We Are Members of the Body of Christ

“The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every precious stone: New Jerusalemthe first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst” (Rev. 21:19-20).

Prior posts considered God’s initiation, mercygrace, faithfulness, and transformation work as seen in the apostles whose names are on these stones.

Sixth, the twelve foundations of the city are composed of twelve kinds of precious stones (Rev. 21:19-20). This signifies oneness in variety. Not one stone is the same: Peter is one color, and John is another. Altogether there are twelve colors seen in the apostles—a real variety. Yet there is also oneness in this variety….Can we respect someone else whose ministry is totally different from ours? We must. We must hate narrow-mindedness and the urge to convince and convert others to be like ourselves. Never forget that Peter is Peter and John is John. The Lord Jesus is very great and wonderful. He needs many different persons to express Himself; one individual Christian is not sufficient.*

We are many members in the one Body of Christ, “and all the members do not have the same function” (Rom. 12:4). “There are distinctions of ministries, yet the same Lord” (1 Cor. 12:4-11). And we cannot say to others, I have no need of you (12:18-21).

In and of Christ today we are one Body. The same will be true in New Jerusalem, the city built by God on twelve foundations.

* Excerpt from The Vision of God’s Building by Witness Lee, chapter 19, © LSM.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

God’s Building Work with Man (2)

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel” (which is translated, God with us)” (Matt. 1:23). From eternity Jesus Christ was God and from the time of Matthew 1 He was a man. Hence He became a God-man.

From the time of God’s incarnation as man, especially during a period of thirty-three and a half years, there was a man on this earth with God in Him. Jesus was a real man, a typical man, yet the Mighty God was wrought into Him. God had come to be a man, and God was brought into man. However, that is not all. The Lord Jesus also brought man into God. He accomplished this by His death and resurrection. Today in the heavens there is a man in God. By Christ’s incarnation God was brought into man, and by His death, resurrection, and ascension man has been brought into God.*

New JerusalemThrough His death and resurrection, and our response by believing, God has come into us and we have been brought into God. Colossians 1:27 tells us that Christ is in us. He is God and He is in all the believers. Romans 6:11 speaks of our “living to God in Christ Jesus” and 8:1 of “those who are in Christ Jesus.” Even though our physical location is on earth, our spiritual location is in Christ Jesus.

God is in us and we are in Him. This is not static; it totally depends on His resurrection life. This life grows in us and brings our practical living into God. By this we are built together with other believers. This is God’s building work, of which New Jerusalem will be the peak.

* Excerpt from The Vision of God’s Building by Witness Lee, chapter 17

God’s Creation Work and Building Work

In Revelation 21:1-2, John the apostle tells us, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Heaven and earth represent God’s work of creation, but the New Jerusalem represents God’s work of building….Genesis 1 and 2 record God’s creation work, but from Genesis 3 to the end of the Scriptures God is continually working for His building.*

The Old Testament has pictures of God’s building, including Abraham’s tent, the tabernacle, and the temple. The New Testament has the reality, including what is presented in Matthew 16, 1 Corinthians 3 and 14, Ephesians 2 and 4, 1 Peter 2, and mentioned in additional chapters.

New JerusalemLet us recall the vital meaning of God’s building; it is that God is building Himself into man and building man into Himself. It is the very mingling of God and man. Throughout all generations God has been working along this line for this purpose. The Scriptures mainly reveal that God’s whole work since creation has been to mingle° Himself and man together as one.*

One passage about God built into man is Galatians 4:19, “My children, with whom I travail again in birth until Christ is formed in you,” Man built into God is seen in Ephesians 2:20-22, “…Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone; in whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.”

God and man built into one another is not within our natural concept but it is in God’s heart and presented through many verses in the New Testament. New Jerusalem is the conclusion and full display of this building work.

* Excerpts from The Vision of God’s Building by Witness Lee, chapter 17
° Mingle: man participates in God’s life and nature (2 Peter 1:4) but NOT in His Godhead.

Built Together in Christ for New Jerusalem

God’s New Testament building is a living temple built together in Christ Jesus by God’s life in us. The culmination of this building is a living city, New Jerusalem.

Revelation 3:12 includes the promise, “He who overcomes, him I will make a pillar in the temple of My God.” A person as a pillar in the temple is a further indication that God’s New Testament building is living. The overcomer was not merely born again but has grown from an infant in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1) to a mature and solid member in the Body of Christ.

Finally, in Revelation 21:22 John tells us, “I saw no temple in it [New Jerusalem], for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Thus, to be built into God’s building, God’s temple, is to be built into God Himself

To be built into God may seem a strange expression but consider these Bible phrases:
Rom. 12:5: we “are one Body in Christ
Eph. 2:21: “in whom [Christ Jesus] all the building…is growing into a holy temple in the Lord
Col. 2:7: “having been rooted and being built up in Him
plus other verses in the prior three blog posts.

