The professing church is in a ruined condition. What should the true believer do? Are we to labor and pray for its restoration? What course should we pursue? What hope do we have? When our eyes are opened by the Spirit and He lays bare the realities of the professing church to us, the faithful will be found at a crossroads. Will you admit the evil is present and growing in the professing church and will you acknowledge the ruin? Further, will you then admit that there is no present solution or cure for the circumstances we find in Christendom? Our consciences can’t be satisfied to rest in a sinful state and be content to continue in the failure.

I have spoken to a few who tell me, “This is all there is, this is all we have.” This is our common excuse to continue on in the evil and corruption that has been created. Many Christians have developed an innate ability to be able to fashion an alternative spiritual reality in their thoughts and mind from that which is actually present. They do this in the guise of exercising faith, hope, or a sincere desire for things to be different. They refuse to admit that they are fooling themselves and trusting in the wrong things.

It is not a question of sincerity. It is not a question of dedication. Many people are admired for leading lives of great devotion, yet they are devoted to false principles. There are many loving people who work hard in the things they are doing. There are good people to be found in every local assembly. But these attributes – goodness, hardworking, dedication – are not the means by which the truth of God’s word is determined. More often than not Satan will use the admiration of them as a snare for others into false doctrines. What we must have in these last days is an understanding of God’s word, and then a willingness to obey.

It is the easiest thing to say, “This is the will of God…” Rarely will anyone challenge such a statement. Yet this whole book is a challenge to those making such claims. If you do not see and understand the counsel and plan of God, then you do not know the purpose and will of God. If you do not understand the course of the present age or the character of the age to come, you will not be able to recognize the providential hand of God or the actual workings of God. If you do not know what God will do, then you shouldn’t be guessing at it and sounding authoritative. You shouldn’t be making the above statement, “This is the will of God.”

The Will of God does not always stay the same

Many have pride in their work and the things they are doing. Even if the work is wrong and compromised, they will not forsake it. They are like captains going down with their ships. This may be a form of American pride, but I’m sure it is not Christianity or the mind of God. Will we admit the ruined state of the professing church? Will we allow its ruin to be present on our conscience? Will we be humbled by its reality? Will we find the humility to admit it is wrong and corrupt, and confess it as sin and evil? [141] Then can we turn from it and truly depend on God instead of ourselves? We desperately need humility of faith and conscience to properly understand the real condition of the professing church and to keep us from pretentions. Yes – pretentions – that compel us to be involved in activities upon activities which are unauthorized by the word for the present circumstances we find ourselves in.

Allow me to share a biblical example that is applicable to this topic. In the time of Isaiah’s ministry the Assyrians came against Judah, Jerusalem, and king Hezekiah. The Assyrians were the same people who had scattered the ten tribes of Israel – the northern kingdom. Now they come against the southern kingdom – Judah and Jerusalem.

Isaiah 37:33-36

“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria:

‘He shall not come into this city,
Nor shoot an arrow there,
Nor come before it with shield,
Nor build a siege mound against it.
(34) By the way that he came,
By the same shall he return;
And he shall not come into this city,’
Says the Lord.
(35) ‘For I will defend this city, to save it
For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’”

(36) Then the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.”

Years later (during the time of the prophet Jeremiah) Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans come against Judah and Jerusalem. This is in the time of king Zedekiah. What is important to notice is that this time God’s instructions through the prophet are opposite from what they were in the previous example. It now was the moment of God’s judgment of the southern kingdom.

Jeremiah 21:8-9

“Now you shall say to this people, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.  He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out and defects to the Chaldeans who besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be as a prize to him.”

 

Jeremiah 27:12

“I also spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live!”

The king never believed Jeremiah. He had other prophets, false prophets, telling him comforting words of success and deliverance. Why did he need to listen to this one who was kept away and locked-up in a dark hole in his prison?   The outcome was that the king’s eyes were cut out by the Chaldeans, and he was taken bound in brass shackles to Babylon (II Kings 25:7). Many people lost their lives in Judea and Jerusalem because they did not heed the word of the Lord. There was a remnant from Judah, which included young Daniel, that listened to Jeremiah. Their lives were spared, howbeit as captives in Babylon.

