LOOKING FOR HIS APPEARING
THE PAROUSIA OF JESUS CHRIST
Once I read a story and it goes something like this. Bamba Gumba might be a tribal king. We will assume that he is. And we will assume that he rules in aboriginal splendor over loyal subjects in the wilds of Africa. We will also assume that he is a crafty ruler. In order to maintain his royal position unchallenged he must keep his subjects impressed as to his superior prowess; and in order to accomplish this he maintains a display of majesty and might such as none other before him has ever done. But in order to support an elaborate retinue as befitting his high estate he must occasionally devise means to augment the royal revenue. For this purpose we now picture him on his way to America. He has found that travel broadens one's outlook on life, and also that one who goes abroad enjoys certain distinctions and makes impressions on one's subjects which otherwise could not be hoped for. And so Bamba Gumba arrives in New York.
Here he takes in the sights, and obtains certain colorful ornaments of which his tribesmen of the hills are extremely fond, and for which they will gladly pay him many times the cost. But one day, while listening to a conversation, there is suggested to his alert mind a plan of extraordinary merit. He is of course well aware of the superstitious nature of his subjects; and here at last is a plan which will take advantage of that superstitious nature and yield him handsome dividends. He knows that, because of his unchallenged authority, and as a result of the high esteem in which he is held by his subjects, the plan cannot fail. And so he returns home, envisioning an end to all his worries in regard to finance.
As soon as he arrives he summons his under chieftains into conference. The plan demands immediate action. No time can be lost. This, he explains, is a matter of unlimited emergency; and steps must be taken at once to avert impending horrible disaster. In America he has learned of a plague, so dreadful that it is called by six different names, namely: park, roof, jail, car, table and road. But in his own language the proper word for all six is "oomph." This plague, unless proper steps are taken, is incurable when once contracted, and it may take almost any form. But he has good news. Certain occult powers have been conferred on him in America, and now he is able to deliver the sufferer from this terrible plague. This power will also immunize his subjects from contracting the plague in most cases. But only on one condition will he guarantee sure and certain deliverance. Has he not been to great expense to procure immunization for them? And surely they wish to show their appreciation for the sacrifices that he, their benefactor, has made! And so the condition of deliverance is that each citizen pay to him yearly a certain specified sum of the coin of the realm. Or if the payment of coin is impractical or impossible, then either corn or chickens of equal value will be accepted instead. And immediately we envision feverish activity in the vicinity of the royal chicken coops. The royal carpenters are hard at it building new accommodations for the expected increase in the royal poultry holdings.
I am sure that no one who reads these lines would ever allow himself or herself to be deluded and carried away by such a fantastic invention as the foregoing! We are Spirit-born children of God, free from bondage to dark superstition and offensive delusions. We are intelligent, educated, Bible loving, church taught; we are of sound judgment. We would never stoop to like ignorance. Six English words that all mean "oomph" - the very idea! We are altogether too smart and too spiritual! But are we really as smart and as spiritual as we think? Dear Reader, human nature is the same the world around. You and I may think we are smart; but let me tell you, if you and I had been raised in the domain of a Bamba Gumba, no matter how high our educational achievements might be, aid no matter what our mental capacities might be, if we had been raised in that environment then, except for a miraculous work of grace, when others began carrying chickens to Bamba Gumba, we also would start carrying chickens.
Ah, we laugh at even the thought of our being carried away with an "oomph" tale of a Bamba Gumba. We sort of unconsciously pride ourselves that we are altogether too smart to be fooled by any of the delusions of pagan religion, silly superstitions, or such. But the cold facts are that from every denominational pulpit in Christian America, as well as in every other nation on earth, is preached ignorance, just as offensive and just as irrational as the invention here depicted to wheedle money, corn and chickens from the poor benighted bushmen of Africa. And uncomplimentary as it may be, the fact remains that not one in a million among Christians even have the ambition or spiritual discernment to detect the lie.
The poor downtrodden bushmen of Africa are not the only people on earth who follow Bamba Gumbas. For we in America - yes, even the Christians in America - educated, freeborn and alert though they may be, have been reared under and persistently adhere to just such offensive inventions, disseminated by men who, in spite of many degrees and letters, and much professed wisdom, know not the truth, refuse to listen or learn and, like so many parrots, repeat merely what they have taught to say by others. For, insane madness that it is, from practically every pulpit in America today are heralded distortions of truth just as irrational as any scheme invented by any Bamba Gumba who ever lived. And while we marvel at the credulity of the illiterate and unlearned in believing such tales, and would unhesitatingly warn them to simply find out what the six English words really mean: those six different words which Bamba Gumba represented as being an "oomph," yet we just have not had enough holy inquisitiveness and spiritual initiative to do the same thing ourselves.
