PARTICIPATION IN THE PAROUSIA
PARTICIPATION IN THE PAROUSIA Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Greek term parousia appears twenty-four times in the New Testament, most often concerning the coming of the Lord. While parousia may be translated "coming" there also is the concept of "presence." The emphasis appears to be not as much on the return of the Lord from a far distant place as on the manifestation of what always has been near at hand and already is true to a great extent in the saints. The Mount of Transfiguration witnessed a parousia of the Lord in that what already was present was revealed more clearly.
The parousia is Christ’s bodily appearing, His presence, the manifestation of what is not far from us but concealed in the present hour.
Table of Contents
PARTICIPATION IN THE PAROUSIA
The Greek term parousia (pronounced par-oo-SEE-ah) appears twenty-four times in the New Testament. Its meaning is, being near at hand.
Parousia is the word that commonly is employed for the coming of the Lord: as in Matthew 24:27; I Corinthians 5:23; I Thessalonians 4:15; II Thessalonians 2:1; James 5:7; I John 2:28; and others. Parousia also may be translated presence, as in II Corinthians 10:10 and Philippians 2:12.
For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence [parousia] is weak, and his speech contemptible. (II Corinthians 10:10)
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. (Philippians 2:12)
If we are to understand the meaning of parousia we should note that in the two preceding verses the Apostle Paul is contrasting his presence and his absence, not his coming and his going. Presence is an important concept to maintain when we are interpreting the Greek word, parousia.
The coming of Christ is the presence of Christ.
In this booklet we are using the word parousia instead of the English term, coming. We have four reasons for doing so:
By employing the term parousia we are able to distinguish between Christ’s appearing to the world, and His secret appearing to His disciples. Christ’s secret coming to His disciples is described in John 14:18-23. This is a coming in the Spirit to the saints in fulfillment of the last three of the feasts of the Lord (Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles). It is not the parousia because the parousia is the bodily presence of Christ.
By using parousia we tie together I Thessalonians 4:15 and the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew. The twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew uses the term parousia four times.
Those who teach the "pre-tribulation rapture" separate the fourth chapter of I Thessalonians from the other passages that describe the Lord’s parousia. There is nothing of lexical significance, context, Scripture, or logic to warrant such a separation. Paul, in I Thessalonians, Chapter Four is describing the one parousia of the Lord.
. . . What shall be the sign of thy coming [parousia], and of the end of the world? (Matthew 24:3).
. . . We which are alive and remain unto the coming [parousia] of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. (I Thessalonians 4:15)
Since Paul uses parousia in I Thessalonians, Chapter Four (the passage on which the "rapture" teaching is based), there is no reason to interpret this as a special secret "rapture" of the saints. In this passage, Paul is describing the open manifestation of Christ to all the world as set forth in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew.
Our third reason for the use of parousia is to emphasize the presence of the Lord. When we add the thought of presence to that of coming we gain an important concept concerning the return of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus is here now, in the Spirit. The parousia is His bodily appearing, His presence, not primarily His return from a far-distant place.
The Judge already is at the door. It remains only for the sky to be rent, and the bodies of the saints to be transformed and transfigured, in order for the nations of the earth to behold the risen Christ. He is not far away. He is here. His body has not as yet been made visible to the saints or to the nations.
Christ is with us now and also in us, but His bodily presence has not been revealed as yet.
The parousia is eternal. It is Christ with us. The new Jerusalem is the eternal form of the parousia. The coming, the parousia, of the Lord and His saints is just that—a coming, a presence. We know of no verse that sets forth a return of Christ and His saints to Heaven.
There are several passages in both the Old and New Testament that speak of the coming of Christ to the earth. The coming of Christ will result in the coming of the saints, not the going of the saints.
Our fourth reason for the use of the Greek word parousia in place of the English term coming is to emphasize the appearing of the saints. The "rapture" doctrine has removed an important aspect of the parousia, the manifestation of the saints. One of the most important aspects of the parousia of Christ is the parousia of the saints.
Apart from the coming, the parousia, the appearing, of the saints with Christ, the nations of the earth would be unable to profit from the coming of the King. It is the saints who will release the peoples and things of the material realm from the prison into which God has cast them because of man’s obedience to Satan.
Having given our four reasons for using parousia in place of coming, let us proceed to describe the parousia and our participation in it.
The Apostle Peter uses the term parousia in connection with the transfiguration of the Lord.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (II Peter 1:16)
Jesus had said, "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" (Luke 9:27).
Eight days later the transfiguration took place. The transfiguration was the "kingdom of God" of which Jesus spoke.
It is quite possible that Peter used the word parousia to mean that although Jesus was walking on the earth He was not present in the power of His kingdom except for the period of the transfiguration.
Jesus was here in Person, but He was not present in the sense of the revelation or manifestation of His Divine glory as the Son of God except for the moment of the transfiguration. While Jesus was radiant with glory during the transfiguration He was present. The parousia was occurring.
The root meaning of parousia appears to be, being near at hand. If the term may be translated either coming or presence, the stress of meaning may be weighted toward presence in the sense He has arrived and now is with us, rather than He has made a trip from a far-distant place.
Also, the description of the parousia given in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew enables us to understand that the parousia of Christ will be open to the nations of the earth, will be preceded by tremendous signs, and will be accompanied by exceedingly great fanfare, as is suitable for the appearing of the King of all kings. This is true also of the description of the parousia given in the fourth and fifth chapters of the Book of I Thessalonians.
When we emphasize the presence and appearing dimensions of the term parousia we move in the direction of manifestation or revelation. This is an important direction to take because in so doing we are able to tie together other important passages that describe the Day of the Lord: Isaiah 34:4; Joel 2:30; II Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 6:14; and so forth.
The present-day "secret rapture" theory emphasizes the coming of the Lord from a far distant place in order to carry us back to that distant place. The "rapture" doctrine does not include an open transfiguration either of Christ or His saints. There is no manifestation of Christ’s power and glory, at least not as far as the world is concerned. Therefore the so-called "secret rapture" is not a parousia, a presence.
The Apostle Paul uses the term parousia in I Thessalonians 4:15, tying the "rapture" passage to Matthew 24:27—"the coming (parousia ) of the Son of Man."
By every principle of biblical interpretation, Matthew 24:27 is far from being a "secret rapture." Also, the events in Matthew 24:27, and in the balance of the chapter where the term parousia appears two additional times, will occur "immediately after the great tribulation of those days," that is, immediately after the great tribulation period (Matthew 24:29).
In fact, the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew is the answer to the question asked by the disciples: "What will be the sign of thy coming (parousia ), and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3).
The parousia is the coming of the Lord in the sense of the emerging of the bodily presence of Christ from the invisible spirit realm and His appearing in majesty before the eyes of mankind. There will be no secret coming of the Lord except into the personalities of His disciples in the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles (John 14:18-23).
The parousia is not as much the return of the Lord from a long journey as it is the making visible to the physical realm what has been active and influential in the earth throughout the two thousand years of the Christian Era.
The parousia is the appearing of the Lord. It is the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ. To the best of our knowledge, no passage of the Scriptures teaches that the Lord Jesus will come from a distant place and return with the Church to that place prior to the parousia (or at any other time.).
