KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
“Teaching the things concerning the Kingdom of God. . . "
THE HEAVENS DECLARE
We continue in our study of the Sign of CAPRICORNUS — THE GOAT. The goat in the scriptures is a sacrificial animal. And while the Sign is known as the goat, it is a very strange creature indeed. On the old star charts the front half is pictured as a goat and the rear half as a fish. It is a goat with a fishes' tail; it is half-goat and half-fish. This Sign has a strange appearance on the old star charts because it shows a wounded goat, with its head bowed and its knee bent under, fallen down in the posture of dying. On the other hand, the tail of the fish is wiggling, vigorous and living! Note that from the dying goat comes a living fish — the living fish thus takes its being out of the dying goat and derives all its life and vigor from thence. The living fish emerging from the dying goat therefore has an important meaning. In addition to the falling and dying of the goat, Capricornus is the Sign of a mystical procreation and bringing forth. It speaks of life that springs forth from the death of the sacrifice. That which dies is a goat; that which is brought forth is a fish, the familiar and well understood symbol of the spiritual body brought out of the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ. What could better symbolize this than the Sign before us? The goat and fish are one — one being, the life of the dying reproduced and continued in a spiritual product which is part of the one and the same body. The goat of sacrifice is projected into a new creation, which is yet an organic part of itself.
LIFE OUT OF DEATH
Some of the brightest stars in the constellation of Capricornus are AL GEDI, which means "the Kid”; DENEB AL GEDI meaning "the Sacrifice cometh"; and MA’ASAD, "the Slaying." God commanded the children of Israel, saying, "Take ye a kid of the goats for a sin-offering" (Lev. 9:31). So Aaron "took the goat, which was the sin-offering for the people, and slew it, and offered it for sin" (Lev. 9:15). And of the goat of the sin-offering Moses said, "It is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord" (Lev. 10:16-17). We see here a picture of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, for truly He became our sin-offering, being "wounded for our transgressions:” and "bruised for our iniquities," He was "cut out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was He stricken." Each and every son of Adam is born in sin and shapen in iniquity and, because we have sinful natures and dwell in a world where every filthy sin and foul evil abounds on every hand, we accept our environment of corruption as normal and tolerable, never remembering anything better. A man who is born amid poverty, squalor, disease and crime often pays little heed to his condition since he knows nothing better, but a man born to wealth, fame and power, reduced to poverty and misery, is cast into an agonizing hell. No man on earth can properly understand the terror, the horror, the abject dismay of the death Christ suffered when He took upon Himself the form of a man and became obedient unto death, because no man remembers the excellence and glory and exaltation of that world of life he enjoyed with the Father before the ages began. Paul tried to express the extent of the Christ's impoverishment and the depth of His humiliation with these word of inspiration: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (II Cor 8-9). And again, with the use of words that, though inspired, are yet feeble, he exhorted us to let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus: “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:5-8).
We will never grasp the enormity of Christ's sacrifice until the Holy Spirit somehow gives us the ability to see the death of Christ in all its lifetime scope and experience — not as six hours on a cross but as thirty-three and a half years, fully participating in the death realm in all its aspects, man as we are man, flesh as we are flesh, weak as we are weak, limited as we are limited, tempted in all points as we are, suffering in all ways as we do, grappling with all the forces within and without that we struggle with, that through His suffering He might become the very first man to overcome it all, the first perfect man, the first man to break out of the dungeon of sin and the prison house of death — righteous, victorious and living! The Word of God, through His incarnation, became the son of man that we who were born sons of men might through Him become sons of God, yea, perfect sons of men and incorruptible sons of God. What a sacrifice that was and what a death He died! A brother shared the following experience which graphically portrays to our understanding the magnitude of Christ's sacrifice. "Years ago, when I was still at home on the farm, we had a manure pile in the field, the former owners had been cleaning out the barn and piling the manure there for years. There was a colony of snakes living in this manure pile, and on a sunny day one could see several of them lying on the sunny south side, sunning themselves. One day I was emptying a load of manure on the north side, and I sneaked up over the pile to get a look at the snakes. There were several lying there; and as I stood looking at them, the Lord seemed to say to me, How would you like to become one of those creatures and live among them in this manure pile! I shuddered at the thought of it. I just couldn't comprehend how terrible it would be. To lower myself to that extent was unthinkable. Then the Lord said to me, For my Son to leave His home in the glory above, to become a man in the likeness of sinful flesh, for your sake and your salvation, was much than that. I have never forgotten that experience. It made me appreciate much more the sacrifice He made for me."
George Hawtin ably wrote of this death-realm: "Now it naturally follows that, if our blessed Lord spent all the days of His earthly existence in death, we also are doing the same, and I shall advance many infallible proofs to show that the very thing men have called life is not life at all, but death. Indeed we may claim that three score and ten years are the years of our life and, of course, we all understand what is meant by that statement, but the real truth is that the three score and ten years during which we dwell in this corruptible body are not the years of our life, but the years of our death. When we mortals put a man in a coffin and bury him in the dark, cold earth, we say the man is dead, and indeed he is; but have you heard what Jesus answered when one or His disciples said to Him, ‘Suffer me first to go and bury my father?’ The strange reply He gave was this 'Follow Me: and let the dead bury their dead' (Mat. 8:21-22). How strange that statement sounds to us who do not understand what death is, but the Lord was really telling them that the able bodied men who were carrying the coffin to the cemetery were just as dead as the man who was lying breathless within it. In other words, the very thing we insist is life God says is death. The sooner we learn that lesson the sooner we will release as useless all things that pertain to this realm of death that we might be enabled to firmly lay hold on life, even the life which Jesus gives, aionian life, or the life of the ages. When the truth of this dawned upon my soul, I found many earthly things slipping away from me in a manner I had nor known hitherto. Who among us could ever desire to lay fast hold upon that which he discovers to be naught but death? The things that are dead we bury out of our sight, and I think I am right in saying that the lusts and temptations that belong to this death lose their grip upon us when we know that they are naught but death and that the flesh life to which these temptations cling is but a vapor that the wind driveth away. I cannot see myself slaving to lay up great wealth in store for that which I know is dead. What an abominable lie has gripped our hearts, deceiving us into endless labor and travail until on every side men and women are dying of heart attacks in their worry to provide worthless goods for this body of death. — end quote.
