The unbeliever’s entrance into the kingdom of God is by being born again, being born of the Spirit. This is the sovereign work of God because it is said of the Spirit that it is like the wind that blows where it wishes (John 3:8). By this work the unbeliever is made alive, having been dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). His conscience is now awakened to the spiritual truth that he is a sinner, desperately lost in his sins, and in need of a Savior (Luke 15:17). His conscience makes him aware of his present state and condition before a holy and righteous God. His conscience is now enlightened to the reality that the wrath of God’s judgment rests upon him. This makes him nervous and uncomfortable. He must know and find out all that God has to say to him, and how he is to stand in the presence of God. He is drawn by God to Jesus Christ, usually by the preaching of the gospel message. He is drawn to Christ as the only possible solution to his present sinful condition. This is the sovereign work of God (John 6:44).

The sinner, being quickened in conscience and now drawn to Christ by the Word, will believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, believing in His death and shed blood (Rom. 3:23-26, John 3:16). His faith in Jesus Christ is not from himself, but rather a gift from God.

Ephesians 2:8-9

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

The assumption made in Ephesians should never be that of grace being from man himself – ‘that not of yourselves’—but instead the error is made in presuming that at least the faith is of man’s doing.[61] No, all is from God and the work of God. God gives to each the measure of faith. Believing in Christ, he is no longer an unbeliever, but now a believer. He is then sealed by the Holy Spirit.

The Seal of the Spirit – the One Baptism

Ephesians 1:13                                  

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

Unbelievers are born again and drawn to faith in Jesus Christ. Believers are sealed by God with the Holy Spirit.[62] By this seal we are marked as sons of God, we have His Spirit dwelling in us, by which we cry, Abba, Father. Individually we are sons, and all of the above is the sovereign work of God on behalf of the individual. But having received the Holy Spirit individually, we are now members of the one corporate body, the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

There is one baptism (Eph. 4:4-5). The baptism of the Spirit is the seal of the Spirit by which the Holy Spirit dwells in us individually (I Cor. 6:19), and in the church body corporately (I Cor. 3:9, 16-17). These two blessed truths define the reality of Christianity. It is the promise of the Comforter and is unique to Christianity. By one Spirit we are baptized into one body, and this is Christ. This explains our entrance into Christ, both individually and corporately.[63] He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him, and both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren (I Cor. 6:17, Heb. 2:11).

The True Church vs. the Spoiled Crop in the Field

Our entrance into the visible outward assembly on earth (Christendom) is by a human work and outward sign – water baptism.   The person who professes faith in Christ will be baptized in water by man and therefore outwardly manifested in this way to the world. It was always as being baptized into the one outward body on the earth – the crop in the field – as a member of the professing church and introduced into Christ’s assembly, as it is on earth. The Ethiopian eunuch’s baptism by Timothy was his admission into the outward general assembly (Acts 8:35-38). (No one in the Scriptures was ever baptized as a member of a local church)

We must learn the biblical importance of the distinction I make above. There is a difference between what Christ builds and what man builds on the earth. What Christ builds is what God does on His own, without any help from man. It is done by sovereign grace. Jesus said, “I will build my church…” This is the body of Christ. This is the true church. In reference to my argument above, only the Holy Spirit baptizes individual believers into the true church that Christ builds (I Cor. 12:12-13). Man’s work of water baptism is not this work at all. Man’s work cannot be the sovereign work of God. Man is not building the true church. Men water baptizing others is a human work by which the crop in the field is increased.

The true church that Christ builds is the wheat in the field planted by the Son of Man (Matt. 13:37-38). It is presently in the field (world), but that is not the calling or destiny of the wheat. The calling and purpose of the body of Christ is for the heavens, and eventually the wheat is removed from the field and taken there (Matt. 13:30). What Christ builds is for the heavens, although the church is presently gathered by the Holy Spirit on the earth. Yet it has only one calling and it is a heavenly calling. It has only one citizenship and this is in heaven. It is blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and it is seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Christ builds this, and Hades cannot prevail against it. It is the work of God which cannot fail.

