … the things of God knows no man but the Spirit of God … the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual … But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned… But we [believers in Christ] have the [spiritual] mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:10,11,13,14,16).
Notice what Jesus said when His disciples asked Him concerning the parables:
“And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given … Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do theyUNDERSTAND” (Matt. 13:10,11, & 13).
Having “ears to hear” means having spiritual discernment in UNDERSTANDING what one hears. Notice that we must “…see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and should understand with our HEART…” [then God would] convert us and HEAL [save] us (Matt. 13:15).
If you can grasp these truths, then you are in good company! If you are such a one to understand, then GOD IS CALLING YOU! You are beginning to “taste” of the good and spiritual things of God.
In Chapter 13 of Revelation God introduces us to, “a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns with ten crown with the name of blasphemy, and another beast coming up out of the earth which had two horns like a lamb, but spoke as a dragon, commanding to make an image to the beast and caused all to receive a mark or name or number 666 in their forehead or right hand.”
Midway through the chapter God says this: “If any man have an ear, LET HIM HEAR.” What does God mean by “let him hear?” We just read it. Only those with God’s Spirit can discern spiritual things, and the Book of Revelation is a book of Symbols, given by Jesus, who always speaks to the multitudes in parables, plus His words are always “spirit.” “Let him hear’ means let him SPIRITUALLY UNDERSTAND!
We already learned that “7” is a number of perfect completeness in God’s Word. SEVEN TIMES Jesus says to the Seven Churches, “He that has an ear, LET HIM HEAR…” (Rev. 1:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Here is God’s complete message to the Church down through the centuries. Those who have ears to hear [to understand] will understand the spiritual message to these churches.
MORE INSTRUCTIONS ON HAVING ‘EARS TO HEAR’
And who specifically is speaking the words of Christ through John to these Seven Churches: Notice it, for it is most revealing: “He that has an ear, let him hear what THE SPIRIT says…” (Rev. 1:7). It is “the SPIRIT” which is speaking to John and the Seven Churches. How are we going to hear a “SPIRIT” if we don’t have spiritual ears to hear?
It is overwhelming – the arrogant ignorance of theologians who are constantly informing believers that the “unquenchable fire,” “furnace of fire,” “gehenna fire,” and “lake of fire” are physical, material, and literal! Parables, metaphors, allegories, and symbols are NEVER LITERAL! Try this: Jesus Christ (SPIRIT), gives John this Revelation which God (SPIRIT), gave and signified (symbolized—things with SPIRITUAL meanings), by an angel (a SPIRIT), while John was in the SPIRIT, and wrote Christ’s words (which are SPIRIT), and were spoke by “the SPIRIT,” in a book, that can only be understood by those with an “[spiritual] ear to hear.” And theologians believe that most of this book of Revelation is literal?
The Spirit speaks to each church congregation individually, starting with Ephesus and ending with Laodicea. However, notice this: although the Spirit speaks individually to the various congregations, God informs each individual congregation to “…let him hear what the Spirit says unto churches [plural].” Herein is a most profound truth. God is saying, in effect, “Ephesus, here are your strong points and your weaknesses, but now it is also necessary that you hear what I have to say to THE REST OF THE CHURCHES!” Yet why should Ephesus be concerned about the problems or virtues of the other churches? It is because what applies to one applies to ALL. Ephesus “left her first love.”
Are we so naive as to think that Pergamos followed the doctrine of Balaam, and the Nicolaitans, but did NOT leave their first love? Do we think that Laodicea was “luke warm,” but did not leave her first love? Do we think that most of Sardis "art DEAD," but that they didn’t leave their first love. Absurd! THEY ALL left their first love! But even “dead” Sardis “had a few names which did not defile their garments [spiritual character].” And thus ALL the congregations also had “a few names,” not the majority, who had not defiled their garments.
Some think that Smyrna and Philadelphia had “no faults.” Actually, the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were composed of many who “…say they are Jews [spiritually circumcised and converted in heart], but are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” Surely no church that has “the synagogue of SATAN” in their congregation could be said to have NO FAULTS!
THE SPIRIT PROMISES SPIRITUAL REWARDS TO OVERCOMERS
So those that exile themselves to the truth must “come out” of the carnality of the 7 churches! They must “overcome” these things. Jesus Christ tells ALL THE CHURCHES to listen and hear [spiritually understand] what the Spirit says to ALL THE CHURCHES, because everything in the individual churches applies to ALL THE CHURCHES. It is essential that we understand this. All “overcomers” in each of the Seven Churches are given promises of rewards. Amazing huh?
We will now see that when one possesses one of these rewards, he will possess ALL OF THEM, for ALL of the rewards are the SAME reward! Now “hear” with your heart of understanding. All of the rewards are the same reward for all of the rewards are CHRIST! What is the “prize” spoken of in the Bible? What is the “crown?” What is our “justification?” What is the “high calling?” What is our hope of “glory?” What is it that Paul wanted to “win?” They are all CHRIST!
The word “overcometh’ as used in the KJV is a good word and descriptive of what we are to do. However, “conquers” is a more precise word, and adds the dimension of being “victorious,” as in battle, as our Christian walk is most definitely a battle.
Notice what “overcomers or conquerors” in the Seven Churches are promised:
THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS
“To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life” (Rev. 2:7).
(1) That’s CHRIST.
“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and [I am] the LIFE” (John 11:25).
The KJV translates “tree” in this verse from the Greek word xulon. Here is Strong’s definition of xulon: “timber (for fuel or material); by impl. a stick, club or tree or wooden art. or substance … xulon, wood, a piece of wood, anything made of wood.” The word “tree” does fit what is spoken of in this verse, but when we come to Rev. 22:2, “tree of life” does not seem to fit as well. “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life…” (Rev. 22:2).
How do we have one tree of life on BOTH sides of the river?
One translation translates both of these verses as “wood of life.” Another has, “log of life.” Interestingly, one translation has this footnote;
Wood is the primary significance of zulon, and may here denote, as in Rev. xxii, an aggregation of dendra, or trees, commonly called awood, or forest; a xulon of life, occupying a place on both sides of the river."
What a marvellous word picture God has presented to us in these words. Jesus Christ is first and foremost, “The” [singular] Tree of Life. This is the Tree of Life spoken of in the Garden of Eden. That tree grew out of the earth, just as Jesus (the source of life—from His Father) came in the flesh (the “earth”) to bring life (immortality—deathlessness, eternal life) to all humanity. Interestingly, the first time xulon is used in Scripture is where Jesus said,
“For if they do these things in a green [living] tree [Gk: xulon—wood] what shall be done in the dry [dead wood]?” (Luke 23:31).
