ECHOES from EDEN, PART 18
END-TIME PROPHECY – TRUTH REVEALED
BY: J. PRESTON EBY
KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
CONSCIENCE in the GARDEN
The Origin of the Conscience
The Work of the Conscience
Living above the Conscience
Cleansed from Evil Conscience
Purging the Conscience from Dead Works
God all in all
"And they were both naked, the man and his wife, AND WERE NOT ASHAMED. And the woman took of the fruit, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they KNEW THAT THEY WERE NAKED; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons."
The first chapters in the Book of Genesis stand unmoved and immovable, as a record which is still more up to date than ALL modern human wisdom and knowledge. The first three chapters of Genesis are stupendous miracles of TRUTH. The entire plan, purpose, and economy of God are as visible there as the stars which come to the view of human eyes in the darkness of night.
This truth forms the springboard for the thoughts we would share in this study concerning the CONSCIENCE. It is not difficult to understand the conscience.
THE ORIGIN OF THE CONSCIENCE
Let us now look at the origin of the human conscience. When did it first exist, and how did it come into being? The word "conscience" is used 32 times in the New Testament, but does not appear at all in the Old Testament. This does not mean that the Old Testament has nothing to say about the conscience, merely that it is spoken of in terms other than the actual word, for man's conscience is clearly one of the myriad things that had its beginning in the first three chapters of Genesis.
"And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. and the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, THEN YOUR EYES SHALL BE OPENED, and ye shall be as gods, KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And THE EYES OF THEM BOTH
There is no doubt as to the innocence of Adam and Eve when they were first created. As man stood in the garden, he was neither holy nor unholy, he was innocent, brought forth by the hand of God, pure, innocent, undefiled, and to be sure, very unproven and untried. I know that most theologians will tell us that Adam was holy, but there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that. Holiness, as you know, is one of the attributes of God, eternal, unchangeable, and indestructible. If Adam had truly been holy by nature he could not have sinned! No, my brother, God did not create Adam holy, He created him innocent, without self-consciousness before God or the creation; the one thing Adam was conscious of was GOD and only of himself in relation to the One Whose will he was to fulfill, the main trend of his life was towards God. Man before the fall was in a primeval state, like a newborn babe. At that time he was not ashamed of his nakedness anymore than a day-old infant is ashamed. This proves that within man there was NO CONCEPT OF GOOD AND EVIL, right or wrong, showing that there was neither the feeling nor the function of the conscience. A little child is in no moral or spiritual struggles.
Then the command was given,
The serpent enters with a bold question as to divine revelation,
As soon as man fell by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we read,
Where conscience is permitted to speak, the pain of conscience will be experienced in all its gradations, from almost imperceptible restlessness to peacelessness, fear, anxiety, horror, and wildest despair. Suicides bear witness to the fact that the pangs of conscience can become greater than even the dread of death itself.
It was the pangs of conscience – guilt – that sent Adam fleeing from God, hiding from Him. He did not insolently confront God, but when he heard God’s voice in the Garden he hid from Him. Adam’s reaction was not one whit different from man’s response today. How quickly the small boy who has stolen the tarts hides when he hears his father’s voice, not only for fear of punishment, but from shame of his own condition and at disobeying a loved one. What a strange delusion of Adam’s, both then and today, to think that he could hide from God, as though the world were opaque to God! But in the throes of conscience-pangs he could not flee fast enough.
Do not forget for one moment, dear ones, that God, omnipotent, omniscient, PLANNED ALL THIS. Adam was intended by God, ere the morning stars sang, and the sons of God shouted for joy, to take part in his own development unto perfection by a series of moral choices, with ensuing failure, sorrow, redemption, and discipline, whereby He would transform him FROM INNOCENCE INTO HOLINESS!
