Rev. M.F. Blume
(A study regarding the authority Christ gave to us in our salvation, and of the overall plan of God since the beginning).
It is interesting to realize that the Church has been in existence for quite some time now, but many wonderful truths to which the Word of God directs the Church, have never been truly realized. The whole purpose of the Bible is to point man to a special place of joyful life. There is a domain of existence into which the believer may enter that surpasses anything the world could ever offer. There is a place of Newness of Life! There is Spirit-leading. And the emphasis of the New Testament epistles to the church is to impart the understanding of how to live such a life. Yet we find very little of it spoken today and preached.
Scriptures alluding to such a life have been misunderstood for centuries. The original Church certainly knew of such truths, but through time these truths have been misinterpreted to appear to merely promote a lesser life which the common believer already is living. The life the common believer has been living is in reality a life of shortcomings. It has been a life of under- privileged inheritance. There is much more to the life of the believer than what has been lived by most. People, however, made this life to appear as the kind of life we cannot expect to exceed, and forced scriptures to appear as saying just that.
We are actually housing a force of Life within us, as believers, that is intended to pulsate outward in wonderful experience! This Life is the personal God of the Bible! A doubtful life of shortcomings, however, robs us of truly experiencing this higher life.
By having God's Spirit within us, we already have the precise kind of Life that is intended to be lived in another world. This world is not even yet created! The lower life in this world, on the other hand, is a tainted life. This present fallen world's life is a life that is fallen. It is not the life that God intended for man to live. God intends to make a new and better world later. As for now, though, He has already given His people the life that will actually be common in that new world. (Col 1:20-22).
All of creation has been inducted into this present fallen life. Adam introduced it into the human race when he ate of the fruit which held that fallen life. And, because Adam was the king of this world, and the firstborn of creation as we know it, or representative of this world, the surrounding forms of life under his authority became recipients of a fallen life. Creation did not choose to contract that disease of a life. Adam threw his world under its power. And this life is actually death, if you know what I mean.
Mankind is the firstfruits of this new creation that will exist by the eternal life of God. Mankind is the beginning of this work of God.
This world was the region of the shadow of death. Death loomed over it. The animate life that existed was ever under the doom of coming to naught one day. I do not promote the idea that the Kingdom of heaven was delayed due to a rejection of Jesus Christ. The truth is that He was ordained to die before the foundation of the world. How, if Jesus was crucified before the foundation of the world, could God postpone a thing due to alternate circumstances that were not intended or foreseen to occur? It was planned that He die on a cross. Delaying the Kingdom due to the cross is simply not the truth of the situation. The Israelites were "destined" to be blinded that the Gentiles might come into salvation.
And Jesus said the Kingdom of heaven was at hand.
That Kingdom Life was soon to be available to the disciples.
We need to realize that the Kingdom of which Jesus spoke is the Church age. There will be a physically manifested Kingdom of God on this earth at a later time, but we are already in touch with the Kingdom in a very real, though spiritual, manner.
Now, we may ask ourselves how our world could become overshadowed by death? How could one man, Adam, throw all humanity and creation on this earth under such a state?
The answer lies in the fact that Adam was the firstborn of creation. The aspect of the firstborn is a very vital key to understanding the purpose of the Gospel.
To understand this we must delve into the Hebrew custom of the firstborn.
Colossians tells us very plainly that the firstborn had the preeminence above the rest. This was true in Israel. The firstborn was to take the father's position, should the father die. The firstborn would inherit a double portion of the land which the other brothers would inherit.
But we note that the firstborn position could be forfeited to another. Reuben was the firstborn in Jacob's family. Yet he lost it to the two sons of Joseph.
Reuben lost the birthright to Joseph.
The first mention of firstborn is found in Genesis 4:4. The first mention of an issue always sheds much light as to the spiritual implications God is stressing in all following instances of like issue. Abel offered the firstlings of his flocks to God. God's claim fell on the firstlings or the firstborn.