Jesus Christ is the “green living tree.” Jesus met His death by being crucified. The “cross” of Christendom was really a post, pole, or upright stake that is fastened or planted in the ground manually - it did not grow from that spot. It is not a living xulon or wood or tree. Jesus died on a DEAD wood or dead tree.
But Jesus is now raised from the dead and is the Live Tree, the Tree of LIFE. We get a “taste’ of this life when God gives us of His Holy Spirit. But we receive only the “ernest” or down payment in this life:
“…you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the ernest of our inheritance UNTIL [at a later date] the redemption of the purchased possession…” (Eph. 1:13b-14).
At the resurrection we will be changed:
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: for we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2-3).
Jesus also said this:
“As Thou [the Father] has given Him [Jesus] power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life [eonian life, which for the believer includes immortality] to as many as Thou has given Him” (John 17:2).
And so, as Jesus has life in Himself, He will give us that same life. And just as Jesus is the Singlular “Wood [tree] of life,” we too will become the Plural “Wood of Life” spoken of in Rev. 22:2. Remember a “wood” is a gathering of trees as in “woods” or “forest.” Where do we read of such a gathering of “living trees?”
“And He showed me a pure river of water of life [this is God’s life giving spirit] clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God [the Father has life] and of the Lamb [the Father gives life to Jesus to give to as many as God has given Him]. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river [of life], was there the tree [xulon, wood, or woods or forest] of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:1-2).
Jesus is the source of all life because His Father gave Him life to disseminate to others.
“For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the son to have LIFE IN HIMSELF” (John 5:26).
So in Revelation 22 we see the river of life flowing from God and Christ, through the middle of the forest of trees of life (that’s US), and we in return “heal the nations” just as Obadiah prophesied of the coming of “saviours” (plural) to Mt. Zion (God’s headquarters of government throne) to judge the nations.
THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA
(2) “He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death” (Ver. 11).
That’s because they now have CHRIST, the “tree of life Who abolishes death.”
Those who are being judged NOW, will not go through the lake of fire judgment, or be hurt by the second death.
THE CHURCH IN PERGAMOS
(3) “To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna” (Ver. 17).
That’s CHRIST, the bread of life from heaven, (John 6:48 & 58). Even most nominal Christians would be agreeable to the fact that Jesus Christ IS this “hidden manna,” and that it certainly is not literal food for the physical body! Yet again, when we come to things like “the lake of fire which is the second death,” the shout goes out, “IT’S LITERAL; IT’S LITERAL.” Everything in the Book of Revelation is symbolic and spiritual
How about, “a white stone.” That’s CHRIST. How is a “white stone,” “Christ?” This “stone” is SPIRITUAL. Of what earthly (or heavenly) value is “a white stone” if it is a “literal white stone?” It is foolishness to think that these symbols and metaphors of Revelation are literal! Of what eternal value is a white stone with a name written in it? First of all, “stone” is not even the proper translation in this verse. The Greek word here is “psephos” and not “lithos” which is a large stone such as a millstone, tombstone, or building stone. A psephos is not a stone per se, but rather a “pebble.” Gee, that sounds even less valuable than a stone. It’s a SYMBOL! It stands for something SPIRITUAL AND LASTING OF UNFATHOMABLE VALUE!
This particular psepos pebble was used in casting a secret ballot. Now notice what a definition of ballot by the American Heritage College Dictionary:
Ballot n. 6. A small ball [or pebble] once used to register a secret vote.
Next notice this amazing definition in Strong’s Greek Lexicon, #5586.
Psepos, "a pebble (as worn smooth by handling), i.e. (by impl. Of use as a counter or ballot) a verdict (of acquittal) or ticket(of admission)."
A BALLOT, a VERDICT OF ACQUITTAL (not guilt) or ticket of ADMISSION (not rejection)! The opposite of this white ball or pebble of acceptance, is to be rejected and turned away by being “BLACK balled.”
This little “pebble” is just pregnant with Scriptural and spiritual Truths! Here is an example where the symbols of Revelation shine like giant beacons in the night. No, this is not just some ordinary “stone” promised to the overcomers in the Churches, but a “ballot pebble” of “acquittal and admission” which has “a new name written which no man knows (Rev. 2:17),” which is “My[Christ’s] new name” (Rev. 3:12), and “a name written which no man knew” (Rev. 19:12).
This is a pebble ballot, cast in secret (“The Lord knows them that are His,” even if the world doesn’t), to pronounce an acquittal. Acquittal means a judgment of NOT GUILTY! If we are truly, SPIRITUALLY, BAPTIZED into Christ’s death, then we are “…JUSTIFIED from Sin” (Rom. 6:3-7).
And “Freely JUSTIFIED in His grace…” (Rom. 3:24). Justify means, “to declare free of blame; absolve. Theology To free (a human) of the guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin,”
The American Heritage College dictionary. That’s ACQUITTAL! Whom ever possesses this white pebble is ACQUITTED OF ALL SINS AND ALL GUILT!
This pebble also signified “admission.” An “admission” is both the permission to enter something, and the price paid for the admission or entrance. Again, Jesus Christ is BOTH! Jesus Christ paid the ultimate penalty for our sins,
“But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US. Much more then, being now JUSTIFIED by His blood, we shall be SAVED from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:8-9).
And we can only gain admission and entrance into the kingdom of God through Him. Jesus said, “I am the DOOR…” (John 10:7 & 9), and there is no other. Jesus said to, “Enter ye in at the strait [narrow and cramped] gate…” (Matt. 7:13), and Jesus is the “door” of that gate.
And so this apparently, insignificant little white pebble takes on enormous spiritual value. Our pebble is “white,” signifying the purity of both the Giver (Jesus) and the recipient (the overcomer). It is like a spiritual ticket that proves the bearer has been washed clean, forgiven, justified, acquitted of all guilt, and has a paid admission into the Kingdom of God, which Jesus verifies and signifies by His Own written Name! But it is not a literal white pebble with a literal name engraved in it - IT IS A SYMBOL of all of the SPIRITUAL benefits attached to being an “overcomer IN Christ.”
