While Israel looks forward to possessing the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, how is our Lord planning to reward His Church in eternity?
One of the most miraculous, splendid and sublime gifts that we receive when we become a part of Christ’s Church – His Bride, and the Body of Christ – is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a wondrous thing that we cannot fully comprehend or appreciate. It is God’s down payment on and irrevocable guarantee of our ultimate inheritance, and I believe it is just the first step in establishing an eternal relationship of intimacy with our Creator that is beyond the grasp of any earthly mind.
So, how can we even begin to wrap our minds around this?
To achieve even a sense of this wonderful, mystical relationship, we need to have some understanding of the nature of our God. Right there, we run into the biggest obstacle. Consider: Can an amoeba (microscopic single-celled organism) understand a man? An amoeba’s ways are not a man’s ways and an amoeba’s thoughts not the thoughts of a man.
Where the single-celled creature drifts about aimlessly, absorbing whatever nutrients it encounters (a little like some of us), man has conceived of and constructed huge, intricate machines that allow him to produce his own nutrients through the farming of vast tracts of land. Have you ever seen an amoeba driving a harvester?
The gulf between us and God is so vast that from our side, it is ridiculously impassable.
But God, in His love, has made a provision for us. He has given us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. It is through that indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we come to know of His nature and His boundless love.
First, let’s make it clear that scripture unequivocally declares that we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit:
“Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1Cor 6:19 WEB
Paul is not using a metaphor here but stating a Godly truth, a spiritual reality. In fact, let me state here that I believe the word of God is literally true. Unless the context clearly indicates that the language is figurative or some metaphor as was often used in Jesus’ parables, I believe the word of God literally means exactly what it says. Much great error has arisen as false teachers twist scripture to support their various crackpot theories. The replacement of Israel by the Church as recipients of the promises of God and the objects of His dealings is possibly the most egregious.
It is vital, especially when reading a prophetic book like Revelation that you understand that God’s purpose is to communicate with every believer in every age. To question His word turns all interpretation of Bible prophecy into a ridiculous guessing game. I digress here from my intended purpose, but the joyous truths hinted at here will doubtless be attacked by those who have been conditioned to believe that when God said words like Israel, or Babylon, He actually meant something completely different. For more on this, please read “God says Exactly What He Means”
In the passage of scripture above, Paul is repeating an important point that he made back in chapter 2 of the same book:
“9 But as it is written,
“Things which an eye didn’t see, and an ear didn’t hear,
which didn’t enter into the heart of man,
these God has prepared for those who love him.”
10 But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. 12 But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. 14 Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual discerns all things, and he himself is judged by no one. 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him?” But we have Christ’s mind.” 1 Cor 2:9-16 WEB (Emphasis added)
Wow! I include the boundless love of God among the deep things of God because, let’s face it, the mystery of His love for us is something that can never be explained, except by His nature. It is likely the deepest mystery of all. God is love. Our salvation and adoption as sons springs directly from that love.
It is through the presence of the Holy Spirit within us that we are able to perceive the things of God. That gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is unique to His Church. Though the Holy Spirit supported and guided people in the millennia prior to Pentecost, it was only with the coming of the promised Comforter that He actually indwelled believers. Not only that, but He was sealed to us:
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love; 5 having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely gave us favor in the Beloved, 7 in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him 10 to an administration of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, in him; 11 in whom also we were assigned an inheritance, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who does all things after the counsel of his will; 12 to the end that we should be to the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ: 13 in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.” Eph 1:3-14 WEB (Emphasis added)
Whew, I thought I wrote some long sentences, but this single, wonderful sentence written by Paul is so amazing at every turn that I can’t bear to slice out a part of it. This introduction to the Ephesians is a declaration of our forgiveness and the gifts of God which have been heaped upon us; unmerited favor. Anyway, there it is: we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.
I used to assume that this indwelling of the Holy Spirit was a means to an end; a temporary measure, like a tow truck, to get us into God’s throne room with our hands extended upward in praise. But think about this:
“ For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Rom 11:29 WEB
The indwelling of the Comforter is a gift from God, and by its very nature “irrevocable”! Now I see that God is looking beyond merely saving, sanctifying and supporting us through our earthly trials. He has done something permanent in us, and I believe it is just the first step toward that intimate relationship that the Bride will have with the Lamb throughout eternity. Beyond merely dwelling with us, His plan is that we dwell in Him and He in us; not as a renter, but an owner. Once He moves in, He renovates us by gradually replacing all of the old, decaying structure with new construction. His work will culminate in us standing before Him in resurrection bodies, adopted as sons:
“13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ“ Eph 4:13 WEB (Emphasis added)
What further clues do we have regarding this mystery? If we look at Revelation, our window from here into the New Heaven and New Earth, we find some stunning, enigmatic descriptions of the Church, the Bride of the Lamb, that indicate some kind of blending or transfiguration into an actual mystical structure.