Rather, the coming, or presence, of the Lord is an open revelation of what always has been close at hand.
The disciples who are alive on the earth at the coming of the Lord will be revealed in glory with the Lord. They are part of the parousia and appear with the Lord. Yet they already were here at the time of His return.
Consider: they are here on the earth; yet, in the Day of Christ, they will be revealed in glory. This is what took place in the case of the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was here on the earth. Yet, in the parousia on the Mount of Transfiguration, Christ was revealed in glory.
The parousia will be an open, lightning-like shining forth of what to this point has been concealed by the flesh of the saints and by the material realm in general—especially the sky. This is as true of I Thessalonians 4:15-17 as it is of any other passage where the term parousia is employed.
Heaven is all around us. We cannot see God or the Lamb or the elect angels or the saints in light because of the "veil" of the material realm. In the parousia the veil of the flesh will be rent, the veil of the sky will be rolled back, and what always has been true will be witnessed by all men.
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. (Revelation 6:14)
The whole earth is filled with God’s Glory but we cannot see it, as was true of Gehazi before Elisha prayed that his eyes would be opened (II Kings 6:17).
The nations of the earth will not be able to draw near to the form of the manifested Christ, for even the Apostle John fell as one dead when Christ appeared to him on Patmos. But the saints will be like Christ in that day and will behold Him as He is.
People great and small, rich and poor, will flee from the Face of God and the wrath of the Lamb. They will take cover "in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains" (Revelation 6:15). The meek of the earth will come to the Light for salvation.
Emphasizing the appearing aspect of the parousia ties us into Colossians 3:4:
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
Now, here is a fact that ought to be given more emphasis. The appearing of Christ and our appearing will take place at the same time. His parousia and our parousia will take place together.
The appearing of the saints is an important event as far as the righteous peoples of the earth are concerned. They cannot approach Christ directly, but the meek of the earth can come to the members of the Body of Christ. When we are revealed the nations can come to us and be saved (Isaiah 60:1-5).
Notice how the material creation waits eagerly, not for the coming of Christ but for the coming of the members of the Body of Christ:
For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (II Thessalonians 1:10)
"Glorified in his saints."
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles [nations] shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:2,3)
"The nations shall come to your light . . . kings to the brightness of your rising."
The teaching of the "secret rapture," together with the view of salvation as primarily a forgiveness of our sins with the goal of bringing us to Heaven, has hidden the scriptural concept of the coming, the parousia, of the sons of God.
If the Christian salvation primarily is the forgiveness of the sins of the elect with the intention of bringing them to Heaven, the creation waits in vain for the manifestation of the sons of God.
If the Christian salvation primarily is the transformation of the elect into life-giving spirits for the purpose of their serving as deliverers and priests for the righteous peoples of the earth, then there is hope for the creation.
The reason the victorious Christian life is one of intense discipleship, seemingly endless tribulations, daily practice in trusting God when we cannot see Him to the point our ability to cope is often stretched to the limit, is that the finished products of such Divine workings will be revealed to the nations of the earth as God’s sons.
That which God is creating in us now is veiled by the flesh. In the Day of the parousia, the Day of the coming of Christ and the coming of His saints, the veil will be ripped open. Mortality will be swallowed up by immortality. The nations will behold the Glory of God in Christ in the saints. This is the parousia of the sons of God, the coming of the saints with Christ, the time when the saints take the Kingdom (Daniel 7:18).
The parousia is the hour of Christ’s glorification. It also is the hour of our glorification, and our glorification magnifies and extends His glorification. Christ will glorify us so we may glorify Him (John 17:1,22).
The story of Gideon and his three hundred men is one of the most important of the types of the parousia of Christ and His saints.
In this story Gideon typifies Christ, and his three hundred men typify the saints who will participate in the parousia. The number 300 signifies the end of an age in judgment, as we understand the symbolism (Noah’s Ark was 300 cubits in length).
The Midianites represent the forces of Antichrist, of Satan.
One of the major truths contained in this important type is the reducing of the number of the participants. The army dropped from 32,000 to 10,000 to 300. We think it is true that the number of saints who are revealed with Christ will be a small fraction of the Lord’s people.
After the parousia of Gideon and the 300, many more Israelites were invited to pursue the enemy (Judges 7:23). But, as in the case of David and Goliath, the victory was won by the men of God’s choice. The Israelites were unable to boast that their courage or ability was responsible for the overcoming of the enemy.
Each of the three hundred was given a trumpet in his right hand, and in his left hand a pitcher with a torch inside. The trumpet signifies the Spirit of prophecy. The pitcher represents our mortal personality. The torch portrays the Life and Light of Christ that are hidden behind the veil of our flesh, awaiting the Day of revelation.
Gideon instructed his men to watch him and to do as he did. So it is as we approach the parousia of the Lord that we are to watch Jesus carefully and do only what we see Him do (Judges 7:17,18).
The midnight hour came. Gideon blew His trumpet. Those who were with him (a type of the saints in glory) blew their trumpets. The remaining two hundred (a type of the disciples on the earth) blew their trumpets.
It is possible that the "trumpet of God," of Matthew, Chapter 24, and I Thessalonians, Chapter Four, is speaking in part of the Spirit of prophecy in Christ and in His saints. The Lord will "roar" out of Zion (Joel 3:16). The voice of God will shout from within the Lord’s army.
After the trumpets were blown they "brake the pitchers that were in their hands" (Judges 7:19). The mortal bodies of those who are alive when the Lord returns will "break" and the Glory of the Lord will be seen.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:52)
"We shall be changed "!
The saints will not be raised from the dead and ascend to meet the Lord in the air until God first has secured the attention of all the nations of the earth by the colossal signs in the heavens that will precede the Lord’s appearing. The resurrection of the saints and their gathering together to meet the Lord in the air will be the greatest witness of His Person, Glory, and will that God has ever given mankind.
This order of events is important. First, God gains the attention of the nations so they will observe what He will perform. God will gain their attention by signs in the heavens.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (Matthew 24:29)
Next, the saints will be transformed and transfigured. They will pass from mortality into immortality, the dead saints receiving back their bodies from the grave. The Light of God Almighty will abide on them. Then they will ascend upward in full view of the nations of the earth to be joined with the greater Light who will be in the sky over the earth.
All of the nations on all sides of the sphere that is the Earth will witness this spiritual event.
Notice the order:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven [of the heavens] to the other. (Matthew 24:30,31)
But isn’t it true that the Lord Jesus will come suddenly as a surprise? Yes, but to the wicked, not to the elect who are serving Him. The trumpets and torches of the 300 did not come as a surprise to Gideon’s army but to the Midianites. The Day of the Lord will not come as a surprise to the saints who are walking in the light of God’s will.
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. (I Thessalonians 5:4)
Some professing Christians shall be caught unprepared, as we read in the latter verses of Matthew, Chapter 24.
The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:50,51)
The parousia is the appearing in glory of the most powerful of all kings, and His princes who will rule with Him. The parousia will be announced and attended by appropriate fanfare. It will be a testimony to the whole earth, giving hope to the righteous but enraging the wicked who then will assemble themselves for the Battle of Armageddon.