“A new name written, which no man knows except he that receives it.” [That’s CHRIST, Who] “…had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself … and His name is called The Word of God” (Rev. 19:12-13).
That’s CHRIST, Jesus is “The Word of God” (John 1:1). The world often treats God’s saints as if they were heretics. Only those who possess the Name of Jesus Christ truly “know” what the name is and all that it represents. Not all who speak of the Name, have the name “written’ within them. Men’s lips are often far far from their heart.
We’ve already covered how that “name” is representative of THE PERSON WHO BEARS IT. To believe in THE NAME of Jesus Christ is to believe ALL THAT JESUS IS!
And the reason we have a “new” name is because all whom are “IN Christ” are “NEW creatures [new creations]: old things are passed away; behold, ALL THINGS ARE BECOME NEW” ( II Cor. 5:17). We not only have a new name, but we become and ARE A NEW NAME as well.
THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA
(4) “And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations” (Ver. 26).
That’s CHRIST, Christ is the power over the nations,
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ALL POWER is given unto Me in heaven and [‘over the nations’] in earth” (Matt. 28:18).
“And I will give him the morning star.”
“I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the BRIGHT AND MORNING STAR” (Rev. 22:16).
THE CHURCH IN SARDIS
(5) “He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment [Christ’s righteousness in His saints, Rev. 19:9 vs. Phil. 3:9]; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life” (Rev. 3:5).
That’s CHRIST! Jesus Christ IS “The Book of Life!” This is not a literal, physical book with names written on pages of paper. No indeed, this is not merely “the book of life,” this is the book OF SOMEONE’S LIFE! Whose life? Let’s read it and believe:
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [Satan, the dragon, the devil, the serpent], whose names are notwritten in THE BOOK OF THE [‘the’ is in the Greek manuscripts] LIFE OF THE LAMB [THAT’S CHRIST] slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)!
Your “name” (that’s YOU, your name IS WHO AND WHAT YOU ARE), YOU must be “IN CHRIST,” Who IS LIFE, or your name is “not written in the book of life.”
Oh how much we lose when translators both translate and interpret wrongly. It was not intentional, however, it was wrong of them to leave out the article “the” in this verse, as it is IN the Greek manuscripts. It is not merely “the book of life … of the Lamb,” but rather, “the book of … the life of the Lamb!” WOW! What a difference a simple three letter article makes in the meaning of this most profound verse! This book is not merely a list of the names of the saints in alphabetical order or by chronological number. The “book of life” is the book of SOMEONE’S life - Jesus Christ’s LIFE!
Oh that we would have ears to SPIRITUALLY hear:
“Therefore if any man be IN Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17).
This is the new, converted, believer’s life “IN Christ.” And when God comes to judge the world, we will have no fear of judgment for we are being judged now “IN Christ.”
“And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and He that dwells in love dwells IN GOD, and GOD IN HIM. Herein is your love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: BECAUSE [get ready; here it comes…] As He [Jesus Christ] IS [right now, this minute] SO ARE WE in this world” (I John 4:17).
And just how is that?
We just read it - because we live IN CHRIST, and Christ lives IN US!!! Our names are written in “The book of THE LIFE OF THE LAMB” only if WE TOO LIVE “THE life OF the Lamb,” IN THE LAMB! “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4). May God to give us spiritual eyes to see these grand Truths that have been hid from the blinded eyes of the Church today.
A stern warning: How many does Jesus say through His Spirit, will He “…not blot out his name out of the book of life?” Let’s read it:
“Thou has A FEW names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4).
It is always, just the FEW who will be in Christ in His glory in the first resurrection. All of the rest, ALL of them, will come up in the Second Resurrection, and white throne judgment with its “lake of fire and second death.” Not many escaped the flood that came on the world in Noah’s day because the thoughts of men were only evil continually,
“…while the ark was a preparing, wherein FEW, that is, eight souls were saved…” (I Pet. 3:20).
Are things better now? NO, Paul said things would get worse AND WORSE.
“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and FEW there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14).
“So the last shall be first, and the first last: and many be called, but FEW chosen” (Matt. 20:16).
“For many are called, but FEW are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).
THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA
(6) “Him that overcomes will I make a pillar [a position of great spiritual responsibility] in the temple of my God” (3:12).
“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner Stone; In Whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an HOLY TEMPLE IN THE LORD” (Eph. 2:21).
Christ is our Temple for we live in Him as HIS BODY, and we are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit that lives and dwells IN US, and Christ IS that Spirit – “abide in Me, and I in you.”
And “…he shall go no more out” That’s CHRIST. We are IN Christ, we are the Body of Christ, Christ is our temple, our house, where we dwell “IN Christ.”
We abide and dwell in Christ and Christ abides and dwells and lives HIS LIFE in us, so that we will “go no more out,” till at the consummations of all the ages, “God may be ALL in All” (I Cor. 15:28).
“And I will write upon him the NAME OF MY GOD, and the NAME OF THE CITY of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him MY NEW NAME.”
That’s CHRIST! These are honours and rewards bestowed upon us by Christ. The 144,000 (12 x 12, complete foundational kingdom of God’s government for the new world) are given the Father’s name in their foreheads(Rev. 14:1 & 22:4). Not a tattoo on the forehead skin, but inside their foreheads, in their hearts and minds.
New Jerusalem is the heavenly Jerusalem spoken of in Heb. 12:22, where “the general assembly and church of the firstborn [Christ and His anointed body of believers], which are written in heaven” is found. It is from New Jerusalem and heavenly Mt. Zion that the government of Christ will proceed in bringing Salvation to the Earth and the Universe (Isa. 2:2). I will write upon him My new name. This is the same new name that we discussed in the Church of Pergamos.
THE CHURCH OF THE LAODICEANS
(7) “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.”
And, of course, that’s CHRIST also. Sitting with Christ in His throne - this is the ultimate in rewards for the overcomer. This means that we share Christ’s Priesthood, Lordship, and Kingship over all the universe!
“And SAVIOURS [plural] shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S” (Obadiah 21).
“Saviours—that’s US, if we are “overcomers.” We will be saviours ("as He is, so are WE in the world") with our Lord from heavenly Mt Zion and New Jerusalem!
Keep on Keeping on!
How is all this info sinking in? Are we beginning to see the pattern of the exodus from falsehood to the exile of the spiritual overcomer? Amazing how the scriptures fit when they are explained in their spiritual context. There is a progression in the rewards promised to the conquering overcomers in the Churches that is vital for us to see and understand. If one is “saved” (past tense, finished, completed, with absolutely no possibility of losing that salvation at any time before we die), then there are indeed some Scriptural contradictions to such a theory.