God Himself doesn’t change, but His ways change

What would have happened if all the people of Judah would have said, “God delivered us before in a miraculous way from the hand of the Assyrian, and He will in like manner deliver us, His chosen people, from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar! After all, this is our right and Jehovah hasn’t changed, He is always the same.” That would have been a ridiculous statement showing scriptural ignorance of God and His ways. The above passages show and prove that God’s ways in His dealings with man do change, even though God in His person always remains the same. In the first example above the will of God was for the people to stay in Jerusalem and see the salvation and deliverance of Jehovah. The second example is different, even though it’s the same city, basically the same people, the same Lord Jehovah, and very similar circumstances. This time however, God’s will is for the people to go out of Jerusalem and defect to the Chaldeans, and they would save their lives. Jerusalem and Judea were under judgment by God. The instructions are very different. Under Hezekiah they were protected; under Zedekiah they were to submit to the judgment.The ways of God do not remain the same. I refer to these circumstances as a testimony of this principle from Scripture. While the relationship of God with Israel in this world is unchanging, yet their conduct had to be the opposite at one time to that at another.There are many other examples of this truth in Scripture.

John 1:17

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

This verse depicts the greatest, most important change in the ways of God in His dealings with man in the history of the human race. The principle of the law is the polar opposite of the principle of grace. The law was always limited in its revelation of the truth of God, because when Israel was under law, God stayed behind the veil. However Jesus came to reveal God to us, showing us the Father, and this in divine perfection and grace. In His ministry He removed every evil and consequence of man’s sin among the people. There is a great contrast being made in this verse. God’s ways are changing, but He always remains the same.[142]

So here is the point. God has visited us in grace through the redemption founded on the shed blood of Jesus Christ. There are many great principles by which God has made the Christian accepted in the Beloved Son (Eph. 1:3-8). These principles are the same for all believers. However we have to understand in our thinking what are the present results of the measure of grace He has shown us. We must hold fast the great principles under which we are set, while at the same time be able to apply those principles to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The circumstances vary. The ways of God will vary depending on the circumstances and the actual state we find ourselves in along the way. We have to know where we are, and, at the same time, to learn what the path of God is in our current circumstances.

Look at the beginning of the church in Acts. There was evident power, one heart and mind, all things in common, and the buildings were shaking where they gathered. But look at the church world now. If we would acknowledge the corporate whole (including Romanism) and all the evil at once, we will admit that God cannot possibly send Holy Spirit power to bless it. He will not sustain us in corruption and evil. Although God’s thoughts never change and He knows His people, yet we need spiritual discernment to see where we are, and what the ways of God are in the circumstances.

The ways of God have changed in His dealings with the professing church on earth, even though He ever remains the same God. How have His ways changed towards the professing church given her present circumstances? His remaining the same – holy and righteous – is why He cannot do the same things He did in Holy Spirit power at the beginning. He will not bless the ungodly mess that man has allowed. God’s working and ways will be according to the state and condition the professing church is in. It is not according to the state she is not in.

How will we respond?

When we open our eyes to the possibility that something may be seriously wrong in the professing church, then there will be one of four available options to choose from.

1.      You may still pretend that nothing is wrong and that things are not so bad. After all, what does the Lord really expect from us, perfection? God will have to be satisfied with what man has brought forth in the professing church on the earth. We are satisfied with what we have done. Therefore we assume that God is satisfied. By a false principle forced on us by the Arminian leaven we place a positive sanction on the ruin of Christendom. This is the same leaven by which the Jews produced self-righteousness by doing their law. This is very similar to the deadly mistake the unbeliever makes in contemplating standing before God one day and assuming things will be judged in his favor or that God will wink at his sin. You go on in the condition of the present things. Your eyes are blind to the spiritual reality.

2.      You may readily see the evil and corruption, but assume you have no choice but to go on in it. You throw your hands up and say that there is nothing you can do about it. This is true. There is no changing the corporate mess. However this does not replace the need to obey God on an individual basis as the Spirit leads in His word. Individually, His grace is always faithful and sufficient for the believer’s present need and circumstance. The Holy Spirit is still on earth to teach the word and guide the believer. Listlessness is not a godly option.

3.      You may see with spiritual eyes the ruin of the professing church and become despondent, thinking that the plans and purpose of God for the church are also in ruin. If God’s plans depended on man cooperating with them or depended on man in an Arminian way for his works, then all would be lost and Satan has defeated the purpose of God. But God’s plans and purpose cannot be stopped or defeated, and do not depend on the will of man or Satan for cooperation. Jesus will build the church, the body of Christ. What man builds on the earth is no longer the divine purpose of God and is not God doing the building. Despondency is not the appropriate response.

4.      You fully see and acknowledge the corporate evil and ruin of the professing church world. You also realize that the word of God does not teach an improvement or revival for the ruined condition. Your action is mainly individual and according to the mind and thoughts of God as revealed by His Spirit in His word.