Contrast this glorious, victorious, scriptural parousia with the currently taught "secret rapture," which is nothing more than a pitiful retreat of the believers from the earth so they can escape tribulation.
First the blowing of the trumpets, and then the "breaking" of the mortal bodies of the saints so the Light of Christ can shine from within them. This is the coming, the parousia of the Lord and His saints.
The type of Gideon and his 300, as well as the doctrine of the Apostles and the visions of the Prophets of Israel, points toward a worldwide parousia, a presence, a manifestation of Christ and His saints, not toward a secret evacuation. The trumpet of God will sound attack, not retreat.
Let us consider the following aspects of the parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ with His saints:
We shall be revealed with Him, and He in us, at His parousia.
Many nations will benefit greatly by the coming of the sons of God.
We must become life-giving spirits if we are to benefit the nations. We cannot help them if we are living "in the flesh."
The parousia will come as a thief to the wicked and to worldly believers.
Only a fraction of Israel will participate in the first stage of the parousia.
We must attain to life and live in victory if we hope to participate in the parousia.
We shall be revealed with Him.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
He will be revealed in us:
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (II Thessalonians 1:10)
The "with" aspect of the parousia is important. Today Christ is in us through the Spirit. In the day of His manifestation He will be not only in us but also with us.
Christ also is "with" us now in the Spirit (Matthew 28:20). In the parousia, Christ will be with us in His glorified body, and we in ours. We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. This is a high state of glory indeed and we are to press forward to it.
The Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed together with a company of brothers who are in His image, who are glorified as He is glorified, who are filled with His glory, and whom the Father loves as He loves His Son Jesus. They are the sons of God, and God’s grace has made them like His only begotten Son.
. . . Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, (Jude 1:14)
The "in" aspect of the parousia also is important because it is the coming of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in the saints.
The God of Heaven never will give His glory to another. All things belong to Him. In giving rulership over all the works of His hands to the Lord Jesus the Father actually is keeping the rulership in His own hands, because God lives in Jesus to the extent that They (the Father and the Son) are One.
The same union is to be true of us. The Father and Christ desire to enter us until we (the Father, the Son, and we) are sharing one common Life. The nations of the earth will understand, in that day, that God indeed is dwelling is us.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:57)
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)
Therefore the Kingdom of God always is the rule of God Himself, even though His rule is exercised through Christ through the saints.
The glory always belongs to God Himself. In the parousia the Glory of God will be revealed with us and in us. We ourselves shall understand that it is God—never we—who is All in all.
The parousia will affect all the nations of the earth. The parousia will destroy Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the wicked of mankind. The meek and righteous of the earth will come to the light of God in the saints and will be saved and inherit the earth.
The saints will inherit God and Christ, and as a result all other persons and things.
He who overcomes shall inherit all things. The elect are called to inherit God. The meek among mankind will inherit the earth, in accordance with the Word of God.
The parousia of Christ and His saints will divide all nations into righteous people and wicked people. The judgment of the nations will be based on how they treated Christ’s brothers, His witnesses of all ages whom He sent forth among the nations to bear testimony of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
The wicked will be sent away into the "everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." The righteous will be brought into eternal life. The righteous will be ministered to by the saints so they may be able to eat of the tree of life and live forever.
Antichrist and the armies of the wicked nations of the earth will seek to prevent the parousia of Christ and His saints. The wicked will be destroyed by the sword of the Word of Christ, and the birds of the air will be "filled with their flesh" (Revelation 19:21).
We scarcely can comprehend the blessing that the revealed sons of God will be to the righteous peoples of the earth.
For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)
For a brief moment mankind, in Adam and Eve, enjoyed life on the earth as God meant it to be. Then the enemy, Satan, entered in—as he always seeks to do. Through his wisdom, Satan managed to imprison mankind in the same dark prison in which he himself dwells. Satan never brings good, only destruction, remorse, grief, agony of soul, mind, and body, and, finally, death.
For thousands of years the prisoners of the earth have languished in their prison of spiritual darkness and bondage. One leader after another has arisen with his plan for bringing peace and contentment to mankind. The result has been, and always will be, war and unrest. So it is today in spite of increased education.
The Lord Jesus Christ came bringing the Good News of the soon coming to the earth of the Kingdom of God—the Kingdom announced by the Prophets of Israel. The casting out of devils and the healing of the sick is a sign that God is about to release mankind from Satan’s prison.
Christ and His Body, which constitute the Servant of the Lord, will appear from Heaven. Then the poor will be judged with righteousness. The meek will have their cause decided fairly. The wicked oppressors will be punished (Isaiah 11:4).
It will not be as it is today where the guilty are released while the innocent suffer, where children are ravaged, where the self-seeking and covetous rule their brothers, where everything that is worthy and decent is destroyed, where the perverse raise their voices and do not fear the Lord.
The tares are growing today but so is the wheat. When the time of harvest comes the tares will be cast into the oven. Then shall the righteous shine in the glory of the Kingdom.
The nations of saved peoples of the earth, and the earth itself, will be released into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.
All of this blessing and glory for the meek of the earth depends on the coming of the sons of God.
When the heavenly signs begin to signal the parousia, the presence of the Lamb of God, all the peoples of the earth will be terrified. They will seek refuge in the mountains and the rocks. They will mourn and weep in anguish. Well they may, for mankind is filled with wickedness. Men crucified the Lord’s Christ when He appeared the first time.
The people will not be able to stand the sight of the slain Lamb. They will be terrified by the blinding light of the Glory of Almighty God. They will be aware the sky has rolled back as a scroll and directly overhead is the Throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16). They will understand that the Day of God’s wrath has come and no man is able to stand against it.
All would be lost were it not for the coming of the sons of God. They will appear on the earth, after their resurrection, in transfiguration glory. Their light will have come. Although the saints first must be raised to meet the Lord so they may descend with Him in the attack of Armageddon, the meek of the earth will soon know that the saints will return to earth and stand between them and the Lamb and intercede for them, and bring the goodness of God in Christ to them.
The saints will come as saviors and deliverers to the righteous nations of the earth:
And saviours [deliverers] shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s. (Obadiah 1:21)
. . . And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:5)
And the Gentiles [nations] shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:3)
The saints will restore the earth:
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:4)
The nations of the saved will revere the sons of God and accept them as priests:
But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles [nations], and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. (Isaiah 61:6)
All of the painstaking training we are receiving from the Lord, all the tribulations, testings, rebukes, blessings, gifts, confusions, denials, are preparing us to receive the nations of the earth as our inheritance. Christians do not automatically rule with God as kings and priests. Each saint must endure the transformation of character that God requires before he is qualified to represent God to the nations of the earth.
God has determined to bless the nations of the earth. He will bless the nations through the one Seed of Abraham, Christ:
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:18)
The promise of the blessing of the nations came on the basis of Abraham’s obedience. Christ Himself had to learn obedience to the Father through suffering. Each member of the Body of Christ must learn obedience to God. It is only sternly obedient saints who are qualified to participate in the worldwide flowing out of Divine glory to the nations of the earth.
The Glory of God was lost through man’s disobedience. The Glory of God will be restored through Christ’s obedience and through the obedience of each of the members of the Body of Christ. No disobedient Christian has any inheritance in the Kingdom of God and of Christ.