We need to get very serious for a moment. Salvation culminates for the believer in the First Resurrection to spiritual life and immortality. However, before that time, during the life of each believer, there are warnings in the Scriptures about ways that one can become disqualified from being in the first resurrection. Let’s notice just a few of them:
Don’t think that these verses were written in vain. Jesus said that “many” would say to Him in that day, “Lord, Lord…,” but Jesus will tell them to “depart.” It is not enough to accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour and go no further. You must continue growing spiritually. We must CONTINUE following Christ all the days of our life.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If you CONTINUE in My word, then are you my disciples indeed” (John 8:31).
There are some encouraging words in the Scriptures, however, that tell us that there is a way to know in your walk with Christ whether you are SAFE from ever falling away, and the message to the Seven Churches contains this same teaching. Peter tells us how we can be SURE that we will NEVER FALL:
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brother kindness charity [LOVE] … Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for IF YOU DO THESE THINGS, YOU SHALL NEVER FALL” (II Pet. 1:5-7 & 10).
Probably the most important fact concerning the word “overcometh” in the KJV is that it is not in the past, as in “has overcome” or “overcame.” It is in the Greek aorist tense. It shows a CONTINUING ACTION. The Greek is “to the overcoming” or “to the one overcoming” or “to the one conquering.” We point out this continuous action to show that Christ does not want any to start and then stop. We must always continue “conquering and overcoming”One doesn’t possess the land and then not defend it!
Now. We have learned that when we repent and turn to Jesus Christ, He gives us of His Holy Spirit (the earnest - the start, the beginning, the down payment, if you will). Look now at the first reward promised the Churches:
TO HIM THAT OVERCOMES…
“To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of LIFE…” (Rev. 2:7).
That is the beginning of real spiritual life. If we continue in this new spiritual life, we will not be hurt by the “second death” which is the “the lake of fire.”
“He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death” (Rev. 2:11).
Now we are safe, right? We can now rest on our laurels, right? Wrong.
“To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna” (Rev. 2:17).
We can’t grow spiritually unless we eat SPIRITUAL FOOD. When we eat of Christ’s spiritual body, we grow spiritually; when we stop eating spiritual food we spiritually starve and spiritually die. If we eat spiritual food, we grow, we mature, we are “continuing in Christ’s word” and Christ word is spirit and therefore spiritual food.
What is our next reward if we “continue” overcoming?
“…and will give him a white stone and a in the stone a new name” (Ver. 17)
Now we learned that this stone is really a pebble which is a symbol for a ballot, which acquits us of guilt and justifies us, allowing for our admission or entrance into the Kingdom, signed and signified by Jesus Himself. If we continue to overcome, this white signed, ballot stone of entrance into the Kingdom is waiting for us with OUR NAME on it. Remember “as Jesus is, SO ARE WE…” His name is OUR name. If we continue to overcome, we will be given another great reward.
“And he that overcomes and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations” (Ver. 26).
Again, notice that most important phrase, “keeps my works UNTO THE END?” Do you suppose there was a purpose for adding those words at this place in the rewards? You know there was. We must “keep on, keeping on.” We cannot look back. We cannot fail to continue in Christ’s words and works. We must take up our cross. We must suffer persecution. We must “fight the good fight.” We must “keep the faith.” We must “pray without ceasing.” And we must make it to the end,
“And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures TO THE END SHALL BE SAVED” (Matt. 10:22).
THEN we will be qualified to have “power over the nations.” But reigning requires that we be RIGHTEOUS. We must reign the nations with spiritual power, not with military might. Our motives and our love must be PURE.
“He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment” (Rev. 3:5).
The “white raiment” is the same “clean white, fine linen” of Rev. 19:8, “for fine linen is the righteousness of the saints” (Ver. 8). When we attain to this degree of overcoming, God makes an absolute promise to us:
“I will NOT blot out his name out of the book of life” (Ver. 5).
Just how high do the rewards of Jesus to the overcomer go?
“Him that overcomes will I make a PILLAR IN THE TEMPLE OF MY GOD” (Ver. 12).
A pillar is a main support in a temple. It speaks of a position of GREAT DISTINGUISHED RESPONSIBILITY at the Spiritual Headquarters of the entirety of the universe in Mt. Zion. But if He is going to give us ALL THAT HE HAS, He expects us to do as He DID and become what He IS.
“To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me on My throne, EVEN AS I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne” (Ver. 21).
We are to overcome “even as” Jesus Christ conquered and overcame. What was it that Jesus Christ “overcame?” (John 16:33)
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but BE OF GOOD CHEER; I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!”
Jesus Christ overcame EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD, INCLUDING THE WORLD! And here is God’s command to the believer who would become an overcomer and conqueror in Christ Jesus:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world [which MUST be overcome and conquered!]” (I John 2:15-16).
We are to also “overcome the world” just as Jesus did. Not by ourselves, but by Jesus “Christ IN us, the hope of GLORY.” Christ lives His life IN the believer, and in the believer Christ will, “overcome the world,” over and over again in each new believer. And then one day, Jesus Christ will say to YOU, “Sit with Me on My throne - We are going to save the Universe together.”
We already read in Romans 8 that the whole creation is groaning for the manifestation of Sons and Daughters (saviours) to free this world from its vanity and corruption. And so, there is ONE church, and all overcomers from that church receive ONE reward, the SAME reward, and that reward is CHRIST and all that His many symbols and names represent, all that He IS (“as He is, so are WE in the world”), and in the Kingdom of God as well. These are the highest and most glorious honours ever to be bestowed upon a man or woman of the human race! Indeed - "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches."
Mysteries in Symbols
These are the promises of the chosen few that are called to walk out the symbols of spiritual Israel – to inherit the promises of the kingdom. The bottom line is this. The conquests and defeats, the exodus and exiles of those called by God in the Old Testament stories ALL relate to spiritual realities – not out in the world – but HERE in US! In the Old Testament we have the history of Israel’s long captivity in Babylon, where they had been carried away after being conquered by king Nebuchadnezzar. After seventy years a remnant of the people of Israel came out from their captivity beyond the Euphrates to return to the promised land of Israel and build again the city of Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord. The physical captivity Israel experienced in Babylon symbolizes the spiritual captivity of the Lord’s spiritual people in the Mystery Babylon of the book of Revelation, the carnal church systems of man with their false doctrines, fleshly ways, and confusion. Just as Israel came out of Babylon, and therefore across the Euphrates, we too have been called of God to come out of the ignorance and bondage of man’s carnal religious systems, control, rituals, ceremonies, programs, doctrines, and confusion.