THE WORK OF THE CONSCIENCE
Now, it is well to understand how the conscience works. Some students of scripture have divided the Bible into seven dispensations: the dispensations innocence, conscience, human government, promise, law, grace, and the kingdom. The first three dispensations are categorized according to the principle of government. In the dispensation of innocence we see the principle of GOD'S RULE; in the dispensation of conscience, the principle of SELF-RULE; and in the dispensation of human government, the principle of MAN'S RULE. Of the three kinds of government, the one which is under the rule of SELF is the one related to the CONSCIENCE. Before the fall, no sin barrier existed between God and man. This was the so-called dispensation of innocence, when man was ruled directly by God. He lived before God and was responsible to God. Man failed under God's rule in innocence and became sinful within and without: so the holy and righteous God drove man out from the realm of the Kingdom of God.
Consequently, from the time of Adam's expulsion from the Garden of Eden to the time of Noah's departure from the Ark, God established the conscience within man to represent Himself in ruling over man. This is the so-called dispensation of conscience. In this period man was ruled by his own conscience and was responsible
Our conscience can really be compared to a judgment seat. A judgment seat never has legislative authority over men’s lives; it has judicial authority only, that is, it can only state whether the action of the accused is punishable according to the law of the land or not. Its duty is to examine the deed in relation to what the law says, and then decide whether the deed conforms with or violates the law. This is also what the conscience does. It compares our deeds or our words or thoughts or our nature with the law of the knowledge of good and evil and then pronounces judgment, deciding whether we are in conformity or in conflict with it. The conscience acts as both judge and jury, as well as the key witness in the case! In this realm of the knowledge of good and evil whatever a man does, as far as he does it from conscience, so far is it lawful, for his conscience is formed of all those things which he thinks to be true, and so thinks to be lawful.
LIVING ABOVE THE CONSCIENCE
There are many
We have already noted how the first three dispensations of innocence, conscience, and human government reveal the principles of government: in the dispensation of innocence we see the principle of God's rule over man in the blessed realm of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth; in the dispensation of conscience, the principle of man's self-rule by the inner knowledge of good and evil; and in the dispensation of human government, the principle of man's rule over man by force.
Before returning to the rule of the conscience, there are a few things I should like to mention concerning human government and the principle of man's rule. After the flood, God told Noah,
Sadly, the condition of many Christians today is the same! Their behavior STILL REQUIRES THE RULE OF MAN. Students must be controlled by their teachers, children by their parents, churches by their Headquarters, ministers by their bishops, and believers by their pastors and elders! If that rule is not there they don't know what to do, nor how to walk, and their spiritual lives become disoriented and weak. This proves to a great degree that THEY ARE STILL LIVING IN THE FALLEN CONDITION OF BEING RULED BY MAN! We praise God for every Spirit-anointed ministry that God has set for the encouragement and strengthening of the body of Christ, they are examples to the flock, and we rejoice in that flow of life that emanates from each one, but I do not hesitate to declare to you, beloved brothers and sisters, that if you still need a man to RULE OVER YOU AS A LORD, whether apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, or elders, then you know nothing yet as you ought to know of what it means to be a son of God led by the Spirit.
But, let me ask you, is the principle of self-rule, of living by the conscience, superior in any way to the rule of man? I declare to you that it is not! Conscience means A KNOWING WITH ONESELF, and is, simply, the carnal consciousness of WHAT WE ARE. Many are astray as to this; they think that the conscience will bring us to God. Did it operate thus in the case of Adam and Eve? Assuredly not! In the very moment when their conscience sprang into life within their bosoms, the first thing they did was run from God and try to hide from Him! There is not one sinner in the whole of the universe who has ever come to God by his conscience. Millions have come to God by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, certainly, but not one has been brought by his conscience! How can they? How could the sense of what I AM ever bring me back to God, if not accompanied by the faith of what HE IS? Impossible. It is necessary, therefore, for God to reveal Himself to man. Man's conscience will testify only of his shame, remorse, fear and self-reproach. It was acquired in and by the fall, it only proves that he sees himself, naked, and it drives man away from God. It was conscience that drove Adam behind the trees of the Garden, but it was THE REVELATION OF GOD WALKING AND SPEAKING that brought him forth from his hiding place into the presence of God. The consciousness of what he was terrified him; the revelation of what God was tranquilized him. The reality of what I am is met by the reality of what God is, and here is salvation!
