By George H. Warnock
For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17).
Jesus came into the world to set up the Kingdom of Heaven--not to banish the Romans from Jerusalem, but to banish sin from the hearts of men. Because He walked in obedience and truly represented the Father in the earth He came into direct confrontation with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. He consistently refused to meddle with the kingdoms of this world, even though they came to Him on one occasion in an attempt to make Him their King "by force". "My Kingdom is not of this world", He said (Jn. 18:36). He came to bring to earth a different kind of Kingdom--the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God on earth. (Some would try to make a distinction between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. Just take your concordance and look up these terms as used in the four gospels, and it becomes self-evident that it is one and the same Kingdom: The Kingdom of God, brought down from Heaven, to embrace the hearts of men). The principles upon which this Kingdom would be established are the principles of righteousness, truth, meekness, and love. See Him stand before Pilate, a representative of the most powerful of all empires up to that time, and see how He replies to the question, "Are you a King then?"
"Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth" (Jn. 18:37).
The Kingdom of God is Righteousness
First and foremost it is a Kingdom of Righteousness; for without righteousness--God's righteousness--there can be no real peace; and without righteousness and peace there can be no real "joy" in the hearts of men.
Now "righteousness" is a free gift of God, and it comes to us by the workings of His grace:
"That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21). The kingdom of righteousness has invaded the kingdom of sin and death. There are many kinds of kings and rulers and dictators both in the world and in the Church--but over them all there is a greater potentate who has the final authority, and this one is Death. There is a short reign of glory and power and it is all over. All lay down their crowns at the throne of Death. Kings in the Church do the same. They may rule and reign in splendor, have large followings, bring the masses under their subjection, receive adoration and honour from the multitudes--but sooner or later they themselves submit to a still greater potentate, even Death.
But when the Kingdom of Heaven is truly making inroads into the lives of men, God's servants begin to reign in life because of the working of the Cross in their lives. Righteousness is ministered to the hearts of men, and "grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life". Apart from a ministration of righteousness by the Holy Spirit, there is no abiding foundation for "peace" and much less for "joy". This order is generally reversed because, generally speaking--the kingdoms of the Church are based on worldly principles. "Joy" is the quest of the world, so it has become the cornerstone of our Church gatherings. The music is like the music of the world and is designed to bring joy. The young people are caught up with the pleasures of the world, so we will incorporate worldly pleasures into our religious services. We will have worldly music and worldly games in our Church gatherings, and in this way we can get more young people involved in our Church activities. And they call it "the Joy of the Lord". In many cases it is like "the crackling of thorns under a pot" (Ecc. 7:6).
Now what is "righteousness"? The good works of the people? Not really.
"Christ Jesus ..is made unto us...righteousness" (1 Cor. 1:30).
This puts the whole matter in an entirely different light. There ought to be good works, this is true. But they are not really righteous deeds in the sight of God except they be the outworking of Christ Himself in our midst. It is only as we are abiding in Christ that His righteousness is revealed in our lives. Only as Christ walks in His people--leading, motivating, energizing, and manifesting His own life are we truly a manifestation of the righteousness of God in the earth. We might bring forth some very impressive programs--religious or otherwise. We might preach, evangelize, and get involved with all kinds of Christian outreaches. But if it is because of human zeal, and not the fruit of the righteousness of Christ in our lives--if it is not because we are "working together with God" in the "yoke" of Christ--all these wonderful works are but as "filthy rags" in His sight, and will avail nothing in the day of Christ.
"Righteousness, and Peace"
"Then judgment (or justice) shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever" (Isa. 32:16, 17).
When peace becomes our pursuit, we can very easily build a kingdom of peace based on our own efforts. We see it in the world about us. But it is also rampant in the Church. The spirit of compromise has overwhelmed God's people. It seems necessary for survival. God help us to discern the thoughts and the intentions of our hearts. Do our motives spring from the indwelling Christ? Or are we compromising the truth for the sake of unity?
