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RESURRECTION, REALITY AND LIFE
OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
There is a fascinating trilogy of power and purpose in the scripture, from the prophetic past, to the Messianic promise to the spiritual impact at Pentecost, which continues relentless, remorseless, on course at any cost, to the end.
First, you see the promises of both the Messiah and the outpouring of the Spirit of God in this world associated with His advent. Thus the Messiah figures prominently and indeed dominantly in Daniel 9, Isaiah 2,7, 9, 11, 22, 32, 35, 40, 42, 48-55, 61, 63 and indirectly in 66, as well as in Psalm 2, 16, 22, 40, 55, 69, 110, 109 for example, with Micah 5, Deuteronomy 18, Zechariah 3, 6, 9, 11-14 and so on; while the outpouring of the Spirit of God related to this is seen in Isaiah 32:1-8, 14ff., at the end of which we see this, that there will be a certain dolour.
"until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the field is counted as a forest". Then, we read,
"justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. The work of righteousness will be peace, and he effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever."
Isaiah 35 continues with the investment of the miraculous work of the Messiah into this spiritual scene, while Isaiah 40 has us hear the broadcast in its amplitude, that the cities of Judah are to have the confrontation, BEHOLD YOUR GOD! It is then that they find that He will take up the lambs in His arms, 42 dwelling on the fact that HE IS the salvation of God, while noting that ONLY GOD IS SAVIOUR (43:10-11), and 49 amplifying the associated Gospel to the Gentiles (as in 42:6, 49:6), and 52-53 rehearsing HOW God does it, by bearing the iniquities of those who, believing, are healed.
Our current interest is the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit, associated.
First, in Isaiah 11, we notice the working of the Spirit of God in association with the Messiah Himself, the "son of David".
"There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
"His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked."
While this focusses what Christ termed "the glory to follow" after His sufferings (in Luke 24), it is manifest that this is the power and procedure of the Son of God, the only Saviour, God Almighty Himself in the person of His word (cf. Isaiah 48:16). Indeed, in this last verse, we note that it is the Lord and His Spirit who have sent the Messiah, as the trinity works its sublime counsel. In Isaiah 57:15, we dwell somewhat on the reception of the Lord, and the touching of the spirit of man by the power of God:
"For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
'I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.' "
In Ezekiel 37:13-14, we are shown more of the advent of spiritual coverage, God's life in man through His Spirit, when Israel's great day of renewal in the unchanging Gospel of the Son of God, occurs:
" 'Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,' says the Lord.’ "
As this is the same Gospel, it is the same event in specialised arena, as that at Pentecost, not necessarily in its particular format there, which was the opening of the door of faith in the Gospel at the outset, but in the same reality within. It is such a pity that the term 'Pentecostal' is applied to those who frequently mistake the exuberant happenings in I Corinthians 12, 14 with Pentecost, since it makes for a terminological confusion of the issue. At Pentecost, foreign languages were made useful for the Gospel by miraculous means, a reversal of the Tower of Babel diversification of languages, for those who did not know the languages then needed, were enabled nevertheless to use them so that the intelligence of the Gospel was disseminated to the multi-lingual festive crowd then assembled in Jerusalem.
It was a matter of utility and miracle to mark the commencement of the public proclamation of the Gospel after the resurrection and the ascension of Christ, for the new era leading on from His sufferings and redemption, to His return. In this, the Gospel had to circumnavigate the globe, as in Matthew 24, the world had to react and many believe (as in Isaiah 49-50, 66), and its eventual distaste had to become manifest as its Age ended, when crowded spiritual pathways of fraud would grow (as in Matthew 24:12,24, II Peter 2, II Timothy 3, II Thess. 2 and so on).
This munificent display of institutional miracle as the Christian Church set forth on its gospelling program in the name of that same Jesus who would eventually return, after nation had duly risen against nation and the whole panorama of judgment had been seen as in Matthew 24 and Luke 18, 21, it was at Pentecost, the name from the feast in operation at that time in the Jewish calendar.