Since man has been degraded from God's rule to self-rule and human rule, God, in saving man, and bringing him into the Kingdom of God, must recover man not only from human rule but also from self-rule
Self-rule and God's rule differ greatly. Self-rule means that a man lives by the feelings of conscience, being responsible to his conscience; whereas God's rule means that man lives BY THE REVELATION OF THE SPIRIT, being responsible to GOD. We know that God by the Holy Spirit lives in our spirit, and as new creatures in Christ Jesus we are now putting on THE MIND OF CHRIST.
The conscience has only the feeling of right or wrong. It condemns all that is wrong and justifies all that is right and good. But THE MIND OF CHRIST is above right and wrong, good and evil. The mind of Christ is above wrong and also above right; it is above evil and also above good! It condemns all that is wrong and all that is evil, but it does not necessarily approve all that is right and all that is good. It accepts not only that which IS OF GOD, OF THE SPIRIT, AND OF LIFE.
Let me illustrate: Lying is condemned by the conscience while truthfulness is approved. If we live by the conscience, all is well as long as we do not lie, but tell the truth. However, if we live in the mind of Christ, walking by the sense of God, then not only can we not tell lies, but also we cannot always tell the truth. We have to ask: Are these words of God or of my self? God does not want us to lie, but neither does he want us to speak the truth. What God desires is that we speak HIS WORDS, WORDS THAT ARE OF HIM, OF THE SPIRIT, AND OF LIFE; not our own words, even if they are the truth! Therefore, when one is ministering the Word, whether he is speaking the truth or not will be witnessed to by the conscience. But as to what he should minister, what God is in mind for him to speak – this only can be witnessed by the Spirit. The conscience is unable to do anything in this respect. Only through the mind of Christ can one touch the mind of God and led by God to speak His words. These differences between the conscience and the mind of Christ are also the differences between self-rule and the rule of God! We have all had the experience of hearing someone give a good teaching, minister a good word, yet knowing by the Spirit that they had missed the mind of God and were not giving the word for that occasion. I have heard many so-called prophecies over the past years that were good so far as what they were saying, I could find no fault with the content, the words, yet I knew by the Spirit that they proceeded out of zeal, not out of anointing; out of the intellect of the speaker, not out of the mind of God. The saints judged the prophecy by the sound of the words, the truth of its message, and all shouted amen! Never realizing that GOD HAD NOT SPOKEN ANYTHING.
Our knowledge of good and evil can prevent us from obeying the Voice of the Spirit. Put yourself in the place of Abraham. What if God told you to go out and sacrifice your only son – the son God Himself gave you. Most of us would immediately dismiss the Voice as being from satan – our conscience would render the logical verdict – it is wrong to make human sacrifice! Our knowledge of good and evil would prevent us from obeying God. Beyond that, we like to make little rules for ourselves, such as “it is always good to give” or “it is always wrong to deceive.” Do you see what we are doing? Once we say that we will always do this or we will never do that, God can no longer lead us in any area of our lives. Our well-meaning rules take precedence over God’s leading. There are times when it glorifies God to share and times when it is sin – God commands us not to give to some apparently worthy cause. Jesus deceived men on various occasions. He stood before the temple in Jerusalem and declared,
Today there are too few that are living completely under the rule of God! Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus, that I may be a member of that firstfruit company which shall reveal His all-surpassing glory, bringing deliverance to the creation. Many saints are living in a condition which is a combination of the three kinds of government. The greater part of their being is under human rule; they still need to be ruled by man. Another part of being is under self-rule, the rule of the human conscience. But only a small part of their being is under God's rule so that they are controlled by God directly. This is a very abnormal condition. Therefore, there is the need to have
CLEANSED FROM AN EVIL CONSCIENCE
This brings us to a most marvelous verse of scripture in
The heart is the center of human life, and the conscience again is the center of the heart. By his conscience man not merely realizes that he commits sin, but that he is sinful, and alienated from God. He who desires to enter into the life of God must have his heart cleansed from an evil conscience. The words are translated
Little do most saints realize how "sin-conscious" we still are, when we need to be far more "GOD CONSCIOUS." We still have such an awareness, a KNOWING of corruption and sin that surrounds us, and far too little of AN AWARENESS OF GOD, A KNOWING OF HIS ABIDING PRESENCE, AND THAT HE IS IN CONTROL OF ALL THINGS. Oh, to be purged from all the "knowing of sin" and the "knowing of self" and all the discouragement and frustration that attends this, that His truth might spring forth from every avenue of our being and bear witness to the glory of God that is set before us. It was the partaking of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil, an entering into state of duality with its consciousness of evil as well as good, which brought such a state of confusion. It is now the KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST DWELLING WITHIN that shall bring peace and glory!
