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 (8)

New JerusalemThe Lord Jesus denied himself, living the Father’s life on earth and finally going through death and entering into resurrection.

We follow Him on this path to New Jerusalem by denying ourself to apply His death to all our natural life so that His eternal life can flourish in us.

To deny the self requires constant exercise. Even toward the end of Paul’s Christian life, he was exercised to gain and know more of Christ and to be conformed to His death. The enabler for this lifelong exercise is “the power of His resurrection.”

 With Christ, the sufferings and death came first, followed by the resurrection; with us, the power of His resurrection comes first, followed by the participation in His sufferings and conformity to His death. We first receive the power of His resurrection; then by this power we are enabled to participate in His sufferings and live a crucified life in conformity to His death.*

Lord Jesus, keep me daily in the power of Your resurrection so that I may be conformed to Your death.

The conformity to the death of Christ (Phil. 3:10) is followed by the longing for the participation in the resurrection at the Lord’s return (3:11). This will bring our entire being—spirit, soul, and body—into resurrection to participate in the kingdom age and onward to New Jerusalem. To reach this goal requires our cooperation, our pursuing (3:12-14).

Part of footnote 3 on Phil. 3:10 in the Recovery Version NT, footnotes written by Witness Lee.

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.

Our Path to New Jerusalem

Revelation 19:7 and 21:2 tell us that the holy city, New Jerusalem, is the bride of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. The New Jerusalem, the bride, is the composition of all God’s chosen, redeemed, regenerated, transformed, and glorified people. Here is a brief look at these five steps on our path to New Jerusalem.

CHOSEN: First Peter 1:2 tells us that we are “Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Ephesians 1:3-4 says that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. The choice was entirely God’s, based on His foreknowledge. It is not our choice nor based on anything we are or have done. Because of God’s choice, we are in New Jerusalem.

New JerusalemREDEEMED: Romans 5:12 declares, “through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin, death; and thus death passed on to all men because all have sinned.” Because of sin and death, we need redemption to bring us back to God. Jesus Christ died on the cross to redeem us. Galatians 3 says that Christ redeemed us out of the curse so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit and Galatians 4 says that God sent His Son to redeem us that we might receive the sonship.

REGENERATED: First Peter 1:3 blesses “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has regenerated us unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This fulfills the goal of redemption stated in Galatians. In God’s eyes regeneration was accomplished “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” and we experience it at the time of our believing into Him.

Choosing, redemption and regeneration are three steps on our path to New Jerusalem. The other two will be in the next post.

Jesus and New Jerusalem: “Out of Heaven”

The Lord Jesus told us multiple times that He came down out of heaven:
John 3:13, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man…”
John 6:38, “I have come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.”
John 6:51a, “I am the living bread which came down out of heaven.”

New JerusalemRevelation 21:2 says, ” I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride.” And 21:10, “He [the angel] carried me away in spirit onto a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,”

Both the Lord Jesus, the Bridegroom, and New Jerusalem, the bride, come down out of heaven. The two correspond to each other, as Eve corresponded to and complemented Adam in Genesis 2.

Eve is a strong contrast to the animals God created; among them “for Adam there was not found a helper as his counterpart” (Gen. 2:20). Eve was the complement to Adam because she came out of Adam. God built Eve with the rib He had taken out of Adam.

New Jerusalem comes out of heaven because it is composed of the life and nature of Christ imparted into us in His resurrection. First Corinthians 15:47-48 make a contrast, “The first man [Adam] is out of the earth, earthy; the second man [Christ] is out of heaven. As the earthy is, such are they also that are earthy; and as the heavenly is, such are they also that are heavenly.” As the heavenly new creatures, we compose the heavenly bride, New Jerusalem, which matches the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

 

A Personal Testimony (2018)

I wrote my first Personal Testimony post in May 2014, a month after my wife died. I wrote a second Personal Testimony a year later. Now it is four years since her death and I have the feeling to write again.

I continue to love the Lord Jesus, read His word, have frequent fellowship with believers, teach in a Bible school, and participate in the Lord’s work. And I keep writing this blog about New Jerusalem.

The New Testament views death as sleep, from which the Lord will awaken us.* “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Resurrection is our hope for all who are or will be asleep in the Lord.

But I am not passively waiting for that resurrection. Paul, in the last years of his Christian life, said that he had not yet attained to the goal, but he pursued (Phil. 3:12-14). I am surely further from the goal than he was, so I pursue, “forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before.”

To forget the things behind is not to despise all that the Lord has done with us. Rather, it is to clear the path so that He can do more and become fresh and richer to us. Every day or every week we should realize more of Him as everything to us. Lord, bring me onward with Yourself! This is our goal today, and our ultimate goal is New Jerusalem.

Here is a song based on Philippians 3 about pursuing Christ.

* For example, Matthew 9:23-25, 27:50-53; John 11:11-13; Acts 7:60; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15

Out from Christ to be Presented to Christ (2)

In Genesis 2 God built the rib, which He had taken from Adam, into Eve and brought her to Adam. No other creature could be Adam’s counterpart, but Adam welcomed Eve as his counterpart. This is a picture that the church, growing into New Jerusalem, is built with Christ to be presented to Him as His wife.

New JerusalemGod took the rib from Adam while he was in “a deep sleep.” Sleep here signifies death, as in John 11:11-13 and 1 Thessa-lonians 4:13-16. Then Adam was awake, signifying resurrection, and Eve was brought to him. Like Eve, both the church and New Jerusalem come forth through the death and resurrection of Christ.

Through death Christ both redeemed us and released His divine life, which was imparted into us in resurrection. Now “Christ is our life” (Col. 3:4). Christ our life, not our natural life (which must be denied), is the life of the church and of New Jerusalem. It is by this life that the bride of Christ is prepared.

