THE GLORY AHEAD AND HOW TO PREPARE
O how I desire to grow further in God. Do you feel the way I do?
Ephesians 4:11-13 is an amazing promise that few Christians believe. According to the Apostle Paul, a company of people shall reach to the fullness of Christ Himself, here on this earth, in our flesh, before the resurrection. These verses even claim that they shall have perfect unity – no more bickering about this or that doctrine. How amazing will that be? I am really looking forward to that day. It shall surely come!
It makes absolute sense of course. When Christ, in all His holiness, takes His Bride to Himself would He take anyone less than someone who is without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27)? Would the Father ‘walk her up the aisle’ to bring her to His side in a state incompatible with Jesus? What sort of marriage would that be? Of course He wouldn’t. Anything less than a perfected Bride would be anathema to the concept of this holy household. This is why Scripture says that we ‘should not to be unequally yoked’ (2Corinthians 6:14). This is why God instituted marriage so that we would understand what is at stake [There are concessions for those who find themselves in that situation today – 1Corinthians 7:1-16].
“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
The glory of the Bride and details concerning the Bride are revealed in Revelations Chapter 12. She is symbolically clothed with the Sun; her righteousness thus symbolically expressed. Imagine the excitement of the Father who has been waiting for millennia to present such a company of people to Christ. In these last hours of world history He shall deliver what He planned from before the beginning (Ephesians 1:4; 1Peter 1:20).
I refuse to accept second best hoping that we shall become like that only once we are in heaven. I would then be denying the Word of the Lord. The Apostle Paul made that promise absolutely clear “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, until….” (Ephesians 4:11-13). Until when? Until she is perfected. Continue reading the verse.
What does this mean? It simply means exactly what it says. We can therefore expect these five ministries to be around today building us up in faith and holiness. Their job is not finished until the Bride is sufficiently perfected to be presented to Christ on this earth just like Eve was presented perfect in body and mind to Adam. As Eve was fashioned from Adam’s side so the Bride shall be presented to the second Adam by virtue of the blood and water that gushed out when He was pierced (John 19:34). His blood and the Holy Spirit guarantees a work towards perfection!
ARE YOU IMPATIENTLY WAITING TO BE RAPTURED NOW?
Don’t be impatient! Even farmers have to wait patiently for the harvest.
“Therefore be patient brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8, NKJV).
Be assured that the best is still to come. Jesus prayed for it, that settles it (John 17:18-23). If you don’t believe me read verse 23 again and again in several translations. Meditate on it. His prayers never failed. We can trust the Word. It’s divinely inspired.
“Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion correcting our mistakes and training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us” (2Timothy 3:16-17, MSG).
THE HEBREW ‘DAY OF ATONEMENT’ FORESHADOWED THE PERFECTION THAT IS TO COME TO SPIRITUAL ISRAEL
As explained further later on, ancient Israel was annually spiritually perfected for a brief period of time. On the Day of Atonement of the Feast of Tabernacles all sins of the entire nation were entirely wiped out. During the 7-day Feast of Booths celebrations that followed as part of the compulsory overall Feast of Tabernacles, they were virtually sinless as long as they continued to obey all the statutes of the Lord. But that never happened in the past. Sadly to say, the Day of Atonement provided only temporary relief. Their annual cycles of sins immediately continued unabated. It was impossible for man to keep every jot and title of the Law no matter how hard they might have tried. Even Moses and Aaron failed when they took things into their own hands. That’s the lesson the Law and the 10 commandments delivered. It was absolutely impossible to please God through the Law (Hebrews 11:6). Victories were only won when faith was added to the mix (Hebrews Chapter 11).
Such was the nature of almost everything we read about in the Old Testament. After the Fall of Adam and Eve everything was deliberately geared by God to provide only temporary relief. According to Their foreknowledge, the Trinity knew sin would enter into the world. Therefore, their plan made provision for the coming of a redeemer in the form of a man, the Messiah, a member of the Godhead. Thereby God Himself was able to taste for Himself the frailty and quirks of human flesh. For this reason, through grace, the Holy Spirit is well able to gradually fashion, by process, believers into His image what was intended in the first place (Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:29; 1Corinthians 15:49). All the blessings promised will become a permanent feature in the redeemed who ‘mean business with God’.
“And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendour and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit” (2Corinthians 3:18, AMPC).
In this context it is useful to have a compilation of the differences between life during the Old Testament days and the intent of the New Testament, depicted in the table below. You can probably add a few more points yourself. At this moment of time, in 2020, believers only have partially possessed these amazing promises of God.
We can be assured that Ephesians 4:11 shall be experientially fulfilled in the hearts and bodies of those who remain alive to that day. God predetermined for it to happen. Satan has been working hard in the minds of Christians to ridicule the promise of God.