PURGING THE CONSCIENCE FROM DEAD WORKS
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, PURGE YOUR CONSCIENCE FROM DEAD WORKS to serve THE LIVING GOD?"
I am persuaded that no man can serve his human conscience and at the same time serve THE LIVING GOD. I do not mean by this that the child of God has no conscience, but my earnest prayer to God is that all who read this message may quickly be brought to see that the true conscience of the child of God IS THE CONSCIENCE OF GOD HIMSELF and not the old HUMAN CONSCIENCE which has its existence in the fallen nature of Adam. The scriptures do, indeed, testify that saints have a conscience, but I exhort you to pay heed to what kind of conscience it is!
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness IN THE HOLY GHOST."
"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a PURE HEART, and a GOOD CONSCIENCE."
"Holding the mysteries of the faith IN A PURE CONSCIENCE."
Every child of God has a three-fold conscience. Within your body is the biological conscience which distinguishes between things which are cold or hot, painful or pleasurable, bitter or sweet, pretty or ugly etc. Within your soul is the psychological conscience which judges whether things are good or bad, legal or illegal, honest or dishonest etc. This is the conscience man got in the fall. Now, within your spirit is the spiritual conscience which determines WHETHER A THING IS OF GOD OR NOT OF GOD, OF LIFE OR NOT OF LIFE. The natural man is guided entirely by his biological and psychological consciences, making all judgments upon the basis of good and evil. The spiritual man, however, judges all things by the MIND OF CHRIST and discerns WHAT IS OF GOD AND OF LIFE.
The problem with the soulish conscience is, first, that it is a product of the fall; second, it is a conscience of condemnation which can never lead you to God; and thirdly, it is totally undependable, being CONDITIONED by the external influences of the world. To understand the truth of what I now say you have only to observe the life of a child. In their first bloom of innocence children can readily develop a sense of what is right. But as they grow older, deprived of original simplicity, imbibing of the voices, concepts, and influences of the world around them - of parents, friends, teachers, television, movies, books etc. – they become affected by the values they learn from these sources and their conscience becomes CONDITIONED TO JUDGE RIGHT AND WRONG BY THE STANDARD OF WHAT THEY ARE TAUGHT. Your conscience is like a computer into which data has been fed from childhood on. Your computer gives out the information that has been fed into it!
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; HAVING THEIR CONSCIENCE SEARED WITH A HOT IRON."