The plight of Adam was evident in the firstborn son, Cain. Cain, meant to be the Lord's since he was firstborn, turned out to be the first murderer. This is noteworthy. The firstborn was said to be the beginning of a father's strength. The firstborn represented the status of the father. One's might was symbolized by the firstborn (Gen. 49:3). Having seen Cain commit the sin that he did, we see a picture illustrating the plight of Adam's life, since Cain was Adam's firstborn. He represented Adam's might. Adam's strength, therefore, was actually "weakness" and was under the arm of death. Death held sway over him. His firstborn son was a murderer. Cain inherited Adam's lot by killing another through an act of jealousy.
Too many believers are manifesting such a trait of carnal jealousy. And this is due to their lack of spiritual maturity. Selfishness, to the extent of envying another's success, is bad enough. Murdering as a result of that envy is utter evil.
The firstborn was intended to be the Lord's. This means that he belonged to God. God laid claim on the firstborn. In fact, all of the firstborn of Israel were intended to be priests unto God. We see this in the command to replace this custom with another law. The other made the tribe of Levi the priests. Notice the following.
Numbers 3:12,41 And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine... And thou shalt take the Levites for me (I am the Lord) instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlings among the cattle of the children of Israel.
The Israelite firstborn were meant to be priests! From among all the tribes and every family there would be priests taken. This would make the nation of Israel a nation of priests. They would be holy.
Consider these points along with the fact that Israel was always a microcosm of the element of humanity that chooses to serve God. This picture must be understood, in other words, with the Church in mind. In God's eyes, the people who choose to serve Him are true humanity. After this age is fulfilled, and an end of sin has been accomplished, God will forget all of humanity that sinned and chose to remain in sin. To God, humanity will have been redeemed from the prison of death when the Church is taken away from this world. Those who chose salvation will represent humanity.
Egypt speaks of Satan and his kingdom of hell. The gates of hell did not prevail against the "church in the wilderness". The Red Sea was no barrier against Israel that it might these "prisoners" in.
So, the firstborn had a spiritual influence as we have seen. And since Adam was the firstborn of creation, he could act before God on behalf of all creation. We see this to be true by observing the priestly custom. The firstborn Israelite was to originally go before God as priest on behalf of all Israel. But Adam was the firstborn of Creation - not just a nation of people. This implies that, should Adam fail, all creation was to be affected. In such a manner the world became victim under the shadow of death.
Jesus said, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18
In reading the above verse, keep in mind that the church He is building is compared to a temple. The rock that the Church is built upon is Christ the cornerstone. On the cornerstone of this temple is an inscription. And understand that Peter realized Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God when asked by the Lord who He was. These points have great implications.
Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Peter actually confessed that there was no other way to come to God when he said that Jesus was the Christ. This is the cornerstone of the temple of the Church! This is the main point regarding the structure of the church.
Entrance through Christ implies exit from sin. You have to depart from sin in order to be in that church. Paul's' words to Timothy regarding the cornerstone inscription stressed this point. Israel fulfilled this perfectly by leaving Egypt and crossing the "impassable" Red Sea. That Sea represented the Gates of Hell. Such "gates" are the prison doors and barriers which lay claim to hold those who commit sinful living behind themselves. People who commit sin must remain in Satan's prison. The Gates of hell, however, will not hold back a believer who has departed from iniquity. And you must enter Christ in order to depart from iniquity. This was fulfilled in Israel's experience when they "entered" the bloodstained doorway. And they could, therefore, pass through Red Sea, which depicted hell's gates.
Matthew 7:22,23 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
II Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
Luke 20:17,18 And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
Ephesians 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
It is interesting to note how Jesus spoke of those who claimed to possess His name but who yet worked iniquity. He will answer such people with a reference to their iniquity. And in comparison to 2 Timothy 2:19 we gain insight realize over the issue.
Notice: In comparing 2 Timothy and Matthew 7's reference to iniquity, we see an overall trutth. If we name the name of the Lord we must depart from iniquity. Otherwise, we must depart from Him! The issue of departing is noted in both references! One is simply not in the Temple of the Church if one has not departed from iniquity. And Christ knows those who have departed from iniquity. In other words, He knows those who are in Him. Baptism puts you into Christ. It is calling upon the name of the Lord. And it is not true and actual baptism if one does not call upon the name of the Lord. One is not really in Him if one's baptism did not associate a life of departure from iniquity. Calling on His name is seeing one's need of cleansing from iniquity.