In order that the Christ could become a ransom (release) for our sins, He had to shed His blond and die on the cross; and in order to die He had to become mortal — subjected to this whole dreadful realm of sin and death. He had to surrender Himself to the condition, circumstances, powers and state of being of the death-realm. He became a man, a mortal like the rest of us. When He was still a babe in His mother's arms, when King Herod discovered that the Magi, instead of coming to tell him where the baby could be found, had tricked him and returned to their country by another route, the wicked Herod was exceedingly wroth. He had found out that this babe was to be the king of the Jews, and this endangered his position as king. So he wanted the baby destroyed, and sent soldiers to kill every male child under two years old in that vicinity. Joseph was warned by God in a dream about this plot to destroy the child and instructed to flee into Egypt. Why did He flee? here was a miracle child, the Son of God! Could anything happen to Him? Yes, if Herod's men had gotten their hands on Him He could have been killed like all the others; for you see He was just like them. He was mortal and could have been killed. He was born to die, but not yet; it was too soon, He had a work to do first, and when that was accomplished, then He was ready to die. "But we see Jesus, made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death." This was part of God’s purpose, so He humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death, the death of the cross. The writer of Hebrews tells us just how human He was, “It was right and proper that in bringing many sons to glory, God should make the leader of their salvation a perfect leader through the fact that He suffered. For the One who makes men holy and the men who are made holy share a COMMON HUMANITY. So He is not ashamed to call them brethren, for He says, I will declare thy name unto my brothers in the midst of the congregation will I sing Thy praise. And again, speaking as a man, He says, I will put my trust in Him. And one more instance, in these words, Behold I and the children God has given me. Since then, ‘the children’ have a common physical nature as human beings, He also became a human being, so that by going through death AS A MAN, He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil” (Heb. 2:10-14), Phillips Translation).
Sharing our humanity, being made in the likeness of sinful flesh, He had the same sinful nature we have. Now do not mistake what I say! I do not say that Jesus had the same fallen condition of Adam — I say that He had the same sinful nature Adam has and had from the beginning. The question is just this — when did Adam receive his sinful nature — before he sinned, or only after he sinned! A sinful nature is simply a nature that sins or that is liable to sin. If Adam had not been created with a nature capable of sinning, how, I ask, could he have ever been tempted.? How could he have sinned? The correct answer to these questions reveals to our spiritual understanding the amazing fact that the sinful nature had to precede the first sin, not follow it. Can we not see the simple truth that it was not the act of sinning that gave Adam the sinful nature — rather, it was the sinful nature that caused him to sin! It was therefore necessary for Christ Jesus to come in exactly the same state as the first Adam was in before he sinned and plunged the race into death. He could not have been tempted otherwise, but He was subject to all the temptations man is subject to. "He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.” The suffering was not suffering surrounding the cross. In order to be a perfect sacrifice He had to be perfected before He went to the cross. It was through the years that He lived as a man, that He suffered through temptation. You and I haven't suffered much this way, because when the temptation gets too severe we just yield to it and sin! He couldn't sin, for if He had, He could not have been our Capricornus, our goat, our perfect sin-offering required to redeem the race. So he had to resist and overcome all temptation, and this must have been excruciatingly difficult for Him to do many times, for He had all the desires and inclinations of the human, sinful nature to battle with.
I would draw your reverent attention to these significant words of inspiration which we quoted earlier, but now I will share them as they are beautifully translated in the Amplified Bible. "Let this same attitude and purpose and mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus — Who, although being. . . one with God and in the form of God, possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God, did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained; but stripped Himself of all privileges and rightful dignity so as to assume the guise of a servant, in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form He abased and humbled Himself still further and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! Therefore God has highly exalted Him . . ." In this wonderful passage we have the summary of all the most precious truths that cluster about the person of the Son of God. There is first His wonderful divinity: "in the form of God," "equal with God." Then comes the mystery of Him laying aside that glory in that phrase of deep and inexhaustible meaning: "He stripped Himself," "He emptied Himself." The humiliation follows: "The form of a servant," "Made in the likeness of men,' "found in fashion as a man." Then comes the crushing and mortification of suffering and death: “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." And all is crowned by His glorious exaltation: "God hath highly exalted Himself!” Christ as God. Christ becoming man, Christ as man in humiliation revealing the glory of the Father in a body of flesh, and Christ in glory as Lord of all: such are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge this passage contains.
The great truth we want to grasp here is that Christ (the Word) dwell from eternity in the form, the essence, the nature and the being of God. In that divine nature He was eternal, untemptable and incorruptible. But when He laid aside that glory, emptying Himself of it, taking upon Him the form and nature of man, He, the ETERNAL ONE, subjected Himself to the dread power of death, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. When the Christ laid aside His eternal heavenly glory, the UNTEMPTABLE ONE took upon Himself all the frailties and weaknesses of human nature so that the One who cannot be tempted was found in a nature that could be tempted and indeed He was in all points tempted like as we are. The inspired apostle James says that "every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin" (James 1:14-15). Was Jesus truly tempted in all points like as we are, or did He have some mystical advantage over us, some inherent quality of divinity, some unique spiritual power which enabled Him to be oblivious to the cravings and demands of the flesh? Anything, to be a temptation for us, must excite something within us that responds to the temptation. That for which we have no desire, can never tempt us. I used to think, as many do, that Jesus was so high and holy that He could not affected by the base things that allure us. He was indeed high and holy, but not to the extent that He could not be touched by the same infirmities, weaknesses, and feelings that touch us. While some may still find it hard to believe, because of our superstitious religious view of Christ, He knows exactly how the person feels who is tempted to lie, cheat, curse, steal, murder, or commit adultery. There had to be the desire in His flesh, the inclination in His nature to answer the temptation, but, blessed by God! HE OVERCAME IT ALL! He was tempted in every point as we are, YET WITHOUT SIN. As we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, so He had the indwelling Father and by that overcame all temptation and in the one instance of His intense desire to go His own way, He resisted even unto blood. He was the first to do this and HE ENTERED INTO IMMORTALITY AND INCORRUPTION.