The conscience takes the shape of the things we feed the conscience with. If one is born in a Moslem country his conscience takes on the Moslem characteristics. A Muslim, in good conscience, without any compunction will slay an infidel. It is his guarantee of glory. He has done the will of Allah. He has acted with a clear Muslim conscience. This is the very root of all terrorism perpetrated out of the Moslem countries. If one is raised under communist indoctrination his conscience takes on communist characteristics, sensing right and wrong according to communist value. If one is raised in an ungodly home where cursing, filthy language, drunkenness, and adultery is the order of the day, then his conscience takes that shape. If one is raised in a Catholic home his conscience takes the Catholic shape. If he bends his knee in front of an image, his conscience will approve it, because that is the way his conscience has been conditioned. If another has been raised in a Baptist home his conscience is conditioned by the Baptist values and if he bows before an image his conscience will not let him sleep!
Suppose all your life had been taught that drinking coffee was wrong. Would something rise up within you if a person offered you a cup of coffee with your meal? Would a mere reminder, "But Jesus says in Mat. 15:11 that it is not that which goes into a man's mouth that defiles him," immediately free you to drink coffee? Probably not! A Hindu widow’s conscience convinces her that she should fling herself on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband. She has been brought to see this as the most noble act she can perform to appease her gods. There are places where a pagan African woman will, if she gives birth to twin girls, bury both alive. Her conscience is convinced that this is proper. Her pagan conscience constrains her to commit this act because it is the finest, most self-sacrificing step she can take. Paul, formerly the petulant, self-righteous Pharisee, persecuted the early disciples of Christ with intense hatred. In all good conscience he hounded and harried and jailed and murdered them all across the country from city to city, certain he was doing God’s will. Then he saw the bright light on the Damascus road and was given a new conscience. From all the foregoing it may be seen that a “Moslem conscience,” a “Catholic conscience,” a “Baptist conscience,” a “Hindu conscience,” and a “Pharisaical conscience” simply are not the voice of God. Rather, conscience is the way a spirit sees or perceives God to be, and what it understands and holds in view as God’s will and wishes.
Can you not now see why the apostle declares that OUR CONSCIENCE MUST BE PURGED FROM DEAD WORKS to serve the living God? The condition of the conscience is a very important thing! In my case, I was born into a Mennonite home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. While I was still a small child my parents received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and were promptly excommunicated from the Mennonite denomination of our forefathers. As a result, I was raised in a Pentecostal home. So, upon arriving at young manhood I had acquired a PENTECOSTAL CONSCIENCE! It was shaped by the doctrines, practices, and traditions of the Pentecostal movement in the area of south Alabama where we lived. In those Churches there were many rules and traditions and practices that have changed through the years. We couldn't go to the beach to swim, it was sin. We didn't attend the County Fair, it was worldly. If you even walked inside a movie theatre, and didn't repent, you were sure to "bust hell wide open!" The women were not allowed to wear facial makeup of any kind, lipstick was a sin. Short hair and curled hair were wicked. Women could not wear slacks and their dresses must be long, with long sleeves and high necks. Bright, splashy colors were vain. And then, no jewelry of any kind was permitted, not even a wedding band!
I remember when as a young man I wanted a tie pin to hold my tie in place. In those days I pinned my tie to my shirt with a safety pin, underneath. I thought about the tie pin for a long time and finally got up enough courage to go buy one. I purchased a rather plain, gold colored one. I will never forget the day when I put it on, stood in front of the mirror, looked at myself, and said, "Preston, you've really done it!" Then, at once my Pentecostal conscience smote me and I took the thing off! You see, my conscience had been formed in the Pentecostal tradition and I thought that was salvation! Ah, my brethren, I testify to you that if I was saved at all it was only because Christ in His great mercy was present there among all the foolishness of man's ideas and concepts.
Shortly afterward, when a fresh and marvelous moving of the Holy Spirit came and swept over my life in quickening, bringing glory and the Spirit of revelation from God, there came a new and wonderful UNVEILING OF CHRIST to my heart, and for the first time in my life I saw the bondage of tradition, the commandments of men taught as the doctrine of Christ, for the pitiful thing it is. The blessed Spirit of God turned the searchlight within and I saw that just as the sinner needs his heart cleansed from fornication, adultery, lying, drunkenness, cursing, and all the ungodly works of the flesh, so did my conscience need to be cleansed from the traditions of religion – PURGED FROM DEAD WORKS TO SERVE THE LIVING GOD!
