REMOVING THE THINGS THAT OFFEND
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE. © Copyright, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Church is to be without spot, wrinkle, blemish of any kind. When, where, and how will such cleansing take place? Are we entering now into the removing from the Kingdom of God of those things that offend, and then of those who practice lawlessness?
Table of Contents
The Program of Removal
The Timing—Before We Are Caught Up
The Sin in the Churches
Are We Seeking Paradise or Christ?
All Who Are Saved Will Have a Portion of Christ
REMOVING THE THINGS THAT OFFEND
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27—NIV)
Before the Lord is finished with her the Church will be without stain, wrinkle, or any other blemish of any kind whatever.
Notice that such cleansing will be accomplished by "the washing with water through the word." The Church will not be blameless by imputation (ascribed righteousness) but by the cleansing that comes as we hear and obey the Word of God.
But when will the Church be thus purified?
At the closing of the present age, before the Lord returns.
The purifying of Christians began two thousand years ago. That was when the Judgment Seat of Christ was established.
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (I Peter 4:17,18—NIV)
God's phases of redemption always occur in their season. Now it is the season for the work of judgment and cleansing to be emphasized.
Up to the present hour the stress has been on the grace of forgiveness. Now it is time us to pay attention to the Holy Spirit as He begins to bring to light the sin and rebellion that reside in us Christians.
The reason Peter said (above) that it is difficult for the righteous to be saved is that salvation progresses through the trials (sometimes fiery) that come upon us as we are judged. We have to wrestle with God so we may endure His dealings as He delivers us from the darkness in us. It is not always an easy procedure to undergo.
Part of our salvation is forgiveness. Part of our salvation is the removing of the stains and blemishes of our personality.
Let us think for a moment about the parable of the wheat and the tares.
Every person born into the world has tares (sin) in his or her personality, but no wheat. The tares were sown in mankind in the beginning by Satan, as we know from the account in Genesis.
When the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, was raised from the dead, it became possible for people to receive the Word of God as Seed. When the Seed is received a conception takes place in the personality. Christ is conceived in the person. The Bible calls this being "born again."
That which is conceived in us is Christ, who Himself is the Kingdom of God.
In this manner we become sons of the Kingdom.
Now we have the sowing of Satan and the sowing of God in us. God does not immediately pluck out the tares, the sowing of Satan. But when God sees that the wheat, the sowing of God, has attained sufficient strength, the Spirit of God begins to deal with us about the removal of the tares.
One can see from this that the Christian life is dynamic rather than static. It is not a question of "making a decision for Christ" and then waiting to go to Paradise. Rather it is a daily wrestling with God as the Spirit of God helps us gain victory over that in our life which is of Satan.
Salvation is past, present, and future. He who endures to the end shall be saved. If we are viewing our salvation as a ticket we purchased at some past time we do not understand the program of redemption.
Salvation is not a question of escaping Hell and gaining Paradise. Rather, salvation has to do with the change in our personality as we move from the presence and image of Satan to the presence and image of God.
The parable of the sower informs us that we can choose to reap Christ in our personality to a thirty or sixty or hundredfold extent. It is up to us how much of God we want.
Our goal as a Christian is not Paradise, it is Christ. We do not gain Christ in order to go to Paradise, to Heaven. We gain Christ in order to be part of God, to have fellowship with God. Paradise is a secondary issue to the true Christian.
Some of the above concepts may be new to the reader. We will elaborate as we proceed. The text of the Scriptures comprises the ground rules for our interpretation. At times the thoughts we express may conflict with the prevailing traditions.
The Program of Removal
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. (Matthew 13:40—NIV)
It is our understanding that the weeds will be pulled up before the Lord Jesus returns. We will explain our reasoning a little later.
The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:41—NIV)
There are three expressions in the preceding verses that we should study carefully:
The messengers of the Lord will weed out of His Kingdom.
Everything that causes sin.
All who do evil.
The cleansing has to do with the Lord's Kingdom. Who is part of the Lord's Kingdom? Everyone who has a portion of Christ in him or her.
