THE COMING OF CHRIST IN THE FEASTS (continued)
The three primary Feasts given to Israel were the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Two of these Feasts have now been fulfilled and are still being fulfilled in the body of Christ today. The last Feast still waits a future fulfillment that will begin at the completion and maturity of the Christ-body at the end of this age. Every one of the Feasts of the Lord have not only a historical aspect, pointing back to something God did, and a prophetic aspect, pointing forward to something God would do; but every one of them has a personal and individual aspect in our lives experientially. Each Feast finds its fulfillment in our forward walk in God. In Passover we see a picture of our justification. In the Feast of Pentecost we have a picture of our baptism with the Holy Spirit, the "firstfruits" of our inheritance. In the Feast of Tabernacles we find a picture of our glorification, our entrance into the fullness of our inheritance and possession in God. In each of these Feasts, according to the Word of God, there is a coming, appearing, and manifestation of the Lord to His people in a spiritual dimension. While men speak of the "first coming" and the "second coming" of Christ, God's program is in THREES. God has promised to meet with man in THREE DIMENSIONS. "THREE TIMES in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose; in the Feast of UNLEAVENED BREAD (Passover), and in the Feast of WEEKS (Pentecost), and in the Feast of TABERNACLES: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty" (Deut. 16:16). God says that He will meet with man THREE TIMES - in the three great Feasts of the Lord! To "appear before the Lord" designates not only an action on our part, but a reciprocal action on God's part. Not only must we appear, but HE MUST APPEAR! It is a joint-meeting in which WE APPEAR B-E-F-O-R-E_H-I-M, even as He appears in His glory as He did to Israel of old.
It is a wonderful fact that God came down and appeared at each of the Feasts of Israel. The Lord first came into the midst of the children of Israel at the time of the Passover in Egypt. "For the Lord will PASS THROUGH to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, THE LORD WILL PASS OVER THE DOOR, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. And ye shall observe this thing (the Lord passing in their midst) for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons forever" (Ex. 12:23-24).
The Lord also manifested Himself at the inauguration of the Feast of Pentecost. At Mount Sinai the Lord said to Moses, "Lo, I COME UNTO THEE in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will COME DOWN IN THE SIGHT OF ALL THE PEOPLE upon Mount Sinai... and Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD DESCENDED UPON IT IN FIRE... and the whole Mount quaked greatly. And the Lord CAME DOWN upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the Mount" (Ex. 19:9,11,18,20).
Finally, the Lord appeared at the Feast of Tabernacles on the occasion of the dedication of Solomon's temple. "And it came to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not minister by reason of the cloud: for the GLORY OF THE LORD HAD FILLED THE HOUSE OF GOD" (II Chron. 5:13-14). Is it not clear that the COMING OF THE LORD and the APPEARING OF THE LORD are associated specifically with the Feasts, and when the Lord commands, "THREE TIMES in a year shall all your males appear before the Lord," He is assuring His people that HE ALSO WILL APPEAR and meet with them in these THREE DIMENSIONS.
For fifteen long centuries Israel had kept the Feast of Pentecost as a celebration of the time when God met with them in power and glory at Mount Sinai. On one Pentecostal celebration, when Jews from many places were gathered together in the city of Jerusalem to keep the Old Testament Feast, suddenly they heard a strange commotion coming from an upper room. While Jews in the temple continued to keep the old Feast, the one hundred and twenty followers of the despised Nazarene were experiencing the New Testament fulfillment of Pentecost. While the Jews were keeping the Feast of Pentecost fifty days after the Feast of Passover, the disciples were experiencing its fulfillment fifty days after the Passover Lamb had been slain on Calvary. God spoke with His people in an altogether new way from Mount Sinai. He did so again as the hundred and twenty received the spiritual experience of which Sinai was but a type. For, it is written, the one hundred and twenty "began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." God's presence came down in fire upon Mount Sinai. In like manner, as the hundred and twenty received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives, "there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of FIRE, and it sat upon each of them." God wrote His Holy Law upon tablets of stone on Mount Sinai. But at the spiritual Pentecost He inscribed His Law upon the fleshy tables of men's hearts by the transforming power of His indwelling Spirit. There is the power of a REAL PENTECOST! The real Pentecost, precious friend of mine, is not signs and wonders and miracles, but the Law of God written upon the heart. Jesus walked out this glorious Feast upon earth, He fulfilled all the Law as the anointed One of the Father, and revealed the nature, mind, will and power of God before men. Now HE is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit! For us as members of His body - we keep the Feast of Pentecost when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, endued with power, transformed in mind and heart, receiving the earnest of our inheritance, the gifts and fruit of the Spirit ministered by love. The Lord Jesus Christ comes to us in a further dimension of Himself in the Feast of Pentecost. He comes as the Lord, the Spirit!