The Religious Confidences of the Flesh

If you say this is all there is and we cannot do otherwise, then you will be content to go on in it as before, most likely for the rest of your Christian walk. You are likely to refuse to acknowledge the evil or have a less than biblical perspective of it. You will have to practice your excuses and have them ready, especially when the eye of the Lord is upon you. I’m not sure how one explains the evil and corruption as good, and does so in the presence of our Lord. But many will decide, even when their eyes are opened, to continue on. It is the easy thing to do. It is most convenient. You settle for the evil condition and are content with it. The leaven will give you all the reasons and explanations you need to justify your position. However, when Paul’s eyes were opened to the reality of the glorified Christ, he could not continue on in the religious workings of the flesh.

Philippians 3:4-10

“…though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: (5) circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; (6) concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

(7) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (8) Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

The religious confidences of the flesh are such a deceptive path to be on. They are self-righteous confidences in what man does. For the most part he does them in innocence and with good intentions. They are the things that are done for God but are not of God, and in fact, turn out to be against God. Saul could boast of many religious accomplishments, even his physical birth and circumcision. As concerning zeal he persecuted this new sect of Judaism that had arisen. He was an intelligent man, serving God and his religion in great efforts and without blemish. He put many believers in chains and was personally responsible for putting others to death (John 16:2, Acts 26:9-11). Without any doubt, in his mind Saul thought he was serving God above the efforts of all others. When God takes hold of him, Saul realizes that he is the worst of all sinners, that he was actually the enemy of God (I Tim. 1:15, I Cor. 15:8-10). When God awakens him and turns him in sovereign grace, he realizes that his Judaism, his birth, his circumcision on the eighth day, Hebrew of the Hebrews, his Phariseeism, all is rubbish, filth, and dung. And he leaves it behind, never to count on it again (Phil. 3:12-14).

If you are a pastor, you are at the crossroads. You see glimpses of evil and corruption, and much of the workings of religious flesh, but you think – what can I possibly do? Too much depends on me continuing on in this. I cannot possibly change now. I have family, friends, and responsibilities. There are bills to pay, committee meetings to chair, boards to meet with. My schedule is full and I have little time. I have been faithfully serving this denomination for thirty years. You want me to admit, to myself and to others, that this is all the confidences of the flesh? You want me to forget those things that are behind me? Those things are all the things I have built and I have accomplished. Leave them behind? Well, the decision is yours, and I do not say it is an easy one. Nothing here is easy. When God stopped Saul in his tracks, he was blind for three days and took no food and water (Acts 9:9). Yet this is the one thing you must do to go with God (Phil. 3:12-13). Do so only if you want to truly have Christ (Phil. 3:7-8).

Depart from the Corruption

So what is the individual believer to do? What course are we to take?   The epistles to Timothy give us a guide to answering these questions. The first epistle in general speaks of the proper order of the church as God intended it to be. The second epistle shows the ruin of the church in its earthly position and directs us how to act individually when the church has failed. It individualizes the duty of the Christian in the last days, when the public body has taken a form of godliness, but denies the power of life (II Tim. 3:1-5).

2 Timothy 2:19-22

“Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

“The Lord knows those who are His…”   This is the sure foundation of God’s work, and it is a truth to be known particularly in these last days. We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10). This is stated by the Spirit because the state of Christendom exists as a mixture of wheat and tares. Yet this condition of the great house on the earth cannot frustrate the sure purpose of God’s sovereign calling. The Lord knows who His wheat are. However, the remainder of the verse speaks of the individual responsibility of everyone in the spoiled crop of the field – “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”   Also if we are truly His we will cleanse ourselves from dishonor. Then we are to join with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

The Remnant trusts in the Word

The Spirit directs us to the two safeguards God has for the believer during the evil of the last days.

  1. First believers are to continue in the truths you have already learned in the Lord, considering from whom you have learned them. Paul was the spiritual father and teacher for Timothy (II Tim. 3:14). It is not a commendation to follow so called church authority or ‘fathers’ that would rise up in time. When we go back to Paul, Peter, and John, we are going back to the beginning (I John 1:1). Why is this important? Because it is what God has given! Now we know from whom we are learning (I John 2:24).

 

  1. The first could only solidify the second safeguard which is the authority of the Holy Scriptures (II Tim. 3:15-17).       It is what we have individually between ourselves and God, where nothing else is permitted to enter in – not any man, not any church authority, not superstitions or teachings of men. It is the word of God alone that is the believer’s true safeguard in the time when the public body will not endure sound doctrine (II Tim. 4:1-5).       Seeing the corruption and evil of the public body of Christendom we want to be found in faithful Philadelphia, instead of in ‘full of itself’ Laodicea. When Paul speaks for the last time to the elders of the church at Ephesus, revealing the evil and corruption that would come in among them after his death, he commends the faithful to two things: to God and to the word of God (Acts 20:32).

What can the believer do in obedience?