The real question is whether you or I are willing to take God’s Word to heart and participate. The second column expresses what God has predestined from before the Creation.
GOD CREATED MEN AND ANGELS WITH A FREE WILL
This is what Calvin, and many others today, have misunderstood about pre-destination. God’s desire is that all may come to salvation and not perish, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9).
Nobody is predestined to arrive at either heaven or hell. The created angels made their choice a long time ago whether to remain loyal or to rebel against God. Fortunately two thirds of the angels chose to remain totally subservient to God. When the real warfare begins to happen in heaven this is why Michael and his angels will triumph over the dragon and his demons (Revelations 12:7-10). Truth will always win, in any case, because light will always overcome darkness. That’s a physical reality in our universe. Even a single match overcomes darkness. The fate of angels, whether to be holy or be damned, is sealed and can no longer be undone. In his complete delusion Satan thinks that somehow he can orchestrate a loophole and undo that. That’s why he tried to kill Jesus and accuses the redeemed day and night (Revelation 12:10, NKJV).
We are privileged to make our own decision about accepting Jesus as saviour whilst we are still alive. Once we die our eternal fate is sealed and cannot be undone. However, we remain free to make choices until we take our last breath. No one’s fate is absolutely predetermined by God. The bad can be redeemed and the redeemed, even those God chose for Himself from the womb, as John the Baptist was, can turn bad again of their own will (Hebrews 6:4-8; 2Peter 2:22; Revelation 3:16). Balaam the prophet and Judas would be among the many examples of that. It was predetermined that somebody would betray Jesus but it didn’t have to be Judas. But he fitted the bill willingly as it turned out. He joined the company of apostles with great gusto thinking that he eventually would achieve a position of power once Jesus became king. When it dawned on him that Jesus had no intention to displace Herod or Caesar he became disillusioned and depressed. Judas had a lingering seed of hunger for money and power in his heart from early on which germinated to fruition at the end. John 12:6 states that, having been treasurer of the apostle’s community purse, he helped himself regularly.
What really matters is our final choice before we take our last breath. The difference between the two thieves on the cross was a good example of that (Luke 23:43). It’s like in our local TV quiz show “Millionaire Hot Seat”. Contestants are allowed to change their answer until the last second. However, some make a most definite and adamant poor choice very early. The quizmaster, trying to help, may ask, often with a whimsical hint of doubt in his voice “Are you sure you want to lock that in”? After a very firm “Yes, lock it in please Eddie” Eddie presses the button and your fate is irreversibly sealed. That is exactly how God runs His quiz show on life. Photo by Flickerd from Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Biblical examples of locked-in and premature poor choices include Achan, Nabal, the first husband of Abigail whom King David later took to wife, and Ananias, and Sapphira in the New Testament (Joshua Chapter 7, 1Samuel 25:36-38, Acts 5:1-11). These examples revolved around an obsession with material possessions. It’s interesting that God gave Nabal 10 days to repent before killing him, ten being the number of trial and testing. Like Eddie God gave them all time to reconsider their actions, as is also evident in the case of Sapphira.
A contemporary example of once having been immersed in the things of the Spirit and then denying Christ would be that of Charles (Chuck) Templeton, former close friend of Billy Graham (1John 5:16, Hebrews 6:4-6). Evangelicals always held Charles in higher esteem than Billy until the day that Charles publicly denounced his faith in Christ. The Gospel Coalition summed up Charles Templeton using his own words before his died.
MATTERS THAT ARE PREDETERMINED AND FIXED
There are many things that God has specifically predestined to come to pass without fail; these outcomes will be as proclaimed in the written Word.
Before the Creation the Lord predetermined that:
there be an eternal heaven reserved only for the Christ and those who are in Him
all created beings, including angels, are to possess free will
there be the city of Jerusalem and a new city in Paradise – the New Jerusalem
righteousness and salvation from sin will be gifted by grace alone not by works
no man’s intellect or physical abilities shall be their licence into heaven
the redeemed will be motivated to exercise works of faith
man not live by bread alone but by every Word of God
there be an eternal hell for the stubbornly unrepentant, grossly rebellious and the depraved -whether they be men or angels
there be no robotic obedience but service of love and praise in heaven
Messiah, Christ the Lord, would come to redeem the fickle human heart
salvation shall come through the Jews (John 4:22)
Messiah would have no biological father – only the Father in heaven
Messiah would be born of a chosen virgin at the set time - no sooner or later.
