[written and published July ’15, edited slightly in July ’17] Summary: this article should be a delight for any genuine Christian believer to read over and over again. It presents with overwhelming biblical evidence the true calling of the believer/church, and shows the great distinction this calling has from that of Israel. Sadly, this knowledge is mostly lost in Christian teaching today. It is my hope that this article becomes your favorite.
The Christian will never fully comprehend his own redemption until he realizes the hope of God’s calling of him in Christ. He will never understand God’s purpose for redeeming him until he comprehends his calling. The end of our salvation is the glorifying of our bodies, for which we wait with perseverance (Rom. 8:23-25). God’s own counsels He planned concerning the believer, those from before the foundations of the world, are described in Romans eight:
Romans 8:28-30 (NKJV)
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
We are to be conformed into the image of God’s Son – this by the glorifying of our bodies. This is what God predestined in His counsels. When this occurs, we will be perfectly holy and blameless before Him. The event that initiates the fulfillment of our calling is the rapture of the true church. But let us start farther back. What you’ll find below is material from the third book I wrote, The Corruption and Death of Christendom. You’ll find this in chapter 20, “The True Calling of the Church.” I also included the numbered endnotes from the chapter.
The body of Christ has a calling in which we easily discover God’s true purpose for the church. We are members of the heavenly calling. Our purpose, in the counsels and plan of God, is contained in this calling. The church is to be in the heavens, seated in Christ in heavenly places, forming the habitation of God our Father. There we are destined to be blessed with every spiritual blessing. We are to be found there, exalted above all principalities, powers, might, and dominion. In the ages to come our Father will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ (Eph. 1:3, 21; 2:6-7).
“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.”
Our calling is heavenly and our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Jesus went away to heaven to prepare a place for us there. In the heavens is the Father’s house. We are the sons destined and predestined to dwell in that house (John 14:1-3). We are those, along with Paul, in possession of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). We are instructed to always look there, into the heavens. Our thoughts are to be there, as heavenly minded (Col. 3:1-2).1[ 1 Many say that some Christians are so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good. There is not one portion of Scripture that supports this statement. Quite the contrary, the true believer is to be just this – ‘so heavenly minded’. To set your mind on earthly things is to be equated by the Spirit of God as in the category of ‘the enemies of the cross of Christ’ (Phil. 3:18-19). Our citizenship is in heaven, and the spiritual believer is taught and trained to look only there (Phil. 3:20-21). Forgetting all things behind, Paul did only one thing – ‘reaching forward to those things ahead’. And what are these things ahead? “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We are always looking at and pressing toward our calling, which remains before us, and is upward and heavenly. It will only be fulfilled by the rapture of the church – her resurrection and glorification (Phil. 3:10, 21).
In Colossians we get the spiritual reason for our heavenly gaze and the object of faith for our present walk on this earth – Christ is there, sitting at the right hand of God. Therefore we seek those things above and set our minds on things above, and not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1-3). Why? – Because you died. You died, and ended any relationship with the earth and world. “For you died…” Paul says, giving the Spirit’s reason to not look at earthly things. Having died, the only reason the believer is alive is because he has been raised from death with Christ (Col. 3:1), and now possesses Christ’s resurrected life (Eph. 1:1-6, Rom. 6:3-5, Gal. 2:20). If Christ is at the right hand of God and He is the believer’s life, then our life is there as well, hidden in God as Christ is now hidden in God. So then the Spirit says, “…Christ who is your life…” This one who is our life is the Son of Man in glory. He is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Can there be any doubt why we are heavenly minded? God’s purpose for our calling is to be in the glory of God with Christ and as made like Christ. His purpose in promising to conform us into the image of His Son will be so we can be near Him (the Father) in His presence and the objects of His delight (Rom. 8:28-30).]
Our Calling: Holy and Blameless in His Presence
The church will be in the presence of the Father. We are closest to Him and we approach the One who dwells in unapproachable light. We are the ones who, being in Christ and united to Him, will look upon the glory on the face of God – that which was forbidden for Moses. This is our calling and the result of our redemption.
All true believers are called according to His purpose – “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:28-30) God’s purpose is for the believer to be conformed into the image of His Son. It does not yet appear what we will be, but we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is (I John 3:2). As we have borne the image of the earthy, so also we will bear the image of the heavenly (I Cor. 15:49). Our earthly bodies of flesh will be fashioned like His glorious body (Phil. 3:21). This will be a body given to us that is suited for heavenly places and glory. God has prepared us for this very thing, who has also given us the earnest of the Holy Spirit as the guarantee (II Cor. 5:1-5).