  • Recognize the corporate evil and turn from it (II Tim. 3:5). If you name the name of Christ in true faith, depart from iniquity and dishonor (II Tim. 2:19-21). Evil is growing in the church world and the disobedience of the corporate body cannot be remedied.

 

  • Gather with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (II Tim. 2:22). This is the simple obedience of the faithful remnant in the midst of the public professing body. The basis for believers gathering has always been, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20) These are His words. This is His promise. The Lord spoke it for the church before her beginning. I have no doubt His words are intended for the remnant church (Philadelphia) in the last days. Gathering like this in obedience to His words can be accomplished in integrity and purity. It is the true gathering of the assembly. It can be done as frequently as the Lord leads. It can be done with the Lord’s table as its center, for this speaks of the unity of the body (I Cor. 10:17).

When three thousand were added to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, the fellowship and praying centered around their gathering from house to house and the breaking of bread, along with holding all things in common (Acts 2:41-47). Here we see the general direction of things concerning the assembly. I seriously doubt that this early group of three thousand plus were ever called to assemble in one physical location after that day. Their use of the temple to gather would prove to be temporary. Although this was certainly the church in infancy, this assembly can be understood as a believing Jewish remnant in the midst of unbelief, holding out and looking for the repentance of the nation, so that God would send back their resurrected Messiah to them (Acts 2:36, 3:12-21). They were definitely the beginning of the church, yet also they were a believing Jewish remnant serving this final purpose on behalf of unbelieving Israel.[143]

  • His grace is sufficient for every need that a gathering of two or three will ever have. God is faithful and the Lord is present. The true gifts Christ gives for the edifying of the church will be known and obvious over time to the faithful (pastors, teachers, evangelists). Christ is the head of the church. There will never be any need or reason for any one person to dominate, or a group of individuals to struggle over control (Matt. 20:24-28). Jesus Christ never stops nourishing and caring for the true church, the body of Christ (Eph. 5:29-30). This just isn’t true concerning the spoiled crop in the field.

 

  • All true believers in one locale should desire and should be free to assemble together as one body. Except for excommunication or schisms, all could assemble as one if possible, a microcosm of the universal body. In the first century, at Antioch, Corinth, and Ephesus, there was one assembly reflecting the overall universal body. All the different assemblies in the differing locales together made up the house of God on the earth. This is what is according to Scripture.[144]

 

  • If there is an assembly already in a particular locale that adheres to these Scriptural principles of one body and the unity of that body, and teaches sound Scriptural doctrine, then there is never a justification for starting something new.

To be in Philadelphia you make sure you distinguish yourself as a Philadelphian. Make sure you know the character of those found there. Pay close attention to the words the Lord speaks to this remnant church. It is His instructions given to the faithful for the end times and is the measure of His grace given to them for this present need.

The Philadelphian Character

  • Christ’s character for Philadelphia is that He is holy and true. He has the sovereign power of God. When God shows His exceeding great power toward us in the exalting of the true church to His right hand (Eph. 1:19-23), then we will be made like His Son – holy and true (Rom. 8:29-30). This is what the faithful attempt to emulate in their walk on this earth, to walk as holy and true with Christ (Rev. 3:7)

 

  • We have little strength or power, and we are fully aware of this present state. His grace is sufficient for our every need. We are faithful to keep His word. We do not deny His name. We are faithful to Him (Rev. 3:8).

 

  • We are attentive to keep the word of His patience (Rev. 3:10, 1:9). We are vigilant to be looking for Him, expecting Him (Rev. 3:11). His coming for us is the sole object of our minds and hearts. If we have the spirit of the bride, we will desire with all our heart the coming of the Bridegroom. There is no doubting the love and desire of the Bridegroom for the bride (Eph. 5:25-32). In turn, the bride looks to see the Bridegroom coming for her, and has the appropriate desire and affections for His presence. The Spirit and the bride say “Come”. This is distinctly Philadelphian character.

 

  • We remain faithful now knowing that in the coming age we will be glorified together with Him. All His promises to us are to be found in glory with Him.       So we wait and endure the present time and sufferings (Rom. 8:17-18). We do not act like immature children desiring immediate satisfaction and personal ease. Christ in us is all the hope we need. His Spirit in us is the guarantee of us with Him in future glory (Col. 1:27).

 

  • Those in Philadelphia are totally dependent on Christ. Those in Laodicea are quite independent of Christ.

This is what Christ tells us to be and do. He doesn’t add anything else. This is it. There is no great Arminian work to be accomplished by the church in the world at the end of the age. Where do we find such aspirations, such visions of grandeur? I only see the crop in the field spoiled and growing worse (Matt. 13:26-29). The work at the end of the age is done by the Son of Man and his angels (Matt. 13:30, 39-43, 49-50).