The OPPOSITE is not APPOSITE, when it comes to the use of that term. It is not apposite, apt or appropriate to use the term 'severance' for 'addition', nor for the term Pentecostal to be used for those who wish to talk about the opposite. This contrary phenomenon, to be found not in Jerusalem at Pentecost, by report and record, but at Corinth, is spoken of not by Luke, but by Paul; and it refers to the procedure, not least, of talking in language which CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD, to people who by all appearance, would normally understand one's speech quite well. It is speaking in tongues, a contra-comprehension event, requiring an interpreter.
Paul is most cautious about it. Sure, it is a gift of the Lord, but one so wholly incomparable with that of illuminating the word of God and showing it to the people, as in the gift of 'prophecy', Paul shows in I Cor. 12, 14. Indeed, he declared that he would rather have one speak 5 words with the mind than 10,000 of that unique genre, 'talking in tongues". It is to be strictly limited to 2 or 3 exponents and is linked to Isaiah 28-29, where people are told that such is their arrogance and foolishness that He, the Lord, will have the utterance of babes confront them. It is scarcely then a matter for undue importance, and is wholly other than Pentecost.
Some have reacted to the absurd claims in the light of this, that many make. Thus some Pentecostals affirm that one MUST speak in tongues, though the apostle proclaims the folly of it in advance, saying that it is all team work, and that not all speak in tongues, or for that matter are ... apostles! (I Cor. 12:29ff.). It is a matter of each in his place doing what is set, as in the parts of the body, he affirms. To add to the nauseous perversion of Paul by claiming that tongues talk is part of conversion is absurdity multiplied by the flights of inane fantasy, in terms of the words of the apostle in Corinthians.
How then have some reacted ? They have done so by prohibiting the use of this speaking in tongues altogether in any public event. This is unfortunate since Paul expressly declares that one must not forbid it (I Cor. 14:39), and it is to the group that he so speaks in their inter-active specifications! Limited, sparing, not sought after, for that is for prophecy only as a specific, heavily discounted, never glamorised, a possible event: this is its place.
How simple it is just to follow the directions of the manufacturer of man, God Almighty, and it is not done in either extreme, but in meek obedience to what He has said for His own good purpose.
All of this, in our present context, however, is
to show the importance of the spiritual outpouring at Pentecost, and the
differentiation is to avoid confusion. The topic is treated in depth in
A Question of Gifts. In this outpouring at Pentecost, the apostles are "all filled with the Holy Spirit", and those who had been fearful of arrest, became those fearless in faith, potent in proclamation and effective in preaching at once, people who thus enabled, acted on it! Many were converted, and continued to be in the days following as you see in the following chapters of Acts, and indeed in Acts 2 itself.
Pre-occupation with particulars of that great day has tended for some to occlude vision, so that the simple reality of knowing God by the agency of His Spirit, and being filled with His Spirit, empowered to perform by His presence, led into closer union with Christ by the indwelling of His Spirit, being vitalised in life and increased in love (Romans 5:5, Ephesians 3:16), tends to be lost. It is at times rather like a circus when a night out with the family to see adventure becomes tickets and sawdust and a crowded set of seats.
Data in this way can compress destiny, and childishness chastise charity (I Cor. 12:31 -13:1ff.), while what it is all about can be lost by some, and become grounds of assertiveness for others, heresy arising and false practices abounding as if some sought to make the Gospel in this setting, a matter of gain as in II Peter 2:1.
Let us then return, and proceed with the fact that Joel 2, as cited by Peter at Pentecost, as seen in Acts 2:17, very dramatically and indeed emphatically predicted this vast outpouring of the Spirit, moving on to the days when judgment would become most manifest and the coming of the Lord would follow. Peter confirmed the point and made it clear that the return of Christ was indeed the terminus of this outpouring in this setting, the young men having visions and the older ones dreams. This in no way enables new revelations for the standard of man, for having visions is not the same as having authority (I Cor. 12:6-7), and investment by the Spirit of God is not the same as becoming an apostle, or part of the band of those chosen to write the word of God (cf. John 14:25-26, Acts 1, I Cor. 2:9ff.).