Jesus "came not to send peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34). He came to do justice, to establish righteousness, and peace will be the fruit of it. But this will bring confrontation with the world about us: friend against friend, brother against brother, father against son, mother against daughter, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law. This is inevitable, because the Kingdom of God is based on righteousness. The wisdom that cometh from above is "first pure, then peaceable" (Jas. 3:17). "Gentle, and easy to be entreated"--Yes. It is not harsh and cruel; but neither can it be compromising. It must first be "pure". True peace will come out of this. True gentleness and meekness will come out of this. The "pure in heart" will see God, and will manifest and show forth the love and mercy and gentleness of Christ. But in the midst of it all he will know God's grief because of the sin of His people, and will "love righteousness and hate iniquity" as Jesus did.
"And joy in the Holy Ghost"
It seems to me that the kingdom that prevails out there in the Church today is very much like the world. It is a kingdom based on Joy. Who would deny that God wants His people to have the "joy of the Lord"? But Joy is the "fruit of the Spirit". Joy is the fruit that grows from the vine of truth and of righteousness. It is not something you try to produce with a lot of good snappy music. It is not manufactured by the mechanics of praise and worship. It is not the enthusiasm and excitement that is generated by an entertainer who knows how to stir the emotions, but does not draw the heart to brokenness and repentance.
It is the "oil of joy" that flows from the olive berry that has known the crushing and the pressing in the vats of God's dealings.
It is the joy of Sarah, who calls her new born son "Laughter" (Isaac) because of God's faithfulness in bringing fruitfulness and blessing to a woman of ninety, who had long bemoaned her state of barrenness before Abraham and before the LORD.
It is the joy of Hanna, who likewise knew sorrow of heart and much reproach, because she was helplessly barren. But she came to the place where she could rejoice in a God who brings down the high and the mighty, and exalts the lowly--who brings desolation to those who gloried in their fruitfulness, and causes the barren woman to be a mother of seven.
It is the joy of Joseph, "whose feet were laid in fetters" and "whose soul was laid in iron"--but who in the fulfillment of God's dealings in his life, wept over his brethren with tears of joy and victory, and rejoiced in the sovereign workings of God in his life--in the God who gives "the oil of joy for mourning".
It is the joy of Paul, who thought himself "happy" to be bound in chains, yet knowing he was free, because he knew he was a ''prisoner of the Lord''.
Happiness is not a feeling that comes and goes because of circumstances. It is not something you have to work up when you come to Church after a long miserable week at your job. It is that abiding state of blessedness that is yours in the midst of the trial, in the midst of the pressure--because you know that you are walking with God and doing His will, and reigning in life by Christ Jesus.
Christ Reigns as a Priest on the Throne
The Kingdom to come is said to be that which Christ will establish when He comes back again, in which He will enforce righteousness in the earth by righteous decree. God once administered righteous decrees in this manner, and exacted very severe penalties upon all who disobeyed His laws. And the final outcome of it all was death. Paul went so far as to say that the whole administration of the Old Covenant was a "ministration of death" (2 Cor. 3:7). Not because there was anything wrong with the Law in itself--but in the outcome of it all a broken Law was inevitable because of "the weakness of the flesh". And that which ought to have ministered life brought about a ministration of death.
But now we are taught that one of these days God will establish a Kingdom in the earth and force the inhabitants of the earth into submission by issuing righteous decrees. Do we not realize that we now have a Mediator of "a better Covenant" enthroned at the right hand of God in the heavens? And that He has all power "in heaven and in earth" to minister and to impart righteousness by the Spirit into the hearts of men, here and now?
This is thought to be totally inadequate--I suppose because He is simply too far away! We know He will rule and reign in righteousness later on, for His Kingdom is "an everlasting Kingdom". But He is reigning on a throne of glory now--
"Behold the Man whose name is the Branch; And he shall grow up out of His place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD" (Zech. 6:12).