For in the New Testament, in the original Greek, are found six different words and phrases which have been represented to us as ALL meaning the very same thing - the "coming" of the Lord or the "second coming" of Christ! And while a few scholars have gone to the trouble to tell us what these six words mean, yet I do not hesitate to say that not one Christian in a million has earnestly sought the Lord for spiritual wisdom and divine understanding concerning these important matters. There is confusion in the minds of many when they come to this great truth of our Lord's return and much of this uncertainty stems from a failure to understand the diverse meanings of these six Greek words which are used in connection with His coming. While Bamba Gumba's six words all meant "oomph," OUR six words are all construed to mean "second coming"! Until the great scriptural truths contained in these six Greek words dawn upon our enlightened hearts by the quickening of the spirit of wisdom from on High, though we may be earnest students of God's Word and feel satisfied with what we have, nevertheless, there will be in our possession a great mine of eternal riches and heavenly wealth of which we are able to appropriate only a small portion.
The subject of this study was not chosen simply to make a play on words but to direct attention to transcendent realities of infinite importance. Words are wonderful things. They open vistas to the mind of man that are utterly limitless. They break hearts, or cause the despondent to sing with joy. An announcement of a birth or the sad news of a death alike are conveyed by words. Mighty empires rise and fall at the issue of words from the lips of great kings, and powerful generals. Words are among our most wonderful possessions. Through the centuries they have stood for certain meanings, and simple regard for truth demands that we treat words as they were intended to be dealt with. Important truths pertaining to the manner of our Lord's return have been long hidden by mistranslation. As we all know, the Bible was not written originally in the English language, hence we who use the English language must depend upon translations from the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New Testament. While in most instances in our English Bibles very little of the richness of meaning has been lost through mistransiation, there are exceptions in which profound truths of the divine plan have been long concealed by unwitting mistranslations.
The apostles spoke and wrote a language called "he Koine dialectos," and while a few generations ago this vernacular form of Greek was not fully known, the researches of archeologists have given us a complete and comprehensive understanding of the New Testament vocabulary. The Greek is a more precise language than the English. The English Bible uses a few terms which relate to the coming of the Lord, but there are actually six Greek words used in relation to the Lord's return. For the sake of simplicity we shall list these words, with the shades of meaning they present, and then go on to consider them in more detail.
1. PAROUSIA. This word occurs twenty-four times in the New Testament. It comes from the verb PAREMI which means "at hand," "to be present." The noun signifies "Presence." This verb emphasizes the actual personal presence of the one who comes. "Be patient unto the COMING (presence) of the Lord" (James 5:7). PAROUSIA never indicates the act of coming or the arrival of a person, but denotes the presence of one who has already arrived.
2. APOKALUPSIS. This word comes from the verb APOKALUPTO meaning "to uncover, "unveil," and stresses the appearing or revelation of one by means of an uncovering or unveiling. It is the disclosure of one who has been hidden under cover. "Be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the REVELATION (unveiling) of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 1:13).
3. EPIPHANEIA. This word is to be found six times in the New Testament. It comes from a verb which signifies "to shine upon," "bring to light," "to appear," "to manifest." The noun is "manifestation," "brightness." It is the appearance out of darkness of a star that has been there all day, unseen and unperceived, and suddenly manifesting at night. This word is used in the sense of the glory or majesty that is revealed by the coming of the Lord.
4. PHANEROO. This word means to render apparent or make manifest, not necessarily a visible presence, but a perception. "When He shall appear (become apparent), we shall be like Him" (I Jn. 3:2).
5. ERCHOMAI. This word is used to indicate the actual act of coming, not, as with PAROUSIA, the presence of one who has arrived, but the event of coming. "Behold, HE COMETH (is in the act of coming) with clouds" (Rev. 1:7).
6. HEKO. This word stresses the point of arrival at a certain place, as I am come and I am here. "Hold fast till I COME (to you)" (Rev. 2:25).
Of course these six Greek words do not mean six different comings of the Lord; but the distinction between them enables one to see what the texts mean with reference to the coming of His presence, to His abiding presence, to the revelation or unveiling of His presence, to the manifestation or out-raying of the glory and majesty of His presence. By no means do any of these words mean identically the same thing. For instance, both the word EPIPHANEIA and PAROUSIA occur in a notable verse: "Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the BRIGHTNESS (epiphaneia) of His COMING (parousia))" (II Thes. 2:8). Actually translated the verse reads: "The MANIFESTATION of His PRESENCE."
