The Love of the Marriage of the Lamb Presented in Ephesians 5

The eternal marriage of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, and the bride, New Jerusalem, is presented in Revelation 19:7-9 and 21:2, 9-11. This marriage is in the love of God which becomes our love to Him and to one another.

New JerusalemEphesians exhorts to walk worthily of God’s calling (4:1) and to “walk in love” (5:2*). Our walk in love is “as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us” (5:2). When we experience the love of Christ to us and respond by loving Him, our walk becomes worthy. Lord Jesus, we love You.

Ephesians 5:22-33 speaks about human marriage as a picture of the eternal marriage. “This mystery is great, but I speak with regard to Christ and the church” (5:32).

“Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (5:25). The wife’s subjection [5:22] plus the husband’s love [5:25] constitutes a proper married life and typifies the normal church life, in which the church is subject to Christ and Christ loves the church.** This normal church life is a foretaste of New Jerusalem.

Christ loved the church and gave Himself “that He might sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing of the water in the word” (5:26) with the goal “that He might present the church to Himself glorious…holy and without blemish” (5:27).

The characteristics of the church in 5:27, which match New Jerusalem, show us that the consummation of Christ’s loving and giving is New Jerusalem.


*Verse numbers without a book name are in Ephesians.

** Part of footnote 1 on Ephesians 5:25 in the Recovery Version Bible, footnote written by Witness Lee, Bible © 2017 by Living Stream Ministry.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

The Narrow Way of Bearing the Cross and Denying the Self unto New Jerusalem

Matthew 16:24-25, “Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it; but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it.” These words are followed by the Son of Man coming in His glory and in His kingdom, both of which point to New Jerusalem. This is the constricted way the Lord spoke about in Matthew 7.

New Jerusalem

This subject seems negative, BUT remember, the death of our natural life manifests the resurrection life, the only life present in New Jerusalem. “Always bearing about the putting to death of Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested” (2 Cor. 4:10).

Here is one key point or verse from each post in this series, with a link to the post.

The death of Christ terminated all negatives, redeemed God’s people, released the divine life, and created the new man.

We were crucified with Christ and also raised with Him (Rom. 6:6, Col. 3:1).

Christ offered Himself to God through the eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14). In this Spirit His death and His life are available to us.

Objectively, positionally, we are in all that Christ has done. Yet now we need to grow into this subjectively, experientially. Galatians 2:20 is about our experience.

Christian growth in life is gradual (Gal. 4:19). To deny ourself is the key to growth.

The Lord’s words about denying our self, our soul life, begin in Matthew 10:38, “he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

Luke adds a word not in Matthew, “If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

Luke 14: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own soul-life, he cannot be My disciple.” If we are not disciples, how will we be in New Jerusalem?

Denying and losing the soul life is our responsibility, yet self cannot deny self. We apply the death of Christ in Spirit. Romans 8:13 says, “by the Spirit you put to death…”

The Lord told us to deny ourself, and He did this. An example: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26).

In John 7 and 8 the Lord declared that He did not seek His own glory.

To deny ourself is to deny our opinions, preferences, like and dislikes, complaints, and vain talking. Perhaps none are evil, but they are self and will not be in New Jerusalem.

Denying and losing the self seems negative, but death is followed by resurrection. We are being put to death that the life of Jesus may be manifested (2 Cor. 4:10-12).

The word of the cross is…to us who are being saved…the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

We boast in Christ Jesus and long “to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:3, 10).

To deny the self requires constant exercise, empowered by His resurrection with a longing for the fuller resurrection at His return and the fullest in New Jerusalem.

Looking away unto Jesus” enlivens us to be delivered unto death and to deny ourself.

The denial of our soul life is presented in Ephesians 4:22: “That you put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man. Then we put on the new man who continues into New Jerusalem.

To deny our self and lose our soul life is to take the constricted way which leads to life (Matt. 7:14), eventually to the city of life, New Jerusalem.


Bible verses quoted in these posts are from The Holy Bible, Recovery Version, published and © by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim CA, 2003. The New Testament of this Bible, with its outlines, footnotes, and cross-references, is at online.recoveryversion.org; this too is © by Living Stream Ministry.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Not Loving the Soul Life – Examples

Revelation 12:11 speaks of those who “overcame him [the Devil] because of the blood* of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their soul-life even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). Not loving the soul life equals denying it, fulfilling the Lord’s command in the gospels. This denying, and the losing of our soul life, are to follow the Lord, to be His disciples, and to participate in His glory and kingdom, both of which consummate in New Jerusalem.

New JerusalemIn Acts 7 Stephen boldly testified for the Lord. Then, while dying, he unselfishly prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

In Acts 15 the apostles and elders in Jerusalem recommended Barnabas and Paul as “Men who have risked their [soul] lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:26).

In Acts 20:24 Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, where he was arrested. He declares, “I consider my [soul] life of no account as if precious to myself, in order that I may finish my course and the ministry which I have received from the Lord Jesus.”

In Philippians 2:25-30 Paul commends Epaphroditus. “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy, and hold such in honor, because for the work of Christ he drew near unto death, risking his [soul] life…” (v. 29-30).

