They will say I make too much of this. But I say your teachers and pastors make far too little of it. Or they make nothing of it at all, having lost sight of it and become blind to it. The church is a heavenly body with a heavenly calling and citizenship. She has no part or association in the earth, except that she presently exists here. All her true members, individually, are pilgrims and strangers here below, not really belonging here at all. The earth simply serves as the location where the church is being gathered out of all nations by the Holy Spirit. Her relationships, her position, her place is entirely dependent on where Jesus is presently physically located – in the heavens exalted to the right hand of God (and not on the earth).
Now Jesus holds this exalted place and heavenly glory as a Man. He had divine glory as God before time began (John 17:5). But in order to obey the will of God concerning the redemption of man (Heb. 10:5-12), He had to put aside this glory as God, humble Himself, and become a Man. He further humbled Himself in obedience to death on the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). On the third day the Son of Man was raised out of death and the tomb by the exceedingly great power of God, being exalted into the heavens and back into the glory of God (Eph. 1:19-21). Only now He is given this place of heavenly honor as the glorified Man.
Every believer needs to consider the true implications and consequences of the progression outlined above. Jesus didn’t become a Man for Himself or for His own glory. He rightfully had this glory as God long before, actually from eternity past if you can conceive of such existence. Everything He accomplished in time as coming from heaven as a Man has its direct consequences on the believer/church. Of course Christ’s redemptive work is foundational for many other things in the counsels of God (i.e. the restoration of Israel in their land during the millennium; the great white throne judgment and the eternal state which follows, etc.). Other than the perfect way by which Jesus glorified God’s righteousness and love by His own obedience to His death on the cross, the highest and greatest result of His work is the believer/church. It is the church that is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph. 1:22-23). It is the church who is His bride, His help-meet to rule with Him over all creation. It is the church which He loved and gave Himself for, so to have her and present her to Himself as pure and blameless (Eph. 5:25-32). The Son of Man came down from heaven and accomplishes the work of redemption, so that He might bring other men to glory (Heb. 2:9-11). As the Son of Man He could become the grain of wheat which would fall to the ground and die, in order that He would no longer be alone (John 12:24). So now the church is associated with Christ in everything, except of course His deity.
John 17:22-23 (NKJV)
22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
And if we look in Colossians 3:4 we see that when Christ appears to the world, we will appear in His glory along with Him. By then we will have been made to be like Him (Rom. 8:29). He will have already come and taken us up to Himself in the rapture (I Thess. 4:13-18); and then He comes manifesting Himself to the world, and we appear with Him. You can see what I have quoted above, that the glory which was given Him, He has given to us, that the world might know, etc. Now in Colossians you see how thoroughly the apostle identifies us with Christ.
- Col. 2:20 “Therefore, if you died with Christ…”
- Col. 3:1-3 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Christ is now hidden in God; He is the believer’s life; therefore your life is hidden there. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” When He appears, we shall appear with Him. There is to be no separation. If He is hid in God, our life is hid in God. If He appears, we appear. If He appears in glory, we must appear in glory with Him. If He is an heir of God, we are heirs of God also, for we are co-heirs with Him.
You will see a comparable thing in the first epistle of John, only the same truth comes out in a different way (I John 3:1) — “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” — hear we get Christ’s own name! What wondrous love is this that we should get Christ’s own title of relationship! “Therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not,” also shows that we have got the same place with Him. Jesus says to Mary Magdalene (John 20:17), “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” He has accomplished our redemption, and the effect of this is, that He has put the believer in the same place with Himself. “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” (Psa. 22:22, Heb. 2:12, John 17:26) Again, “Therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.”
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
It is no wonder that the world does not recognize the true Christian, if it did not recognize Him. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God”—this is the present time, “and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:2)
In Zechariah 14 it is said the Lord shall come and all His saints with Him, and His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:3-5). This was referred to by the angel after Christ ascended from Mount Olives, he saying to the disciples, “Why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Again in verse 14 of the epistle of Jude we find, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment upon all.” Here they are associated with Christ in the executing of judgments upon Christendom and the world. It shows how completely we are associated with Christ. And what a privileged place these truths place us in! Yet Scripture is so simple and plain upon this topic, that it cannot be misinterpreted.