It is obvious that He CAN be present without manifesting the fact; and the present One CAN manifest the full glory and majesty of His presence with a brightness above the noon-day sun. Yonder, on the mount of Transfiguration, He suddenly shone before His disciples till the midnight became as the midnoon of a cloudless sun; yonder, above the road to Damascus, so close to Paul and unseen, then shining out till the glory of the shining blinded him and made him fall from his horse prostrate in the dust of the highway; yonder at Patmos when He appeared unto John and so blazed forth in the manifestation of His presence that the disciple fell at His feet as one dead with the weight of the glory. He can be present and yet unmanifested, as yonder at the foot of the golden ladder Jacob slept with a stone for a pillow and awakening, cried out in holy awe, "Surely the Lord I-S in this place, and I knew it not!" (Gen. 28:16). The manifested and unmanifested presence of the Lord. The Lord present and no one aware of it; then suddenly revealed and every eye beholding Him. This is the teaching of the two words, EPIPHANEIA and PAROUSIA. As these two words are both applied to the coming of the Lord; as this great event is spoken of both as HIS EPIPHANEIA and HIS PAROUSIA, and the difference between manifested and unmanifested is absolute; as they are two things as well as one, two things as to MANNER and capable of being applied to the same thing as a fact; as both ARE applied to the fact of His coming, then the coming of Christ has in these two words two distinct aspects; the aspect in which He is manifested; another aspect in which He is unmanifested.
Betimes, in the throes of trouble and testing, the heavens have seemed as brass and God appeared to be a million miles away, when suddenly, the Lord shone forth out of our darkness to show His mighty hand of deliverance on our behalf. Ah, HE WAS THERE ALL THE TIME, as present as present can be, but in one instant He MANIFESTED His presence and our sorrow turned to joy, our despair to victory, praise His name! How often it has happened to us, as it did to Jacob, when he awaked out of his sleep, and he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not." He was lonely, He was troubled, He was fearful, He was fleeing from his brother Esau, things were just not going in his favor at all. Exhausted, he took a stone for a pillow and laid down to sleep. And then he had his dream with the visitation of God. Then suddenly he realized that God was IN THIS PLACE, and he had not been aware of it, shadows of loneliness, shadows of weariness, shadows of emptiness, shadows of despair, shadows and more shadows had obscurred any sense of the presence of God being with him. YET GOD WAS IN THAT PLACE, and had been with him all the time. And God is in YOUR PLACE, precious friend of mine, wherever and however it is. He may only be present (parousia) or His presence may be manifested (epiphaneia), yet God is there accomplishing some precious things, whether you are aware of it or not. Through overlooking these important distinctions we have missed much heavenly wealth and glory that lies concealed within the six Greek words and which unfold the various facets of our Lord's coming. Our vision was greatly enlarged when we discovered by revelation of the Holy Spirit this multi-faceted splendor of HIS COMING!
The story has been told of a beautiful incident that occurred many years ago in the North of England. A young Salvation Army girl, only recently saved, was overflowing with the joy of the Lord and was eager to share her salvation with all others. Walking along the street of a little Durham city, she saw a tall, gray-haired man coming toward her and, stranger though he was, she stopped him and said, "Pardon me, sir, but are you saved?" The tall stranger leaned over toward her and answered, with a quizzical smile playing on his kindly face: "My dear, do you mean ESOTHEN, or SOZOMENOS, or SOTHESOMAI?" The Salvation Army girl was bewildered - it was "all Greek" to her! She did not know that she had stopped bishop Westcott, one of the greatest of Greek scholars and an editor of the famous Westcott and Hort edition of the Greek New Testament. He had asked her, using three different tenses of the Greek verb: "Doyou mean, I was saved, or do you mean, I am being saved, or do you mean, I shall be saved?" And then bishop Westcott, who was indeed saved and knew that he was saved, lovingly explained a little of the three tenses of the gospel to the young girl, and showed her something of the riches of her past salvation, her ongoing salvation, and her future salvation, from spirit to soul to body; and before they separated that earnest young girl knew more about the gospel and her Saviour than she had ever known before, and went away rejoicing that she had asked this tall stranger whether he was saved.
In like manner, when we are asked, "Do you believe in the coming of the Lord?" we may reply, "Do you mean His PAROUSIA, or do you mean His APOKALUPSIS, or do you mean His EPIPHANEIA, or do you mean His PHANAROO, or do you mean His ERCHOMAI, or do you mean His HEKO?" Ah - we believe in ALL His comings, and it all the facets of His comings!
In a map of the heavens a "d" appears beside some of the stars, indicating that although these stars to the naked eye are single points of light, the telescope reveals them to be double, or triple, and, in some cases, to lie one behind the other, separated by immeasurable space. Some time ago, on a stop-over in Guatemala, Central America, we visited beautiful Lake Atitlan which spreads out in the mountains at an altitude of 5,200 feet, an incredible sparkling blue against green and purple slopes. It is justly famed among the most beautiful lakes in the world.. The majestic volcanoes Toliman, Atitlan, and San Pedro grace its southern shore with altitudes up to 11,595 feet. We took a boat ride along the shores of this sparkling, pristine mountain lake, the water so clear that, as I walked on the pier I could easily see thirty or more feet straight to the rocky bottom with perfect clarity. Traveling around the lake by car, observing from the high mountain vistas, there is a point at which the volcanoes appear to be but one towering peak. But as you draw nearer it becomes evident that there are not one, but three, and that these peaks lie one behind the other, valleys deep and wide stretching between.