This Man is the Lord Jesus. He is the Branch, or Sprout. Isaiah calls Him "a root out of a dry ground". He grows up out of "His place"--and His place is His holy Temple in the earth. His place is in God's Garden. In God's Garden He becomes the Vine, and in union with that Vine there are many "branches".
"Even He shall build the temple of the LORD; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne" (Zech. 6:13).
He was the Temple of God in the earth when He was here (See Jn. 2:19). But now He is building an extension of that Temple which He was when He walked on earth. It is not another Temple--but now He is the Chief Cornerstone of an enlarged Temple; and He bears the glory. As our great High Priest in the heavens He carries upon His shoulders the fulness of the glory of God--and He reigns as a Priest, bearing that glory.
The priesthood has been transferred from earth to heaven. The old earthly priesthood had to be changed because it was a "ministration of death". The whole order ended in death because it was an earthly priesthood based upon an old covenant that even the priesthood could not keep.
But now has Christ entered into "a more excellent ministry" in the heavens, a priestly ministry after the order of Melchizedek:
"The LORD said unto my Lord,
Sit Thou at my right hand,
Until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool...
The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent,
Thou art a Priest for ever
After the order of Melchizedek."
(Ps. 110:1, 4).
Why did God transfer the administration of the priesthood from earth to Heaven, and from Levi to Melchizedek? Paul shows us why:
(I) Melchizedek is superior to Levi, because Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek, and received the blessing of Melchizedek. This proves that Melchizedek was better because the "lesser" is always blessed by the "better" (Heb. 7:7).
(2) The Levitical order, good and all as it may have been in its time, ended in death. And all kingdoms that end in death must give way to the Kingdom of God that issues forth in life. (See Heb. 7:8, 16).
(3) The Levitical order could not bring perfection. It could not bring the work of redemption to a completion, to a fulness, and therefore it had to be changed. (See Heb. 7:11, 12). Notice this, beloved. For the Church to remain in a constant state of imperfection is sound doctrine the way the Church sees it. God says He had to "change" the old system because it could not bring forth the perfection, the completion, the fulness that is brought forth in the New Covenant.
(4) The old system was declared "unprofitable" for the simple reason that the Old Covenant had no power to bring forth any profit to God or man. (See Heb. 7:18). The Law had its day; and it had demonstrated, throughout 1,400 years of human history, that the whole system issued forth in death. Nevertheless, it did "bring in a better hope, by which we draw nigh to God" (Heb. 7:19). The hope of the Law was not another earthly kingdom. The hope of the Law was a new order, with a new priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. This priesthood was to be administered directly from the throne of God in the heavens. The foundation of this new Kingdom would be righteousness and peace, for the very name "Melchizedek" means "King of righteousness". This Melchizedek reigned over the city of Salem, which means Peace. We do not inquire as to who he was, this strange personage; for the secrecy of his origins makes him to be a more fitting type of Christ, whom the world knoweth not. He is said to be "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life" (Heb. 7:3). In other words, his name is nowhere to be found in the genealogies of the Levitical priestly records. So it is with Christ. Now Christ had a recorded genealogy in Matthew's gospel, and also in Luke's. He also had a mother, and a Father. But as far as the Levitical priestly records were concerned, He did not exist. He enters the scene of priestly and kingly ministry--out from obscurity; for He came fresh from the bosom of God. And now He rules and reigns as a Priest on a "better" throne, and in a "better" priesthood, in the Kingdom of Life.
What the Law could not do because it was "weak through the flesh", the Priest on the throne of Heaven is able to accomplish through the "ministration of the Spirit" to the hearts of men (2 Cor. 3:8, 9; Rom. 8:3). He reigns from a heavenly Zion to ensure that His ministry would be more effectual, more enduring, more pervasive than it could ever be were He to minister from some geographic location on earth. Men do not think this is the best way. Most people in the Church do not seem to think this is the best way. But it seemed good to God! And God has issued a decree to establish the King in the heavenly Zion:
"Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree; The LORD hath said unto Me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee" (Ps. 2:6, 7; Heb. 5:5, 6).
