Recently, I undertook to present a study that would approach the subject of the Lord’s coming in a fresh, seminal and penetrating way; in a way that would provide readers with a foundational grasp of its essential meaning and nature. Planning to offer the study in a series of articles, I ended up rejecting the first two installments, realizing that they lacked clarity and the writing was poorly constructed. Much to my embarrassment, I had impulsively e-mailed those to a few correspondents and now hope that they have been forgotten and discarded. With my reader’s indulgence, I wish to undertake the task again, having spent considerable time in meditation, which produced a renewed sense in my heart that the Lord still wanted me to tackle the subject, in spite of the fact that there is an abundance of excellent material available today from godly men and women and, in spite of my initial, sloppy attempt. So, here we go again:
My renewed contemplation led me to conclude that, for me, the only satisfying approach to the coming of the Lord must begin with an understanding of His eternal nature and Personhood which would, of necessity, be expressed in His coming/appearing/unveiling and manifestation. This directly tied into something the Holy Spirit had powerfully impressed upon me concerning the nature and Personhood of the Godhead, which has escaped the attention of those who keep God in a conceptual box of conventional Trinitarian reasoning. Am I suggesting that God is not triune? No, that is not where I am going in this. But, I do want to take a very fresh look at the profound simplicity and wonderful complexity of Him, Who has birthed, created and redeemed us. Up front, let me say that if we do not understand the principle that God does what He is, we will misunderstand what is involved in the coming of the Lord. I must confess that as that realization was more clearly impressed upon me, I remembered how many laughs a certain TV comedian would get many years ago with the line, “What you sees is what you gets.” Well, when it comes to the Lord, what He is, is what He does; He does what He is. When the Godhead is revealed in our time-space-matter dimension, His eternal nature and Personhood is unveiled and we witness the living out on earth of what He is eternally in heaven, because the nature and activity of God are a perfect unity. This being so, it is crucial that we understand that the “He” of God includes the “She” of God and, although that concept may be very disturbing to one who has been intimidated by so-called orthodoxy, to think of God only as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we can show clearly from scripture that there is a dimension of gender completeness in the Majesty on high. Just in the way of warming up to the subject, let me point out this simple fact; that as “man” or “men” is often used generically in the Bible inclusive of male and female, so also, “Fatherhood,” in scripture includes Motherhood as well.
The feminine aspect of the Godhead is first presented in Gen.1:27 where we read, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (NAS). Thus we see that, since the male and the female were created in the image of God and since an image expresses what it is a replication of, then God must include in Himself, a Herself, a union which is the origin of the Family of God, the Family which God is. In verse 26 God speaks of making man in “Our image, according to Our likeness,” and this is not, as some theologians say, God, simply referring to His Majesty in plural terms. Nor is it adequate, in the context, to say that “Our” refers simply to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To repeat; the image of the One who refers to Himself using “Our” and “Us” has an image in which is both male and female. Though we certainly affirm God, our Father, and the Son of God, the eternal, living Word, and the Deity of the Holy Spirit, this is not what confronts us in the text we are considering. What confronts us in these verses is Mom and Dad and Son, For the image that the male and female are created in is Christ. (See II Cor. 4:4 and Col. 1:15)
In Christ, male and female do not exist as contradistinctive opposites, but in perfect union, which is Paul’s thought in Gal. 3:28. This brings us to the eternal origin of the Son. Be sure that you note that I said eternal origin for, the Son shares equally in the eternality of the Father, but the Son has His eternal origin in the One who calls Himself “I AM,” the self-existing One. But, “I AM” refers not only to self-existence, but also to self-identification and self-knowing; i.e., knowing in the biblical sense, God, in effect says, “I know Myself as a husband knows his wife and a wife knows her husband. In this divine intercourse I-We conceive, and beget Our Son, the radiance of My-Our glory.” Recorded in Jn. 5:26, Jesus testified of His origin saying, “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son to have life in Himself.” Now, dear reader, just how does God give His Son to have life in Himself, except as we have shown above? I would hope, at this point, the astute reader would be asking, “Just where does the Holy Spirit fit into all this?” The answer lies in this: the holy intercourse within God; the communion which occurs in the love and loving in God cannot be someTHING coursing within Him-Her-Them, for, the Lord, being the pure essence of Being and the very “Ground of Being” can only commune by the flow of Being, this/He/She is the Holy Spirit. HE/She is the intercourse, the love, the communion which begets the Son, and Who, in the Son is the communion between the Bridegroom and the Bride. But, in saying that I do not want to leap too far ahead in our study.
Having, hopefully, laid a foundation, let us see how the coming of the Lord must be consistent with what has been shown thus far. When the fulness of time came for the Word to become flesh, that is, for Christ to come, God did not, pardon the expression, zap the Son into a body. There was to be no incarnation short cut. To become our Kinsman-Redeemer, He must become a man by undergoing the whole human experience and we will not elaborate on that since it is a study in itself. But beyond the need for Christ to be born of a woman and thereby initiate the union of God and man in Him, His coming had to be a living out on earth of the eternal Family’s relationship. The Family-Kingdom of God must come to earth as it is in heaven and Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of the Living God was and is the representation, reality and embodiment of that kingdom. He would come on earth as He did in heaven. There had to be a communal participation on earth, in flesh, of what was in heaven. Thus, “In the fulness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…..” So, we read in Luke 1:35, that the angel said to a virgin named Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.” The Most High shares mothering with a Hebrew maiden, catching her up into divine fertility awaiting the impregnation of the divine Seed, and Jesus is conceived, grows in the womb and is born. This conception, gestation and birth IS the coming of the Lord. He did not come as some heavenly superman, streaking through space with light-year speed from some infinitely distant, celestial planet. His birthing was His coming and His growth “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men;” His perfect life and His ministry were a continuation and development of His coming. Herein is the nature and meaning and principle of the coming of Christ. It was not the arrival following a cosmic journey; it was, to repeat, a matter of conception, gestation, birth, presence, growth, and living as a man among men. (Keep in mind that the Greek word, “parousia,” translated “coming,” means also “presence,” according to Strong’s Concordance). The following is so very important for this hour, as the saints are inundated with immature prophetic teaching leading to excited expectation of a coming in the sky that is virtually unrelated to Christ being conceived and being born of a woman. For be sure, the Lord’s coming is a continuing event and cannot be understood simplistically as a first and second coming without a common principle.
Once again a woman appears in God’s economy, this time a corporate mother. Gal. 4: 26 reveals to us the Church, as the New Jerusalem, the embodiment of the covenant of promise, which shall bring forth the Son of promise, again, by grace; (“Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you“ Luke 1:28 NAS). She is described as our mother for she is pregnant with the corporate Christ and she is giving birth and shall give birth to the Son in many sons. Do not be quick to scream “heresy!” Have you never heard of the Christ, who is one yet many? You heard what I said, the sons are not just his followers; they are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh; they are His Body. Here the testimony of the scripture that cannot be broken. “…even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body SO ALSO IS CHRIST” (1 Cor. 12:12 NAS). Give heed to the bold apostolic word, “…the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.“ (Eph. 1:22 and 23 NAS) This is just the beginning of the story of our multi-dimensional relationship to Christ. We are pregnant with Him within, and as He comes, by being birthed from us, we become His coming, as His very body: He, in us, the incorporation of Him as the New Man, a new quality of humanity, joining God and man in perfect unity. The glorious story continues, as a corporate Bride comes forth from the corporate Bridegroom, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam; all this is unerringly true to the eternal principle of a God who is in conjugal union within Himself in order to give birth to the Son, who in turn has within him one who is to be His bride. Believers are in different levels of maturity as touching these things and it is not easy to grasp sequentially how this unfolds, but it appears that different levels are being virtually experienced by each of us until the final consummation of this great and passionate romance.