I Peter 2:6-9 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
Note the reference to the cornerstone, and then to priesthood. Israel was meant to be a holy nation when they left Egypt. They departed from iniquity, but they later forfeited their privilege when they rejected Jesus Christ. The Israelites believed not that Jesus was the Christ. This is similar to their loss of privilege they experienced when they believed not that Moses was to return to them from Mount Sinai after forty days. The two incidents are typically interlinked. God always meant to have a NATION OF PRIESTS, thus mingling government with spirituality. That is, the aspect of a GOVERNMENT is noted in the term "NATION" and the aspect of SPIRITUALITY is noted in the term "PRIESTS". Yet how can such a thing occur with a people who could not be trusted to maintain faith in One God? Israel made a golden calf! The construction of the golden calf cost them their inheritance as a nation of priests. The ones who ran to Moses' side became the priests. They happened to be Levites. This gave "Levitical priesthood" to Israel.
Time went on and this Levitical priesthood was done away with when Christ came. Christ came after the order of Melchisidek. And even then, though the priesthood of Levi be cast away , Israel turned around and failed again, having rejected Christ.
To be involved in the priesthood in God's new temple of the Church, one must obviously recognize Jesus Christ since He is the very cornerstone of this temple!
To say "know" is to utter a very intimate term. Adam "knew" Eve and she conceived. One is not too intimate with the Lord if one works iniquity. Jesus will say, "I never KNEW you," to the people in error. So those who depart from iniquity are "in" that Church. (To depart from one thing puts you into another.) Israel was the "church in the wilderness." "CHURCH" means "called out ones". They separated themselves from Egypt through the blood of the Passover. They DEPARTED. Yet they later committed iniquity in making a golden calf. Therefore, they were once again back in the midst of sin. God revoked His plan with them. They lost opportunity to be a NATION of priests.
In Canaan, the firstborn were to be separated to the Lord. We read in Ezekiel 20 that the Lord overlooked the people's error in Egypt as they were involved somewhat with idolatry. He overlooked their error in the wilderness. He did this for His name's sake. Yet in the land of Canaan, in God's holy mountain, when they polluted His name with idols He would overlook no longer. Babylonian bondage was their lot (Ezekiel 20:39,40).
So it is with believers today. They might remain in iniquity's hold and claim Jesus' name, but when we cross the shore into eternity the Lord will not allow such sin to continue (Matt. 7:22,23).
I might add that these people who will be rejected will have accomplished many wonderful works in Jesus' name. Yet they, themselves, are not in His name. He doesn't know THEM. He knew their works, but He did not know THEM. We must be Jesus' name people! We leave the temple of Jesus' name when we commit iniquity. This is the action of removing ourselves from God's Kingdom and becoming a citizen once again under Adam's doomed kingdom.
We sin when we live by the natural life that is the breath of this fallen world. We are successful believers when we remain dependent upon the Life that is in the Kingdom of God. This is what Paul refers to in his discourses concerning the leading of the Spirit, and the walking after the Spirit and not the flesh.
Exodus 13:1,2 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Sanctify unto me whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.
The above event occurred due to the redemption from Egypt through the blood of the Passover Lamb. The firstborn of Egypt were slain by the tenth plague. The firstborn of Israel escaped by the blood on the lintel and doorposts. The firstborn were saved by the blood. They entered the doorway and were spared from death. This speaks of the Church. We are saved from death by Christ's blood. And those believers that have been saved from sin by entering Christ are the Lord's.
We are kings and priests. We are kings in a Kingdom of Heaven. We are the FIRSTBORN. The firstborn of all animals were offered as sacrifice, but the firstborn among men were redeemed. The firstborn among unclean animals were killed by the breaking of the neck, or else were redeemed. The firstborn people were initially born to belong to the people of Israel. Afterwards, the Lord demanded them to be His own possession since the event in Egypt. And in order for these children to be given back to the Israeli family, redemption had to occur. Redemption was made by the sacrifice of a lamb in substitution of these firstborn Hebrews. Yet that firstborn would remain a priest. The Lord, in other words, required death of the firstborn. That demand was removed with a Lamb sacrifice.