How desperately we still need much of this purging, for in many of us our conscience yet labors under the hangover of multiplied man-made-standards, and duty-bound rituals and observances. Many who hear the call to come out of Babylon find it difficult to obey because their religion-conditioned conscience will demand that they "go to church somewhere" on Sunday morning even if they aren't fed spiritually and the place they go reeks of the mustiness of time-honored tradition and the stench of flesh. The fact it is a chore, a struggle not to be critical because of the dryness and emptiness they experience once they get there, doesn't help matters – but until every area of their conscience is purged from DEAD WORKS, these LIFELESS OBSERVANCES, many feel condemned if they don't go someplace, and we surely don't condemn them for going. It is not a question of whether we fellowship someplace or don't fellowship – it is a matter of BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT as to where to go, and how to live out every aspect of our lives, daily. If our fellowship is in some Babylonian Church System because our religion-oriented conscience dictates that we must, that is one thing; but how much better to BE WHERE THE FATHER WANTS US, DOING WHAT THE SPIRIT DICTATES. The defiled human conscience is being replaced by THE LIVING SPIRIT OF CHRIST WITHIN, HE is becoming LORD, blessed be His name!
Within the defiled human conscience are ingrained certain concepts of right and wrong, of what is acceptable to God and what is not acceptable to Him. When ever we are challenged to change one of these concepts we feel threatened. Then, when God puts His finger on some area of our lives, and we do change, quickened by His Spirit, it is hard for us to see that not everyone has to make the same changes! Our attitude is, "If the Lord deals with me about this, He had better deal with you about it!" Not so! God alone knows each of our hearts, our motives, our needs, our plane of growth and development in Him, and He works one way with one individual, and another with the next. HE ALONE knows the what, when, how and why of dealing with each one to accomplish His overall purpose and to conform each of the apprehended ones into THE IMAGE OF CHRIST. All who receive the call to sonship will be dealt with to abandon all confidence in the human conscience that they may put on THE MIND OF CHRIST.
GOD ALL IN ALL
The apostle Paul wrote of great and glorious day that is coming,
This will be the grand conclusion of the great drama of the world's history and of Christ's redemption. There will come a day – the glory is such we can form no conception of it, the mystery is so deep we cannot realize it – when the Son shall deliver up the kingdom that the Father gave Him and which He won with His precious blood and established and perfected from the throne of His glory, the Son shall deliver the kingdom up to the Father, the Son Himself shall be subject also unto the Father,
Yes, the day shall come when throughout all the unbounded heavens, and unto the lowest hell, God shall be all in all, but now there is a company of firstfruits being called and selected to experientially know this "all in all" realm in the here and now, that it may be revealed to the rest of creation. Let us take this home to our hearts that it may rule our lives – this one thought, this one desire, this one aim, this one joy, this one faith: From henceforth I live fully, wholly, only, for this one thing, that in my life, GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL!
A little seed is the beginning of a great tree. A mustard seed becomes a tree in which the birds of the air can nestle. That great day of which the apostle speaks, when Christ Himself shall be subject to the Father, and deliver up the kingdom to the Father, and God shall be all in all – that is the great tree of the Kingdom of God reaching its perfect consummation and glory, when there shall not be a creature anywhere in God's great universe to whom He has not become EVERYTHING. What a song! the Celestial Song of Creation, when every voice intones the words, and every heart bursts with the message, "HE IS EVERYTHING TO ME!" Oh, let us take the seed of that glory into our hearts and let us bow in lowly surrender and submission, saying, "Amen, Lord; this be my one life – that the spirit of sonship within me here and now bow in submission to the Father, delivering up the kingdom in my life, surrendering
God help everyone of us who cherish the hope of sonship. God help us all to yield ourselves to HIM, and to make it our everyday life, for His name's sake. Amen!