This decree is reaffirmed again and again by God's holy apostles and prophets; and yet somehow our modem day teachers are bold to declare that His Kingdom will not be truly effective until the heavenly Zion becomes an earthly one. God is satisfied that His King will be able to "subdue all enemies" under His feet as He reigns from a heavenly throne. Why can't we be at rest in the decree? And what makes us think that He is hampered in His task because He is so far away? He was here on earth once, and having finished the work of redemption He remained here for another 40 days. He could have stayed for 40 years--or for 2,000 years if that was necessary. But the "decree" of the Father was that the Son would have "a more excellent ministry" in the heavens (Heb. 8:6). Exalted in the heavens He would have the totality of power, not only in the earth, but in the heavens as well. (Matt. 28:18). Power in the earth would not be sufficient, because earth's real problems are with "principalities and powers" in the heavens. Earth's real problems are with Satan, who is "the prince of the power of the air", as well as "the god of this world". And so God's decree has established a Man in the heavens, who would reign as a "Priest on the throne"--on the highest throne to be found anywhere in the whole universe.
"Far above all principality,
And every name that is named,
Not only in this world,
But also in that which is to come"
Why do men think that coming back to earth would somehow enable Him to judge more effectively, because of His transfer from heaven to earth? God transferred Him from earth to heaven so He would have "a more excellent ministry". Of course He is coming back! But not to start a Kingdom. He is coming to totally devastate the kingdoms of men, as well as all the kingdoms of the heavens,--and to bring into being a "new heavens, and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet. 3:13).
The coming of the Lord is generally presented as the hope of the world, when the gospel of Christ will really begin to make an impact on the nations, and the Kingdom of Heaven will be forced upon the earth by righteous decree.
But Jesus likens His coming to the judgment of the flood, and to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:28, 29). He tells us that just prior to His coming there will be "the days of vengeance", and that "the powers of heaven shall be shaken" (Lk. 21:22, 26). Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus will come "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 1:8). And Peter tells us that God's delay in fulfilling "the promise of His coming" is because He is "longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). If His coming means that the earth will then be saturated with the gospel of the Kingdom, why does God withhold His coming, desiring that men would come to repentance? The reason is: "The Day of God" is at hand--a day when "the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heart, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Pet. 3:10).
I am asked, Where do we fit the millennium into this picture? All I can do is ask, Why didn't Peter fit it in? We might just have to leave it alone till the other pieces of the puzzle are fitted together. Somewhere that little piece of the puzzle will find its place. But are we to take the one and only scripture in the Bible that refers to a reign of "a thousand years" and revolve the whole doctrine of the Kingdom of God about that? (Rev. 20). The Book of Revelation is full of symbols, and most--if not all-- of the numbers are symbolic in their significance. The only other reference to "a thousand years" in the New Testament is in this passage in Peter; and here he would remind us that "a thousand years" are but as a day. Men are quick to point out that "the last days" mentioned by the apostles have now covered "two thousand years", and so the present Christian era up to now is really only "two days" in God's calendar. Then, why are we not as quick to acknowledge that "a thousand years" might be reduced to mean "one day"--as the apostle said?
We cannot just brush aside the solemn warnings of the apostle because many theologians assure us that the new heavens and the new earth cannot come into being for at least another thousand years. Peter may not have anticipated that this age would last 2,000 years from his time; but under the inspiration of the Spirit he said that we are "looking for" and "hasting unto" the day of God, which is a day of fire. "Hasting unto" has the meaning, "eagerly expecting, earnestly waiting for". Because the Lord comes in fire to devastate the kingdoms of men and destroy the earth and the heavens as we know them, and to bring into being "A new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet. 3:12, 13).