There came a day in the long ago in which our blessed Christ, feeling the limitation and restriction of His body of flesh, cried out in anticipation of spirit, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; BECAUSE I GO UNTO MY FATHER" (Jn. 14:12). Now there is a wonderful reason WHY those who believe on Jesus are going to do the works He did and even greater works. It is just BECAUSE. Do you know what "because" means? It means that what follows is the reason or cause - the WHY - you will do these things. "The works that I do shall ye do also; and greater works than these shall ye do; BECAUSE ..." Because of what? "Because I GO UNTO MY FATHER!" Only moments before uttering this astounding statement Jesus had told His disciples that the Father was in Him and He was in the Father; but now, seizing upon the mysterious omnipresence of the Father and drawing its cloak of mystery even more tightly about His Person, He announces that He is "going" to the Father. The question follows: Where did Jesus have to go to get to the Father?
With words divine in wisdom and sublime in significance Jesus explained to the benighted woman of Samaria that "God is a spirit" and "the Father is a spirit" (Jn. 4:21, 23-24). What is a spirit? Webster's Dictionary includes in its definition of the word the following: "A supernatural, incorporeal, rational being usually invisible to human beings but having the power to become visible at will ... a being having an incorporeal or immaterial nature." The Hebrew word for spirit in the Old Testament is RUACH, and means BREATH or WIND. The Greek word for spirit in the New Testament is PNEUMA, which also means BREATH or WIND. The English word GHOST used in the King James version, though now somewhat obsolete and not in general use, is derived from the Greek PNEUMA. Its original meaning is exactly the same as the word "spirit" - meaning breath or wind.
All three definitions emphasize that a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Lk. 24:39). Similarly, Jesus indicated that the Spirit of God does not have flesh and blood (Mat. 16:17). So when the Bible says that God is a Spirit, it means that He cannot be seen or touched physically by human beings. As a spirit, God is invisible to the physical man. "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, INVISIBLE, the only wise God..." (I Tim. 1:17). The word "invisible" comes from the Greek word EROSOT meaning "not seen."
So where did Jesus go when He "went unto the Father"? It is infinitely necessary that every child of God thoroughly understand that we cannot over-emphasize the value of knowing that our heavenly Father IS AN OMNIPRESENT SPIRIT. Thus, when our precious Lord "went to the Father," that is but another way of saying that He went TO THE SPIRIT! Can we not understand by this that our Lord was indeed saying, "Because I go to the SPIRIT. The Spirit is in Me, and I am in the Spirit; but because this physical Man goes back into an invisible spirit existence from whence He came - then ye shall do the works that I do now, and greater works than these shall ye do." Why? Because that Spirit can COME BACK to you!
Where did Jesus go? He went not to the vast empty space in the North. He soared not away to another planet, nor to some far distant galaxy. Nor did He ascend to that celestial Disney World in the sky with wonderful streets of gold and spacious mansions over every sun-kissed hill top, that the preachers love to preach about. Oh, no! He went into the spirit realm. When He was made flesh and dwelt among us He couldn't get into us with that body of Bethlehem's manger, that body that walked the dusty roads of Palestine, and which with sweetest compassion and tenderest mercy touched the sorrowing and afflicted multitudes with wonderful healing power. He had to go back to the Spirit in order to return and come into us by the Spirit. Because He is in a spirit existence He can now be in every one of us. Spirit can come into all of us at the same time.
As Jesus prepared to leave this earth realm, He promised His disciples that His departure would be their gain; the Comforter would take His place, to be to them far better than He had been, or ever could be, in His bodily presence. This would be true because His own relationship with them had been very much external, and, in consequence of this, had not resulted in what might have been expected. He had been WITH THEM, and they were still very carnal, earthy. But the coming Spirit would be IN THEM; He, Jesus, would return to them as the Spirit, in an intimacy and vitality they could not know as long as He was outside them, merely WITH them. He would return to them, not in flesh and bone, but as the Spirit, as an Indwelling Presence, in the power of which they would have at their disposal, and as their very own possession, yea, even as their very own being, ALL THAT JESUS IS!
"...the Spirit of Truth ... He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I WILL COME TO YOU" (Jn. 14:17-18). The thought of Jesus walking with men on earth, living with them, leading, teaching, guiding them, is so clear. But the thought of Jesus becoming a Spirit and hiding Himself within them, and speaking, not in audible sounds, but only in the depth of the life, was too staggering a thought for these yet carnal men. Their minds were yet blinded to spiritual realities. They still needed to be educated (as do multitudes of religious today!) to acknowledge that God desired to rule, not by outward law, but by an inward life. As long as Jesus was with His disciples as a physical being, He had to work from outward inward, and yet could never effectually reach or master their inmost parts. When Jesus went back to the Father, back into a spirit existence, He then returned as the Spirit to be IN THEM, that now He might work mightily from within, outward. Taking possession of the inmost recesses of their being by His Spirit of Life, He would cause them, in their surrender to His will, mind, nature and power, to personally become what He Himself is. The shaping of their life, the forming of their character, the development of their abilities, would be by the power of the Spirit of Christ, who really had become their spirit. On the wonder-filled Day of Pentecost that Spirit was gloriously poured out on the waiting disciples and marvelous works were wrought, and greater works yet shall be done because Jesus went back to the Spirit. He poured out His Spirit and came into us as He promised. The Spirit of Christ in His people would not just be a gracious influence from heaven, to encourage and inspire the children of God on their journey to heaven; rather, He would be the very SPIRIT OF TRUTH in the earth. He would be the VERY SAME JESUS who was with them, but now walking within them, in spirit form.