For now, until later lessons, we will only look at the transition from the single-person body of Mary and the single-person body of Jesus, to the corporate many-person body of each. Immediately we are faced with the beloved 14th chapter of St. John’s Gospel and the conventional teaching and understanding prevalent in, particularly, the evangelical church. Let me say boldly that there is only a tiny minority among Christians today who understand the real subject and meaning of that chapter and many of them may only know it at an intellectual level without a personal revelation by the Spirit of Truth. The study Bible that I have in front of me as I write divides this chapter into three parts under these three headings; “Concerning heaven,” “Concerning the Holy Spirit,” and “Concerning peace.” I dare say I can improve upon that.
The subject of John 14 is the transition of Christ from being visibly and physically with them, to being in them through the Spirit of Truth. That name of the Holy Spirit is central to the theme of this chapter and the greater context of chapters 14 through 16, for in the 6th verse Jesus told them that He was the Truth. The Lord is warming up to the subject that those disciples needed to know Him inwardly as Truth/Reality as opposed to merely knowing Him objectively. He was introducing them to the fact, that in the Father’s economy, they must now advance to the subjective experience of Christ. The third verse begins to unlock this understanding for it literally reads this way, “And if I should go and should prepare for you a place, again I am coming, and will receive you to myself...“ He had to leave them in terms of a physically oriented relationship in order to advance to the deeper relationship, whereby the Spirit would reveal Christ to them in and from their very spirits. That would even include the physical, for the Lord Jesus’ glorification included His body, so that they would now know Him within in the entirety of His exalted Personhood. His going in terms of the former was His coming as to the latter. The “many mansions” in verse one should be translated as “many rooms, abodes or dwelling places” as any Bible scholar knows. Now just what is this house with many rooms that Jesus is talking about? Is it some far off palatial residence that Jesus departed to so that with divine tools, material and paint, He would, as the ultimate construction worker, build a house for them so that they might be properly sheltered for all eternity. PLEEEEESE, dear ones, let’s go on to maturity. The house He went to prepare was Himself! He went to be glorified so that they/we would share in that glory as members of His body. His incarnated and then glorified Person is now where the Father lives and we participate in that abode of God by being rooms in Him, prepared by Him for us. He was perfected as our Great High Priest and we, in Him, were perfected by Him, so as to be the temple of God and the habitation of God in the Spirit, as Stephen testified (Acts 7:48-49) and Peter and Paul taught. (I Pet. 2:5; I Cor. 3:16; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22) As we abide in the place prepared for us, that room, paradoxically becomes part of the abode of God. It is only in Him that we are worthy of His abiding presence. There is a room for each of us to dwell in Christ and by abiding in Him the Father abides in us. John continues this thought in Chapter 15, saying that as we abide in the vine, Christ, we branches bear fruit. Read for yourself and see that the 16th Chapter continues the same theme of Christ coming again in the Spirit to transmit all that is His to us. To sum up what He meant by “He shall glorify me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you,” (Jn. 16:14. NAS) we simply need to look to the 17th Chapter to read that what Jesus prayed for as He approached His passion was that He might regain what He left, and be restored to the glory which He had with the Father before the world was and that He shared that glory with those who had believed in Him. So, we should extend the context to Chapter 17. (See 16: 13-15; 17:5,22.) John Chapter 14 is not talking about our going to heaven, but about heaven coming and being present on the earth in us (parousia, coming, presence).
If you are a follower of the Lord, who has been swallowing hook, line and sinker the shallow approach to the Lord’s coming, that is so prevalent in the professing church today, be prepared to have your mind renewed and to leave childish things behind. The Lord’s purpose is to make you a part of His coming instead of you “gazing up into heaven” (Acts 1:11) waiting for an event that is totally out of sync with the nature and meaning of the coming of the Lord. We will be looking into the outworking of this in future installments of the subject, and in greater detail. I will not be teaching only, but learning with you as we go.
In this lesson and those following, I will be attempting to clarify, provide greater deal and enlarge upon our subject. I had an e-mail from a reader who was questioning my statement that God is both mother and father. It’s a good question and I want to include a part of my answer to him in this section because other readers may have had similar thoughts:
Dear Neil: (not his real name)
I was very pleased to get your e-mail and question(s). I hope, in the following few words, I can be of some help as you are considering what, if any truth, there is in the consideration of gender completeness in God. I do want to say up front, though it may be unnecessary, that, of course, we’re not talking about anything resembling the pagan concepts of male and female deities who were the projections of heathen inordinate relationships. I do not want my readers to conceive of two separate gods romping around heaven as the ultimate celestial couple. I’m talking about a oneness that is a unity, a unity that has a gender element at its very heart and which is the eternal source of the Son of God, our Savior. I believe the Lord has intended for us to discover by His revelation that Father doesn’t father the Son without Mother. There is, in God, both impregnation and conception and Jesus is the result of that loving relationship within God and, as such, everything about Him is true to and consistent with that love. Since we were “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) we are the result of that love in Him, and we are a continuation of that reality.
Now to your question of how Jesus addressed God: There was no need for the Lord to pray, “Our Mother who art in heaven” because, as I’ve noted, Motherhood is included in the Fatherhood of God. Adam, who was created in God’s image was himself an extension of that principle for he had motherhood within him and Eve, who came forth from his side, became the mother of all. If you had addressed Adam before Eve was created, you would have been addressing both of them. Jan Antonsson’s observation to you was correct as to the fact that the Lord Jesus lived in a very patriarchal society and any addressing of God in the feminine gender would have been totally misunderstood and would have been offensive in a way that would not have been productive to Jesus’ message at that point.
Now, beyond that is the fact that Christ did not intend to reveal everything to His disciples before His death and resurrection. He said that He had more to tell them, but they were not able to bear it at that time. (See Jn. 16:12.) There were deeper things to be revealed later by the Spirit of the glorified Christ, the Spirit of Truth, to the apostles, and through them, to the church. It would still be Jesus doing the teaching but now He was the inspiring, life-giving Spirit within them. One of those things, I believe, is this truth of God’s motherhood which He is revealing in these last days. It is consistent with the progressive revelation of the Lord which is about to be culminated so that God will manifest His Male/Female completeness through the emergence of the Bride of Christ. I don’t know how aware you are of the tremendous outpouring of revelation that has occurred in recent years concerning the manifestation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:18-21) who make up the Body of Christ, but this has been undeniably so and we can expect that actual manifestation to occur shortly since it has been prophesied and taught with great clarity and power recently. When that final manifestation does occur it will be followed by the coming forth/manifestation of the Bride of Christ out of the sons of God, i.e., Body of Christ. To repeat, that truth is seen typically in Eve coming forth from Adam. They will not be two separate entities, but rather, two dimensions of our multidimensional relationship with God coming into manifestation. Since Christ is the Image of God and the greater Eve will be taken out of Him in His corporate Body, as the image of God, He/we will be expressing the Male and Female of dimensions of the Father. I hope in future installments of the study to look into how this all works itself out as we are all in relationship to Christ in each other.
I commend you for your willingness to give these things your consideration while at the same time looking for additional scriptural support for what I’ve proposed. We have His promise that “He that will do the will of God shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God….” (Jn. 7:17)
God bless you richly. I’m thrilled to hear of your experience of the new birth and filling with the Spirit. Let us go on to “all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19, KJ) as Paul prayed.