I am content to believe that Jesus has given Philadelphia His full instructions for what He wants from them and what He wants them to do. I am confident He left nothing out. That wouldn’t be like Him to make such mistakes. No, it is all there for you and me to read and know. These are His instructions for the faithful in the last days of the church on earth.

In the described character of this remnant church the singular object of faith and faithfulness is the Lord’s coming for us. There may be much ignorance as to what we should be doing, but our relationship and affections for Christ must be genuine. The bride that is actually looking for her Bridegroom will seek to be pure for Him, to be prepared and readied for Him by the washing of the water of the Word. We should realize we are for Jesus Christ and Him alone.

There is Philadelphia, the remnant church. This is the wheat, the sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13:38). Christ sets an open door before them that no man can shut (Rev. 3:8). There is Laodicea, the corporate form of Christendom. The tares are gathered together and left in the field to be burned. This is spewed out of the Lord’s mouth and the candlestick is removed. Even Philadelphia has no power to maintain the candlestick. The church on earth is no longer acknowledged by God in its responsibility. After this, the very next verse is:

Revelation 4:1

“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

Philadelphia goes up into the heavens through the open door in front of them. The tares are bundled together and left on the earth. Revelation 2 and 3 are the present things, the things which are (Rev. 1:19). After the true church is taken to the heavens, the present things are complete. The prophecy of the book can now begin – the things which must take place after this (Rev. 1:19, 4:1). Prophecy is the future things, and the church is always the mystery hidden from prophecy. That is why the church was only involved in the present things or the second section of the book. The things that must take place after this, the third section, is God dealing with the world in judgment – that is prophecy.[145]

As for answering the question as to what is our hope, we know from Scripture that all the believer’s legitimate hopes are in glory and beyond this present time. This does not mean that Christ does not give grace now to the faithful to meet our present needs. He has promised and He is faithful. The measure of His grace is our strength to persevere under any present trials.

Chapter 19: Endnotes


[141] In captivity Daniel confessed the sins of his people, even though these weren’t necessarily his own sins. He felt he was part of the corporate responsibility of the nation (Dan. 9:3-19). God would allow a remnant to return to the land, rebuild the walls of the city and eventually rebuild the temple. God providentially brings these events to pass in order that years later, according to the counting of time in Daniel’s 70 week prophecy, He may present Messiah to them in Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24-26).

What should the believer do at this present time? Admit the ruin and corruption of the professing church and confess it as evil and sin, asking God to forgive us. Then turn from the evil and have no part in it. And then depend only on God and His word. Isn’t that like Daniel? Both Caleb and Joshua partook of the corporate failure of Israel, wandering in the wilderness with Israel for 40 years. They did so as part of Israel, and so exercised grace, patience, and love towards the people who sinned. God was faithful in keeping them, while the rest fell in the wilderness. This is the believing remnant’s place – in the spirit of love, patience, and humiliation, we are to always take the place of those who sinned. The sin and evil of Christendom should be confessed by the remnant, though they were not partakers of it. The remnant suffers in all the affliction. They do so with true sympathy and fellowship.

[142] John 1:17 also shows the transition between the two dispensations. The Jewish dispensation ends and the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven in mystery begins. The Jewish dispensation involves the law of Moses (Judaism) and the testing of mankind in responsibility. The kingdom of heaven in mystery involves God acting in sovereign grace and the truth of God in Jesus Christ found in Christianity.

[143] I do not think it is a stretch of the imagination to see the group of disciples after the day of Pentecost as both the beginning church body and a believing Jewish remnant in the midst of the nation. The prophecy of Joel that Peter quotes, directly points to a yet future Jewish remnant having the Spirit poured out on them before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-32). If you read the entire 32nd verse you will be convinced the prophecy only refers to a Jewish remnant. The future Jewish remnant before this terrible day is the only group by which this prophecy may be completely fulfilled. Yet for what can only be considered a partial fulfillment of the prophecy at Pentecost, and not that specific remnant to which the prophecy actually refers, this group of 120 disciples was a Jewish remnant to which the prophecy could be applied by the Holy Spirit.

Room was left by God for the group in the upper room on the day of Pentecost to serve as a Jewish remnant. God’s purpose was to give Israel a last chance at that time concerning the kingdom, their promises, and their Messiah – all this according to Jewish prophecy. This final chance was after Jesus was on the cross asking the Father to forgive them, for they know not what they do. Yet this was based solely on human responsibility in the nation and could only fail.