"The last Adam was made A QUICKENING SPIRIT" (I Cor. 15:45). It is impossible to bring the immensity of that statement into the realm of our human understanding. The resurrection of Jesus was the first step toward the last man Adam becoming a QUICKENING SPIRIT. But notice carefully, dear reader, what Paul says in Eph. 4:10: "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, THAT HE MIGHT F-I-L-L ALL THINGS." As we read that stupendous declaration we must consider with great carefulness and holy reverence the essential fact that the Christ was not born in Bethlehem's stable so that He might fill all things; He did not stoop to become a man in order to fill all things; neither did He die so He could fill all things; nor yet was He resurrected with a body of immortality and glory to fill all things. Not one of these events, wonderful beyond explanation, could enable the all-glorious Christ of God to be like the wind which blows sovereignly toward the north, the south, the east, or the west - the wind that lifts the dust of the earth on high, that stirs mighty oceans to rage in fury, the wind that blows where it listeth and fills the whole face of the earth and the heaven above with its life-giving vitality.
Two things, and two alone, were essential before Jesus could FILL ALL THINGS WITH HIMSELF. He must GO AWAY. And He must BE GLORIFIED. He must go to the Father, ascending back into a spirit existence; and He must be received up into union and participation with the eternal Spirit, becoming of the same substance and essence of the eternal Spirit. The glorious truth is just this: JESUS ASCENDED UP FAR ABOVE ALL HEAVENS TO BECOME UNIVERSAL. HE BECAME SPIRIT TO BE UNIVERSALIZED. HE ASCENDED THAT HE MIGHT FILL ALL THINGS. It is majestic! Wonderful! Sublime! Do not mistake me. This is no longer the Jesus of Galilee who was so foully done to death by religionists more than nineteen hundred years ago; He is the same, yet not the same. He was limited then; He is unlimited now. He dwelt in a single body then; He dwells in a many-membered body now. It cannot but be that that human Jesus has entered into the full consciousness of God and grasped the scepter of omnipotence. That, and nothing less than that, demonstrates the eminence of His ascension and glorification.
Before the ascension, His presence was occasional; since the ascension it is constant. Before the ascension, His presence was formal; since the ascension it is vital. Before the ascension, His presence was approximate; since the ascension it is inner. Before the ascension, His presence was limited; since the ascension it is infinite. Our presence with one another is occasional, formal, approximate and limited; but His presence is constant, vital, inner and universal. Hallelujah!
It was on the solemnest of nights that Jesus spoke one of the most marvelous truths concerning His coming again. Some months previous, on the last day of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, He stood in the temple and cried, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (Jn. 7:37-38). This He spake of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive. On the night before His crucifixion Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples. The supper was over; but the band of friends had much to say to one another that night, and they lingered long around the table. They did not know it was the Last Supper, never dreamed of it; but there had been an unusual sweetness in their intercourse, and they talked on and on. The entire conversation is recorded in the Gospel of John, chapters 13 through 17. The hour grew late, but John still leaned on his Master's breast, and the others, grouped around in the twilight, drank in the solemn gladness of the Passover Eve.
Suddenly a shadow falls over this scene. "Little children," Jesus says to His disciples, "yet a little while am I with you. Ye shall seek Me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you" (Jn. 13:33; 16:7). The hour is late. With their unspiritual minds they think He is getting tired. He means to retire to rest. But Peter asks straight out, "Lord, whither goest Thou?" Into the garden? Back to Galilee? It never occurred to one of them that He meant the Unseen Spirit Realm. "Whither I go," He replies a second time, "Ye cannot follow Me now, but ye shall follow Me afterward." AFTERWARD! The blow slowly falls. In a dim, bewildering way it begins to dawn upon them. He speaks of separation!
This truth fell upon the disciples like a thunderbolt startling a summer sky. For thirty-three years He had lived among them. These past three years they had learned to love Him. Day after day they had shared together the sunshine and the storm, and their hearts clung to Him with a strange fascination. And just when everything was at its height, when it seemed He would soon be hailed as the King of Israel, when their association with Him was now pledged indissolubly in the most solemn sacrament, the unexpected words come, "I must say goodbye; it is expedient for you that I GO AWAY!" It was a crushing blow to the little band. They had staked their all upon that love. They had given up home, business, friends, pleasure, and promised to follow Him. And now He says, "I must go!"