New Jerusalem, as the conclusion of all God’s work through the ages, is a living city, a living temple in the Lord. The whole city is a living building composed of God’s people built into God. New Jerusalem is the ultimate issue of the Lord’s word in John 14:20, “you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

God’s Living Temple, Now to New Jerusalem

New JerusalemGod’s New Testament temple is living.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). God had only a symbolic physical temple in Old Testament times because the Spirit was not yet able to dwell in the believers.

Through Christ’s redemption and the Spirit’s regeneration, the Spirit now dwells in us. Thus, “we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16).

At the time of our believing in Jesus Christ we are immediately brought into this living temple. However, we still need to grow into the reality of this temple. This can be illustrated by a civilian who takes an oath to enter military service. Instantly this person’s status changes from civilian to military. But much training and practice is needed for this person to develop as a properly functioning member of the military.

In Christ we are growing and we all as His building “being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:20-21). The fact that we are “growing into a holy temple” is further proof that the temple is living.

After all His building work through the New Testament, God will not go back to a physical temple in eternity. New Jerusalem will be the ultimate living temple built together in life with God and all His people. By God’s life spreading within us we are being built into New Jerusalem.

Graphic courtesy of pixabay.com.

Peace, Now and in New Jerusalem

New JerusalemThe name Jerusalem means “foundation of peace.” New Jerusalem will certainly be full of peace and joy and many other wonderful conditions.

But what about today? We seem to be over the peak of coronavirus infections. Gradually there is an opening of society but we still wear masks and keep social distances. Our economy is weak; our future is uncertain.

Medical experts say the virus might linger as a long-term threat. Job prospects for many are poor. We wonder, Is it safe to go there? or to do that? We are in a state of uncertainty. We cannot change the medical or economic or political environment. But we can open ourselves to Jesus!

In John 14:27 the Lord Jesus tells us, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” And in John 16:33 He says, “in Me you may have peace. In the world you have affliction.”

Philippians 4:6-7, “In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses every man’s understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”

We need to present our requests to the Lord, not only for outward care but even more for His peace within. This inward peace is a testimony of Him to the troubled world. This inward peace, the peace of God, is the same peace as in New Jerusalem. The difference then is that there will also be peace throughout the new creation.

New Jerusalem is the Mingling of The Triune God with His People

God has been seeking a dwelling with man since creation. Many stages of this dwelling developed through the Old and New Testaments, culminating in New Jerusalem.

New JerusalemAn early picture of this dwelling, this building, is Abraham’s tent with his altar in front of it, a miniature of the tabernacle with an altar built centuries later. At that time God told Moses, “Let them make a sanctuary for Me that I may dwell in their midst” (Exo. 25:8).

In the Old Testament, due to the fall of man, God could only dwell with man, not in man. But the redemption obtained by the Lord Jesus cleansed man.

In the New Testament God does not dwell ‘with man’ but ‘in man.’ Even before accomplishing redemption, the Lord Jesus spoke of this. “You will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). “Abide in Me and I in you” (John 15:4).

In the epistles many verses speak of us being in Christ and Christ being in us. This is mutual indwelling, also called coinherence or mingling. The ultimate stage of this coinherence is New Jerusalem.

The New Jerusalem is a full picture of the mingling of the Triune God with His redeemed creatures, the mingling of divinity with humanity. Now God is no longer merely a God outside of man. He is a God within man.

For eternity God will dwell in His people and His people in Him. This mutual dwelling is New Jerusalem.

* The Building of God, chapter 1, by Witness Lee.

Organic Union with the Triune God

The description of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21–22 is full of spiritual signs. Among these signs are the materials—gold signifying the Father’s divine nature, and pearls portraying the Son’s redemptive death and regenerating resurrection. These become our entrance into the kingdom of God which consummates in New Jerusalem.

In the New Jerusalem the precious stones are we plus the Spirit. The transforming Spirit becomes one with us, His transformed ones. Therefore, the pearls are Christ and we, and the wall of precious stones is the Spirit and we. These two items, the pearls and the precious stones, indicate that the second of the Triune God and the third of the Triune God have made Themselves one with us. Without the Spirit it would be impossible for us as pieces of clay to become jasper, bearing the same appearance as God. But now we have the life-giving Spirit, who is actually the consummated Triune God, in us, making us one with Him. Thus, we are altogether in the organic union with the Triune God.*

New JerusalemThe Lord spoke about this organic union in John’s gospel. For example, He said that in resurrection “you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” The Lord lives in us and we live in Him. In the epistles this thought continues—many verses speak about Christ in us and us in Christ.

Romans 8:9 declares that the Spirit dwells in us and in 2 Corinthians 3:18 we are being transformed by the Lord Spirit. This organic union is for our Christian life today and for eternity in New Jerusalem.

* The Organic Union in God’s Relationship with Man, chapter 6, by Witness Lee.