Being glorified, we enter the presence of the Father in the image of the One in whom all the Father’s delight and pleasure is found. We are forever with the Lord and like the Lord. We are the fruit of the Father’s love and eternal purpose. He has made us His children and we are received as sons into the Father’s house. This is our eternal state and joy. This is both the position and privilege of the church in Christ, resultant upon the rapture fulfilling her calling.2[ 2 The rapture and glorifying of the church into the heavens is written of extensively in the second book of ‘the Son of Man Series’. Its title is ‘The Blessed Hope of the Church’.]
In the dispensation of the fullness of the times (millennium) God will gather all things in heaven and earth into one Head – Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10). The believer’s portion in this gathering is to be in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). At this present time our position is in spirit – sitting there in Christ Jesus. Later it becomes our place in glory – sitting there with Christ Jesus.
Jesus has entered into God’s presence behind the veil. As the forerunner He has entered there for us (Heb. 6:19-20). All our Christian hope that serves as an anchor for our souls is that we will go in behind the veil where He already is – in the Presence. He did not go into an earthly tabernacle made with human hands. He went into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24). If we ask where the veil is that our forerunner has entered in behind, it is in the heavens and in the presence of the invisible God. Our hope then, which is sure and steadfast, is that we will go in there as well.
We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We have this blessing now in spirit. Later we will physically be in heavenly places enjoying every spiritual blessing the Father has thought of – the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ (Eph. 2:7).
When the body of Christ is glorified we are taken to the heavens to be holy and blameless in God’s sight (Eph. 1:4, Col. 1:21-22). That is our heavenly calling – to be before Him in His love, holy, blameless, irreproachable, and as the image of His Son. This is the moral nature of God. It also is our perfection as conformed into the Son’s image. Jesus Christ, as the Son of Man glorified, is this now at the right hand of God. He represents the only nature of a man that God can delight in and that God allows in His very presence. Except for angels, everything else must stay at some measure of distance from God. 3 The Spirit through Peter tells us we have been made partakers of the divine nature (II Pet. 1:2-4). The believer has this now in soul and spirit, but the sinful flesh is still with us and we are still on this earth. When we are glorified into the image of His Son, the flesh will be changed – the corruptible will put on incorruption, and the mortal will put on immortality (Rom. 8:29-30, I Cor. 15:50-53). The true church will then leave this earth, and in the Father’s house we will be perfect and complete in Christ. By this we will realize our true calling – the heavenly calling.[ 3 The church will be found in the very presence of the invisible God. This is our privilege by virtue of our position as sons of God. Our position matches that of Jesus, the Son of God (John 20:17). Those that are saved on the earth during the tribulation for the millennium, including the Jewish remnant and those born on the earth during the millennium, are at a distance from God. It is as far as the New Jerusalem is above the earth, with the Son of Man on the earth as their mediator. The wicked dead are destined to forever be separated from the presence of God and during the millennium are found in Hades. After the millennium is the great white throne judgment. This is when Hades gives up all the wicked dead to be judged by Christ. They are all cast into the lake of fire as the final destination of all wickedness. At that time Satan is cast in there as well. After this follows the eternal state in which the tabernacle of God will be with men on the earth as come down from heaven (Rev. 21:1-4). The tabernacle of God is the New Jerusalem, which is the church. At least it is the heavenly and eternal habitation of the church.]
I wish to add a thought here that I believe can be seen in the eternal state. Rev. 21:1-8 is the most comprehensive passage in God’s word describing eternity. In this passage we see three things that are distinctive from one another. The first is God. There is nothing like unto God. He is infinitely above what man is as created. God is transcendent – there is no possible measurement of the infinite difference between God and men. But in eternity, God and His tabernacle come down from heaven to dwell with men. The passage speaks only of “men” inhabiting the earth – there is no Israel and are no nations in eternity. But there is God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – different from “men” and there is His tabernacle, the church. In eternity the church is distinct from men on the earth as well. This is the special place and privilege of the church in eternity. The larger passage which directly follows these first eight verses of chapter twenty-one (Rev. 21:9-22:5) is the special place and privilege of the church during the millennium. Please do not be confused by this – although this longer passage follows after the one about the eternal state in the chapter, actually it precedes in historical time the first passage at the beginning of the chapter. Obviously, eternity is the last state and involves no counting of time – therefore the thousand-year millennium has to precede the eternal state. The larger passage contains too many things which identify it with the millennium, such as the use of certain dispensational names for God and the recognition of different nations of men on the earth. However to my point, both these passages reflect the glory of the church as having a special place from God throughout time and eternity to come.