Let us see what He means by it. Why did Jesus go away? We all remember a time when we could not answer that question. In fact, we wished He had stayed, and had been here now, walking among us. Your understanding will be greatly enlightened when you are able to grasp this simple truth I now bring to your attention: the reason Jesus went away was so He could be very near! It seems a mystifying paradox, but He went away to be very near; He ascended far above all heavens THAT HE MIGHT FILL ALL THINGS! He went away from being nearby, so that He could return and be closer to us even than the air we breathe, closer than the blood coursing its way through our veins!
Suppose, again, He had not gone away; suppose He were here in that same nail-scarred body now. Suppose He were still in the Holy Land, at Jerusalem. Every ship that started for the East would be crowded with Christian pilgrims. Every airplane flying through Europe to the Middle East would be loaded with people going to see Jesus. Every mail-bag would be full of letters from those sick and afflicted, those in difficulty and trial, and gifts of homage to manifest men's gratitude and love. You yourself, let us say, are on one of those airplanes. The Ben-Gurion International Airport, when you arrive after your long flight, is blocked with planes of every nation. After circling the airport for a dangerously long time you land, and board one of the multitude of tourist buses headed from Tel Aviv up to Jerusalem. Far as the eye can reach, the traffic moves over the highways in an endless stream. You do not mind the scorching sun, the choking dust, the rude drivers, the elbowing crowds. You are in the Holy Land, and you will see Jesus! Yonder, at last, in the far distance, are the glittering spires of the Holy Hill, above the burnished temple dome beneath which He sits. But what is that dark seething mass stretching for miles and miles between you and the Holy City? They have come from the north and from the south, and from the east and from the west, as you have, to look upon their Lord. They wish that His hands might be placed upon their head; that His arms might be thrown around them. But it cannot be. You have come to see Jesus, but you will not see Him! They have been there for weeks, months, years, and have not seen Him. They are a yard or two nearer, and that is all. The thing is impossible. It is an anti-climax, an absurdity. It would be a social outrage; it would be a physical impossibility.
Now the Christ foresaw all this when He said it was expedient that He should go away. Observe He did not say it was necessary - it was EXPEDIENT, a means to an end. The objection to the opposite plan was simply that it would not have worked. So He says to you, "It is very kind and earnest of you to come so far, but you mistake. Go away back from the walls of the Holy City, over the sea, and you will find Me in your own home. You will find Me where the shepherds found Me, doing their ordinary work; where the woman of Samaria found Me, drawing the water for the noon meal; where the disciples found Me, mending nets in their working clothes; where Mary found Me, among the commonplace household duties of a country village." Yes, the visible Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ must of necessity be brief. Only a small circle could enjoy His actual presence, but a great and glorious and universal kingdom like the Kingdom of God needed a risen and glorified Lord. It was expedient for the whole body of its subjects that He went away. He would be nearer man by apparently being further. The limitations of sense subjected Him while He stayed. He was subject to geography, locality, space, and time. But by going away in glorification He was able to return as the Spirit, the incorruptible river of God's divine and eternal life, to flow and flow and flow, age after age, unceasingly and untiringly into humanity as LIFE. My soul shouts a thousand hallelujahs that He went away!
And yet, even today, untold millions of Christians have learned nothing of this simple, sublime truth. Many precious saints are just living for that day when Jesus comes, or they get to heaven, and they can SEE HIS PERSON, bask in His favor, and have PHYSICAL CONTACT with Him. Many picture themselves kneeling in reverence at Jesus' feet, as did Mary of Bethany, kissing His feet, gazing intently into His eyes, strolling hand in hand with Him down Hallelujah Boulevard, or sitting on one of the hillsides of glory for a day, leisurely talking things over with Him, asking all the questions they have always wanted to ask, and unburdening their heart of the many concerns they have so long desired to pour out to Him - personally. There are those among us who, like Thomas of old, want to put their finger on the print of the nails, their hand in His riven side. How the unspiritual heart cries out for the touch of the vanished hand and the sound of the voice that reverberated once over the Galilean hills!
But, my brother, my sister, we need to face FACTS! Do you realize that there are vast numbers comprising untold millions of people (Dan. 7:10; Jude 14) who have been saved by His grace? John saw them in Revelation 7 as "a great multitude which NO MAN CAN NUMBER"! And each and every one of these long, personally, and individually to speak to Jesus and bask in the ecstatic joy of physical fellowship with this resurrected MAN. Do you not realize that with such an innumerable throng about Him, you could not get within FIFTY MILES of Him? Let us suppose, for one moment, that there have been only 100 million persons saved during the past 2,000 years. That sounds like a lot of people, but it is less than half the number of people living in the United States right now. Fox' Book of Martyrs reveals that during the Dark Ages some 50 million souls were martyred for their faith in Jesus...because they refused to bow to the superstitions and idolatries of Rome. That doesn't include the millions of Christians who lived before and since. There are some 20 million Spirit-filled saints alive on the face of the earth TODAY! So you see, 100 million is merely a fraction of the number of people gathered out of all ages who make up that "great multitude which no man can number" who are redeemed by the precious blood of God's Lamb. But if there WERE only 100 million saints of God, and each scheduled a PERSONAL INTERVIEW with Jesus; should Jesus spend only TEN MINUTES with each; it would be exactly 1901.3 YEARS before your turn would come, and then another almost TWO THOUSAND YEARS until your next TEN MINUTE session with Jesus! And during all that time Jesus would not have attended to any matters in the entire universe other than these interviews twenty-four hours a day, unceasingly for four millenniums! It should be obvious to every thinking mind that KNOWING CHRIST, talking with Him, fellowship with Him, MUST BE UPON SOME BASIS OTHER THAN HIS INDIVIDUAL, PHYSICAL, HUMAN IDENTITY.