What Christ builds is not the work of man. What man builds on the earth is always in his responsibility. Therefore what man builds is always subject to the judgment of God (I Cor. 3:12-15). Whereas, God’s sovereign work is never subjected to judgment (John 5:24). What man builds on the earth is God’s building. Paul was commissioned by God to lay the foundation for this building, and he did so through sovereign grace (I Cor. 3:10-11). However, we must never confuse what Paul did by the grace of God with what man builds in human responsibility. You must never confuse the foundation with the building. This is clearly taught in the passage in I Corinthians 3, yet this is a reality few Christians take time to fully understand. There the Spirit declares, “…you are God’s field, you are God’s building,” and “…another builds on it (the foundation). But let each one take heed how he builds on it (the foundation).” (parentheses by author)

To Timothy Paul describes the building as a great house (II Tim. 2:20). In the teaching of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus describes this same thing as the spoiled crop or the great expansive tree, both growing in the field (Matt. 13:26, 31-32). Also, in the same chapter, He describes the same thing as the dragnet (Matt. 13:47).

                     The work of man                                                 The work of God

The spoiled crop (Christendom) in the field (world) – Matt. 13:26 The wheat (the body of Christ) planted by the Son of Man, in the spoiled crop.
The great tree (Christendom growing in the field (world) – Matt. 13:31-32 The treasure (the body of Christ) hidden in the field (world) – Matt. 13:44
The three measures of meal (Christendom) – Matt. 13:33 The pearl of great price (the body of Christ) kept by the merchant – Matt. 13:45-46
The dragnet (Christendom) cast into the sea (world) gathers both good and bad The good (the body of Christ) gathered into vessels – Matt. 13:48

The Mixing of Good and Bad

In all these particular descriptions of man’s work it is easy to see the mixture of good and bad that results. True ministers of Christ build on the foundation of God’s building with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw (I Cor. 3:10-12). False ministers of Christ only bring defilement to the building (I Cor. 3:17). There is true and false in the ministry of man and both have the potential to bring forth that which is bad for the building.

In the great house there are both vessels for honor and dishonor (II Tim. 2:20). In the spoiled crop there are both wheat and tares mixed together (Matt. 13:38). The great tree in the field is the indiscriminate place of shelter for all kinds of things, both good and bad. There is good soil that produces fruit. The bad soils – the waysides, the stony places, and the soil with thorns – do not produce fruit. The dragnet thrown into the sea gathers some of every kind, both good and bad (Matt. 13:47-48). The unfruitful branches are cast out and burned, while the fruitful branches are pruned so to produce more fruit (John 15:2, 6). When the Jews made light of the invitation of grace and were found unworthy of it, the King sent His servants out into the highways to find as many as they could, both good and bad (Matt. 22:1-10). It is the gospel that does this. The ten virgins were five wise and five foolish (Matt. 25:1-2). The kingdom has both faithful and evil servants. (Luke 12:42-46). In every example given, the good is the work of God in sovereign grace, while the bad is the direct working of Satan complicit with the failure of man in responsibility.

The church world is this mixture of good and bad, the work of the Son of Man mixed in with the work of the evil one. Look at the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish – we easily see what the world sees of Christendom, that the ten virgins look the same and are associated together (Matt. 25:1-12). They are one group. They go out together, they sleep together, and they go back out again together when awakened. The bad are associated with the people of God in profession and outwardly appear to belong with them. Many Christians do not distinguish the reality of the corporate body, believing it is all the work of God and it is all basically good.

In these examples it is easy to see man’s responsibility and failure. All ministers must take heed how they build on the foundation of God’s house on earth (I Cor. 3:10). While men slept the devil came in to do his work (Matt. 13:25). When the bridegroom was delayed, all the virgins slumbered and slept. The candlesticks for the churches were to burn bright in testimony toward a dark and unbelieving world (Rev. 1:12-13).

The Judgment of the Bad

We also see the judgment of God. The minister’s work ‘will become manifest…because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.’ (I Cor. 3:13) Then there is judgment of individuals. Those which are bad are easily seen as being judged by God on the earth. The tares are bundled together, left in the field, to be burned (Matt. 13:30). The foolish virgins are shut out from the wedding feast, and are told, “…I do not know you.” The unfruitful branches are cut off and burned (John 15:6). The man without the wedding garment is bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness (Matt. 22:11-13). The evil servant is appointed his portion with the unbelievers (Luke 12:46). The Son of Man appears to judge the candlestick of Christendom on the earth as it progresses through time, and he makes the prophet turn around to see it (Rev. 1:10-16). His appearance is saturated with the character of judgment and His messages to professing Christianity, found in Revelation 2, 3, are certainly the atmosphere of judgment. The vision of the Son of Man walking among the candlesticks takes place on the earth, and not in the heavens, because the church world’s responsibility is viewed and judged as what man has done on the earth and in the world.[64]