It is now in this day that the gospel of the Kingdom is to go forth to all nations. And God is preparing a people for this hour as He has in any other hour of apostasy. It is the same gospel of the Kingdom that went forth in the beginning, but now it is "harvest" time, the end of the age. The tares are to be gathered into bundles for burning. The chaff is to be separated from the wheat and consumed. The wheat is to be gathered into the garner. This gospel of the Kingdom will be a word that will devastate the kingdoms of darkness; but it will be a word of salvation that will not only be spoken, but will shine to the ends of the earth.
When one considers the great potential that we now have for promoting the gospel... with radio and television and all kinds of electronic paraphernalia.. .the massive missionary programs... the availability of fast communication and travel... the accumulated knowledge that now lies at our disposal by way of books, and tapes, and seminars--all of which are designed as an aid to an understanding of the scriptures, to evangelism, and to Church growth... How can we help but feel tremendously impressed with the potential of this hour for the spreading of the gospel?--Unless we think back about 50 years! Back then we used to hear statistics like this: One Billion inhabitants of the earth either have not heard the Gospel, or know nothing about the Lord Jesus! Today that number has spiraled to two or three billion, and perhaps more! And yet the Church continues to exalt our modern technology as God's way to send forth His Word into the earth. How blind--just how blind can God's people get?
We are not saying we should not use our modern methods of travel and communication. We are in a modern world, and we use what God has provided, as He may see fit. But we are simply saying that our technology and our modern methods and aids to evangelism have no real bearing on the effectiveness of the gospel of the Kingdom. The gospel of Christ is reproductive by nature, and brings forth after its kind. Everything living thing that God placed in the earth was created with a law of procreation inherent within its life cell. But I fear the Church is now almost sterile because she has been drinking from cisterns that have been polluted with the toxic wastes of the psychologies and the philosophies of men. She may be growing in leaps and bounds (in appearance anyway, although it is evident that most of what we call "church growth" is simply a transfer of people from one "church" to another that has a better program). But how many of our church members really know the Lord? It is popular now to be "born again"--because presidents, and governors, and actors, and prominent business men are "born again". When the stigma of the Cross is rooted out of the Church, so is the life of Christ. Where is that travail of the Spirit that brings babes in Christ to new birth? Where is that real conviction of sin that causes men to abhor themselves in their lost condition, and cry unto God for mercy? The Church may say, "These are my children!" But I wonder if God is truly saying, "I am their Father"? What does God call a person that is mothered by the Church, but not fathered by the Lord of the Church? (See Heb. 12:8).
Jesus said, "When He (the Spirit of truth) is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (Jn. 16:8). How can a Church that has become totally captivated by the spirit of the world become an effectual reproof to the world about her?
The Scandal of the Cross
"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block (Gr. skandalon), and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:23).
Here is the real problem! God's people do not want to become the objects of "scandal". We do not want to be a by-word, a reproach in a world that we must accommodate in order to win her favour.
And so you can 'join the Church" and get away with almost anything--as long as you forsake some of those extreme, outward sins that Christian ethics do not allow. But when we avoid the scandal of the Cross we are eliminating from our way of life that instrument of death that God ordained for the smiting of our carnal nature, and the sinful hearts of men around us. Paul said, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).
This is the Laodicean Age
The spirit of compromise has just about conquered the people of God, and especially the leadership in the Church today. The sad part of it all is that they are almost totally blind to their condition. Our Lord has "eye-salve" to anoint our eyes that we might see. But to be blind and all the while insist that we see--this leaves us totally helpless and immune to any offer of salvation.
Every one is prepared to admit that the Laodicean Church is the character of the end-time Church; but Laodicea is always that other church across the street, not the one we go to. Ours is that "glorious Church" that Paul spoke about!
And so the "gospel" of the Kingdom continues to be heralded by a Laodicean Church...