And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. (II Corinthians 10:6)
Only the "called, and chosen, and faithful" will participate with the Lord in His parousia (Revelation 17:14). The Wife of the Lamb is clothed in the white robes of her righteous acts (Revelation 19:8).
The wicked, "Christians" or not, will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur:
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and sulfur: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
The victorious saints, those who overcome the world, Satan, their bodily lusts, and their self-will, will participate with the Lord Jesus Christ in His parousia :
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:11)
The wicked, whether or not they are Christians, will not inherit the Kingdom of God:
. . . I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
An unbelieving, sinful, self-centered Christian is of no use in the parousia. He is of no use to the nations of the earth. He still reveals in himself the residue of satanic death—the death that has resulted in these many thousands of years of frightful agony, of multiplied horrors.
No, a defeated Christian has no place in the parousia. He is not able to break the chains of others, he still is in chains himself. He is a carrier of death, not of life, to the peoples of the earth.
By a defeated Christian we mean one who is not attending to his salvation as he should, who is not seeking the Lord, who knows what he should be doing but is lazy and disobedient concerning the Lord’s will. He will receive punishment, not glory, at the hand of Christ.
We are not referring to a sincere Christian who has not as yet been able to gain the fullness of victory but who is pressing forward in God in the assurance that what Christ has promised He is able to perform. Such can and should minister to others even though they are not satisfied with their own level of victory in Christ.
The Christian who is full of eternal life gives eternal life to others as he ministers. In order to give the Life of Jesus, he himself must be brought down to death:
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (II Corinthians 4:10)
There is no life in our mortal personality even though we may be learned in the Scriptures. Eternal life comes from us to others only as we die and Jesus lives.
When the parousia occurs, those who have lived in the world by Christ’s Life will receive a body of glory like the Lord’s body.
They will be filled with the Presence of the Father and the Son—with eternal Life.
And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (I Corinthians 15:49)
Let us emphasize once again that bearing the image of the heavenly and appearing to the saved peoples of the earth as a life-giving spirit does not happen to us just because we have confessed with our mouth the Lord Jesus and have believed in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead. Rather, it happens as the consequence of our living each day in the Spirit of God until we are converted from a mortal personality into an immortal personality.
The raising and glorifying of our mortal body is the climax of our transformation from a fleshly creature into a Christ-filled spiritual creature—a transformation that takes place during our faithful, often painful, discipleship on the earth. Such glory does not come to us by imputation (ascribed righteousness) or mercy or grace. Rather, it is the reaping of what we have sown during our discipleship as we have followed Jesus patiently in cross-carrying obedience.
In current Christian teaching and preaching, the principle of sowing and reaping, as it applies to our participation in the parousia, may be the least understood of all Kingdom laws.
We surely will reap what we have sown. It is not possible to sow to the flesh in this present world and then by grace and mercy appear with Christ in the parousia. This is the error of our times.
Each member of the Body of Christ is being created a tree of life. In each of us is being dug a well of water of eternal life. The throne of Christ, the only source of the water of life, is being established in us. In the parousia the sons of God will pass among all the saved peoples of the earth, imparting eternal life to them.
We can give only what we ourselves are. This is true now and always will be true. We cannot give what we are not, what we do not possess.
If we are to benefit the nations of the earth today, and throughout the ages to come, we must be filled with the Life of the Lord Jesus. The Christian salvation is more than a set of religious teachings. The Christian salvation is the eternal Life of God in Christ that has come from Heaven and enters the personality of people. The true Christian minister is the one who brings eternal life to those whom he serves.
We are preparing ourselves now for the worldwide ministry that is to come. We prepare ourselves by doing what Jesus has commanded in the Scriptures, and also what He speaks to us personally. We are to pray, meditate daily in the Scriptures, live a holy, righteous life, gather together with fervent disciples on a regular basis (if possible), give of our means, serve as the opportunity presents itself, and faithfully use our gifts and ministries as the Holy Spirit directs and enables.
The Spirit of God is faithful to bring us into the likeness of the death of Jesus and to raise us into newness of life. The process of death and life, death and life, death and life, is quite distressing, and painful to our natural personality. There is no other means by which we can be transformed from flesh-and-blood life into eternal life. In order to attain to the resurrection from the dead we must be changed into Christ’s death (Philippians 3:10,11).
One of the lessons that wisdom and maturity teach us is that we cannot escape from our troubles or unhappiness by going to another location. What we are, we are. If we are serving Christ faithfully now, growing in eternal life, serving, giving, learning, we will continue to do so in the parousia. We will save ourselves and those who hear us.
If we are not serving Christ faithfully now, are not growing in eternal life, are not serving, giving, learning, we will not do so in another city or country, in Heaven, or in the parousia. Bringing a person from one place to another or from one time period to another or from one environment to another does not change what he himself is. How men deceive themselves by imagining what they will do in some other place or at some other time!
What Satan is, he is, whether he is in the heavens, on the earth, or in Hell.
What Christ is, He is, whether He is in the heavens, on the earth, or were He to invade Hell itself.
The same is true of us. What we are, we are, whether we are in the heavens or on the earth or in Hell. Changing the place or time does not change the man.
If we are being filled with life now, and are ministering life to others, we will continue to do so during the parousia and then throughout the unnumbered ages that will follow the appearing of Christ and His saints. If we are not being filled with eternal life now and are not ministering life to others, it is certain we will not participate in the parousia. We will not appear with Christ when He returns with His saints and the elect angels.
As long as we are bound by love for the world, by sin, and by our self-love and self-will, we are of little use to the nations of the earth. Therefore we will not be a participant in what is designed to cleanse the earth of sin and rebellion and to release the meek of mankind into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." The Spirit is dwelling in the Bride and has dug the wells of salvation in her. The river of eternal life will flow to the nations from the members of the Body of Christ, from nowhere else. We are ready to participate in the parousia only after Christ has entered us in the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles (John 14:18-23). Then we are able to draw waters from the well of salvation that is in us.
Ezekiel, Chapter 47 gives a clear picture of the creating of the life-giving spirits (I Corinthians 15:45) and the resulting raising into life of the spiritually-dead peoples of the earth.
The chapter tells us of the "man that had the line in his hand" and of our entering increasing depths of water (Ezekiel 47:3-5).
The "water" represents the Holy Spirit. The water issues out from "under the threshold of the house eastward." This means that the Holy Spirit will flow from Christ, who is the "threshold" of the Temple of God, and He (the Spirit) will do so at the time of the dawning of the Day of the Lord, as symbolized by the expression "toward the east" (verse 1).
The "gate northward" (verse 2) brings to mind that Mount Zion, the place of God’s throne, is "on the sides of the north" (Psalms 48:2). The parousia is the entering of the Throne of God into the earth, in Christ and His saints. The throne (Heaven) is joined to the footstool (earth) when those in whom God is dwelling and ruling appear before the nations.
The man with the line in his hand portrays the four judgments through which each saint must pass if he would participate in the parousia.
The first judgment typifies our death to the world.
The second measuring typifies our death to sin.
The third judgment speaks of our death to self-will and self-seeking.