As in the works of God, so also in His Word - distance and angle of vision count for much. Events that to the casual reader appear to be but one, as: they are approached by the telescope of divine illumination are seen to be separated into various facets and manifestations. Just as it could not be learned from the Old Testament, by the deductive powers of the carnal mind, that what seemed to be one coming of Messiah would resolve itself into two, first in humiliation and then in glory; so also it cannot be learned by careless study of our English versions of the New Testament that the return of our Lord is a many-splendored, progressive REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST. Our God does not talk about the "first coming" and the "second coming - He talks about the progressive revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As we have stated again and again in this series, the scripture shows clearly and unmistakably-that our Lord has already had many comings, many appearings, and shall continue to have many more. The truth is that He came; He continued to come; He comes; He continues to come; He will come; He will continue to come, praise His wonderful name!
A friend recently wrote in a letter regarding these things: "What a tremendous expansion of heart, mind, and spirit this revelation invites, what a turning of the diamond like many-faceted wisdom of God in first this direction and then that direction, what a reaching out in all directions to lay hold on HIM in whatever form He should appear, in whatever manner He should express, in whatever dimension He should move. I am completely overwhelmed by the power of this word. It has the strange dual effect of simultaneously lifting me up to soar in my spirit into the high realms of His truth and of reducing me to rubble before the majesty of His life! Quite frankly, I hardly know what to do with myself in the wake of its impact. I am absolutely beside myself with wonder. Oh, listen to the sound of His comings! Surely, what I feel tonight is akin to what Elizabeth felt when the babe in her womb stirred at the sound of the voice of one favored by and blessed of God."
The Greek word PAROUSIA is translated as "coming" in your King James Bible, and that is where a lot of the problems with the so-called "second coming" begin. The word actually means "along side" or "presence." And there are many, many scriptures that the Bible projects as talking about the "coming" of the Lord that are not talking at all about a physical descent of Jesus from the sky. They speak rather of His coming in us, His appearing through us, and the glory of the fullness of the presence of the Lord in the midst of the church, the presence of the Lord in the earth.
The effect of error on the work of the early translators is apparent in many of the prophecies pertaining to the return of the Christ. The theory which developed during the Dark Ages held that the Christ would return to earth as a sort of glorified man. In this form He was suddenly to appear in the sky, be visible to the entire human race for a short time, and then as He approached closer to the earth it was to be enveloped in flames, the unconverted of the human race whisked off to a place of eternal torture, while the saints would be taken to heaven. All of this was to begin and to be completed within one twenty-four hour day.
This distorted conception of the return of Christ, and its purpose, caused the Church of England scholars to translate the Greek word PAROUSIA by our English word "coming," when its real meaning is "presence." In their twisted theology there was simply no way in which Christ could be present in the earth for more than a few hours. He was to return, and rapture His people almost immediately away to heaven, so they could not conceive of His coming meaning His PRESENCE. The word PAROUSIA is used twice in the New Testament when it does not apply to Jesus, but to the apostle Paul. These uses of the word establish its real meaning. Paul expresses others' appraisal of him, saying, "His letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence (PAROUSIA) is weak" (II Cor. 10:10). And again, writing to the saints at Philippi, Paul says, "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence (PAROUSIA) only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).
It can be seen at once that the use of the word "coming" to translate the Greek word PAROUSIA in the foregoing texts would have given an entirely wrong meaning to Paul's words. In these passages it is the PRESENCE of a human being that is involved, so we understand what Paul means. He is not discussing his "coming" or "arrival," his "journey" to them, but his actual presence in their midst. So we need only to move from the understandable into the realm in which we do not fully understand in order to realize what the prophecies mean which discuss the PAROUSIA of our Lord; that meaning being His ACTUAL PRESENCE, not His "coming."
PAROUSIA is formed e present participle of the verb "to be" (EIMI), with a prefix meaning "alongside." It means to be near or to be present. It is clear that it describes not an event, but a STATE or CONDITION, that involves duration, a period of time. It is defined by Liddell and Scott as "a being present, presence." In each place where it is translated "coming" in the King James Bible, the Revised Version has "Greek: presence" in the margin. The Greek antonym for PAROUSIA is APOUSIA meaning "un-presence" or "absence," and is used in the passage quoted above from Phil. 2:12 wherein Paul says, "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence (PAROUSIA) only, but now much more in my absence (APOUSIA), work out your own salvation..." No translator would think of rendering APOUSIA as "going"; so neither should PAROUSIA be rendered as "coming." It is "presence" contrasted with "absence." The word simply means "present." It would be the answer that a soldier would give to a roll call. Two thousand years ago the "coming" of.the Son of God to this world took place in a split-second of time when He was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary; but it was followed by His parousia or presence in this world for almost thirty-four years; many events took place during that time of His PRESENCE.