We see a similar double meaning found again in Peter’s preaching in Acts 2:22-23. The nation of Israel was guilty of putting Jesus to death by lawless hands, and God holds the nation accountable. Yet at the same time Christ’s suffering and death was according to the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God. Both thoughts come to pass during the same action, so to speak, of the cross. Therefore both thoughts are harmonious with each other and are fulfilled at the same time. Man’s sin and hatred only brought about the accomplishment of God’s counsels. That is the beauty and the glory of the cross, and only seen on God’s side, when man’s offerings were only sin and enmity.

When the disciples walked with Jesus during His 3 ½ years of ministry, they were in fact a believing remnant in the midst of the unbelieving nation (Matt. 13:9-16). They were His own sheep that He goes through the gate of the sheepfold of Israel to retrieve and take out (John 10:1-5). This remnant of Israel was not yet mixed with His sheep from another fold (the Gentiles – John 10:16). During this time the disciples, in many ways and circumstances, foreshadow in type the final Jewish remnant that God will choose and preserve in the coming tribulation (Rev. 7:3-8, Joel 2:32). It is quite remarkable (Matt. 14:14-21, 14:22-33, John 6: 5-15, 6:16-21, 20:24-29, 21:1-13). It isn’t hard to see that the 3,120 disciples after the day of Pentecost were both the beginning of the assembly (body of Christ) and a Jewish remnant used for God’s certain purpose.

[144] Jesus Christ said He would build the church, which is the body of Christ (Eph. 5:23, Col. 1:18, 24). God builds this without any help from man, so that it is God’s work alone and cannot fail. This is an important point and distinction. Jesus saying, “…I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” shows at the same time God’s sovereignty in His work and the understanding that God’s work cannot ever fail. When you mix Arminian thoughts and leaven with this passage, inevitably you have man thinking he is doing the work of God and building the body of Christ, the church, on the earth. He also thinks that what he builds cannot possibly fail and that God will sustain and uphold it. You can see how the Arminian leaven constantly leads one further and further from the truth of Scripture and God’s thoughts.

In contrast, what God started on the earth and then turned over to men in responsibility, is viewed in Scripture as the house of God, particularly those aspects of the body of Christ on earth that involve the responsibility of man (I Cor. 3:9). By sovereign grace and in using the apostle Paul as the instrument of that grace, God laid a masterful foundation on the earth for this house (I Cor. 3:7, 9-11). This was God starting the building and He started it well. Everything on earth given over to the responsibility of man, to maintain the glory and purity of God’s initial work and blessing, always fails and is corrupted. Again, this is not the body of Christ failing. This is not the church failing. It is the house of God on the earth – started in sovereign grace by God, initially God’s work, now turned over to men to build and maintain in responsibility, men sleeping and the enemy entering in to plant tares and spread leaven – which is failing.

Knowing this failure and ruin of the house of God on the earth, it is hard to speak of a local assembly as being a microcosm of the universal body of Christ. Inevitably we are looking at what is on the earth, which is the house of God built by man. We see the spoiled crop in the field, and only with the eye of faith do we understand it is spoiled. The unbelieving world, as well as many Christians, sees the crop as the good influence of Christendom in the world, and that it is all the work of God. They don’t see that it is spoiled. The unbelieving world and many Christians see the great tree that has grown up in the field and extol the wonderful influence of this great worldly power. They don’t see the birds flying in to roost (Matt. 13:31-32). The house of God built up by men on the earth is not the hidden treasure in the field (Matt. 13:44). The house of God built by men is the spoiled crop and the great expansive tree. These are easily seen in the world and by the world with the naked eye. What is hidden in the world and out of eyesight is the body of Christ, the church. The body of Christ – the work of God – is God’s hidden treasure in the world.

The differences I speak of between the parables in Matthew thirteen (13) fall into three categories:

·         First, what is seen with the natural eye.

·         Second, what is seen by the believer’s eye of faith.

·         Third, what is hidden and only God sees, or the spirit realm sees.

The natural eye sees the great crop in the field, the great tree in the field, and the three measures of meal. The natural eye sees all that was told to the multitudes (Matt. 13:34-35). The eye of faith of the believer sees and understands much more (Matt. 13:11). This involves seeing the crop as spoiled, the great tree harboring every kind of bird, and the leaven saturating all three measures. Also the eye of faith knows the treasure exists in the field, but as the treasure is hidden, the believer cannot really see it. God sees the body of Christ, for He knows those that are His (II Tim. 2:19), and bought the field in order to hide the treasure there. The pearl of great price is the body of Christ as well (Matt. 13:45-46). The Son of Man paid a great price to possess it. But this pearl is yet to be displayed for the entire world to see (Col 3:4). The pearl is unseen and in His possession at this present time.