Lord, have compassion on me that I may love You completely. For Your ministry now and for New Jerusalem, make me one who risks my own soul life, not counting it precious.

* Notes 2, 3, 4 on Rev. 12:11 are about the blood, the word of testimony, and not loving.

Not Loving the Soul Life for New Jerusalem

Near the beginning of the New Testament, the Lord Jesus told us to deny our self, take up our cross, and lose our soul life. This denying, taking up, and losing is the practical termination of our natural life so that His resurrection life, the life of New Jerusalem, may be manifested.

New JerusalemNear the end of the New Testament we read about some who faithfully carried out this word of the Lord. “They [some believers] overcame him [the Devil] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their soul-life even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). Not loving the soul life = denying it.

In Revelation 2 and 3 the Lord had multiple churches in Asia Minor, yet He was not satisfied. In the epistle to every church, he called for overcomers. Even in speaking well about Philadelphia, He called for overcomers. And in Revelation 12 we see that He gained some.

These overcomers “loved not their soul-life even unto death.” In contrast, they loved “our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptibility” (Eph. 6:24). This means that they loved the Lord absolutely. They did not love with any selfish motive* but denied themselves.

Incorruptibility is a characteristic of New Jerusalem. We need to deny even our natural love for the Lord, that we may love Him with this incorruptible love. We love Him in this way now, when He comes, and unto New Jerusalem.

*James and John loved the Lord Jesus, but in the early years they loved selfishly. They asked, “Grant to us to sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory” (Mark 10:37). In their later years, after the Lord’s resurrection, they were faithful unto death.
Photo courtesy of Burning Well.

 

The Narrow Way unto New Jerusalem

Matthew 7:14: “Narrow is the gate and constricted is the way that leads to life.” We have this life today through regeneration. We take the narrow, constricted way now to New Jerusalemthe fuller joy of this life in the mani­­festation of the kingdom and to the fullest joy in New Jerusalem.

The narrowness and the constriction correspond with taking up our cross daily and denying our self, our soul life. The narrow, constricted way does not accommodate self-indulgence, selfishness, selfish ambition, self-love, self-will, seeking gain through base means, seeking our own things (even if good), nor apparently good things like self-chosen lowliness.*

In contrast, a walk on the constricted way is to “flee youthful lusts, and pursue righteous­ness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). Our fleeing is our denying. Righteousness, faith, love, and peace are all Christ Himself supplying us to bear our cross on the constricted way.

Similarly 1 Timothy 6 speaks of things that cannot come through the narrow gate, such as pride, contentiousness, envy, strife, slanders, and love of money. Verse 6:11 then tells us that to be “a man of God” on the constricted way, we need to flee all the selfish things “and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, meekness.” All of these virtues are Christ Himself as our life in resurrection and all will continue on the constricted way unto New Jerusalem.

*All these “self” characteristics are from New Testament verses.
Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

 

Putting Off, Putting On, for New Jerusalem

We follow the Lord Jesus on the path to New Jerusalem by applying His death as we deny ourself, so that all our natural life is terminated. This opens the door for the divine life, the eternal life, the life we received in regeneration, the life of New Jerusalem, to spread in us and to be magnified in our living (Phil. 1:20-21).

New JerusalemThe exchange of the natural and divine living is presented in Ephesians 4:22-24. “That you put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man…and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man, which was created according to God in righteousness and holiness of the reality.”

Galatians 2:20 also shows this putting off and putting on: “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith…” This living one with Christ in me is the life of the new man and of New Jerusalem.

“It is no longer I who live” is because “I am crucified with Christ” and by the Spirit I am applying this every day. This is putting off the old living. This is to deny self and bear the cross daily. “Christ lives in me” to impart the resurrection power for this denying.

“I now live in faith.” This is putting on the new man who ultimately becomes New Jerusalem.

Through the Cross, Looking to Jesus

The Lord desires to constantly apply His death to our natural life so that His resurrection life may be manifested. “We who are alive are always being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus also may be manifested” (2 Cor. 4:11). This is our path to New Jerusalem, the consummate manifestation of the life of Jesus.

New JerusalemOn one hand “we are being delivered unto death.” On the other hand, we have to deny our soul life and bear our cross. We cannot do this ourselves. We need to be empowered by Him.

“Let us…run with endurance the race which is set before us, looking away unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:1-2).

We need the endurance of Jesus, so that we may reach the joy set before us, a joy which culminates in New Jerusalem. Thus, we look to HIm. This is similar to the first part of Romans 5. Being justified “we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Standing in grace, equal to looking away to Jesus, brings forth many virtues including endurance.

A related verse is 2 Thessalonians 3:5, “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the endurance of Christ.” When our hearts are loving God we have endurance, but we are not the source. It is “the endurance of Christ.” He brings us through all the killing of our natural man into the reality of the new man, which becomes New Jerusalem.