There is something diabolical about temptation, something satanically bewitching and bewildering. It stirs up our senses and excites our emotions and passions. For the time being the forbidden thing seems more important than anything else in the world. It weakens our powers of judgment, both moral and spiritual. People who are otherwise very intelligent and self-controlled will in a brief season of temptation commit wholly unthinkable follies — which they often live to regret a whole lifetime afterwards. It paralyzes our will. Our many good resolutions melt like wax in the hour of temptation. All this temptation frequently does simply by being permitted to press in upon us. It is like chloroform. If it gets too close to us, it will deprive us of the very possibility of offering resistance. But, praise God, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you in be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make a way of escape, that ye may be able to hear it" (I Cor. 10:13). May God in His great mercy give us a true insight into the glory of what is offered us in this truth — that our great HIGH PRIEST, whom we have in the heavenlies, is One who is able to sympathize with us in each and every circumstance, because He knows, from personal experience, exactly what we feel and face. Yes, that God might give us courage to draw nigh unto Him, He has placed upon the throne of heaven One out of our midst, of whom we can be certain that, because He Himself lived on earth as a man, He understands us perfectly, is prepared to have patience with our weakness, and give us just the help we need to overcome and enter into His glory. May God give us eyes to see and hearts to understand the depth of the mystery of which I now write. Had the Logos, the Word of God remained in that bright glory world above, in that spiritual dimension detached from this realm of flesh and corruptibility, He might have been ever so desirous to help us and lift us up to godhood: but, if He had never tasted death, how could He allay our fears as we tread the verge of Jordan? If He had never been tempted, how could He succor those who are tempted? If He had never wept, how could He dry our tears? If He had never suffered, hungered, wearied on the hill of difficulty, or threaded His way through the quagmires of weakness and grief, how could He have been a merciful and faithful High Priest, having compassion on the ignorant and wayward? But, thank God, our High Priest is a perfect one! He is perfectly adapted to His task, and is able to lead each and every member of God's elect out of this valley of the shadow of death over into the victory and glory of perfection and incorruptibility!
He who alone is life, having never touched death, humbled Himself for our sakes and became obedient unto death. He stooped to die and lived thirty-three and one half years in it. Then at the end He went to the cross. Earth's voices must fall silent here, for they will never be able to tell the story of how it is that life comes out of death. I would have said that such a thing would be impossible had He not said of His life, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:118). When He expired on the cross, He passed into the totality of death, and on the resurrection side of the tomb He proved that there is NO FINALITY TO DEATH, that even in death He was wondrously alive, for, said He, "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again." It was not simply that He had faith that GOD would raise Him from the dead. NO! The power He possessed was the power to take His own life up again and this power is a power He both had and executed WHILE HE WAS DEAD! There can be no other explanation. A child of five should be able to understand that one cannot lay his life down and take it up again unless he has life even in death. In the power of that life which the Christ still possessed, being dead, He passed back from the realm of death to the realm of life, and on the resurrection side of the tomb He cried in triumph, "Behold, I am alive forever more (Rev. 1:18). And now He is alive in the flesh, praise God, triumphantly holding in His incorruptible hands the keys of both death and hell, and is abundantly able to offer life eternal to dead men who believe in Him. "The hour is coming, and now is," He has proclaimed, "when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (Jn. 5:25). Our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, by partaking of death during the days of His flesh and ending all death by the power of His resurrection, has brought to light both life and immortality. Notice, precious friend of mine, it is not said that He has created life and immortality — He has brought it to light, turned His searchlight upon it, disclosed it, revealed it, opened it up, proclaimed it and made it known. Christ is life. In Him is life. In Him alone is life. And the man or woman who has been quickened by Christ HAS LIFE, is passed from death unto life, and shall never die. "I AM (not I will be) the resurrection and the life," says Jesus, “he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (Jn. 11:25-26). Sad to say, even some who profess to be teachers of God's elect and sons of God do not believe that simple truth which Martha embraced that day when the Christ brought life and immortality to light in her awakened consciousness. Our Lord Jesus plainly told us, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give into them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father which gave them Me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hands.” (Jn. 10:27-29). The moment any man hears the voice of the Son of God and becomes a sheep following Him, at that moment, the gift of God, which is eternal life, is given to that believing man and the life of God begins to live and dwell and abide in that man as a well of water springing up unto eternal life. Christ is the Tree of Life, and all who partake of Him receive life, not in some future age, not in some distant resurrection, but here and now, for He gives them eternal life. Apart from Him there is naught but darkness and death. "Whoso drinketh of this water shall thirst again," were the words He spoke to the troubled woman at the well of Samaria, "But whoso drinketh of the water that I shall give shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give Him shall become a fountain within him, springing up unto eternal life” (Jn. 4:14) Christ is the fountain of life. He alone is the fountain of eternal youth, of eternal consciousness, of eternal being. This is the wonderful message of the NEW COVENANT, the covenant of life.
Again I would quote briefly from the inspired writings of George Hawtin. "Sweet mystery of life, at last we’ve found Thee! And we have found that Thou, O Christ, art life — not that life which flourishes as grass in the field today and tomorrow the wind passes over it and it is gone, nor life like ours, which is as a mist which the wind driveth away, but life aionian, life everlasting, life eternal, life evermore, the life of the ages. Well spoke our beloved Lord when He said, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE, and shall not come into condemnation, but IS PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE,’ or as Rotherham has translated it, 'hath passed over out of death into Iife' (Jn. 5:24). It is a wonderful hour in the experience of any man when he passes from death ‘across to life,' and that is exactly what happens when we believe on Christ. As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself, and to all who believe on Him life is given, even that eternal life which God Himself is and which abounds like rivers of living water within us when Jesus Christ comes in to abide. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is every man that trusteth in Him! With this wonderful realization firmly abiding in our hearts; we are better prepared to grasp the truth Christ clearly gave us when He said, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live' (Jn 5:25). Think on that statement, child of God. Was not Jesus telling us that we are dead as dead can be? And did He not make two remarkable statements — first, the hour is coming, and, second, the hour now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live? Have not we who have believed proven the truth of this in our very spirit and in our experience? The greatest proof in the universe that Jesus Christ is alive forevermore is the fact that, when we believed, He came to dwell within us. He came to live His life in us. He came to deliver us from our sin and our habits and make us to know that death would never more hold our spirits in its vice-like grip. Do we not know that He who lives and was dead, and, behold, He is alive forevermore, has come to us that we might live also and has raised us up together with Himself to share with Him the life of the ages” — end quote.