The four angels bound in the great river Euphrates signify a word and a ministry that is bound at the borders of our inheritance in Christ. This word, this ministry, and this people are no longer in the full captivity of religious Babylon, but neither have they been released to enter into the full inheritance of the land of promise! Though this speaks of a people who in their experience of Christ have left the organized land of Babylon and no longer function within the man-made systems of religious Babylon, neither have they pressed on into their full inheritance in the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ. That this is the great truth signified by these symbols no man can suspect or understand unless it has been given him to know what is meant by the great river Euphrates, and by the four angels bound there. We truly understand this deep mystery once we see by the spirit of wisdom and revelation from God that the symbolic “four angels” bound or restrained in the river Euphrates are the Lord’s elect, His firstfruits company!
We are all looking for our promised land, for our full inheritance in Christ as manifest sons of God! The land is unsearchably great, unlimitedly rich. The dimensions of the land are the length, the breadth, the height, and the depth of the fullness of Christ. The land is all the riches and glory of Christ Himself! The land is peace, joy, righteousness, the mind of Christ, wisdom, knowledge, incorruptible and immortal life, omnipotent power, dominion, and glory.
All this is ours as children of God, but only as we grow up into
Christ and truly put on Christ do we become mature and arrive in
the position to assume this responsibility of possessing our
possessions. We are talking about the full stature of
Christ within ourselves, not gold bath tubs in heaven. There is a
remnant of the Lord’s people today who have not only heard and obeyed the call
to “come out of Babylon,” but they have also heard the voice from the horns of
the golden altar commanding the sixth angel holding the sixth trumpet
to “Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river
Euphrates!” By a mature understanding and a divine faith we now see
the way to arise and leave the borderlands, and press on in to our promised
inheritance and take possession of all the riches and glory of full sonship to God!
Long held in the captivity of religious Babylon we could say with the people of Israel, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Ps. 137:1-4).
Even in Babylon there was a faint remembrance of our homeland and our sonship to God in the realm of the spirit before the foundation of the world, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy! This remembrance is what gave us the keen discerning sense that there was more in God than we were experiencing there in Babylon. Our union with God and His eternal purposes is established within all who are possessing their land of inheritance in Christ. Our home is no longer in Babylon! But our homeland, our inheritance, is in that spiritual city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the celestial mount Zion in the heavens of the Spirit of the Lord. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation stone of this city as well as its spirit and substance. The Psalmist said of the Lord;
“His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (Ps. 87:1-3).
What or where is our promised land, our homeland, the land of our inheritance? It is this earth married or joined to God in Christ! Christ is the Word made flesh and man redeemed to his sonship in the family of God. That state of full and eternal union in God is our spiritual and heavenly promised land of Canaan! The scripture tells us that Christ is the very image of God. The word in the Greek for image is the word from which we get our English word character. The image of God is the character of God! The character is in you, it is in the Christ, in your spirit. When you behold this Christ within, the glory of Christ begins to shine and the veil is done away; the character of God is seen by all about.
The one thing that terrifies the forces of darkness, is that those who believe in Christ will wake up to the dynamic potential of the life of the spirit within them and begin to live fully out of that realm. The wonder of it all is that this Day is even now breaking in the hearts and lives of God’s elect!
BY THE NUMBERS - THE HOUR, THE DAY, THE MONTH, AND THE YEAR
“And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men” (Rev. 9:15).
We know there is a lot to take in here, but let’s go a little further into the symbolic mysteries of the Word that pertain to the spiritual realities of OUR journey in Christ. Like most of carnal explanations taught by Christendom’s “end time” seers of Revelation, this portion of scripture (particularly symbolic numbers) lends itself to fantastical and outrageous claims. Most miss the point entirely of course. These too refer to the purposes of the very “elect” of God.
This verse contains an unusual way of designating time, pinpointing this mighty work of God to the exact hour. While the King James Bible says these four angels are prepared for an hour, a day, a month, and a year, that is not how the Greek text reads. It should be the hour, the day, the month, and the year. The scripture in the Greek does not mean that they will spend an hour, a day, a month, and a year in preparation for their work, nor does it mean that they will fight (for they are revealed to become an army) for an hour, a day, a month, and a year. It is a way of saying that once they were loosed from their bondage in the river Euphrates they were then specially prepared FOR a precise moment, in the exact hour of the exact day of the exact month of the exact year in which they will perform their mission - and our heavenly Father in His omniscience knows exactly when that moment will be!
“Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).
This is a profound truth. God has set a date to finish His work in each member of His elect! How do we know that He has set such a date? First, we know it by revelation, but it is also right here in the grammar of our passage. The definite Greek article teen, which is the English the, placed once only before all the time periods, indicates in the Greek that the hour in the day, and the day in the month, and the month in the year, had been definitely fixed by the Lord. The article would have been omitted if the sum of the periods had been meant. This reveals the great truth that there is a “time appointed of the Father” for everything in the unfolding of God’s purposes, in our lives both individually and collectively. Was it not when the “fullness of time” was come that God sent forth His firstborn Son into the world? (Gal. 4:4). Was it not when the day of Pentecost was “fully come” that there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and the disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit? (Acts 2:1-4). It is also in the dispensation of the “fullness of times” that God shall gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even into Him (Eph. 1:10).
As we continue this journey into the fullness of God, each of God’s called and chosen elect is led unreservedly by the Holy Spirit to experience this wonderful sovereignty - causing each to do everything at the right time, to be in the right place at the right time, to take each step in accordance with our heavenly Father’s will and His divine intervention in our lives. All must be done by God, at His appointed time; we must then act each day within His divine provision and leading, and then patiently wait for the hour of the day of the month of the year that HE has chosen!