In fact, to be saved means to be accepted as part of Christ. This is why the passages that state we will be removed from the Vine if we do not bear fruit, and we are made partakers of Christ if we hold fast our confidence steadfastly to the end, are so important to our thinking.
Notice the following verse:
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:9,10—NIV)
To be saved is to be part of Christ. Therefore we ought not to view going to Paradise as our goal but abiding in Christ.
To be removed from the Kingdom means to be removed from Christ.
Everything that causes sin is to be removed from the Kingdom. Today the Spirit of God is emphasizing that we are to confess our worldliness, our bodily lusts, and our self-will. The Spirit leads us to an area of concern. Then we are to confess the particular behavior as sin and turn away from it by the help the Lord gives.
The Spirit uses the Word of God to convict us of sin. We must always obey the Word, the commandments issued by the Lord and His Apostles.
There are many reasons advanced today in Christian teaching as to why we are not bound to obey the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. All of these reasons are coming from Satan. We absolutely must obey the text of the New Testament if we are to have Christ, the Kingdom, formed in us.
All who do evil will be removed from the Kingdom. If we refuse to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He seeks to put to death the deeds of our body, we ourselves will be removed from the Kingdom.
Is it possible for Christians to have tares in their personalities? Yes, indeed it is.
Is it possible for someone who has Christ in them to live in such a manner that Christ is choked out by the tares? Indeed it is. Consider the parable of the sower where the Divine Seed is choked out by the weeds of the world.
Is it possible to be part of Christ and then to be removed from the Kingdom? Yes indeed. Think about the branch in Christ that did not bear fruit. It was cut from the Vine.
But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:12—NASB)
The sons of the kingdom! The warnings of the Lord are clear enough but the theology of our day has removed the fear of God from the churches. Although the fear of God has been removed, the dreadful punishments set forth in the New Testament will take place nevertheless.
No sin ever shall be permitted to remain in the Kingdom of God, not by mercy, grace, God's love, or any other means. Either the sin goes or we go.
Jesus said that when He was casting out demons the Kingdom of God was near. So it is true that the coming of the Kingdom of God to us takes place as the tares of sin are removed.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:42—NIV)
The Lake of Fire has authority over specific behaviors whether or not the individual is a believer. Either the offenses will be removed from us and cast into the fire or else we ourselves will be cast into the fire.
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:43)
The righteous will not shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father until the tares have been removed. This brings us to our next concept.
The Timing—Before We Are Caught Up
We understand from the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians and the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew that the Lord Jesus will return with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. The dead saints will be raised from the dead and we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.
From that point forward we always shall be with the Lord.
Now think for a moment. It is taught commonly we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, be ever with the Lord, and after that stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
This sequence is not possible.
In this case the Lord would be receiving a stained, blemished Bride, raise her from the dead or change her from mortality to immortality, catch her up to meet Him in the air, and after that she would be with Him forever.
After the saints have been glorified into immortality they then would stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and receive the good they have done and the bad they have done.
Can you see the impossibility of this in the light of what we have just studied in Matthew?
According to Matthew, at the end of the age the tares will be removed from the members of the Kingdom, and after that the members who insist on holding on to the tares will themselves be removed from the Kingdom. After this removal takes place the righteous will shine as the sun in the Kingdom of God.
Matthew makes perfect sense. But our traditional ordering of the sequence, placing glorification before judgment, does not make sense. It is not possible.
The traditional ordering is based, of course, on the idea that every believer will be made perfect at once at the coming of the Lord, and the Judgment Seat of Christ is merely an awards banquet in which everyone receives at least honorable mention.
Thus has Satan removed the fear of judgment from the churches. It is this thinking that has caused the current pathetic moral condition of the Christian churches.
Now, some will say it is not possible that there can be sinners in the churches. If we know anything about the Christian churches we realize the members are filled with every type of sin from slander to child molestation. Sin abounds in the churches. When the Lord comes the sinners in Zion, in the churches, will be terrified. They do not understand the program of salvation thinking it is some kind of magic in which God puts on rose-colored glasses and doesn't see the sins of the Christians.