Among Jesus’ promises to the Church at Philadelphia, He says this:
“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.” Rev 3:12 WEB (Emphasis added)
OK, we’ve all heard the term ‘pillar of the community’ or ‘pillar of the church,’ but this is something more. Jesus didn’t say ‘ I will make him like a pillar in the temple of my God’; this is no simile. It is also not a metaphor, it’s a spiritual reality. This indicates that the Lord will transform us into a permanent part of the structure of His dwelling place. But wait, there’s more!
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were loaded with the seven last plagues came, and he spoke with me, saying, “Come here. I will show you the wife, the Lamb’s bride.” 10 He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, as if it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
2 having a great and high wall; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.” Rev 21:9 WEB (Emphasis added)
John is told that he is being taken to see the Lamb’s Bride and is shown ‘the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.’ This is the New Jerusalem, the name of which (or is it whom?) is written on believers in the Church as they are made ‘pillars in the temple of my God.’ Are you getting excited? I am!
Did any of the other apostles make reference to this incorporation of members of the Church into the temple of God? How about the Apostle Paul? He had this to say:
“For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God, 20 being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; 21 in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.“ Eph 2:18-22 WEB (Emphasis added)
Now, back to Revelation: Skip down, and look at this further description of the New Jerusalem:
“I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. 23 The city has no need for the sun, neither of the moon, to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk in its light. The kings of the earth bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 25 Its gates will in no way be shut by day (for there will be no night there), 26 and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it so that they may enter. 27 There will in no way enter into it anything profane, or one who causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Rev 21:22-27 WEB
We – members of His Body, His Bride, His Church – are to become structural members in His temple, but the temple is not a building: it’s “The Lord God, the Almighty and the Lamb”! Am I shouting?!!!
He writes upon us “the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.” Names mean something tangible in the Spirit. Some, like these, carry with them the authority and power of God. The importance of names is a whole other huge Bible study, but trust me, when the Lord writes His name on you, it is not just an ornamental addition to your tattoo collection but a manifestation of your identity in God.
Think about it. We tap into the power of God when we pray, speak or act in Jesus’ name to accomplish His will. That is not merely an acknowledgement that we are His; it is like a signature on a check, or the King’s seal on a royal decree. We will bear that signature in the coming Kingdom.
You get some sense of the significance of names as you read through the book of Revelation. Satan will actually mimic this stamp of the Creator on His redeemed, by placing the mark of the beast on those who are his. That imitation of something that identifies us with Christ, will, to the lost, mean eternal punishment.
I don’t believe we are to actually be converted into walls, ceilings, floors, or literal pillars on a physical level, but in the realm of spirit, our status will be a very real part of the structure and strength of the temple of our God; a spiritual mystery so profound that only God can fully understand at this point.
With which member of our triune God will we be united?
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:” Deu 6:4 KJV
Though we see three personifications of our God, it is a part of His mystical nature that the three are one. It is through the person of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ, no longer omnipresent but in a limited finite resurrection body, is able to literally indwell all of His Church. It was through Jesus that God the Father and the Holy Spirit were able to share in the sufferings and sacrifice required to save us from our sins. The Lord our God is one God.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance, is just the beginning of our eternal unity with God. By rightly dividing the word of God, we see that many of the rewards of the Church are separate from and different than the rewards promised to Israel or any other group. For example, we do not inherit the earthly Kingdom or the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is their deal with God.
By the same token, Israel was never promised the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Though they will have full and free access to the New Jerusalem as they come to worship, it is the Bride of the Lamb that is identified with it and it will be the place of our habitation for eternity. What did the Lord say about our coming reward?
“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. 4 Where I go, you know, and you know the way.” John 14:1-4 WEB (Emphasis added)
Our Lord went to prepare a place for us, and not just a single place, but “many homes” or dwelling places, so that where He is, there we may be also! We won’t all be in the same place, but we will all be in places He has prepared for us. The dichotomy between Israel and the Church was revealed by Jesus as part of His parables describing the Kingdom of Heaven, eight of which are in Matthew 13:
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.”
45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 who having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Matt 13:44-46
That God considers Israel a treasure was established clear back when He established them as a nation:
“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people” Exo 19:5 KJV
That the pearl symbolizes the Church is indicated by its origin in an oyster; a creature considered unclean that comes from the water, a symbol that in other places indicates the Gentile nations.