By revelation of the Holy Spirit we are all assured that the day of our manifestation approaches! There is a kingly and priestly people, a remnant in whom the Spirit of God is working a transformation. In due time God shall manifest this king-priest company and their NEW STATE OF BEING shall utterly silence all the false claims of carnal men. No philosophy, no science, no religion on earth shall be able to gainsay the wisdom and truth proclaimed by the sons of God! No man, no professor, no doctor, no politician, no military general, no organization, and no government on earth shall be able to withstand the glory, authority, and power emanating from God’s sons! Conformed to His image, filled with His Spirit, the embodiment and personification of His wisdom, nature, grace, incorruptible life and power - no man will be able to counterfeit the reality of this new state of being, and these shall redound to the glory of God. Obviously, “no man taketh this honor unto Himself, but he that is called of God.” It is a transformation that is God-wrought, for God starts it, God works it out, and God brings it to its conclusion, it is all of Him and that is why the flesh cannot duplicate such glorious, divine handiwork!
Yes, in the making of kings and priests through whom God shall administer the affairs of His kingdom, HE has carefully selected His vessels, and is now processing them by means that stagger the imagination with their intensity and scope. But God shall not be satisfied with an inferior product, hence the transformation must penetrate into every fibre of our being until the whole becomes A NEW CREATION in Christ Jesus Those in whom God is working unto this end are now being prepared for the exact hour of the exact day of the exact month of the exact year — THE PRECISE AND APPOINTED TIME OF THE FATHER FOR OUR MANIFESTATION! What a privilege!
BY THE NUMBERS - 200,000,000
“And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them” (Rev. 9:16).
If you believe in the traditional literalist interpretation of the book of Revelation, there are some serious issues you are going to have to face. Hundreds of these literalist teachers are proclaiming across the land that in the days of the Great Tribulation, here at the end of the age, a nuclear war takes place; one third of the world’s vegetation is destroyed, all the world’s oceans are turned into blood, as the blood of a dead man, and every living thing in the seas dies; all the rivers and springs of water in the whole world are turned into blood, there is no fresh water to drink anywhere on the planet, and there is a great run on Coca Cola, but even the stores of bottled drinks give out; there is a world-wide epidemic of ulcers and skin cancers under a global heat wave, horrible locusts (maybe helicopters) plague the world’s unbelievers for a solid five months, and then, while there is no water, and no food, and no health, and no ability to work or earn a living, with a global heat wave and billions of dead bodies strewn everywhere, with famine and disease and war and trouble and torment on every hand, an army of 200,000,000 soldiers (possibly Chinese communists), march on Israel, and on their way they kill two billion more people. Now the scene gets even more bizarre! With billions dead or dying, with confusion and chaos everywhere, if you take the mark of the beast you are given the liberty to buy and sell! Buy and sell what? And while these 200,000,000 soldiers are attacking Israel, there are 200 pound hailstones falling on them!
Anyone with one eye and half sense could see that the logistics of this scheme transcend absurdity - they are impossible! There is no geographical space for 200,000,000 soldiers with tanks, airplanes, supplies, and all the rest in the valley of Megiddo - not counting the armies of Russia, the United States, and their allies who are all supposed to gather there - it ain’t going to happen! These armies can’t fight. There is no geographical space in all of Israel for so many people to even stand properly. So we have a problem! When you calculate the effect of all these events, if they are literal, and all happen at the same time during a three and a half year period, you really have a contradictory, unreasonable, illogical, ridiculous, impossible absurdity.
The question follows - What do all these things mean? Our heavenly Father is not some kind of angry, vindictive, psychotic, sadistic monster who is grinning and kind and merciful for two thousand years and then suddenly throws a temper tantrum, becomes vicious and vengeful, turning on that portion of the human race that just happens to be living at that time, pouring out wrath and spewing out judgment that makes Adolph Hitler look like Santa Clause, and the Second World War appear as a Sunday School picnic. IS THAT THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST? IS IT? Is that the revelation of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Is that the revelation of the God who was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them? Is that the revelation of the Christ who taught us to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us, and persecute us, ‘that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven!’ Today’s Preachers who peddle the foolishness are nothing more than spiritual terrorists! They have no true spiritual understanding whatsoever and love to scare people to death with a“revelation” that is supposed to be the unveiling of Jesus Christ! If that is the unveiling of Jesus Christ, then please keep the lid on Him!
So what are we REALLY looking at here? It is clear that the four angels which are loosed from the river Euphrates are also the great army of the horsemen which numbers 200,000,000. A careful reading of verses fourteen through sixteen establish this beyond doubt. It is to be observed here that the strength of this army seems to be the cavalry. Every man in this army is riding a horse and the number of them is two hundred million, as we read it in the King James Bible. This would be a larger army than has ever been assembled in the history of mankind, and to take it literally would be as absurd and impossible as to suppose that stars are going to literally fall upon the earth. That it would be a very large host - so large that it could not readily be numbered - is clear. The expression in the original (Greek text), while it conveys the idea of an immense number, seems also to refer to some peculiarity in the manner of reckoning them. The language is, “two myriads of myriads.”
The idea is this. John saw in vision an immense host of cavalry. They were so numerous that he did not pretend to be able to estimate the number Himself, for it was beyond his power of computation. But in spirit he heard it stated in these round numbers, that there were “two myriads of myriads” of them. It could also be translated as “a double-myriad of myriads.” Now, a myriad is ten thousand. But according to The New Webster’s Dictionary “myriad” carries a significance beyond a mere ten thousand. It means “innumerable; an indefinite, immense number; a multitude of things or people; innumerable, multitudinous, but indefinite.” Thus, while John was unable to estimate the number of the army, the Spirit spoke within him that it was “countless thousands.”
There is a deep mystery in the way this number is stated. Attempts to reduce this expression to arithmetic, or to a precise amount, miss the point. The Spirit is simply revealing the immensity and awesome power of the army of the Lord! It is the infinite power of God raised up within each member of God’s elect! God Himself is all that is needed! John heard the number, but he didn’t hear with the natural ear the math of it, but with the spiritual ear he “heard” the almightiness, the infinity, the omnipotence of God in us! We don’t have to be a company of thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions to change this world. The truth is, numbers have no bearing whatever upon how we are to go about being the transformers of this age.
What will change the church and the world, is not thousands or millions of manifest sons of God, for it will take only a few who walk in the light of this new kingdom Day to bring a transforming presence and power to this earth! It is not numbers of people we need in our midst, but to be one with our Lord, speaking with the voice of the resurrection, anointed with the fullness of His wisdom, holiness, and authority, and endued with power from on high! It took only one Son of God to take away the sins of the world and reconcile mankind to God, to conquer all the false gods of Greece and Rome and Babylon, to change the course of history and birth the church throughout all the nations of the world. One Son! And now many sons are being brought to His glory! But it need not be a literal 200,000,000! The Lord Jesus Christ Himself within us is stronger than an army of two hundred million, for He has been given all authority and all power in heaven and in earth!