Sincerely, in Him,
John R. Gavazzoni
Returning to the ongoing study of “The Coming of the Lord,” thus far, we have seen that the kingdom of God comes in earth, as it is in heaven, which is the way the Lord taught us to pray. Since that kingdom is a family-kingdom; that is, the kingdom of God, who is, in Himself; Father, Mother and Their eternally only begotten Son, the kingdom must come in accordance with what it is. When this kingdom comes in earth; when it penetrates the veil between eternity and time in order to become flesh within a world and universe of space and matter, it comes as it is in heaven, with divine Fatherhood, Motherhood and Childhood being shared by the Spirit, with us of flesh, so as to bring us into that communion which is within God, causing mankind to participate in this divine mystery. Now if you are reading this lesson (part two of the study), without having read and studied part one, you will not have the scriptural background provided in part one to aid you in grasping what is being taught. (There’s a link at the end of this article.) I really urge you to go back to the first lesson and study it carefully and prayerfully. Having said that, let’s continue in the way of review; clarifying and adding detail as we expand our study.
God, who is pure essence of relational Being dwells where there is no time, matter or space. He dwells only in the transcendence of His own glory. But He has created a dimension of space, time and matter into which He comes according to what He is, a family. He comes relational in earth as in heaven. He starts very small within the amphitheater of the cosmos, on the tiny stage of earth and to a despised place on that stage called Nazareth. There He sends a messenger to a young, Israelite maiden, a virgin, graciously and sovereignly chosen, to have her natural capacity of motherhood caught up by, and joined to, the Motherhood of God so that she might commune and take part in divine conception and birth. Oh the wonder of it! (As I write these words I am experiencing something that I cannot call emotion, but which is like the stirring of a child within the womb? Indeed a new experience for a man. It is so deep and gentle and moving and satisfying. It feels like a fluid place in the midst of my inward parts). But I must go on: The messenger surprises her with the exclamation, “Hail, favored one (or one full of grace), the Lord is with you.“ (Lk. 1:28) The text indicates here, a pause in the message as Mary “(ponders) what kind of salutation this might be.” The angel gives her a moment for the greeting to sink in. But, deeper than that is the fact that his opening words, though part of the whole message, have a distinct and special purpose and effect. This is important for the reader to note for in it we gain an insight into the conception of Christ in the corporate mother, the Church. The key word of the initial greeting is “with.” The Lord is WITH her. And from this point on, what He does, what He always does, has done and will do, i.e. bring forth His Son, He will do WITH her. He has connected her womb to His, raising her to the supernal dimension of His mothering nature. Though retaining her humanity, her womb is no longer merely a natural womb, for she has partaken of the divine proclivity to birth the eternal Word into flesh and is now prepared to conceive the Son of God, Emmanuel, God and man made one in the man, Christ Jesus. She is prepared, to conceive, but has not yet conceived. Again, this is important to an understanding of how the process takes shape later as the corporate mother is prepared to spiritually conceive the Christ. The Holy Spirit (the messenger proceeds to tell her) will come upon her and the power of the Highest will overshadow her and she will conceive and give birth to the holy offspring. She will, but not quite yet. First, she is granted participation in the fertility of Deity, then, having been prepared to receive the divine Seed, the actual conception takes place when she responds with the words, “be it done to me according to your word.” In her words we find a response, drawn forth by God Himself, which is faith’s surrender to the wooing of the great Lover and through that surrender the Sperm of God penetrates the prepared ovum and He; in whom all things consist; He, through whom all things were made, and who upholds all things by the word of His power; He, who is appointed the heir of all things and is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, penetrates the veil between time and eternity and God becomes a human embryo. Oh, my God, how great thou art!
In the first lesson we saw that this is the beginning of the Word becoming flesh, for soon, advancing from the one-person mother and the one-person Son, God chooses a corporate many-persons mother to conceive and give birth to the many-persons Son. They are His corporate enlargement. But we must never forget that it is the life of that only begotten Son, Jesus of Nazareth, crucified, risen, ascended and exalted, that is, and ever shall be, the life of His multiplied and reproduced Person. Please be sure to know that it is still the one Seed, the first-born of many brethren, that makes the many brethren what they are; sons in the image of the Son, who is the image of the Father, full of grace and truth. I am greatly exercised to draw a line in the doctrinal sand and affirm over and over again that the Father has only one Seed, but with many seeds in the one. There is only one sonship in God’s economy, the sonship of the Christ, which we, by grace, share. We are sons in the Son and we are sons because the Son lives in us. It is the indwelling of the Son that makes the sons His sons. When the only begotten of the Father became the “first-born of many brethren,” (Rom. 8:29) the many brethren do not go on from there with independent sonship; rather their very existence as sons is dependent on His relationship with the Father, for He is the Seed from which they all spring. We must not hold back at all in embracing the reality that we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17), but we must not dabble around the edges of the new-age tendency to view Christ as just a son like all the rest of us, whose only uniqueness is that He has came to understand His Sonship more fully than we. Of course, in His humanity, His understanding of His real Personhood unfolded as “He grew in wisdom….” (Lk. 2:52). But His affirmation concerning who He was is clear. He knew Himself to be uniquely unique as the Son who would “(bring) many sons to glory.“ (Heb. 2:10)
There are a number of dear brethren who are mixing Gnostic overtones in their teaching, leading some, who lack a strong foundation in their life, to infer that the discovery of sonship is simply a matter of looking within. To be sure, we must know Christ inwardly, but our subjective experience of Him is based first upon the truth that we are in Him, and He comes to indwell us, having the reality of our true personhood in Him. To you dear ones I say; we are what we are IN HIM. Can I say to anyone that they are what they are in me? Can I say that I am the head of the body? Can I say in me all things consist. No, a thousand times no. But the One in whom all things consist lives in me and will share His full glory with me as I am in relationship with others who make up His Body. Some, today, flirt with the spirit of antichrist as they seek the fullest meaning of sonship. Jesus of Nazareth is greater than we; intrinsically greater, but He comes to us, from within us, having us in Him, fully sharing His transcendence with us.
Now we reach another transition in the story of stories. In Jn. 14:17, the preposition “with” enters the scene again conveying the same thought as we have noted earlier in this lesson. Jesus tells His disciples in verse 16 that He will give them another Helper (Comforter, Intercessor, counselor, Advocate, Consoler), (See Strong’s Concordance and the Amplified Bible.) and this Helper is, according to verse 17, the Spirit of Truth. He goes on to say that He, the Spirit of Truth abides WITH them and shall be in them. They too, like Mary, but spiritually so, must have God with them sharing His ability to conceive the Son. The transition to Christ incorporated in many is at its first stage and those who are to spiritually conceive Christ are inwardly given that prevenient grace whereby they participate in their spirits in God’s reproductive life as Mary did in her body. They too are to receive the divine Seed, but first the Seed must go into death, stripping off our old humanity that was assumed by Him, and bringing forth a New Humanity which is our natural man transformed by His resurrection. The eternal Seed, which has become flesh in Mary’s womb, was born, lived, suffered and died and was perfected in His humanity through suffering. (Heb. 2:10) This God-Man Seed now comes forth in resurrection to be glorified and implanted in many to duplicate the New Quality of Humanity which He is, in them. As He is, so will they be in this world. (1 Jn. 4:17) The Seed that is to impregnate them is the Seed of God and Man in perfect union, the New Creation Man, who is to become their life. (Col.3:4) Soon He will be birthed from them and the New Man, that they are in Him, will be birthed also, and though each of them will have a personal relationship with Him, that relationship is not merely individual but includes being members, in particular, of His Body.