This life is imparted by the Spirit. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63). “The Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). However, this Spirit is not separate from Christ. He, as the Spirit, enters into our human spirit; as a result, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit* is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10).

Christ our life energizes us to deny our natural life, our self, and Christ our life grows until in the church, the new man, “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11). By His being all and in all His members, He can present the church to Himself glorious (Eph. 5:27). In the new creation and New Jerusalem there will be no self left to deny and absolutely Christ will be all and in all.

For more about the church, the precursor of New Jerusalem, coming out of Christ to be presented to Christ, see chapter 2 in The Glorious Church by Watchman Nee. It can be freely downloaded from Bibles for America (English) or Rhema Literature (30 languages).

* This is our human spirit because 1) it is contrasted with our human body and 2) the divine Spirit is life whether Christ is in us or not.

Graphic courtesy of pixabay.com.

The Morning Star Rises and the Day Dawns unto the Full Day of New Jerusalem (3)

God in Christ is a rising Sun, moving toward the full day of the new creation. With God there is no sunset, only a day brighter and brighter. Eternally God in Christ will illuminate New Jerusalem so brightly that “the city has no need of the sun or of the moon.”

The women who were the first to learn of the Lord’s resurrection “came to the tomb as the sun rose.” The sun rising to begin a new day is a picture of resurrection beginning a new age. The “sun” of this age will rise to a full day, consummating in the city of resurrection, New Jerusalem.

New JerusalemProverbs 4:18: “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”

We, in ourselves, are not righteous before God, but Christ has become our righteousness! As we live Him, He becomes our righteous actions, our righteousnesses, as our wedding garment (Rev. 19:8) that we may participate in the wedding feast.

The Lord Jesus told His disciples that at the end of this age “the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father”(Matt. 13:43). In Malachi 4 the Lord is the rising Sun of righteousness; it seems that He is separate from us. But, in Proverbs 4 and clearly in Matthew 13, we shine.

We shine, but the light is not of us. We shine because Jesus Christ is in us, and through our living Him out as our righteousness, we become constituted with Him to be righteous subjectively/experientially and thus we shine. This righteous will increase into the new creation (2 Peter 3:13) and the shining will increase to New Jerusalem, the city having the glory of God.

Living Water Flows to, in New Jerusalem (3)

New JerusalemJesus went through death and entered into resurrection to release the flow of water of life, fulfilling His promises in John 4:14 and 7:37-39. This same water of life continues to flow as the river in New Jerusalem.

The release of living water in His death, seen in John 19, was foretold in Exodus 17. Moses was told to strike a rock so that water would come out for the people to drink as they travelled through the desert. First Corinthians 10:4 summarizes that experience, saying “all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank of a spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ.”

Today, on our way to New Jerusalem, we are in a “desert.” The world around us is spiritually dry, without satisfaction to our inner thirst. The striking of the rock in Exodus 17, as a picture of the judgment of Christ on the cross, was once for all. Later, in Numbers 20, God told Moses to speak to the rock and it would release water to drink.

Today “the Rock is Christ” and we can “speak to the Rock.” Lord, I am thirsty, give me a drink of living water.

First Corinthians 12:13 says, “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body…and were all given to drink one Spirit.” How to drink? Isaiah 12:3: “you will draw water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation.” Isaiah 12:4 adds that, in that day, we will give thanks to the Lord and call on His name. To rejoice, give thanks, and call Lord Jesus are all ways to drink the living water. Practice now and expect to do more in New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

Living Water Flows to, in New Jerusalem (2)

John saw in New Jerusalem is “a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22:1). This river is the Spirit, because John 7:38-39 tells us that the Spirit will be rivers of living water flowing out of us.

New JerusalemJohn 7:39 says “the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.” The Spirit of God was moving in Genesis 1:2 but the Spirit that can enter into us and flow out of us was not yet at the time of John 7. The need was for Jesus to be glorified.

Comparing Luke 24:26 and 46, we see that for Him to be glorified was for Him to be resurrected. Then in resurrection “He breathed into them [the disciples] and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

To be resurrected, Jesus first had to go through death. At the end of His crucifixion, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.” The blood is a symbol of our redemption and the water signifies the flowing Spirit as our eternal life.

The reality of blood and water remain with us through our entire Christian life and into New Jerusalem. In 1 John 1, if we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to cleanse us and to forgive us. In this same chapter the life brings us into fellowship with God and with one another.

In New Jerusalem is the throne of God and of the blood-shedding, redeeming Lamb, a memorial of our redemption. In New Jerusalem there is also the flow of the Spirit, the river of water of life as our eternal supply.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

New Jerusalem: the Unique Marriage

John told us, “I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). Then he told us, “One of the seven angels…came and spoke with me, saying, Come here; I will show you the bride,
the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in spirit onto a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem” (21:9-10).

New JerusalemEternally New Jerusalem is the wife of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. This is the unique eternal marriage.

In Matthew 22:23-33 the Sadducees asked the Lord about the continuation of earthly marriages after the resurrection of the dead. The Lord’s answer in verse 30 is, “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Here the Lord speaks about the “resurrection of life” (John 5:29), the resurrection of those who are righteous in Him (Acts 24:15), the first/best resurrection (Rev. 20:5, 6).

This resurrection of life is at the Lord’s second coming, when the dead believers in Christ and the believers who are alive on earth both enter into a full resurrection, including the redemption of their bodies. They all are constituents of the city of resurrection, New Jerusalem. All these believers are the corporate wife of the Lamb, married to Him. Per the Lord’s word in Matthew, they are no longer in any human marriage.

I do not see any clear word in the Bible about marriages among the nations on the new earth around New Jerusalem, but for the believers in Christ, the city is clearly the unique eternal marriage.

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