Since the elect of God are signified in the Revelation as the hosts or armies of heaven, the Lord is therefore called YAHWEY TSEVAOTH, that is, Yahweh of armies or hosts.
“And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean (righteousness of Christ). And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword (the word of God), that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron…” (Rev. 19:14-15).
The first half of chapter nine of the Revelation is devoted to the invasion of the “locusts” out of the abyss; the second half of the chapter reveals GOD’S MIGHTY ARMY raised up to defeat the locust army and bring forth the victory of Christ in those being prepared to establish His glorious kingdom in the earth! God is working within us to bring Adam to an end and raise up Christ as the only reality of our lives. Notice what John says about the locusts: “And the shapes of the locusts were like horses prepared unto battle” (Rev. 9:7). And now of the second army he says, “And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand” (Rev. 9:16).
The locust army and the angel army are two armies that face each other! It takes two armies to have a battle! Both are said to be prepared for battle! And how wonderful the knowledge that everything about the army of the Lord is greater and more powerful than the locust army of Babylon! It is interesting to note that under the fifth trumpet, repeatedly stung by the locusts, men were tormented by the false doctrines and condemnation and threats of judgment as proclaimed by the church systems of man, yet they could not die. But here there is a difference!
“And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for the hour of the day of the month of the year (God’s appointed time) FOR TO SLAY THE THIRD PART OF MEN.”
Here, thank God, they do die! The word (angel) of the Lord, once released from its captivity at the borderland of Babylon, refined and made pure and strong in the Spirit of God, is able to finish the work in us, to bring the old Adamic man, the carnal mind, the natural life, the old human consciousness and identity to its end within us! The word out of Babylon cannot accomplish this, but the living word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword, and in the power of an incorruptible seed, is fully able to bring forth the triumph of the Christ within us! Amazing.
As we have stated numerous times in the course of our studies, the book of Revelation is first and foremost a spiritual book. It is a book of spiritual realities communicated by means of signs and symbols. You will not read the fulfilment of its prophecies on the pages of Newsweek magazine, but you will see them manifest in the lives of men and women who walk with God and in the great accomplishments of the kingdom of God on earth. The word of the Lord in its spiritual meaning does not describe for us the carnal warfare between nations. For what have wars between nations to do with the kingdom of God? God does not conquer by carnal weapons, therefore the warfare between nations has nothing whatever to do with the kingdom purposes of God! This is where people go astray in their thinking. They suppose that God acts politically or militarily.
No. The battles beheld in spirit by John on Patmos signify spiritual combats, combats between light and darkness, between spirit and flesh, between Adam and Christ, between the carnal mind and the precious mind of Christ, between truth and error, between righteousness and evil, between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Babylon, between life and death. A man must experience this combat within himself to become a spiritual conqueror and possess the promised land. Our Lord, when in the world, carried on such spiritual warfare in an infinitely greater way than others, overcoming the compounded powers of the world, the flesh, and the devil, opening up the way to victory and triumph for all who are willing to follow Him into the lifestyle of the kingdom of God
This great army of saints in this new kingdom day who, in the fullness of time, shall take the kingdom and destroy the rule of the flesh, of Babylon, and of sin, sorrow, and death, is even now, being prepared to march forth and bring to pass this glorious victory. That all who are to be in this army may be awakened to the urgency of the hour the prophet Joel calls upon those who see and hear this word of the Lord to sound an alarm, saying;
“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and gloominess (for the natural man), a day of clouds and of thick darkness (for the carnal mind), as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not ever been the like, neither shall there be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land (of the flesh) is as a garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. AND THE LORD SHALL UTTER HIS VOICE BEFORE HIS ARMY: FOR HIS CAMP IS VERY GREAT: for He is strong that executeth His word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible (for the systems of man); and who can abide it?” (Joel 2:1-3,11)
God is preparing such an army! We now want to present this army. “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain…and the Lord shall utter His voice before His army: for His camp is very great…”
The trumpet blows in Zion - mount Zion. The army of the Lord is in Zion! So much of the book of Revelation is rooted in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The people who hear this trumpet and are called to battle by it are seen by John,
“And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on mount Zion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads” (Rev. 14:1).
This company of 144,000 stands upon mount Zion in all the nature, glory, and majesty of their Redeemer. Mount Zion, the highest hill in Jerusalem, represents the very highest position attainable in God’s kingdom. Such are the ruling class in the capital city of the kingdom of our Lord, the New Jerusalem, prefigured by king David of old who dwelt on the natural mount Zion in the earthly Jerusalem. It was upon mount Zion that David built His citadel and royal residence. From there he reigned. This company, standing on the heavenly and spiritual mount Zion, followers of the Lamb, can represent nothing other than those who have followed Jesus all the way from mount Calvary to mount Zion, who suffered with Him even unto death (to self), and shall now reign with Him upon His throne forevermore! They are overcomers.
Before coming to the throne, like king David, they have engaged in warfare, fought many battles, gained the victory, and possessed the kingdom. They are “the armies which are in heaven” which follow Him who sits upon the white horse, and they too ride “upon white horses, clothed in fine linen clean and white.” A horse in prophecy is a symbol of speed and strength in war. White stands for righteousness. So Christ and His armies of overcoming sons riding white horses denotes that they come in swift, strong, and righteous judgment.
Isn’t this stuff amazing? A tremendous heritage is ours - the right to rule and reign and bring life and blessing and deliverance to the whole creation! But know this. Before we can deliver the groaning creation from the bondage of corruption - sin, sorrow, limitation, and death - these deliverers must first, within themselves, conquer every enemy in their land and possess their inheritance in the fullness of Christ. Can we now see how that all through the ages the flesh and the devil have usurped the authority of the sons of God? We have only to look at church history, to see that the Lord’s people have suffered defeat from the powers of darkness century upon century and millennium after millennium. Deceived on every hand; afflicted with all manner of sickness and disease; demon oppressed; filled with carnality, sin, bitterness, bewilderment, sorrow, fear, lack, doubts, and torment. Many have been taken captive by the god of this world, and instead of a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, instead of Zion invested with strength, instead of a people that look “forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners,” with power over all the power of the enemy, we see, instead, a defeated band of slaves, divided into a thousand sects, cast into Satan’s mould of bondage, deception, ignorance, weakness, fear, and torment.