Yet some tell us that the dead are dead — that there is no life or consciousness or being for the child of God apart from or beyond or above physical existence — should you lay this tabernacle aside there is nothing — you cease to exist — you are gone! I do not hesitate to tell you that it is a wicked lie, a monstrous deceit, and a dreadful denial of the life we have now been given in Christ Jesus. Let's get right down to brass tacks here. Do you want to hear the truth beyond all the superstitions you've heard, beyond all the emptiness and hopelessness of Old Testament economy? Eternal life is first and foremost spiritual, not physical. To hear some preachers teach it one would think that a man cannot possess eternal life except it be manifest on the physical level — in an immortal body. I think that no man understands the first thing about life out of death who misses the clear and unmistakable understanding given by Paul in his words to the Romans: “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10). The body is dead, just as God told Adam it would be. So for the man who has received Christ his body is still dead because of sin but his spirit is alive because of righteousness — Christ’s righteousness, of course, for there is none other, the righteousness that comes with Him when we believe into Him and He gives us Himself and with and by Himself His life. This life which even now is reality within us is that life and immortality which has been BROUGHT TO LIGHT through the gospel. Hear and believe the wonderful news, precious friend of mine, YOUR SPIRIT I-S A-L-I-V-E BECAUSE OF THE INDWELLING CHRIST! Those who minister the finality of death — when your body dies you’re dead and gone, non-existent — minister under the blindness of the OLD COVENANT, the ministration of death. They know not that the Christ has come and given us life, they understand not that Christ IS NOW the resurrection and the life, they comprehend not the glad truth that eternal life is even now a glorious and eternal reality in "the inner man” which is renewed day by day,” they, like the patriarchs and the prophets under the Old Testament, and like the Jews to this very day, are still awaiting the Saviour and looking to some future day for the resurrection, totally oblivious to the wonderful fact that “If ye then BE RISEN with Christ, seek those things which are above (in the higher realm of the spirit; where your eternal life is), where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). I am here to tell you that CHRIST IS COME! I proclaim to you today the glad tidings of the NEW TESTAMENT, the ministration of life. God has anointed me to declare the RESURRECTION WHICH I-S, not one that shall be! Those who minister the finality of death minister the Old Covenant and know nothing as they ought to know and have seen nothing — the heavens have never been opened to them. Their ministry is not one of faith and hope and present reality, but of fear of death and a sense of foreboding and depression. They know not the life that transcends the body, the life that is first of all realized spiritually rather than soulishly or physcially. Death is emphasized, dramatized, its power glorified by men who minister, not out of the power of life, but out of the fear of death. It is the fear of death that drives many in this hour to seek the immortality of the body. And make no mistake! “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead SHALL ALSO QUICKEN (MAKE ALIVE) YOUR M-0-R-T-A-L B-O-D-I-E-S by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11). That is the hope yet to be fulfilled in and through the manifested sons of God. But I say to all who have not the consciousness of that eternal life which is already yours, that resurrection in which you are already raised, that eternal consciousness, existence and being you already are, I say to those who are striving for physical immortality because of the fear of the finality of death — Christ has already come and Himself partook of flesh and blood, that through death He might destroy death, and might DELIVER THEM WHO THROUGH FEAR OF DEATH ARE ALL THEIR LIFETIME SUBJECT TO BONDAGE. Under the Old Testament life and immortality had not yet been fully brought to light. No wonder the old saints often lived and spoke as those subject to bondage. No wonder they emphasized the power of death, the hopelessness of death, the finality of death! But how sad that the redeemed of Jesus Christ, His brethren, so often prove that they know so little of the deliverance and life He has given and the song of joy: "Death is swallowed up in victory. Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, through Christ our Lord!” My brother! art thou living in the full experience of this blessed truth? He delivers from the fear of death and the bondage it brings, changing it into the joy of knowing that “we have passed from death unto life!
Since then, we have been made alive because of our spirit being quickened by His Spirit, Paul leads us on to another marvelous truth which I fear multitudes of earnest believers are failing to see, including some elect saints of God. "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but a now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who HATH ABOLISHED DEATH, and HATH BROUGHT life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Tim. 1:9-10). The Word of God is true. It is not a silly fairy tale or a superstitious myth. It is not a lie. Men are liars. God is true. And when God says, “Christ who hath abolished death,” we poor puny worms of the dust had better believe it, and cease calling God a liar by telling Him He is wrong. For "he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar" (I Jn. 5:10). Oh, read it and re-read it and rejoice in it with joy unspeakable and full of glory! Through His thirty-three years of death Christ hath abolished death and through the power of His glorious resurrection He has brought that resurrection life into us so that it is wonderfully true that "when we were dead . . . He hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:5-6). Christ on Calvary bore every sin of every sinner. He was made a sin-offering (Capricornus—the goat) for us, He who knew no sin. And since He became our sin-offering, therefore when He died, our sin died. Calvary atoned. And then and there the total and unending death that fallen on Adam and his race fell on another. “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD” (Jn. 6:51). Oh, the victory of Calvary means so much more than any of us ever realized in the past. It was such a pathetically ineffectual work, according to the way it was once taught us. It was weak and so limited in scope, so incomplete! Christ came to save the world (Jn, 12:47); God sent His Son “that THE WORLD through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:17). But it was all in vain. He wasn't able to do what He came for. That’s what the preachers say. Thank God, that long night of darkness is passing! Thank God, a fuller, deeper message now goes forth, which does not limit the God of Israel, which does not belittle and besmear the atonement, the all-inclusive work of our Saviour Jesus Christ! He did not die in vain! He was not a failure! Calvary was not a defeat, but an exultant victory. And there He, the spotless sinless Lamb of God actually gave His life for the life “OF THE WORLD.” Let us never again forget that fact.