Christ, as seen in the above reference, did indeed speak of the Spirit of God showing to the apostles the things they had already HEARD, which is rather limiting is it not! You cannot remember what you never heard! It is to them that the leading into all truth applies; not that to them alone is the spirit given, as seen already in our survey, but for this purpose, the inspired writings are the criterion, and through them and their word is the result, duly affirmed by the Church in due course as to its extent (cf. SMR Appendix C and D).
Thus, having removed the notoriety of abuse of ceremonies and that of the abuse of the word of God by adventurers as in II Peter 2, and coming back to the unalterable Gospel as shown by Paul in Galatians 1, as what had already at that time been preached, we again come to our topic, without the overlays of tradition and excitement, to the Spirit of God given to the believers, in the name of Christ. This is not in itself by any means to make them apostles! heaven forbid (cf. Acts 1), but to make them energised, enabled and blessed children of God in supernatural practice, by association in intimacy with the very working and presence of God.
THE PROMISE OF CHRIST
In Luke 24, we see Christ telling the disciples to await His action, staying in Jerusalem, for He would send His Spirit to them (as foretold in John 14:16-17, 16:6-16). It is "expedient" that He should go, He intimates, since then the Spirit can come and teach them, lead and help them. In Luke 24, having seen in 24:46ff., the two phases of His work, to come and suffer and come and reign later, the disciples are as seen above, shown that they must remain in Jerusalem until He should "send the promise of My Father" which is to involve their being "endued with power from on high." Pentecost is that occasion.
Thus there is a sequence.
First there is the Old Testament assured pronouncement of this spiritual outpouring. With this, of course, must be taken Jeremiah 31:31ff., cited in Hebrews, which indicates the writing of His law on their hearts in the New Covenant, that in the blood of Christ (Isaiah 53), a covenant which was to come as also seen in Deuteronomy 18 in its depiction of the Messiah.
Secondly, there are Christ's intimations seen in John 14,16 that His Spirit would come in intimate, indwelling power in HIS NAME (John 16:13). Indeed, He would guide them into all truth FOR He would not speak of Himself. This then is not only the matter of Bible formation, it is that of spiritual enablement for the tasks of the settled word of God in the work of the Gospel and the teaching of the word of God (as in Matthew 28:19-20), always glorifying Jesus Christ (John 16:14) and based on His words (John 14:26).
Thirdly, there comes the actual power of the Spirit as shown at Pentecost, and often thereafter, whether with special effects, or not (cf. A Question of Gifts).
The FOURTH NEXUS
Now there is a fourth nexus to be considered and contemplated indeed. This was the resurrection of Christ, so that they were invited to THINK, that a Spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24), as He citedly did, and that therefore it was not a spiritual sighting, but a direct, personal Christ arisen bodily from the dead that they found, one who could and did eat in front of them (Luke 24:43).
The faithfulness and the power of God, wrought by His Spirit in the hearts of His children in terms of the Gospel and the written word of God (I Cor. 2:9ff.) is shown in its scope and impact in this resurrection. Hence Paul in Ephesians 1:19 speaks of the power of God available to believers, in accord with that shown in the resurrection of Christ. That is the criterion for availability for the performance of the will and work of God by His people!
This brings us, from a past occurrence, to a future one; and with this, from the appreciation of our current work and place, to the perspective of this in relation to what is to come.
Thus Paul in I Corinthinans 15 provides indeed a wonderful insight, completed with the passage, "Behold I show you a mystery." Thus we learn in 15:42ff., that there is a spiritual body, and this is contrasted with a vulnerable or initial one as first created. This transformation by the power of God is to come, so that we shall become like Him who was resurrected, Jesus Christ (I John 3). Let us consider from Let God be God! Ch. 2, the interstices of this promise (with some revision and substantial addition, for our present purpose).
Let us see how I Corinthians 15:50-57 puts this matter.