In the first chapter of Ephesians the believer/church is given two things as its portion through or in Jesus Christ – the calling of God (Eph. 1:4-5) and an inheritance from God (Eph. 1:11). We have our calling, but it is not completely fulfilled as yet. We have nothing of the inheritance at this time, although the believer in Christ is declared an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. It is a truth and principle of Scripture that God will not give His inheritance until all the heirs are gathered and united together in one place. This place is the Father’s house (John 14:1-3). The heirs of God are all the sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26; 4:6-7, Rom. 8:15-17). Although the giving of the inheritance waits for this future gathering, we have received the earnest of the Spirit as its guarantee (Eph. 1:13-14).
The two aspects of our calling are given to us in Ephesians. The first is that we will be perfectly holy and blameless before God in His love (Eph. 1:4). The second aspect of our calling is in connection with the Father as sons (Eph. 1:5). Our portion is to be like Christ in glory and to be with Him forever. The results of our calling are to be in the heavens and enjoying all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (as Israel is destined to be on the earth with temporal and physical blessings – Eph. 1:3; 2:6). Therefore the Scriptures speak of our hope laid up for us in heaven (Col. 1:5). Also God’s inheritance is reserved for us there, that is incorruptible, undefiled, and does not fade away (Eph. 1:11, I Pet. 1:4). So then it is said, “…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…” (Eph. 1:18) It is the distinct testimony of Scripture that our hopes, our blessings, our place, our inheritance, and the glory Christ shares with us, is all celestial, not terrestrial.
I said earlier in this article that we can discover our purpose by knowing our calling. More so, it is the purpose of God for us, settled before the foundations of the world, which defines our calling (Eph. 1:4). He had these thoughts and intentions concerning us before time began. His calling of us is according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:5). He delights in doing so. Our calling serves to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph. 1:6). It exalts God and glorifies Him. God foreknew us and predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. This is the purpose of God towards the believer. These two words – foreknew and predestined – precede the word ‘calling’ in the list in Romans (Rom. 8:29). The eternal purpose of God determined our calling. Of course we are not in the glory yet. However it is what we have been redeemed to, prepared for, and wait for (II Cor. 5:1-5). Our entrance into the glory of God is our heavenly calling (I Pet. 5:10).
Many sons to be brought into the Father’s Presence
We should understand that the greatest part of God’s purpose for the church is to be physically closest to Him and in His presence. His desire is for the church to be nearest to Him. This is His desire for Jesus Christ His Son and we are in Christ and united to Christ as His body. The church is bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh (Eph. 5:29-32). We are one with Christ, we are one spirit with Him (I Cor. 6:17).
“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For 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.”
We are Christ’s brethren. Jesus, the very Son of God, is the one who suffered and became the captain of our salvation. As a result, God brings many sons to glory by Him. This glory certainly includes the very presence of the Father. This is the church’s ultimate privilege. God’s calling and purpose for the body of Christ is to be His tabernacle containing His presence (Eph. 2:22). There is no reward, no honor, no power and dominion that will be given to us that can possibly compare in value to this privilege!
Can we imagine what it will be like to dwell in the Father’s house for all eternity? This is the essence of this verse in Ephesians and the purpose for raising us up with Christ, “…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:6-7) It is the Father’s love for His Son and His many sons.
The Church’s part in the Government of God
Having said this, we should be able to understand another part of the purpose of God for the church. We replace the administration of the angels in the government of God in the heavens. It is there and then that we will be kings and priests to His God and Father (Rev. 1:6). We are seated in the heavens in Christ in the government of God over the millennial earth. God has not put the world to come in subjection to angels (Heb. 2:5). “And do you not know that you will judge them?” (I Cor. 6:3) Is this not the essence of these verses in Ephesians and the intended purpose of God in His government over the millennial earth, “…to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. 3:10-11) The church is a large part of the eternal plan of God. By placing the church in the heavens God will make known His multifaceted and manifold wisdom throughout the ages to come. These are the things angels desire to look into.