They are now joined to the Mother-Womb of God. The next pivotal experience that advances this process is recorded in Jn. 20: 22 where we read that He breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit” and their prepared spirits having been made spiritually fertile by His declaration that the Spirit is with them, now conceive and Christ is about to be born, this time, from the Jerusalem above, the Church, our mother (Gal. 4:26), our mother, for what comes forth from her is the new creation that we are in Him. (II Cor. 5:17) He BREATHED on them which conveys the truth of His giving them life. He breathed ON them which coveys the truth that their regenerated spirits are now, not only impregnated, but also being “strengthened with might in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in (their) hearts by faith…” (Eph. 3:16, 17) The Spirit breathed forth, speaks of the giving of life (see Gen. 2:7) and the Spirit coming on, speaks of enabling power. (See Judges. 14:6.) There must be the conception and the enabling to carry the Child to full term. So begins the period of spiritual gestation as they wait to give birth to Christ in His enlarged Body. The day of Pentecost comes; Christ is to come again, in them, AND HE DOES! The Child bursts forth from the womb and Christ has come again to dwell among men in a Body, the Body of Christ, the Church. He came in the Spirit to be conceived in them and He came to Jerusalem that day born of them and He continued to do what he began to do, previous to His death and resurrection, but this time in them, again preaching the kingdom of heaven, healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the gospel to the poor, proclaiming deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, setting free those who were downtrodden and proclaiming the favorable day of the Lord. (Is. 61:1-2; Lk. 4:18-19)
What happened following the day of Pentecost was the infant corporate Christ in action. Understand this; it was the Christ relative to the first-fruits, the earnest, down payment of the Spirit. He is yet to be seen relative to all the fullness of God, filling the Church (Eph. 3:19) and a Church which has “(grown) up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,” a Church which has grown up to be “a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.“ (Eph. 4:13, 15 NAS) When the Spirit is poured out in 7-fold intensity and completeness, described in scripture as the seven Spirits of God (Rev. 4:5), then, without qualification, we shall do the greater works that He promised and the coming, presence, unveiling, appearing, manifestation of Christ will be consummated. Heed the prophetic warning: many who are students of the Bible will be taken by surprise at His coming, as you are beginning to understand that coming in these lessons thus far. They will be occupied with outward, earthly, political, economic signs, which have their place, but in themselves they will never bring one to a mature understanding and preparedness for His coming. They will be found in short supply of the Spirit and unable to richly participate in that appearing.
If I sense His leading correctly we will, in coming installments, look at how our multidimensional relationship unfolds in the light that He has, is, and will continue to come and that we, His Church, are individually and corporately in different places in that relationship, so that until His coming/presence is fully seen, we may experience various aspects at any one time in our life. I hope to look at this with you who stay with me to the end of our study as it pertains to our experience of Christ within us individually and our experience of Him in others and in relationship to those others.
John R. Gavazzoni
While conversing with my webmaster, proofreader, editor and very close friend, Jan Antonsson, regarding the final corrections and adjustments to be made on this second lesson, her husband Lenny, my old Buddy and resident mystic of our circle of friends, got on the phone and told me that he just had to ask me a question. He wondered why I had chosen to use the word “in” when speaking of the kingdom’s relationship to earth, as opposed to “on.” (I forgot to mention to him at that point that in the original draft I referred to the kingdom coming TO the earth before changing to “IN”). He had checked it out and found that in the literal Greek, it is “on” and in most other translations other than the KJ, “on” is used. Lenny went on to say that though He had verified that fact, the use of “in” in the article felt good in his spirit since we know that the kingdom does come in the earth that we are. I told him that I wanted to let his observations “simmer” in my spirit and see what the Lord might open up to me. (What feels good in Lenny’s spirit is usually pretty unerring).The following came during a time of meditation which consisted of the Lord reminding me of a simple truth He had clarified in my thinking some time ago:
In matters relating to the kingdom of God and that kingdom being expressed by us, “on” springs out of “in” so that the latter is the natural issue of the former. Allow me to explain: On the day of Pentecost the disciples were “clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49 NAS), Paul exhorts believers to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14), and on the Mount of Transfiguration the inner quality of the Christ’s life so shone forth from Him that it clothed Him with His Father’s glory. That which is on high (that which transcends our earthiness) comes on us or is put on us from within us. Spiritual reality comes to us from within us and is declared to be in us at the point where it (He) begins to make Himself subjectively real. From there, as we progress in the experience of what we have within, the Spirit moves outward to give expression to Christ in all the earth. This will find its fullest expression in the manifestation of the sons of God. (Rom. 8:19) It had always troubled me to read Paul’s exhortation to “put on,” which sounded so external until I understood this beautiful and simple principle. Remember Jesus had already imparted the Spirit to the disciples when He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” prior to Pentecost, so that the power from on high that filled them and clothed them and filled the room in which they sat came from within them, from their regenerated spirits which became the converging point of heaven and earth, time and eternity.
Our God is a God who comes and a God who is present (Greek, Parousia,meaning coming; presence). He comes to us. HE is present with us. His purpose is to be with us in closest proximity, that is, in us, and in us, to come to others. He is a God with a passionate commitment to incarnation. His incarnating impulse does not arise only because of the need to save, but was present as a driving purpose before salvation was an issue. His saving acts reveal the lengths to which He will go to carry out His purpose of incarnation. J. Preston Eby has said, and I quote, “God projected Himself out of Himself that He might be Himself in another dimension and He did this by His Word” End quote. The whole dimension of time, space and matter is a dimension of the very substance of God projected out of Himself to create another all in which He can be all. In that dimension He incarnates Himself in human flesh, projecting not only His substance, but His very Person into this other dimension. Again to quote Eby, but not necessarily word perfect; “God, who was once all, created another all, in which He might be all in all.” Within the universe, which is created out of the substance of God, He incarnates in all the fulness of His personhood in Christ. For instance, A tree and in fact the entire cosmos comes from His substance, but the man Jesus of Nazareth was the complete embodiment, not only of His substance, but of His Person. That is why the Lord Jesus could say that, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.“ (Jn. 14:9) The idea of creation “ex nihilo,” that is, “out of nothing,” is a theological hypothesis that has no biblical support. It was imagined by early church fathers as a philosophical alternative to pantheism, but it creates problems rather than solving them. I hope that the reader can discern that we have avoided the errors of pantheism without stopping short of presenting the whole truth.
The guiding light in scripture concerning the nature and origin of all things is found in Rom. 11:36. The following is what I understand to be the best translation: “For out of Him and through Him and into Him are all things.” He who expresses Himself in all creation brought forth the zenith of His self-revelation in the Person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ who came to earth by being born, because the reason for His coming was to reveal the Father to us and the Father is just that, a Father, by nature, who can only be revealed as such by birthing Himself into our world in the Person of Christ, so that we might know His nature, the nature of a family kind of God. He did this not only from His Fatherhood but in union with the Motherhood inherent in the Fatherhood and His coming and presence is always consistent with this principle. He came initially through an earthly mother, singular and came again through an earthly mother, plural. In both cases God brings the earthly element into participation with His own Fatherhood and Motherhood. Beyond amazement is the fact that the coming of the Lord is not by interplanetary travel but through the birth canal; and again, we remind the reader that you cannot stay with us without thoroughly absorbing the material in lessons one and two.