This brings up an important point. We CANNOT, constituted as we are, inherit eternity, in some merely natural way. It is to be in our resurrection format, just as our trial life was in our fleshly format. Flesh with its heritage of ills is not the only natural thing, the only nature that God creates! There was nothing merely natural about Christ’s resurrection, nor was it limited in any merely natural way, when upon this earth.
Thus “flesh and blood” CANNOT inherit the kingdom of God. To BE THERE, you have to HAVE WHAT IT TAKES. That is what the word of God says: temporal things by nature are not eternal. There is a transmutation required. God is spirit, not flesh, spirit, not material. Things of this category are not susceptible to eternity. A new sort of creation, the resurrection body has to transform utterly the old body, limited as it had been to the ways of matter in its normal function, susceptible to the nature of the temporary.
How is this to be done ? Paul now divulges a crucial aspect of the truth. We shall not all, who now live, die. Christ is to return while some Christians are still alive (I Thess. 4). Often has this author considered the sheer delight of skipping the death that is still waiting, and being transformed on the spot, and lifted to the life celestial in the general resurrection. It does, in a purely imaginative way, remind one of skiing! Certainly, says Paul, SOME will be in that position, for Christ is to come as He did as a babe, now a King, at a TIME.
Again (cf. once more, Earth Spasm Ch. 1): Thus in I Corinthians 15, we find not that there is to be a body which is
· fusikos (1) and one which is
but one which is
· yeukikos (3) and one pneumatikos.
Not the natural, but the nature of life as it is, it is which is to go. That is the sense of the Greek term, which we have differentiated to ensure a good understanding in the translation.
It is not the fusikos or natural or physical which is the rejected departee, to be contrasted with the spiritual body to come. This is not the point, and it is not the scripture here. There is the living body a first created, vulnerable, susceptible, and by contrast, the spiritual body, not so limited or comprised.
Thus there is the initial intimation in Genesis of man becoming a living soul. It is the yeukh, the life as we have it and know it, the life which was under test, which is vulnerable, which has its exposed systems so that Cain can dispose of Abel, it is this which is to go. It is the wind tunnel body, the testing situation body, the one in which the history of sin and love, folly and wisdom is to occur, as our globe ages and ends (as in II Peter 3).
Thus it is the yeukh not the fusis is to become obsolete. Things do not lose the state of being created in an orderly realm with a nature donated to them, in order to become spiritual, as far as the body is concerned. What they lose is the particular sort of thing life in the raw, in this fallen world, constitutes. It is not the physical as such but the living soul as made, which is to become obsolescent, and indeed yield to the body created anew for eternity.
It is not the physical concept, but the limited first-created one that is discarded. Certainly, the spiritual body will be a vast advance on our current soul's body, just as it is a vat advance to be the children of God rather than created simply in His image; but the contrast is not with the physical as such. It is with what is open to decay and deterioration, be the cause wilful or other.
We find therefore in I Cor. 15. Rather it is the natural man, which is paralleled in this chapter by such expressions 'in corruption' (I Cor. 15:42), 'in dishonour' (I Cor. 15:43), before we find our interest in v. 45,
"It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."
It is not therefore a natural order which is to be omitted (as in 1 above), a thing of substance and significance, individuality and endurance, far from it. It is not this term concerning 'nature', which is used in his exclusion. Rather, it is the term depicting a debased, dishonoured and potentially carnal body, one not by nature eternal, which is to be omitted. It is not a body of individuality and coherence, reality and distinguishing features which is to go; it is one which is inherently susceptible to decay, pain, mortality, corruption and death: it is this which is to be shed. Hence we read later (I Cor. 15:50):
"... corruption does not inherit incorruption."
Note moreover, that it is not only what HAS been corrupted, but what is CORRUPTIBLE which is to be replaced! Flesh and blood therefore CANNOT inherit the kingdom of heaven (I Corinthians 15:50).
In other words, there is to be a generation when some will be changed on the spot, transformed and transmuted; for when Christ comes, this is the order of events. As I Thessalonians 4 tells us, the dead in Christ, those already passed on from this earth, these will be resurrected first, then those who remain at that time, Christians still alive on earth will follow in that divine thrust known as the general resurrection. HIS ? It was particular. This ? it is general.