Ah, to bring the Christ back in the flesh, to know Him once more after the flesh, would be one gigantic step backward, an outrage of immense proportions, an absurdity! Do we not already KNOW HIM? Are not those who have not seen His earthly form more blessed, according to the words of Jesus, than those who saw and believed? O twice born men who through faith have been born of His life-giving Spirit, behold, we have fullness of fellowship with Him NOW. He speaks to us and continually manifests Himself to us in tenderest tones. Even now we delight in the blessed wonder of His glorious presence. We walk with Him now in the Spirit, and unburden our hearts to Him at any hour of the day or night, and He communes with us in the garden of our hearts. And HOW do we know Him? Why, BY HIS SPIRIT! And it is through the FULNESS OF THIS SAME SPIRIT that we shall ultimately SEE HIM and KNOW HIM "AS HE IS". There is simply no other way! What, I ask, could His flesh body ADD to our relationship in Him? If our confidence is in HIS FLESH BODY, then we shall of all men be most miserable. What incredible limitation! We should be able to share with Him on that personal, human level ONCE EVERY 2,000 ... 4,000 ... 10,000... or 50,000 YEARS!
He went away THAT THE COMFORTER MIGHT COME. Oh that the eyes of men might be opened to see how truly it was expedient that He go away in His visible body of flesh that He might return as the invisible Spirit so that we might know Him by the Spirit and receive Him as our very life!
I am convinced that it is right here at this point where so many of the Lord's precious people need this teaching: "It is EXPEDIENT (advisable, desirable, advantageous, profitable, to your interest) for you THAT I GO AWAY." Like those disciples, so many sincere Christians have believed in Jesus with all of their heart, love Him, and seek to follow Him - but, the Jesus they believe in, the Jesus they love, the Jesus they seek to follow and obey, is the Jesus is the picture on the wall; the Jesus with piercing blue eyes, flowing chestnut hair, fine chiseled features, well trimmed beard, Galilean robe. It is the Jesus of Bethlehem's manger, of Nazareth's carpenter shop, of the sandy shores of the Sea of Galilee, of the Judean hills. The Jesus who preached to the multitudes, fed the five thousand, healed the sick with the touch of His hand, cleansed the lepers, and who, weeping, cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" Even the Jesus of the Judgment Hall, of the Via Dolorosa, of Golgotha's hill, of Joseph of Arimathea's garden tomb. with some it is even the Jesus of the resurrection; the Jesus calling tenderly to the weeping Mary in the freshness of the morn, Jesus walking along the road to Emmaus, Jesus appearing mysteriously to His disciples behind closed doors, or Jesus inviting the doubting Thomas to thrust his hand into His side. But, dear ones, "It is expedient for you that I go away." "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto YOU." "I will not leave you comfortless: I WILL COME TO YOU." Even the resurrected Jesus had to pass away from their midst before the exceeding great and precious promise of the Indwelling Spirit of Christ could be fulfilled.
How many of God's dear saints are still worshipping the Jesus of the flesh! Truly they believe on Him, love Him, and long to see Him when He comes. And yet, in their longing to see Him, some glad day after while! They find that He is not presently their satisfying portion, their All-in-all. There is yet such a lack in their lives; so much carnality, strife, struggle, weakness, insufficiency and limitation. The only reason can be this: they have not yet fully inherited the promise: "The Spirit shall be IN YOU ... He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you." The absolute imperativeness of Christ's going away, the absolute reality of His coming again as the Indwelling Spirit, they do not fully understand nor appreciate. They have not been able to say with the inspired apostle, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet NOW HENCEFORTH know we Him no more" (II Cor. 5:16). "Knowing Christ after the flesh" - itis this that must come to an end, must make way for knowing Him in the power of the Spirit! AFTER THE FLESH: that means, in the power of the external, of words and thoughts, of efforts and feelings, of systems and methods, of ceremonies and ordinances, of influences and aids from without, from men and means. We must know Christ no more after the flesh, as He was on earth, or even in resurrection. We are to know Him now AFTER THE SPIRIT, as the exalted and glorified Lord who has come to us as the Indwelling Spirit!