This is without doubt one of the most important truths in the whole New Testament. Nowhere does PAROUSIA mean "coming" or "coming again." The whole church world proclaims that the "second coming of Christ" is the HOPE OF THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD. It is not His coming that is the hope of the church, but IT IS HIS P-R-E-S-E-N-C-E which is the hope of the church and the hope for the world. The PAROUSIA is a LIFE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD, not simply a flashing of Jesus across the skies. From the hour of the firstdawn of creation's light to this present moment no soul of man has ever been brought into relationship with God or transformed into His image apart from the effectual MANIFESTATION OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD.
Archeological discoveries reveal that the Greek word PAROUSIA was used in ancient times to describe the visits of kings or emperors to various cities and provinces of their realms. The word was what we might call a "royal word." Throughout the papyri there are references to the entry of monarchs with great pomp and circumstance into ancient cities or nations which are called the "parousia of the king." Mention is made of special taxes being levied, and large supplies of wheat being provided for the "PAROUSIA" - not for the moment when the king arrived, but for his stay in the locality, as when in England the flag on the palace proclaims the presence of the queen in the metropolis, and tells us that the court is in London.
One discovery reveals that taxes to pay the expenses of such a visit were raised by issuing a special PAROUSIA coin. Since royal visits were usually few and far between it was the custom of the ancients to strike new coins to commemorate the occasion. These would be minted with the "likeness" of the victorious general, or the reigning ruler who was "present" to judge his people, impressed on each new coin. In instances where it was a conquering general who was making his parousia, striking down the former king or taking him captive, the coins of the old realm were "called in." They were then smelted and new coins poured in homage to the new King. As many numismatists have observed one can follow the travels of Caesar Hadrian by studying the many commemorative coins struck in the places where he made his parousia.
In like manner, on the spiritual plane, when the Lord Jesus Christ conquers our selfwill and casts down the flesh from its place of rule in our hearts, He replaces the old coinage of Adam's "likeness" with the new coinage of the Spirit which bears His own image. This will be complete when the POWER OF HIS PRESENCE has completed its wonderful work upon our lives. Praise God, the day shall surely come at the close of the wonderful times of the restitution of all things when there will be no "coinage" in earth's realm, as well as in heaven's, which does not bear HIS glorious "likeness" for all creation will be restored into harmony and oneness in Him again! Even now, a FIRSTFRUITS has been ushered INTO HIS PRESENCE, And in the words of the old hymn, "What a wonderful change in my life been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!"
"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy... to stand before the Son of man" (Lk. 21:36). Arise, O child of God, and stand before the Lord! Cast aside the restricting shroud of man's traditions, and take unto you the mantle of truth as it is IN HIM. Who knows what it means to "stand before the Son of man," but they who PASS OVER INTO HIS PRESENCE. The PAROUSIA is the ENVELOPING PRESENCE OF CHRIST and to stand before the Son of man is to awake to the wonder and glory and majesty and power of HIS PRESENCE. It is the FULLNESS of all that one can conceive of as being the reality of His promise, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, THERE AM I IN THE MIDST OF THEM," and again, "And, lo, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, even unto the end of the age" (Mat. 18:20; 28:20).
The PAROUSIA is THE GLORY OF HIS PRESENCE and THE PRESENCE OF HIS GLORY. So little has His presence been realized by those Christians who fill Sunday after Sunday the pews of the harlot church systems, that even many who are baptized in the Spirit have more fear of the power of the adversary than they do have of the knowledge of the majesty and presence of the King of Glory. His presence is not always best known in the realm of soulish worship, with its clapping, dancing and shouting, nor in the manifestations of religious fervor. Praise God for the reality of rejoicing in Him, but many have discovered that they thought God was only in the Cathedral, so He called them out from there. We thought God was in the great revivals with signs and wonders and miracles, so He separated us from this. We thought the presence of God could be conjured up by much singing, clapping, and shouting, so He sent fiery trials, strippings, and separation even from this. Finally, isolated and all alone, then He says, "Lift up now thine eyes and look from the place where thou art..." (Gen. 13:14). I am with you IN THIS PLACE, perhaps obscurred by the shadows, but I am there, working within to conform you to My image, and bring you forth in My likeness. Though we share an existence apparently filled with nothing but the mundane happenings of the routine, YET GOD IS PRESENT AND ACCOMPLISHING GREAT AND MIGHTY THINGS within. God reveals Himself to the humble in the lowliest of disguises, but the proud who never look beneath the surface, fail to find Him even in the greatest of His manifestations.