The first measuring (judgment) brings us through the waters to the level of our ankles. We are referring to this as our salvation experience, our first coming to Christ to obtain forgiveness and eternal life. We are to repent of our former life lived in the malice and uncleanness of the world. Our baptism in water signifies we have entered the death of Christ on the cross and have also entered the life of the risen Christ who now is in Heaven at the right hand of God.
The second measuring brings us through the waters of life to the level of our knees. We are comparing this to our walk in the Holy Spirit. Our walk in the Spirit results in putting to death the sins that are in our flesh and our environment.
The Holy Spirit guides us in the work of sanctification. The Spirit provides the wisdom and power that are necessary if we are to be successful in overcoming the lusts of our flesh.
The third judgment brings us through the waters to the level of our loins. This is our decision to forsake our life and follow Christ wherever He leads us. It is the place of death to our life, our goals and ambitions.
There is a fourth measuring.
What remains to be judged after we have died to the world, to sin, and to self-will? It is our tendency to live as an individual apart from the Lord Jesus (even though we are following Him). After we have died to the world, to sin, and to our personal ambitions, there still is the marriage of the Lamb to be considered—the union with Jesus that He desires above all else.
The Lord invites us now to "waters to swim in." He comes to us to see if we aspire to be a person of power and glory in the Kingdom of God or if we desire to be part of Himself.
We will become an eternal part of the Lord Jesus, of His Substance and His Life, if this is what we desire above all else. Marriage to the Lamb is union with Jesus as He is in union with the Father. At this point we surrender our individuality so we may become a part of God through our marriage to the Lamb.
In order for any human being to enter and live in the Kingdom of God, to become part of the new heaven and earth reign of Christ, he must be willing to forsake the spirit of the world, sin, and his personal ambition. These three forms of iniquity, the world, sin, and self-will, must all be purged from the new heaven and earth. They bring chaos into the Paradise of God.
Not all persons are called to the same degree of union with the Lord Jesus. Those who are called to be part of the firstfruits of the Bride must experience many seeming forsakings and other painful and confusing experiences before they cry to the Bridegroom to come to them and be their strength and wisdom.
Since no individual ever is compelled to receive the Lord into himself in eternal union, and by nature we are willing to abide in our individuality, the Lord must apply various means of bringing us to a sense of desolation. We must become aware that even though we have been reconciled to God through death to the world, to sin, and to self-seeking, we still do not know the Lord Jesus Himself as our Husband, our Friend, our Counselor, our Lord, our Brother, our Companion. Although we have fought and won many battles through His grace we still are strangers to Him.
Then the Lord Jesus proceeds skillfully to make us aware of His love for us and of our need for Him to personally come to us.
The bringing of the saint into union with Jesus is portrayed in the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon becomes precious to the saint who is experiencing the fourth judgment and the waters to swim in.
No individual ever will be forced to invite Jesus to become an eternal part of his personality. To enter such a marriage with Jesus is always a personal choice. The person who has been chosen to be married to the Lord can never find rest until he is an eternal part of the Lord Jesus.
Others may consent verbally to such a loss of independence, but in their heart they would be content—or actually prefer—to have a place in the Kingdom of God that did not involve the Presence of Jesus in every aspect of their personality and actions.
When the heavens and the earth have been redeemed fully, Christ will be the Center and Circumference of all creatures and all things. God is making Him the Head and Lord of all.
In that Day there will be the Bride of the Lamb, and a firstfruits of that Bride. The firstfruits cannot rest until they become a part of His Person and Being. They will become such a part of Him that the Spirit refers to their immersion in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life as "waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over" (verse 5).
The fourth area of judgment includes not only our immersion in the Presence of Christ but also a turning of our love outward to those toward whom the Lord is directing us. The highest goal of all is not to attain to a supreme level in the Kingdom or spiritual perfection but to become an integral part of the love of God that is flowing outward from the Throne toward those whom God is seeking. To attain oneness with God and with His family is to enter the untroubled rest of God.
In the day in which we are living the Spirit of God is hovering over the churches of Christ. One by one those who are called to be a part of the firstfruits of the Bride are being drawn apart by the Lord. They do not understand what is happening to them. Their environment is becoming chaotic and they cannot seem to find the Lord.
Sometimes there is distress, groaning, confusion, as the previously confident saint comes into this new dealing of God. The familiar landmarks are not present. There may be sleepless nights, endless crying out to God to restore confidence and joy.
Finally the Lord comes, and when He does it is a personal Jesus whom we have not known as well previously. We had known Him, but now He has become more real to us. There is a travail and we lose sight of Him momentarily, but then He appears to us as our closest friend—the One who loves us so much. When we come up out of this wilderness, out from the Valley of Achor, the place of judgment and trouble, we are leaning on our Beloved.
What, then, will be the consequence of attaining the fullness of Life for these lovers of the Lord Jesus?
Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. (Ezekiel 47:7)
The "river" refers to the Holy Spirit who flows from the Throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1).
The "trees" are the trees of life—those who have attained the "waters to swim in."
Notice the following:
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalms 1:3)
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening [life-giving] spirit. (I Corinthians 15:45)
By pressing forward into Jesus the saints now have attained the resurrection from among the dead. They have become life-giving spirits. Not only are they filled with eternal life but in addition they are able to give eternal life to others.
There will come a day when all the nations of saved peoples of the earth will have partaken of the fruit of Christ through the members of His Body. Christ—Head and Body, who is the Tabernacle of God, will minister eternal life to the saved peoples of the earth. Then there will be no more death:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
When the Lord appears He will send His saints throughout the earth to minister life to the saved peoples of the earth:
Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. (Ezekiel 47:8)
The waters are those of the Holy Spirit. The "sea" represents the mass of mankind. "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). The waters of eternal life flowing out of the personalities of the saints will cover the sea of mankind. Saved mankind will be healed.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)
Jesus spoke the above verse during the observance of the feast of Tabernacles. The rivers of life that are being created in us are not for our blessing, primarily, but for the release of the peoples of the earth. We saints have been called out from mankind so mankind may have the light of God and be saved.
The "sea" will be healed until there is no more sea of people who do not have Christ in them.
. . . And there was no more sea (Revelation 21:1)
No longer will there be a mass of people without the knowledge of God and His Christ.
And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. (Ezekiel 47:9)
The above verses parallel the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, where we read of the conversion of the nations of the earth as they behold the Glory of God abiding on the members of the Body of Christ.
The sixtieth chapter of Isaiah demonstrates the permanence of the parousia. As soon as Christ and His Body are revealed, the work of restoring Jerusalem and establishing it as the center of government of the earth will begin. The parousia, the coming of Christ and His Body, will continue throughout eternity in the form of the new Jerusalem.
Notice once again the trees of life who will bring life to the saved peoples of the earth:
And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine. (Ezekiel 47:12)
The above verse is, we believe, a description of the role of the mature saints.
The saint is planted for eternity on the bank of the holy River of Life that flows from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. The trees are "on this side and on that side." This signifies that God has a variety of peoples on the earth. God sends to an individual the particular saint whom he or she is able to receive. Haven’t you found this to be true? There is someone for everyone, for every purpose and need. For every saved person on earth there is a saint who fits his personality and who can communicate with him or her successfully.