A Church that is based almost entirely on accumulating earth's resources, and getting more and more involved in earth's economics, in earth's politics, in in earth's governments--
A Church that is "rich and increased with goods--
A Church that promises the people of God health, prosperity, happiness, and joy... if they will but release their resources to the glory of God--
A Church that has perverted "discipleship" to mean devotion to their system, rather than a forsaking of all in order to follow Him--
A Church that considers large financial resources to be God's provision to reach the lost, rather then recognizing this as the noose that has choked her and deprived her of the breath of life--
A Church that has almost totally embraced the world and its systems, thinking that in embracing the world she could win the world--
A Church that is captivated by the spirit of Jezebel, which is a spirit of sorcery, seducing God's servants to "commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols" (Rev. 2:20).
The prophets of Jezebel and of Baal may declare some very outstanding truths, as Balak did. But his heart was perverse; he was doing it for the money that was in it, and God's wrath fell upon him.
In the time of Ezekiel God complained that the prophets were not preparing the people for the day of battle, nor making up the hedge of defence so the people would be able to stand in the day of the LORD. Rather they were seducing the people by "saying, Peace; and there was no peace" (See Ezek. 13:1-16). There are many prophecies coming forth in our churches. But how long is it since we have heard prophecies that would cause a man to fall on his face as "the secrets of the heart are made manifest", and cry out: "God is in you of a truth" (1 Cor. 14:25)?
We read of men like Wesley and Fox and many others who preached in such anointing and power that men would tremble, and fall on their faces in writhing pain, because of the awesomeness of God's holy presence. Early Pentecost was known for the fiery, consuming presence of God. Men's hearts would be smitten as they agonized under the conviction and reproof of the Holy Spirit. Now they want to build monuments to the memory of those great days of visitation. Sepulchers are harmless things! We are respectable now! We do not want goings-on like that in our churches. Why do we not seek out "the old paths" upon which the prophets of God's glory walked in past generations? I am afraid it is because we do not really want those cleansing streams of holy fire that might destroy our comfortable, Laodicean way of life.
The kernel is gone--and we are content to spend our time admiring the broken shell--
We are feeding on the husks that the swine do eat, instead of returning to Father's table--
The glory has departed, and we mend the veil that was rent, and carry on with our "worship" before an ark that is devoid of the Shekinah--
The altars are still there in our churches, but there is no bleeding sacrifice laid upon it. The dismembered parts of the burnt offering present too bloody a scene--with head, and heart, and liver exposed to the holy fires of God--
We must have an altar, because an altar is part of temple worship. But let it be an altar of oak or mahogany, and let it be enhanced with tapestry and golden cords, and not defiled with the smoke of a burnt offering. Let it not be soiled with the weeping and wailing of penitent hearts, or the grime of sinners off the street. We are Laodicean now, and our temples must be kept beautiful within and without, to attract the crowds. The grounds must be landscaped with the art of the horticulturist--because this temple is for the rich and the prosperous. No bums are wanted in here. Our courts must be filled with jovial, happy, praising people! No longer do we worship in back-alley missions, and old store-fronts. Our temples are of the best architecture and workmanship. For we are "rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing"--
And if perchance God prospers us, and our barns are filled to the brim, we will sell them or tear them down and build still greater ones to the glory of God. This is thought to be "vision" and spiritual "outreach". We must build towers that reach up into the heavens, to keep the people of God from being scattered--to keep them together--to make them one--and to "make a name for ourselves".
"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded" (Gen. 11:5). But He was not the least impressed!
Beloved, let us not be the least disturbed when God begins to confound the languages of men and scatter the people. Let us not be concerned when the finances run low and men are forced to lay aside their plans to finish the city and the tower. God wants us to know that "the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands". The heart of man is the only dwelling place that God has ever desired for His habitation. Don't be surprised when the Lord of Glory walks in the midst of His Church today and overthrows the tables of the money-changers. Don't try to re-arrange the tables just because you have bought and paid for one of them. And don't blame it on the Devil either! It is God that is saying: "Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise".