It is time for God's people to wake up to the true and real meaning of the PAROUSIA of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word PAROUSIA is used three times in the second epistle of Peter (1:16; 3:4; 3:12). In the first instance it refers to the Divine Presence which burst forth from within Jesus at His transfiguration. In this passage Peter describes the glorious manifestation of God on the mount of Transfiguration as the "coming," the "parousia," the "presence" of Christ. Now Christ had already come in the flesh; the four men had already walked together up the mountain; but here was a "coming" of the Lord not previously known. And so he says, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the POWER and COMING of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him on the holy Mount" (II Pet. 1:16-18).
"The POWER and PRESENCE of our Lord Jesus Christ" refers not to His arrival on the holy Mount, but to the manifestation of His STATE OF BEING during that period of time in which the disciples were "eyewitnesses of His majesty." Notice how the apostle associates the POWER and the PRESENCE of Christ with the GLORY OF GOD that appeared in the hour of Christ's transfiguration. In fact, the Lord Himself explains that this manifestation of the GLORY was in reality, the very Kingdom of God. In each of the three accounts where the scene is recorded the story is preceded with the remark: "But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the KINGDOM OF GOD" (Lk. 9:27). Matthew describes it as "the Son of man COMING in His Kingdom" (Mat. 16:28). Mark refers to it as "the Kingdom of God come with POWER" (Mk. 9:1). Peter combines the two statements in the words, "The POWER and COMING of the Lord Jesus Christ." The effulgence of the power and glory of God's presence erupted from the inner life of the Christ of God and Peter uses the word PAROUSIA to describe this blessed experience. And, dear reader of these lines, as the majesty and dominion of HIS PRESENCE grows, increases, develops, and is released from the inner sanctuary of your regenerated spirit, emanating, overflowing, enveloping, manifesting HIS GLORY - you, too, and all about you, will know and behold the transcendent wonder of HIS PAROUSIA.
We will never be able to understand God's great and eternal purpose in the body of Christ until first we see Jesus as the PATTERN SON. Over the past forty years we have heard much about signs and wonders. Great crusades have been held under large tents and in huge auditoriums, where vast multitudes of people have witnessed mighty demonstrations of the healing, delivering and wonder-working power of God. Some of these, of course, were spurious ... clever tricks foisted upon the people to deceive and mislead God's people, to magnify the flesh and glorify man, preachers making themselves millionaires by their flamboyant deception, using trickery to rob the simple, the widow, the well-meaning, and thousands of the Lord's precious little ones. But not all of these signs have been of the devil. The very fact that, there is a counterfeit proves that there is a genuine, for no one counterfeits that which does not exist. In our day, as in olden times, God is showing forth His power and making known His Presence by many signs and wonders.
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that this glorious gospel "at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with SIGNS and WONDERS, and with divers MIRACLES, and GIFTS OF THE HOLY GHOST, according to His will. . ." Mk. 16:17 says, ". . SIGNS shall follow them that believe..." Notice that it does not say that believers follow after signs ... too much of this is being done today! Verse twenty says that they went everywhere preaching the Word, and the Lord worked with them, "confirming the Word with SIGNS following." Signs are given to be seen and heard about. The beloved prophet Daniel exclaimed, "I thought it good to show the SIGNS and WONDERS which the High God hath wrought toward me. How great are His signs! and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation" (Dan. 4:2-3).
But I would not dwell upon the many signs and wonders that God is giving forth in this hour, and there are many. A greater sign than all of these has been given and it is this marvelous and glorious wonder, God's greatest sign, of which I would write today. JESUS is God's greatest sign! In Isa. 7:14 the prophet by inspiration cried out, "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel." Contrary to the notion held by many the Sign was not the virgin, nor was it the virgin conceiving, nor yet the miraculous birth - but rather it was the One who was born and brought forth into the world in such a manner - Emmanuel, GOD WITH US. "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS" (Mat. 1:23-25). Ah, beloved, Jesus was and still is God's GREATEST SIGN.
Now a sign is that which points to something, and this man Jesus - His birth, His life, His ministry, His miracles, His words, His death, His resurrection, His ascension points unerringly to something beyond Himself. You see, the SIGN was not fulfilled when Jesus was born and walked this earth, for He was not the fulfillment of the Sign - He WAS HIMSELF THE SIGN! "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign... and shall call His name Emmanuel." When Jesus came the Sign was GIVEN. But a sign is not fulfilled when it is given. It is fulfilled when that to which it points comes to pass! The babe lying there in Mary's arms; the young boy disputing with the lawyers and doctors of the law; the Christ of God proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom; Jesus of Nazareth anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power going about doing good, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, casting out devils, raising the dead; the Son of God disclosed in majesty and power on the mount of Transfiguration, His raiment shining exceedingly white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them; the Lamb of God dying on Calvary's hill; Jesus the Christ raised from the dead by the glory of the Father; Christ ascended to sit on the throne of the Majesty on High - all this is the greatest SIGN God ever gave to the earth, and it shall not fail. That to which it points shall most surely come to pass, praise His glorious name! Jesus Christ is THE SIGN which points unerringly to that great thing which God is doing in the earth, the MANIFESTATION OF THE SONS OF GOD!