Thus in Isaiah 26:19, we find that many who sleep in the dust will arise, as in Daniel 12, and indeed His dead body they will arise: the CHURCH which is His body (Ephesians 5) in other words, will arise. It will be called, culled and taken (I Thess. 4, Revelation 11), each equipped with a body prepared, a body "eternal in the heavens" as in II Corinthians 5. NOT, says Paul, is it that he wishes to be rendered naked, when his old body goes, but he desires to be enshrouded, covered over, over-coated you could say, with this new body.
The Spirit of God, says Paul, is the guarantee of this vast change which each Christian will undergo, each one 'taken' equipped with the means of life in the new medium. Thus death will indeed be
"swallowed up in victory" (I Cor. 15:54, Ephesians 1:19), and
"we shall all be changed".
For as Christ expressly declared, in the resurrection they are as the angels, not marrying or given in marriage: individual, distinct, in form assured and in features definite. So was He in the resurrection, and so will we be who are His.
The transformation is to be instantaneous, announced by trumpet, says I Corinthians 15:50ff.. This is far better than those wailing air-raid sirens of the endless procession of wars on earth; and then ? Then the
“dead shall be raised incorruptible”.
We hear of incorruptible people on earth, and marvel with joy if they seem honest all their lives, though there is not one who is without sin; but this to which the Christian through Christ’s labours is heir, it is not mere failure to fall into some specially vicious moral pit, some clear-cut and manifest failure. No, it is to be FREE from FALLING altogether. Its nature is different, transmuted, changed utterly into something intrinsically more glorious (I Corinthians 15:43). Its precise, constituent nature is not revealed (I John 3); but it is figured on His own now glorified body.
“We shall all be changed”
as is clear, for since there is no man who does not sin, it is given to men to die once. This for the Christian involves either being raised in immediate, spectacular instantaneity for those alive at His coming, or else this same generic event, following a period of waiting before He comes, when still in His spiritual presence – Philippians 1:23. It is after this, that the judgment comes (Hebrews 9). This resurrection is wrought, a massive transformatory work in kind, so that this is its kind: that He
“will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to Himself” – Philippians 3:21.
What then is it like, this change ? It is as we have seen, rather like putting on an overcoat (the image underlying II Corinthians 5), so this
“corruptible must put on incorruption”;
and not only so, but this vast human enemy, the seal on sin, death itself, it has to go. The body each has, is one "sown in corruption" and it is likewise for those who are the very children of God, "raised in incorruption" (I Cor. 15:42). Thus this
“mortal shall put on immortality”
so that no more is it accessible, this death, this vulnerability, this fatality. The kind of situation and construction is radically changed. It is like putting in a space suit, so that the cold is excluded, but this in an order of and for life itself, which is categorically different, not just in degree, but in kind.
When all this has happened, it is thus then that the prediction of Isaiah will be fulfilled,
“Death is swallowed up in victory” (Isaiah 25:8),
and it is then that we find the outcome of Isaiah 26:19, showing the case that Christ is to cover, envelop and provide for those who are believers who have passed on, the word of God declaring as seen above, “
My dead body shall they arise”.
So did the prophets show these things; but it is only when the appointed one, the anointed one, the Messiah has done them that it is divinely deemed necessary to indicate with new detail the whole implications and schema involved.
Thus the able to die has to become the unable to die; the able to be corrupted, the not able, the temporal being changed in its format to that which inhabits the eternity for which eternal life is given, having here its abode in the very presence of God Himself (Revelation 22:4).
Such is the gulf between the physical, the temporal and the eternal. The nature of nature has to be categorically changed from capacity to die, to be corrupted, from material and time-set conditions, to those not so limited, different in kind to the point that the former COULD not inherit heaven, or even BE WITH God in eternity.
¨ It is not entitlement here which is in view,
¨ but PRESENCE in a form fit for eternity.