Having been glorified and conformed into the image of His Son, we will be holy and blameless in God’s sight before Him in love. All the responsibilities given to us at that time, whether in the government of God or as sons in the Father’s house, will be carried out in divine perfection according to the Son’s nature we are conformed into. The government of God over all creation will be given to Jesus, the Son of Man. The true church is His body and His bride. As His help-meet we will reign with Him over all things visible and invisible. When the church is glorified, the government of God is not over the sons of God. Through Jesus Christ and in Christ we are the instruments of God in His government. Both the corporate responsibilities of His body and the individual responsibility as sons will be accomplished in excellence to the glory of God. It will be an end to the failure of the church as well as to any individual failure of the believer.
A Walk worthy of our Calling
Therefore in view of our heavenly calling, we have a current walk on this earth in which we are pilgrims and strangers. This is individual. It is our responsibility before God to act and live according to our calling. We are to act and live as pilgrims and strangers to this world and on this earth. It is the responsibility of the ministry before God to always teach doctrine that shows the church how to maintain her separation from this world and earth. Our Lord said, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14, 16) This speaks of our position in Christ and with Christ. Obviously our walk is a result of this position and relationship we have as sons of God and apart from the world.
“I, therefore…beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you are called.” (Eph. 4:1) You get the sense that the calling is yet to be fulfilled while the walk is the present thing. Our calling is heavenly and future, while the walk is what we are engaged in now, on the earth and in the wilderness of the world. It is the current walk that should reflect upon the calling (I Thess. 2:12). Yet it is clear that the ‘walk’ is not the ‘calling’. This must be seen and understood.
The Spirit instructs us as to having a worthy walk. “…with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:2-3) This is our corporate responsibility. Yet our walk, carried out in human responsibility, is not what determines our calling. It is only the purpose of God towards us, as He settled before time began, that fixes our calling and position.
2 Timothy 1:9
“…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”
Our calling is according to God’s eternal purpose. It is not determined by human works of responsibility (Eph. 1:3-9). This is the sovereign work of God. Nothing can hinder this in coming to its intended result. Yet when the Spirit speaks of walk in Ephesians 4:1, we have that which is present on the earth. It is seen in Scripture as a unique mixture of human obedience through God’s power and grace (Phil. 2:12-15, II Cor. 4:6-11). We are encouraged to walk in lowliness, gentleness, and longsuffering, bearing with one another in love. Only the life of Christ in us and the power of the indwelling Spirit enables the believer to do this (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 8:2-4).
Further in Ephesians the Spirit says (Eph. 5:1-2), “Therefore be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us…” Here we see that the believer’s walk in responsibility results from his position – as dear children of God. Another way of saying this is that responsibility only comes out from the existing relationship, whatever that may be. Christians are born of God (John 1:12-13) and are sons of God through Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26). As children of God it is our responsibility to be followers of God as Christ was, and to love as He loved. We emulate His walk and example (I John 2:6). This is the responsibility (duty) of a believer in his ‘walk’ in the wilderness of this world. It should be a walk worthy of our calling that is yet to be fulfilled. If we look closely we see that Ephesians 4, 5, and 6 is all instruction about the believer/church having a worthy walk while here in this world. That is practical discipleship; it is the practice of Christianity.
The Son of Man had nowhere in this world to lay His head, yet He said, “Come, follow Me.” Jesus had a walk leading Him out of this world. As believers, we have the same thing in our calling. Even though we are presently in this world and on this earth walking, our calling leads us out of the world and into the heavens. If we are to follow Jesus, it is for the purpose of ending up where He is – seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (John 12:26, Eph. 2:6).
Of course we all know the believer has to tread through this world. Christ had to go through it, and He did so for us. Now we follow Him through the wilderness. Our citizenship is in heaven and our passage through this world should reflect upon our heavenly conversation. The true believer does not have the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God. We should be living in such a way to emulate where Christ sits, the One who has gone to prepare a place for us. We have to pass through this world. While we do, where are our hearts? Can we say that our associations of life are all up there in the heavens? Is that where our hearts are living? Does our worship and praise bear the mark of our conversation being in heaven? Does it bear the stamp of the happiness and blessedness which is the expression of our connection with Him there? “The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (II Cor. 4:18) Let us, then, remember that the Lord has given Himself for us that we might have the things that are unseen – the eternal things. Jesus has Himself entered there above as our forerunner.