Many centuries before Jesus walked on earth the Holy Spirit spoke prophetically through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, saying, "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given Me are for SIGNS and WONDERS..." (Isa. 8:18). We discover in Heb. 2:13 that the One who spoke those marvelous words was actually our Lord Jesus. And He says that He is for a Sign. And so are the children (sons) that God hath given Him, those who are to be conformed to His image, the body of the Christ, the overcomer. Hallelujah! All the sons of God together are but a Sign, the firstfruits of God's creation, pointing to a vast harvest yet to be gathered into the Kingdom of God in that glad day when Christ has subdued ALL unto Himself and delivers up the Kingdom to the Father that God may be All-in-all, everything to everyone - everywhere.
Perhaps some reader of these lines is beginning to question... If Jesus IS the Sign, and the scriptures most plainly show that He is, then who or what is the FULFILLMENT of that Sign? Our precious Lord does not leave us in doubt, for the Bible very plainly reveals this great mystery. This is the wonderful secret that was revealed to the apostle Paul, which he calls "MY gospel." For it was Paul who saw the glorious truth of the BODY OF CHRIST, the PERFECT MAN, the SONS OF GOD, the MANY-MEMBERED MAN that God would make after His own image and likeness to reign over all things upon earth and over the vastnesses of infinity forever (see I Cor. 12:12,27; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 2:10; Eph. 4:13; Rev. 21:7; Rev. 2:26-27; Rev. 3:21).
Yes, Jesus is a Sign. His life is a Sign pointing to, and a pattern for, His anointed body. Those who are in His body shall follow in His steps and be conformed into His image. This thing of which Jesus is a Sign is a SON COMPANY, born from above, filled with His Spirit, possessed of His glorious mind, caught up into the purposes of God, processed through Father's faithful dealings, and anointed for rulership... to sit on the throne with Him. This body of people, though composed of a multitude of saints throughout the world and gathered out of the ages, yet is seen in the scriptures as ONE BODY, spoken of as God's ONE PERFECT MAN, the OVERCOMER, and the MANIFESTED SONS OF GOD. As we have already said, how this body comes into existence and what happens to it and through it can be learned by studying the Pattern, the Lord Jesus Christ. And although there will be unnumbered multitudes of people saved by the grace of God through the precious blood of Jesus, and we do thank God for these dear ones, yet the high purposes of God are tied up in that company of saints who press their way toward the mark for the prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Consider now what is next in order for the people of God today! Would you like to have a true prophetic insight into God's purposes and plans? Then study the Pattern, the Sign. See how the baby Jesus began to grow up into mature manhood. Except for one brief glimpse of the boy Jesus at the tender age of twelve, we know nothing of how He grew from babyhood to manhood. Yet we know that He did. And though the growth of His body in this hour may appear to be imperceptible from day to day, its progress is sure, and in the Father's appointed time it will come to the full maturity of the stature of the fullness of the Christ. Let us look at the boy Jesus. When we do see Him, where was He? What was He doing? See Him there, He is in the temple, His mind upon the things of God... astounding the lawyers and the revered doctors of the law with His knowledge of God and the depth of His revelation, while the other children are playing their religious games in the market-place. The doctors of the law cannot understand this lad, who someday will be God's Man, neither can they answer His searching questions. See how He is about His Father's business, recognizing at least in a measure who He is and His divine calling.
See Him at Jordan laying down His own life and giving Himself into the hands of His Father in such a way that He became a vehicle for the expression of God. God reveals His might in the storm and His power in the lightning. He has expressed His creative ability in the majesty of the universe. But only in Jesus, His Son, could He truly reveal and express His own divine nature. So the Son, as a man, laid down His own rights, His own thoughts, His own will and ways, and became a visible means of expressing that which was divine, that which was invisible. No man can see the invisible God. But He has One to truly represent Him, One to express His love, His grace, His goodness, His knowledge, His wisdom, His glory, His authority and dominion in heaven and earth. He has One like Himself, in His own image, and at Jordan He placed this One publicly as HIS SON. "This is My beloved Son in whom.I am well pleased," declared the Father's voice from heaven.