The Sin in the Churches
Judah's sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts and on the horns of their altars. (Jeremiah 17:1—NIV)
Much of the Old Testament and some of the new speaks of the sin in the hearts of God's people. The second chapter of II Peter and the Book of Jude emphasize this condition.
The Scripture does not state the sinners in the churches will escape judgment because they believe in Christ.
They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness. These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." (II Peter 2:13-22—NIV)
The above is speaking of some of the people of the early churches. They were believers who had been washed but then had decided to return to the filth from which they had emerged.
In today's teaching such would be glorified and caught up to meet the Lord in the air, to then be ever with the Lord. At the Judgment Seat of Christ they would receive a smaller mansion than the Apostle Paul but would still hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant." After that they would enter the joy of the Lord.
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. (Jude 1:4,5—NIV)
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:1-4—NIV)
The passages above reveals that the Christian churches were the same then as they are now. Jude tells us the Lord is coming with many thousands of His saints to deal with the sinners in the churches. They will be cast into the fire, as Matthew says.
Are We Seeking Paradise or Christ?
One reason Christian teaching is so far off course is that we are preaching the Christian salvation as a way of escaping Hell and going to Paradise (Heaven).
To be sure, there is a literal Hell. The rich man was not enjoying his stay there the last we heard.
There is a literal Paradise. Paul was caught up to Paradise in the third heaven. While we do not know much about Paradise we can be sure it far exceeds in joy and wonder any concept we have at the present time.
But the Gospel of the Kingdom is not about escaping Hell and going to Heaven. The Gospel is about moving people from the person and behaviors of Satan to the Person and behaviors of God.
We have made going to Paradise the goal of salvation. Our goal should be going to Christ, to the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God and Paradise are not at all the same thing. Paradise is a place that once was on earth and now is in the Presence of God in the spirit realm, apparently.
The Kingdom of God is Christ conceived and then formed in us.
The parable of the sower tells us we can reap Christ thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold. But none of this has anything to do with going to Heaven.
Whether we reap Christ thirtyfold or a hundredfold, Paradise will not be changed. Paradise is perfect. There is no pain or trouble there.
What, then, is the advantage of reaping Christ a hundredfold if it is not going to bring us to a better Paradise?
Right here the reader's heart is examined. Are you going to make the effort to reap Christ a hundredfold, at the cost of your whole life on earth, even though it will not bring you to a better Paradise?
Be honest with yourself. Do you want to go to a fairy land in the sky or do you want God?
No person is going to cleave to the Lord in this life, laying down all else, unless he or she has a very strong motive. Why should we seek God to this extent if we will go to Paradise in any case?
Ask yourself that question. Then you will find out if you really love God and want to be part of Him or whether you wish to escape the pain of Hell and go to a fun place in the spirit realm.
Is Jesus Christ your ticket to Paradise or is He the Goal of your existence apart from any reward in Paradise?
This is worth thinking about.
If Christ is your ticket to Paradise you will go through life, making your circumstances as pleasant as possible for yourself while you wait to die and go to Paradise. Death has become your redeemer.
But if Christ is the goal of your life, as He was the goal of Paul's life, then every moment of every day and every night you are seeking to gain more of Christ; more of Christ; more of Christ.
Why? Because possessing Christ is an end in itself. It is enough that we are in Him and He in us. Do we truly love Jesus or is He the means we use to get what we want? A very interesting and significant question in our day.
When we have our pass out of Hell and our ticket to Paradise we don't want to hear about being saved by fiery trials, by the removing of the filth of our personality. Why should we listen to such negative teaching? Aren't we going to go to Paradise by Divine grace, by the blood of Christ?
But if Christ is our goal, then we hasten to judgment, we run to the fire so all that is not of Christ may be burned out of us. We are not trying to get to Heaven we are trying to gain Christ!
Also, we love the approval of God because the more of Christ we have in us the more we realize God is our Father. We are so desperate to please God that no dealing of God is rejected by us. We want more of God; more of God; more of God. We love to live in God's fire. Like David we desire that the Lord search and see if there is any wicked way in us.