I have spoken in past lessons about our multidimensional relationship to the Lord and only touched on the Bridegroon/Bride aspect of that relationship. It becomes obvious that Bridegroom and Bride are a continuation of Mother and Father as the nature of the God Family unfolds in the economy of God. I have often meditated on this and could not avoid the conclusion that there was some confusion about the distinction in these living pictures of our God even in some of the best teaching. I was reluctant to accept that conclusion since I had learned so much through those who, I nevertheless, sensed did not have a final word on the matter and my heart had a yearning for greater understanding. So now I will give the final word. (Just kidding folks, just kidding; I’m really very humble, just ask me).
My mother is my mother, not my bride; and my bride is my bride, not my mother. I kept coming back to that simple fact. Christ is first birthed from Father/Mother and then reveals His divine nature by taking a bride so that they will be what they are, like God. I really was joking, dear ones, about having any final word. But something precious is coming out of my spirit and I may find out that someone else has already said it and said it better (bummer). Our first relationship has to do with bearing Christ within and birthing Him who includes in Himself our true self in identification with Him. Sonship comes forth from Fatherhood/Motherhood and as Sonship emerges we move toward the Bridegroom/Bride relationship. There is the spiritual equivalent of the natural nine months of childbearing where all else takes subordinate place to the growth of the Child in the womb. Sooner or later we are pulled back from other activities in order to pay full attention to Christ being formed in us (see Gal. 4:19). That is not a matter of overt religious activity, but rather one of quiet, secluded communion with the One who knows that the Son(s) cannot deliver creation without the offer of a body in whose womb the Son(s) grows and finally comes to this world through this birth process. I hope that this little halting, stammering word will help encourage, and give comfort to those who are in this place and sometimes wonder why they must be still while others are busy doing what seems to be such important kingdom work. When one is in this place, this time of spiritual gestation is paramount in the value system of heaven. There is no way to sidestep this experience, and it cannot be rushed.
Within the Church this is constantly occurring; the impregnation, conception and carrying to term of the Christ who is in union with our spirits. Fatherhood, Motherhood and Sonship are always a dynamic at work from heaven, but operating horizontally among us who are His. One can on one occasion be impregnating, yet on another occasion be conceiving. It has been noted that when God spoke of the promise of birth He spoke to Mary, but when it was a matter of protecting mother and Child He spoke to Joseph. We are all in some way and at some time participants in one or the other or both of these aspects. We need that which is marked by surrender, availability and reception and at the same time that which is characterized by pursuit, penetration and protection and in this day especially, natural gender has little to do with these dynamics. May I say that if you are called upon to “submit,” yield and surrender and live in relative quietness, this has nothing to do with position in the kingdom; it has everything to do with participating in that which is a rich element in the nature of God. Does not the cross of our Lord reveal the excellence and necessity of such elements within the nature of God. And are not the early quiet years of the Lord Jesus a testimony to the cultivation of life within while the needy, outside world seemed to demand that He give it His attention. We don’t want to be foolish in drawing parallels between natural and spiritual. But with all the glory of bearing a living person within your body, it is accompanied by morning sickness, feelings of being unattractive, extreme discomfort, being all out of shape and severe limitations. Of course, as a man I know all about these things (quit snickering ladies). I can say as a father of three lovely daughters that their mother had a special beauty during pregnancy which any discerning eye could not help but notice. You can project ahead to what the bridal dimension entails, but you will discover with me that it is by nature the same but also with characteristic distinctions. I think we will save that for part four of our study.
Quite a long time has elapsed since we made part three of our series available, at which time I promised a continuation of the study. I sincerely hope that we haven’t lost your interest during that interval. I’ve been trying to take a fresh look at our Lord’s coming and to present it in a way consistent with His Person, nature and eternal purpose. I’ve finally found time to sit down and begin the fourth lesson of the series. This installment will constitute something of a break in the flow without abandoning the subject. I felt it was time to offer a parenthetical insert and address a popular issue that seems paramount in the thinking of present day believers; that issue being what has come to be called, “the rapture.” I would venture to say that today, given the emphasis by preachers and teachers in the institutional church, when the average Christian thinks of the Lord’s appearing, his next thought is, “That means I’m getting out of this mess before the Lord makes mincemeat out of this old world.” This has become so central to the popular mind of Christians that unless I specifically address this part of the subject many will not be able to receive important insight into His appearing because they will try to make those insights fit what they believe to be the meaning of being “caught up into the air” (I Thes. 4:17), and the whole generally accepted scenario.
To be fair, I will admit that many are concerned about the fate of the lost and do want as many as possible to join them in rapture and I will not judge those who are doing a lot of teaching about this anticipated event but I will say that the net effect has been to draw attention away from the central issues of Christ’s return which are that we shall “see Him as He is” and thus “be like Him” (I John 3:2), being so transformed into His image that it will be manifested that “as He is so are we in this world” (I Jn. 4:17), and Christ in us will enter that time of beginning to be, not in part, but fully revealed to all of creation. In short, the coming of the Lord has to do with the final unfolding of His kingdom on earth and not merely about the snatching away of the saints. It is that time when the Sovereign of the universe displays that sovereignty by extending His rule over those rebels whom, for his own purposes, He permitted to do their own thing for a season. The extension of that kingdom will not be a matter of retaliatory reaction to sin, but instead a conquering of the hearts of His enemies so thoroughly that He defeats them by transforming them into friends, brothers and bond servants of love, love that is first seen among the Lord’s brethren and in them extended to all. So, dear ones, please know that the event known as “rapture” will not be a family picnic in the air just before the Lord forces the whole world to acknowledge Him for a millennium before it begins its descent into eternal misery, but instead it will be “in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7), and thus the beginning of the consummation of His plan for the “summing up of all things in Christ.“ (Eph. 1:10, NAS)
Quickly, I want to get to the heart of the matter by taking a careful look at that passage of scripture that seems, at least to me, to command the most attention if we are to understand what is on the mind of the Spirit of God and the apostle Paul as they write of our meeting with the Lord “in the air.” Most readers will know that I’m referring to I Thes. 4: 15-18 where we read these words: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (NAS) Now, being aware of the tendency, even among Christians, to demonize those who don’t agree with us, I want to carefully avoid such behavior and hasten to say that I can understand why someone without a more spiritually refined understanding of how God speaks in scripture might easily accept conventional conclusions as to the meaning of this priceless portion of the Bible. In fact, I did for many, many years and though I can say that it was the Spirit of God who brought me to a more mature grasp of these words of divine comfort, He did so in and with the help of others in the Body of Christ and then proceeded to further clarify and deepen my understanding one on one with Him (let us, who emphasize that it is the Spirit and not man who was promised to teach us all things, acknowledge that, as often as not, He speaks in and through others as He brings us along into all truth, and a total disregard for this Body principle indicates a lack of spiritual maturity).