In the house of God that man built on the earth, there is no longer any church unity, church discipline, one faith or doctrine, etc. The example and reality of a local assembly being a microcosm of the body existed in the first century and was valid then, but for the reasons mentioned above, it doesn’t exist today. In the first century, Paul could legitimately send an epistle to “…the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord…” A local assembly represented the whole of God’s assembly. Today however, there is no apostolic power or care for the maintenance of the general assembly. Local assemblies should not think or pretend that they gather every true believer in a specific locality. They should be open for all true believers to gather and not deny any, but they cannot declare themselves to be the only true representation of the body in that locality. The unity of the universal house does not exist any longer. How can a local assembly be a legitimate microcosm of what no longer exists?

When people are asked to think of churches today, they would think of what is called churches in the religious world. You have the Southern Baptist church and their churches, the Presbyterian church and their churches, the Catholic church and their churches, the Church of God and their churches, etc. If the believer is scripturally minded and asked to think of churches, he will think of Corinth, Antioch, and Philippi – one assembly in a place, which was God’s assembly. This latter is what is found in Scripture, the former is not. Today there exists such a disconnection from the word of God. If what we see is not in agreement with Scripture, how can church unity and power in the Holy Spirit exist?

I will say this. The basis of gathering has always been, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name…” (Matt. 18:20) This is especially valid for the end times, and the Lord may have had the end of the church on earth in mind when He said this. Certainly it is the basis for gathering from beginning to end of the history of the church. Yet this is especially valid and useful now when one sees the corruption and ruin of the professing church. How precious it is that Jesus promises He will be present among us.

[145] The integrity and perfection of the Word of God is an amazing thing to see and behold. The book of Revelation is a remarkable work that soundly and masterfully maintains this integrity, in the midst of very detailed circumstances. There are three subjects I will point out that the book itself treats and handles in a very unique way – the character of the prophetic word, the body of Christ as the mystery of God hidden from prophecy, and the general inerrancy of God’s Word.

·         The book of Revelation is a book of prophecy (Rev. 1:1-3). The character of prophecy is three fold – it is about Israel, it is about the earth, and it is about God’s government of the earth. According to this character then, the body of Christ is never found to be the proper subject of prophecy. It is not just that God tells us the church is the mystery hidden from the prophets (Eph. 3:1-11), but that it also doesn’t fit the character of prophecy. The church is not Israel. The church is not of the earth in her calling. She is seated in the heavens as having any connection with God’s government over the millennial earth. We find that prophecy is never about the church and is never about the heavens. The only point in time when the church is seen as directly a part of the prophecy of the book is at the end, when the bride of the Lamb is seen at the marriage feast and also seen as the heavenly city. The New Jerusalem is God’s capital city of His government over the millennial earth and is now finally related to the character of Biblical prophecy. Nowhere before this is the body of Christ, the church, directly referred to in the book. Even at the end it is still seen as an allegory (the bride of the Lamb), and the words ‘body’ or ‘church’ are not used.

·         The names for God as found in the book are those found in the Old Testament – the prophetic writings of the Jewish prophets. These are all God’s names as He revealed Himself to Israel or their forefathers, and this fits the character of prophecy. However, His name for His relationship with the church is our Father, and this will be hidden in the book. We do find the name Father, but it is never the Father of the church or the Father of the believer as is established in the epistles (Rom. 1:7, I Cor. 1:3, II Cor. 1:2, Gal. 1:1, etc.). It is always the Father of the Lamb or His Father (Rev. 1:6, 3:5, 3:21, and 14:1). If you hold that the church age is not properly a dispensation, then these Old Testament names are the dispensational names for God.

·         Even though Revelation 2 and 3 is about the responsibility of the professing church on the earth, the words ‘body’ and ‘church’ are never directly used. The closest you get is the Spirit speaking to the churches, which becomes an allegory for Christendom. This section of the book is labeled ‘the things which are’ or the present things. As I said earlier, prophecy is about future things, not present things. The seven messages were in fact spoken to seven existing churches or seven ‘present’ churches. You see the lengths taken to maintain the character of prophecy and to keep the mystery hidden. If it refers to the church, even indirectly or hidden, these are then the ‘present things’. Then God has to stop acknowledging the church on earth in order to move on to the things that must take place after this (Rev. 4:1) – the prophetic part of the book, its third division (Rev. 1:19). We know that the second division concerning the candlesticks is prophetic and gives a prophetic picture of the progressive history of the church on the earth. Yet it is delivered to us in ‘present time’ and concerning ‘seven present and existing Asian churches’. It is all allusion and allegory and requires the mind of Christ to properly see the prophetic picture and message. In this way, in this division of the book, the character of prophecy and the integrity of the word of God are maintained. At the same time the mystery remains hidden in allegories and symbols.