It is God saying, "You have sat long enough in your comfortable pews, trying to sing the songs of the LORD in a strange land--I would turn your captivity-- I would bring you out of Babylon--I would lead you back to Zion, the city of the living God..." Can we not hear the call to repentance in this awesome hour?
"I know that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art--
"I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:15-19).
And so our Lord stands outside the door, and still knocking, and asking for admittance:
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20).
A Staff, a Pair of Sandals, and a Coat
This was God's provision for the first preachers of the gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus sent forth:
"And (He) commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: but be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats" (Mark 6:8, 9).
I know we live in a different time. But I know also that, nice as everything seems to be in this jet age, the age of satellites and dishes--we have become completely burdened down in a system that requires an awful lot of entanglement for a pilgrim people. Let us not think for one moment that the Kingdom of God is in any way dependent upon the modern resources of man, and all their electronic gadgetry. We use what God provides. But when all the machinery of our modern way of life has been swept away, the propagation of the Gospel of Christ will not suffer because of it.
Our real shoes, are not the sandals we wear, but the shoes "of the preparation of the gospel of peace".
The staff in our hand is all that we really need. Our real scepter is that which comes from Him who is King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Our real coat consists of the garments of His righteousness, the broidered coat of priestly ministry, with an ephod about our waist, and a mitre of holiness upon our head.
Any provision we need along our pilgrim way--God will be faithful to provide. Our real provision is in the fact that He sends us. For if He sends He is responsible for our welfare. We simply go as "pilgrims", as ambassadors with a message from Heaven, drop the seed into the hearts of men, and trust God to water and cultivate and care for the growing plant, and bring forth fruit for His glory.
The Church of Christ is self-propagating
Man's way is to build temples and barns to store the seed. But God's way is to scatter it. The heathen raged! They said we will cut away the cords of Zion's King--we will scatter the people far and wide! But they fulfilled God's purposes in doing it. Little did they realize that in their frantic efforts to eradicate the Church they were actually planting the seeds of the Kingdom of God in all parts of the land. They did not know that here was a self-propagating, reproductive people that would reproduce their kind in the good soil of a famishing, hungry world. They did not know that they were dealing with kings, whose scepter was only a staff, but who moved in the authority of the King of the Universe. The sandals they wore were the shoes of "the preparation of the gospel of peace". And their coat was the garment of truth, in which they lived, and by which they spoke a word that was "sharper than any two-edged sword".
Now the purpose of true ministry is to so feed the sheep of God's pasture that they will become strong, vital, healthy, and reproductive. We have all kinds of sheep-factories about us. And they are using all kinds of gimmicks, rock music, entertainment, dance troupes pantomime--you name it--to make the Church productive; when in fact it is making her sterile. But God in this hour is going to raise up "shepherds after His own heart" who will minister life to the sheep, so they will be able to bring forth after their kind:
"(They) come up from the washing; Whereof every one bear twins, And none is barren among them" (Song 4:2).
What do you suppose would happen if every one of God's sheep were to bear twins? Twins that are also vital, strong, healthy, and reproductive?
Let's start with just a small flock, a very small flock. Let's start with one vital Christian in each town or city in the world. .just one. (I believe there are at least 150,000 villages, towns and cities in the world). So we have just 150,000 real Christians in the earth.
Now let's give every one of these vital Christians a whole day to bring another to the Lord. So now there are 2 in each of these villages: both strong, vital, healthy sheep. The next day the number of the previous day doubles to 4--and the next day it doubles to 8--and so forth. Should that seem too difficult? How long then do you suppose it would take to fill the whole world with strong, vital, healthy Christians?
Just about two weeks! That's all! In slightly over two weeks the whole world has been saturated with the gospel of the Kingdom! And all this by word of mouth, from one neighbour to another, without the use of any other means of communication.