To many it is a difficult thing to set aside the Christ of the flesh, to know only the Christ of the Spirit; to set aside the Christ who works through the agencies of the external, through efforts, systems, ceremonies, methods, influences from without, of men and means, and come to know Him alone who works INTERNALLY after the power of an endless life. "As many as RECEIVED HIM (as Spirit), to them gave He power to become the SONS OF GOD" (Jn. 1:12). To all who honestly desire to become truly God-men, bearing the full image of the first-born Son, and in all things be well pleasing to the Father, the thought of Jesus' departure that His Spirit may now become our very own, and we be transformed and matured into His very own stature, will be welcomed with unspeakable gladness and gratitude. In this union the privilege we enjoy, the nobility we obtain as sons of God, the intimacy and fullness of fellowship and relationship with God we enter into all these are infinitely greater than anything experienced by men of God in any passing time or age. To have our Lord coming as the Spirit into our hearts, becoming our very own life, just as He was the Spirit of Jesus Christ on earth - surely this is a blessedness worth any sacrifice, for it is the means of the manifestation of God Himself. As the people of Jesus' day saw the full revelation of God in the Person of Christ Jesus, so the world of our day is yet to see a full and complete revelation of the Christ in His body. This is the consummation for which all other things since the foundation of the world were accomplished. The Word now begins to be fulfilled: "Behold! the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them!" (Rev. 21:3).
We do not wish to weary the reader with unnecessary repetitions, but it is our earnest hope that all may clearly see that it would be a monumental tragedy should we revert again to the knowing of Christ after the flesh - even His resurrected flesh that appeared before the astonished eyes of the wondering Thomas. I do not hesitate to say that the strongest temptation to every man is to guide himself by what he can see, feel and handle. This is why the disciples wanted Jesus to remain. This is the core of all ritualism and ceremonialism, of all the blinding creeds and lifeless traditions systems, of all the foolishness of candles and crucifixes and incense and ages and robes and temples and programs and ordinances and prayer books. It is the essence of idolatry. Men want to see God, therefore they make images of Him, or an object of ceremony or ordinance that He can be present in. I do not laugh at ritualism; it is intensely human. It is not so much a sin of presumption; it is a sin of mistake. It is trying to undo the going away of Jesus Christ. It is trying to make believe that He is still here IN THE FORM.
If men cannot have the historical Jesus here in the flesh, they then create some fleshly thing to represent Him. And the fatal fallacy of it is that it defeats its own end. He who seeks God in tangible form misses the very thing he is seeking, for God IS A SPIRIT. The desire burns within man to see God and this desire is given him to make him spiritual, by giving him a spiritual relationship; and he cheats himself by exercising the flesh instead of the spirit! Hunger and thirst after God are given us by the gracious hand of our Creator to raise us out of the realm of the seen and the temporal, for the things which are SEEN are TEMPORAL, but the things which are not seen are eternal, says the Lord. But instead of letting the spiritual appetite elevate us into the realm of the Spirit where God dwells, we are prone to degrade the very instrument of spiritualization and make it minister to the flesh.
It was expedient in order that the disciples of Jesus should be SPIRITUALIZED that Jesus should become A SPIRIT. They could not have Him in the flesh and in the Spirit too; His bodily presence would hinder the spiritual indwelling. They must part with the Jesus they knew before they could receive the GLORIFIED JESUS as the Spirit. Christ Himself had to give up the life He had before He could be glorified either in the heavenlies or in us. Even so, in our union with Him in the Spirit, we too must give up the Christ we have known in the past, however we have known Him, if indeed we are to become partakers of all He is by the Spirit.
This is hard to grasp, we are so earth-bound, used to visible forms and appearances, and the very word "spirit" leaves one groping for something more tangible. Yet because of His inner moving and the unfolding revelation of Himself within, I have come to realize that to settle for a "form", ANY FORM, is to possess the alabaster box without the higher experience of knowing the fragrant ointment within. It is not the box we want, it is the ointment! Thus we refuse to cling to the "form" for our hearts are crying out for the "essence". God has often accommodated His people in their childishness and for a time provided a "form", but later He SHATTERED THE FORM that they might become aware of the essence. The hour has arrived when every man and woman of God who would follow on to KNOW THE LORD must experience a total breaking forth from every structured form and encrusted tradition, that we might KNOW HIM, the essence. Yes, it is a shattering process, most severe as the forms of rituals, ceremonies, religious systems, creeds, ordinances, ministries, and religious exercises of many kinds are literally swept away that we might now come to KNOW CHRIST ALONE as the inner Reality and Life.
The inspired writer of the book of Hebrews penned one of the most profound statements in all the Word of God when he wrote, "He taketh away the first that He may establish the second" (Heb. 10:9). The writer of this letter had a great task before him. He had to try to make some people see the meaning of a loss. In what tender and masterly fashion he did his work matters not to us for the moment. Suffice it to say one can scarcely conceive of it being done better. The letter was written to some Hebrews who could not reconcile themselves to the loss of the Temple, with its splendid ritual, its stately and impressive worship, its wealth of form and type, and its endless symbolism. While in some sense entering into the spirit of the New Day, they were still partially dominated by the habit of a thousand yesterdays.