·         The general meaning of the labels for the second and third divisions of the book serve to maintain the three points mentioned above. “The things which are” and “the things which will take place after this” simply are distinct from each other in the character of their content. The present things involve the body of Christ, howbeit indirectly and allegorically. The things after this is prophecy – about the earth, God’s government of the earth, and God’s dealings with Israel.

·         The names and titles for Jesus Christ used in the book also serve to maintain this overall integrity. His present titles as they relate to the church – Head of the body and High Priest for the church – are not found in the entire book. Again, this is because the church is hidden from this book of prophecy. Therefore, her established relationships with the Father, with Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit as the Comforter are hidden. In the book Jesus is pictured in one of two general ways – both as divine and merged with God in attributes, or as the Son of Man with His connections to the earth. As divine He is seen as the Ancient of Days and the Eternal One, the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:11, 14, 17, 22:13). As the Son of Man, He is on the earth in the midst of the candlesticks, judging (Rev. 1:13). He says He is the One who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. His death and resurrection occurred on the earth. This connection to the earth, and therefore prophecy, has a greater emphasis in the introduction of the book (Rev. 1:5). He was the faithful witness of God on the earth, perfectly revealing the Father. He is the firstborn from the dead in physical resurrection, which took place on the earth. He will be ruler over the kings of the earth in the coming age. Finally in verse seven (7) it shows His appearing to the world and earth, where all the tribes on the earth will mourn. These descriptions of Christ at the beginning of the book entirely skip over what He is presently for the church – High Priest and Head of the body – partly because the church has a heavenly calling with no connection to the earth and the character of prophecy. The descriptions entirely pass over what Jesus Christ is in heaven presently. Heaven and the things of heaven are not the proper subject of prophecy or the counting of time. The descriptions only refer to Christ’s connection to the character of the book itself. Yet regardless of what descriptions are used, when the church hears His name spoken she answers, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Although Christ is referred to in His connections to the earth and world, the true church knows Him for what He is for her and what He has done for her. We know Jesus Christ for what He is for us, and this cannot be hidden in the introduction of the book.

·         In the book the Holy Spirit is never seen as the Comforter to the church. The closest you get to this relationship is what the Spirit says to the churches. However even the Spirit’s reference to the churches is cloaked in allegory.   His words are mostly chastisements and judgments, and not comfort. When the Holy Spirit is acknowledged in the introduction it is not as the Comforter to the church, but as the seven Spirits who are before the throne (Rev. 1:4). There are three words or phrases used in the book to describe associations with certain things, particularly the throne – in the midst, around, and before. The word ‘before’ never really means physical location, but rather moral relationship and connection, while remaining on or in the earth. The seven Spirits before the throne is the Holy Spirit as the perfect (7) instrument of the providence and judgment of God and His government of the earth from the throne. He is the agent of God’s power, judgments, and dealings in the earth.

·         The order in which the trinity is acknowledged in the introduction is worth noting (Rev. 1:4-5). It is God who sits on the throne, the Holy Spirit before the throne, and then Jesus Christ mentioned last. This is because Jesus is seen here as the Son of Man and in His humanity, not in His divinity, and in His connections with the earth that is about to be judged.

·         The last unique circumstance found early in the book that maintains the three points mentioned above is the position that John is found in. He is immediately viewed as a servant and Old Testament prophet (Rev. 1:1-2). When the vision begins he is looking out to the judgment of the world and earth, according to his position and the character of prophecy. But Christ is behind him and among the seven candlesticks. John is made to turn around and view what concerns the responsibility of the professing church on earth. He has to turn around because the candlesticks involve the church, which is not the proper subject of prophecy and the prophet. “…I heard behind me a loud voice…saying…Then I turned…And having turned…” (Rev. 1:10-11)

·         You should be able to realize the spiritual value of being able to rightly divide the word of truth by the Spirit (II Tim. 2:15). In the fine detail of Scripture God refuses to ever violate His overall Biblical principles. This is the overall integrity of God’s word and this perfection is a beautiful element to see maintained. God has privileged the believer/church to know all His counsels and plans, and to be His confidant (John 15:15, I Cor. 2:6-16). This knowledge gained from the Spirit and the word is part of ‘our reasonable service’ (Rom. 12:1). Reasonable means intelligent. This plays a big part in the book of Revelation. Whenever a question needs to be answered or an explanation needs to be given, it is the twenty-four elders that do so. This is the church in the heavens. These are the ones in the book who give reason for their worship, and intelligent explanations and answers (Rev. 4:11, 5:5, 8-10, and 7:13-17). This is our reasonable service.