To redeem something is to regain possession by paying a price. Israel received their firstborn back from the sentence of death by the price of the blood of the lamb. All Israelite firstborn men were originally intended to be priests. The incident of the golden calf at Sinai forfeited them that opportunity. The men who ran to Moses' side to signify separation from the particular iniquity were the Levites. This qualified them to, instead, be the kind of priests that all of the firstborn Israelites were meant to be.
John 3:1,2 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Israelites: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
Notice the strange reply Jesus gave to this man.
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
What does that have to do with Nicodemus' statement? Why would Jesus reply in this manner to a statement which regarded Jesus' adept ability to teach, and hence prove His coming be from God?
Here is the answer. Jesus was actually saying, "Yes, Nicodemus, I am from God. I could not teach about the Kingdom of God unless I could see it. And in order for others to see it they must be born again. That will make them a people of God like myself, and enable them to teach of it also."
The discussion focused around the Kingdom of God, and SEEING it, or being AWARE OF and INVOLVED IN IT. Jesus went on to explain the details of rebirth after Nicodemus asked Him to do so. After this we read something very interesting.
John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
This is Spirit-leading explained by using a physical illustration. Those who are born of the Spirit and can perceive or se the Kingdom will speak of things as they are directed by an invisible Life. You hear them teach, but the source of their understanding is not a school or sect of ministerial knowledge. (Remember that the whole conversation began after Nicodemus made a statement about Jesus' ability to teach). The Spirit leads them. That is what the kingdom is all about. One will not be able to teach as Jesus did unless one is born INTO THE KINGDOM and is able to "see" it. And they will thus be able to TEACH it themselves, while outsiders cannot physically perceive how they receive such insight since it is a SPIRITUAL kingdom.
John 3:11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have SEEN; and ye receive not our witness.
Again, Jesus stresses the aspect of SPEAKING, or TEACHING, in response to Nicodemus' remark about His teaching. Jesus referred, here, to testifying of what He had SEEN, in reference to His teaching. And back in verse Three we see that He referred to "SEEING" the Kingdom of God. His testimony was His teaching. He TESTIFIED of what he had SEEN. He merely taught what He seen in the Kingdom of God in which He lived.
You see, He not only lived in this physical world for Thirty-three years, but at the same time He lived in the spiritual Kingdom of God. Nobody else at that time did or could.
John 3:12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Jesus spoke through illustration to Nicodemus here. Nicodemus did not understand the illustration. Then Jesus gave an example of speaking in purely spiritual terms with no physical illustration. "Heavenly things" were words with direct reference to the kingdom of Heaven using no earthly illustration. Jesus was actually saying that nobody else had ascended up to this Kingdom of Heaven except the Son of man who WAS IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AT THAT TIME. He was not prophesying of future events as though they already were, as though in the future He would be in heaven above. He was talking about the spiritual world in which He existed at the same time that He was in this earthly world.
A man ascends to get into this Kingdom. This is not a reference to physically ascending, but spiritually ascending.
Romans 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Notice the two faiths mentioned here. It speaks in terms of ascension. We rise from one faith to another faith.
Colossians 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
How did we receive Christ? By faith. And in the means by which we have RECEIVED Christ is the means by which we must also walk in Him, since we have been baptized into Him. We must walk by faith, or walk after the Spirit. This is existing in the spiritual Kingdom. It is being ACTIVE in the Kingdom.
II Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
Romans 8:1,2 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
This verse clearly tells us that there are two laws. Laws are "rules" of a kingdom. Jesus was speaking of a KINGDOM to Nicodemus. The other, lower kingdom of fallen creation, though, abides under the law of sin and death. Matthew
4:16-17 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Jesus is the Light! He is the entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven! A door has opened in the midst of the kingdom under the shadow of death. And through this doorway, which leads into another Kingdom, pours forth light into the dark and lesser kingdom of the world. Light is always symbolic of truth. And when Jesus spoke of the truths of the Kingdom of God He was shedding forth light from it.
Let us realize the important position God has ordained for mankind. We are the firstfruits of eternal life. We are the prominent elements of the new world to come. We have been given eternal life FIRST. What a wondrous plan! What a wondrous God!!