Temporary components of life have to be wholly changed before eternal life can proceed. We must all be changed, and the corruptible must put on the incorruptible. It is a transformation entire; but it merely enhances what had its beginning in a material format, with a spirit involved; it merely increases the individuality, severing what severs, removing what limits to time’s crushing rod. A new nature, not no nature, is given; an eternal nature, not a temporal nature is created; immortality replaces mortality, and form gains permanence without the ways of a world which itself, entirely departs.
End of enlarged and revised quotation.
Through these prophetic promises of the Old Testament, the specific promise of the incarnate Christ and the word of God in both testaments, we find this spiritual power, presence and provision, enlarging life to deal aptly with Him who IS divine, and enabling living to be blessed in His peace and joy, kindness and pity, strength and wisdom. It is this, in all humility, without that sense of display and the spectacular which Christ did not covet (cf. Matthew 4), without the concentration on externals to the detriment of the internal reality, and without fear of death; for we shall all be raised incorruptible.
THE POINT FOR MAN
There is thus this CONSISTENT scriptural series of events, promises and fulfilments which are of one fabric, one pattern, one character, partly fulfilled already, being fulfilled continually and about to be fulfilled in the normal divine felicity of faithfulness at His return.
It is necessary to see the nexus, the complexion of the promises, the fulfilment and the features, in order to understand one's way more perfectly. This coherence in all the scriptures on these topics, mutual reinforcement, each part providing amplification as if an assembly line production were coming before our eyes, so that the finished 'vehicle' of communication is found finished.
It is this which is characteristic of the Bible, the word of God. It is neither stuffily systematic as if to affront us with endless schema, nor diffuse as if to prevent a clear understanding, but in a living manner, it brings the matter before us now this way, now that, until with the central feature of Christ incarnate, active, verbal and explicit before us, having seen our God in the flesh, we see with this final orientation, the wonder of His ways and works.
Handbooks can be wonderful or awful things. One which I have for a vehicle is a model of clarity. Anywhere you turn, you find just what you want. It is operational, constantly having in mind the point that we will want to know this or that; but it does not display its efficiency in too many ways, as if to nauseate with its own self-pre-occupation. Rather it simply presents, refers, has interlocking references and so on.
If you are willing to learn, you can. It is not hard. If you cannot be bothered applying yourself, or do not care, then you needn't. It is written for those wanting to know and to go.
This as a type is illustrative of our point. The Bible has all these intimate, correlative, mutually explicatory points on a topic, neither so severely structural as to affront with a sense of over-kill, nor in any way deficient in meaning, but requiring thought, concentration and application on the part of those wanting to GO! If you are merely trying to avoid work, or to indulge an appetite for talk, then it may leave you, as a rose might leave someone who was interested in getting drunk.
It is not the fault of the rose; it is just that you need to concentrate and have your nose keen, and your heart available, if you are in any real way to appreciate its bloom, configuration, delicacy, scent and overall composite featuring of beauty.
When however you have given it such focus, how rewarded you are, for its aesthetics may be exquisite, its scent a nexus of nostalgia mingled with diffuse wonder, and its very form an architectural speech in flower.
The beauty of holiness starts in Christ as source, continues in His Spirit as dynamic and indwelling moulder of our own inward spirit (II Corinthians 3:18 is explicit on this), and is not without the power to do what is our part and our mission in this life, while a peace which is beyond analysis, being integral and holy, lives like a lake in its deep premises (Philippians 4:4;-6).
It involves association with Christ and grace towards His people, and concern for those outside.
It is covered with promises, has personal premises and just as the scripture provides the verbal statements concerning it in perfect mutual accord and wonderfully clear development over time, so the life of the devoted disciple of the Lord is open to the work which He only can perform. The beauty of holiness is a phrase, and not a mere phase; but it is also a manner of life, a modus operandi, a delegation to the people of the Lord.
Its end is with Him who began it, a far better consummation than dust, and incomparably beyond the raging shame of guilt unatoned; for its eternity is uncompromised, free and guaranteed. It completes what is here begun.
Taste and see! The way is clear, the testimony is consistent, the work is done, the avenues are open.