The Corporate Responsibility of the Church
The purpose and counsels of God for the assembly are first mentioned at the end of Ephesians 1 (all that precedes this is the individual believer as seen in God’s purposes). There the body is exalted in Christ to the right hand of God, far above all principalities and powers, and is the fullness of Him (Eph. 1:19-23). The sovereign work of God to establish the assembly as His house on earth is seen in Ephesians 2:11-22. Still speaking of God’s sovereign purpose, the body of Christ is the mystery of God’s will, which He kept hidden from the prophets and previous ages (Eph. 3:1-11) – the last two verses of this passage make the pairing of the church with and in God’s eternal counsels quite straightforward. The remainder of Ephesians 3 speaks of our fellowship with the Father in view of this privileged position in Christ.
In Ephesians 4:8-16 it speaks of the body’s corporate responsibility. This was God’s intention for the body on the earth – we all come in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. It goes on from here which you may read for yourself (vs. 14-16). The calling of the church is heavenly, but until then the church must walk on this earth with a walk that is worthy of its calling. The responsibility of the body was to be taught and to be edified, to grow up into a perfect man. The church was responsible to testify to the truth of God (I Tim. 3:15), and not to be tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Yet we understand that what God starts in sovereign grace on the earth, with all gracious intentions from Him concerning it, must eventually be handed over to the responsibility of man. Therefore we have Paul laying a foundation in sovereign grace for the earthly building of God, a foundation no other man could lay (I Cor. 3:9-11). Then the Spirit says, “…let each one take heed how he builds on it.”
The corporate ‘walk’ of Christendom on the earth has failed. As an external entity the professing church, having responsibility before God, has been proven corrupt and spiritually dead. This is a non-recoverable situation. To think otherwise is not hope or faith, but the greatest of pretentions and blindness. The individual believer has individual responsibility before God. This responsibility can be made good, or as good as we can make it, by walking as Jesus walked, with Him always as our example (I John 2:6). I have discussed this earlier in this article, and so will not repeat it here. It is the individual walk that remains and is the emphasis, when the corporate entity is found corrupt. The seven messages to the seven churches are, as a whole, a prophetic judgment of the progressive history of Christendom – it is God’s judgment of the corporate responsibility of Christendom as one body progressing through time. Towards the end, if we look at Philadelphia, it is a very individual message given to her from the Lord without the corporate entity of Christendom being addressed (Rev. 3:8-13).
“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.”
The things above are matters of hope that the believer is to be thoroughly acquainted with. If not, you will not be able to set your mind on them. Modern Christian teaching seldom teaches this. Contemporary teaching does not grasp the thoughts in the above passage. It doesn’t comprehend the true calling of God for the church. The modern result is most often the church being taught in the light of the wrong calling – an earthly calling. And the church will be taught with the wrong instructions – earthly and Jewish. Modern teachings serve to pull the true church down to the earth and establish her life in the world. But the believer’s life isn’t in the world as you can see in the passage above. Our life is not on the earth. It is not about things on the earth (Phil. 3:18-21). Our life is Christ. Our life is about where He is right now in glory. Our life is only about Christ, and He apart from this world. A Christ in glory must be the object occupying the attention of our hearts (II Cor. 3:18; 4:4, 6). Our hopes? It is Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27, Rom. 5:1-2).
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, (2) with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, (3) endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4) There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling.”
The simple truth is that if you do not comprehend your calling, you cannot have a walk worthy of it. There is only one calling for the believer and church. There is no other. And this calling is in hope (Eph. 4:4). It is not on this earth, in this world, or of this present time. God’s desire is for the church, and all individual members gathered by the Spirit forming her, to be conformed into the image of His Son, and to be with the Father and Son in His glory (John 17:22, 24). Our calling does not leave us short of the glory and presence of God (Rom. 3:23, I Pet. 5:10-11).
The Earthly Calling of Israel
Israel’s calling is easier to comprehend. Everyone has heard of the Promised Land. This was promised by God to Abraham for his descendants to inherit. This was in the form of an unconditional promise to Israel’s forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God also made promises to David when he became king of Israel. These were unconditional as well and involved a son of David’s flesh sitting on his throne over Israel eternally. These are the two main unconditional covenants God made with Israel. Both are yet to be fulfilled. We know they haven’t been because they have the characteristic of being eternal. At the end of this age God will mark and preserve a Jewish remnant through the coming tribulation. Jesus Christ, their Messiah will return and save them out of all their troubles. After He judges the world, as well as unbelieving Israel, He will place the remnant in the land and write His law in their minds and hearts. They will do His law and will be blessed accordingly (Deut. 28:1-14). During the millennium Israel will be the greatest and most blessed nation on the earth, the Gentiles gathered unto them.