We can only look with sympathy on those Hebrews in their difficult passage from the old to the new. It is not easy to abandon an established tradition. Habits of thought and conduct get a wonderfully strong hold upon nations and upon individuals. One can clearly see that the believing Jew would be very slow at times in realizing the meaning of the new conditions of spiritual life involved in his acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Messiah. So to these men in their passing confusion of thought - to these men who understood far better what they they had lost in the passing of the Jerusalem Temple and ceremony than what they had gained in the formation of the living temple of God built of countless living stones destined to be the habitation of God by the Spirit - came the writer of this letter to the Hebrews, to enter into their difficulties, to show them that upon the loss against which they were feeling resentment and uttering it, there was being built an IMMEASURABLE GAIN which they but dimly appreciated.
"He taketh away the first that He may establish the second." The writer says, "I acknowledge you have lost something - something very beautiful and comforting, something that has met your spiritual needs for centuries. But I want you to look beyond that loss, and find the splendid meaning of it, and see how that it is really the figure of a more glorious worship and a greater reality of life than ever Israel has known before." He taketh away. This is God's work. And God's taking is just the opposite of His giving!
Let us notice a few of God's firsts and seconds. God's seconds are always better than His firsts which He gives to mankind. Meditate deeply upon these: Cain - Able; Cain's sacrifice - Able's sacrifice; Ishmael - Isaac; Esau - Jacob; Letter - Spirit; First Covenant - New Covenant; Water baptism - Spirit baptism; First Adam - Second Adam; First earth - New earth; Old man - New creation; Jesus in flesh - Jesus in Spirit. The New Testament presents a more glorious message than the Old; the last Adam redeems what the first Adam lost; the message of God's grace unfolded in the New Testament far excels the Law of the Old. The second is greater than the first. It always is when God takes and gives. As someone has written, "In His great wisdom our God has arranged many things in pairs, or shall we say, by contrasting twos. Some of the 'firsts' may seem to be very good, and for a time quite acceptable, but in due time they are to be followed by the 'seconds' which are higher, better, and more desirable than the firsts. Perfection is found in God's seconds. Often the firsts are but a type and a shadow of the reality which is later to be found in the seconds. In the former we find the negative realm working out its purpose, and in the latter there is the glorious positive fulfilling its sphere. The more one ponders each fragment of truth revealed, the more they yearn to leave behind the realm of imperfection, fragmentary, and enter into the freedom of the Spirit of Life in fullness" -end quote.
The first is of the earth earthy - the second is of God from heaven. And that is an epitome of the whole process of salvation, both for the individual and for the creation. He taketh away the outward that He may establish the inward, the seen that He may establish the unseen, the material that He may establish the spiritual. Israel had a religion that appealed to the senses. It was to some extent spectacular. Its tendency was temporal and local. It was a religion of times and places. The believing heart could not cling to it and at the same time enter into the timeless and universal gospel of Jesus Christ. And so the vision of the eyes had to go that the vision of the heart might grow clearer. The vision of Jerusalem of Judaea had to fade that the child of God, born now from above, might see the New Jerusalem, the City of God, coming down from heaven - a city ever being built of lives transformed by heaven's life into the radiance of God's glory on earth.
There are two passages in the New Testament which, taken together, form perhaps the most perfect illustration of this principle of which we have been thinking that can be found anywhere. They are these: (1) I go unto My Father (2) I am with you always. Jesus Christ: took Himself from His disciples' eyes that He might give Himself to their hearts. They lost the first, the physical presence, that they might find the second the spiritual presence. And as we seek ever to have the Spirit of Christ and do His service, so in countless ways shall this great principle of true gain by seeming loss have effect on our lives. Ever we shall be losing the less to find the greater; losing the outward to find the inward; losing semblance to find realities; losing shadows to find substance; all the former things shall have passed away and all things shall have become new, praise His wonderful name!
How many millions of children have gone through Sunday schools, grown up, attending church all their lives, listening to preachers and teachers explaining Moses and Jesus of Nazareth; and if you ask them on their death bed, what they know of Christ; they picture baby Jesus, Mary's son growing up, or Jesus teaching the multitudes, laying His hands upon the sick and suffering, and being nailed to the cross. They know that He came back from the dead for forty days, and then ascended into heaven, never to be seen or heard from again in that body of flesh. These know absolutely nothing about CHRIST THE SPIRIT, CHRIST AS HE I-S, THE GLORIOUS CHRIST W-I-T-H-I-N!
Ah, how do WE see Him? As He WAS, or as He IS? Is our understanding of Him as the lowly Son of man, great and wonderful as He was in that former state, or do we see Him as He IS in His exalted position at the right hand of the majesty on high? Do we see Him as the crucified One? It is wonderful to see Him in that way. Do we see Him as the One who endured the cross, despised the shame, conquered death and rose triumphant from the grave? Or do we see Him as the ascended One, the glorified One; the One who transcended the law of sin, rose above the confining, limiting physical laws of nature and ascended into the Spirit realm of God, the Head of all principalities and powers, far above them all; crowned with glory and honor; Lord and King of the universe; FILLING ALL THINGS WITH HIS QUICKENING LIFE. Do we see Him as a physical Man, or do we see Him as Saul of Tarsus saw Him on the Damascus road, as the Light of God brighter than the noonday sun. Do we see Him with gentle blue eyes, seamless robe, and feet shod with the sandles of yesteryear; or do we see Him as John the Revelator saw Him on Patmos with eyes as a flame of fire, His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters!