One day, of course, might be crowding it a little. Let's make it a week for each one to reproduce, and then doubling again the next week--and the next--for 15 weeks--and the work is accomplished in about four months. Or give them a month, and the work is accomplished in just over a year. Every sheep of God's pasture is responsible for bringing one more into the life of Christ in each of these periods--and the whole world is filled with real Christians in 15 days--or 15 weeks--or 15 months--as the case may be! We are talking about a vital Church--about true disciples of Christ, living and walking in the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I am not suggesting that this may be God's plan. I am simply using it as an illustration of God's way.
150,000 x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2 = 4,915,200,000 ...Approximately Five Billion!
"And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).
"And the number of the disciples was multiplied" (Acts 6:1).
"And the word of God increased: and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly" (Acts 6:7).
"But the word of God grew and multiplied" (Acts 12:24).
"And at that time there was a great persecution... they were all scattered abroad, except the apostles.. they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:1, 4). The apostles remained in Jerusalem, and the people that were scattered sowed the seeds of the Kingdom throughout the land. God's Church has been given inherent life from God to reproduce herself in the earth.
All this may sound very unrealistic for today; and it is all because a very unreal Church refuses to acknowledge her sterile condition, choosing rather to carry on with her fruitless programs, instead of calling a halt to the whole thing and urging her members to cry unto God for reality. When are we going to realize that we are the Church, and that the building has nothing to do with it. "O yes," we are assured, "Everybody knows that". But if they do, why are they still building gorgeous temples to the glory of God on the plains of Shinar? And giving them such reverence and honor? And why can't God's people walk away from it all when the glory of God has departed? Simply because: "This is my Church--I was raised here--I helped pay for it".
The gatherings of the early Church were marked by their simplicity. "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). Their homes became their meeting places, and this became their way of gathering together when churches began to spring up throughout the Empire. If they had no homes, they would meet wherever they could. They were the Church. They needed fellowship, and they recognized that if there were "two" of them they could have fellowship. They had access to the temple in Jerusalem for a season; but when persecution arose, these facilities were no longer available. In Jerusalem they may have met in hundreds of homes; and they were one because they walked in truth, and the Lord Jesus was present in their midst. For He promised that where "two or three" were gathered together in His name, He would be there in their midst (Matt. 18:20). He was not encouraging the little handful that would gather on a Wednesday night. He was talking about the power of the Kingdom that binds the forces of evil, and looses the forces of heaven, when just two people are in harmony in the Spirit, and the Lord Jesus is Lord in their midst--a handful meeting in this home--another handful over there--what more could the Lord desire? What if we had two hundred such homes, three hundred, four hundred--filled with people who have come together for fellowship, with the Lord Jesus in their midst in the fulness of His presence?
We say these things to encourage God's people in this day when man's programs are crumbling. We are not saying we cannot rent or build a structure of some kind if God gives clear direction in the matter. We are simply saying that all this is totally incidental. We use what God may provide according to His will, but we must be prepared to drop it all at a moment's notice. He wants us to be pilgrim in character, self-propagating and reproductive by nature--and to be assured that buildings and temples have nothing to do with the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
God is going to bring forth this kind of a people in the earth; and He can do it very quickly. Even so, come Lord Jesus! But it may take the fires of trial and persecution to bring it about. I recall the feeling of despair that swept over the Church here in the West when the doors were closed to missionary work in China. Can we not believe that King Jesus has "the key of David" and that He "openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Rev. 3:7). And so when the doors to China were closed God began a great work of purification and refining; and through much trial and suffering there has come forth in that great land a strong, healthy, self-propagating Church. In recent years a little help has come from the outside; but the Church in China is not dependent upon any of this. They know this could change anytime. And they have proved God to be faithful in the past to raise up in their own midst whatever ministry they needed. They have comparatively few Bibles, and not much by way of Christian literature. They meet wherever they can--in the fields, among the trees, on the streets--but generally in their homes. All this is quite incidental because they recognize that they are the Church --and it grows, and grows, and grows, because Christ Jesus is in their midst as Lord and King.