At this time and during this present age Israel has been set aside by God. He does not recognize them as His people. Because they rejected Jesus when He first came to them (John 1:11), God has made their house desolate (Matt. 23:37-39). It will stay that way until they see Jesus again. Their earthly calling has been set aside.
There is a little known biblical principle that plays out, at least dispensationally, in the ways of God – He will only deal with one calling at a time. Israel and their calling had to be set aside by God in order for Him to take up the calling of the believer/church. At this time God deals with the believer/church by the Holy Spirit sent down to the earth, consequent to the raising up and glorifying of the Son of Man (John 7:39). God is not presently dealing with Israel. The scriptures tell us that at this time Israel has been hardened by God (Rom. 11:7-8). So God deals with a different calling, a heavenly calling. When He is finished with this, when the church has been taken out of this world to the heavens, God will turn again to Israel in remembrance of His unconditional promises. He will again recognize their calling, earthly as it is.
Allow me to show you how these principles accurately play out in the counsels of God and the text of Scripture. Please read for me the entire chapter seven (7) of the Revelation (I do not want to quote the entire chapter here). This chapter points ahead in time to the last 3 1/2 years of the age, a time known as the great tribulation and Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7, Dan. 12:1). In the previous chapter the sixth seal was just opened, causing a great convulsion of the order of things both in heaven and earth (Rev. 6:12-17). Many thought it was the day of the Lamb’s wrath, but they were mistaken – the event signalled only the beginning of the last 3 ½ years, the great tribulation. The seventh chapter then is an appendix that the Spirit of God fits in between the openings of the sixth and seventh seals. It is a parenthesis showing us the mind of God concerning His counsels – how God would show mercy in preserving these two distinct groups of people in the midst of all this time of terrible wrath and judgment. Two groups – one carefully numbered and sealed (of Israel) and the other unnumbered and greater in expanse (of the nations, that is, the Gentiles). He would preserve these two groups during this time of great evil upon the earth by man, and God’s judgment and destruction of it.
If we are spiritually diligent students of Scripture we would know that all the seals of the Revelation are opened by the Lamb after the body of Christ has been removed from the earth – some time after the rapture of the true church. If the rapture has occurred, then God has completed his forming of the church on earth by the Holy Spirit sent down, and has removed the church to the heavens and into His very presence. There is more I could say about this, but the point I want to make is that with the church glorified to the heavens, God has completed His dealings with the heavenly calling of the church – that calling is now fulfilled. Now God can turn back to dealing with the earthly calling of Israel. This is what we see in Revelation seven (7) – God’s mind concerning what He will save out of the great tribulation to inhabit the earth during the coming millennium. It is God dealing with the earth and what is associated with the world. It is God being faithful to fulfill the promises He made to Israel’s patriarchs.
Both these groups are earthly. And this chapter certainly signifies that when God is finished with the heavenly calling of the church, when the church is in her rightful place according to the counsels of God, after she is in heavenly glory, He will turn back to deal with earthly things, and particularly Israel’s earthly calling. It simply would be incomprehensible for God to deal with two separate callings at the same time. While the church is being gathered now, Israel has been hardened, made desolate, and set aside by God.
There is a third group found in Revelation seven – the twenty-four heavenly elders that are around the throne of God. They symbolically represent the church and Old Testament saints together – those that are heavenly, those that dwell in heaven (Rev. 12:12; 13:6). We first see them in Revelation four (4) and five (5), wearing crowns, sitting on endowed thrones, and offering up incense around the governmental throne of God – made kings and priests unto His God and Father (Rev. 1:6). We see them first, after God finishes His judgment of Christendom on the earth in chapter two and three (Rev. 2; 3), and John is called up to the heavens through an open door (Rev. 4:1).
It is a mistake to think that the mass of saved Gentiles found before the throne in Rev. 7:9-10 is the church. These were saved of the Gentiles during the tribulation period (Rev. 7:14). The true church was removed from the earth before the tribulation began. In verse 13, we have the elders looking upon this entire scene. But it is not possible they are looking upon themselves – how could this be? Yet this must be the case, if we make the elders and the innumerable multitude to both represent the church. We have two distinct parties here. If the elders are the church, the multitude is not; and if the multitude is, then the elders cannot be. Solution?