Will the reader consider an obvious fact, that in the Bible, God does not always intend for us to interpret a word, phrase, sentence or passage according to its physical and material meaning? For instance, Paul often speaks of the cross of Christ as having redemptive benefit for us, especially we who believe. Now, many of us have probably never paused to ponder the fact that, of course, Paul was not saying that those two pieces of timber had any intrinsic conciliating quality. As soon as we go down that road we become vulnerable to the superstition that splinters from the old rugged cross in our possession would involve some spiritual merit. Paul uses the word “cross,” to, in one word, convey the self-denying obedience that lead our Lord, as the Son of Man, to submit Himself to that horrible form of Roman execution for the purpose of gathering up and bearing all of humanity’s agony in that moment that contained the fullness of time, in turn to accept and endure, as the Son of God, all the combined enmity of humanity toward God and on that very real cross find opportunity, as Harry Robert Fox says; to do His best for men while they did their worst to Him. God and man strove together on that cross and perfect love prevailed, reconciling all men to Himself. It was what He did there that reconciled us to God. It was not the physical cross that dealt with our enmity against God, yet Paul uses that single word as a symbol to convey such great truth. And of course, I am not in any way suggesting that it was not necessary for Christ to actually die on a real physical cross, because scripture plainly indicates this was ordained before the foundation of the world.
To continue: The Old Testament speaks of God riding upon the heavens by His name and of God’s arm not being shortened nor His ear heavy. Are we to interpret these statements in a merely physical way? Surely not. And since we are dealing with the prophetic in the case at hand, consider that John the Revelator is shown a Lamb upon the throne to so very beautifully portray for us the truth that what will finally rule in all God’s creation is the meek, self-sacrificial love of God in Christ. It was not a four-footed animal with a coat of fleece upon a literal throne. Symbolism runs all through scripture and is particularly rich in those portions that are prophetic and eschatological, which brings us to our text. What are we to make of the use of the words “descend,” “heaven,” “shout,” “trumpet,” “caught up,” “air,” and the like? Does the Lord intend for us to merely envision a Hollywood-style extravaganza with all the sound effects that would accompany a supernatural flight into the air by millions of people all at virtually the same time with some of those who “are alive and remain” shooting through the roofs of cars, houses, planes trains and subways, leaving all the unsnatched to deal with possible pilotless planes, driverless cars, and all kind of variations of such dilemmas? Or did He intend for us to finally, after passing through this thinking, speaking and understanding as a child, to put away such thoughts and come to an understanding that fits maturity? [“When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.“ (I Cor. 13:11, NAS)
The evangelical world has been so conditioned to respect the inspired scriptures and to believe what they say to us without adding anything of our ideas that, in this innocence, we become prey to those who handle those scriptures with appalling clumsiness because they SEEM to be more devoted to what the Bible really says in their overly literal interpretations. But we must break free of such subtle and misleading manipulation and approach the Book in a way that will unlock for us the marvelous dimensions of the things of God expressed in words that often use physical and material word-pictures as rich symbols of spiritual realities. So let us begin with the that most important word, “heaven.” In our passage it is the “place” from which “the Lord Himself will descend” to initiate the catching up of the saints; the word “rapture” coming from the Latin for “caught up” has become the common term to describe this divine action. The Bible speaks of heaven, the heavens, heavenly places, or the heavenlies and of particular interest, Christ being ascended above all the heavens. (Eph. 4:10) It seems clear to me that there is an ultimate heaven which transcends all other heavens, encompasses and permeates them all and is the heaven that Jesus referred to when He taught the disciples to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9), and it is the heaven that Christ was raised up into to sit at the Father’s right hand above all heavens. That heaven is not A heaven as each of the lesser heavens are but it is THE heaven. The answer to the question, “Should it be called heaven since it is above all heavens” is that God is above all beings but that does not make Him something other than Being. He is Being from whom all other beings derive their being and “live move and have their being” (Acts 17:28), in Him. Such is the relationship of the heaven, which is the particular and proper abode of God, with the rest of the heavens that exert influence over the earth under His direction. Here first, is where our understanding must be enlarged so that it can support spiritual growth in the true knowledge of God. And here is where so many Christians seem to tenaciously cling to childish concepts unperturbed and undisturbed by their teachers who seem to be more comfortable with immature believers who will not require dynamic growth on their part. Students seeking the truth keep teachers on their toes and encourage the teacher not to become satisfied at some inferior level of knowledge and in turn, the teacher stimulates the student to further seeking. But the reverse seems to be true in conventional Christian circles where most try to wring great spirituality out of elementary level concepts. You cannot keep pace in today’s scientific world with only Newtonian level principles; you must go on to the insights of Einstein and I have no doubt shortly even beyond his genius.
Let us then consider the real meaning of heaven and not get stuck in the physical symbolism of the word. I have touched on the following in other articles and now it is crucial to the exposition of the I Thes. passage. Before creation God did not dwell in someTHING called heaven. He did not coexist within someTHING called eternity. Before He brought forth all THINGS, no THING existed, only He, the pure essence of relational being was Father/Mother, Son and Holy Spirit dwelling together in glory. (This is explained fully in the three previous lessons of our series. Links to each writing appear at the end of this article.) Here is the secret: He/They dwelt in glory. Recently I sought the Lord for understanding concerning the meaning of His being in heaven. The Lord said something so simple and yet profound to me in response. These were the exact words that came through my spirit: “I dwell in the transcendence of my own glory.” You see, there emanates from the Eternal One the supernal excellence of His own Being and, as that glory emanates from Him; He is clothed with and dwells in the outshining of all that He is. This is heaven. This is what Jesus prayed for in Gethsemene as He looked past His death into resurrection and exaltation to be given the glory which he had with the Father before the world was. Yet we hold on so tenaciously to various forms and levels of understanding that view heaven as a supernatural place within the created universe; a kind of planet of planets or city of cities. But, although the reality of heaven extends itself into our time/space/matter dimension, that glory which heaven is, transcends everything created, even the heavens, and coming into the creation uniquely in Christ, that transcendence takes up residence in and among us.
Here is seen again the principle of transcendence and immanence. That which we seek to come to us and be with us and in us must first transcend us or it is not worthy of God or worthy of our quest as Sons of God. This is the heaven from which Christ will “descend” and catch us up. At this point it begins to get really exciting because if you bring to bear the whole of Paul’s teaching about heaven and our relationship to it you realize that as Christ comes to catch us up, we are already in Him as he descends from heaven because the Lord clearly revealed to and through the apostle that we have been raised up and seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), (or the heavenlies or the heavenly sphere) in Christ; that is, we are with Him since we are in Him. That place of enthronement which is, first and from, above all the heavens extends down to those heavens. We rule and reign with Christ, seated with Him above all the heavens while being with Him in the extension of that throne/rule over principalities and powers in heavenly places. Well, of course, the question arises how can He snatch us up when we are in the highest of locations already in Him. This is something that so few have balanced understanding of and so end up either ignoring the whole truth or sacrificing one dimension for the other. The best understanding takes the highest ground first in its approach to the whole truth.