The Riches of God’s Grace in New Jerusalem

Ephesians 2:5-6 says that God made us alive together with Christ, raised us up together with Him, and seated us in the heavenlies in Him, so that (v. 7) “He might display in the ages to come the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

In verse 7 ages is plural, so it refers to both the coming age and eternity. Thus, verse 7 tells us something about New Jerusalem. This verse says God will display. New Jerusalem will be a display of the unlimited riches of God.

New JerusalemVerse 7 also uses the word surpassing. It does not tell us what will be surpassed but the whole of Ephesians presents an unlimited Triune God. What He will display will surpass everything we have seen or imagined.

Then the word riches. It is plural. God is not merely rich in grace; His grace has multiple aspects of richness. How many aspects we cannot guess. Even now we can receive “grace upon grace” (John 1:16)—grace in multiple layers.

The surpassing riches are of His grace. This grace comes to us in Christ Jesus and is Christ Jesus Himself (John 1:14, 17). This grace comes in kindness. We do not deserve the surpassing riches of His grace, but because God loves us and is merciful to us, this grace abounds to us. Thank Him for His great mercy!

This surpassingly rich grace comes to us in Christ Jesus. He is the realm for all God’s blessings to us. All the surpassing riches of New Jerusalem will be in Him and displayed through Him.

New Creation: Now or Later?

New JerusalemNew Jerusalem is on the new earth as the center of the new creation. As the outcome of God’s last judgments in Revelation 20, John tells us in 21:1, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the sea is no more.”

One aspect of this new creation is revealed much earlier, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” And concerning our Christian life, Galatians 6:15 tells us, “a new creation is what matters.” This is inward, spiritual, a forerunner of the full new creation revealed at the end of Revelation.

The old creation is our old man in Adam (Eph. 4:22), our natural being by birth, without God’s life and the divine nature. The new creation is the new man in Christ (Eph. 4:24), our being that is regenerated by the Spirit (John 3:6), having God’s life and the divine nature wrought into it (John 3:36; 2 Pet. 1:4), having Christ as its constituent (Col. 3:10-11), and having become a new constitution….Although we are still the old creation, we experience the reality of the new creation when we walk according to the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25).*

Today we experience the inward new creation when we live in Spirit. When we reach Revelation 21, the entire creation, inwardly and around us, will be new with the full reality of New Jerusalem.


* Part of footnote 1 on Gal. 6:15 in the Recovery Version NT; footnotes written by Witness Lee.

Photo courtesy of pexels.com.

Characteristics Now and in New Jerusalem

Ephesians 4:12-24 contains many positives: perfecting, building, oneness, full-grown, fullness, truth, love, reality, righteousness, holiness. These characteristics do not refer to the natural realm or from natural effort.

New JerusalemThey all come from being in Christ, learning Christ, hearing Christ, and growing up into Him as the Head of the Body. Because these all are Christ and our experience of Him, they are also characteristics of New Jerusalem.

Ephesians 4:12-24 also contains many negatives: sleight, craftiness, error, vanity, darkness, ignorance, hard-ness, lasciviousness, uncleanness, greediness, corruption, deceit.

These all result from mankind being alienated from the life of God. None of these will be in New Jerusalem nor anywhere in the new creation, except in the lake of fire.

In our daily living, the key for us as believers to get away from the negatives and into the positives is verse 4:23, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” The Spirit has regenerated our spirit—this is John 3:6, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Now we are one spirit with the Lord—this is 1 Corinthians 6:17.

These two steps—regeneration and renewing—are also seen in Titus 3:5, “the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” This renewing is not a change from bad behavior to good behavior. Rather, it is a change from living in the old humanity, the fallen humanity that is apart from God to living Christ and letting Him become the reality of our human virtues. This is a living that corresponds to New Jerusalem.

Through the Cross to New Jerusalem (4)

The Lord Jesus, by His death on the cross, terminated all negatives, redeemed God’s people, released divine life, and created one new man. The Spirit makes this real to us.

Objectively, all that Christ accomplished has become real to us. We acknowledge and accept these things (even though full comprehension comes only with Christian growth) when we believe into Him and are baptized. An example is Romans 6:3, “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” Physically we were baptized in water but at the same time the Spirit of reality brought us into the fact of Christ’s death.

New JerusalemObjectively, positionally, we are in all that Christ has done. Yet now we need to grow into this subjectively, experientially. An illustration: a positional move from one nation to another is quick, but to fully absorb and live according to the language, food, and culture takes years.

We are in Christ and are new objectively. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Cor. 5:17). Now we are growing to absorb and live out the reality of His redemption, life, and the corporate new man. Thus we gradually reach “to me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21)—Christ lives in me and expresses His virtues out through my living.

Christ expressed in our living is the precursor of New Jerusalem. This city is not physical, it is a living composition of God in Christ in all His people. He lives in us and He lives out through us to be expressed through us; this is New Jerusalem.

 

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