Messiah will have His shed His blood shed through sinful men exactly on the Jewish Passover
the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit be exactly on the Day of Pentecost
the Bride be perfectly cleansed during the last Feast of Tabernacles of the Church
the Bride be perfectly cleansed on the last Day of Atonement for the Church
a Great Harvest be celebrated during the Feast of Booths
only the redeemed shall inhabit Paradise in the New Heaven and Earth
Messiah will bring degrees of rewards according to our works in the flesh
all that is of the old, including this universe, shall be destroyed (2Peter 3:10-12).
Note that so far God has worked according to a set timetable dictated by the Feasts of the Lord. There is no reason to believe that He intends to change His ways but will proceed according to Daniel’s 70 weeks (70x7) prophecy right to the end (Daniel Chapter 9). If we wish to be included in His predetermined outcomes we must be willing to act and participate accordingly – He will equip us with all that we require to fulfil His will. He will never leave us alone but equip us thoroughly through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16).
WE HAVE BLIND SPOTS – NO USE TO DENY THAT
The anatomy of the human eye is remarkable but its construction leads every human eye to have a blind spot. The octopus has the nerves placed behind the retina so it has no blind spot. Why did God allow us to have a blind spot common with animals in the eye when He could have avoided it? (Was it to throw ardent evolutionists off the track?)
You can test for yourself on paper. Mark a dot in the middle of a blank sheet of white paper, and peering through only one eye, move the paper slowly around. You will find that in one particular location the dot disappears. You will then have located the position of your blind spot. Every eye has a blind spot because of the bundle of optic nerves (the optic disk) that make that part of the retina insensitive to light. Our spiritual life can be like that too. God made us like that; don’t blame yourself. We are all human.
God uses that ‘defect in our design’ to illustrate that every person has spiritual defects and ‘blind spots’ until illumination comes by the Spirit of the Lord. Often illumination can come to us from an unbeliever who may exclaim at our inappropriate behaviour or speech “Oh my and I thought you were a Christian”. Unbelievers are quite good at spotting a Christian’s ‘blind spot’. But more often than not illumination comes through the hearing of the Word of God.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
There is no doubt though that God can use unbelievers to ‘show us up’. That’s when God may deliberately want to shame us because we haven’t paid attention to Him. I would rather be studious and attentive to the Spirit of the Lord before it has to go that far. However, I am fairly certain that such things have happened to all Christians.
As a last resort the Lord God may deliberately shame an entire church Himself, as He did in the case of the some of the churches in the book of Revelation. The Apostle Paul eventually had to shame the Corinthian Church in an open letter threatening to come with harsh words if they didn’t change their ways (2Corinthians 13:10).
WHAT IS THE REMEDY, INDIVIDUALLY AND CORPORATELY?
I believe that first of all we must recognize that we all have blind spots no matter how advanced we might be in the things of God. I definitely have spiritual and behavioural blind spots that I come to recognize from time to time, sometimes through dear brothers and sisters in the Lord. We have to take it ‘on the chin’ when it comes. It’s all part of God’s discipline as He chastens sons (Hebrews 12:6).
The Lord said of King David that he was a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). Why should the Lord have said that when David murdered a man because of lust and had committed adultery with his wife? Furthermore, because of ignorance and lack of faith on his part, and despite the warning given by his own general who could see looming sin, David precipitated the death by plague of 70,000 Israelites by an angel of death (2Samuel 24:15). Why would he have been a man after God’s own heart we could ask?
David became a merciful and generous king yet he was clearly capable of sin, but I believe that it was his willingness to repent that gladdened God’s heart. These particular verses, attributed to David should resonate with most Christians, especially the second quote.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Psalm 51:10-12).
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Our answer to not be shamed by anyone surely lies in these verses. These direct requests to the Lord ought to be included in our prayers. God may reveal things about ourselves that we don’t even know about. This is why many of us pray in tongues for the Holy Spirit to use our mouths to intercede to the Father on our behalf (1Corinthians 14:14). We may even have offended the indwelling Holy Spirit without us being aware or perhaps we have been blind to certain scriptures for years. Let us consciously ask God that, in His love, He would gently reveal such things and then help and motivate us to do something about it.
We could then hasten our journey to grow into the company of the Bride without impediments.
STARK NEW TESTAMENT TRUTHS ABOUT WHAT HINDERS GROWTH
In our era of grace does God hold us accountable if we sin unknowingly because of ignorance? Yes He does. Sin is sin but He is willing to forgive, of course. Many think that God’s love is unconditional, but that word is not in the Bible except in one translation to do with a Babylonian king. Instead, there is an abundance of the phrase “if you….”. Of course the blood of Christ will always cover us if we truly repent and turn away from our sins. That is what grace is all about. On the other hand, what if we continue to sin unknowingly oblivious to what the Lord would require of us in our walk and have never even thought of crying out to the Lord as David did? What would happen if we persisted to be like that?