The mysteries of our spiritual walks take us back to the formation of the nation of Israel and their ultimate possession of the land promised by God to their father Abraham. Throughout the books of Genesis, Exodus, and on through the book of Joshua everything is presented in a progressive way. God called Abraham to leave his homeland and journey to a land He would show him, which afterward He promised to give to him and his seed as their possession. The children of Israel multiplied in the land of Canaan, but then were taken by the Lord into Egypt where they continued to grow into a great company of people over a period of four hundred years. Then Moses was raised up to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and take them finally to their promised land. Under the anointed hand of Moses this vast throng of the children of Israel were formed into a nation at mount Sinai and given their constitution known as the Torah. God gave them a tabernacle, an ark, His glorious presence, a priesthood, a sacrificial system, and national holidays or feast days. All of these things related prophetically, as types and shadows, to the experiencing of Christ in the Spirit and by the Spirit as our all in all. Starting with our experience of Him as the Passover lamb on to the enjoyment of Him as the ark, bespeaking of His word, life, and authority. Our experience of Him enlarged through the tabernacle, including the offerings and the priesthood.
Throughout the books of Exodus and Leviticus we come to the seven feasts given to Israel, where Christ is seen in measure after measure of His fullness until in the final feast of Tabernacles we are filled with all the fullness of God. Through these feasts, experienced now in a spiritual way, God’s people are enabled to experience Christ in a much fuller way than before, being brought to maturity and full spiritual stature.
After Leviticus, we come to Numbers. Most Bible expositors tell us that Numbers is a book wholly occupied with the numbering and wandering of the tribes of Israel. It is true that much of the book deals with these issues, but there is a great truth beyond that! Numbers is a book of glorious records. It is the book which records the formation of the army of Israel which is the army of the Lord. Only at this point, following all the offerings, priesthood, tabernacle, and feasts, was it possible for the people of God to be formed into an army capable of conquering every enemy and possessing the promised land. Not all the people were in the army, but it is indeed glorious that a group of the Lord’s people could be formed into an army for the Lord on this earth. And it is further glorious that these very people are those who will take possession of the land! Those who are able to fight the battle as directed and empowered by the Lord are those who will conquer, divide, and take possession of the land! And those who fight the battle do not take possession of the land for themselves alone, but for all the people of God!
By this spiritual army shall creation be set free from the prison of corruption, to see a new heaven and a new earth, to see sin and unrighteousness banished from the hearts of men, to see death destroyed from off God’s creation, to see the end of all sickness, sorrow, and pain, to see safety, peace, and happiness come to every man, woman, and child, to see spiritual Jerusalem established as a praise in all the earth, to see kings reigning gloriously from spiritual mount Zion, to see every man and every nation walking in the Light of the Lord. The army of God marches to see every prisoner set free, to see every man awaken in His likeness, to see the good news published throughout Zion, to see the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed from the mountain of God, to see the valley of dry bones erupt with life, to see the lion’s mouth shut so that none shall hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy kingdom!
The Spirit of God is today forming and fashioning a people, His great army, a glorious company, from whose lips flash forth that CLEAR WORD OF THE LORD which shall cause the traditions and unrighteousness of man to utterly come to naught. It was said of our Lord,
“Never man spake like this man” (Jn. 7:46).
“What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? FOR WITH AUTHORITY commandeth HE even the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him” (Mk. 1:27).
“What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” (Mat. 8:27).
The Lord’s speech is the manifestation and influence of His inner life poured forth upon those to whom He speaks. An incident in the life of Jesus, recorded in the Gospel of Luke, provides a picture in which may be discerned the POWER OF THE WORDS OF GOD. As He approached the gate of Nain there met Him a funeral procession, a widow’s only son carried out to burial. Moved with compassion for the sorrowing woman He bade her dry her tears. The astounded crowd heard Him address the figure upon the bier: “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise!” The power of the speech of the Prince of Life pierced the realm of the dead! The lad sat up and began to speak. The tender Christ delivered him to his mother, and made effective His command, “Weep not!” Her son was not only brought back from the gates of the tomb, but was restored to her as a gift from the Lord BY THE POWER OF HIS WORD!
That which was manifest in Jesus Christ shall also be seen in His many-membered-brethren-company. There are preview glimpses of this even in God’s servants in the Old Testament. With what boldness did Elijah the prophet pronounce unto king Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, BUT ACCORDING TO MY WORD” (I Kings 17:1).
In a world full of brutality and evil, it’s hard to imagine a time when it shall finally cease its storm and the sea of humanity shall be calmed, purified and made new. Believe the scriptures, for it is God’s good pleasure to yet restore all His precious people to the knowledge of the truth and to union in the purity of His life. He shall yet renew the face of the whole earth! All the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness. The mountain of God’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains. Babylon shall be utterly burned with fire, and all the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all His holy place. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they know war anymore. They shall all be without spot or blemish, loving one another, even as Jesus has loved us.
Though this journey of exile might be painful and lonely – never give up! Don’t look back to Egypt of Babylon. Our hope is that we might be called to be a part of the firstfruits, even if the total harvest has not yet come. Dying to the flesh is never easy. Loving in a loveless world is NOT easy! We are to love our neighbour as ourselves. We are to love our enemies and bless them that curse us and do good to them that hate us, and pray for them. Feel converted yet? The elect are to ride forth in the strength of the Lord, with the purifying, cleansing, purging, delivering, consecrating, redeeming, transforming WORD OF GOD ISSUING FROM THEIR MOUTHS! We are to ride forth in majesty as the expression of God’s kingdom on earth. We are to utter His burning word of authority, smiting the earth with the rod of His mouth! Let us believe it!
How profound are these mysteries when The Spirit enlightens us with the truth? If we can grasp these spiritual instructions and concepts, then we should count ourselves in good company. In our next study we shall look closer at the carnal religious mind and the depths of that which we must “come out” from. The religious mind is the embodiment of the flesh. It is a devious evil – one which THE church is all too familiar with. The scriptures have some shocking things to say about the Babylon that we are leaving behind us. Satan, our adversary is not concerned with the affairs of the world. No, the accuser makes his abode in the realm of the flesh – and nothing satisfies his desire to devour more, than the religious world of carnal Christianity.