The world was lost. All had sinned. And the wages of sin is death. Oh, let us grasp this one great spiritual truth! Babylon has lied to us. Let us forsake her shame and deceptions and evil imaginings! She has led us to believe that the wages of sin is anything and everything else but what God says it is. What a fraud! What a fiend she has made of the God of love and mercy and grace! And it made her the richest earthly institution which ever did exist or ever will. But no: the wages of sin is actually death. And Jesus died. Therefore the world goes free. It doesn't take a Doctorate in mathematics or physics to figure that out. The equation is very simple. Yes, friend, Christ actually gave His life "for the life "OF THE WORLD:” not for one half of it, not for just a few Christians who are “not of this world.” He actually paid the full penalty for the sins “OF THE WORLD”—A-L-L OF IT. Jesus actually paid it all! All men, because of sin, had come under the curse and were dead. They were lost, bound for eternal night. But Jesus, the only Man who was born to die, the last Man who ever did actually die, became the sin-offering for every sinner, and bore those sins to dark Calvary. Listen to this! I did not write it. It is the Word of the eternal God which all of us in the past have loudly proclaimed to be inspired; yet not one of us believed a word of it, except the little scraps here and there which suited our fancy, tickled our vanity, or appeared to support our superstitions. Here is what God says: “Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came UPON A-L-L MEN to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came UPON A-L-L MEN unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18). Oh, if we could but get all the poor victims of pope and popery to read and believe that one verse of scripture, then all their bowing and scraping and paying would stop immediately. And if we could get all the Christians in the churches to somehow believe it, what a transformation it would bring. And if all who treasure the beautiful hope of sonship could somehow believe it, how it would hasten the day of manifestation! Jesus gave His life for the life of the world. That ends the matter for all time and eternity. So Paul could write, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Because of this John the beloved could write, “He is the propitiation (mercy-seat, sin-offering) for our sins: and NOT FOR OURS ONLY, BUT ALSO FOR THE SINS OF THE W-H-O-L-E W-O-R-L-D” (1 Jn. 2:2). And because of this Paul could affirm, “Christ.... HATH ABOLISHED DEATH.” He could also write, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death... that He by the grace of God SHOULD TASTE DEATH F-O-R E-V-E-R-Y M-A-N” (Heb. 2:9). Certainly “every man” includes Adolf Hitler, Nero, Cain, and every other son of Adam from the dawn of history to the end of the last age that will ever come. And because of this we, like the woman at the well, "KNOW that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour OF THE W-O-R-L-D. That is the free gift to every son of Adam who was ever born or ever will be. Let God be true, and every man a liar! For death is actually abolished, there is no longer any such thing. When Jesus died, sin died. When He arose, death died. The abolishment of death became an actuality in very fact on the resurrection morn, when the triumphant proclamation went forth, "He is not here: for He is risen" (Mat. 28:6). It was effective even from the day that God closed Eden's gates, though not manifested.
But now someone is going to question the foregoing statements and ask us why it is that, if death is abolished, men continue to die. The answer is, of course, men do not continue to die. Oh, we know their bodies go to the grave. And we call this death. It is not death. God does not call it death. Those who equate death with a body in a coffin know absolutely nothing about death. Ye who were dead hath He quickened! I was lying neither in a coffin at the funeral parlor nor in a dark hole in the ground when I was quickened and made alive in Christ. Death was not my body in a coffin, and the life I have received is not an immortal flesh-body. Don't you see? What men call death is not death, and what men call life is not Iife. Only when the Holy Spirit enables us to see the true nature of all things can we understand a mystery so deep. One man came and by the grace of God tasted death "FOR E-V-E-R-Y M-A-N." Mark carefully, He only tasted it. He remained in death for thirty-three and one half years culminating in the death of the cross. He merely sampled it. But He sampled it in the place of every son of Adam. He actually tasted death "FOR E-V-E-R-Y M-A-N.” Do you believe it? Dare you believe it? The mystery is just this. Jesus died for the whole race of men. When He arose He injected He injected life into the stream of humanity, so that there is a spiritual quality in man that transcends the body realm. It is a dimension of being that even the grave cannot hold. It is that "light" which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, and that light is Christ (Jn. 1:4,9-10). No life beyond the grave? Then Christ did not die and rise again, He did not taste death for every man, He did not give His life for the life of the world, He did not abolish death and bring life and immortality to light! That light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world is the spiritual sense of being, that in man which is eternal and deathless, which God will pursue until it is brought to the image and likeness of God that He may become "All-in-all." This free gift came (has already come) upon ALL MEN unto justification of Iife (Rom. 5:18). Can anything be plainer! Any other doctrine is OLD TESTAMENT doctrine, not the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who hath abolished death.
Hearken to the Word! One day a poor man, a heartbroken father, came to the Master. His little daughter had passed on. He said, "My daughter is dead” (Mat. 9:18). He thought she was dead. Little did he comprehend that the One who stood before him is the resurrection and the life. But what did the Master say? A strange word for Old Testament saints, for sure. "And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn." What did He say on another occasion! "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep" (Jn. 11:11). Oh yes, a little farther on, because the disciples misunderstood Him, He also said that Lazarus was dead. This which we call physical death is the nearest thing to death that we know. But the New Testament everywhere draws a clear and sharp distinction between death and sleep. What is the difference? you ask. There is a great difference, indeed! A dead man has no life, consciousness or being. But a sleeping man IS STILL ALIVE THOUGH UNCONSCIOUS TO THE WORLD AROUND HIM. And he is STILL CONSCIOUS ON ANOTHER PLANE. Thus, the martyr Stephen "fell asleep" while beholding the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God, and crying with a loud voice into that bright world beyond the mortal, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! (Acts 6:54-60). As to the earth realm he was asleep; as to Christ in His glory at the right hand of the Father he was wondrously alive in the spirit. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" (I Thes. 4:13-14). This passage contains a two-dimensional truth. From the earthly aspect those who have gone by way of the grave sleep; from the heavenly aspect they come with Jesus when He comes, out of the heavenly and spiritual dimension of consciousness and being. Since Jesus came and brought life to men this thing we call physical death is merely a sleep, merely a divine provision on the way to the fullness of life whereby we lay aside this sin-cursed house of clay, to live in the spirit unto God. Paul understood this mystery and wrote of his own destiny: "For me, to live is Christ—His life in me; and to die is gain. If, however, it is to be life in the flesh and I am to live on here, that means fruitful service for me; so I can say nothing as to my personal preference—I cannot choose, but I am hard pressed between the two. My yearning desire is to depart — be free of this world, to set forth — and be with Christ, for that is far, far better; but to remain in my body is more needful and essential for your sake" (Phil 1:21-24, Amplified). Peter, too, knew that he had apprehended a life that transcends this physical, for he wrote: "Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance" (II Pet. 1:13-15). No morbid tale here of the finality of death, of unconscious non-existence, of darkness and nothingness! Ah Peter knew that the body was merely a tabernacle, a tent, a house, a covering for the incorruptible life of God in his inner man, the new creation born of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever. Hallelujah!