How about you? Are you a disciple or merely a churchgoer? Know that we are in the valley of decision today. The sinners are going to be gathered out of the Kingdom. Separation is on the way. The path of the Lord must be made straight. Let the holy be holy and the filthy be filthy. We must be burning hot or freezing cold before the Lord returns. All that is crooked must be made straight. All stumbling blocks must be removed from before the King of Glory.
All Who Are Saved Will Have a Portion of Christ
We need to revise our understanding of what salvation is. Salvation is the removal of that which is of Satan from our personality and the filling of our personality with Jesus Christ.
There will be no tares, no sin whatever in the Kingdom of God. But not all believers will reap the same amount of Christ, as we have said previously.
The parable of the sower speaks of thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. Since Christ was referring to the fruit borne from the Divine Seed we know we are speaking of thirtyfold of Christ, sixtyfold of Christ, and a hundredfold reaping of Christ.
The "threeness" invites comparison with the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The Tabernacle of the Congregation comprises three major sections: the Courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies.
As we see it at this time, the Courtyard of the Tabernacle refers to the saved nations of the earth. The nations of saved people will have a portion of Christ or else they would not be part of the Kingdom of God and Christ, the Kingdom that will supplant the kingdoms of the present world.
The Holy Place speaks to us of the main body of believers. They will have more of Christ than the members of the saved nations and will serve the saved nations as a royal priesthood, bringing the Presence and blessing of God to the people living on the new earth.
We think it is the Most Holy Place that is at issue today and available to those who care enough to press diligently into it. The fourteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation speaks of a firstfruits to God and the Lamb. While we may not be comfortable with the thought of the one Church of Jesus Christ being composed of a main group and then a smaller firstfruits, there certainly is a scriptural basis for such a position.
There is, of course, the victory won by Gideon's three hundred. The story of Gideon is one of the strongest types of the Day of the Lord.
Perhaps the major expression concerning the two parts of the one Church, apart from the express statements in Revelation, Chapter Fourteen and in the sixth and eighth chapters of the Song of Solomon, is the separation of the Ark of the Covenant from the remainder of the Tabernacle. David brought the Ark to his city, Zion, and pitched a tent for it, while the remainder of the Tabernacle with its furnishings was located at the high place of Gibeon.
A student of the Tabernacle will realize the enormous significance of this separation which continued throughout the reign of King David.
Does it inspire you to realize that today the Lord is calling to see who of His Church will leave all and follow Him? Who will be "the only one of her mother"?
I don't think those who respond positively do so because they wish to lord it over their fellow Christians. I think they have such a love for Christ that they rejoice at the thought of following Him wherever He goes, of learning the song that can be sung only by the firstfruits.
There are people who want Christ, Christ, and nothing but Christ. There simply are people like that but they are not your average churchgoer.
We are in for it today! The messengers of the Lord have come to remove the things that offend from God's people, just as the onlookers were charged to remove the graveclothes of Lazarus. "Loose him and let him go."
This is what Jesus is saying about you and me today: "Loose him (or her) and let him go."
Will you be one of those who run to Christ in order to have the graveclothes, the tares, removed? Certainly you have been raised from the dead by the voice of Jesus Christ. But now it is time to take off the graveclothes.
Is this what you truly want? Do you truly want more of Christ? Then tell the Lord about it right now.
"Father, in Jesus' name, search my whole personality. Illumine all that is not of Christ. Guide me as I put to death all that is not of You, not all at once but city by city as the Spirit leads me.
"Father, I want more of Christ.
"Father, I want to dwell in the midst of the Consuming Fire forever.
"Father, I want to live in iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to God.
"Father, I want the very best You have for me, not because I want to be something great in the Kingdom but because I want to be pleasing to You.
"Father, above all in this world I want to hear Your commendation, that I have completely fulfilled the tasks and role assigned to me and now I can rest in the knowledge that I have pleased You.
Amen and amen."