Man’s failures bring in corruption to Christendom

This brings us back to the subject of water baptism. This is a work of man on the earth and another area of responsibility in the church world. Through baptism the individual is received into the outward society of professing Christianity. No sincere believer, taught in the Scriptures by the Spirit, would consider water baptism as one’s entrance into the body of Christ or that which communicates to the individual eternal life. Both are direct operations of the Holy Spirit and are the sovereign work of God. However, all individuals who profess Christ will be water baptized. It is the demonstrated sign to the world that you are a member of this external society of Christendom according to your profession of faith.

Seeing it is done by the hands of men, what safeguards are in place and have they been kept up to ensure the purity of God’s house? Early on in the church there was evident power of the Holy Spirit in strength and discipline. There was apostolic authority as well. But those days are long gone. There are no more apostles. The church world has consistently grieved the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the building of God (Eph. 2:22). The safeguards were compromised or have disappeared. Evil corrupt men were allowed to creep in unawares (Jude 4). The mystery of iniquity was already working in the church (II Thess. 2:7). Savage wolves devouring the flock and perverse men rising up from among them drawing away disciples would be the result of the end of apostolic ministry (Acts. 20:28-31). By the fourth message to the churches in Revelations, the Son of Man no longer acknowledges the external corporate entity of Christendom as vital.

The church was to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world. She should have belonged entirely to Christ in the midst of the world, thus glorifying Him on earth. The church was to let her light shine before men. She was to be closely united together in love for one another and as members one of another in one body. She was to be a corporate entity outside the world, glorifying our Lord while in the world. The church is the house of God on the earth, and should have kept herself pure because of the holiness of the Spirit that dwells in her (Eph. 2:22, I Cor. 3:16). She was to be the pillar and ground of the truth where the winds of doctrine and the trickery of men would not prevail (I Tim. 3:15, Eph. 4:13-16). She was to endure nothing but the truth of God.

Yet Christendom was corrupted and no longer answers to God’s purpose and intention for its establishment on the earth. It has lost all its early discipline and power. It has steadily declined and decayed from its first estate (Rev. 2:4-5). It has been guilty of permitting unholy doctrines taught for power and wealth, to control the masses and gain earthly riches (Rev. 2:14-15). Over time it became the seat and throne of Satan’s influence and power, openly prostituting itself to the world (Rev. 2:13-14, 20-24).

What cannot be denied is the existence of this external entity – distinct from the body of Christ, yet containing the body – set under the principle of responsibility in the kingdom of heaven. What also cannot be denied is the failure of the corporate entity to obey God in its responsibility, and as a consequence the entrance of evil, corruption, and apostasy.

God will judge the failure. Why? The spoiled crop in the field was to be the habitation of God in the Spirit, representing to the world the name and glory of God on the earth. It was to be His witness, His lighted city on a hill.   However, morally, the corporate entity does a better job at representing the power and work of Satan than that of God. The evil and corruption that entered early on into the external body of professing Christianity is continuing on today, just worsening and ripening to its end.

How can God bless Christendom? How can God pour out His power on the corporate body of professing Christianity? God would have to compromise His own holiness and character in an unscriptural way in order to do so. This He will not do. God will not sanction evil with blessing. The evil only ripens for judgment, while the remnant, in the midst of this evil, is encouraged to keep His word and not deny His name (Rev. 3:8). “Behold, I come quickly! Hold fast what you have…”(Rev. 3:11)

                                                           Chapter 3: Endnotes

 


[61] This is the last foothold or stronghold for sincere believers to deal with in ridding themselves of the Arminian leaven – that by free will at the very least man accomplishes his own faith, that he is responsible for choosing God or Jesus Christ, and that the ‘exercise of faith’ is something that he does. If man does it, then it is a work by man. But our faith in God is really a gift from God. He gives the measure of faith to every unbeliever that He chooses. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you…” and “…but I chose you out of the world…” (John 15:16, 19) We cannot be thinking that man’s free will can deny the choice of God. And it is an odd thought that some of those chosen by God out of the world are brought into the kingdom against their will, kicking and screaming.