From His anointing at Jordan, Jesus entered a ministry for three and a half years that destroyed the powers of hell, and shook this world to its very foundations. HE IS THE PATTERN. Looking unto Him, we see our course set before us. "Be of good cheer," He said, "I have overcome the world." Never once was anyone turned away that came to Him. There was no disease too strong or too advanced, there was no limb too crooked, there was no eye too blind, there was no storm too violent, there was no demon too powerful, there was no sinner too wicked. He was victorious over every devil, over the elements of nature as the winds and the waves obeyed His mighty voice, over every evil force. He had entered into that realm that the enemy had usurped from Adam, and had won it back. Glory to God! What a wonderful Saviour!
What does this mean to you and me, my brother, my sister, who have received the call to follow the Lamb? We don't yet see all things under the feet of God's CORPORATE SON (Heb. 2:8), but (verse 9), "we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honour." We see the Head of this body supremely victorious, waiting until the body comes to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that His enemies become His footstool. The Head is victorious, triumphant and crowned! But this glorious work He began will be carried forth until His whole body, even the feet, shall rise to the place of authority and power that He has. Now in these last days there is coming forth a body of people, raised up by the Holy Spirit of God, who are not content to let Satan and the carnal mind rule here on this earth. They are crying out for deliverance and interceding for the Kingdom of God on earth. They know not how this can be done, for it truly looks impossible! But having heard from heaven they gladly embrace the hope. The Spirit of God is now revealing truths that have been hidden from ages and from generations. Hope is springing up in the hearts of the saints, God's "called out ones," and they are beginning to see that we can follow Jesus into that which is beyond the veil, into the Holiest of All, into the fullness of God. These are looking not to die, but to live; not for eventual victory in heaven, but for victory right here on this earth.
Can our finite minds comprehend even in a measure what this shall mean, to walk in the STATE OF BEING Jesus was in? To have dominion over the elements, the beasts, the birds, over the most powerful devils and the worst diseases. Yes, even victory over death itself, the last enemy to be conquered. Some claim now to have already conquered death, while they are still afraid of a mad dog, still fasten their seatbelts on the highways, or still fear an attack of the flu. Precious friend of mine, death is the last enemy to be conquered. But fall it must, before the mighty power of God working through the enchristed, His body. And Jesus said that the works He did, we would do also, and even much GREATER WORKS (Jn. 14:12). This power is not given for us to gratify our carnal appetites with bread made from stones, nor for sensationalism, nor to build a kingdom for ourselves. Jesus was tempted with all these things, and He overcame them. And so will those who follow His pattern. Praise God! What a destiny! How marvelous the plan of God! How glorious the path of those who walk with God!
Do.not mistake it, my friend - Christ is coming literally, personally, bodily. The appearance and presence (parousia) of Christ is IN HIS BODY. "Now YE ARE the BODY of Christ." The PAROUSIA, the PRESENCE of Christ is in the Body. Consider now with reverent honesty the inspired words of the apostle, "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven ... when He shall come to be glorified I-N HIS SAINTS, and to be admired I-N ALL THEM that believe in that day" (II Thes. 1:7, 10). That is the presence, the coming of the Son of God in and through the Christ Body. And He is coming, coming, coming, from glory to glory, from experience to experience, from inworking to inworking, until we know the POWER AND GLORY OF HIS PRESENCE in all the fullness of HIMSELF.
We know that we have a token of His presence, being "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). We have received the firstfruits of His presence and, even now, there are occasions when others do sense His presence in us, and we become a particular manifestation of the Christ to them in their need. If just this "in part" measure of our present possession can betimes shake individuals, families, communities, cities and nations for God, what will it be like when we are filled with the fullness, and literally become the embodiment of HIS PRESENCE in the earth? No wonder we read, "The creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:19). When HIS PRESENCE, consciously so, comes on the scene, there are changes, regeneration, restoration, and ultimately all creation will be released, delivered from its bondage to vanity, the tyranny of change and decay.
"Then shall the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the Lord, because He cometh to judge the earth" (I Chron. 16:33). "The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord..." (Ps. 97:5).
When God's PRESENCE becomes PERSONIFIED in the mature and perfected body of Christ, and God sends His sons forth throughout the land, then all the exalted kingdoms of man will melt like wax before them. It will not just happen because of what they say, or what they do, but because of WHO THEY ARE - BECAUSE HIS PRESENCE IS WITHIN THEM IN SUCH POWER AND MAJESTY AND GLORY AND FULLNESS. What an hour! The "end time" is not the waning and vanishing of the glory of the Holy One. The "time of the end" is the manifestation of the consummation of the FULLNESS OF THE GLORY OF THE LORD.
"Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the presence of the Lord. Look! The farmer keeps looking for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until he gets the early and the late rain. You, too, be patient; make your hearts firm BECAUSE THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD HAS DRAWN CLOSE" (James 5:7-8).
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