Through the Cross to New Jerusalem (7)

The Lord Jesus told us to deny ourself, take up our cross, and lose our soul life for His sake. Such denying, taking up, and losing is a continual part of our Christian life, applying the once-for-all death of Christ on the cross to our old man. In this way we put on the reality of the one new man created on the cross as we advance to New Jerusalem.

“For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3). This circumcision is not in the flesh as practiced by the Jews; rather, we “were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11).

New Jerusalem“The circumcision of Christ” is His once-for-all death on the cross, made available to us by the Spirit, and applied by us daily. Whenever we boast in ourselves or have confidence in ourselves, we have strayed from the cross and from the path to New Jerusalem.

Boasting in Christ Jesus and denying self-confidence is a continual exercise. This exercise is also seen in Paul’s desire to gain Christ and be found in Him “to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:8-10).

Before we reach New Jerusalem we need the Lord and His resurrection power through sufferings to conform us to “His death”!

Death & Resurrection unto New Jerusalem

The Lord Jesus asks us to deny ourself, take up our cross daily, and lose our soul life. This is our path to New Jerusalem but it seems quite negative. But remember, the Lord’s death is followed by resurrection. The Lord’s death applied in us is followed by His resurrection applied in us.

New Jerusalem is a city of resurrection, not a city of our natural life. Our natural life must be denied so that resurrection life can spring forth.

New JerusalemDeath and resurrection was the life of the Lord Jesus and today it is our life. Second Corinthians 4 speaks of this. Verse 10: “Always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

Verse 11: “We who are alive are always being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

When the Lord returns, we will experience the redemption of our mortal body. Until then we bear, not an ordinary death, but “the putting to death of Jesus” that the resurrection life may be manifested. This manifestation will continue eternally in New Jerusalem.

Verse 12 says that death operates in us. This is our experience of the cross. Verses 13-14 say we have a spirit of faith, “knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus.” This coming experience of resurrection brings us into the manifestation of the kingdom and then to New Jerusalem.

Photo by David Goodrich, courtesy of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Deny the Self for New Jerusalem (5)

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke the Lord told us to deny our self, take up our cross, and lose our soul life. In John He presented Himself as a pattern of this denying. The immediate goal of these actions is to follow Him and to be His disciple.

New JerusalemThe broader goal, shown in His speaking following this subject, is His second coming, His glory, and His kingdom. If we follow Him in denying and losing, we will participate in these blessings on our way to New Jerusalem.

The Lord is our pattern. In John 5:30 He told us, “I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.”

In John 6:38 He said, “I have come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” To deny ourself is to deny our own will, to not seek or do what we want.

In John 7 He said, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him, this One is true, and unrighteousness is not in Him.” And in John 8, “I do not seek My glory.” He denied Himself by not seeking anything by Himself or for Himself.

To follow the Lord, we cannot seek our glory, our prestige, our fame. We are only earthen vessels to express the Lord, with New Jerusalem as the ultimate vessel of glory.

 

Deny the Self for New Jerusalem (4)

New JerusalemThe Lord Jesus laid down His soul life to release eternal life to us (John 10:10-11). This eternal life is the life of New Jerusalem and brings us to New Jerusalem.

The Lord also asks us to deny our self, which is to lay down our soul life. To help us understand this, consider some words of the Lord about denying Himself.

Matthew 26 records His prayer shortly before His arrest, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” The Lord denied Himself by denying His own will.

In John 14 He told us, ” The words that I say to you I do not speak from Myself, but the Father who abides in Me does His works” and ” the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” The Lord denied Himself by not speaking His own words but taking the Father’s words.

To deny ourselves is needed to follow the Lord and to follow Him is the path to New Jerusalem. This requires us to deny our will, our words, and our works. Our will, our words, our works have no place in New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Deny the Self for New Jerusalem (3)

Recent posts show us the narrow way of the cross in Matthew, Mark, and Luke to New Jerusalem. The Lord tells us that we must deny ourself, take up our cross, and hate and lose our soul life. To lose our soul life is to allow the eternal life to spread, to grow in us. Apart from this we are not qualified for New Jerusalem.

New JerusalemThe Lord set the pattern. He told us in John 10, “I have come that they may have life and may have it abundantly. I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

Jesus denied His soul life throughout His ministry and laid it down in death, so that He could release the divine life abundantly to us.

The laying down of soul life for releasing divine life applies to us also. “In this we know love, that He laid down His [soul] life on our behalf, and we ought to lay down our [soul] lives on behalf of the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

The denying and losing is our responsibility, yet we cannot do it by ourselves. Self cannot deny self. We apply the death of Christ available in the eternal Spirit. Romans 8:13 tells us “by the Spirit you put to death…” Galatians 5 says, “Walk by the Spirit.” This is the Spirit of reality promised in John 14, which brings to us the reality of the death of Christ.

Our way to New Jerusalem is narrow, constrained by the cross, and the reality is in Spirit.


Bible verses quoted in these posts are from The Holy Bible, Recovery Version, published and © by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim CA, 2003. The New Testament of this Bible, with its outlines, footnotes, and cross-references, is at online.recoveryversion.org; this too is © by Living Stream Ministry.

Photo of Saturn’s rings and two moons courtesy of NASA.

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