God quickens the conscience of the unbeliever. God changes the unbeliever’s will. God makes the unbeliever’s conscience alive, in contrast to being dead in sins (Eph. 2:1). I believe these three thoughts are the essence of the meaning of the biblical term ‘born again’. As such he will see the kingdom of God and be drawn to it as a sinner (John 3:3). But seeing the kingdom of God does not mean that you are in it or have already entered. So then, Jesus uses the term ‘born of water and the Spirit’ for entrance into the kingdom (John 3:5). Now water being added in this term is not a reference to physical water or water baptism. It refers to God’s use of His word to ‘reveal’ the sinners true condition and to draw the ‘enlightened’ unbeliever to faith in Jesus Christ. Water is a figure used in Scripture signifying the application of God’s word by the power of the Holy Spirit. The unbeliever, now quickened, comes to an understanding of what his situation is, standing before a holy God. The preaching of the Word becomes effective as used by the Spirit of God. The unbeliever is drawn by God through the word and the power of the Spirit to believe in Christ’s death and blood as his only hope of salvation (John 3:14). By faith the unbeliever becomes a believer, and is, in fact, now in the kingdom of God (John 3:15). Once a believer, he then can be sealed with the Spirit of God. But John 3 does not deal with this final step. The seal of the Spirit is after believing in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:13), and is the seal of sonship with God, that is, he is now a son of God (Gal. 3:26, 4:5-7, Rom. 8:14-17).

When praying to the Father Jesus says, “…as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him.” (John 17:1-2) By the Arminian leaven we negate the choice of God in sovereign grace and make it a human accomplishment, a choice of man’s supposed ‘free will.’ This may seem like a minor thing to many, but it does sow confusion concerning the ministry of the gospel and its results. It does rob glory from God and His work, and it does give man a foothold for boasting.

The parable of the prodigal follows the above paragraphs and explanation (Luke 15:11-32). Evangelical Christianity, being saturated by Judaizing and Arminian leaven, loves to use this story in an improper way and meaning – teaching the possibility of the believer losing his salvation and having the need, perhaps frequently, to come back to God from the precipice of destruction, being restored and renewed. They use it incorrectly as an example of a believer back-sliding. However, the prodigal parable follows the same theme of teaching that is found in the two parables immediately preceding it in the chapter – the lost sheep and the lost coin (Luke 15:4-10). These two are definitely about God seeking the ‘lost’ and doing so in His sovereignty – that is, both the lost sheep and the lost coin do absolutely nothing that would indicate human effort, human decisions, or human will in the stories. The entire work is done by God, who is represented by the shepherd and the searching woman.

In the prodigal story the elder son represents the Jews and the younger son represents the Gentiles. The Jews are closer and nearer to God by their privileges and history. The Gentiles are far off from God, not having the privileges that Israel enjoyed (Rom. 9:4-5, Eph. 2:11-18). In the parable the two take these distinctive positions. The elder son is always acting like a servant, not knowing his relative position, yet staying near or close to the house and God. The younger son’s position we see as in the world and with the pigs, dirty and destitute, far away and without help or hope (Luke 15:13-16). By their position in the parable both sons are unbelievers – the prodigal is said by the father to have been dead, but now alive, lost, but now found (Luke 15:24). The prodigal coming to his senses is the same as a Gentile unbeliever being quickened in his conscience and born again (Luke 15:17). Then you see him being drawn to God. What is emphasized in the parable is the seal of sonship – the robe, shoes, ring, and fatted calf; how he is shown to be a son in the household by the Father in front of all the servants. Notice the elder son’s disrespect and jealously – this is typical of the Jews (Matt. 18:28-30, 23:13, Gal. 4:29-31).

Another foothold of Arminian leaven to be liberated from is dealt with by the Lord farther on in His prayer to the Father. The foothold is discredited in these words, “Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost…” (John 17:9-12) Also in John 6 He said,“This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, and should raise it up at the last day.”(John 6:37-44) Arminian thinking, based on the faulty idea of man’s ‘free will,’ simply cannot reason or accept the Scriptural truth of eternal security, and that this security as well is solely the work of God. And here their thinking must fall back to the first stronghold that salvation and justification is the choice of man, and therefore, man also has to be responsible for keeping it. If it is the choice of man, it is the work of man. If it is the work of man, I readily admit, there is no eternal character or security associated with it. Only the work of God has eternity associated with it. Only the work of God cannot fail, and will last eternally. The believer’s justification is solely the work of God. We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10). The only one that can create is God! God secures the believer eternally as His workmanship. Jesus says, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-29)

[62] God does not seal an unbeliever or unbelief with His Spirit. He only seals that which is the accomplishment of His work – the believer as a son of God. The seal of the Spirit is the seal of sonship and the stamp of authenticity on all His sons. Faith in Christ comes first (Gal. 3:26-27). Then the ‘believer’ is sealed with the Spirit because he is now a son (Gal. 4:5-7). When it comes to God’s seal of the future Jewish remnant, it is not an internal seal of the Holy Spirit. Rather it is an earthly seal and physical, and matches their earthly calling (Rev. 7).