This passage from Matthew 13 is the Lord’s description of Israel first; the “treasure hidden in a field”, then the Church; “one pearl of great price”. For each, He paid the ultimate price so that He might possess us. His horrific death and shed blood was the price that He paid. And it was because of the joy set before Him that He willingly paid that price.
Though He currently possesses and (through the Holy Spirit) indwells the Church; the pearl of great price, the treasure in the field was hidden again, and the Lord’s possession of that treasure is yet to come.
God has a purpose in creating these two groups, Israel and the Church, to accomplish the plan of salvation that He has for mankind. Based on His principle that the first shall be last and the last, first, God’s dealings with Israel bookend His dealings with the Church. The last to be called, we are the first to obtain our rewards in the Rapture.
I believe that in the Kingdom of Heaven, Israel will manifest God’s love and the victory won by our Lord in one way, and the Bride will manifest it in another entirely separate, but complimentary fashion that perfectly completes the picture. Both will be glorious; both groups giddy; overflowing with joy as they stand before God; each content to be in the group they’re in; feeling like they got the better end of the deal. Reflecting the nature of our God, members of each group will eagerly submit to and serve the other. Best of all, despite our separate identities, the two will be one, united in the Body of Christ.
As He is love and our hearts reflect the heart of Jesus, our love for Israel and theirs for us will increasingly become an expression of His caring. Do you remember that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are prominent at the twelve gates to the New Jerusalem? That testifies to the fact that it was through Israel that the Bride was able to come to the Savior. Come with me down a little side road so that I can show you some evidence of this.
Hebrews 11 contains a broad account of the numerous Old Testament saints; their trials, their faith, their sacrifices and their victories in God. Paul sums it all up by saying:
“These all, having had testimony given to them through their faith, didn’t receive the promise, 40 God having provided some better thing concerning us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” Heb 11:39-40 (Emphasis added)
That passage hints at the interdependence of Israel and the Church. It is consistent with teaching about the Body of Christ that all parts profit from that which each joint supplies.
“8 Now when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.9 They sang a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the book,
and to open its seals:
for you were killed,
and bought us for God with your blood,
out of every tribe, language, people, and nation,
10 and made us kings and priests to our God,
and we will reign on earth.” Rev 5:9-10 WEB(Emphasis added)
The twenty-four elders mentioned here is a group from Earth taken from every tribe, language, people and nation. These are Gentiles. They are us, singing along with the four living creatures in antiphonal fashion so that we are able to testify to God’s grace in saving us and the four living creatures respond with praise to God on our behalf. (For more teaching on this controversial teaching, read” The Gang’s All Here” for a very detailed scriptural proof.)
The Church is there before God when the Lamb begins to open the seven seals, initiating the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. I took this little side road to illustrate the role that the Church will play in Israel’s ultimate redemption. In its darkest hour, the Nation of Israel will greatly benefit from the intercessory ministry of the Bride, which was Raptured away prior to the onset of the Tribulation. Speaking of Israel in another passage, Paul said:
“I ask then, did they stumble that they might fall? May it never be! But by their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?“ Rom 11:11-12 WEB (Emphasis added)
The answer to that question will be manifested in the Kingdom of God as we see the innumerable host of Gentiles worshipping beside Israel before God’s throne. We will likely hear our Lord Jesus Christ Almighty, Himself singing with joy over the prizes that He has won. Try to imagine it; God singing!
In eternity, Heaven and Earth will ring with antiphonal songs of praise as we sing of God’s grace to us and Israel sings of His mighty deliverances, and the four living creatures and all of the angelic host will sing with us!
That’s right, the story of our salvation and reconciliation to our God is a musical! Imagine John’s difficulty as he worked to describe all of this. Words are woefully inadequate. The Holy Spirit speaking through John could only hint at the rewards in store for us. Together with Israel, we will bow joyously and eagerly before God’s throne, declaring His justice, His faithfulness, His grace toward us, and His boundless love.
As the Gentile Bride, we will be the eternal evidence of His grace. Other created beings throughout eternity will witness in us the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice, the undeserved forgiveness of our sins, and our adoption as sons. Israel will tell them of His mighty deliverances, His faithfulness in providing for their needs, the sure nature of His promises. We will all tell them of His love.
Though Israel is no less reliant than we on our Lord’s grace; we, as strangers; those wild olive branches grafted into Jesus Christ the vine, our redemption seems even more miraculous. Unworthy as we are, we will be the trophy wife of the Lamb, one half of His most precious possession. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
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- Don’t Mess With Israel by Greg Lauer @alittlestrength.com