The "leaf" of the mature saint will not fade nor his "fruit" be consumed indicating that, like his Father in Heaven, he is filled with incorruptible, eternal Life. His "bread" always is on the table, ready to feed the hungry. He is prepared, in season and out of season. When the needy come he is able to minister to the problem at hand. He brings forth new fruit "according to his months" so there always is new life available for those who come to him for strength and guidance.
God is teaching us today to always be ready to serve. If we learn our lessons well now, in the present hour, we will be ready to appear with the Lord Jesus in the parousia.
The "waters" of the mature saint issue "out of the sanctuary." This signifies that the saint has entered the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34).
Many of us are familiar with the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost. We know of the "rain" that comes from Heaven, the anointing of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for us to minister the things of Christ.
The spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles is the springing up of a well in us rather than a rain, an anointing that comes down upon us.
The "well" that is dug in us is the Throne of God and of the Lamb because the Throne of God is the only source of the River of Life.
The establishing in us of the Throne of God and of the Lamb requires a much deeper consecration than that to which we may have been accustomed. It requires a certain amount of consecration and trust in order for us to be able to enter salvation and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. But when we come to the deeper work of the feast of Tabernacles, all that is of the world, of sin, and of self-will must be destroyed out of us.
The man with the line in his hand must perform his work thoroughly. There is no place in the parousia for a worldly, sinful, self-centered "Christian."
The world would see Jesus. If Christ is lifted up, all men will be drawn to Him. God did not send His Son to condemn the world but that the world through Him may be saved.
The Christian Church is the instrument God has chosen for the revealing of His Son. In order for us to serve as a revealer of Christ, we ourselves must die to all that is of our first personality. If some of our old personality is left, the world sees us and not Jesus.
This is the condition that is in existence today. The Christian churches are attempting to present Christ by their own wisdom, strength, and human talents. Such wisdom, strength, and talents may cause many to join the church but they do not reveal Christ. They do not give life to the dead sea of humanity.
The Lord is seeking saints who are ready to enter the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles, into the third platform of redemption. This will mean a death to self. The presence of Satan in the earth will be stronger in the days to come than at any other point of history. Saved human beings no longer will be able to stand against the ancient dragon. Only the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will have the power to overcome the adversary. The believer must lay down his own life or else God cannot work through him.
Samson had to die in order to destroy the temple of the Philistines (Judges 16:30).
There can be no parousia, no bringing of the creation into the glorious liberty of the children of God, until there is a Christian Church that loves not its life to the death.
Jesus warned us that His appearing would be as that of a thief. This does not mean He is coming to steal something but rather that His coming will be unexpected and will catch people unprepared.
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (I Thessalonians 5:2,3)
We have stated that certain events will precede the parousia :
The sun will be darkened.
The moon will not give its light.
The stars will fall from heaven.
The powers of the heavens will be shaken.
The sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven.
All the tribes of the earth will mourn and will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven.
The Lord will send His angels with a sound of a trumpet.
The angels will gather together the Lord’s elect from the four winds.
The above is the order of events of the parousia (Matthew 24:29-31).
Those who teach the confusing doctrine of the "any-moment rapture" maintain that Matthew 24:29-31 cannot be speaking of the Lord’s coming as a thief in the night because of these preliminary events. They claim, as we understand their point of view, that the signs of His coming will not take place first because then there would be no surprise.
Those who believe Matthew 24:29-31 is not Christ’s coming as a thief because of the preliminary signs are basing their understanding on the idea that lukewarm Christians could make themselves ready for His appearing in the time period between the darkening of the sun and the going forth of the angels to gather together the elect. They view Matthew 24:29-31 as taking place over a period of time long enough to permit sinners to repent, not with lightning-like speed—.
Because of this point of view, they reason the Lord would not then be coming as a thief in the night. In this case, according to their thinking, there would be no surprise. Therefore, they conclude, the "rapture" of necessity must take place before the signs in the heavens.
However, the assumption that the great signs will be prolonged may or may not prove to be true. In any case, it may not always be possible for people to pray and repent. The moment the sun begins to be darkened—in that moment the opportunity for participation in the parousia may be terminated.
When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: (Luke 13:25)
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. (Matthew 25:11,12)
As soon as the master of the house arises the sun will be darkened. After that moment it may be impossible to change one’s status so he can participate in the parousia. He will not appear with Christ if he is not ready when the signs begin. This is how the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.
It is not always possible to prepare one’s self in a moment of time. As we have pointed out, participation in the parousia depends on our having become life-giving spirits, on our having learned to live by the Life of Jesus instead of our natural flesh-and-blood life. We cannot suddenly learn to live by the Life of Jesus when the sun and the moon grow dark.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. (Matthew 25:10)
Thus the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.
It makes no difference whether Matthew 24:29-31 requires ten minutes or a year or longer. Only those who are living by Christ’s life at the time the sun is darkened will participate in the parousia.
It is impossible for there to be an any-moment "rapture" apart from the heavenly signs or prior to the worldwide apostasy and the revealing of the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2:3). The great tribulation period will come first according to the Word of the Lord. The Scripture is clear. Attempts to make the Scripture state what it does not state result only in confusion and sin. If we do not adhere to the Gospel accounts and the admonitions of the Apostles of the Lamb we will not prosper.
The true saint lives so he always is ready for his Lord to come. Christ indeed may come suddenly to any one of us to inspect our life and ministry or even in physical death. At any moment we may be required to give an accounting to the Lord.
The careless and lukewarm are never ready for the Lord. Whenever He comes to them it is as a thief because they are not prepared for His Presence.
The worldwide parousia will be just as the Lord and His Apostles have taught us.
It is important to note that the "parousia " of Gideon and his 300 did not come as a surprise to any of the 300. It did come as a surprise to everyone else. So it is true that the parousia will not come as a surprise to any of those who will participate in it, for they are walking in the light and are observing all that the Lord is doing.
The examples of Gideon and his 300 and of David and Goliath suggest to us that the initial victory of the parousia will be won by Christ with and in a relatively small number of saints. After the initial victory has been gained, all Israel will then join in the warfare.
In order to appreciate the concept of the advance guard followed by the whole army, there is an aspect of the parousia we must consider. Unlike the currently-taught "pre-tribulation rapture," the parousia is not a coming and going of the Lord—a trip from Heaven to the earth and then back to Heaven again.
Rather, the parousia is the manifestation to Heaven and earth of what Christ has performed in His saints over a period of two thousand years. Once that manifestation takes place it will not be withdrawn. Rather, it will continue to increase until finally the new Jerusalem comes down to rest on the new earth.
We have been taught for so long that the Lord will come and then leave again it is difficult to grasp the fact that Matthew, Chapter 24 is speaking of the permanent return of the Lord Jesus to the earth. Think of it! Once the Lord’s Presence is here it will never leave again.
The firstfruits of Israel will be revealed together with the Lord. After that, the remainder of Israel (every member of true Israel is a priest of the Lord) will be built up in Christ until each is able to serve the world as a manifestation of Christ. True Israel is the Servant of the Lord, the Body of Christ.
The holy city, the new Jerusalem, is the fullness of Israel. Jerusalem will reveal Christ and will rule the works of God’s hands for eternity.
At the beginning of the thousand-year period the Wife of the Lamb will be arrayed in the white linen of her righteous deeds. At the end of the thousand-year period the Wife of the Lamb will appear as the holy city, the new Jerusalem. The manifestation of glory will have increased a thousandfold.