[63] There are two very important understandings unique to Christianity that separates the believer and the body of Christ from being mistaken as Israel – our relationship as sons of God to the Father and the sending of the Comforter to the earth. The Spirit, having been sent by the Father (John 14:16), is the seal of our sonship individually. The Spirit, having been sent by Jesus Christ (John 15:26, 16:13-15), is our baptism into the body of Christ corporately. This is our union with Christ. In this He is Head of the body, the church (Eph. 1:22-23).

Individually we stand with Christ as His brethren, heirs of God and co-heirs with Him. Individually we are sons of God with Him, and eventually we will individually be conformed into the image of God’s Son. Corporately, we have union with Christ as His body – the true assembly, the church. We are baptized into the body by the Spirit, and we are members one of another (I Cor. 12:12-13). This is the baptism of the Spirit, and there is only one baptism (Eph. 4:3-5).

These two understandings are exclusively Christian. They cannot be spiritualized back to Israel. The revelation of the Father is only for the believer because it is solely determined and given by Jesus Christ, the Son (Matt. 11:27). Israel does not possess them in any way possible. These understandings are part of the uniqueness of the Christian position (please see John 8:34-36).

[64] In Revelation chapter one, John is standing in the role and character of an Old Testament prophet. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is given by God to Jesus Christ, who in turn gives it to John by an angel (Rev. 1:1). It is a book of prophecy and prophetic visions (Rev. 1:3). To understand the book of Revelation it is important to see its inherent character and unique position. It is a book of prophecy. It is not an epistle written from the Father and Son through the Holy Spirit to the church body, communicating and fellowshipping with His body and instructing it. Rather, it is about things that must shortly take place (prophecy – Rev. 1:1). And the proper subjects of prophecy are threefold, yet interconnected:

1.       Prophecy is about the earth

2.       Prophecy is about God’s government of the earth

3.       Prophecy is about the nation of Israel, the earthly calling, and God’s dealings with them, and how, in the end, Israel is on the earth and is the center of God’s government of the earth

The body of Christ, the church, is never the proper subject of prophecy. It is the mystery of God hidden from prophecy and the prophets (Eph. 3:1-11). That is why the subject of the book of Revelation is not the church. The church is only personalized in the beginning greeting and ending salutation (Rev. 1:4-6, 22:16-21). However, even though prophecy isn’t about the body of Christ, the outward society of the spoiled crop is on the earth and viewed by God in responsibility, and subject to His judgments.

Therefore, before God deals with the judgment of Israel and the world, which is found starting in chapter four, He first must judge professing Christianity. This He does in chapter two and three. But because the body of Christ, which is part of Christendom, is not the proper subject of prophecy, the prophet is looking out to view the world that God will judge. The Son of Man appears and makes the prophet turn around so he could view the judgment of professing Christianity on the earth – the Son of Man walking among the candlesticks. Judgment begins at the house of God – this is a biblical principle, and another reason for judging on earth the candlesticks first, and why chapter two and three precede the remainder of the book. The judging by God of Christendom had to precede the judgment of the world, as it does in the book.

This is, I believe, the only place in all of Scripture where a prophet receiving the word of the Lord and prophetic visions had to turn around in the vision itself. It is because of the unique character of the book and the unique character of professing Christianity on the earth in the view of the candlesticks. It all comes together and makes for a very unique event – the prophet being made to turn around – in the first chapter of the book (Rev. 1:12).

The book of Revelation is a book given to the church, written for the church. It is not a book written about the church to instruct the church concerning its relationship with the Father and its proper conduct in that relationship. It is given to the church for the church to know the things which will take place after the church is removed from the earth. The Revelation is about the judgment of the world and all things on the earth that belong to the world. This is why professing Christianity is brought in for judgment first in the book. It is the spoiled crop progressing along in time on the earth. The true believer and the true church have been given these things to know and understand, even though they are things that do not directly concern the believer/church (John 15:15).