There are three distinct groups of people in this chapter – a future Jewish remnant, Gentiles saved in God’s mercy, and the twenty-four heavenly elders. Two of the groups are definitely earthly in their character and language. The elders are heavenly in their character and language. All three are distinct from each other. When God is gathering the church as He is now, He is forming a body that no longer has Jew and Gentile distinctions (Gal. 3:27-28, Col. 3:10-11). But once the church is taken from the earth, and God turns back to deal with the world, we see these two groups on the earth that separately have these distinctions, and most importantly they are acknowledged by God – Jews and Gentiles. The wall of partition that divides Jew from Gentile remains in the world. It was only abolished in Christ (Eph. 2:14-16), who is not of the world. Whenever and wherever these distinctions are upheld, you do not have the church. If God acknowledges a distinction between the two, we are no longer on church ground.
Before the death and resurrection of Christ, God was not forming Jew and Gentile into one body. Thus, even when the Lord Jesus was upon earth, He forbade His disciples to go to the Gentiles, or so much as enter the Samaritan cities. But when He by resurrection became the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, and was about to form the church, He charged them to go everywhere and preach the gospel to every creature, instead of merely seeking out those that were worthy in Israel. Thus, a complete change can be seen in the ways of God, not as if He knew not the end from the beginning, but with a view to fresh displays of His glory in His Son by the church. So also, when the present calling of the church closes, His mercy will flow out in fresh channels, as we see here in Revelation seven (7).
The two groups from chapter seven (7) that are earthly in their character have the distinctions of being Jews and Gentiles. This chapter shows that at this future time, when the church is out of the way and the tribulation has begun, these distinctions reappear in the counsels of God as to what He will show mercy to and save. But neither of these two earthly groups can be the church – that heavenly body which has no such distinctions. Thus we have in this chapter “the Jew, the Gentile, and the church of God” — sealed Jews and saved Gentiles, for the earth, and the church with the Old Testament saints preserved for heavenly glory.
I show you this chapter, and these three distinct groups found in the chapter, as an example of God’s differing purposes according to His good pleasure, as found in His eternal counsels. Modern Christian teaching, often so influenced by worldly humanistic thinking, would have everything to end up the same with no distinctions whatsoever. They basically do this by denying God, the divine sovereign being that He is, any right to make decisions and choices on and of His own that bring about distinction. Well, you may as well deny the existence of the nation of Israel. God made a decision, a choice, long ago, concerning the Jews, and it gives us some understanding about God as the Sovereign, as well as hiding certain things from us.
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 (NKJV)
6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
The sovereign God chooses Israel. He makes them a special treasure to Himself, above all the other peoples on the face of the earth. But He never tells them the positive reason why He made such a decision. He negatively tells us there was no merit or value He prized in Israel. He sets His love on them, but gives no reason why? Is it simply because He made promises to their forefathers? Certainly God will be found faithful, must be found faithful, to fulfill every promise He has ever made. But does this explain His love set upon them?
I could get deeper into these thoughts and explanations but it would be lengthy. I will say that we know from scripture that every decision God makes glorifies Himself. However this is a general overall reason, without specifics. Also we see that God must be found faithful to His promises, but again this doesn’t give us the reason why He made His promises to certain ones in the first place. Why choose Enoch? Why choose Noah? Why choose Abraham? Why choose Israel? Why choose the believer? We know there was no inherent value or merit in any of the objects of His choice. God’s reasonings for His choices remain hidden in Himself. As a believer, I must be content to trust God without knowing His reasons for His choices. This is where knowing God, who He is and what He is, really comes in.
Yet in the above passage He makes Israel special to Himself. In doing so, God distinguishes Israel as different from every other nation. And this was His choice. When we read Revelation seven (7) we see certain future results. Those groups and their distinct character and positions are the results of God’s choices. And there will be more groups then these three. Many will be born on the earth in the millennium, both in Israel and in the different Gentile nations that survive the tribulation. By God’s sovereign choice only Israel will have a new covenant with God (Heb. 8:7-13, Jer. 31:31-34); the Gentiles will not. The Gentiles will be blessed through them. The order of the millennial earth has been already decided by God and revealed in Scripture (Deut. 32:8-9). Israel is the center and the Gentiles are gathered unto them. But nothing that is earthly compares to the heavenly position of the church in Christ. And this was God’s choice as well.