While it is gloriously true that Christ has given His life to all men, to the whole world, yet it is evident that there must be a progression in the development of that life in the experience of every man until every vestige of the death realm has been swallowed up, spirit, soul and body. To those who walk with Christ there is an ever-increasing consciousness, growth, increase, unfoldment, maturation and triumph of that life. The mighty working of His power within is followed by this very precious and understandable result: "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ shall also quicken (make alive) your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom 8:11). I believe I now see more clearly than I have ever done why it was that Paul, who, as you and I do, still dwelt in the hellish bondage of a mortal body cried out, "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to
God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 15:53-57). We are, indeed, terribly and horribly in bondage to the body of this death, and with us the whole creation is groaning, waiting for the day when the sons of God will deliver them from the bondage of corruption. I do not need to argue with any man to prove our present mortality in the flesh. If you must sleep to live, you are mortal. If you must eat to live, you are obviously mortal. If you must breathe to live, you are unquestionably mortal. We are all aware of our constant and unremitting decay as the aging process etches its marks upon us. Our present mortality is naught but death, although we live in the spirit. Think of it! Meditate deeply upon it and cling to this realm of death no more. Reach up, my beloved, with the blessed arm of faith and embrace that bright realm above where that which is true in our spirit reaches down and takes hold upon our outer man, where this mortal puts on immortality, where death in all its aspects is swallowed up of life, where in that final victory of His life within the sons of God will upon this earth shout in triumph over both death and the grave.
Truly we yearn for this change, for our desire is not to be unclothed, but to be clothed upon that mortality may be swallowed up of life (II Cor. 5:1-5). Yea, we groan inwardly for this transformation to take place. I continually meet up with brethren who confess that they have already put on physical immortality and incorruption, that they have already passed over the grave and cannot and will not die. I must be very honest and frank with you, my beloved brothers I have not one whit of a desire to live forever IN THIS BODY OF HUMILIATION. There is no more frightening thought, no more repugnant possibility, than the idea that I might live forever in this body of humiliation! Thank God, there is to be a change! "Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform and to be like the body of His glory and majesty, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself” (Phil. 3:21, Amplified). The thought of merely adding immortality to this body of humiliation, with no other change, the suggestion of such limitation, that I might have to bathe, anoint my body with deodorant, brush my teeth, and use Scope throughout eternity, the hint that I might retain this base form, that I might remain as I am unendingly, falls as far short of what I conceive of a body transformed and fashioned like unto the body of His glory and majesty as hell falls short of heaven! The body of incorruption shall resemble this vile body no more than does the oak tree resemble the chemical elements of the earth which were raised up into the substance of the tree by the mighty working of the subtle and mysterious life force sown in the earth as a seed.
Son of God! If we would be fashioned like unto Him, co-sharers of His glory and power and wisdom as the God-man, we must not simply rest content with the faith that trusts in the cross and its pardon; we must follow on to know the fullness of the New Life, the life of glory and power in human nature, injected into man through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, of which the spirit of the glorified
Jesus is the witness and the source. Now, practically everything in relationship to our sonship depends upon the clearness with which this great truth that I have stated is recognized. The Holy Spirit of God inspired the message of these words in Rom 5:9-11, "Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being now justified by His blood, we SHALL BE SAVED BY HIS LIFE... and... we joy.... in our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the atonement." The double provision of Christ is here clearly set forth: reconciled by His death; saved by His life. Christ’s death is the atonement, reconciling men to God, granting a full and free admittance back into Eden’s lovely garden from which our disobedient foreparents were once banished. But Christ’s life is the Tree of Life in the garden, the source of the life which shall work in us the complete transformation into the divine nature. Sin, sickness, sorrow, fear and death are all part of a power in our life; let us fully understand that it can only be met by another higher power. The power of sin and death works all through our life. The death of Christ, which is the atonement, reconciles us to God, but only the life of Christ can come against the power of sin and death and deliver our life from destruction. Reconciliation places us, in God’s eyes, back in Eden’s garden; but the Tree of Life is the power that delivers my life from the dominion of sin and death. He redeemeth my life, by His life, from death! Christ's life, not His death, living in our life, absorbing it, impregnating it, transforming it causes us to live. This is the meaning of that profound sentence in which Paul records the first great work of salvation and pointedly distinguishes it from the second great work of salvation, saying, "if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. The first is the dying goat; the second is the living fish!
"We shall be saved by His LIFE," says Paul. Paul meant no disrespect to the atonement when he said, "We shall be saved by His life. He was bringing out one of the great facts of salvation. If God gives atoning power with one hand, and power to save the life from destruction with the other hand, there is no conflict between these. Both are from God. If you call the one justification and the other glorification, God is the author of them both. If Paul seems to take something from the one work and add it to the other, he takes nothing from God. Atonement is from God! Reconciliation is from God! Power to conquer sin and death is from God. Christ is all in all, the beginning and the end. When the thing we want is deliverance from the guilt of sin, condemnation, let us appropriate the gift God has given us to remove our guilt—the DEATH of Christ. "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of our sins" (Col. 1:14). When the thing we want is power to redeem our life from sin, corruption and death, then let us apply the gift which God has given us for our life, the LIFE of the Son of God. "He that hath the Son hath life.”