Though it is so difficult to understand, we must first accept, believe and stand on the reality that we are truly at the right hand of the Majesty on High in Christ and then proceed to get hold of what it means to be caught up. No matter how you slice it, we have an existence in time and space wherein we are still struggling to come into all that we are truly in Christ at God’s right hand. Many have tried and continue to try to explain that dichotomy and let me say that if it is not acknowledged, our spiritual growth will suffer and our lives will be colored by that dimension which we emphasize to the neglect of the other. We will either spend our days locked in a struggle to get above our earthly existence or become pseudo-spiritual as we try to insist that we live in Christ above everything earthly and refuse to acknowledge that aspect of God’s perfect plan to transform all that is earthly into heavenly, without doing away with its essential earthiness. We must come to grips with both and be sure that the dichotomy and tension will not be resolved by anything we can do including working on raising our consciousness. It must be Christ descending by His initiative that will catch us up. Having given that warning let’s return to what Paul is saying. IT IS SIMPLY THIS: THE CHRIST WHO DESCENDS TO CATCH US UP ALREADY HAS US IN HIMSELF ON THE WAY DOWN SO THAT WHEN WE ARE CAUGHT UP TO MEET THE LORD WE MEET OURSELVES ALSO IN HIM AND THAT DIMENSION OF OURSELVES THAT HAS BEEN LIVING BELOW THE REAL HEAVENLY NORM WILL BE TRANSFORMED, OR “CAUGHT UP,” AS WE COME TO “KNOW AS WE ARE KNOWN.“ (I Cor. 13:12)
Let’s keep in mind that what is prophesied as the church’s destiny in Christ is already at work by the Spirit of Christ in us who is the first-fruits of what is to follow and He, as all the fulness of God, is also the full inheritance. So daily, it is the norm of Christian living to experience a measure of Christ descending to catch us up into all that He is in all His glory and to bring us progressively into all that we are in Him. This is the glory of the Son of God and the glory of the sons of God in Him. It is for this that all creation waits so that it might be delivered from its bondage to decay. The KJ version says “the glorious liberty of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:21), but the NAS version is better rendering it as “the liberty of the glory of the sons of God.” A consummation of this awaits us when all the blood-bought sons of God on this side and on the other side are gathered together in the catching up and the Church glorious and triumphant shall rule and reign with her Lord. I hope the reader is beginning to realize that something much more sublime is involved here than simply a flight through the air. Now that word “air” brings us to our next thought.
Because of our propensity to view these things in the physical dimension only (it certainly will have physical effect), we are inclined to imagine the meeting with the Lord as being so many miles above the earth. Be that as it may, I am not here concerned with mechanics; the essential thought here is that the meeting is on Satanic turf! Scripture tells us that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (I Jn. 5:19, NIV), who is “the prince and power of the air” (Eph. 2:2, KJ) and although his present dominion is an illegitimate one permitted by God for His purposes [The earth is the Lord’s in all its fullness and with all its inhabitants (Ps. 24:1), he is permitted for a season to empower his world-system until Christ and the Church say, “ENOUGH!!!!” So do you see that the thought that is conveyed with the word “air” is not simply distance above the earth but rather that all enveloping influence of Satan in this present age. It is there, in his living room, so to speak that the sons of God come into their own. Do not expect, dear saint, to come into your perfection on the beautiful isle of somewhere. You will awaken in your glory in the thick of the fray, there to bring an end to the Devil’s reign of terror. The Lord in this day is raising the standard of His absolute sovereignty in the understanding of those who are following on to know Him, but we should remind ourselves that it is a matter of sovereignty that He has released such evil in the earth while maintaining the clear vision that evil can only ultimately serve His glory and goodness. I say glory and goodness for some actually think that God can be glorified in the continuation of evil throughout endless ages so that He will not be able to be good to the vast majority of mankind. What trash! His goodness to all His creation shall triumph to His glory!
He descends from heaven with a shout. Here I prefer the Amplified version that says “with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God.“ (I Thes. 4:16) When by the sevenfold Spirit of God Jesus Christ commands us to “COME UP,” WE SHALL COME UP!!! Neither hell nor high water nor our own resistant flesh will not stop us when the Lord “roars out of Zion” (Amos 1:2) and who can resist. It is as Lord that Christ saves us as He did Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road and commands our deliverance that we might be deliverers with Him. Other ministers of the Word can better deal with all the ramifications of trumpet, loud summons and shout but let me at least say that there is conveyed here Majesty in action bringing forth, by triumphal announcement, the sons of God out of any and all vestiges of death into the fullest measure of His life, that they might minister that life as rivers of living water issuing forth out of their innermost being until “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.“ (Hab. 2:14) Amen and Amen John R. Gavazzoni
We now reach the conclusion of our study of the coming of the Lord. His coming is a presencing of Him who is with us and in us and has promised never to leave us, an unveiling of Him who is always advancing toward the full and final manifestation of all He is as the bodily fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9). I remember a Greek scholar commenting that the best way to translate Jesus’ statement about being in the midst when two or more are gathered in His name, was this way: “When two or more are gathered in my name there am I in-midsting them.“ (Matt. 18:20) That reveals the dynamic of the Christ as He makes Himself known in and through us when we connect according to His nature (“in my name”). That presence/coming (“parousia”) is the manifestation of God in all His glory and that statement brings us to the transition from lesson four to lesson five. We need not labor the fact that the coming of the Lord is a coming in glory. Any Bible student is aware that His coming and His glory always go hand in hand (Col. 3:4), and that is why He in His coming is our hope of glory. (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 1:12; Col. 1:27) It is our blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior (Tit. 2:13), Jesus Christ. So we transition with that thought and complete our commentary on the spiritual realities behind the language of 1 Thes.4:15-18. He comes in glory, He comes with glory, He comes in the clouds of the air and with clouds (Dan. 7:13; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mk. 13:26; 14:62; I Thes. 4:17; Rev. 1:7) He comes to be admired in His saints (Eph. 1:18; II Thes. 1:10) and He comes with ten thousands of His saints. (Ps. 68:17; Dan. 7:10) Now it shouldn’t be hard to take the short step of spiritual logic and realize that the clouds of our passage are not cirrus clouds, or cumulus clouds; they are not gatherings of condensation in the air. They are the clouds of the saints gathered together in all their glory (Heb. 12:1) which is the glory of God, in Christ, in them. Do your homework, dear reader, and you will find that all through scripture, clouds are associated over and over again with the manifestation of the glory of God. It is not my style to elaborate in great detail but to put you on an obvious track that can lead you to this exciting discovery; the discovery that God as the kids say, does not have a “thing” about rain clouds. He does have a “thing” or passion about revealing Himself in and with humanity transformed into His likeness. The reality of who we are in Christ, both those from the other side and we who remain, both parties being “spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb. 12:23), shall descend with Christ, catching up our soulical dimension of being, into the glory of all that God is in Christ and which we share as joint heirs with Him. (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:29; Eph. 3:6)
Now I think a word of wisdom is in order at this point as we face the certain accusation of overly spiritualizing scripture. Is there anything physical involved here? Yes of course, the physical being will be transformed from its corrupted mortal state to incorruptibility and immortality. All this is going to actually happen within the sphere of the earthly before it spreads throughout all the universe. So how do we determine what is to be understood only in a physical sense and what is to be understood in a spiritual sense? The answer is, we determine very carefully with the mind of the Spirit, and though some principles of biblical interpretation might be helpful at a certain level, they will not insure that we come to a true perception. We must be taught of God! Take for example the wondrous 53rd chapter of Isaiah with its prophetic unfolding of the passion of Christ. It begins with these words (from the NAS), “Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed” (Vs. 1). We know that this does not have to do with the revelation of a physical arm but rather is a way of speaking of the outstretched saving power and ability of God. Isaiah goes on; “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground” (Vs. 2). Again, obviously, we are not dealing with plant life here, and yet the rest of the chapter deals with actual physical events with spiritual meaning. He was smitten and pierced and scourged physically (vs. 4 and 5) for a purpose that involves spirit and flesh. It is possible in this sense to overly spiritualize texts, for there are those who would deny the physical dimension of Christ’s suffering. One must immerse himself in the holy scriptures and be made one in mind with the Spirit, and the writer, all the time looking at what is said in its immediate context and in the greater context of the whole Bible as to the subject at hand. And we are greatly helped by the consistency of the Spirit in the use of words in the original languages as He inspired the holy writings. With these things in mind, I believe the Lord has helped us to be true to what is really being conveyed with the words “heaven,” “caught up,” “air,” “meet,” “trumpet,” “shout,” and the like. God has not meant us to understand these things in purely physical terms, but He does want us to know that this great work of His does occur to men of flesh in this world, but we are not to indulge in childish imagination, picturing in our carnal minds an event that appeals mostly to our flesh. We are to be spiritually excited at the prospect of being transformed from within by the heavenly, transcendent reality of all that is true in Christ. There is a verse in Romans 8, that ties this altogether for us. It is verse 11, where Paul says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.” Stay with me here. We all must know surely that the important element in the so-called rapture is that we shall receive our adoption (Greek, full placement as sons), to wit the redemption of our bodies. We shall become wholly like him even to the outer man. Now Paul, in that verse, describes this giving of life to our mortal bodies as that which occurs by the Spirit that indwells us. This is a transformation that arises from the depths of the innermost man and yet in I Thes. 4:16, he describes it as coming from heaven. It is in our spirits that God dwells in the transcendence of His own glory (heaven). It is from that glory and with that glory that He catches us up. Be sure to know that verse 11 above includes both a progressive infusion of the saving life of Christ and a final, consummate, exceedingly abundant welling up of that life until this body of death is swallowed up in the victory of His life. (I Cor. 15:54) Commentators love to compartmentalize verses like that and tell us that Paul was just talking about a bodily empowering by the indwelling Spirit and that it has nothing to do with our final transformation. They want to speak of our final transformation only in dispensational terms so as to lead believers to focus on an event in the sky as opposed to the transforming Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus within us.