Godly leadership will always alert us when we contravene and unknowingly come short of the expectations of the Lord. That, however, requires us to be in fellowship in a Bible-based church. A wise elder, such as the apostle Paul, always made a point of drawing attention to sinful actions in the congregation calling for repentance. For example, some in the congregation of the Corinthians took communion, the Lord’s Table, frivolously and used it as an opportunity to feed themselves. Some of them obviously thought lack of reverence and disorderly behaviour harmless.
On important issues relating to doctrines (teachings) the apostle Peter emphasized that he would not want any to remain ignorant concerning sound doctrine.
“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2Peter 3:5-10).
The Lord Jesus was scathing in his remarks to the church in Laodicea in Revelation (3:14-22), not only because they were lukewarm but also because they were blind and in great need. They didn’t seem to care. The Lord didn’t spare words. The first two chapters of Revelation are relevant to several attitudes in church leadership and congregations today.
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming there went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).
GOD’S HOLY STANDARDS AS REVEALED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
I was leading a study on the Feasts of Israel when one of the aspects concerning the Day of Atonement stood out to me. When a person or ruler knowingly committed a sin, or was made aware of a sin unintentionally committed, he or she was to bring an animal sacrifice to a priest. Hands were laid on a lamb or goat or bull according to their status. Their sin and any consequences on the nation, was thereby transmitted to the sacrificial animal (Leviticus Chapter 4). For there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).
The holy Day of Atonement was celebrated once annually on the 10th day of the 7th month during the Feast of Tabernacles. It was a day for the complete cleansing of all Israel. The frequent sacrifices, carried out during the year, covered not only wilful sins but also those that had been committed unintentionally because of ignorance of details in the Law. Once the offence was made known a sacrifice was required (Numbers 15:22-31).
What was so special, therefore, about the Day of Atonement? The Day of Atonement was a once in a year event when all Israel was cleansed of all sins even of sins of ignorance that they were completely unaware of; Israel would have committed many of those.
On the Day of Atonement the High Priest and he alone had to enter the tent of the Lord and sprinkle the blood 7 times between the two cherubim onto the golden mercy-seat on top of the ark twice; once for a young bull and once for a goat. In this way all the sins of the entire nation were forgiven both the sins they had become conscious of and sins they didn’t even know they had committed.
One of the outstanding sins that Israel had committed as a nation over a period of 490 years, even during the reign of King David, was to forget the statute of the Sabbatical Year when the land was to lie fallow and unharvested for a whole year. They had altogether forgotten or simply ignored to obey this command which was to be upheld once every 7 years (the Sabbatical Year or the Shmita in Hebrew).
What is strange is that even at the time of Solomon and the first Temple, and their annual celebrations during the Feast of Tabernacles God still reserved the right to hold them accountable for their sin of ignorance and were put under house arrest in Babylon for 70 years (the 70-year Babylonian captivity). They had disobeyed 70 Shmita’s over a period of 490 years since the reign of King Saul.
Thus, in retribution, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians. The Jews had to live 70 years under exile in Babylon, one year for every Sabbatical Year of rest they had ignored. Most of the people probably didn’t even know what they were supposed to have done but the learned did. When they eventually returned from exile after 70 years the book of the Law was read to them by Ezra the priest causing much weeping (Nehemiah 8:1-9).
Of course, their captivity was more severe than just being under ‘house’ arrest in Babylon. Many were killed when King Nebuchadnezzar razed Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon’s Temple. For the continued insolence of King Zedekiah, both before the Lord and before King Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah had his two sons killed before him and was then blinded (2Kings 25:11; Jeremiah 39:6-7). The Lordʼs enormous patience has an obvious limit.
I personally prefer the term ‘house arrest’ because Daniel and his friends were treated well and, over the years, the people had established their livelihoods in Babylon. Therefore, only a fraction of the Jews went back, in three waves from Persia to rebuild Jerusalem (by this time the Babylonians had been overrun by the Medes and Persians). We can assume that not a great number, perhaps in the vicinity of 50,000 (Nehemiah 7:66), remained sufficiently loyal after 70 years to rebuild Jerusalem (Israel My Glory). We read in Esther (8:9) that a great number of Jews had been scattered abroad in 127 provinces from Ethiopia to India (Esther 8:9). This was well before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, in 70 AD, for their iniquities.
The net effect of the Babylonian exile was that many never returned to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem where the Lord had placed His name forever,
“And the LORD said unto him (Solomon), I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you made before me: I have hallowed this house, which you have built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually” (1Kings 9:3).
Christians, though calling themselves Christians, are also capable of straying from the presence of the Lord. Their departure frequently also has its roots in ignorance because of poor or overbearing teaching.