When an Israelite was bitten by flaming serpents in the wilderness, he never thought of applying manna to the wound. The manna was for his life. But he did think of applying the brazen serpent. The manna would never have cured his snake bite; nor would the brazen serpent have kept him from starving! Suppose he had said, now I am healed by this serpent, I feel cured, and I need not eat this manna anymore. The serpent has done it all, and I am well." The result would have been, or course, that he would have died. The man, to be sure, was cured, delivered from the judgment of his rebellion against God, but he has to LIVE, and if he eats no manna his life must languish, go to destruction, die. Without going to any trouble about it, simply by the inevitable process of nature, he would have died. The manna was God's provision to redeem his life from destruction, after the serpent has redeemed it from judgment. And if he did nothing to stop the natural progress of corruption, in the natural course of things, he must die. Now there is no contradiction between these two things—the manna is from God and the serpent is from God. But they are different gifts for different things. The serpent removed the judgment, but could not sustain life; the manna gave life, but could not deal with the sentence. To apply this to the case in hand. The death of Christ, on the one hand, is the brazen serpent. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up (on the cross)” (Jn 3:14). Christ's life on the other hand, is the manna—the bread of life. “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (Jn 6:50-51). In the light of these remarkable words we can reach only one of two conclusions. Either all who have believed on Christ since that blessed day when these wonderful words poured from His divine lips have partaken of Him, eaten of His living flesh and have not died but have begun to live forever, or, else, NO ONE HAS EVER EATEN OF HIM FROM THAT DAY TO THIS, for all have continued to go by way of the grave. Either Jesus has given eternal life to all who eat of Him, and there is a life, consciousness and being that transcends the grave, or He lied and did not give His flesh for the life of the world, so that none has ever sat at His table and received the life of which He spake. Do you really believe that God is that wicked that He would send forth redemption and then withhold it for another two thousand years? Let me ask you a question, my friend. If you had the power of immortality in your hand right now, would you wait another two thousand years to use it while billions of mankind continued to go out into endless nothingness? Wake up! my beloved. Let us get beyond the fantasy of a merely carnal and earthly and physical understanding of truth! “He that hath the Son HATH LIFE,” saith the Lord. “And we know that we HAVE PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE,” add all who know and love the truth.
Of all the wealth of scripture truth nothing is more certain or clear than the fact that our sins are not forgiven by bread, nor are our lives nourished and supported by death. Our life is not made incorruptible and eternal by Christ's death, nor transformed from day to day from the power of sin and death by the atonement. Our life is not redeemed from destruction by the crucifixion of Christ, nor is it brought to perfection from day to day by the death of Christ. But we are saved, as the Holy Ghost saith, "by HIS LIFE.” We cannot live upon death. And after, by the atonement, we are forgiven, and have entered by faith through the gateway into Eden's fair garden, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, having acceptance before God, we shall then be saved, delivered, changed, transformed, perfected and fully glorified BY HIS LIFE. The atonement gives us the right to enter back into Eden but only the tree of life can make us live! To, sum up, therefore, it is one thing to be reconciled by the death of Christ, and quite another to be saved by His life. If reconciliation and justification could make men be CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF THE SON OF GOD then all the baby Christians in all of Babylon's harlot religious systems would be well on their way to sonship. The death of Christ can make one a justified believer, bringing him to life, but only the mighty working of the indwelling life of God's Christ can enable us to put on the mind of Christ and be transformed in thought, desire, emotion, nature and body into His likeness. He redeemeth my life from destruction. How? By His life. This is the power of a full and complete salvation! Unspeakable are the blessings of the high and heavenly realm of God's incorruptible life which flow to the soul from the union with Jesus in His glorified life. Blessed Tree of Life! It is ours, for Jesus is ours. Blessed life of the ages! We have the possession within our earth of its hidden power, and we have the prospect before us of its fullest glory. May our daily lives, in all we think and say and do, be bright and blessed proof that the hidden power dwells within, daily preparing us for the glory to be revealed. May the eternal and incorruptible fruit of our redeemed life within be our power to live to the glory of the Father, our fitness to share the glory of the Son.
Beyond the fact of the revelation of the wonderful law of life out of death as wrought out in Jesus Christ, there is also the mighty operation of this principle in our own life and experience as sons of God. A dear friend of many years penned some precious and enlightening insights to the outworking of life from death in us which I am moved to share with my readers at this point. She wrote: "The carnal mind would have us to believe that the way Up is Up. Thus we have pressed our way into ministry, pressed our way into the things we have desired, 'stood on the promises,' demanded of God our 'rights,' sought to have our own way in both spiritual and physical things—forgetting that which was spoken by the Lord through the prophets saying, “My ways are NOT your ways neither are My thoughts your thoughts.’ It is true, children of God, that God wants to take us UP — high into the realms of God — UP to Jerusalem — but God would have us to know that the way UP is always DOWN! If we would go up; we must first go down, for God is operating by the principle of death and resurrection. He has plainly stated that nothing is quickened (made alive) except it first die. In this walk, you do not gain by keeping — for you are able only to keep that which you are first willing to lose. In this walk you do not live by living — you live by dying. The laws of the Kingdom of God are in reverse to the laws of this natural realm. The way to life is death, the way to victory is defeat, the way to glory is shame, and the way up is down!
"We have all been soulish — viewing the things of God through the intellect of soul, through the emotionalism of soul, through the beclouding of the appetites of the flesh — and our concepts of heaven, of the Kingdom of God, of salvation, and of the purposes of God have long been contaminated with self’s desire for comfort and blessing. God is changing all that, praise His name, and we are beginning to learn to give up some of our childish things that we might grow to the maturity of the Christ, the most outstanding characteristic of whom is utter SELFLESSNESS. We have hitherto been possessed of that old 'do-good-to-me' concept of the Kingdom of God. We were expecting great liberty — something that would, no doubt, gratify our senses and promote our ego — something, perhaps that would, no doubt, gratify our senses and promote us in the sight of men. And if you will be honest, saint, you will have to admit that such has been your concept of sonship, or Kingdom, or eternal life, or heaven, or whatever doctrine has been uppermost in your mind in recent years. The old concepts of heaven — with its streets of gold and pearly gales — surely we are able to see that there is nothing in that that would appeal to the spirit of a man. It is the flesh that is interested in gold, and pearls, and precious stones. God chose these things which are so highly esteemed among men to depict the far greater riches of a realm we cannot see with the natural eye. We interpreted them literally because we were so flesh-minded that we could not see beyond the symbol to the reality it represented. The riches typified by these precious things are far greater in value to the spirit of a man than the literal could ever be. As one said not long ago, ‘Those things are too cheep.’ What does' the spirit care about such things? Does it really matter to the spirit what kind of a street it walks on? If we have not come to an understanding of this before, let us now ask God to elevate our thoughts and see with the spiritual eye the glory that is portrayed in these cheap earthly materials. Streets of gold? Jesus said, ‘I am the way (the street).' Gates of pearl? We are that pearl of great price for which Jesus sold all that He had. Precious stones? ‘They (God’s people) shall be mine, saith the Lord, in the day that I come to make up My jewels!