The firstfruits, the advance guard, will join together with Christ in the initial stages of His parousia, His manifestation. Perhaps as the thousand-year period progresses an increasing number of God’s elect will be brought to the place where they can enter the work of bringing life and light to the nations of the earth. The Scripture is clear, however, that no individual will be resurrected from the dead (except those who are raised when the Lord appears) until the end of the thousand-year period.
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:5)
How are the firstfruits chosen? We know from the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation that the victorious saints represent only a fraction of the churches on the earth:
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)
Both the reduction of the size of Gideon’s army and the latter verses of the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew point toward the selection of only a part of Israel for participation in the parousia :
Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (Matthew 24:40)
Where will the chosen be taken?
For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. (Matthew 24:28)
The "carcase" is the slain Lamb, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The victorious saints are the "eagles" who live by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Lamb. The eagles will fly to the carcass. Life calls to life. The Lamb will call to those in whom part of Himself is abiding.
No person will participate in the first resurrection from the dead, and the ascension of the saints to meet the Lord in the air, on the basis of his or her doctrinal beliefs. It is the indwelling Life of Christ that will determine who is taken to the Lord and who remains. It is those whose Life Christ Is who will be revealed with Him (Colossians 3:4).
Many have a "lamp," have a knowledge of the Scriptures. But it is the Life of Christ, the "oil," that will pull us upward toward Him. How many believers of today are living by the Life of Christ? They—and only they—are ready to be taken to Him were the heavens to be shaken today.
The development of Christ’s Life in us, and our position with Him and in Him at the right hand of God in Heaven, is the basis on which we are competent and eligible to participate with Christ in the parousia, in the coming, the presence of the Lord.
As we have seen, it is the dwelling of the Life of Christ in us that provides us with the competence and eligibility for participation in the parousia. The victorious saint always is pressing toward the development of eternal life in his personality, toward the resurrection from the dead:
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [Greek, out-resurrection] of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)
We have noticed also that eternal life comes to us only as our fleshly nature, the first Adam so to speak, is slain. It is as we are changed into His death that we attain to life:
For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (II Corinthians 4:11)
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: (I Corinthians 15:36)
The first creation died with the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. As far as God is concerned, the creation described in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis is dead. There is no way of making any part of it acceptable to God. Everything must die and be born again in Christ.
We Christians are the firstfruits of the born-again creation. If we are to attain to the new, eternal life of the Kingdom of God, our first personality must die. The eternal life we are seeking comes only as we die and are born again from the dead.
The parousia is the shining forth of the Kingdom of God, that is, of people who have died and been raised from the dead in Christ. The process of death and resurrection does not begin when our mortal body dies; it commences when our invisible spiritual nature, our spirit and soul, dies to the world, to sin, and to self-will and is raised again in the Lord Jesus. The resurrection of our body to glory cannot take place until first our inner, spiritual personality has been resurrected.
This is why an individual can be saved from destruction and yet not be glorified in the parousia. To be "saved" in the elementary meaning of the term is to escape destruction in the Day of God’s wrath. To be "saved" in the fullest meaning of the term is to be in the image of the Lord Jesus and to be in union with the Father through Christ.
To appear with Christ in the parousia requires more than salvation from wrath. Appearing with Christ is the direct result of gaining the victory over the world, over Satan, over indwelling sin, and over self-centeredness and self-will.
There are two separate issues presented in the Scriptures. One issue is that of salvation from wrath, that is, of not being destroyed in the Day of Christ. The other issue is that of the Church, of those people whom God has called out of the world as a firstfruits of mankind in order to represent Himself to the nations of the saved.
If the Church and the nations of the saved were the same set of people, over whom would the saints rule? Whom would they serve as priests? Also, if the Church and the nations of the saved were the same set of people, the sixtieth and sixty-first chapters of Isaiah, the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters of the Book of Revelation, and numerous other passages of the Scriptures would make no sense.
If the only persons who are saved are the members of the Christian Church, God’s elect have no one to love, to serve, to teach, to bring into the Presence of God. Then the holy city, the new Jerusalem, would be alone on the new earth. She would have no one to illumine. She would have been trained and perfected in holiness to live to herself.
If the only persons who are to be saved are the members of the Christian Church, then God has called us out from the world to be saved from wrath, not to bless mankind. The mass of earth’s peoples would then be doomed to spend eternity in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur while the Church spends eternity reveling in its blessings. Of what use would the lessons we learn in this life be in such a situation?
Even in this life we soon come to observe that the church that lives to itself becomes a vipers’ pit of gossip, criticism, and self-seeking. It is only as the love of God flows through the church to the peoples of the earth that there is life, freshness, love, joy, and righteousness. How much more will this be true throughout eternity?
We were not predestined to go to Heaven and live in mansions. We were predestined to glorify God in Christ in the sight of all God’s creatures (Romans 8:29). We have been called to participate in the first resurrection from among the dead, that is, in the parousia. In order to participate in the first resurrection we must attain to the inner, spiritual resurrection. The glorifying of the mortal body comes after, not before, the spiritual personality has attained to eternal life (I Corinthians 15:26).
When we are baptized in water we are stating to Heaven and earth that our first personality has been assigned to the cross with the Lord Jesus Christ and our new, spiritual personality has been raised with Jesus. We have entered into His death and into His resurrection.
We take these two positions by faith. It is to this dual redemption that God has called us. God considers we have been crucified with Christ and have been raised with and in Christ. We are to count our crucifixion and resurrection as accomplished facts.
The death and resurrection are true in the visionary, prophetic sense when we are baptized in water; however, they have not yet been worked out in our experience. God refers to the things that do not exist as though they already were an established fact. This is how God works.
How do we respond to our two positions when they are not true in our time-bound experience on the earth but indeed are true in the timeless vision of God?
We respond by holding fast in faith and confidence to what God has declared to be true of us. We do not claim we already have been crucified and resurrected, falling into the error of saying a thing is so because the Scripture says it is so before we have experienced the Divine program. This would be to sit in Egypt and state we are in Canaan because God has promised we shall inherit Canaan.
Rather, we respond by believing and hoping that what God has declared to be true will one day actually be true of our experience. We then interpret the events of our life as coming from God and not from Satan. We understand that God will cause to be true of us what He has spoken concerning us, provided we "endure to the end."
When we begin college we may picture ourselves with our diploma in hand. But we understand that several years of diligent effort lie between us and the diploma.
In like manner, we are to picture ourselves as dead with Christ and raised with Christ. However, we must understand that several years of diligent cooperation with the Holy Spirit stand between us and the parousia. As is true in the case of a college education, we will fail if we do not attend to the lessons the teacher sets before us.
God’s people of today are running about wildly in every direction, attempting to apply the spiritual principles that the Holy Spirit is revealing. They are falling into the arms of the False Prophet. The believers are perishing for lack of knowledge. Many do not have a true vision of God. In some instances, those who are guiding them are causing them to err.
Much of this aimless thrashing would cease if the believers understood that the Holy Spirit is establishing their crucifixion and their resurrection. The tribulations they are enduring are not the result of their lack of faith, they are the chastening of the Lord, the putting to death of the deeds of their flesh. More tribulations are to come. We are in the days of the latter rain. As a result, judgment has come upon the household of God. Judgment and repentance always must precede revival.