I tend to quote many passages in order to enlarge upon them, so that our faith may stand, not in the wisdom of men, but in the word and power of God. So we find the same truth in 2 Thessalonians 1 – they were suffering many persecutions from the world around them after their conversion; and the apostle tells them:
II Thess. 1:4-10
“We glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure; which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.”
Jesus comes with myriads of His saints. We also find a distinct statement of our coming with Christ given in figure in the Revelation. In chapter 17 it is said, “These shall make war with the Lamb.” All the kings of the earth will be found, not in blessing from God or associated with Christ, but in open war with the Lamb and joined with the beast.
“These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them; for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.”
Other passages show us that angels will be with Him, but it is not angels that are here spoken of as being with Him. The angels may be described as “faithful” and “chosen,” because Scripture speaks of the “elect” angels; but these that are with Him are the “called,” and it is the saints who are called by the grace of God. These who are with Him are the saints. Having seen who they are, turn now to chapter 19:
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.”
You have seen all through that He is coming to judge the wicked on the earth—a thing mostly forgotten when entertaining biblical prophecy, that there is a judgment of the living as well as the dead. “As in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not, until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
“His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written that no man knew but He Himself. And he was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” —which, he says elsewhere, is the righteousness of the saints.
God reveals to us with wisdom and prudence His plan, namely, “that he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” —reconciling them all in Christ—not merely for their own selfish good, but as a plan for Christ’s glory (Eph. 1:9-10). And with this view He has associated us with Christ in the place He takes as Head over all (Eph. 1:19-23), so that, being associated with Him as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17, Gal 4:7), we have the inheritance with Him (Eph. 1:11, 18); that, when Jesus takes it, we will have it with Him; and when He comes, we shall come with Him; that, even though He was presented to the earth among the Jews according to the promise of God, and they would not have Him, He then took another place—that of Son of Man glorified to the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:3). He takes this place in His resurrection and in His glory, and will raise us up to have it with Him when the time comes; and not we alone, but all Christians will have it with Him. Thus we see not yet all things put under Him, but we do see Jesus crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:8-9), and are waiting, as He is, till His enemies are made His footstool (Heb. 10:12-13). But when that time comes—when it will be, nobody knows; God has not revealed it—the first thing Jesus will do will be to have His body, the church; He is not to be Head without the body, but will catch us up to meet Him in the air; then, if dead, He will raise us; if alive, He will change us, and take us up to meet Him in the air (I Thess. 4:13-18). He will come and take us to His Father’s house (John 14:1-3); for this is our place; and He will have everything there in order for us—only He must have His heirs with Him; for He cannot take a step in entering on the possession of His inheritance, without having His heirs, His body, His bride with Him (Rev. 4; 5).
In the Revelation you first have the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9), and then you see the Lamb coming out with His armies following Him (Rev. 19:11-16). They are the bride—that is what they are; for the Lamb must have an associate with Him, a help-meet to share His inheritance. He has not yet taken to Himself His great power and reigned. We see not yet all things put under Him. But when He comes, He will take us up to be with Him, because we are perfectly associated with Him. When He appears, we shall appear with Him. When He executes judgment, we shall accompany Him—that is, when He executes judgment on the world, breaking them with a rod of iron, and dashing them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. That is anything but the most blessed part of our associations with Christ. The most blessed part is being with Him. But when He does appear, the world will see us with Him. Jesus will come to raise the dead saints and to gather up all the living saints – this is what He said to Mary (John 11:25-26). He will take the church up to be with Himself: then when He appears we shall all appear with Him. All the members of the true church will bear the image of the heavenly (in glory), as we have borne the image of the earthy.” (I Cor. 15:45-54)