Some will, no doubt, say, ‘I passed those ideas by a long time ago. I have come to a knowledge of sonship!' Ah! But how soulish we have been in our understanding of sonship. Sons of God! Glorious thought! And in it we have seen great glorious ministry, miracle working power, people falling at our feet in awe of the presence of God manifested in our lives. Can you not see that that, too, is a desire of the flesh — EGO panting for recognition — SELF waiting to come into its own! If we have been thinking along those lines, we have never yet heard the Word of God — for he who hears knows that one does not come to glory through glory: one comes to glory through shame. Joseph became a mighty prince of Egypt — but do consider the pathway that brought him there: DOWN into the pit, DOWN into slavery, DOWN into the dungeon. He was on his way up, but the way up was down! Oh, that the saints of God in this hour might come to the recognition and understanding of the ways of God! 'That I might know Him,’ Paul cried, 'in the fellowship of His sufferings, BEING MADE CONFORMABLE TO HIS DEATH, that I may (also) know Him in the power of His resurrection.’
"There was a time when the apostle Peter was faced with this dilemma, even as we are. It all began with a simple question: ‘Peter, lovest thou Me?’ Peter's reply was, ‘Yes, Lord.' Then, ‘Feed My lambs.’ Again the question came, 'Peter? Do you love Me?’ Peter was cautious as he answered, 'Yes, Lord. I love you.' Another command: ‘Feed My sheep.' One last time, 'Peter? Do you love Me?’ It was a frustrated Peter who replied this time, ‘Lord, you know I love you!' And a patient Jesus who answered, 'Feed My sheep!' It was not insignificant that the Lord addressed Peter three times. There is something beneath the surface here. In the first realm, the realm of the flesh, the realm of the outer court ministry or the first heaven, the Lord asks, 'Do you love Me?’ And the Christian answers, 'Yes, Lord.' Because the Lord knows the immaturity of one at that level, He gives only the instruction to feed the young ones, the lambs, the babies. That is all that is required of the first level of Christian experience. It was, however, a higher level to which the Lord referred in the second question, and with the question, He was bringing Peter's thoughts higher: ‘Peter, do you love Me in the second heaven, in the holy place, in the Spirit filled level?' What else could Peter do but say, 'Yes, Lord. I love you here, too.' The lambs are beginning to mature in that realm, and the Lord, therefore, says to Peter, 'Feed My sheep.’ There is yet a higher realm, and we dare not stop before we reach it. This is the realm of the holiest of all, the third heaven of which Paul spoke, and now the Lord is asking Peter, 'Do you love Me here, Peter? Do you love Me in the HOLIEST OF ALL?’ Can we not feel Peter's emotions when he answers, 'Oh, yes, Lord I love you here, too!' Do we not also sense the cry of the Saviour's heart in saying, ‘Then, feed My sheep.' He didn't stop there, however, for the Lord went on to say, 'When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldst: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldst not.' These were the Lord's instructions to Peter as to HOW he would feed the sheep in the third realm, for the word continues in saying, 'This spake He signifying by what death he should die!'
"Because these words were spoken not only to Peter but unto us as well, there are some things that we must not fail to grasp. First, this event transpired on the THIRD occasion of Jesus’ appearing to His disciples after His resurrection (Jn. 21:14), offering the clue that Jesus was giving insight into the condition of the THIRD REALM experience, the entry into, the Holiest of all, or Kingdom life manifestation. It must be remembered that that realm is seen in the tabernacle of Moses as containing only one piece of furniture: the ark of the covenant. The Hebrew tells us that the ark was a COFFIN — a wooden coffin overlaid with gold. To enter into that realm, then, is to enter into such a state of bondage that it is a condition of death. It was to this death that Jesus was referring when He said, 'When you were young (immature), you went where you wanted to go — you did what you wanted to do — you, in effect, did your own thing. But when you are old (mature) you will stretch forth your hands and another shall gird thee and carry you where you would not want to go.' This was the description of Peter's death — not a physical death that would plant his human body six feet under the ground — but a death to his own will, to his own way, to his own opinions and thoughts; and this, saint of God! is the only way that we shall ever, obey His command to FEED HIS SHEEP who are seeking pasture in that third realm experience. Those who have come to the door of that holy place will not hear a word that is contaminated with the will of men or the ways of the flesh. The sheep of that third realm pasture desire the ESSENCE, the FRAGRANCE of His knowledge, and will settle for no less than the SWEETNESS of the perfume of HIS NATURE and HIS LIVING PRESENCE upon us!
"It was pure LOVE who was hanging on the cross two thousand years ago — and it was as His own belly was ripped open by a Roman spear that the New Wine of the Kingdom of God began to flow. He was bound — not by nails — but in the spirit to a wooden cross, pouring out His life's blood that you and I might live through Him. In the words, then, that Jesus spoke to Peter was an invitation: an invitation to share His cross, partake of His sufferings, to come out of the liberty of self and into the bondage of love — that bread might be taken from the inner man and dealt out, broken and bruised, to the multitudes! Jesus says, also, to us as to those who walked with Him so many centuries ago: ‘Give ye them to eat' (Lk. 9:13).
“Broken bread—a love dealt out
To Adam’s hungry soul
Torn from the riven sides of those
Whom Jesus Christ makes whole.
A nature—binding deep within
A man to other men
That pours out life to share with them
Its liberty from sin.
Wounded hands—that serve e’en those
Who drive in them the nails
Living out the spirit’s truth
Of love that never fails.
A bondage—binding sons of God
To the Tree of Life, you see,
The living out of God’s great love
Thus setting mankind free.”