I spoke of transitioning with these final “rapture” insights, and that is what I’m doing, for now we get to the heart of the fifth lesson which is the unfolding of the Glory of God in the Bride of Christ. If you’ve been following with us through all the lessons thus far, you know that we’ve been looking at our multi-dimensional relationship to God. Fatherhood, Motherhood, brotherhood, sonship and the bride and Groom aspect are all a part of the marvelous relationship our God has brought us into with Him. I will not go over past ground again, but I will encourage you to give the past studies a fresh reading to fully appreciate the bridal dimension that we are looking at now. Let’s try to see a principle regarding the unfolding of the Glory of God as He comes to us, in us and on to others to repeat the process. A clear, though hidden picture, emerges when we grasp the essential thought of the apostle Paul in his instructions to the church in Corinth as recorded in I Cor. 11. Here we see a cultural analogy that still existed in that day of the unfolding of the glory of God. We no longer have that particular analogy in our western culture and the Lord does not intend us to legalistically try to merely reenact externally what Paul was dealing with. There are cultural analogies that exist among all peoples; things about their manner of living and relating to one another that are, if viewed with spiritual sensitivity, analogous to God’s way with men. In that day and in that place, head covering or the absence of it pictured something about the way God relates to us and reveals Himself to us and through us. If you think the only reason the Spirit of God included Paul’s instructions for worship attire in the canon of scripture was solely to give us rules for appropriate dress, you miss the really important and beautiful thought found in this passage. At first, it appears to be rather mundane compared with other portions of scripture and seems to just be a matter of proper modesty and sequential authority in the church and home, but this is included in Holy Writ to enlighten the believer who is called beyond the merely casual perusal of the letter of Paul’s thought. The real subject here is the glory of God and how it unfolds in the relationship of family. We are told that God is the head of Christ and Christ is the head of every man (Did you get that? The head of EVERY MAN), and the man is the head of the woman. Further into the chapter, we see that this headship has to do with glory, and that a man is the image and glory of God and the woman is the glory of man. Now when Paul says that a man is the image and glory of God He, of course, is viewing man in union with Christ who is the express image of God and the effulgence and radiance of God’s glory. (Heb. 1:3) This is an established reality which cannot be essentially altered though man might, for a season, live in ignorance of it, and in that case, his behavior would be affected by that ignorance until the Father’s love draws the prodigal back to the glory of home. The glory of God, by the exercise of headship comes forth from the Father by the Son and from the Son by man and from man by woman. But don’t miss something of great importance here: it is all the same glory! When it gets to the woman stage it is not at all diminished nor inferior, and in fact has reached the fullness of its manifestation.
Many of my readers will be those who are familiar with the truth of the manifestation of the sons of God as creation is set free into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God (Rom. 8:21, NAS). But let me share an important truth for this hour with you and it is this, that the glory of the sons of God will not come into full manifestation until you see the glory of man in a woman. Adam was not a fully revealed person until Eve was taken out of his side and then it could be seen what all there was to this man Adam. Before that, much of what was Adam was hidden. When our sonship reaches the point that a bride emerges from it then glory shall have had its way. There must occur in our relationship with the Father such a partaking of His divine nature that both His Fatherhood and Motherhood are manifested as Christ the Groom and the Church the Bride. Now since the Church is both the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ, so both dimensions of that relationship must reach full maturation and that cannot happen until very feminine spiritual qualities begin to emerge. Christ is the Groom IN US making us what He is as the Groom, and the life of the Groom in us, makes us the Bride. We do not carry on this divine romance from afar. Christ is not a Groom sitting up in some celestial palace sending love notes down to His lover. He, as the life of the sons brings them into participation with Him as Groom and in that union we love His bride and she loves Him in IN US.
Rom. 3:23 tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In the Greek it more accurately reads, “are lacking of the glory of God.” We have become depleted of glory and only the replenishment of that glory can make us whole, and when that replenishment reaches its consummation we see the city of God descending AS A BRIDE from heaven having the glory of God. (Rev. 21:10-11) When all that God is in His gender completeness is revealed, the spot light will be on the Bride, but she will cover her head, for she is the glory of her Man and it is her passion that all shall know that her glory is His glory in her. There must come to be in the Church the full sharing of the kind of love that the Groom has for His Bride so that He gives His life for her and gives her all His glory. Instead, we often live and minister for personal glory and merely use those who are to be His Bride for our own purposes. This must be the manner of sons we are with the Son loving His Bride through us and at the same time, we, as the Bride giving ourselves in complete abandonment to the Son in the sons, want nothing but to know His love and to delight in His will. What I’m saying is that Christ nurtures and cherishes His Bride from within His Body and loves her as His own Body from within that Body. As we need such Groom-type sons so also do we need such a quality of daughters to be a Bride who does not live for herself but only to be pleasing to the One who is her very light and life.
I know that there is an idea that there is a groom company and a bride company but I tell you with all boldness that WE MUST, ALL OF US, BE BOTH TO ONE ANOTHER, FOR IN SO BEING, WE ARE THAT TO CHRIST HIMSELF WHO IS THE REALITY OF GROOM AND BRIDE EVEN AS HIS FATHER IS ALSO MOTHER. Christ will in-midst us; He will presence among us; He will fully come when He has brought us to the place where we are the manifestation of this great love and this great family; as the nature of our Father/Mother God finds expression in the extended family.
Let me close by being careful not to lose the main thrust of this last lesson which is the importance of the manifestation of glory of God in Christ’s Bride. There must come into the Church and into the experience of those who are receiving great revelation in this hour, that quality of the Bride which has to do with looking on her Lord, though she is in union with Him and one with Him, as being yet other than her and Who is the source of her very being and wonderfully greater than her. We must become lovers of our Lord as He fills our hearts with the sweet fragrance of Himself.
COMING of the LORD, Parts 1-5 [John R. Gavazzoni] April 2000 1