How we praise God for the coming of Christ in the Feast of Pentecost! Truly He has come as the Spirit to write the Law of God upon our heart. This is the power and glory of PENTECOST! Wonderful as was the presence of Christ in the world, that physical presence cannot be compared to the magnificent glory of the SPIRIT CHRIST dwelling in the heart of man. No outward manifestation of power can take the place of His indwelling presence. It is from within and not from without that the work of transformation is to be carried forward from glory to glory until we shine in that same image of Christ.
Though Christ had walked and talked with His disciples, eating with them, praying with them, teaching them, and continually demonstrating the mighty works of God among them, even giving them power to heal the sick and cast out devils in His name, yet at the time of His departure there was but little sign of any work of transformation within them. All was by grace. Peter was still capable of cursing like a sailor and lying like the devil! Judas was still capable of stealing, fraud, and acting a traitor. In the face of pressure they were all capable of forsaking Him and running away in despair. They were still very natural, carnal men, as almost all the Old Testament saints had been before ever the Christ of God walked the paths of earth. God in Christ had indeed been among them, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, but He was definitely not IN THEM!
All the evil in the world today, even as Jesus said, comes from within the evil heart of man. Therefore, since all evil begins within and not without, transformation must begin within and not without. A man who makes his New Year's resolutions to change and reform his habits has only an outward change, and usually temporary at best, while his heart remains unchanged. But the man who ceases his sinfulness and carnality because his heart is changed from within is indeed a New Creation man. Herein, then, lies the first and greatest blessing of the coming of the Lord in the Feast of Pentecost. Jesus had been with them, but now He would be IN THEM, renewing from within. He would become the dispensation of God into man by the Spirit. How wonderful it must have been to walk the hills of Judaea and the shores of Galilee with Jesus by their side! How much MORE WONDERFUL IT IS that Christ by the Holy Spirit now dwells within us, bringing forth that same image of Christ and glory of the Father in our lives! Many saints entertain the notion that the return of Jesus in that singular body of flesh would mean the subjugation of all His enemies and the establishment of His Kingdom over all from pole to pole. Not so! Shall Jesus accomplish by His presence in the flesh what He has not been able to do by the awesome power of His omnipotent Spirit? Behold! the Kingdom of God is within!
A child may be given an acorn by his father - a tiny seed in which is locked the mighty oak that will one day tower upon the spot where it fell into the ground, under whose shadow man and beast will rest, and in whose enormous branches the birds of the air will build their nests. His father digs a hole in the earth and the child places the seed in it. In the darkness, hidden, buried, it is nourished and fed. Tiny roots push out seeking nourishment. Finally, spring comes and at the right moment there appears the first manifestation of the mighty oak. A tiny shoot appears. The father takes his child to see. "Isn't it wonderful!" he tells the child. "Look at that tiny shoot." The child begins to cry. "I want my acorn! Where is my acorn?"
In like manner, God our Father ordained that a New Creation should be brought forth in the image of Himself, to be born, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible seed. He followed the same wonderful pattern that infinite wisdom had devised to produce all things from a seed. First He must bring into the world the holy and incorruptible One who was to be called THE SON OF GOD, for He Himself was to become THE SEED of an entirely new creation of incorruptible SONS OF GOD. Then, true to the pattern of sowing and reaping, that seed must fall into the ground and die; "For," said Jesus, "the hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (Jn. 12:23-24). It is the outer shell, the form of the seed, that dies - not the incorruptible life within. The incorruptible life is the CHRIST SEED, springing forth, first the blade, then the ear, and afterward to become the full corn in the ear, to become the life of the many sons of God, the new creation - a creation of transformed men and women, born again of the incorruptible seed of God's Christ. But, wonder of wonders! the babes in Christ, comprehending not that our Lord Jesus Christ was the GERM SEED of the new creation, while they behold the harvest of many sons in preparation, at once begin to cry and demand, "I want my acorn! Where is my acorn?"
They would in their childish folly cling to the physical, historical Christ of the flesh, demanding that He be brought down from heaven again in just that singular body of flesh and bones, were they able. Is it not therefore abundantly true that, if the incorruptible life sealed up within God's Christ was to be released into the new creation harvest, then God's Christ must die. How else but by death could incorruptible life be released that they who dwelt in death might through faith partake of the power of His lifegiving Spirit? O what a death! O what a resurrection! O what an ascension! O what a glorification! O what an outpouring of HIMSELF! Who can fathom the depths of truth set forth in these words of our Lord: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. I will not leave you comfortless: I WILL COME UNTO YOU."