God has called us to crucifixion and resurrection. If we follow the Holy Spirit faithfully He will make our crucifixion and our resurrection accomplished facts. Faithful cooperation with the Holy Spirit requires our complete attention, our sternest obedience, a consistent, intent offering of our body a living sacrifice to God. Our adversaries are numerous and skillful. If we are not dedicated to the pursuit of the Lord’s will there is no possibility we will attain to the parousia.
God has called the saints to the throne of glory:
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [hath made us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ: (Ephesians 2:5,6)
This is a powerful statement from the Holy Spirit. It emphasizes the role election and grace play in our salvation. Here is portrayed our being raised in Christ to a position far above every other spiritual ruler or personage.
As far as God’s elect are concerned, "salvation" includes elevation to the ranks of the royal priesthood, whereas the "salvation" of the nations of the earth has to do with inheriting the goodness of the earth and the opportunity to serve God through the presence and direction of the saints.
This difference in the application of the term "salvation" shows why someone who is called to be a saint, as is true of those who receive Christ today, is not permitted to settle for a naked salvation from wrath. He must press forward to the throne of Christ or he will bring upon himself God’s wrath.
God judges each individual in terms of his unique calling. Someone who is called to the royal priesthood cannot decide to do without rewards and "get into Heaven by the skin of his teeth." God did not judge the other sailors in the boat as He did Jonah. The sailors, who were honorable men, were not required to spend time in the belly of the whale. The elect who neglect their calling, their full salvation, will be dealt with very severely.
God has not left it up to us to choose our role in the Kingdom of God. If we have a high calling, then we must drink the cup that is held out to us. We do not have the right to choose a lesser calling. We will be beaten with many lashes if we do not grasp that for which we have been grasped.
The tremendous emphasis on election and grace that appears in Ephesians 2:5,6 and similar passages has given rise to the erroneous concept that we have nothing to do but believe and accept the "grace" of God. It is taught we are on the throne no matter how we live or what we do. Such a belief will certainly undermine our determination to seek the Lord.
The conscientious believer will search the remainder of the writings of the Apostles to see if they also support the position that all is by "grace" and holds true no matter what we do. He will discover that numerous passages do not support this conclusion.
The grand statements God has made concerning the position of the elect in Christ are conditional, not unconditional. They are intended to serve as an anchor for our faith, not as a substitute for taking up our cross and following the Lord Jesus.
Are the promises indeed conditional?
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; (Hebrews 3:14)
The word "if," in the preceding verse, means we will partake of God’s promises in Christ provided we keep pressing into the rest of God (see context of verse). The promises are conditional.
There is no doubt we have been called to the Throne of God. In order to achieve our part in the heavenly throne (and the parousia proceeds only from the throne), we must, through Christ’s grace, achieve victory over the adversaries and obstacles that God sees fit to place before us:
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
What does it mean to "overcome"? It means to walk in victory in Christ. Any believer can choose to walk in victory, and God will grant him the desire of his heart. As we mature in the Lord the adversaries and obstacles become increasingly challenging. Yet, God always provides us with the grace necessary to emerge victorious from the battle.
There are the victorious Christians and then there are the defeated Christians. Experienced Christians know what it means to be victorious and what it means to be defeated.
God has called every Christian to the throne from which the parousia will originate. It is the victorious saints, and only the victorious saints, who finally will abide in the throne of the God of Heaven. The believers who are defeated by the world or by Satan or by their lusts or by their disobedience to God will not sit in the throne of glory. They will not be revealed to the creation in the parousia of Christ.
We are required to attain to the spiritual resurrection, to learn to live by the eternal Life of the Lord Jesus rather than by the wisdom and energies of our flesh and soul. The Lord will teach us and give us victory in every area provided we keep our confidence strong in Him.
If we grow careless, drift back into the world, cease praying, neglect the diligent study of the Scriptures, do not meet regularly (if possible) with fervent believers, we will not possess the spiritual wisdom and strength that are necessary if we are to keep on gaining the victory each day of our discipleship. Eventually we will be defeated.
If we suffer we will rule with Him provided we have responded to our suffering by glorifying God and by learning the lessons that Divinely ordained suffering teaches.
God has called us to the throne and to participation in the parousia. We can attain to that to which we have been called. We must press forward with our entire personality, counting all other goals and achievements as nothing.
He who overcomes shall inherit all things!
The twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation portrays the travail of the Church. The "woman" is in travail that Christ may be born.
The dragon, Satan, stands before the woman so he may devour the Child the moment it is born. Satan seeks to destroy the Child because this Child is the ruler of the nations, the doer of God’s will in the earth as it is in Heaven, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
This is a picture of Christ being formed in the members of the Body of Christ. Christ has been conceived in us and now is increasing in us.
As the Life of Christ is formed in us it begins to overcome the world.
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his [God’s] seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (I John 3:9)
And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. (Revelation 12:5)
The Life of Christ that is formed in us immediately seeks to ascend to the Father, for this is where Christ is in the present hour.
The Resurrection from the dead has been born in us and is seeking the right hand of God in Heaven.
Now there is a terrific struggle in us. Our old personality, being influenced by Satan, is striving to keep us on the earth. Our newly born inner nature, Christ in us, is striving to live in the heavenlies.
Satan stands before us in the hopes of slaying what is being formed in us. Satan (as did Herod) seeks to kill Christ for it is Christ who will put an end to Satan’s kingdom. Satan fears Christ, not the Church.
We are in travail. The ministries are in travail. Christ is being formed in the saints. As He is formed in us our life becomes established at the right hand of God in Heaven.
Satan, the world, and our flesh and self-will strive desperately to pull us down from the throne. As we nourish the new Life that is in us, by proper Christian practices, by following obediently after Christ, the power of Christ in us conquers all obstacles. We are seeking to become seated with Christ in His throne. There is constant warfare as the enemy uses every strategy to lure us from our position in Heaven.
The parousia is the descent of Christ and His army of saints from the invisible spirit realm into the visible material realm. The throne will come with them. The Throne of God is in Christ and therefore in the victorious saints. This is the Kingdom, the rule of the God of Heaven. This is the spiritual fulfillment of the Levitical feast of Tabernacles.
No one will appear in the initial stages of the parousia unless he represents the Throne of God. No defeated Christian will impose his undisciplined will and self-seeking on the nations. Only those in whom God and Christ are resting in untroubled victory will be a part of the parousia that is to come immediately after the great tribulation period.
He who overcomes will inherit all things, including the parousia. God shall be his God and he shall be God’s son.
It is possible there never again will be the opportunity for glory and inheritance that is true today. Our participation depends on whether we are willing to follow Christ into the place where His Life is one with our life, and where we are seated with Him in His throne.
Those who choose the pleasures of the present world will weep as did Esau because they have traded their Divine inheritance for a "bowl of soup."
There are numerous spiritual adversaries, a multitude of obstacles to overcome. Those who follow Jesus diligently, enduring faithfully to the end, will gain the authority and power of eternal life. They will rule in fellowship and glory with Christ, their elder Brother.